They grow up so fast!

Our Hattie has been growing apace. When she first arrived at Mulberry Cottage, she almost disappeared as she trotted down the garden path for all the flowers seemed to dwarf her.

Blog 1 aAnd she looked like a little toy when sitting in front of the flowerbeds.

Blog 1 bI made the mistake of dead-heading one or two roses in front of her and she soon got the idea that that was her job, only she didn’t pick spent roses to dead-head! Oh dear!

Blog 1 cBut it’s impossible to stay mad at a little puppy with huge hazel eyes and the cutest freckle-strewn nose ever, isn’t it?

Blog 1 d

The roses of Mulberry Cottage

When we moved into Mulberry Cottage three years ago, we inherited a beautiful cottage garden full of fruit trees, flowering shrubs, honeysuckle and some beautiful perennials, but there were only a handful of rose bushes and I soon got to work rectifying this, widening borders and creating new ones to make room for some of my favourite roses.

Here’s the lovely David Austin rose, Gertrude Jekyll, whose scent is heavenly and after whom the middle sister in The Rose Girls is named.

IMG_3374And here’s the delicate Boule de Neige. I had to plant a second one in the front garden after Nancy the hen took a liking to the first one planted in the hen garden.

IMG_3434Here’s the stunning striped rose, Honorine de Brabant, nestled amongst the delicate beauty of Love in a mist. I do have a special fondness for a striped rose!

IMG_3432The trouble is, I never seem to have enough roses and I’m forever looking around our garden wondering where I can squeeze just one more in.

IMG_9021Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I wrote The Rose Girls – so that I could realise my fantasy of living in a medieval moated manor house surrounded by voluptuous rose gardens.

The Rose Girls cover - web 350

Hattie comes home

Since we lost our dear old spaniel Molly back in October, we knew we couldn’t live life for long without another dog and, early in March, a dear little Springer spaniel came into the world. We met her when she was just a week old and she was small enough to sit in our hands. We named her Hattie and instantly fell in love.

P1180704At three weeks’ old, her eyes were open but she was a very sleepy little girl.

3But at five weeks’ old, she was on the move!

Hattie at 5 weeks old And, at seven weeks’ old, she looked quite the young lady!

IMG_2647Welcome to Mulberry Cottage, Hattie. We’re so looking forward to many future adventures with you!

The Rose Girls – out now in paperback and audio

I’m thrilled to announce that The Rose Girls is out now in paperback and audio today, joining the ebook which had a special early promotion as part of ‘Kindle First’, and a HUGE thank you to everyone who bought it and reviewed it. It spent the whole month in the Top 100 and reached Number 2 which was really thrilling!

The Rose Girls cover - web 350

The Rose Girls – paperback The Rose Girls – Kindle

The Rose Girls – audio download The Rose Girls – MP3 CD

 

Finding Fairacre

Earlier this month, my husband and I spent a day in the beautiful countryside of West Berkshire, meeting up with Jill Saint – the daughter of Dora Saint who wrote as ‘Miss Read’. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Miss Read fan and this visit promised to be something very special indeed.

We met Jill in Chieveley – the village where Dora lived after the war – and, after a fine lunch at the local pub, the dark sky that had been glowering at us on our journey from Suffolk cleared to become a perfect Miss Read ‘blue and white day’.

IMG_2708There is a very pretty churchyard at Chieveley and the blossom was out and there were cowslips and buttercups everywhere. The village gardens were all bursting with bluebells and wisteria, and Jill pointed out the pretty cottage where she lived with her parents for many happy years.

Dora Saint's cottageA short car ride took us down the country lanes leading between Chieveley and Peasemore, the exact route Dora Saint would have ridden on her bicycle when supply teaching at the primary school.

Countryside around ChieveleyApproaching PeasemoreWe parked by the village church which looked like something out of a J S Goodall illustration with its proud tower and steeple.

St Barnabas, PeasemoreAnd the village school where Dora Saint taught was just behind it. It’s a private home now, but you can still see the school bell and imagine the children laughing and playing ‘splash ’em’ in the playground just as they did in the Fairacre novels.

IMG_2753It was then a short walk to a very special place: a long brick and flint wall…

The brick and flint wallBut it wasn’t just any wall. This was the wall which readers might remember from a story called The Lucky Hole. Published in The Observer in 1953 and included in the collection Tales from a Village School and the recently published Mrs Griffin Sends Her Love, The Lucky Hole tells of the custom to leave small items like a coin or a sweet in a hole in the long flint wall for the local children to find. It was this story which caught the eye of publisher Robert Lusty at Michael Joseph Ltd, and he was the one who encouraged Dora to write her very first novel, Village School.

With Jill Saint at the lucky holeI love how this humble hole in the wall inspired a short story that then led to a book deal and one of the loveliest series ever written. I adore the Fairacre series and I feel truly thankful to this wall for leading to its creation.

Unlike Miss Read’s ‘Thrush Green’ which was based on Wood Green near Witney in Oxfordshire, Fairacre isn’t based on one particular village. However, I felt as if I’d found a little piece of Fairacre in Peasemore that day.

