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Romeo and Juliet meets Indiana Jones in this epic tale that combines the hunt for a dinosaur skeleton, bitter rivalries and a forbidden romance.

 

Somewhere in the Badlands, embedded deep in centuries-buried rock and sand, lies the skeleton of a massive dinosaur, larger than anything the late nineteenth-century world has ever seen. Some legends call it the Black Beauty, with its bones as black as ebony, but to seventeen-year-old Samuel Bolt, it’s the “rex,” the king dinosaur that could put him and his struggling, temperamental archaeologist father in the history books.

But Samuel and his father aren’t the only ones after the rex. For Rachel Cartland this find could be her ticket to a different life, one where her loves of science and adventure aren’t just relegated to books and sitting rooms. And if she can’t prove herself on this expedition with her professor father, the only adventures she may have to look forward to are marriage or spinsterhood.

As their paths cross and the rivalry between their fathers becomes more intense, Samuel and Rachel are pushed closer together. Their flourishing romance is one that will never be allowed. And with both eyeing the same prize, it’s a romance that seems destined for failure. As their attraction deepens, danger looms on the other side of the hills, causing everyone’s secrets to come to light and forcing Samuel and Rachel to make a decision. Can they join forces to find their quarry, and with it a new life together, or will old enmities and prejudices keep them from both the rex and each other?

 

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Behind the story

Dinosaurs are so commonplace now, in museums, on the silver screen, that we almost take their magnificence for granted.

But what, I wondered, would it have been like to be that first person to dig up a massive dinosaur bone? Imagine the excitement, the torrent of questions: “What on earth have I discovered?”

My initial research on the first documented dinosaur find (Richard Owen, 1842, the Iguanadon, in London of all places!) quickly brought me to the pioneering American paleontologists Edward Drinkwater Cope and Charles Othniel Marsh. Their rivalry in the 1870s was known as the Bone Wars: between them, they named and claimed over a hundred dinosaur species, while also energetically trying to destroy each other’s careers. These two larger-than-life characters were the inspiration for the paleontologist fathers in Every Hidden Thing. And if you’ve got two fathers who hate each other, doesn’t it make sense their respective teenaged children will fall in love?

I had a lot to learn for this book. I tried to bone up on anatomy so I could recognize joints and femurs and humerii. I spent a lot of time at the museum, measuring T-Rex's and centrosaurs and pterosaurs. But I also wanted to know what it was like to swelter in the sun in search of fossils, so I managed to get myself invited on a short field expedition in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta.

This was my Indiana Jones moment. I bought hiking boots, and a hat. I wanted a bullwhip but MEC wouldn’t sell me one. The badlands terrain was a like an ancient hidden world, literally sunken below prairie level: buttes and ravines and coulees and rocks of astonishingly different textures and colours.

And mosquitoes, lots and lots of them. During my stay I got a crash course in prospecting, quarrying out fossils, and preparing them back in the lab. And I also got to ask my patient paleontologist hosts about everything from the history of paleontology, to how to identify bone -- something which I was useless at. Prospecting, I felt like a pesky cartoon character, calling out every few seconds, “Don, hey, Don, is this bone?” A glance was all it took for him. “Nope. That’s glacial erratic limestone.” “Hey, Don, how about this?” “That’s petrified wood.” “Hey, Don, I think I’ve got something big here!” “That’s a rabbit skull. It’ll be a fossil in 65 million years.”

There were a ton of other things I needed to learn about. The birth of American paleontology intersected with aggressive American westward expansion, and increasing tension with the American Indians prior to the Great Sioux War of 1876. I took pains to research the Lakota Indians, whose homelands and way of life were being stolen and eradicated, and I was fortunate to have my manuscript reviewed in advance by a Lakota reader to make sure my depictions of indigenous peoples were accurate and respectful.

During my brief time in the Badlands, one of the amazing things I learned about paleontology was that the work methods haven’t changed much in 140 years. You walk, you look, you dig, and when you find bone, you shovel. It can be tedious and sweaty, but exhilarating. After a day of prospecting, standing on a lookout, I asked my host: “If you had a machine that could see inside all these hills, would you do it?”  He shook his head. “What would be the fun of that?”