Category Archives: inspiration

It all began with a garden…

January sees the publication of my 70th book for Harlequin Mills and Boon and in the darkest days of winter, it offers the scents and colour of warm early summer days.

Redeemed by Her Midsummer Kiss

Click Cover to buy the book

The garden…

When a book is written and has been through the publication process, I often struggle to remember what inspired the original idea. How it got from a blank screen to the physical book that I’m holding in my hand.

Redeemed by Her Midsummer Kiss was like that.

blackberries

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I do know that I was thinking about an earlier book in which the garden had featured heavily and which I’d loved writing.

That one had started with blackberries hanging over a garden wall. It was set in a world I had begun to create more than twenty-five years (and many books) ago.

My world

dandelions

https://pixabay.com/users/mabelamber-1377835/

Back in that world – Maybridge and the villages of Upper Haughton and Longbourne – I once again started with a garden.

Not a manicured, tidy garden with perfect herbaceous borders and an immaculate lawn. This was a garden where the “lawn” was a wildflower meadow, where nettles were allowed to grow undisturbed to nurture butterflies, and dandelions were not dug up, but the flowers were made into wine.

butterfly on nettlesMy first thought was to return to the village of Upper Haughton. But I needed a river in the story that was beginning to take shape in my imagination.  Lower Haughton had a mention way back in The Bachelor’s Baby, so I set it there.

Having settled on the location, I disappeared down the rabbit hole that is  Pinterest to find a garden, and cottage, that matched my imagination. You can see the result here.

So, who would live in a house like this?

blonde woman with rose

https://pixabay.com/users/nastya_gepp-3773230/

Setting sorted, I needed my heroine. Why was she living in this extraordinary garden? Was she happy or hurting?

Silly question. Happy people, bless their hearts, do not make great stories.

Trying out names for her gave me family history. The Rose family, gardeners, travellers, innovators for generations, who always named their baby girls after their birth month flower. And so Honeysuckle Rose – raised in the cottage by her recently deceased great-aunt from the age of six and who, until a few weeks ago, had been nursing in refugee camps with an international medical charity – stepped into my garden.

This was a much-loved place, but a responsibility, too. One she didn’t feel ready to take on.

And a title?

It’s always easier to write a book when you have a title and with Honey’s name came my title. Even though I knew that my editor would never agree to it, all the while that I was writing this book, in my head it was Honey’s Garden for the Broken-Hearted. In my heart, it always will be.

And who lives next door?

man in garden

Burned out and hurting from one loss too many, Honey has retired to lick her wounds in the peace of her aunt’s garden. But there is more than one person who needs the garden’s healing touch.

Step in Honey’s reclusive neighbour, Lucien Grey, to shatter her peace.

These two people have spent years working in some of the toughest places in the world. They have both seen tragedy on an epic scale. Scarred by the experience, they have retreated behind high emotional barriers.

Lucien is struggling with PTSD. Writing about any kind of disability is fraught with danger, but I’ve witnessed the kind of panic attack he experiences and was writing from personal experience.

He doesn’t want to see anyone. It’s Honey, driven by fury, who is hammering on his door.

This is how it goes…

‘MURDERER!’

door knocker

https://pixabay.com/users/dennisflarsen-2321124/

Lucien Grey’s first reaction to the furious pounding on his front door had been to ignore it. After a succession of village worthies, from the vicar to the chair of the parish council, had called to introduce themselves, invite him to open the summer fete, join the bridge, cricket and tennis clubs, all of which he’d politely declined, he’d found a screwdriver and removed the knocker.

And the village had finally got the message.

This, however, was not the polite knock of someone hoping to involve him in a local good cause.

The hammering was hard enough to rattle the letterbox.

Concerned that there might have been an accident in the lane, that there might be casualties, he curled his fingers into fists to stop his hands from shaking and forced himself away from his desk.

Confronted by a furious female thrusting a fistful of wilting vegetation in his face, it was too late to regret his decision, but he didn’t have to stand there and take abuse from some crazy woman.

Wearing dungarees that had seen better days, her white-blonde hair escaping from a knotted scarf and pink, overheated cheeks, she looked like someone out of a Dig for Victory poster circa 1942.

muddy boots

https://pixabay.com/users/eatonab12-21083734/

He took a step back, intending to close the door, but she had her boot on the sill faster than the thought could travel from his brain to his hand.

It was a substantial leather boot, laced with green twine and as he stared at it, a lump of dried mud broke off, shattering into dust and clouding the polished surface of the hall floor.

‘Who are you?’ he demanded. ‘What do you want?’

The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He didn’t care who she was or what she wanted.

Too late.

She was going to tell him…

And, finally…

book with matching nailartI’ve had all kinds of fun with special occasion nails, but Covid has meant that I’ve been missing this treat.

Liz's nail art to match her new bookI did have red, glittery nails for Christmas. This week, when I went to see Charlotte, she had the UK cover of my book on her phone and was as excited as I was to make the nails match.

This is the result.

Nails to match the cover, and the wildflower meadow that appears in the book!

Liz

Liz

Cinderella and the Birth of a Book…

December sees the publication of my latest Regency romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon. It is also the time of festive fun and pantomimes, so the Cinderella title is very apt, I think.

Cinderella and the Scarred Viscount

CLICK COVER TO BUY

Once upon a time….

