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What a lovely cover!
Here are a few details of the book which will initially be a Kindle download and hopefully soon a paperback:-
Treat yourself this summer …
You’ve had Cosy Christmas Treats, now try our summer selection! This collection of sunny short stories is perfect reading whether you’re living it up at the beach, sunning yourself in the garden or sheltering indoors from the Great British summertime.
From breath-taking boat rides on beautiful Greek islands to going on the run through the streets of Paris, from ‘best ever ice cream’ to pasteis de nata in pretty Portuguese cafes, these stories celebrate everything there is to love about summer, home and abroad – including, of course, a bit of holiday romance!
There are stories from the following authors:
Morton S. Gray
Thanks to Lu from Choc Lit for pulling this collection of stories together!
This week I’m joined by fellow Choc Lit author, Sue McDonagh to talk about childhood holidays. We had great fun behind the scenes preparing this post as my childhood holiday photographs are very similar to hers. Sue has recently released her fourth book for Choc Lit Summer of Hopes and Dreams, which has a gorgeous cover that Sue herself painted!!!
Over to Sue …
I regularly plunder my bulging stash of life experiences for my novels, and my book 4, Summer of Hopes and Dreamsis no exception. Rosie’s adventures at the outdoor pursuits course are inspired by my own, and I believe that my willingness to throw myself into outdoor adventures stems from childhood holidays in the sixties.
Covid has forced us to appreciate our own beautiful local land and sea-scapes, and with prices for hotels and guest houses rocketing, more and more people are flocking to beauty spots in tents, caravans and motorhomes. Even in term time, it’s impossible to book a week in a camp site near the Welsh coast right now. But camping today, with all its wonderful mod cons of air tents and double skins, air beds and double gas burners, is a far cry from my first camping expedition, aged about four.
We didn’t even have a tent. My little brother and I slept in the front seats of our tiny Ford van while Mum and Dad slept in the back on our first foray into the wilds of Cheddar Gorge, after arriving in the dark. The following morning, I heard Dad exclaim that we were on the edge of a massive drop into the gorge… just a few feet more would have meant no novels written by me! What if I’d accidentally released the handbrake? Ah, sigh, the days before the Nanny State kicked in.
We’d upped our game a few years later, acquiring a vast ex-army canvas ridge tent, camp-beds with minds of their own, and a dog, Lucy. We headed west, to Cornwall, land of cream teas and bewildering accents. There was no motorway, and the journey from Essex took twelve hours.
Dad had a list of town names tucked under his sun visor that still sound romantic to me now: Taunton, Exeter, Okehampton, Launceston, Bodmin, and finally St Austell. He’d pull into a layby for a nap about two thirds of the way, and I remember dozing, feeling the car swaying with each passing lorry. No motorways also meant no services, but schools and community centres used to open, manned by the WI, dispensing tea and sandwiches to tired drivers and their families on the annual pilgrimage to the sea.
The huge tent took Mum and Dad hours to erect, whilst my brother and I explored and made nuisances of ourselves. For some inexplicable reason, we later all went for a shower, leaving the dog tied to the central pole of the tent. Our return was memorable by the sight of the flattened tent, and Lucy wagging her tail in the wreckage, still attached to the centre pole.
The musty scent of stored canvas is enough to bring those childhood memories flooding back. We learned to surf in Porthtowan, on curved wooden belly boards, we were burned scarlet every year and our skin hung in tatters like a badge of honour. The only suntan lotion was factor 0 Ambre Solaire oil, another scent from my childhood.
We were outside on the fresh air as soon as the sun rose and stayed out with the bats as they flew out of the trees at dusk. When it rained, which it did often, we’d drive around the ghostly narrow lanes to the opposite side of the peninsula and emerge into the sunshine again. And if that failed, we’d go to the little shop at St Agnes, buy sweeties, puzzle books and paperbacks and cocoon ourselves into our snuggly sleeping bags to read and wait it out.
I adored choosing my paperback – the smell of the pages, the cover design, the blurb on the back to help me decide whether it was going to transport me to another time. I immersed myself in Poldark and Jamaica Inn, and everything Daphne du Maurier.
Cornwall was a land of romance and mystery to me then, and still is. When I first visited Wales, many years before I ever thought I would live there, it reminded me so much of Cornwall, that I felt instantly at home. I’m delighted to be able to set my novels there now.
About Sue McDonagh
My career as a policewoman in the Essex Police was interrupted when I was twenty four by ovarian cancer. A year of surgery and chemotherapy meant a successful recovery, which led to a convalescent year in the Essex Police Press Office. This suited me as I’d always fancied being a journalist, and meant that I could play with joined up writing and stationary.
When I moved to Wales to marry a man widowed by cancer and became instant mum to his two little boys, I used my Press Office skills and wrote press releases and eventually, blog posts for the various clubs and organisations I was involved with.
Art evolved into a full time occupation and I made a living teaching and sketching portraits on the spot at agricultural and seaside shows, moving into more considered work as time went on and appearing on Sky TV in 2014 in the regional finals of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year.
