New release from Australian bestselling, award winning author Téa Cooper
For readers who loved Remarkable Creatures, The Naturalist’s Daughter and The Birdman’s Wife comes The Woman in the Green Dress…
Read a few words from the author
and an excerpt from the book
1853 Mogo Creek, NSW
Della Atterton, bereft at the loss of her parents, is holed up in the place she loves best: the beautiful Hawkesbury in New South Wales. Happiest following the trade her father taught her, taxidermy, Della has no wish to return to Sydney. But the unexpected arrival of Captain Stefan von Richter on a quest to retrieve what could be Australia’s first opal, precipitates Della’s return to Sydney and her Curio Shop of Wonders, where she discovers her enigmatic aunt, Cordelia, is selling more than curiosities to collectors. Strange things are afoot and Della, a fly in a spider’s web, is caught up in events with unimaginable consequences…
1919 Sydney, NSW
When London teashop waitress Fleur Richards inherits land and wealth in Australia from her husband, Hugh, killed in the war, she wants nothing to do with it. After all, accepting it will mean Hugh really is dead. But Hugh’s lawyer is insistent, and so she finds herself ensconced in the Berkeley Hotel on Bent St, Sydney, the reluctant owner of a Hawkesbury property and an old curio shop, now desolate and boarded up.
As the real story of her inheritance unravels, Fleur finds herself in the company of a damaged returned soldier Kip, holding a thread that takes her deep into the past, a thread that could unravel a mystery surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress; a green that is the colour of envy, the colour buried deep within an opal, the colour of poison…
A few words from Téa
Three random facts landed in my lap and inspired the story of The Woman in the Green Dress … a case of fact feeding fiction.
Firstly, an advertisement for a shop in Sydney owned by mother and daughter … here it is!Secondly, a line in the introduction to the translation of Baron Charles von Hügel’s record of his travels to ‘New Holland’ between November 1833 and October 1834. It stated that his journal was ‘written in the hand of an amanuensis’. A ghost writer! How exciting! Who was he?
And thirdly, that Johann Menge (1788-1852), a German linguist and geologist employed by the South Australian Mining Company is credited as being the first European to have found an opal in Australia … but what became of it no one knows!
I had the beginning of a story. What if ….
Here’s the scene where Stefan von Richter (our ghost writer) meets the woman in the green dress for the first time. Enjoy!
Excerpt from The Woman in the Green Dress
by Téa Cooper
‘Captain von Richter, allow me to introduce Mrs Cordelia Atterton.’ Stefan stifled a groan and schooled his face. He’d last seen the diminutive woman hovering behind the introduction line. ‘May I introduce Mrs Cordelia Atterton,’ she repeated, clapping her fleshy hands, rather as though she’d conjured an apparition from the heavens.
A tall woman stepped forward. Her slender fingers hovered for a moment and he bowed sharply, his lips a mere inch above the lace of her glove. She extracted her hand before he had the opportunity to stand upright. When he came to attention he found himself level with an icy, appraising stare. ‘Mrs Atterton, my pleasure.’
Her ivory skin was drawn smooth across sculpted cheekbones and her lips brushed with carmine. She might have been one of the statues supporting the Parthenon. Tall, straight and exquisite, she gave the impression of being capable of shouldering whatever burdens life might throw at her.
‘Could I beg a moment of your time?’ Unabashed, she rested her thin, bird-like hand on his forearm, staring boldly into his face instead of modestly lowering her eyes. Had it been any of the moths flitting their way around the ballroom he would have made some excuse but her fixed gaze intrigued him.
‘Shall we move to the verandah? The music is very loud.’
He bowed his head in agreement, offered his arm and escorted her outside and came to an abrupt halt, ensuring they were in full view of the entire assembly. The Baron had drilled the conventions of this strange society into him. There was also a large possibility Herr Atterton might be lurking somewhere in the shadows and he had no intention of beginning his stay by offending anyone. ‘How may I assist you?’
‘I believe I may be able to assist you.’
Did she indeed. He doubted that unless she owned a stable of fine horses and was prepared to offer him the use of several for the remainder of his visit.
‘I would like to extend an invitation.’
He muffled a sigh. Invitations weren’t in short supply and after six months confined aboard ship he yearned for the peace and solitude of the countryside and the opportunity to sample some of the delights of New Holland the Baron so eloquently described. Magnificent stands of eucalyptus trees and all manner of strange and beguiling plants and flowers, the invigorating scents of the wild- flowers so prolific after rain. It had rained only the night before while they were moored inside the Heads, though one could hardly believe it as the moon threw its showy beams across the harbour.
‘I have an establishment which might be of some interest to you.’
No husband then. A whore? Surely not. His gaze raked over her thin body, noticing the bony flare of her shoulder blades masked by ripples of green silk, as though she hadn’t quite recovered from some debilitating sickness. She was not as young as he’d first imagined. ‘Thank you, but I intend to leave Sydney tomorrow.’ Not quite the truth unless Sladdin turned up trumps and found him some horses in double-quick time.
‘I am aware of that. I understand you are a collector.’
‘Indeed I am.’ There was only one person he’d told that tale to: Sladdin. News travelled fast, perhaps it was just as well his ruse had worked. He had no intention of making his search for Menge’s opal public.
Her curious gaze scanned his face and he struggled to remain impassive. ‘Despite our ever-increasing population, Sydney Town is nothing but a small village. Word gets around.’
‘You have me at a disadvantage, Mrs Atterton. Our introduction was brief.’ He turned in search of the tiny woman with the bulbous eyes but she had disappeared into the swirling throng. In fact, he and Mrs Atterton stood isolated like the tiny island of Pinchgut in the centre of the vast harbour, patrolled only by the matronly sharks encircling the ballroom.
‘I own The Curio Shop of Wonders.’
Read more about Téa, her books, where to find her on social media and where to buy
The Woman in the Green Dress
Tea Cooper – Australian Bestselling, Award Winning Author
Historical fiction – from the ocean to the outback
Take a look at the pre-release blog post 6 Questions, 2 Authors. New Releases – Do Authors Get Nervous?