Locked-up in French Guyana and the Hero who Married my Sister
By Beverley Oakley
It wasn’t until I’d written a number of Regency Historical Romances that I realized that the same three themes ran through all of them.
Redemption seems to be my favourite, but honour and incarceration are right up there.
I guess my tagline sums it up – Women Trapped by Convention in a Man’s World – as generally, my romances feature a heroine trapped by her domestic situation, trying for some level of happiness within the confines of the narrow existence dictated by her times.
Sometimes my heroines are struggling for the independence to choose a marriage partner (as in my recent release Rake’s Honour) and sometimes it’s to acquire independence within marriage (as in my upcoming July 2 release, Lady Lovett’s Little Dilemma).
In order to pinpoint where these themes of redemption, honour and incarceration come from I’ve searched through the annals of my life and come up with one particular incident that covers incarceration and honour.
I decided to call it Locked up in French Guyana and the Hero who Married my Sister because that pretty much sums it up.
This incident happened to me in French Guyana in the course of my work at the time as an airborne geophysical survey operator and, as mentioned, it features the man who would become my brother-in-law two years later playing the role of hero. His name’s Jorn and he was – and still is – my husband’s best friend. Both men were Norwegian bush pilots my sister and I met when we worked in the safari industry in Botswana (at different times) and whom we coincidentally married.
Usually it’s my darling husband of nearly 18 years, Eivind, who gets all the accolades in my writing, but on this occasion Eivind was still flying a survey contract in Greenland, while I had been sent onto this new job.
I arrived in in French Guyana at midnight, the only Australian crew member working for a Canadian company and was the last off the plane to be processed. Therefore by the time it was found my paperwork was missing the apparently required tourist visa (though my government working papers were in order) the airport was almost deserted.
At the time Australia was out of favour with France for objecting to their nuclear testing in the Pacific. Anyway, what followed was really unpleasant as I was subjected to a tirade in French – (My schoolgirl French was sufficient to enable me to understand I was in big trouble!) by the senior immigration official called in to check out my apparently illegal status. The man was sweaty and smelled strongly of drink and cigarettes and he poked me in the chest as he yelled at me to sign a document in French which I refused to do unless it was translated. When after several hours my project manager and Jorn – who’d come to see if he could help his best friend’s wife – were allowed to see me, their suggestion that my passport be confiscated and I return to the hotel in the meantime so the issue could be resolved in the morning was roundly rejected. (This, despite the fact I couldn’t get very far due to the airport being surrounded by jungle.)
But no, this was not acceptable to the official who ordered me into a room where I was to spend the night, alone, with a 6’4” French Guyanese soldier shouldering an AK-47.
Now, I have nothing against 6’4” French Guyanese soldiers shouldering AK-47s, in general. I just prefer not to spend the night alone with them in deserted South American airports.
It was at this point my future brother-in-law started to get hot under the collar. I was not going to remain all but alone in a deserted airport unless he chaperone me for the night. (You see – honour and incarceration!)
After immense persuasion, Jorn was permitted to stay. It’s probably fair to say that most women don’t get to know their future brothers-in-law in such unusual circumstances. For twelve hours (as the next airport movement wasn’t until well into the following day) we lay on hard wooden benches, listening to the rats in the roof while the wind whispered through the jungle and we talked about things we’ve never spoken about again, and rarely speak about to others: the deaths of our mothers – both from cancer. And about rather a lot to do with life, as one does if there are no other forms of recreation.
There was no electricity, phone or internet connection – or pillows, food or blankets for that matter. It was a night simply for talking.
You don’t get that very often. And it was very special.
To wrap up the story, I was fortunate that the owner of the hotel where the crew was staying was friendly with the Minister for Immigration who offered me a personal apology and a reprieve the next day. After a bit of sleep and a dip in the pool I started work on what would be the most taxing of all the geophysical surveys I worked on, with a very long separation that became increasingly difficult as my weight dropped alarmingly as a result of flying in such constant high heat, humidity and turbulence.
But details of that will be in my next blog on July 5 entitled: Cocooned with a Lonely Pilot in a Cessna 404 for 8 Hours a Day – a Great Apprenticeship for a Romance Writer.
Coincidentally, after living in 10 countries, Eivind and I now live ten minutes down the road from Jorn and my sister in a pretty little Victorian town. We sometimes tell this story of honour and incarceration after a few glasses of red.
But I don’t need to assure my sister or my husband there’s a redemption theme arising out of. I’m still searching the annals of my life to find out what I might secretly be needing to atone for.
Beverley Oakley’s erotic Regency Historical – Rake’s Honour – was recently released by Total-e-Bound. She also writes traditional Regency Historicals with lashings of intrigue, under the name Beverley Eikli.
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