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Turbulent Threads
Quentin Wilson Publishing
Available in trade paperback

A passionate tale of freedom and love in Victorian Dunedin by bestselling New Zealand author Karen McMillan is a page-turning saga set in extraordinary times.


Dunedin, 1890: Suddenly orphaned at the tender age of twenty, Greer Gillies is reduced to working as a humble servant at Larnach Castle, a far cry from her dreams of literature, fashion and music. And as she struggles with the stark reality of grief, she finds her journey has only just begun as the decade proves transformative for women’s progress.


Greer’s discovery of newfound friendships and a supportive community becomes a catalyst for change, echoing the progressive spirit of the times. But as she grapples with affairs of the heart, betrayal, the threat of lost love and social upheavals, her resilience shines through. Greer becomes a symbol of courage, daring to pursue her dreams, follow her heart and find her place in a world that promises a better future.


Spanning the last decade of the 19th century, this page-turning saga not only explores the healing power of friendship and love but also celebrates the pivotal role women played in one of New Zealand’s most turbulent eras. Greer is an independent woman of her time, and her journey stands as a beautifully imagined account that captures the essence of a historical milestone when women’s voices rose above the tumult.


Author Note:

‘The 1880s in New Zealand was a time of depression and hardship, but the 1890s were exciting and prosperous times, especially for young women. Never before had they had so many opportunities in life, and I have tried to capture what it would have been like living in Dunedin in this decade. New Zealand became the first country in the world to pass a law so women had the right to vote in the parliamentary elections, but numerous other laws were passed during this progressive time that are the cornerstone of our society now.


Despite its bad reputation, the Devil’s Half-Acre was a poor but thriving community in Dunedin, where Scots, Irish, Chinese and Lebanese lived side by side, often new immigrants supporting each other in their endeavours. It was wonderful to include characters that reflect this multi-cultural heritage.


Greer and most of the characters in this book are entirely fictional, but her story is counterpointed by the real-life story of William Larnach and his troubles, his marriage to his third wife Constance, scandalous rumours of an illicit love affair, and his suicide in the house of Parliament. There are also cameo appearances of the real-life businessmen Bendix Hallenstein and Charles (Choie) Sew Hoy.


To research this book, I am very grateful to the Robert Lord Writer’s Cottage Residency for allowing me concentrated time to work on this novel, a wonderful labour of love.’


Praise for Turbulent Threads:

Turbulent Threads is an engrossing read about love, loss, resilience and above all, trusting your instincts. Karen McMillan skilfully draws readers into a world that'll have you rooting for the protagonists the whole way through.’ Kelly Dennett, Sunday Star Times 


‘Karen McMillan’s enchanting new novel Turbulent Threads draws the reader into the rich, colourful and varied textures of the social and cultural layers of late nineteenth century Dunedin as protagonist, Greer Gillies, attempts to negotiate life after the death of her beloved father.  Forced by her circumstances to work as a maid in the imposing Larnach Castle, Greer provides us with a distinctive perception of the enigmatic lives of William Larnach and his family; the glamour, the conflicts and the tragedies. But as the century rolls towards an ending, new and exciting opportunities are opening for young, talented and industrious women.’  Paddy Richardson, author of By the Green of the Spring

‘Turbulent Threads is more than just a brilliant depiction of one woman’s journey through loss and love – it is a transportive tale that allows a glimpse into one of the most pivotal eras for the women of New Zealand. A wonderful addition to the bookshelf.’  Nick Davies, author of El Flamingo

'There’s a wonderful sense of nostalgia and connectivity about being able to visualise many of the settings, such as Larnach Castle, where suddenly orphaned 20-year-old Greer Gillies is reduced to working as a servant. Find a cosy spot and settle in to enjoy.' Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations

'Karen McMillan has captured the 1890s in Victorian Dunedin in an engaging historical novel which is clearly very well researched. Through it run threads of the suffrage movement; betrayal, heartbreak and love; wealth and poverty; and the plight of immigrants. Reading the fascinating stories of the Larnach family and their castle, Charles Sew Hoy, the Devil’s Half-Acre, the founding Lebanese families and the Dunedin suffrage movement all added extra, thought-provoking depth to the people and places that feature in this book.' Flaxflower

'I absolutely loved Turbulent Threads which was a delightful escape from reality, yet you learn some facts through fiction. It painted a colourful picture of life in Victorian Dunedin, in particular, the pioneering spirit of young women at the time. It also made me want to explore Dunedin and go back to visit to discover more of its fascinating history and nooks and crannies that I had no idea about as a young woman studying at university there. This book has a little something for everyone; history buffs, romantics and those who want to know why we should be proud to be kiwis.' Kat McCormack, Radio Rhema Breakfast Host

‘I finished reading Turbulent Threads yesterday and what a delight it was. You combined fact and fiction so beautifully that I felt I was actually right there with Greer on her journey to find love and her place in the world. The book also combined so many of my own interests — Victoriana, classical music (particularly relating to the violin) the history of fashion and women’s lib together with great affection for Dunedin. I knew the story of William Larnach’s suicide and the way you built up to that, and the consequent speculation around it was so absorbing that I had to delay preparations for last night’s dinner until after I had read the final page. Your book is wonderful on so many levels, and I absolutely loved it.’  Jenny Lynch, author of The Secrets They Kept and former editor of the NZ Woman’s Weekly


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