Animals play an important role in Cathyrn Hein’s stories.
I adore creating animal characters for my books. They’re so much fun and the way human characters react to them can sometimes reveal far more about a person’s personality than words. Someone who kicks a dog, for example, can never be redeemed in many people’s eyes. And would certainly never be a credible romance hero. But a person who goes out of their way to help a distressed, sick or injured animal will likely give us an ‘aww’ moment and have us on our side.
Mostly I stick to mostly dogs and horses, but with my new release, The Falls, we have a bit of a menagerie. There’s Claudia the old piebald horse, Saffy the wandering labradoodle, an overly affectionate sphinx cat named Blanche who looks like a gremlin and causes the heroine, Teagan, no end of annoyance, plus a pair of sweet guinea pigs named Betty and Wilma. Each has their cute role to play but it’s another who’s the star of the show: a rampaging sheep known as Merlin the Magic ram.
And he’s very, very naughty.
Merlin is actually based on a completely bonkers sheep that my parents once kept named Ram Lamb. Ram Lamb was sweet when he was still a youngster. He’d chase cars, sleep curled up with the dogs on the front step, follow us around bleating cutely. Then he reached adulthood and something in his ovine brain snapped.
No one was safe from this ramming ram. Cross his paddock and you’d better do it at a sprint because when Ram Lamb was wound up he could really motor, and being hit by that bony skull and big horns wasn’t fun, believe me. He might have been woolly, but that head wasn’t padded.
He was an expert escape artist too, mainly because he’d head-butted the fence posts loose so many times all tension had gone out of the wires. If we arrived home and saw him in the drive, waiting with the dogs, our hearts would sink. Getting out chanced a bash in the knees but remaining in the car risked him ramming the doors. Even the house wasn’t safe. If he spied a person through the window, down his head would go and wham.
He even developed a kind of infamy among my agriculture college mates thanks to the newly invented sport of Running the Paddock with Ram Lamb. This was man against sheep hilarity, and involved one person restraining Ram Lamb by the horns while the racer jogged to the middle of the paddock. Once set, Ram Lamb was unleashed and the runner had to make it over the opposite fence without getting pummelled. There were some very close shaves, including the incident when one brave runner caught the crotch of his jeans on the fence and nearly ended up with more than his legs crunched.
Despite the havoc Ram Lamb caused we were all weirdly fond of him. He was half pet half feral animal, and being a ram he had a slightly lustful air. His basic mind, which seemed to revolve around food, sex and ramming, in no particular order, amused us. Plus he seemed to throw a lot of twins, which made Dad his biggest defender. At least until the day Ram Lamb snuck out, spotted Dad rambling around and charged. Taken unawares, Dad was smacked for six. Half an hour later, Ram Lamb was dog food.
We missed him. Ram Lamb might have caused no end of mischief but in his unique ovine way he was fun, and I think it’s fitting that a sheep that gave me so many laughs should once more have his day.
For as long as she can remember, Teagan Bliss has wanted to manage her family’s property. She’s invested everything in the farm, knowing that when her parents retire she’ll be ready to take the reins. But when a family betrayal leaves her reeling, Teagan is forced to rethink her entire future. Heartbroken, Teagan flees to her aunt’s property in the idyllic Falls Valley. Vanessa is warm and welcoming and a favourite of the locals who drop in regularly for cocktail hour. Teagan soon catches the attention of sexy local farrier Lucas Knight, and with a new job, new friends and the prospect of a new relationship, she slowly begins to open up again. But the village is a hotbed of gossip and division and when Teagan gets caught up in town politics, Lucas and Vanessa become concerned. As the tension in town escalates, Teagan must decide who to trust. But when she realises those close to her have been keeping secrets, the fallout may split Teagan apart forever.
The Falls is an uplifting story of healing and hope from the author of Promises, Heart of the Valley, Heartland, and Rocking Horse Hill.
Cathryn Hein was born in South Australia’s rural south-east. With three generations of jockeys in the family it was little wonder she grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. So began years of pony club, eventing, dressage and showjumping until university beckoned. Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. All of Cathryn’s novels have been finalists in the Australian Romance Readers Awards. The Falls is her fifth rural romance and will release on April 22. Cathryn currently lives at the base of the Blue Mountains in Sydney’s far west with her partner, Jim. When she’s not writing, she plays golf (ineptly), cooks (well), and in football season barracks (rowdily) for her beloved Sydney Swans AFL team.