If you were asked to come up with the names of famous conservation couples what would they be?
My first thought is George and Joy Adamson – famous for their pioneering conservation work and Joy’s bestselling book and the film that came after, Born Free. And straight away that song begins to play in my head: Born free, as free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows, born free to follow your heart. Which should bring a lump to your throat if you’re anything like me.
Joy met George, a game warden in Kenya’s northern frontier, while on safari in 1942. Their relationship was as passionate and dramatic as, what became, the most famous wildlife story in the world – the raising of Elsa, the lion cub they found in a cleft of rock, and their commitment to rehabilitating her back into the wild. These groundbreaking efforts were successful when Elsa found her own wild mate and gave birth to three cubs.
Other conservationists-in-love are Dereck and Beverly Joubert, one of Africa’s most famous conservation couples. The award-winning filmmakers have produced more than 25 films, 12 books and countless photographs with one purpose: to save the wild places of Africa, and to understand and protect the creatures (particularly large predators and key African wildlife species) that are so important to the course of all conservation in Africa. The President of Botswana has said of the couple: ‘Theirs is a life-long passion; for each other, for big cats, for Africa…’
A question that interests me is this: would Joy and George, or Dereck and Beverley, have found love with each other if they’d met on a busy street or in a lunchtime queue? Maybe. But the African bush I do believe gives a helping hand to a couple of strangers who might have walked right past each other in a busy city or town.
Here are my reasons –
Solitude: Loads of time to talk and get to know each other while travelling down dirt roads or watching the laidback habits of wild creatures.
Big beautiful vistas: Enough to stir wonder and emotion in the most cynical.
No make-up or accessories: If you can fall in love while dirty, sweaty, covered in sunblock and dressed in khaki, then you know it’s for keeps.
Passion: Only the most passionate are able to make a career out of wildlife conservation.
Danger: There is always a sense of being a visitor in a world that is much bigger and scarier than you are, which presents some interesting opportunities for men and women to show off their strength, courage and feistiness.
Bush living: Tents and firelight. Remember the scene from Out of Africa when Robert Redford washes Meryl Streep’s hair in a basin? The tourist industry has made the most of this limb-tingling effect Africa has on her visitors by creating luxury and opulence second-to-none at tented camps, lodges and bushveld hideaways.
I think Danish countess, Karen Blixen, played by Meryl Streep in the film, Out of Africa, would have agreed that the African bush is a particularly auspicious setting for romance. She said, ‘There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you have drunk half a bottle of champagne – bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.’ Safari life had a similar effect on Ernest Hemingway: ‘I never knew of morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy.’
There is something magical and unique about the continent. Why else would it attract more repeat tourism than any other long haul destination in the world? Richard Mullin, without relying on a single statistic, said, ‘The only man I envy is the one who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.’
What a wonderful setting in which to place characters that fascinate me, then watch as they find themselves, and love. First in The Alpha Match: Caro and Ben – will the beauty of the bushveld and their common purpose of wildlife conservation be enough to heal the wounds of the past? Sophie and Reuben in Moonflower (available for pre-launch order – Moonflower) – can an African game farm bridge the gap between wildest Africa and corporate London? In Wetlands, Adrian and Dani travel a near-impossible road when a global property developer threatens a sensitive wetlands.
Perhaps you’ve already visited Africa. I’d love to hear about your experiences or, if you’ve never been to the continent, what you think of the first story in the Untamed Safari Series. Whichever it is, I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to travel along with me.
Ben looked down at the animals drinking, but it was the feel of Caro pressed against him that he was most aware of. It was so much more than just a line of warmth that radiated through him wherever her body made contact with his. It was more than the sensuous tingle in his groin. Standing beside Caro like this was a dream come true.
This is what he had wanted for the rest of his life. Since the day he had asked her out on that field, her hair flying in wild waves around the most beautiful heart-shaped face he had ever seen, her skin the colour of cream and so delicate he could see the faint outline of a vein along her jaw line. Those huge round eyes of deepest blue that seemed incapable of dishonesty or artifice. That is when he had known that fate itself had sent her across the sea and into his life. She would be his for always and this was where they would be set: the smell of the bush, the sight of animals drinking peacefully at a water hole at the end of the day. The feel of gentle evening sun on his skin, the pioneering challenge of Africa and the company of conservationists. And always, always with Caro beside him.
He wouldn’t think of how cold it would seem when she’d left his life again. There would be a little less colour in every sunset, a small hollow ache no matter what he achieved. But that was in the future. Right now there was tonight. And Ben was determined to store it away as one his most treasured memories that would have to last him a lifetime.
BLURB AND BUY LINKS
English conservationist, Caro Hannah, and South African, Ben Duval, must work together to introduce endangered African wild dogs to a game reserve four years after their love affair ended. The challenges of their profession pale into insignificance beside the personal obstacles they must overcome to either bring closure to the events of four years before, or reignite a passion hot enough to burn up the African bush.
AUTHOR BIO AND LINKS
Leigh writes romance novels set in her native South Africa. She has always had a love affair with Africa’s wild open spaces, the intensity of its people and sunsets. Her love of storytelling began as a child when she spent every spare moment playing barefoot in golden grass, watching wild creatures, learning to track spoor and dreaming up heroes and heroines dynamic enough to stand out in all the beauty and drama of the African landscape.
Always in search of adventure, Leigh’s journey as a writer has taken her from journalism through communications, to working as a novelist.
Make sure to follow the whole tour—the more posts you visit throughout, the more chances you’ll get to enter the giveaway. The tour dates are here: http://www.writermarketing.co.uk/prpromotion/blog-tours/currently-on-tour/leigh-archer/