Two Top 100’s

I want to thank all my lovely readers who came out in full force during publication week to buy my new novel Love in an English Garden. It rocketed into Amazon’s Top 30 on day one, overtaking The Rose Girls. How wonderful to see them both at the top of the genre charts too. Very exciting!

Banner Love in an English Garden and Rose Girls spring 2017

On the M R James trail – part 2

Last week, we took a trip out to the Suffolk coast to visit Aldeburgh. It’s a beautiful seaside town which fans of M R James will recognise as ‘Seaburgh’ in A Warning to the Curious – my favourite of James’s ghost stories.


We quickly found the White Lion Hotel – called ‘The Bear’ in the story – and walked down the lonely stretch of beach where Paxton ran to his doom.

03Here I am with Hattie near the martello tower that features in the story.


Leaving Aldeburgh, we drove inland to visit the church at Theberton which may well have been the inspiration for James’s ‘Froston’.

T1 Like the church Paxton visits, it has a fine porch featuring engravings that could well represent the three crowns of East Anglia.

T4In true M R James style, we were greeted by a local man who happily told us some of the history of the church including the interesting idea that porches were added to churches to prevent churchgoers from doing inappropriate business transactions in the church itself!

Shortly after our trip to Aldeburgh, we visited the wonderful manor at Hemingford Grey in Cambridgeshire. The house and garden are famous as being the former home of children’s author Lucy Boston and were the inspiration behind her ‘Green Knowe’ books.

Robert Lloyd Parry as M R James 3 credit Shelagh Bidwell

Robert Lloyd Parry as M R James photographed by Shelagh Bidwell

We were there to see actor Robert Lloyd Parry perform two M R James stories and it was an unforgettable experience. Sitting in the 900-year old Music Room lit only by candlelight, Robert held his audience spellbound. What a treat it was. Do book yourself a ticket if you can. You will not be disappointed.

On the M R James trail

Winter. The snow is falling and the evenings are long, dark and cold. What better time of year to sit by the fire reading the ghost stories of M R James?


I love James’s stories. I’m drawn in by the beauty of his locations, his obsession with ancient treasures and old books discovered in dusty libraries, and I’m fascinated by the academic world his characters inhabit, and the simple, quiet life of study his protagonists lead. Quiet, that is, until they poke their noses just a little too far into the past…

Having grown up in Suffolk, James makes good use of the wild coastline, the many brick and flint churches, and the isolated manor houses which dot the landscape. And just imagine my delight when I discovered that one of the settings used in Count Magnus wasn’t too far from us.

Belchamp St Paul is just over the border in Essex and I couldn’t help wondering why M R James had chosen this little village for the climax of his story.


So, off we went with a 1906 edition of Ghost Stories on an Antiquary to see what we could find.


A terrific gale greeted us as we left the car and walked to the church, and we feared it might be a supernatural force warning us to stay away!

IMG_2009The church of St Andrew has many fine features including some beautiful old pew ends. I love this one of the holy man with his book, although I doubt it’s an M R James title he’s reading!

IMG_2011The afternoon light was quite magical as we walked around the churchyard and we all did a double-take when we spotted the name ‘James’ on a grave, feeling that the great man was very much with us! IMG_2013

When I spotted what might once have been the parsonage, I was reminded of the feeling of helplessness experienced by Mr Wraxall in Count Magnus when he says, “The parson is away.” Wraxall is truly alone. There is nobody he can turn to for help.IMG_2018The village itself centres around a pleasant green. There’s a pub and many pretty thatched cottages. There’s even a waterpump.P1060704But we didn’t find the crossroads where Wraxall sees his two eerie pursuers. Perhaps that’s just as well.P1060725As the sun began to set, we thought we’d better count our blessings and head home to safety. But I still have many questions as to why James chose this village for his story. Perhaps his terrified hero chose the middle-of-nowhere place at random, hoping that his pursuers would be unable to find him. Of course, we know how that turned out! Whatever James’s reasons, it was enormous fun to step into the world of his story for a brief time.

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for buying, reading and reviewing my books this year, and for getting in touch with your kind messages. 2017 is going to be a really exciting year with at least 3 new novels coming so keep in touch.

Love to you all from everybody here at Mulberry Cottage! x


The Christmas Collection – out now in paperback and ebook

I’m really excited to share my latest publication with you – The Christmas Collection. I’ve received a lot of emails from readers who wanted to see my three ‘Christmas at…’ novellas in paperback. Well, now you can – in one gorgeous collection!

Click or tap to buy The Christmas Collection - Victoria Connelly

Click or tap to buy The Christmas Collection – Victoria Connelly

I have to say that this is one of the prettiest covers ever and I think this would make a lovely stocking filler for a friend or family member who might enjoy a festive story or three this Christmas. The Christmas Collection is also available as an ebook so, if you haven’t yet read any of these sweet and cosy novellas, now is the perfect time to treat yourself!Buy the ebookBuy the paperback

Wightwick Manor

My favourite part of writing a novel is the very beginning – when it’s all shiny and new and nobody knows what you’re up to except you. It’s a wonderful dream time where anything is possible and you can go in any direction.


