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The English Jillaroo

Downton Abbey meets the Outback.
A strong minded woman who’s a fish out of water. A ruggedly handsome hero. An attraction that can only bring trouble…

When Charlie Bell starts work on Matt Lockhart’s outback cattle station, he has no idea she’s actually Lady Charlotte Bellamy. Charlie’s hoping for an exciting Aussie adventure and she’s certainly not looking for a future husband. Her parents have already lined up a suitable marriage for her in a bid to save their crumbling estate.

Charlie copes well with the rigours of the outback, including red dust, a runaway horse and a lurking crocodile. But she also falls for Matt – hard.

Now, when her time as a jillaroo comes to an end, she’s left with an impossible choice. Should she follow her heart or her sense of duty?

The English Jillaroo (originally published as Charlotte’s Choice) is the first book in Barbara Hannay’s Heads or Hearts romances.



The English Jillaroo



‘CHARLIE, do you know a man called Matt Lockhart?’

       Charlie looked up from the postcards she was writing to find her cousin Emma regarding her with deep suspicion.

       ‘You do know him. You’re blushing and looking completely guilty.’

       ‘I’ve heard the name before,’ Charlie admitted.

       ‘Well, I bet he doesn’t know that your real name is Lady Charlotte Bellamy. He’s on the landline now asking for Charlie Bell.’

       Charlie jumped to her feet. ‘What did you tell him?’

       ‘I mumbled something pathetic like – could he hold the line for one moment –and then bolted straight here to you.’

       ‘I can’t speak to him.’ With a pleading smile, Charlie asked, ‘Emma, would you be a sweetheart? Please tell him I’m not here and find out what he wants.’

       ‘I know what the man wants.’ Emma’s blue eyes narrowed and she cocked her head to one side as she crossed her arms over her chest. ‘That’s why I thought there must be some mistake.’ Her voice lowered dramatically. ‘He wants to talk to you about a job you’ve applied for.’

       Nodding, Charlie ran sweaty palms down her linen slacks. ‘Yes.’

       ‘Yes? You mean you have applied for a job?’

       Charlie nodded again.

       ‘Good grief.’ Emma’s mouth opened and closed. Opened once more. ‘But you’re here in Australia on a holiday.’

       ‘It’s a – a holiday job. I organised a working visa before I left England.’

Now Emma’s eyes rolled heavenwards. ‘Well, apart from the fact that you appear to be losing your marbles at a very young age, there’s a major problem. This Matt Lockhart fellow thinks you’re a man.’

‘Yes.’ Charlie sighed. ‘I thought he might. That’s why I can’t talk to him – why I gave him your landline rather than my mobile. He mustn’t hear my voice. Would you mind telling him I’ll take the job, but, please, don’t let him know I’m female. That would spoil everything.’

‘I’ll do no such thing.’

‘Please, Emma.’ Charlie was wringing her hands. ‘I know it sounds frightfully weird, but I promise it’s all above board. Just find out when he wants me to start.’

Start? You mean you really do want to work? What kind of a job is this? He doesn’t sound like someone from your usual circle.’

‘Hurry. I’ll explain later. He’ll be ringing long distance from up near the Northern Territory and he’ll hang up soon.’

‘And you want me to let him think you’re a guy?’

Charlie nodded. ‘Please.’

To her intense relief, Emma began to back out of the room, but she was still shaking her head. ‘I don’t like this, Charlie.’

‘I’m sorry to ask you to tell a white lie, but trust me, it’s fine.’

Making her reluctance clear, Emma turned, straightened her indignant back, and left the glassed-in front veranda, returning to the phone in the lounge room.

Charlie let out her breath with a noisy sigh and ran shaking fingers through her long fair hair. Emma was a good sport – she wouldn’t let her down.

She tried to block out the temptation to eavesdrop on the conversation in the next room by shifting her focus across the street to the bright blue ocean and gleaming sands of Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Her cousin’s flat provided an amazing view of bronzed surfers. At any time of day Charlie could watch them riding their boards down the glassy face of huge waves. She loved the way they made such a dangerous sport look impossibly simple.

Sun and surf. It was easy to understand why Emma had left England to spend two years living and working in Australia. She was lucky her parents had been so understanding.

Thoughts of parents brought Charlie’s gaze back to the postcards she’d been writing. She’d completed the one from Sydney which she would post this afternoon. And she hoped to find people among Emma’s contacts in the tourist industry who would be willing to send the other postcards home to Derbyshire at regular intervals. Charlie’s mum was conveniently old fashioned – she liked postcards in the mail, rather than a pic on her phone – and Charlie had selected a range of popular tourist destinations – the Gold Coast, the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu National Park.

It was so important to keep her parents reassured she was having a wonderful holiday Down Under. Of course, deceiving them felt bad – very bad. But under the circumstances, it was a necessary evil. Eventually her mother and father would be proud of her. Surely.

Emma’s slow footsteps were returning and Charlie looked up, her heart racing. ‘How did it go?’ she asked anxiously.

Pausing in the doorway, her cousin took her time as she arranged one slim hip against the door frame. ‘You’re to start next Monday.’ Her face remained grim. ‘Saddle, swag and horse will be provided.’

Relief flowed through Charlie, warming her insides like brandy on a midwinter’s night. ‘That’s great,’ she said and she sat down suddenly as her knees threatened to give way.

But Emma showed no sympathy as she marched slowly, menacingly towards her. ‘I’m glad you think this is great, cousin. But it’ll take a lot of convincing before I’m happy.’

‘I’ll explain.’

‘You bet you will. I haven’t a clue what’s going on and I don’t like being kept in the dark.  And I don’t like being a go-between for you and this Lockhart fellow. Or fighting off your parents when they demand to know where you are. You’re supposed to be in my tender care.’ Dragging out a chair, she sat down majestically. ‘Now tell me in minute detail exactly what hair-brained scheme you’ve cooked up.’