I began, but where? How? What was the inciting moment?
Every time I finish a story, I try to remember where it began, in this case to try and put my finger on the exact moment when The Billionaire’s Convenient Bride stopped being a mess of stuff in my head and began to be a story.
Sometimes it’s so clear.
I once saw a great house set high up in the woods as I was being driven to Cheltenham. I instantly pictured a woman standing on the doorstep. Angry, not wanting to be there. She had a wedding to arrange. The man who answered the door was expecting someone else so he wasn’t happy, either. And then there was the baby.
It took me a while to work out the why, the what happened next, but it eventually became The Bride, the Baby and the Best Man.
My new book began with Dora
I don’t usually add dogs to my books. That’s because, like babies and small children, you constantly have to remember where they are. Make sure they’re being taken care of.
This time, however, I found myself desperate for a dachshund. I have an entire Pinterest page devoted to them! I began buying stuff with dachshunds on them. Notebooks, socks, a Christmas sweater — they are, I discovered to my joy, everywhere. This is Dora.
Once you have one dog, it seems, you have to have another. This is Henry, a rescue dog, all scruffy charm and havoc. It was love at first sight, not just for me, but for Kam, my hero.
My heroine, Agnès, was not quite as thrilled at his arrival but how could you resist that face?
Then came the setting
I already had a box labelled “Castle Creek”.
It’s full of pictures and ideas for what I hoped would be a series set in the town I’d created. My editor, who can do “Errrr….” in every conceivable inflection, did an unmistakably “not right now” errrr. That was because she was looking for an exotic location from me just then.
We’ve worked together for a very long time and I like to please her if I can, so I wrote Flirting With Italian (set in Rome with a Count and a vineyard). But Castle Creek refused to leave me and, finally, with this book, its moment had come.
That is, it’s a town on the banks of a river that opens up to the sea. It has a busy marina, a big tourist industry and an incredibly pretty location. I began by adding my own flourishes — for the sake of the stories I envisaged — and gave it a castle (a proper lived-in one) and a ferry to France. Finding the right image eluded me. This was the closest I could get but my castle is set much higher.
Brainstorming with Kate Hardy gave me my heroine. Agnès Prideaux, whose family had lived in Prideaux Castle (which the locals call Priddy) for centuries.
Agnès has inherited a leaking roof, her grandfather’s debts, an inheritance tax bill that is about to come home to roost and a boiler on its last legs. She is also responsible for her ailing grandmother and the staff who help her run the B&B she set up to bring in some cash. And if she can just get on top of things, she has big plans to use the castle and gardens for events. It’s a perfect wedding location!
He’s returning to the home he and his mother (formerly cook/housekeeper at the Castle) had lost after an incident involving him and Agnès. And for which he wholly blames Agnès. To be fair, she blames herself.
He knows she is in trouble. And, having made his fortune, he plans to turn the tables, buy the castle, then stand back and watch as she’s forced to leave her home.
There is always the problem of how you turn a young man with no prospects into a billionaire. It isn’t easy! He morphed through several identities as I worked on the book until I eventually found him. And gave him a mission.
It’s not surprising that it was difficult. Kam was still discovering himself and return brings him not the expected sense of triumph, but a rush of memories and a great deal of confusion.
I love books where the characters already know one another, have a past — no matter how mixed.
I love to see them reconnect, remember the good times and work through their mistakes. Watch as they discover past secrets and move towards a future that neither of them could ever have envisaged.
So, welcome to Castle Creek and the lives of Agnès, Kam, their dogs and their friends.