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Authors: Santa Montefiore

Meet Me Under The Ombu Tree

BOOK: Meet Me Under The Ombu Tree
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Table of Contents

Born in England in 1970, Santa Montefiore grew up in Hampshire. She is married to historian Simon Sebag-Montefiore. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha, in London. Visit her at
www.santamontefiore.co.uk
and sign up for her newsletter.

Praise for
Meet Me Under the Ombu Tree:

‘All the ingredients of a classic romantic read - thwarted love, exotic locations and lifestyles of the rich and famous’
Daily Mail
‘A brilliant first novel and a classic piece of storytelling’
OK Magazine
An enjoyable tale of heat, dust and lust that maintains the tension to the very end’
Mail on Sunday

Ambitious . . . contains all the basic ingredients of a satisfying saga. It is impossible not to root for Sofia’
Sunday Telegraph

‘The descriptions of Argentina are fascinating, there is enough of a sprinkling of politics to keep readers on their toes and, as ever, the predicament of star-crossed lovers is the stuff of delicious escapism’
Sunday Times
Praise for Santa Montefiore:

‘Santa Montefiore is the new Rosamunde Pilcher’
Daily Mail
A superb storyteller of love and death in romantic places in fascinating times -

her passionate novels are already bestsellers across Europe and I can see why. Her plots are sensual, sensitive and complex, her characters are unforgettable life forces, her love stories are desperate yet uplifting - and one laughs as much as one cries’ Plum Sykes,
Vogue

‘A gripping romance ... it is as believable as the writing is beautiful’
Daily Telegraph

‘Anyone who likes Joanne Harris or Mary Wesley will love Montefiore’
Mail on Sunday

‘One of our personal favourites and bestselling authors, sweeping stories of

love and families spanning continents and decades’
The Times

‘The novel displays all Montefiore’s hallmarks: glamorous scene-setting,

memorable characters, and as always deliciously large helpings of yearning

love and surging passion’ Wendy Holden,
Sunday Express

‘Engaging and charming’ Penny Vincenzi

Also by Santa Montefiore

The Secrets of the Lighthouse

The Summer House

The House By The Sea

The Affair

The Italian Matchmaker

The French Gardener

Sea of Lost Love

The Gypsy Madonna

Last Voyage of the Valentina

The Swallow and the Hummingbird

The Forget-Me-Not Sonata

The Butterfly Box

First published in Great Britain by Hodder & Stoughton, 2001

An Hachette Livre Company

This paperback edition first published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

A CBS COMPANY

Copyright © Santa Montefiore, 2001

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.

No reproduction without permission.

® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.

The right of Santa Montefiore to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright,

Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

Simon & Schuster UK Ltd 1st Floor

222 Gray’s Inn Road London WCiX8HB

www.simonandschuster.co.uk

Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Paperback ISBN 978-1-47113-212-4 Ebook ISBN 978-1-47113-213-1

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, events or locales, is entirely

coincidental.

Typeset by Hewer Text UK Ltd, Edinburgh Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CRo 4YY

To my beloved Sebag

Chapter 1

When I close my eyes I see the flat, fertile plains of the Argentine
pampa.
It is like no other place on earth. The vast horizon stretches out for miles and miles - we used to sit at the top of the ombu tree and watch the sun disappear behind it, flooding the plains with honey.

As a child I was unaware of the political chaos around me. Those were the days of General Peron’s exile; turbulent years from 1955-73 when the military ruled the country like incompetent schoolchildren playing Pass the Parcel with political power. They were dark days of guerrilla warfare and terrorism. But Santa Catalina, our ranch, was a small oasis of peace, far from the riots and oppression taking place in the capital. From the top of our magical tree we gazed lovingly down onto a world of old-fashioned values and traditional family life punctuated with horse riding, polo and long, languorous barbecues in the dazzling summer sunshine. The bodyguards were the only indications of the trouble that simmered on our borders.

My grandfather, Dermot O’Dwyer, never did believe in the magic of the ombu tree. That’s not to say he wasn’t superstitious, he used to hide his liquor in

a different place every night to fool the leprechauns. But he just didn’t see how a tree could possess any kind of power. ‘A tree is a tree,’ he’d say in his Irish drawl, ‘and that’s all there is to it.’ But he wasn’t made from Argentine soil; like his daughter, my mother, he was an alien and never did fit in. He didn’t want to be buried in our family tomb either. ‘I came from the earth and to the earth I’ll return,’ he was very fond of saying. So he was buried on the plain with his bottle of liquor - I guess he was still anxious to outsmart those leprechauns.

I cannot think about Argentina without the craggy image of that tree, as wise and omniscient as an oracle, rising to the surface of my thoughts. I know now that one can never recapture the past, but that old tree holds all the memories of yesterday and the hopes invested in tomorrow within the very essence of its boughs. Like a rock in the middle of a river the ombu has remained the same while all those around it have changed.

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