TOMAREE   a novel by Debbie Robson
Debbie's Book
Crossing Paths :
the BookCrossing novel


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'Tomaree' Synopsis:

Letters lost....Letters found

In 1942 Peggy Ashburn meets an American soldier, First Lieutenant Tom Lockwood, who is based at the Shoal Bay Country Club, Port Stephens. The attraction between them is immediate and intense and the couple enlist the help of Peggy's neighbour, Sarah Linden, to act as go-between.
     By 1972 when Peggy arrives back home from the US for the funeral of her estranged mother, her marriage is in tatters and she has a lot of soul-searching ahead of her. When she begins to go through her mother's house she discovers not only a letter that has been lost for thirty years but that her mother kept an incredible secret from her.

 'Tomaree' is available through Amazon.


Port Stephens is one of my favourite places in the world. With its endless blue water and spectacular headlands, it must have seemed an incredible place to the 20,000 GIs of the 32nd Division who trained there in 1943. Most came from Wisconsin and Michigan and many had never seen the sea. The division by the war's end had logged a total of 654 combat days, more than any other US army division.
     Nelson Bay is now unrecognisable as the small fishing town that my character Peggy grew up in but time has been kinder to Shoal Bay. During 1942 and 1943 a small contingent of American serviceman were based at the Shoal Bay Country Club and from there, liaising with Williamtown Air Base, HMAS Assault Base and the Gan Gan Army Camp, the Joint Overseas Operational Training School was run. Shoal Bay Resort and Spa has now replaced the Country Club and you will find a link to the resort on my links page.

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From Page 145:

"I looked at the parcel in my hands. I could take it back to the paisley print chair where I had sat these last two weeks and thought about many things, but the heights beckoned. It was too beautiful a day, despite the glare, to be inside. Well, Tomaree was out of the question so the small hill by the old post office would have to do. I made my way up there and sat down in the shade of the camphor laurels. Taking a deep breath I undid the butcher's paper to reveal an exquisitely carved wooden box.
Just as I thought. I recalled it now. It had stood in Sarah's study on her writing desk, sometimes with half opened letters on top of the lid. At that moment I could see in my mind Sarah's beautiful hands tucking a letter back into the envelope, slowly putting it in the box and then turning her attention to me.
     Being seventeen and wrapped up in my own world the thought never crossed my mind to wonder who the letter was from. I was aware though that she kept other letters in piles on her desk. Only a few found their way into the box. Now of course I'm guessing, or at least like to think that they were from Nancy. Once I remember the box was missing from her desk. Perhaps taken to her bedroom to read the contents over again in comfort
     Tentatively I traced the line of the engraving with my fingertips. Inside a rectangle formed by an exotic flowering vine were tiny stylised birds, fruit and more flowers: nature in abundance. I traced the outline of a small bird. Taking a deep breath I flicked the catch open and lifted the lid. There was letter inside for me. I opened the envelope.


15th July 1970

Dear Peggy,
I hope you like the box. I think you admired it once and I
(wherever I am now) like to think that you will shortly
put your most precious letters inside it, just as I once did.
Nancy has her own, in case you are wondering why I didn't
give it to her.
With this letter comes my wish that you are happy now
but by writing this letter I may put that happiness into jeopardy.
You see, I have long had some information about your family
but have never found the right time to talk to you about it.
Obviously, since you are reading this letter, I have left it too
late to tell you personally so instead I am letting you know
that if you wish to find out, then Nancy will tell you.
She is expecting you to call, so please think about it. If you decide
not to speak to her about the matter, then expect no reproach or
censure from Nancy. She is the sweetest, most openhearted
creature I know and will respect your decision.
If you don't mind my saying we have just had the most
enlightening evening discussing the provisions that this letter
has necessitated. For instance, we both had to write a letter
(and organise our wills of course). Nancy writing one that I
would give to you if she died first and me writing this one.
Both of us sitting in front of the fire debating how the cards
will fall and therefore which letter you would read. What a pair
of old goats! I hope you are still reading Tom's. I would just
like to add that in all my life I have never seen a man
so much in love as Tom that day, you were together
in my house. God speed my darling Peggy.


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From Page 190:

"On the morning of the 24th May 1943 First Lieutenant Tom Lockwood took his coffee up to the small landing inside the Country Club. He had earlier smoked a cigarette outside and because of the cold had come indoors to finish his coffee. Now he leant sideways against the window and cradled his coffee for warmth.
     What a miserable day. It wasn't raining. Not yet but it was overcast and a south easterly wind was churning up enormous waves in the centre of the bay near the sand banks. This side of the harbour it was calm but across the bay a number of fishing boats were seeking shelter from the wind. They'd be stuck there for a while, he guessed.
     As Tom sipped his coffee he noticed a Higgins boat powering into view. It had left Little Beach and seemed to be heading towards the other side of the bay. Another appeared soon after from the direction of Mile River. Tom glanced towards where they were heading. At that moment he saw a PBY Catalina approaching the bay from the northwest. What the hell was it doing out there? Tom wondered, peering at the choppy waves below the Catalina.
     The aircraft's vast wingspan dipped from side to side as it approached the bay. It was an enormous seabird limping home, the wind buffeting it as the craft headed for safe harbour. Tom couldn't hear the drone of the engines, the wind had blown the sound away. His heart was pounding as he watched the Catalina dip lower towards the waves. The pilot appeared to be attempting a forced landing. 'Bring it in. You can do it! Bring it in. Bring it in,' Tom chanted over and over but the Catalina never made it. Just short of deep water the cat suddenly dropped down and ploughed through the waves. It emerged briefly, struggling for the sky, only to crash back down with such force that its tail snapped off.
     Momentarily, it bobbed in the waves and the sight of the stricken aircraft gripped Tom with a terrible incomprehension. He was unable to move, almost to breathe. It couldn't have happened. Not here! Not so quickly. He shook his head to free his vision of the partially submerged Catalina. But no, it was still there, a little lower in the water. He leaned against the window and bowed his head. His feet felt rooted to the spot, his whole body heavy. As he raised his head to look again there was nothing but choppy waves, the familiar bay transformed by white horses.
     Had it really crashed? Finally after a few more moments he forced himself to move from the small landing and make his way to the scurry of activity below. Slowly he walked out the front of the club and stood gazing at the windswept bay."

© Debbie Robson, 2012

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