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Ribbons of Grace is set in Arrowtown, a frontier town with an explosive mix of inhabitants, during the Otago goldrush of the 1860s. It focuses on the love affair between Ming Yuet, a young Chinese woman, and Conran, an Orcadian stonemason. This touching novel opens with Ming Yuet at the graveside of her and Conran's daughter, Fang Yin. She is recounting the stories of their lives: the loves, the heartbreaks, the friendships, the hatreds, the hopes and the losses. Ming Yuet, an intelligent, resourceful young woman, has taken on the identity of her brother after he is killed by water pirates in China on his journey to New Zealand. She lives for several years as a miner, her secret known only to a few. Conran, a spirited, musical man, has escaped family tragedy to make a new life for himself in New Zealand. The two characters meet when Conran rescues Ming Yuet from a flood, setting in motion a magical love affair. The lovers must face prejudice and many challenges to allow their love to triumph. Will desire or deception triumph?
Ribbons of Grace has three storylines and three narrators - Ming Yuet, Conran, and Ida, an English nurse, with each telling their part of the narrative in a distinctive voice.
Maxine Alterio published a short story collection, Live News, with Steele Roberts in 2005. Her stories have appeared in literary journals, the Listener and on National Radio. She has also taught creative writing courses in New Zealand and the UK. She works as a Learning and Teaching Advisor in Higher Education at Otago Polytechnic and has published a non-fiction text on this subject, which has been picked up worldwide by Routledge Falmer. She's an experienced conference speaker and lives in Dunedin.