I now work almost exclusively to commission, but also give demonstrations and talks to art societies and other groups, which I enjoy.
In 1982, following chemotherapy, I cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End in ten days, fundraising over £8000 towards a cancer scanner for St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where I was treated.
After my first hip replacement sixteen years ago, I and three friends took part in the Four Inns Challenge and walked 45 miles across the Peak District in 16 hours, raising £10,000 for MacMillan Cancer Support.
When my second hip needed replacing, I thought about commemorating it with a further bonkers fundraising idea, but to everyone’s relief, found my excitement in writing.
Twelve years ago I learned to ride a motorbike, and now help to run Curvy Riders, a national, women only, motorbike club. Learning to ride inspired my first novel, which took me four years to write. I was delighted that ChocLit believed in me as so many publishers had turned the book down as they didn’t like the motorbike theme. Many women have since written to me to tell me that they’ve felt empowered to learn to ride themselves.
I’m lucky enough to live a scant mile from the sea, and I swim in it most days with a group of wonderful women, no wetsuit required, and I also cycle regularly with another group of friends. I also knit socks and crochet blankets, very slowly!
My novels, Summer at the Art Café, Meet Me at the Art Café and Escape to the Art Café have been published as digital, audio and paperbacks, and also published in The Netherlands, and have all reached BestSeller orange flags.
Can “Dozy Rosie” spice up her life and prove she’s not boring?
Rosie Bunting has spent her life caring for others, often at the expense of her own hopes and dreams. But when she overhears somebody describing her as “boring”, she decides it’s time for a change. Little does she realise that the outdoor pursuits weekend brochure handed to her at the local Art Café will kick start a summer that will see her abseiling down a Welsh cliff face in “eye watering” leggings, rediscovering her artistic side and unexpectedly inheriting an old fire engine. It also involves meeting hunky outdoor instructor, Gareth Merwyn-Jones – although of course he’d never be interested in Dozy Rosie Bunting … would he? One thing’s for certain: Rosie’s path to achieving her hopes and dreams might not be smooth, but it’s definitely not boring.
I have read and enjoyed all of Victoria Cornwall’s novels published by Choc Lit. We got chatting the other day about our favourite parts of being a writer and I think top of both of our lists was that moment when you hold a paperback of your novel for the first time.
On Saturday 26 June 2021 Victoria’s novel Daughter of the House became available as a paperback for the first time and she got to hold a copy, smell a copy, stroke a copy and no doubt hug it too. Can you tell I’ve been there too? Nothing beats this feeling.
Daughter of the House is the story of Evelyn Pendragon, a lonely girl, who is ignored by her parents whose focus is on her brother, the expected heir to the family’s Cornish estate. Evelyn befriends Drake Vennor, an apprentice gardener on the estate. But when tragedy strikes, she may have to turn her back on their friendship.
Talking to Victoria, she told me that her setting was inspired by fantastic gardens in Cornwall – The Lost Gardens of Heligan, near St Austell, the formal gardens of Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park, Torpoint. The gardens in the book are obviously important as Drake, the hero, is an apprentice gardener. Sounds like a recipe for some lovely days out for the author and maybe for you! You can have a better look at these gardens on their websites, but I have included a few images to tempt you.
Daughter of the House is Victoria’s fourth book in the Cornish Tales series of standalone stories and has attracted lovely four and five star reviews including my own five star review:-
Escape to Cornwall for a great historical read!
A fabulous book from an author rapidly becoming one of my favourites for historical reads. I loved Victoria Cornwall’s characters Evie and Drake. The book evoked many emotions as I was reading, in particular indignation related to how women were treated in the past. Can’t wait for Victoria Cornwall’s next book.
If you would like to grab a copy of this lovely book you can get your own on the link here.
About Victoria Cornwall
Victoria Cornwall can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century. This background and heritage have given her an understanding of the Cornish way of life which is the inspiration for her Cornish Tales Series.
In 2021, her novel Daniel’s Daughter became a finalist in the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award. Victoria has twice nominated for the RONE Indie and Small Published Book Awards in the U.S.A., was short-listed for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction and has been a finalist in the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award.
She is married, has two grown up children and continues to live in Cornwall, the county of her birth.
Evelyn Pendragon is spirited but lonely, and largely ignored by her parents whose attentions are taken up with her brother, Nicholas: the expected heir to the family’s Cornish estate and the one who will carry on the Pendragon name.
Stifled by her aristocratic existence, Evelyn finds companionship in an unlikely place when she befriends Drake Vennor, an apprentice gardener on the estate. But When Evelyn’s life is thrown into turmoil by a tragedy, she realises just how much she has come to rely on Drake. Will family expectations and the burden of the Pendragon name mean she must turn her back on him when she needs him the most?
