I have just finished writing the second of my REVELATIONS OF THE CARSTAIRS SISTERS duet. The first book, THE EARL WHO SEES HER BEAUTY, is out now and was, I’m thrilled to say, the first pick for the new Duchess of York’s Historical Book Club. The heroine Prudence’s scarred face has made her a recluse. In the second book, LADY ARMSTRONG’S SCANDALOUS AWAKENING, in stark contrast to her sister, Mercy my heroine is a society beauty. In a very different way to Prudence, she is also a victim of her looks. Mercy’s first husband in Lord Harry Armstrong, a name which may be familiar to readers of my Armstrong Sisters series – Harry is the son of the patriarch, Lord Henry Armstrong and in many ways just as vile.
As the eldest of seven children myself, and one of four sisters, family and sisterhood is a theme that I return to again and again. I am fascinated by the way our relationships change as we grow older and become more confident in ourselves and the choices we make. The shared traits (and in my case, looks) that irked us so much when we were younger, are the things we relish now. Sisters are not necessarily your best friends. You don’t necessarily confide in them either – or at least not all of them and certainly not all at once. Sometimes they drive you nuts, sometimes they outrage you, and at times you think, I simply don’t understand you. But the thing about sisters is that they are always there for you no matter what. They know things about you that no-one else does – good and bad. And there are jokes that you share with them, silly things, that no-one else understands. During lockdown, one of the things I missed most was our girly get-togethers, the four girls and my mum. In October, we finally managed to get all of us together for the first time for almost two years, celebrating amongst many, many other things, a special birthday for my mum and the publication of Her Heart for a Compass with a cake that my lovely co-author Sarah, the Duchess of York, had made for us.
At the Henley Literary Festival in September, where I appeared ‘in conversation’ with the Duchess, our interviewer was the author Daisy Buchanan. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’ve since discovered that she’s the eldest of six sisters. I am finding her insights into sisterhood, SISTERHOOD, A LOVE LETTER TO THE WOMEN WHO HAVE SHAPED ME, absolutely fascinating.
So much of what she says resonates. So much of what she writes I’ve experienced, but never really thought too much about. No-one can hurt you like a sister, or love you – or do both at the same time! And no-one but a big sister understands what that means, the need to always know what to do, the need to be the one to be consulted, to dispense sage advice, and the scars we bear of always having been the first, growing up, to bend and break the rules, making it much easier for the rest of them to follow suit! When I was growing up, I was embarrassed at having such a big family, and mortified when we were compared (as we often were) to the Von Trapps. Now I realise how fortunate I am. Having one of my sisters in the audience at Henley, in the front row with one of my oldest friends, was vastly reassuring (and thank you to the same sister for putting me up). Later on that extended visit, my youngest sister joined us, giving us the excuse for another sub-group girly trip into Camden – and yes, of course there was bubbly! More recently, at the Harrogate festival, my brother and his wife were a very welcome presence in the audience.
Now I’m back to writing, working on my second book with the Duchess of York, and once again, sisters are once again on the menu. Lady Mary, our heroine, is the younger sister of Lady Margaret, heroine of HER HEART FOR A COMPASS. I would tell you more, but even I don’t know what’s going to happen yet! What I do know is that my relationship with my sisters is more important to me than ever. Family matters. A lot.