The Costa Rica Chronicles Series
Status: loosely planned

Estimated completion date: I will either start working on these or on the rest of the Fledglings books in 2024, depending on interest

Also see my embroidery series, as I stitched and imagined stories.

Christy Matheson embroidering

These stories are about British women immigrating to Costa Rica for various reasons, building love, partnership, and community. 

What is intriguing about Costa Rica? It’s history was different from many other Central American countries. It was more isolated from colonialism, due to a lack of natural resources and its forbidding geography. It gained independence in 1821, so during the period I am writing it was an independent country, not a colony or protectorate. Most of the country did not have much of a slave trade, either African or Native American. One consequence was a somewhat more egalitarian, effort-based society, and another was that in order to be successful, European immigrants needed to bring or build their own community. Since I write about community, this intrigued me.

Before I would actually write these novels, I would need to visit again (our family was there towards the end of covid, and we avoided most museums or indoor exhibits) and deepen my historical reading. However, during my reading and travels I found intriguing ideas and story potential.

Besides, for a place that so many westerners love to visit, there are remarkably few novels set in Costa Rica! 

Costa Rica Chronicles: San Jose

Book 1: Hannah’s story

Introverted, abstracted Hannah has been successfully publishing botanical articles in scholarly journals under her father’s name, but when her brother inherits he has no interest in either her or science. Desperate to escape, Hannah makes an arranged marriage with another scientist: a geologist about to leave for a position at the new university in San Jose, Costa Rica. 

Preparing to establish their household, Hannah and Mitchell gather English maids, valets, secretaries, and housekeepers. Hannah is proud to have the budget to offer her friend Charlotte a job as her own private secretary, as well as bringing along her personal maid and her sister. However, when their party finally arrives in San Jose, it turns out that Mitchell’s promised job is not available. With their international passage already paid for and job opportunities on all sides, most of their party abandons them. 

Mitchell uses his skill as a geologist to take a job with the commission developing roads. But when he suffers a grave accident, all the responsibility fall upon Hannah to find a security for Charlotte and the last few people who have stayed loyal to her. 

The old class systems from England don’t work any more, but Hannah’s upbringing has given her a certain confidence and status. She combines the old systems, new possibilities, and plain old hard work, into a creative way to find and fund a house to keep them all safe and together.

Book 2: Charlotte’s Story

Charlotte was relieved to be offered a position as Hannah’s private secretary and escape stifling British society back home. Shy and anxious, she has been happy to follow Hannah’s lead. Several years in, with their coffee farm thriving, Charlotte has a general assumption that she will marry Mitchell’s research assistant. It seems obvious, since they are part of the same household and already spend time together. But Elliot has ideas about making his own mark in the world before he settles down, and if Charlotte wants to be with him, she has to be ready to break out beyond her comfortable role. But does Charlotte even care about him, or is the match just… easy?

Book 3: Becky’s story

Becky didn’t even know Hannah when she made an impulsive decision to join the party as a maid-of-all-work. That was many years ago, and Becky has been an integral part of creating their success. Being a part-owner in the farm has given her new determination. Here in the New World, Becky isn’t merely a servant, she can rise to someone important.

Furthermore, there aren’t many women in San Jose, let alone in their class of British expatriates, and Becky has the potential to use marriage as a quick ladder to the upper class. She’s wanted to be successful and secure, but is that the way she wants to get there?

The Costa Rica Chronicles: Caribbean Coast

Eloise and James’s Story

Eloise and her mother Bettina are facing a long cold winter in London with the last of their inheritance dwindling, when tall, forthright Eloise learns that her uncle has left her a bequest: his cocoa and coffee farm on the east coast of Costa Rica. Eloise is ready to remove immediately, but friends warn her that she won’t possibly be taken seriously on the Caribbean Coast without a man to lead the household.

There are no convenient men in Eloise’s life any more, but it feels kind of exciting to put out an advertisement and be able to be the one to make the decision. “Gentleman wanted for husband position. Will have nominal but not legal responsibility for large estate. Apply for position with credentials of growing and shipping in Central America.”

Unfortunately, there are plenty of men who want nominal responsibility for a large estate. Eloise ends up picking her friend’s brother James, sight unseen, with the promise he is gentle and capable. They meet in New York and travel down the coast with their small household.

When they arrive at the estate, all is not as it seemed. Is there coffee? Yes. Is there profit? Yes. Is there a beautiful manor house? Yes.

But there are also recalcitrant staff, her uncle’s long-term mistress ruling the house, and strained relations with the locals. When Eloise uncovers her uncle’s role in smuggling and refuse to continue to participate, there are serious repercussions. Far from merely stepping into a successful farm, Eloise, James, & Bettina must create an entirely new system and build new relationships.

Eloise is finally learning to appreciate James’s strengths and acknowledge she never could have succeeded without him, when he is caught up in violence. Is he going to recover? Can the estate continue without him? And most of all, does Eloise want a business partner — or a husband?