This week I’m joined by a regular visitor to my blog – Marie Laval. Marie‘s latest book, HAPPY DREAMS AT MERMAID COVE published by Choc Lit on 22 June 2021 looks and sounds such fun. For this blog post she is going to share with us her memories of a very special holiday. Over to Marie …
These are memories from a road trip I took with my partner, Robert, who tragically passed away last April. It was the first time Robert was coming over to see me and I wanted the holiday to be special, so I planned an itinerary that would take us from my village near Lyon to Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, in Camargue, in the South of France.
My mother very kindly lent me her old Renault Five, and off we went…
Then, like now, I didn’t like driving on the motorway so we took the infamous Nationale 7, which is the A road that runs all the way from Paris to the border with Italy, and often gets very jammed with holiday traffic. Our first stop was the beautiful town of Avignon where my uncle and auntie were putting us up for a couple of nights. To Robert’s credit, he didn’t pull a face or make any comment when I parked the car in front of my uncle’s house. He could have…
My uncle Roger was my mother’s eldest brother and what you could call an eccentric (he called himself a ‘poet’). Not only had he built his own house with a few friends (and you could tell!), but he had a complete menagerie living in the field surrounding the house – pigeons, turkeys, chicken, geese, not to forget two parrots named Marco and Polo who lived in a big tree during the day and squawked, whistled and called if any visitors arrived. My uncle had a house removal business and bought a lot of useless stuff at auctions. The whole ground floor of his house was filled with typewriters, dentist chairs, chipped dinner services and rusty cutlery, old paintings and pots and lots and lots of bunches of keys. When I was little it was my idea of a treasure trove…
My uncle had even dug what he called his swimming pool, which was in fact a hole in the ground where geese, ducks and humans could enjoy a splash in the murky water. We used to swim in there as children and I’ve always wondered how on earth we never caught any disease!
I was a bit worried that Robert would find my relatives weird, but he got along really well with them, despite them not knowing a word of English and him not speaking much French!
After Avignon, we travelled to Les Baux de Provence, a stunning medieval village perching on top of a rocky outcrop. Les Baux is a very touristic place but if you can, it’s well worth stopping over for the night because once the tourists have left the atmosphere changes completely. I remember it was very quiet and very eerie when we sat near the ruined castle and admired the sunset over the Provence plains.
After Les Baux we went to Pont du Gard and Arles, stopping in picturesque villages or market towns on the way, and finally to Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. To cut a long story short, the Camargue is an incredible place, full of marshes, with flamingos, wild horses and black bulls, and gardians – horse-riding herdsmen who look a lot like cowboys. During our first evening there we sat at the terrace of a café to eat a seafood platter and drink rosé wine, when suddenly half a dozen gardians arrived and started singing and playing the guitar. I don’t know if you remember the Gypsy Kings, but it was exactly like that and everybody was clapping and singing.
It was a marvellous holiday, filled with sunshine, romance… and mosquitoes who ate us alive, but we were happy anyway.
Sounds blissful, thank you for sharing this with us. So sorry about Robert, but it sounds as if you have wonderful memories to cling to. Good luck with your new novel – love the yellow library van! Mx 💕
About Marie Laval
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire. She writes both contemporary and historical romance. Her novels include best selling contemporary romantic suspense novels LITTLE PINK TAXI and ESCAPE TO THE LITTLE CHATEAU, which was shortlisted for the 2021 RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Award, as well as A PARIS FAIRY TALE and BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC. Her historical novel, ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, was published in February 2021, and HAPPY DREAMS AT MERMAID COVE is her latest contemporary romance. Marie also contributes to the best selling Miss Moonshine’s Emporium anthologies together with eight author friends from Authors on the Edge.
From the big city to a little yellow mobile library on the Isle of Skye …
When Jenna Palmer agrees to the new position of mobile librarian on the tiny Arrandale peninsular of the Isle of Skye, she knows she’s signing up for difficult working conditions and mediocre wages. But Jenna needs to get away, and a little yellow mobile library called Buttercup could be her escape to happier dreams …
However, whilst Jenna can get to grips with foggy island roads, local mermaid legends and even big purple monsters, she never expected to have to contend with a boss as grumpy as Daniel McGregor, or a young book lover as enthusiastic as his niece, Katrina.
Arrandale might represent Jenna’s safe port in a storm, but could she and Buttercup also become a beacon of hope to Daniel, Katrina and the entire island community?
HAPPY DREAMS AT MERMAID COVE is available as an ebook on Amazon and Kobo.
Someone new to my blog this week as Bettina Hunt author of High Heels on the Beachshares three little known facts about herself. Over to Bettina …
I am half Persian and lived in Tehran, the capital of Iran, for the first three years of my life. In fact I only spoke Persian when I came to England. I absolutely love all things relating to Iran, from listening to the music, watching documentaries about the country and reading books set in Iran. I like to devour it all. I’ve just started watching The Bold Type and I was surprised and delighted to see an Iranian character featured with one of the main cast members. What We Do In The Shadows is an amusing series about Vampires, one of whom is an Iranian. Great fun.