One of the first things I like to decide when starting a new novel is the setting. I need to have a strong sense of place when I’m writing – to know the landscape my characters are inhabiting.


And, with that in mind, we visited Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton – a beautiful Arts and Crafts home famous for its William Morris textiles, De Morgan tiles and Pre-Raphaelite paintings. It’s just the kind of sumptuous Victorian interior I want to write about in my new novel, and it was a joy to walk around its rooms, asking the room stewards lots of questions and soaking up the very special atmosphere. I remember visiting the house when I was at university in Worcester in 1989 and the house has silently slumbered in my imagination, just waiting for its turn to inspire a story…


Another wonderfully Pre-Raphaelite-themed day out was when I met up with my lovely writer pal H Y Hanna at Tate Britain where we gasped at the beauties by Rossetti, Millais and Waterhouse, bought some gorgeous arty things from the gift shop and had a good ole gossip!

hsin-yi-2And now it’s back to the novel – to the Victorian Gothic house, the maze, the topiary garden and those characters whose story I need to discover…

A Miss Read day at Minster Lovell

This week, I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Jill Saint, daughter of Dora Saint, who wrote as ‘Miss Read’. We met for lunch at The Swan in Minster Lovell in the heart of the Cotswolds.

01This is the very pub which Phyllida ‘Phil’ Prior is taken to by Richard in News from Thrush Green but, where Phil and Richard’s trip took place on a day ‘peaceful in its winter emptiness’, ours was on a warm and sunny day stolen from summer.


After lunch, which we ate by what could have been the very fireplace that was lit for Phil and Richard’s visit, we followed in the fictional characters’ footsteps, walking through the pretty village full of thatched cottages and perfect English gardens full of hollyhocks and roses.


The ruin of the 15th-century Minster Lovell Hall was our destination.


‘What had these venerable walls witnessed in their time, Phil wondered? Passion in plenty, bloodshed without doubt; but also piety, perseverance and simple happiness.’

4 A bonfire had been lit in the neighbouring churchyard, a pungent reminder that autumn was on its way.6But, today, the sun dappled its light through the trees along the River Windrush and I noted that the river is given its real name in News from Thrush Green, perhaps because Minster Lovell is a real place. In other Thrush Green books, where Woodgreen becomes Thrush Green and Witney becomes Lulling, the Windrush is called the Pleshey. 7

We so enjoyed our trip to Minster Lovell. It’s always a magical experience to walk into a scene which has been described so vividly in a favourite book and I hope we can visit again another time – perhaps later in the year – witnessing it as Miss Read’s characters did: ‘The ancient inn drowsed in the winter sunlight, and welcomed them with a great log fire’.

Buy News from Thrush Green here.

miss-read News from Thrush Green

Jill kindly agreed to answer a few questions from our Facebook group ‘I Want to Live in Fairacre’.

Interview with Jill Saint

Pauline Downing: What was Dora’s favourite season?

Jill: She almost certainly liked summer best.

Carol Hager: Did Dora have a favorite character?

Jill: I’m not sure if she had a favourite character, though she did once say when asked, that Mrs Pringle was the only one that got away from her, and she did of course write a book of that title.

Teresa O’Hara: What was Dora’s favourite dinner and dessert or cake?

Jill: Dessert: Crème brulée; don’t know about main meal, but she wasn’t an enthusiastic meat eater. Possibly poultry. Shepherd’s pie. Cake: gingerbread and Battenberg, but she was very keen on any cake at afternoon tea-time, right up to the end!

Linda Rachel: Do you know why Miss Read was never given a Christian name in the books? She was only ever “Miss Read”.

Jill: I don’t think Dora ever thought about a Christian name for Miss Read.  In the early 50s, most people would have addressed each other as Miss/Mrs Whatever, especially the local schoolmistress.  Only once, a journalist or reviewer referred to her as Grace Read, which was in fact Dora’s mother’s name.

Mandy Hobbs: Did she live in a cottage? And what was her favourite flower?

Jill: She lived in a fairly remote cottage not far from Hungerford in Berkshire. Her favourite flowers were roses, cottage pinks and wild flowers.

Dora Saint Miss Read house Strouds

Tracey Raper: Would your dear mother be pleased that she has a following on Facebook?

Jill: Dora would have been amused and pleased to know about the Facebook following, though it would have taken ages to explain it to her. She didn’t do computers, or even electric typewriters.

Denise Shaw: I would be interested to know if she enjoyed visiting other parts of the country on holiday perhaps or days out? Did she ever travel abroad if so where?

