Thank you so much for being here Hannah!
When Shelley asked me if I’d like to write about summer vacations a warm glow filled my heart. I never need an excuse to return to the seaside village where my family—even today—spend our annual holidays in North Cornwall, England.
Although the world has changed since the 1960s and early 70s, the little hamlet of Trebarwith Strand, nestled between soaring cliffs and accessed by a steep winding narrow road that ends abruptly at the sea, is exactly as it was when I was a child.
Back then, England used to celebrate the “Factory Fortnight.” These two weeks marked the closure of factories throughout the country and always fell on the last week of July and the first week of August. It heralded a mass exodus to the coast.
On that first magical Saturday morning at 4 AM, my mother would wake my sister and I and we would pack up the car to make the six-hour drive from Hampshire—a journey that today takes less than four—to the West Country. In those days we’d spend our holiday in caravans with exotic names like Zanzibar, Madagascar or Tobago. I know people are shuddering, but it used to be “The Thing” to holiday in a caravan.
There was just a primer stove and no fridge—Mum used a bucket that she filled with cold water to keep produce cool under the “van.” There was no inside loo unless you could upgrade to one of the “deluxe” caravans that had a small outside brick shed with a freestanding washbasin. Showers were taken in a grim breezeblock building and ran on a meter. I lost count of the times the meter ran out and I was left walking back across fields full of cowpats with soapy hair. I also lost count of the times I was pooped on by a seagull that perched on the gutter above (my mother told me it was lucky). We called him Squits. With no television, telephone, shops or nightlife, our days were spent on the beach, rock pooling, exploring caves or surfing. At night, we’d play board games like Monopoly or Gin Rummy or flirt with the local boys who had such thick Cornish accents it was hard to understand what they were saying.
My sister and I LOVED every minute of it. So much so that we still return every year to the same place although our tastes—and that of our children and grandchildren—have somewhat changed. We’ve switched the old caravan for a renovated fisherman’s cottage. We still walk the cliff top paths that are now protected by the National Trust, surf in the sea (now wearing wetsuits) and still play board games after dinner. For me, Trebarwith Strand will always be a magical place that makes me happy and feel inexplicably safe—as if I’ve come home.
It was that same feeling I clung to when I started writing my new series—Murder at Honeychurch Hall. I wanted to set it in the West Country but I also wanted a
fish-out-of-water feel to it. So, I decided that my amateur sleuth duo would face new beginnings in an unfamiliar—and strange environment.
For TV celebrity Kat Stanford, it’s her decision to quit Fakes & Treasures and start her dream business of dealing in antiques. For Kat’s newly widowed mother Iris, it’s her chance to start over after fifty years of marriage. Initially, Kat is shocked to discover that Iris has been secretly writing steamy bodice-rippers under the pseudonym Krystalle Storm. But it’s Iris’s irrational obsession with Honeychurch Hall, over two hundred miles away from home that Kat just cannot understand. Slowly, she begins to realize that the grand old country estate holds the key to her mother’s unconventional childhood. As the pair are swept up in the upstairs-downstairs politics of the modern day and Pandora’s box flies open to free past scandals and unsolved mysteries— Kat discovers that her mother is not who she believed she was at all.
Murder at Honeychurch Hall
(Minotaur Books; May 13th; ISBN 978-1-250-00779-7; $24.99)
If you haven't read this book! Please pick it up. I read it and Loved it!