I’m really proud of the fact that I am Anglo Iranian and although I haven’t yet brought it into my writing I am thinking I probably should 🙂
I LOVE the food, and I mean really love it. If I ate nothing else ever again I wouldn’t mind at all. It’s my absolute favourite cuisine as it’s full of flavour but not spicy. And the sweet treats, well if it has rosewater, I am there! On Pinterest I’ve dedicated a board to my favourite Persian food and pinned all the delicious food.
It’s my dream to be able to go back to Iran as an adult and see all the sights and culture and appreciate my background and heritage. I want to see the delights of Shiraz and Isfahan. I am not sure it will ever happen. Although, I haven’t stopped dreaming that I will make it back there one day to visit
We lost our dad in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
We were having the best time. I was so excited to be there. I loved meeting the characters, going into Minnie Mouse’s house and opening the fridge door was a particular highlight, I have to say. In fact, I would say that I was more excited than my younger siblings to be in The Magic Kingdom.
All day we had our eyes on the gigantic knickerbocker glory type ice creams and my dad promised us that at the end of the day he would treat us to them. We chose one final ride to go on and left my dad sitting on a bench. The queue took forever, and a few times the ride broke down or something or other but each time the ride would restart so we stuck it out. When we emerged it was dusk, we must have been hours and when we reached the bench he was gone!
We looked everywhere, called out his name, we even reported ourselves missing! He on the other hand never reported us missing, if he had we might have been reunited sooner!
Then the Big Parade came past and we made the decision to stop searching for my dad and watch it as who knew if we would ever see it again. A kind shop owner gave us bottles of water and chocolate and we even had seats! Once it ended we knew we had to get back to the car park to get the last coach back to our hotel. And then the heavens opened, torrential rain and thunder and lightning rain belted down. The monorail was being stopped, everyone was rushing to the ferry. We HAD to get it. We weaved through the crowds and finally we sighed with relief. We’d made it aboard.
With the coach in sight and no sign of our dad we decided that as we had no money, and he obviously did, we would take the coach back to the hotel and then decide on the next plan of action. By now it was pitch black and very late. We boarded the coach and to our utter relief who did we find sitting right at the front? You’ve guessed it, dad!
It turns out he’d made his way to the entrance of the park and watched the entire show from its starting point, whereas we had been sat the whole time where it ended. He had it all on video because he wanted to show us. Awww.
We never did get those gigantic ice creams!
A reader and her family took my wedding themed book Without A Hitch on their holiday to Disney and I was over the moon when she sent me back these shots 🙂
Will Smith won me a holiday when I was 17.
I was at home feeling sorry for myself because I’d dislocated my knee at school and was going to be in plaster for the whole of the summer holidays. My dad called me and said Capital FM Radio are doing competitions every hour where you have to identify a song clip, why don’t you enter and cheer yourself up?
Well, the prize that Saturday was a Summer goodie bag packed with a holiday beach read, designer sunglasses, beach towel, sun lotion and more. I really wanted to win it and when a clip came on of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince Summertime I called in. I left my details and was so shocked when they called me back and said I was going to be on the radio. I was so shocked in fact that when I went on air my mind went blank and I forgot what the song was. Luckily I regained my composure and remembered just in time!
Off air the producer of the show asked me if I was going to be free the next day. He quickly clarified he wasn’t asking me out on a date (oh how we laughed) – I was in the draw now for the chance to win a holiday but I HAD to answer the phone at 4pm when they called or they would draw someone else. The pressure was on.
The next day my family were eating Sunday lunch when the phone rang…. well you have never seen anyone with their leg in plaster leap up quicker to get it! But it wasn’t Capital FM it was my brother using his mobile to play a trick on me. But the joke was on him, as seconds later the phone rang again and this time he swore it wasn’t him. It really was Capital FM, I’d won!!!
So when the plaster came off 6 weeks later, I was lucky enough to jet off for a luxury holiday to Crete 🙂 And that goodybag, well it came in handy with all the Summer holiday essentials it contained.
So that’s it, those were my three facts. I hope you enjoyed reading them and thank you once again to Morton for having me on your blog.
Thank you, Bettina and what fun facts!
About Bettina Hunt
Bettina Hunt lives in Essex England with her husband and two sons. She writes romantic comedies and contemporary women’s fiction. She enjoys beauty and afternoon tea and has previously blogged about these subjects over on beautyswot.com. Being a huge fan of cocktails and dining out, naturally food features a lot in her books. Bettina is a great believer in the idea of a happy ever after and thus her books are uplifting and full of hope sprinkled with lots of fun along the way. A natural entertainer, totally unintentionally … you’ll see! She also loves to talk and can be found on twitter most days, she’d love to see you there 😊
To keep in touch with Bettina, you can use the following links:-
Decision shy Becca is used to her best friend making decisions for her, but after a disastrous 30th birthday, London living Becca realises she needs to stop relying on others and take control of her own destiny.