Jill: They visited Malta, Austria, Germany, Portugal, Bruges, Vienna, Paris, and Italy – Lake Como, Venice, Florence, Siena and Rome, and south – Capri, Naples, Sorrento, and Sicily in their earlier days. As they got older and didn’t want to travel so far, they went to UK places, indulging themselves in very good hotels just for a few days at a time.  They were fond of the Welsh borders and the New Forest, but travelled all over the UK including Scotland and Ireland, as well as days out in the sort of radius you’d expect. They had a timeshare flat in Torquay which they used for many years, so they saw a lot of south Devon.

Jeanne Gale: I have always wanted to know the impetus that led her, from the essays she wrote to tackling something as big as a book.

Jill: The best description of her move from journalistic writing to the Miss Read books is her own, which you’ll find in Mrs Griffin Sends Her Love. Essentially, she was commissioned to write Village School, and the rest is history.

Jackie Bridgen: Was there a real life inspiration for the dreaded Mrs Pringle – or indeed the very sophisticated Amy?

Jill: Dora was always particularly careful not to base characters on real people who might be offended, but I can see two of our friends in Amy – one a very practical and efficient person who was a wonderful hostess, and another who was always immaculately dressed and groomed.  I’ve no idea if Dora had them in mind, or whether it was unconscious – I don’t think I ever asked her, and I wouldn’t think she’d do it deliberately. I’ve no idea about Mrs Pringle – I don’t remember anyone like her!

Margaret AndValdis Juskevics: I would like to ask Jill where exactly did you live in Wood Green? Do you remember wheeling your little dolly pram around Witney?

Jill: We didn’t live on Woodgreen itself, but at 94 High Street, Witney (Lulling in the books) in the top flat of the house. Our landlady became my godmother, and Pam Ayres has a wonderful description of her in her own memoirs.  I remember it very well (and the dolls’ pram), and Woodgreen itself. We went back regularly when older friends were still alive, and I go quite frequently now. The Tourist Information Centre does a roaring trade in the Thrush Green leaflets!

Deborah Joynson: I would like to know what happened to her sisters Lil’ and Betty. What did they think of her career, and are they portrayed in any characters?

Jill: I’m not aware that she put Lil and Betty into the books at all, though they both read them.  Lil didn’t marry;  taught at primary schools in the East End of London (Docklands when it really was) her whole life, and died in her mid-80s in a nursing home in Henley, very much supported by Betty who lived not far away.  I got on very well with Betty, who was sadly widowed soon after she and her husband Alan retired.  She was a very keen gardener, and we used to egg each other on to buy things at garden centres.  She was also extremely funny and good company.  She died of cancer a few years ago.  I still keep in touch with her son Pete and his wife Debbie; not as often as I should.

Zuzanna Michoń Haslam: I would like to know how Dora celebrated Christmas and does Jill have any special enduring little girl/family memories of that time?

Jill: We didn’t make a great deal of Christmas and birthdays, though my parents always made sure that I had a good time at both.  We had the traditional tree, decorations, presents and meal, and often went to the pantomime with another family.

Victoria Connelly: We had a fun discussion on the Facebook group about ‘Morny’ soap after a reference in Summer at Fairacre. Are there brands of cosmetics or food/drink that your mother loved that still survive today?

Jill: Dora used mainly the traditional toiletries like Morny and Bronnley.  I can’t think of anything in the food and drink line, except that she liked Pimms.

Sally Oliver: Which writers did Dora Saint enjoy the most?

Jill: Trollope above all; Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Barbara Pym, Angela Thirkell, Colin Dexter’s Morse; E M Delafield’s Provincial Lady; Ngaio Marsh and Agatha Christie; Adrian Bell and Ronald Blythe. She liked detective novels and poetry.

Thank you for the questions and to Jill for taking the time to answer them all. And come and join us on our ‘I Want to Live in Fairacre’ Facebook page.







Summer Reads

Can you believe it’s September already? Where did the summer go? But – oh – how wonderful it’s been. I’ve enjoyed many an hour sitting in the garden reading a good book. My favourite summer reads have been The Inn at Eagle Point by Sherryl Woods, Last One Home by Debbie Macomber, and Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne.

Books Sherryl Woods, Debbie Macomber, RaeAnne Thayne 1Our Springer spaniel Hattie often hopped up onto the bench beside me, wondering what I was up to!

IMG_9709I also really adored Robyn Carr’s What We Find – a moving novel about healing and allowing yourself to risk your heart one more time. It’s the start of a new series and, if it’s anything like the wonderful Virgin River series, I’m going to be hooked!


The Honor Roll!

I was absolutely delighted to hear from my publisher that I’d sold over 100,000 copies of The Rose Girls and just as pleased to receive this gorgeous gift from my publisher to commemorate reaching this milestone.

The Rose Girls framed

Sales of The Rose Girls mean that I am now featured on the Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll along such luminaries as Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber and Robyn Carr. My publisher was so thrilled by the news that they sent me a dozen red roses. When they arrived, my husband said, ‘They’d better be from your publisher or you’ll be in trouble!’

Roses for RWA Roll of Honour P1280232So, a special thank you to every single reader who has bought a copy of The Rose Girls because, without you, I couldn’t have achieved this and it really has made me very happy indeed!