Philip James de Loutherbourg, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The story is set in Regency England but its origins are much further afield. Spain in fact. The whole thing starts with the Spanish Armada!

Many Spanish ships from that ill-fated expedition came to grief around the British Isles, and the are many stories of survivors “leaving their mark” on the local population in the form of dark eyed, dark haired children. My heroine, Carenza, has this dark colouring, inherited from her mother.

Of course, she isn’t the first literary character to have such a heritage. The one that springs first to my mind is Jimmy Perez in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series (not that the lovely Dougie Henshall, who plays Perez in the TV series is dark haired OR dark-eyed).

Then there are The Westray Dons

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Inspirational oddities : objects, costume, places

The oddest things can be inspirational. For me, at least.

chinese screen © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Chinese screen 1825-1865 © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Quite often, it’s objects or artefacts that inspire me. Take this gorgeous Chinese lacquer and embroidered silk screen, for example. It may date from as early as the 1820s and is now in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection. I found it when I was looking for ways of illustrating a blog about the Regency pelisse, which ladies wore outdoors to keep warm.

Inside, they wore shawls. Houses, back then, tended to be draughty, hence the need for draught screens, like this one. Continue reading

Spring (in spite of the hail and sleet) for inspiration

garden in April after snowDon’t know about you, but here on the borders of Wales, we’ve got hail and sleet and rain. Not exactly inspiration in Spring, is it?

So today I thought I’d share images of places that inspire me in Spring, some here at home—some even in my garden, including the April snow scene shown right—and some further afield. The places abroad are wish list destinations for now, but they can still provide inspiration.

And maybe, one of these years, we’ll actually be able to visit them. I do hope so.

Inspiration at home

Gardens are wonderful. And, in Spring, when new leaves start to unfurl and buds break into bloom, we can almost feel the joy of new life. Continue reading

Favourite Places and Virtual Visits Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and Joanna took you on a virtual tour of some of their favourite places. We hope you enjoyed the ruins — from all around Britain — and the other inspirational locations they took you to.

Now, since we’re still in lockdown, Liz and Sophie are going to be your guides for a second instalment.

Ready? Your trip starts here…

Libertà’s Favourite Places #3 : Standen House & Garden (Liz)

At the first sniff of spring, the DD and I usually head off to our nearest National Trust property,

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Dawn Chorus in a Time of Lockdown

Redwing, fieldfare. ring ouzel

Redwing, fieldfare, ring ouzel

Welcome to Dawn Chorus Day. Yes, it’s a thing. It’s been a thing since the 1980s apparently, Started in Birmingham. Now it’s international. Makes me feel sort of proud and very grateful.

I was talking about birds with my friend Susan last week, We hear them so much more clearly during lockdown. We both bemoaned the fact that they’re yelling their heads off and yet we can’t identify them.

BBC Radio and the Lockdown Effect

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Favourite Places and Virtual Visits Part 1

Lockdown (with barred window) in times past??

While we’re in lockdown, we can’t travel to favourite places, the kind that inspire us (and sometimes comfort us, too).

At Libertà, we’ve been reflecting on that. So we’ve been digging out both images and memories of some of our favourite places to share.

 

 

 

 

Pack your bag and enjoy our virtual tour 😉 Continue reading

Earwigging, Active and Passive. And James Bond

The Listening Servant, Hubertus van Hove,
image courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum

I hooted over Joanna’s post last week. It made me remember a couple of earwigs of my own.

In the first, I overheard a memorable exchange. It came out of the blue, in truly exceptional circumstances. I’d use it in a book, if I could write one good enough.

In the other I was, as it were, earwigged. But I bet the earwiggers remember it. Both cheered me up enormously.

So I thought I would share.

Setting 1: the Exotic Holiday

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Earwigging : because writers do

Times are difficult, scary even, for all of us — especially the older or vulnerable ones — so I thought I’d add a bit of light-hearted distraction. To wit: earwigging.

I do it. Don’t you?
Doesn’t everybody?
Especially authors…

An Earwigging tale

Goblin Court typical English villageI was in a pub, on my own, having a quiet meal. There were four elderly gents — nattily dressed, clearly ex-military — sitting across the way, drinking various beverages and gossiping. They were not trying to keep their voices down, though they must have known other drinkers could hear every word.

One of them was even louder than the others, very keen to be heard. All The Time. And even when the others were trying to hold a conversation about something else.

Must admit that I took agin Mr Loudmouth.

Anyway, Mr Loudmouth told a joke Continue reading

Epiphany: Gifts For Writers? Plus a Bargain Offer

Epiphany tryptich by Hieronymus Bosch

Epiphany — 6th January — marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, and the day when the Three Kings brought gifts to the infant Jesus. The tryptich above is by Hieronymus Bosch, dated to around the end of the 15th century. But, with apologies to those who prefer the religious meaning of Epiphany, that’s not what I’m writing about in this blog.

glitter, the bane of post-Christmas cleaningIn the UK, Epiphany can be a bit of a downer, an end to things. It’s when we take down our Christmas decorations, put the cards in the recycling bin, and chop up the tree ready for the bonfire. We go back to work, if we haven’t done so already. The fun and games are over. Once we’ve hoovered up all the pine needles and the glitter that gets absolutely everywhere, the house looks a bit drab, doesn’t it? (And, next year, glitter is definitely banned in the Maitland house!) Continue reading