With her life plans in tatters, she’s forced to return home to the quiet seaside town of Sunny Bay and the family’s B&B, where the bedrooms are covered in chintz and her mother is still serving up culinary delights from the 1970s. Adamant that she’s not staying, Becca embarks on a soul-searching trip to Europe.
She’s barely stepped foot abroad before a family crisis sees her back in Sunny Bay and in charge of the B&B. Coming face to face with old flames and adversaries, Becca’s reminded why she left and is determined to get back to her old life in London.
But when the mysterious Madame DoTell, fortune teller to the stars, insists that home is where the heart is, Becca begins to wonder if she should listen…
If home is where the heart is, where is home?
High Heels on the Beach is a light-hearted and fun packed Summer tale perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk
So exciting to support author, Anni Rose in the week when she publishes her debut novel Recipe for Mr Rightwith Choc Lit Publishing! I asked Anni to talk about her garden and it sounds so idyllic that I think I might apply to move in with her family.
Thank you so much, Morton, for inviting me on to your blog to talk about my garden. I have to say, when I told my family what I was going to be talking to you about, they laughed. I’m no gardener; but I do love my garden. I should warn you though, this is no show garden, that’s really not something that’s practical with two dogs running about and who love nothing better than to chase one another through the flower beds.
I am writing this sitting on the patio this morning, in the sun, having just eaten a bowlful of strawberries picked this morning from the greenhouse for my breakfast – one of the reasons I love the garden.
There are no stripes on the lawn. Actually, it’s more meadow than lawn, but that’s fine with me. I could happily live with a wildflower meadow – I love the colours and scents of flowers.
We are regularly visited by many types of wildlife. Sadly, our regular house martins haven’t made an appearance this year. Oh, and we are on one of the flight paths into RAF Fairford, so when the wind’s in the right direction you might catch sight of the odd B-52 or U2.
The flower beds are jammed full of colour. It’s an all-year-round garden, from snowdrops and crocuses in early spring which are closely followed by a riot of wallflowers in the front. At the moment the lupins, aquilegia and peonies are blooming lovely, and the front of the house is draped in white wisteria. Last year we scattered an enormous number of poppy seeds. Poppy plants are emerging now, in another month they should look amazing. I can’t wait to see the variety and colours. Then it will be time to start picking the tomatoes. In August, the fruit trees come into their own. Last year we had a bumper harvest of plums, even after giving jars away to just about everyone we knew, we still have a shelf-full of jam (or jum as it is known in our house after we had help with the labels!).
At the back of the garden is our vegetable plot. This year we ate our first home-grown asparagus. Not as exciting as having a debut novel published but a milestone nevertheless and a tasty one at that.
The garden is a great place. We eat out, weather permitting as much as we can, but it can be incredibly distracting, which as a writer is not always a good thing. And sitting here writing this, I have become aware that the elderflower has a pleasing number of blooms, so you’ll have to excuse me, I’m pretty sure I have citric acid and sugar in the larder. I’m off to check and I think I’ll make cordial.
About Anni Rose
Born and raised in Berkshire, I emigrated to Wiltshire five years ago, where I live with my husband, sister, two dogs, a cat and Midge, the grey speckled hen.
As a child, I loved writing fiction, producing reams of stories, thankfully lost over the years, although recently when we cleared my mother’s house out, ‘The attack of the Killer Tomatoes’ did resurface.
On leaving school, the need to earn a living sort of got in the way of any creative ambitions and I became an accountant where my only published works apart from regular financial reports was the employees’ handbook.
A local writing course and an encouraging group of writing friends re-ignited the fiction flame many years later and I went on to win or be short listed in a number of writing competitions and had short stories published in Writers Forum, My Weekly and Sophie King’s ‘How to Write your Life Story’.
These days I would describe my writing as modern romantic stories with a healthy dollop of humour thrown in. I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and was delighted to have been signed by Choc Lit. Recipe for Mr Right is my debut novel, with my second due to be published in September.
Away from the garden and writing I can usually be found behind a camera, walking the dogs, enjoying one of my husband’s curries or sister’s bakery treats.
To keep in touch with Anni Rose you can use the following links:
Ruby Brooks is a little sceptical when her horoscope say she’s going to have a fabulous year – especially when she loses a boyfriend and a job in quick succession. Plus, a rogue kitchen fitter has run off and taken everything, including the kitchen sink!
So, Ruby takes luck and fate into her own hands with an unusual resolution – she’ll enter ten competitions a day, whether they’re for her dream Japanese holiday or a year’s supply of dog food (she doesn’t have a dog), and win her way to happiness.
But when a Valentine’s Day prize from a local restaurant results in chef Adam Finder (and his dog, Brutus) appearing in her life, is that luck or fate? And will Ruby ultimately find out that true happiness doesn’t need to be won?
