An Amazing 2014!

As this year draws to a close, I have to say that it’s been one of the saddest on the pet front. We lost three beautiful hens and had to say goodbye to our darling spaniel, Molly. But we’re looking ahead to next year when we can rehome some more hens and have the experience of our very first puppy!

2014 has also been my busiest yet on the writing front with 6 books published! And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of my lovely readers for being there to support these titles. I’ve loved getting your messages and seeing what you think about my new stories.

2014 Releases Banner longAnd there’ll be plenty more stories for 2015 too. Watch out for my second children’s book and the third ‘Mulberry Cottage’ title in the spring, a brand new novel called The Rose Girls in May, and the first three books in an exciting new series in the autumn.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas. Eat lots of lovely food and read lots of fabulous books!

Merry Christmas from all at Mulberry Cottage

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A Visit to Thrush Green

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting ‘Thrush Green’ with Jill Saint – the daughter of Dora Saint or ‘Miss Read’ as she’s widely known to her readers.

IMG_1350Where Miss Read’s ‘Fairacre’ is a fictional place, ‘Thrush Green’ was inspired by Woodgreen near Witney in Oxfordshire and it’s still instantly recognisable today from the books which were published from 1959.

IMG_1340The pub, The Three Pigeons, was the inspiration behind Thrush Green’s ‘The Two Pheasants’ as patronised by the irascible Albert Piggot, and the cottages and fine houses in the golden stone of the Cotswolds were home to characters such as Harold Shoosmith, Dr Bailey and Ella and Dimity.

IMG_1346After touring the green with Jill, Roy and I took a quick drive to the nearby town of Witney which was ‘Lulling’ in the books, and was the home of Dora Saint between 1940 – 1945. Like Woodgreen, it’s full of picturesque homes and it’s easy to see how a writer would be inspired to write stories set in such a place.

IMG_1354From Witney, we drove on to the Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water through which flows the beautiful River Windrush which Dora Saint called the Pleshy in the Thrush Green books. Even on a bitterly cold day in November, it was breathtakingly lovely and the surrounding countryside certainly made this writer want to reach for her pen and paper!

IMG_1474Did you know that there is a new Miss Read book out now?  Mrs Griffin Sends her Love is a gorgeous collection of essays and short pieces of fiction collected together for the very first time. With a lovely foreword and insightful introductions throughout from Jill Saint, I can highly recommend it.

 

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Sweet Agnes

It’s been a very sad time at Mulberry Cottage. We had to say goodbye to our darling spaniel, Molly, last month and, last week, we lost Agnes – the ex-bat hen. Agnes came to us in May with three of her sisters. She was tiny and pale and missing quite a lot of feathers but she was a courageous little girl and was the very first to venture into the big outdoors when we let the new flock free-range for the first time.

Agnes arrives homeAnd she soon got the hang of life in a country garden…

Free-ranging girland enjoyed many sunbathing days over the summer. I’ve never seen a hen enjoying the sunshine quite so much as little Agnes.

Our little sunworshipperBut our sweet girl was having problems in the egg-laying department which left her feeling exhausted. Warm baths helped alleviate some of the side-effects:

Bath timeAnd cuddles in the sunshine too:

Sunshine cuddleBut, despite several of these setbacks, she grew all her feathers back and turned into a most glorious hen!

Glorious girlI just wish that her retirement had been longer then those seven months.

AgnesGoodbye little Aggie. We miss you so very much.

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The Hardest Goodbye

Last month, we had to say goodbye to our dear spaniel Molly. I’ve not been able to write about it until now because it’s been too painful. I miss her terribly and our cottage feels so empty without her.

Molly was our first dog and I remember seeing her photograph on the website of the Diana Brimblecome Animal Rescue Centre. She was chained to a gate on a farm and had spent the first few years of her life in this way, left out in all weathers.

I’d been desperate to rehome a dog for years but, on the day we went to collect her, I was full of nerves. What if Molly didn’t bond with us? What if she was a wrecker and ate all my books? What if I couldn’t handle her? I didn’t dare tell my husband my misgivings in case he called the whole thing off. Sitting on the backseat of the car with her, my hand on her back as she looked in every direction other than at me, I couldn’t help wondering what was going through her mind and if she was as nervous as I was.

Molly HomeWhen we took her for her first walk in our local park, she barked at every single dog who approached her and, when we went to a training class, she barked for a full sixty minutes! It was obvious that she’d never been socialised properly and that we had a mammoth task ahead of us.

Molly was such a steep learning curve as our first dog but she repaid us with so much love and we always had a lot of fun with her. She was very much a member of the family and she went everywhere with us…

To stately homes on research trips:

Molly at ChatsworthTo the beach:IMG_1242On summer outings pottering around country churches:

Molly ChievelyAnd to windswept Cornish stone circles:

IMG_8857Holidays were arranged very much with her in mind and we only ever booked pet-friendly cottages, and I’m intensely proud of the fact that, in the ten years she was with us, she only spent four nights away from us, staying with friends of ours. It was very important to me that she shouldn’t experience life in kennels after having been put through the stresses of the rehoming system.

