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
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.
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.
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.
My 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?
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?
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…
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.
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.
She was going to tell him…
I’ve had all kinds of fun with special occasion nails, but Covid has meant that I’ve been missing this treat.
I 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!
What a fabulous start to your story, Liz! I love the booted feet messing up the hall floor. And a wildflower garden is an immediate attraction for me. I love wildflowers, the way the colours dot amongst the green and of course it’s brilliant for the environment. I am reeling from your 70 total!
Thank you so much, Elizabeth. I had so much fun looking up facts and folklore about wildflowers.
This sounds wonderful, Liz. What an opening!
You know what they say, Jan, start with something happening! Such fun.
As Liz and Jan have said. A tantalising opening. And huge congrats on publishing your 70th book. The mind boggles at such a record. Wonderful. Especially as they’re such great stories.
Thank you, Joanna. I can remember, when I’d signed my first contract with Mills and Boon, wondering at one of my favourite authors who’d published 30+ books. It seemed an unreachable goal!
Oh it sounds just lovely, Liz. Can’t wait to read it. (And to set seeds for summer! You’ve inspired me.)
And Honey’s Garden for the Broken-Hearted is just a perfect title. Not surprised it’s still there for you. It will be for me, too.
Good luck with the seeds, Sophie!
I loved this story and it was lovely to go back and visit the Maybridge area and Upper and Lower Houghton. Some of my favourite places.
Bless you Princess Fi. They are some of my favourite places, too. The wip in very slow progress is set in Maybridge!
Many congratulations on your amazing 70th book, Liz. And what an opener! Very much looking forward to reading Honeysuckle and Lucien’s story.
Many congratulations Liz, on your amazing 70th book. Very much looking forward to reading it.
Thank you, Jill! It does feel a little unreal to have written so many — and there are others, too!