This week I’m joined by Angela Petch who has written a series of books set in Tuscany for Bookouture. Her latest release is The Tuscan House. Angela is talking to us today about her garden in Tuscany which looks absolutely gorgeous. Over to Angela …
Our Tuscan garden started from a field. And most of the top soil had been washed away by the river gushing over its banks in a freak flood from the river Marecchia that runs alongside our land. Over the past twenty years we have slowly created a (wild) garden from what we were left with.
There are advantages: part of our garden is a meadow and now wild flowers and orchids bloom on bed rock where once there was a flourishing vegetable garden. Our local Italian friends cannot understand why we do not restore all this, but we love the flowers. One edge of the meadow was safe from the waters and we do grow our aubergines, tomatoes, peppers and other scrumptious veg in that area – aided with plenty of manure from our friendly farmer.
I liken the process our garden has gone through to writing on a blank page. In fact, there are many similarities between gardening and writing. Particularly when the planting and writing are finished and you stand back and realise that there is a gap here, an overload of a particular plant there and that at the end of the season (the end of the first draft), much pruning and removing needs to be carried out to give the best overall effect.
“Probably… the larger part of the labour of an author in composing his work is critical labour; the labour of sifting, combining, constructing, expunging, correcting, testing: this frightful toil is as much critical as creative.” (From Reading Yourself by David Lodge. The Creative Writing Coursebook from the University of East Anglia).
Our garden in Tuscany is a challenge as the temperatures have been known to soar to 40 degrees and plummet to minus 15 degrees. So, plant selection is important. I look around the area to see what thrives. Roses and lilies do well and I mix in wild flowers that I love, collecting seeds and scattering them in my beds in autumn before we leave to return to England for the winter. Field scabious is a favourite and I love the way it sways in the breeze and attracts birds to gather its seeds.
Lavender is another hardy favourite. I love it for its scent and I use it in my laundry cupboard. The bees, butterflies and moths adore it too. It’s a background for wild life study.
All our life we have lived to a strict budget – I think our parents who endured World War Two instilled this need to be careful in both of us. I have friends with whom I swap plants and cuttings. We found a vine on our land growing in a ditch and this, plus a friend’s cutting of a flame-coloured bignogna (campsis radicans) now adorns our pergola, providing us with much needed shade.
I’m an inveterate seed collector when I am out and about. And we recycle a lot and it’s fun to create something out of nothing: an old basket found by the local bins is planted with French marigolds, my daughter’s discarded walking boots house begonias, a wire egg basket from a charity shop is planted with geraniums, an old ladder riddled with woodworm serves as a rose support, the remains of an old chicken house is left as an arch for a rose to clamber over – a rose cutting that my best friend gave me before she died. This pink rose is called perpetue and when I look at it, I think of her.
Our garden is a special place for us. It needs to fend for itself as we are away for six months each winter and it is like discovering it all over again when we return. (A bit like revisiting a favourite book, we find something new each time). We probably would not win any garden design prizes, but we love it.
About Angela Petch
Published by Bookouture, Angela Petch is an award winning writer of fiction – and the occasional poem.
Every summer she moves to Tuscany for six months where she and her husband own a renovated watermill which they let out. When not exploring their unspoilt corner of the Apennines, she disappears to her writing desk at the top of a converted stable. In her Italian handbag or hiking rucksack she always makes sure to store notebook and pen to jot down ideas.
The winter months are spent in Sussex where most of her family live. When Angela’s not helping out with grandchildren, she catches up with writer friends.
Angela’s gripping, WWII, Tuscan novels are published by Bookouture. While her novel, Mavis and Dot, was self-published and tells of the frolics and foibles of two best-friends who live by the seaside. Angela also writes short stories published in Prima and People’s Friend.
To keep in touch with Angela you can use the following links:
Corbello, Italy, 1947. A woman and a little boy stagger into the ruins of an old house deep in the forest, wild roses overwhelming the crumbling terracotta walls. Since the war, nowhere has been safe. But they both freeze in shock when a voice calls out from the shadows…
For young mother Fosca Sentino, accepting refuge from reluctant British war hero Richard – in Tuscany to escape his tragic past – is the only way to keep her little family safe. She once risked everything to spy on Nazi commanders and pass secret information to the resistenza. But after a heartbreaking betrayal, Fosca’s best friend Simonetta disappeared without trace. The whole community was torn apart, and now Fosca and her son are outcasts.
Wary of this handsome stranger at first, Fosca slowly starts to feel safe as she watches him play with her son in the overgrown orchard. But her fragile peace is shattered the moment a silver brooch is found in the garden, and she recognises it as Simonetta’s…
Fosca has always suspected that another member of the resistenza betrayed her. With Richard by her side, she must find out if Simonetta is still alive, and clear her own name. But how did the brooch end up at the house? And with a traitor hiding in the village, willing to do anything to keep this secret buried, has Fosca put herself and her young son in terrible danger?
An absolutely gripping and heartbreaking standalone historical read that explores the incredible courage of ordinary people in extraordinary times. Perfect for fans of Rhys Bowen, The Nightingale, and anyone longing to lose themselves in the mountain landscapes and olive groves of rural Tuscany.
