Meet Stephanie Heaton from A Summer of Secrets

guess-attic-girl-woman-pretty

Stephanie Heaton is forty – a year older than her brother, Thomas, Baron Heaton – but being female, she could not inherit the title. She went to university in London but now lives in an apartment in Leeds, and owns and runs a company which designs wedding dresses.

Officially known as The Honourable Stephanie Heaton, she prefers to be known simply as Stephanie. One of her previous employers already knew she was the sister of a baron, the other only found out after she had been with the company for over a year.

Stephanie knows Thomas works too hard and has very few friends, so she has started buying clothes for him to replace the suits she hates and which he wears all day every day. She is also encouraging her friends to bring him for nights out to get him away from the abbey, even for only a short time.

When Sophia Nelson arrives at Heaton Abbey to begin work as tour guide, Stephanie is in hospital. Simon – Stephanie’s drug-dealing boyfriend – has hit her yet again. Stephanie suffered a miscarriage and lost a lot of blood.

Thomas knows Simon all too well. They were at school together and were – and still are – anything but friends. Thomas has begged Stephanie to finish with Simon and come home to the abbey but so far she has stubbornly refused. Thomas is very much afraid that one day soon Simon will kill her. Will Stephanie leave her boyfriend before it’s too late?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

“Thomas?” There was a knock at the door and she bit back a curse. “Thomas?”

“Excuse me.” Getting up, he went to the door and opened it. Lady Heaton stood outside wringing her hands. “What is it?”

“I’ve just had the police on the telephone. It’s Stephanie.”

“Tell me?”

“She’s in hospital, Thomas. He’s attacked her again.”

“Christ.”

“We’re to go there.” Lady Heaton’s voice shook. “Now.”

He nodded. “Get your coat, I’ll get the car out.” Closing the door, he inhaled and exhaled a shaky breath. “Christ.”

“Is there anything I can do?” Sophia asked.

“If we’re not back, then the tours and the shop,” he said apologetically. “I’ll have a word with Des before I go. I’m sorry that you may have to start them again so soon.”

“Don’t be silly. I should go,” she said, going to the door. “I’m only getting in your way. I hope Stephanie will be all right.”

She returned to the flat, saw him reverse the Jaguar out of the garage, then walk to the door of Des’ flat. When he drove away a few minutes later, she peered out into the yard and saw light shining out from Des’ office. She went downstairs and knocked at the door.

“Des? It’s Sophia.”

“Come in.”

She went inside and found him sitting at his desk. “Do you know Stephanie at all?”

“Not very well,” he replied. “She went off to university in London and now lives in Leeds. She works as a wedding dress designer and comes back here the odd time. The boyfriend is bad news. That was his brother you saw the day you arrived.”

“Oh. What exactly does Simon do?”

“As little as possible, from what I can make out. His Lordship made the mistake of lending him some money a while back and now he keeps coming back for more. I think he might be a druggie. And so when he can’t come, he sends his brother instead.”

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Meet William and Maria Nelson from A Summer of Secrets

old-couple

Sophia Nelson’s father, William, is seventy-eight years-old and was a coal miner. When the mine closed in 1990, he put his heart and soul into the town’s mining museum, only to see it burn to the ground in a suspicious fire and Sophia lose her job there as a result. He continues to hold out hope that the museum will be re-built and, while he is pleased Sophia has found another job, he isn’t too happy that it is as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House.

Sophia’s mother, Maria Nelson, is seventy-five. She worked in an engineering firm in Leeds and became friends with Danielle O’Hara, mother of Sophia’s best friend Michelle, but they drifted apart when Danielle married Don Armstrong and moved to London. Maria now suffers from dementia, has recently had a stroke, and lives in Rich Hill Nursing Home.

Maria has periods of lucidity but at times she thinks Sophia is Sophia’s aunt Sally, or even Sophia’s grandmother. William visits his wife every day but after falling and badly breaking his arm, he had to spend some time in hospital. Because he was unable to visit her, Maria assumed he had died. Even when he left hospital and started visiting her again, Maria still thinks William is dead and that he is her long-dead brother.

Like her husband, Maria isn’t happy that Sophia is now living and working at Heaton Abbey. She begs Sophia to ‘get out of that place’ and but refuses to say why. What happened at the abbey and is Maria speaking to Sophia, or is she thinking of someone else?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

“You are looking for another job, aren’t you, Sally?” her mother added.

“I’ve got another job now.”

“Where?”

“Up at Heaton Abbey. I’m the—”

“The abbey?” Mrs Nelson exclaimed. “No.”

“Yes… What is it?” she cried as her mother began shaking her head violently. “Mum, stop it, don’t do that.”

“Not that place. Not that place.”

“Mum.” She tried to calm her mother. “Mum, stop.”

“You get out of that place. You must get out of that place.”

Sophia could hear feet running down the corridor and her father and a nurse rushed into the room.

“Mrs Nelson?” The nurse tried to soothe her.

“You must get out of that place. You have to get out.”

