After all the excitement of The Rossetti Mysteries being published in their entirety and storming up the charts, I’ve had a little break to do the edits on a novella – my first Romantic Comedy, Witches and Wishes. It’s more contemporary than the Rossetti series, but we still have a bit of a paranormal slant, which isn’t a bad thing in my mind.
Doing the novella as something completely different has been a good ‘bridge’ before I start work on edits for the next trilogy, affectionately known (by me anyway) as the Hartsford Series. It’s based in a little village I invented in Suffolk. I know – I usually aim for locations further north, but I love Norfolk and Suffolk, especially the border area which is where this is set, and it just seemed the right place to ‘drop’ Hartsford into. I’ve also invented a stately home called Hartsford Hall, which is the centrepiece of the village, and that’s where the first book is set.
The Hall is loosely based on several that I’ve visited over the years, but particularly this place: Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire.
I submitted the first Hartsford book at the beginning of 2015, wrote the next one in the latter half of 2015 and then did the third one as part of my dissertation for my Masters degree in 2016. So it’s been around quite a while and will no doubt change massively during edits as we polish it all up! However; I doubt some things will change much, so here’s a taster. The first book includes a tea-shop where my heroine works part-time. She lives in the old gardener’s cottage on the estate and volunteers at the Hall as well. She’s got a bit of a history with the Hall and also with the divine Alex who owns the place and is trying to turn a profit by opening it to the public. As I explained in a previous post, you might recognise my heroine if you’ve read The Girl in the Painting – it’s Elodie, who worked at the theatre and who Cori visited when she was setting up a web design project. Elodie freely admitted in that novel that she sees ghosts…so you can imagine where we are going with this one, perhaps? But is the ghost she senses, the ghost she thinks it is? I’ve included a rather yummy eighteenth century Highwayman called Ben in that novel too – and we find out a little continuation of Cori and Simon’s story from The Girl in the Painting as well, which I hope you will like.
(I had fun trying to find a relevant picture of a Highwayman for this bit – here’s one I prepared earlier. I did get a whole page of Google Images up of a very young Hugh Grant when I popped it into the search engine, as apparently he did a film called The Lady and the Highwayman eons ago. Now, I love Hugh Grant – but he’s not quite Highwayman Ben material to me!)
Another book in the Hartsford Series focuses in on Cassie, Alex’s younger sister. Cassie is trying – and failing, it seems – to organise a Living History weekend on a Country House Weekend theme; that is, until Aidan roars in on his motorbike to save the day. At least, we hope he can save the day…
And then we have another book, which runs in sync with Cassie’s story. We focus on Kate, this time, who lives in and manages the Hartsford Folk Museum. She’s getting involved with Cassie’s Living History weekend by driving around the estate on a revamped bicycle, dressed as Rita Hayworth, selling ice-creams. Theo, an outdoorsy farrier is camping in the vicinity and offers his services to Alex for the weekend. Kate also has a boyfriend who lives in London; but it appears that she and Theo have some sort of history as well – dating back, it seems, to the late 1800s.
The good thing about using a very old house in the novels is that it leaves scope for lots of other pieces of work. After all, there’s been a lot of residents there over the centuries and I’m sure some of them might want me to tell their stories in the future.
The final thing I have to do is to apologise to anyone who desperately wanted a new Rossetti Mystery next; but I hope you’ll come to love Hartsford just as much. And I have tried to link the Hartsford books (along with a sparkly new contemporary novella trilogy that’s waiting for a decision from the panel!) into the Rossetti books quite subtly. Watch out for familiar names – I already mentioned Cori before, for example – and little treasures that might hopefully make you go, ‘Oh! I know where that came from!’ And perhaps then I’ll be forgiven for introducing you to a whole new cast!