As well as writing books, I also read and review the work of other authors. I thought this week that I would share a few reviews from my recent reads by Sue Moorcroft, Faith Hogan, Janice Preston and Lisa Hobman.
A sun-baked terrace. The rustle of vines. And the clink of wine glasses as the first cork of the evening is popped…
Welcome to Italy. A place that holds the answer to Zia-Lucia Costa Chalmers’ many questions. Not least, how she ended up with such a mouthful of a name.
When revelations close to home turn Zia’s world upside down,she realises the time has come to search out the Italian family she’s never known.
But as she looks for answers, she can’t help but notice Piero, the vineyard owner next door – a distraction who may prove difficult to ignore…
This summer, join Zia as she sets out to uncover her past. But can she find the future she’s always dreamed of along the way?
My review 5 Stars
I think this is one of my favourite Sue Moorcroft books to date (and I’ve read them all). The hero of the book, Piero is fanciable just from Sue’s words on the page. Zia, the heroine, has a lot going on with her complex family dynamics and the fact her ex-boyfriend is best buddies with her best friend’s husband. Add into this an interesting and complex plotline spanning across England and Italy and there is plenty to keep you guessing. Can’t wait for the next Sue Moorcroft novel already!
Three women, three different stages of life, united by one thing: the chance to start again.
When Elizabeth’s husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, she must turn to her friend, Jo for help, who calls in her daughter, Lucy to run the village surgery. Leaving her city life, and past demons, behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.
As life slowly begins to resemble something normal for the three women, Jo’s world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.
In search of some solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice; to take a dip in the nip…
An emotional story about taking chances, finding new friends and living life to the full.
My review Five Stars
Loved this book on so many different levels – the characters and the challenges they face. I didn’t think I would like a book being written from so many different points of view, but it was seamless and added to the story. He doesn’t even feature in the novel, but I wanted to bop Elizabeth’s late husband on the nose, especially towards the end of the book. I was praying for Lucy’s son, Niall to make the right choices, shed tears over Jo and Dan. I want to go and stay in Dan’s rented house on the hill and take part in the Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club. Great book and it made me want to search for the author’s other stories.
Claiming her inheritance in London will help Beatrice Fothergill escape her bullying, belittling half brother. When her carriage overturns, dashing Waterloo soldier Jack Kingswood comes to her aid–setting her pulse racing! In return, believing her new fortune can help the injured veteran rebuild his life, Beatrice proposes a convenient marriage. But is this all she can offer–or dare Beatrice believe she’s worthy of more?
My review Five Stars
I devoured this book. At one point I slowed down with my reading as I didn’t want the story to finish. The baddies are bad, the hero is lovely and I could easily put myself in the heroine’s position. Contains a trade mark Janice Preston seduction scene. Can’t wait for book three of the series.
After three wonderful years of marriage, librarian Juliette Fairhurst’s heart is shattered when her husband, Laurie, is taken from her much too soon.
Devasted, Juliette decides to take a sabbatical and reconnect with her mother’s birthplace, the village of Glentorrin on the picturesque Isle of Skye.
Welcomed by most of the villagers, Juliette throws herself into an idyllic community life, taking on the role of temporary summer guardian at The Lifeboat House Museum; a role that offers her the perfect escape from the tragedy of her real life.
During her time on the island, Juliette clashes with brooding single dad and artist, Reid Mackinnon and is befriended by his son Evin and dog Chewie. It’s clear that divorced Reid is struggling and scarred by his own painful experiences.
Can these two lost souls find a lifeline to rescue each other?
Or will their pasts scupper their second chance at real happiness?
My review Five Stars
I loved this book and wanted to make my own escape to the Isle of Skye! The author tackles some difficult issues – bereavement, depression, divorce, children of divorce, but in a way that carries you along wanting the characters to find their happiness. Believable characters especially the hero, Reid and the heroine, Juliette. Evin and Chewie the dog wormed their way into my heart. A lovely escapist read.
A new visitor to my blog this week as I welcome Lizzie Chantree. A fabulous networker and supporter of both writers and readers, I often find myself in awe of her apparent boundless energy online. Her latest book Shh… It’s Our Secret was out last week. Over to Lizzie …
Thank you for the invitation to be on your blog, Morton. I’d love to share with you and your readers, what I love about my garden.
I have a small garden at home, but the area around my writing studio is lush and green, as it’s surrounded by fields. I have a thinking tree that I sit under and you’ll often find me working out plotlines there. I love sitting and staring at the old barn that is right in my sightline. It reminds me a bit of France and I can imagine myself in a grand chateau and not in the south of England!
I have a set of swings that my children have grown out of, but they are really good fun to sit and mull over writing ideas, whilst gently swinging back and forth. I often have my writing buddy, Pepper with me. She’s eleven now and loves to sit on my lap. If I don’t let her, because it’s uncomfortable to reach the keyboard, then she simply sits on my back!