“Sophia,” her father ordered. “Leave her.”

“Why do I have to get out, Mum?” Sophia demanded. “Tell me.”

“Sophia. Out. Now.”

“Please?” the nurse begged.

Sophia got up and went out into the corridor, kicking the skirting board in frustration. A couple of minutes later her father followed.

“What the hell was that about?” he demanded.

“I don’t know. She asked if I had got a job yet and I told her that I was at Heaton Abbey and she just started shouting and shaking her head.”

“Right, well, you don’t mention the abbey again to her. Do you hear me, Sophia?”

“Yes. I’ll just lie as usual. Pretend I’m Sally one day. Pretend I’m her mother the next.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “I’m sorry.”

“I know,” her father said quietly. “Let the nurse calm her down.”

“All right.”

“You like the abbey, then?” he asked.

“Yes. I did my first tour yesterday.”

“What’s Lord Heaton like?” Mr Nelson added. “Is he a recluse like everyone says?”

“I don’t really know,” she replied truthfully. “He seems to work very hard and doesn’t leave the estate much but I don’t know if that makes him a recluse.”

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Buy A Summer of Secrets for   

KindleOr read A Summer of Secrets FREE with 

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Amazon ASIN: B07B51ZTH2

Paperback ISBN: 9781986599504

 

Explore A Summer of Secrets on my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

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Meet Michelle Giles from A Summer of Secrets

michelle-giles

Michelle Giles is thirty-three years old and has been Sophia Nelson’s best friend since they were at school together. Michelle is married to Tony and they have one daughter, Cathy, who is six. Now Cathy is at school, Michelle works part-time in the town’s tourist office.

When Sophia split up with her boyfriend and returned to Yorkshire from London to be near to her ageing parents, she slept for a while on her father’s uncomfortable sofa and worked at the town’s mining museum before a suspicious fire burned it to the ground. Michelle then took pity on her and offered her the bed in the loft conversion. Sophia lives with the Giles’ for the next few months but eventually finds a job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House, a stately home and former Cistercian Abbey, which comes with accommodation.

Michelle has mixed feelings about Sophia’s new job and the fact that Sophia will be living at Heaton Abbey – a place people from the town have little or no connection with. Michelle doesn’t want her friend ‘bowing and scraping’ at the abbey but, at the same time, she does want to see Sophia employed and happy again. But what if Sophia’s employment and happiness includes Lord Heaton – dismissed as a recluse by everyone in the town? Will Michelle simply see the lord – the title – and not the man underneath like everyone else?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him or the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

Letting herself into the flat, she blew out her cheeks before going to the cupboard and retrieving a small tin of baked beans. She emptied the contents into a saucepan, turned the gas hob on, then heard her mobile phone ringing. Picking it up and glancing at the screen her heart sank. It was Michelle.

“You’ll never guess who we had an email from at work?” Michelle laughed.

“Who?”

“Your boss.”

“You expected him to be still writing on parchment with a quill, or something?” Sophia asked, pressing the speakerphone button and carrying on with preparing her lunch.

“No. Well, maybe not a quill. Did you give him the office email address?”

“Yes, why?” Sophia put two slices of whole grain brown bread in the toaster and pushed the lever down.

“I just wondered what he was like. It’s just that we’re bringing out a glossy brochure. It might be the only brochure, glossy or otherwise. We’ll see how it goes, but I was wondering if Lord Heaton would mind being interviewed? It would be a big plug for the place and a big scoop for us. Is he a bit…fierce?”

“No, not really,” Sophia lied, opening the fridge and taking out a tub of low fat spread.

“Well, not all the time. Actually, underneath it all, I think he’s a bit shy.”

“Shy? Great. He probably won’t do it, then?”

“There’s no harm in asking. Would you be doing the interview?”

Michelle laughed. “God, no. It’ll be Vincent Graves, probably. The brochure was his idea. Pity, though. Is he good-looking?”

Sophia felt herself flush and stirred the baked beans. “Yes, I suppose he is.”

“Excellent. Might even get him on the cover. I’ll tell Vincent. So, how’s it going up there?”

Don’t ask. “Very well. The flat’s lovely and the tours are no problem.” Provided he doesn’t come on them. “I’ve even got the use of the wireless internet connection.”

“Blimey, very hi-tech. Have you tried it out yet?”

“No, I’m still unpacking.”

“And Lady Heaton? What’s she like?”

Where could she start? Best not to even try. Sophia’s mind then went back to Lady Heaton’s peculiar behaviour as she left the drawing room. And where had all that money come from? She shrugged. No, best not even try.

“She’s been pleasant so far.”

“You haven’t got lost at all, then?”

She just laughed and said goodbye to Michelle as the toast popped up and the beans came to the boil.