The lucky holeAnd, of course, you can’t visit the lucky hole without leaving a little something inside it. I wonder how long it will be before the next visitor finds it …

Missing Mariette

Mariette came to Mulberry Cottage in April 2012. Rehomed with the help of the British Hen Welfare Trust, she arrived with her two sisters Primrose and Little Flo, all named after characters from my favourite novel – H E Bates’s The Darling Buds of May. And what a little darling she was with an oversized pale comb and huge bare patches all over her body.

Arriving homeBut, with the gentle passage of time, she grew all her feathers back and grew in confidence too, becoming one of the best cuddling hens I’ve ever had.

HoldingShe also became one of the plumpest with a well-rounded body and fabulous full tail, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat in the garden with her falling asleep on my lap in the sunshine.

Shed doorMariette was also one of the most photogenic hens we’ve ever had which made her an absolute natural when the East Anglian Daily Times came to interview me about my books. Mariette took pride of place in each of the photos taken!

EADT shootShe also had her presence requested at Assington Mill’s hen-keeping course and was an absolute star, allowing each of the participants to handle her.

Hen courseAnd how proud I was when she reached three years of happy retirement with us this April – a record for one of our ex-bats. She celebrated with a bowl of warm mash and grated cheese, shared with the flock.

Third birthday 2I am so going to miss my large, docile girl. No more will her cheeky face peer in at the kitchen window from the top of the dustbin which she’d often jump onto. No more will she sneak into the conservatory and stick her head in the bag of corn, gobbling it so fast that it would make her sneeze.

In conservatoryGoodbye darling Mariette. Thank you for making our lives so much brighter with your presence.

The Rose Girls reaches number two!

Thank you to my lovely readers who were quick to buy The Rose Girls when it was released as a ‘Kindle First’ title on 1st May. It’s been in Amazon’s Top 100 for 10 days now and spent a week of that time in the Top 10, reaching number 2 at its height!

The Rose Girls cover - web 350I really hope you’re enjoying the story of the three Hamilton sisters and how they come together to save their family’s home and rose business. I loved writing this book so much!

Ebook available now from Amazon UK

The Rose Girls – out now as a Kindle First title!

I’m really excited to be part of a very special promotion this month – my new novel, The Rose Girls, is part of Amazon’s Kindle First offer where you can buy it for just 99p as an ebook a whole month ahead of its official publication. Just sign up to the Kindle First programme and get reading in time for the Bank Holiday weekend!

The Rose Girls cover - web 350

I hope you all enjoy the new book. Set in Suffolk’s beautiful Stour Valley and full of moated manor houses and stunning rose gardens, it truly is the book of my heart!

Ebook available now from Amazon UK

Escape to Mulberry Cottage – out now in audio

I’m delighted to announce the release of the audio book version of Escape to Mulberry Cottage – the first in my Mulberry Cottage series. Read by the wonderful Jan Cramer, it tells of our move from the London suburbs to rural Suffolk with ex-bat hens in tow! I do hope you enjoy it.

Escape to MC Audiobook cover

Audiobook available from: Amazon UK Amazon US iTunes Audible US Audible UK

And, if you’re signed up to Kindle Unlimited, you can read the ebook of Escape to Mulberry Cottage for free!

London Book Fair 2015

This week, the London Book Fair opened at Olympia and I was there on the first day. For the past few years, the fair has been held at Earl’s Court, but the very first book fair I ever attended – all the way back in 2001 – was at Olympia so it was great to be back at this fabulous venue although the great glass roof acted like a massive greenhouse on the hottest day of the year so far! IMG_2463IMG_2467A few years ago, the fair wasn’t a great place for an author to visit unless you had arranged to meet a publisher or agent, but now there are lots of interesting talks and panels and I managed to catch the end of a talk by writer Deborah Moggach.

IMG_2469In fact, authors are so welcome at the fair these days that we have our very own HQ!

IMG_2472But the main reason I visited was to meet my new editor at Amazon Publishing and I took a very special ‘limited edition’ box of chocolates in for the team to thank them for all their hard work on my new book, The Rose Girls, which comes out in a few weeks.

IMG_2460I was especially excited to meet team members who’d flown in from Luxembourg and Seattle to attend the fair. It made my little trip in from rural Suffolk seem very tame.

IMG_2476Of course, no author goes to the book fair without catching up with a few author pals and here I am with fellow Amazon Publishing authors Mel Sherratt and Freda Lightfoot beside a fabulous poster of Mel.

It was then on to a lovely pub in Notting Hill for Amazon’s author party where I met thriller writers Mark Edwards and Casey Kelleher, and chatted to my wonderful pals from Notting Hill Press, Matt Dunn and Talli Roland.

Now, it’s back to the keyboard and Chapter 4 of the new novel …

Summer at Mulberry Cottage – out now!

I’m really excited to launch Summer at Mulberry Cottage, the third book in the Mulberry Cottage series, and isn’t the cover just perfect for summer? Featuring our dear spaniel, Molly, and our entire flock of hens, it’s the first cover to feature a certain writer too!

SAMC cover 600It’s been lovely to record the long, warm months of summer in this little book and over thirty photographs capture just some of the beauty that the Suffolk countryside has to offer. I really hope you enjoy the latest installment in the series.

Mulberry Cottage series banner webYou can read more about the Mulberry Cottage series on this page.