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.

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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.

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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_SummerOfSecrets_WebBanner

A 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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Meet Into The Unknown’s Kate Sheridan

Kate Sheridan

Kate Sheridan is an only child, born in Co Galway, Ireland to an Irish solicitor father and an English mother. Her father had wanted Kate to go to America in search of work and live with his cousin but her mother persuades him to let Kate go to London to live with Kate’s aunt and uncle, despite the threat of war.

Although Kate is only eighteen when she arrives in London on the morning of 3 September 1939, she is very independent, having been sent away from home to boarding school at the age of twelve. She has recently completed a course in a Commercial College so she knows short hand, typing and book keeping, which she hopes will help her in her search for work.

Unfortunately, Kate’s nationality and accent hinder her job search, as many people resent the Irish Free State’s decision to declare itself neutral. It is quite a while before she is employed by a local butcher, who thinks she’s Welsh, as his book-keeper. Mr Graham turns out to have wandering hands and by Christmas 1939, Kate has had enough of having her bottom pinched. She decides to leave and join the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, known as the WAAF.

Kate meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler on Christmas Day when they both have the same idea to walk off their Christmas dinner. She is immediately attracted to him and agrees to go to the pictures with him but is put on her guard when her aunt and uncle tell her Charlie is a womaniser who only lives for the here and now.

When Charlie asks Kate out a second time, her aunt and uncle are shocked. Charlie Butler has never asked the same woman out twice and Kate’s aunt forbids her to go. Should Kate heed her aunt and uncle’s advice and turn Charlie down? Or should she trust her own judgement and risk a relationship with an RAF pilot whose life will probably be in danger? Find out what she decides in Into The Unknown.  

* * *

London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan, newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle, and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?

Read An Excerpt:

“What?” His head jerked up, making her jump. “You’re only nineteen?”

He seemed so horrified, her heart began to thump for all the wrong reasons.

“Yes. Why? What age did you think I was?”

“Twenty-two, twenty-three, at least,” he gasped. “Oh God.”

My clothes and make-up, she thought, getting to her feet. “Charlie, we seem to have been very much mistaken about each other.” She reached for her gas mask case, hoping she wouldn’t cry, and cursing herself for not believing Helen and Bob and letting her guard down. “I’m very sorry.”

“No, Kate, please?” He stood up so quickly his chair toppled over backwards, just missing his own gas mask case, and grabbed her arms. “Please stay?” he pleaded, his hands sliding down to hers and squeezing them. “Please?”

When she nodded, he released her hands, and she re-took her seat. Picking up his chair, he sat down, rubbing the side of his nose, and she waited for him to gather his thoughts.

“Kate, I’m sorry. I did think you were older. I mean, I’m twenty-seven. You don’t look or act like a nineteen-year-old.”

She gave him a weak smile. “When I arrived in London, I looked like a scarecrow and Helen refused to be seen out with me. As soon as she could, she bought me clothes, shoes, and make-up, and got my hair cut and styled. We thought it would help me to get a job but looking back I realise it was very over the top. I did get a job, but it brought me the trouble with Mr. Graham, so now I’ve modified my style so I don’t look like a scarecrow or a clown anymore.”

“Mmm,” he replied, and she frowned. “I saw you,” he explained. “I was driving back to base. I saw you getting out of a cab. I only saw a glimpse of you, but it was enough for me. Kate, can we start again? Please?”

Kate looked down at her hands and heard Charlie sitting back in his chair. It creaked, and he sighed. How should she answer? What about Bob and Helen’s warnings? What about what her father would say? What about her feelings for Charlie? There was no denying she had some and she bit her bottom lip. This was only the second time they had gone out together. Was this all happening far too soon?

“Be careful.” Bob and Helen’s words echoed around her head and she couldn’t ignore them so she leaned forward. “Are you really sure you want to go out with a nineteen-year-old girl from Ireland?” she asked.

Seeing indecision in his eyes, her heart sank. “I need to know, Charlie. I’ve let my guard down once and I’m not doing it again unless I know.”

“Bob warned you about going out with me again, didn’t he?” he asked instead of answering. “No, it’s all right, I’d be amazed and disappointed in him if he hadn’t. Charlie Butler—be careful, he gets through more women than hot dinners. Kate, if you just want to be seen with a pilot on your arm, who makes you feel all grown up, then I will find a cab and send you back to Dunstan Street right now.”