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Buy A Summer of Secrets for   

KindleOr read A Summer of Secrets FREE with 

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Buy the A Summer of Secrets paperback at

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Amazon ASIN: B07B51ZTH2

Paperback ISBN: 9781986599504

 

Explore A Summer of Secrets on my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

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The Stately Home

A stately home is a property built in the United Kingdom and Ireland between the mid-16th century and the early part of the 20th century. They include converted abbeys and other church property following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Stately homes are different from country houses in that a country house is always in the country, but a stately home can also be in a town or city. The phrase ‘stately home’ originates from the poem The Homes of England by Felicia Hemans, which was published in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1827.

lacock-abbey

Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, England

King Henry VIII’s policy of the Dissolution of the Monasteries resulted in many former ecclesiastical properties being turned over to the King’s favourites, who then converted them into private country houses. Lacock Abbey, Woburn Abbey, and many other properties with Abbey or Priory in their name often date from this period as private houses. These houses were a status symbol for the aristocracy and famous architects and landscape architects such as Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir John Vanburgh, and Capability Brown were employed to incorporate new trends into the buildings and gardens. Many stately homes are an evolution of one or more styles but driven by practicality just much as architectural trends.

 

Sir John Vanburgh and Capability Brown

The beginning of the decline of the stately home coincided with the rise of modern industry. It provided alternative employment for large numbers of servants, but its final demise began during World War I. The huge staff required to maintain them had either left to fight and never returned, went to work in the munitions factories, or filled the void left by fighting men in other workplaces. Of those who did return home from the war, many left the countryside for better-paid jobs in towns and cities.

Erddig, a group portrait of staff on the garden steps

Some estates employed at least one hundred indoor and outdoor servants

The death blow for many stately homes came following World War II. Many were requisitioned during the war and returned to their owners in poor repair. Many had lost their heirs in one of the World Wars. Owners who survived were required to pay high rates of tax and death duties. Agricultural incomes from the accompanying estates had also fallen.

beaupre_hall3

Beaupre Hall, a medieval fortified mansion, was demolished in 1966

The solution for some owners was to hold contents auctions, selling its stone, fireplaces, and panelling before demolishing the house. But some properties, including Chatsworth House, are still owned by the families who built them, retain their furniture and paintings, but have opened their house and estate to the public during the summer months. Most stately homes now have to be a business as well as a home.stately_home_brown_signA Summer of Secrets – Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

In the library he retrieved a cardboard wallet from a shelf, and brought it over to a desk, before switching on the reading lamp.

“This is an aerial view,” he told her, extracting the etchings, and placing them on the desk. “Showing the layout of the monastic buildings. You probably know that most Cistercian monasteries were built to more or less the same plan. It was quite a small abbey. This is the church and a view of the cloister. Then along comes King Henry VIII…”

He was very knowledgeable and seemed to relax when he spoke of the past but with a temper like his, his chances of being a good tour guide were very slim.

“You’re from the town, aren’t you?” he asked, returning the etchings to the folder.

“Yes, but I’ve lived in Leeds and then in London until quite recently.”

“What brought you back? If you don’t mind my asking?”

“No,” she replied, giving him a weak smile. “My mother is ill. She had a stroke and is in Rich Hill Nursing Home. She suffers from dementia, so she couldn’t live at home anymore. She kept wandering off and Dad couldn’t cope. I didn’t want to be too far away so I came back. To the mining museum originally, but then someone took a dislike to it.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry to hear about your mother.”

“Thank you.”

“It must be very hard on your family.”

She noticed a book on Renaissance women in the desk drawer as he opened it and placed the wallet inside. “I’m an only child but, yes, it is hard. She used to be such an active woman. She and Dad married late in life. When the mine closed, Dad—”

“The mine?” he interrupted sharply. “Your father worked in the mine?”

“Yes, he did. And when it closed, he put his heart and soul into the museum. I don’t think there’s a single family in the town that doesn’t have a miner in their family history somewhere.”

“I must have met him at one point or another. What is his name?”

“William Nelson. He gave a very long-winded speech when the museum opened a few years ago.”

“I remember now.” He smiled and glanced at her curls. “Red hair.”

She grinned. “There must be Irish or Scottish in us somewhere.”

“Could you give him and your mother my best wishes the next time you visit?”

“I will, but there are days that I could tell her that I was the Queen of Sheba and she’d believe me.” Don’t cry, she ordered herself, but she couldn’t stop the tears coming. “I’m sorry,” she gasped and fled from the room.

She ran blindly through the hall—almost colliding with Lady Heaton—hauled the heavy front door open, and staggered out onto the steps before halting to catch her breath. Pulling a paper handkerchief from her pocket, she wiped her eyes. Oh, God, what the hell will they both think of you now, she demanded of herself. A hysterical, nosy idiot who doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut, that’s what.

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Buy A Summer of Secrets for   

KindleOr read A Summer of Secrets FREE with 

download

Buy the A Summer of Secrets paperback at

amazon  B&N  wordery  Book Depository  blackwells  Booktopia  Fishpond AU  Fishpond NZ  BAM  McNallyRobinsonASOS Kindle Matchbook AD

Amazon ASIN: B07B51ZTH2

Paperback ISBN: 9781986599504

 

Explore A Summer of Secrets on my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

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