Molly even graced the cover of our first Mulberry Cottage book, illustrated by the wonderful Liam O’Farrell:

Escape-to-Mulberry-Cottage-225x300And she didn’t hold it against us when we filled her garden with hens:

IMG_4505

She also survived three major operations to remove life-threatening tumours, and an incident with an out-of-date pot of cream that I’d rather forget!

Words simply cannot do justice to the intense joy that a dog gives you nor to the crippling grief you feel when you lose them. Molly will always be remembered as our very special first dog – the complex girl who taught us so much and who gave us so much too.

Goodbye our darling girl. We will miss you forever.

Molly Feb 2012 P1000001

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Christmas at the Cove – out now!

I’m thrilled to tell you that my new novella, Christmas at the Cove, is published today by Notting Hill Press as an ebook. I loved writing this story which was inspired by a trip to the north Devon coast where I saw the very cottage which appears on the cover of the book. I really hope you all enjoy Millie and Niall’s story. Let me know what you think of it!

Christmas at the Cover Cover MEDIUM

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At Home with Mr Darcy – out now!

I’m delighted to announce the release of my brand new novella At Home with Mr Darcy which is out today in paperback and ebook. This is the sixth story in the Austen Addicts series and the Janeites are off on a little holiday – to Pemberley no less!

I can’t tell you how much fun it was to return to this little group of characters and find out how everyone was getting on and to see them enjoying a trip to Derbyshire together. I really hope you all love it too!

AHWMD

 

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Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

It’s been a glorious autumn here in Suffolk with misty mornings turning into warm afternoons and the garden full of ripe apples, raspberries, tomatoes and squashes.

Bottengoms from the gardenA couple of weeks ago, my husband and I visited the author Ronald Blythe at his beautiful home in the Stour Valley – somewhere he describes as being perfect ‘for artists and writers’ so we felt very much at home as I read in the garden and Roy painted the house.

Painting in the gardenBack in our own garden, I harvested some of our squashes, marvelling at the shapes and colours. We shall enjoy eating them, I’m sure, but I have to confess that I grew them because I knew they would be beautiful.

Turk's Turban squashPatty pan and sweet lightning squashes

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Snowshill Manor – the inspiration for Fox Hill in The Secret of You

A few years ago, I visited Snowshill Manor in the Cotswolds – the wonderfully magical home of the late Charles Paget Wade. It remains one of the most extraordinary places I have ever seen with its eclectic collection which includes everything from long case clocks to Samurai swords.

IMG_4205The house and garden alone would be worth a visit for it is exquisitely beautiful, sitting in one of those green-gold valleys which the Cotswolds is famous for. I just knew that I had to write a book set there and an idea for a hero inspired by Charles Paget Wade began to emerge … an eccentric collector with a rather unusual collection …

IMG_4188IMG_4191So, I wrote to the custodian of Snowshill and was allowed to visit on a perfect spring day in May when the house was closed to the public. What a treat that was! I was shown around the collection, allowed to take photographs and ask all the questions I had whilst my artist husband had been given special permission to paint in the garden. It’s a day I’ll never forget and I hope I’ve managed to capture something of the magic of Snowshill in my fictional version, Fox Hill Manor, in The Secret of You.

The Secret of You by Victoria Connelly

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The Secret of You – out now!

I’m delighted to announce the release of my brand new novel, The Secret of You – a romantic story about journalist, Anna McCall, who gets more than she bargained for when she goes to interview reclusive collector, William Kitson, in his rambling manor house in the Cotswolds. I had so much fun writing this novel which included a fantastic trip to Snowshill Manor – watch out for my blog post about that later. In the meantime, I really hope you enjoy Anna and William’s story.

The Secret of You by Victoria ConnellyThe Secret of You is available now in paperback and Kindle formats.

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Our Beautiful Nancy

Last week, we lost our beautiful hen, Nancy, after a shockingly swift decline. She wasn’t even two years old.

Nancy first day April 2013Nancy arrived at Mulberry Cottage in April 2013 with Peggy. Both were just a few months old and very shy.

Nancy April 3rd 2013But Nancy soon relaxed into her new life even though she made it obvious that she wasn’t going to be the best of cuddling hens!

Nancy in border

And we quickly forgave her because she laid the most perfect blue eggs although not all of them were the same size.

Nancy EggsNancy was always capable of making us smile and laugh …

Nancy on chair

and her jaunty floppy comb gave her the appearance of a court jester.

Nancy jester

We’re going to miss you so much, Nancy. You were truly one of a kind!

 

 

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Are you ready for some new books?

I hate saying goodbye to summer but autumn is going to be super-exciting and I have three new releases for you between now and Christmas!

First up in September is my brand new novel, The Secret of You, about journalist Anna McCall who stumbles onto the most exciting story of her career whilst interviewing the handsome owner of Fox Hill Manor in the Cotswolds.

In October, the next story in the Austen Addicts series, At Home with Mr Darcy, will be released with the Janeites taking a trip to Derbyshire – home of Mr Darcy’s Pemberley.

Then, in early November, I’ll be publishing a novella called Christmas at the Cove about a couple who are reluctantly thrown together in a windswept cottage on the wild Devon coast.

If you’d like to be the first to know when these books are out, to see their covers and to hear about competitions to celebrate their launches, sign up to my newsletter here.

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