I have French doors by my writing desk and a clear view of the surrounding fields. Beautifully scented wildflowers sway in the breeze and during lockdown, we made a makeshift bar out of old palettes. We haven’t used it yet, but are determined to add some cocktails and invite people round when it’s safer to be back together.
I arrived to work to find a duck sitting in the middle of the field the other day and two friendly dogs from next door often pop round for a cuddle and to sit by my feet while I’m working. I feel like the dog whisperer when they are all sitting on me! The house opposite my studio has a pond full of Moorhens and I can usually hear them chatting away to each other in the background. It’s an idyllic place to write.
In my garden at home we have a bird feeder on the fence and a team of squirrels and pigeons work together to gorge on birdseed. The squirrels hang upside down by their tails and then knock seed on the floor for the two pigeons, who stand underneath. It’s so much fun to watch and like a military operation. They then sit on the fence and have their lunch!
During the start of lockdown we were painting everything including the garden shed! So it ended up as a bit of a confused art piece. Lol. Happily it’s now back to a plain shed colour, but I actually enjoyed the work in progress and seeing the bright artwork.
I love the shed painting and I’m so jealous of the seat around the tree! Thank you for visiting my blog. Mx
About Lizzie Chantree
International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.
To keep in touch with Lizzie, you can choose from the following impressive list of social media links:-
Violet has a secret that could change the lives of everyone she knows and loves, especially the regulars at the run-down café bar where she works. After losing her parents at a young age, they are the closest thing she has to a family and she feels responsible for them.
Kai is a jaded music producer who has just moved outside of town. Seeking solitude from the stress of his job, he’s looking for seclusion. The only problem is he can’t seem to escape the band members and songwriters who keep showing up at his house.
When Kai wanders into the bar and Violet’s life, he accidently discovers her closely guarded secret. Can Kai help her rediscover her self-confidence or should some secrets remain undiscovered?
This week I’m joined by great friend, Carol Thomas as she tells us what she loves about her garden. Carol and I share the same publisher Choc Lit/Ruby and are both members of the Apricot Plots writer’s group. Her novel, A Summer of Second Chancesis now available for Kindle, in paperback and shortly as an audiobook. I’m thoroughly enjoying reading it at the moment. Over to Carol …
Thank you for having me on your blog, Morton, to share what I love about my garden.
To any gardening expert, my garden would appear unloved. I have Laylandi trees that are out of control, at around thirty foot high. I had the flower borders and vegetable patch removed when I moved in eighteen years ago and had the entire garden laid to lawn except for the patio that is surrounded by a four-foot metal fence with a gate (that keeps the dogs off the grass when it is too wet and muddy).
I am not painting a very pretty picture, am I? So what do I love about my garden? I love the fact it is so versatile. I am not precious about it; it is to be enjoyed. Since moving into this house, my two original Labradors have grown old and passed away, I have had and raised three of my four children (the eldest was already a teenager when we moved in), and I have gained a Labrador puppy and two adorable grandchildren.
All of my dogs have loved the garden. It is big enough for them to run around in, to play fetch and hide and seek with a ball. We have resident frogs – I think left from the fact the house was built where a marsh used to be, call me Princess Fiona – and hedgehogs who use our garden as a walkthrough. Due to the trees, we have nesting pigeons and many smaller visiting birds. We also have in door guinea pigs (who live in our lounge) that also enjoy a garden adventure occasionally.
My children have gone through phases of what they enjoy in the garden, owning at various times: a sandpit, different paddling pools, a trampoline, slide and so forth. Football and swingball remain favourites as we all play them together, and a basketball hoop is a recent addition. They enjoy the garden, no matter what the weather.
Two years ago, my teenage daughter celebrated her birthday by having friends round to camp in the garden. It was great. They sorted everything themselves, including putting up and taking down the tent. I’m not sure how much sleep they got but they all had fun.
And last year, during the first lockdown, my son began growing vegetables. We had successful crops of lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and broccoli. The pumpkins were eaten before they grew larger than a tennis ball (the bite marks suggested they had been enjoyed by the hedgehogs or a critter of similar size).
During the lockdown periods, I know how lucky we have been to have this space. When we were allowed to meet in gardens, our eldest daughter, husband, and children came to play. It was wonderful with my son playing the guitar and my youngest daughter setting up an obstacle course for us all to do.
I know it is not the prettiest garden, but it is low maintenance – if you ignore the trees as we clearly have 😉 and has provided a whole lot of fun and laughter over the years. Now the children are getting older, I would love to have a writing room out there and to have a wild area – encouraging more animals and insects to take up residence. I’ve attempted to plant wildflowers with little success. I have a few bluebells but I think they have always been there. My nan was green-fingered and used to have the most spectacular garden (before this house, she used to do my garden too). I think my sister got those genes instead of me, but I will persevere, and who knows, maybe I’ll pop back one day to share my success.
(What lovely pictures! I adore how proud Edward looks of his plants Mxx)
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?
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.