Living within easy driving distance of several National Trust properties, I spent many happy days with my mum, dad and sister visiting stately homes as a child. While we sometimes went for steam rallies held within the grounds (my dad liked to engage with attending farmers about his “smallholding” – something he didn’t actually have but we never let on), we often went simply to soak up the history of the houses themselves.
Whether Petworth, Parham, Goodwood, Longleat or Upppark, each had its own unique story, both past and present, and held a fascination for us. We learnt about reluctant Dukes, the love between a dairymaid and master of the house, visiting royalty, and more.
Those days filled my head with stories and fed my childhood imagination. They were special times spent with our parents. Picnicking in the sunshine, in the long grasses of the pleasure grounds, was always an added treat. We enjoyed spotting dear, or evidence of them, and viewing the rolling English landscapes within which these houses sit. How my sister and I longed to ride horses across the grounds in our bridesmaids’ dresses – perhaps our imaginations were getting a little carried away (for which we blame watching Pride and Prejudice too many times), especially as neither of us could actually ride!
As I got older and briefly studied art history, I reflected on the paintings I had seen: Gainsborough, Blake, Reynolds, Constable, to name but a few, and knew how fortunate I had been. I later learnt about the work of Capability Brown and the fact that Petworth pleasure grounds are one of the finest surviving and unspoilt examples of his work. I’d walked in them and enjoyed them before knowing their history.
I am hugely grateful to my parents for taking me to visit these houses and steeping us in cultural heritage, albeit that we didn’t know that is what they were doing at the time. For us, these days were an adventure, but they provided opportunities that stayed with me and informed later experiences. And now I get to enjoy these places with my own children and grandchildren.
And they are still inspiring my imagination. My latest novel, A Summer of Second Chances, is set in the fictional village of Dapplebury, where the stately home, Dapplebury House, is inherited by a reluctant Lord. I loved writing this story, not least because I had a wonderful day out with my daughter at Petworth and my dad at Uppark House on research trips.
Dapplebury house represents a little of each of my favourite stately homes. And just like those I visited, it has past secrets to reveal and an unfolding story of survival in the present.
A heart-warming romance full of love, friendship and four legged friends!
Does first love deserve a second chance?
Ava Flynn sometimes feels like the clothes donated to her charity shop have seen more life than her, but ‘maximum dedication for a minimal wage’ is what it takes to keep her mother’s beloved wildlife charity, All Critters Great and Small, running especially in the village of Dapplebury, where business is certainly not booming.
But when Ava’s first love, Henry Bramlington, returns to the village, suddenly life becomes a little too eventful. Henry escaped Dapplebury many years before, but now he has the power to make or break the village he left behind All Critters Great and Small included. Can Ava trust the boy who ran away to give both her and her charity a second chance?
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Published by: Choc Lit
Maybe Baby: http://getbook.at/MBAmazon
The Purrfect Pet Sitter: http://getbook.at/TPPSAmazon
Crazy Over You: http://getbook.at/COYAmazon
About Carol Thomas:
Carol Thomas lives on the south coast of England with her husband, four children and lively Labrador. She has been a primary school teacher for over twenty years and has a passion for reading, writing and people watching. When she is not in school, chasing after her children, or stopping her dog from eating things he shouldn’t, she can be found loitering in cafes drinking too much tea and working on her next book.
Website and Social Media Links:
Website – http://carol-thomas.co.uk
Facebook Author Page – http://facebook.com/carolthomasauthor
Twitter – http://twitter.com/carol_thomas2
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/carol_thomas2/
Thank you, Carol. I share my review of a A Summer of Second Chances below:
5 stars – I Loved Everything About This Book
This novel took me through a whole range of emotions from laughter to tears. It is so much more than a romance. I want to live in Dapplebury, work at the charity shop and go to the pub event evenings! I’m in love with hero, Henry and the lovely dogs in the story. I think I might have completely fallen out with best friend, Mary if I was heroine Ava though. Loved the journey the book took me on and would love a sequel.