Estelle Pettersen is an Australian/Norwegian author and former journalist whose romance stories explore empowerment, freedom, and finding one’s strength. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Journalism and Psychology, from the University of Queensland, Australia. Her second degree is an MBA from Queensland University of Technology, Australia. She is a member of Romance Writers of Australia and is passionate about history, languages, cultures, traveling, food, and wine. She is happily married and living in Norway these days.
It’s 1996 and Elizabeth has to choose: work for six months at a country newspaper, Maranoa Herald, or lose her job. Convincing herself this is just another stepping stone, Elizabeth leaves the city and her fiancé, lawyer Paul Ricci, for a small town in rural Australia. Despite the scorching heat and pests, Bandara holds a charm of its own—Keith Starling, a handsome farmer with sky-blue eyes and a spellbinding smile.
What happens when Elizabeth returns to the city and discovers what Paul’s been hiding from her? Will she choose her career or everlasting love in the country with Keith? Find out in this steamy Australian romance novella, a prelude to the Starling Sisters series.
“Faark!” I screamed, feeling pain in my ass when it hit the muddy earth, fresh from last night’s rain, at the Roma Saleyards. None of the farmers allowed me to take photos of them, so I sneaked into one of the cattle facilities to get a good picture of the livestock with my Canon EOS single-lens reflex camera. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as I expected.
I tried getting up from the ground, but my sneakers’ rubber soles glided into the mud again, and my body caved into gravity for the second time. I got on all fours to balance myself as the cattle grunted and shook their heads while their tails swung the pesky flies away. My notepad was soiled, and only God knew where my pen went—it disappeared somewhere in the smelly mud. The camera was protected inside its hard case, but I would have to check it later.
“What are ya’ bloody doing in here?” a deep, masculine voice boomed as a strong hand grabbed my arm, pulling me off the ground.
“I plan to get a close-up photo of the cattle for a story I’m writing,” I explained, squinting at the man’s sky-blue eyes. “I’m Elizabeth Martin from the Maranoa Herald.”
“Keith Starling.” The man shook my hand while his eyes sparkled with friendliness, betraying his otherwise stern face.
Dressed in jeans and worn leather boots, Keith reminded me of “The Man from Snowy River,” a poem by Australian bush poet Banjo Paterson. He adjusted the collar of his blue cotton shirt and tilted his felt Akubra® hat, which pressed down his blond curls.
“Well, you don’t belong here,” he growled. “Next time, you better bloody ask one of the staff instead of sneaking around—”
“I don’t belong here?” I started to feel rage crawl up from my gut, ready to explode. “How am I supposed to get a story when no one wants to talk to me? I tried interviewing your cowboy mates out there, and do you know what?”
“What?” Mister Cowboy placed his hands on his slender hips.
“They all ignored me!”
We stared at each other. Our bodies paralleled one another with dominance, feet wide apart, chests out, and shoulders straight. Neither of us relented.
“Oi, Starlo! Get the girl outta there!” one of the farmers called out from the platform above us.
“She’s all good, mate!” Keith yelled back, then turned to me. “I’ll give you an interview.”
What Estelle has to say about Elizabeth
I wrote the novella Elizabeth, published by Magnolia Blossom, because it is about a city journalist who must adjust to a small town in rural Australia. She deals with lifestyle differences and learns to adapt, make friends, and find true love where she least expected it.
Set in the fictional town of Bandara in western Queensland in 1996-1997, the story focuses on a love triangle between Elizabeth, city lawyer Paul Ricci, and handsome farmer Keith Starling. Elizabeth must choose between Paul and Keith, but she doesn’t see things clearly until a few hidden truths start to pop out in the novella.
The story is fun and flirty – it’s the prequel to the Starling Sisters series, a trilogy coming soon.
Much of the novella’s setting is based on a country town I lived in when I was a reporter for a rural newspaper. A few elements in the story are based on real memories , including stumbling around in the cattle saleyards, interviewing the football team (and not reading their names aloud after), and living in an apartment where there were King Brown snakes in the backyard and poorly designed doors.
Writing Elizabeth brought light into my world, reminding me of the beauty of rural Australia. I hope that romance readers wanting to know a bit about the outback will enjoy the story.
Semi-finalist of the Swoon Awards 2020
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