Where on earth has the time gone! The last few months have sped past in a swirl of manic activity. I feel like I’ve barely had time to breathe. Now that lockdown is starting to ease a bit and lots of us have become ‘double jabbers’, myself included, I’ve finally been re-united with friends and family, and though still very careful about what I’ve been doing, I feel like I’ve suddenly launched into a mad social whirl. And in between all this meeting up and hugging (hugging!!!!!) I’ve been gardening, sewing…
And writing, a LOT of writing. During my first visit to meet up with family on the Isle of Bute back in May, I finished the extensive revisions for my Christmas novella, having written a first draft that really didn’t have much Christmas spirit in it, and a very far from romantic ending. It just shows that even after fifty-odd books you can still get it horribly wrong. It was hard work, fitting in long hours early in the mornings to get the extensive revisions done so that I could protect as much of my precious family time as possible, but it paid off. I’m very pleased now with A MOST SCANDALOUS CHRISTMAS, which stays true to my unconventional couple, but which still (I hope) gives readers the hit of Christmas and romance they will be looking for – though of course the final say on that will be yours! My story is one of three in the REGENCY CHRISTMAS LIAISONS anthology, with other romances from Christine Merrill and Sophia James, out in November this year.
As Scotland began to open up, I ventured up to Glasgow to get my hair cut and buy some fabric. I have always been a huge fan of The Great British Sewing Bee, but this series seems to me the best ever. So many of the contestants got the sewing bug during lockdown and they have become impressive creators in a very short time, and the challenges have been much harder. But it’s the camaraderie that has really struck me, between the sewers and the presenters – it’s a competition, but it’s clear they all help each other out and they LIKE each other. I’ve been enjoying trying out some of the techniques that are new to me – a burrito facing, for example, which I put in the fleece I made – and every week I spot a new gadget that I covet. I’ve not had loads of time to sew, but in addition to the fleece, which also required me to put in my first ever open-ended zip, I made this pull-over dress in two different stretch jersey’s from a Vogue pattern. I’m not entirely pleased with the neckline which is still a bit puckered, but the dress itself is lovely – and it has pockets, an essential for me and Sewing Bee judge Esme. Talking of Esme…
IT STARTED AT A HOUSE PARTY is the prequel to my Victorian duet, REVELATIONS OF THE CARSTAIRS SISTERS, and I named my photographer heroine Esme as a tribute to the Great British Sewing Bee judge. This story is an on-line read which will be available free over on the Harlequin website in eight instalments from September (date still to be confirmed). My widowed heroine is at a summer party hosted by Lord and Lady Armstrong to take photographs of their illustrious guests. Guy, my hero, is one of them – a very reluctant one, until he meets Esme. Mercy, Lady Armstrong, is one of my two Carstairs sisters. Her name may be familiar to some of you from my Armstrong Sisters series. I simply can’t leave that family alone, and with Mercy’s husband, I have moved on to the next generation.
I was once again working on revisions for this story while visiting family on the Isle of Bute. At last, after a gap of nearly eighteen months, I got to meet up with my sister who lives furthest from me, and her twin made it for part of the visit too. Though we’ve not yet managed to have all four sisters and my mum together, we are hoping that day is not too far off. We had some lovely walks, a lot of laughs, and a few bottles of wine too.
Having not been aboard the Western Ferry which features most mornings on my Twitter feed for more than a year, I think I’ve gone through a whole book of tickets in the last six weeks. It was fabulous to meet up with my friend Mairibeth MacMillan – and we talked so much that once again we forgot to take a picture. And after re-arranging it several times, I finally got to have lunch with a more recent friend. Camilla Gordon-Lennox was one of two fabulous researchers I worked very closely with on HER HEART FOR A COMPASS. She shares my passion for all things historical, and has a genius knack for turning up obscure, eccentric characters that are so colourful you can’t quite believe they are real. We talked our way non-stop through a record-breaking four hour lunch, and I think we only just scratched the surface of what we wanted to say.
Whew! And in-between all of that there’s been my garden, which turns into a jungle overnight, it seems to me, if I turn my back on it. So far I’ve had bumper crops of salad, radish and spinach, and my tomatoes and cucumbers are looking good. The chillies are not so happy, because they want sun – don’t we all. The Scottish ‘summer’ weather is already getting me down, with endless driech, midgie-ridden rainy days, but the result is a very lush and green place. We have tons of birdies nesting, and this year I’ve put out lots more bird baths for them. Whenever I feel life is getting to me, I sit in my garden and watch them taking a drink or a bath, and remember the important things in life.
Which leads me to the final thing I want to share, and it’s the cover of THE EARL WHO SEES HER BEAUTY, the first in my REVELATIONS OF THE CARSTAIRS SISTERS duet. Here is the blurb from the back of the book:
Prudence Carstairs knows her scars leave her with no romantic prospects—instead, she’s content revolutionising her employer’s home with her technological marvels. Then he unexpectedly perishes, and his mysterious younger brother, dashing Dominic Thorburn, reluctantly takes over. In the new earl, Prudence finally finds someone who meets her gaze without flinching. Might he see the beautiful, intelligent woman beyond her scars?
The fabulous art department were keen to stay as close to my description of Prudence as possible. I think they’ve done an absolutely amazing job, but I’d love to know what you think?