This summer, we had a rather special holiday – in a castle!
We’ve had the great pleasure of staying in a few properties owned by The Landmark Trust, but this was our first castle and what a fabulous experience it was. Situated in the heart of Thomas Hardy country with local walks along the beautiful River Frome, Woodsford Castle lived up to all our expectations.
Of course, it would have been selfish to keep such a special place to ourselves and so we invited some of our writer and artists friends to stay with us and enjoyed good food, good conversation and plenty of country walks.
A highlight of the holiday for me was a visit to Thomas Hardy’s birthplace at Little Bockhampton. I’d first visited as an undergraduate studying his novels, and it was a delight to return to this very special cottage set deep in the Dorset woods.It had the perfect cottage garden, filled with roses and herbs, and one could easily imagine the young Hardy enthralled by the natural world that surrounded him and which he wrote about so beautifully.
We said a sad goodbye to our darling ex-bat Evie this week after almost three years of retirement with us. Only Mariette and Dotty have hit the golden three years with us, so Evie did very well and never had a day’s illness either.
Evie came to us in September 2015 along with her flock sisters Celeste and Gertie – named after the heroines in my novel The Rose Girls which had been published that summer.
Evie was a brave soul who quickly revelled in her new free-range life and struck up a strong friendship with Gertie. They could usually be found together and would often leap up onto the bin to peep into the kitchen window!
A little bit of a scruff on arrival, Evie soon grew all her feathers back and became a really beautiful hen although, in a recent moult, she lost all her tail feathers and looked very scruffy indeed! But her feathers made a splendid comeback and she looked bonnier than ever!
Always a gentle hen, she quickly teamed up with the younger Viola once she’d lost her long-term pal Gertie. Here’s Evie with Viola enjoying a yoghurty treat together.We feel so lucky that Evie’s retirement was a long and healthy one with just a gentle slide into old age. But how we shall miss that cheeky face looking in at the kitchen window!
Goodbye, my dear girl. You will be missed.
In case you haven’t yet noticed, I have a thing about walled gardens. So much so that I’ve written three novels about them and, this summer, I’ve been visiting a few around the country. In May, we went to Attingham Park in Shropshire which was a delightful mix of flowers, fruit and vegetables.
In June, I discovered the very beautiful Beeleigh Abbey in Essex. What a stunner! My Rose Girls would have adored it!And it had the sweetest kitchen garden too.
In July, we took a trip to Forde Abbey In Dorset and the kitchen garden there quite took my breath away. I could easily imagine Jonathan, Vanessa and the team from Love in an English Garden happily working there together.
And, just this week, we visited Marks Hall in Essex which has a fabulous walled garden overlooking a lake.
There’s something so special about walled gardens. Perhaps it comes from that feeling of being enclosed in a safe and beautiful space or maybe it’s the promise they hold with the produce grown in them. I never tire of visiting them and it’s a great dream of mine to have one of my very own one day. And I kind of wished that I hadn’t already written a trilogy about walled gardens so that I could have the pleasure of researching and writing them all over again!
Tap or click on the covers above to buy or read a preview at Amazon
There’s a special offer for UK readers over on Amazon – Natural Born Readers is just 99p. The third in my Book Lovers series, it tells Bryony Nightingale’s story and how Ben – the love of her life – walked out on her six years ago. But what really happened? And will Bryony and Ben ever get a chance to love again? Treat yourself to a copy now and find out – but hurry – it’s only 99p for a few more days!
I do love finding film locations especially when those films are adapted from books. So, it was with great anticipation that we set out for the Suffolk village of Hoo this week.
This rural village near Woodbridge was made famous through the 1974 film adaptation of Akenfield from the book by Ronald Blythe. Directed by Peter Hall, it starred a cast of locals and was a deeply moving account of life in an English village, focussing on the fortunes of three generations of men.
The church of St Andrew and St Eustachius was used in the film and it has a wonderful setting. During shooting, the churchyard was full of cow parsley and, whilst this was growing in abundance in the hedgerows when we visited, the churchyard itself was neatly mown.
The interior of the church is plain and simple, with a very moving roll of honour on the wall which features in the film, reminding us of the sacrifice made by even the smallest communities during the Great War.
This is a beautifully remote corner of Suffolk, dotted with farms and thatched cottages and it looked glorious in the May sunshine.
If you’d like to read my 2012 interview with Ronald Blythe where he talks about his books and the film adaptation of Akenfield, click here.
For the last few years, my husband and I have been attending the London Book Fair at Olympia, and what a fabulously exciting event it is! Much more author-friendly than a few years ago when it used to be a trade fair just for publishers and agents, there is now an Author HQ with talks all day and plenty of opportunities for writers to meet up and exchange news. Here I am at the KDP stand with indie bestseller and all-round lovely person, L J Ross.
I was thrilled to meet up with my new Czech publisher who has just published A Weekend with Mr Darcy and is going to translate Dreaming of Mr Darcy next. And it was wonderful to meet some fellow Lake Union authors too. Here I am with Julianne MacLean, Freda Lightfoot, Imogen Clark and Jo Furniss.
It was then on to the Amazon Publishing party at the Bluebird in Chelsea where I met up with Matt Dunn and Marius Gabriel…
and chatted about the joys of being a hybrid author with Mark Dawson and Freda.
Now it’s back to the desk. I’m currently planning a brand new series of books set on the Sussex Downs and I can’t tell you how excited I am. I’ve been thinking about these books for years and I’m thrilled to be making a start on them.
I’m delighted to announce that A Weekend with Mr Darcy is now available in Czech, published by Sofa Books, and what a pretty cover it is! Dreaming of Mr Darcy will follow soon and I can’t wait to see it.
To celebrate the Easter holidays and to welcome spring, I’m offering three of my titles for half price. Read more about this special offer here.
I’m thrilled to be launching Il profumo delle rose today – my first publication in Italian! And isn’t this the prettiest cover ever? I think my Rose Girls would adore it.
I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to all the readers who rushed to buy a copy of The Heart of the Garden during launch week. It entered Amazon’s Top 100 in the UK this weekend and claimed the Number 1 spot in Literary Sagas. I couldn’t be more thrilled! It’s so lovely to see all your reviews too so thank you to everyone who has taken the time to review it on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s lovely to see your response to the story.
I’m thrilled to be releasing The Heart of the Garden today. It’s the third and final book in my Country House and Garden series, following on from The Rose Girls and Love in an English Garden, exploring how gardens can help to heal and how important they are in bringing people together.
I truly loved writing these three novels, and I had a lot of fun researching them too from planting my own rose garden to getting lost in mazes and visiting stately homes like Bateman’s in the glorious Sussex Weald and Wightwick Manor with its wonderful Arts and Crafts interiors.
I feel very lucky to be a writer!
If you’d like to read my earlier blog post about researching The Heart of the Garden at beautiful Wightwick Manor, click here.
I wanted to share this very special offer with you. This week, UK readers can get three of my books for just 99p each over on Amazon!
There’s the first in my new Book Lovers series…
And the first in my bestselling Austen Addicts series…
Finally, one of my old favourites, Three Graces.
Prices correct at time of publication (28 January 2018)