“Bob warned me the first time, it was Helen who warned me about going out with you again. And I can also hear my father shouting at me in my head. You’re British, Charlie, and you’re in the British armed forces, so he’s going to hate you.” His dark eyes widened in shock, but she continued. “Charlie, I don’t need someone like you to make me feel all grown up. I’ve been all grown up since the age of twelve when I was sent away from home to boarding school. I’m here, despite Bob, despite Helen, despite my father, and despite my own reservations because I like you very much and I want to get to know you better. So, if you aren’t all grown up enough to handle that, then I will be the one calling a cab and sending you home.”

He stared at her. She returned his stare defiantly before he leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “Yes, I am grown up enough,” he said. “And, yes, Bob’s right, Helen’s right, my father’s right, I have been with a lot of women, but none of them have ever had the effect that you have on me. So, Kate Sheridan, aged nineteen, from Ireland, would you like to go out with me?”

new image cover 1

Into The Unknown is currently unpublished and will be republished in due course.

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Meet Into The Unknown’s Charlie Butler

Charlie Butler

Twenty-seven year-old Charlie Butler is the eldest of two boys born to Dr Malcom Butler, a Harley Street gynaecologist, and his wife, Audrey. Having always wanted to fly airplanes, he joined the Royal Air Force straight from school and has recently been promoted to Flight Lieutenant. He is handsome, he knows it, and it doesn’t bother him one bit that he has a reputation as a womaniser.

He first sees Kate Sheridan the day after her arrival in London from Ireland. Her aunt had brought her to Oxford Street to smarten her up and Charlie finds himself mesmerised by the ‘film star’ who gets out of a cab across the street from him.

It isn’t until he’s granted Christmas leave that Charlie has the opportunity to ask her out to the pictures. He behaves himself, the date goes well and, despite misgivings about getting involved with a woman during a war, he asks her out again – this time taking her to his favourite jazz club.

There, he gets the shock of his life when the beautiful woman seated opposite him lets slip that she is, in fact, a nineteen-year-old girl. Clearly dismayed by his reaction, Kate gets up to leave. Should he let the girl he is beginning to feel very strongly about walk out of the club and his life? Find out what he decides in Into The Unknown.

* * *

London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan, newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle, and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?

Read An Excerpt:

A couple of hours later, Charlie sank back into one of the leather armchairs which ran along a wall in the Officers’ Mess at his fighter base, his mind still on Kate’s legs and lips. He was pretty unnerved that a mere glimpse of this girl could affect him like this.

“Oi, Charlie?” He jumped as someone’s goggles hit him on the head and dropped into his lap. He looked around as Pilot Officer Billy “The Kid” Benson grinned at him. “Had a good leave?”

“It was the usual, but then…” He tailed off and frowned.

Billy laughed. “War is declared, yeah, great. It’ll be all go from now on.”

“No, it’s not that.”

“What? You don’t think the Luftwaffe deserve a good old thrashing?” Billy’s voice had risen and Charlie began to tense.

“Of course I do. It’s just that I saw this girl…”

“Ah,” Billy roared and the others sniggered. “Yet another female about to fall for the Butler banter.”

“I didn’t even speak to her.”

“Just as well, or you’ll have Doris after your balls. Bloody hell, is no woman safe? You must have little blighters running about all over the country!”

“No, I bloody don’t,” Charlie snapped, wishing he hadn’t opened his mouth. “I’m careful, which is more than can be said for you.”

“My father isn’t a bloody Harley Street gynaecologist who knows where to get condoms from.”

“Well, you should at least try and get some from somewhere. A barber’s, perhaps?”

“Charlie’s right.” A calm voice spoke from the door and they all turned in surprise. No-one had heard Squadron Leader Ralph Clarke come in and they all got to their feet to salute him. “Now we’re at war we can’t afford any…accidents. We’ll all be under pressure from now on. We all have our needs, but we don’t want to be leaving them with something to remember us by. Try, lads, I’m sure they’re not that hard to find.”

“Yes, sir,” they all mumbled, and Charlie sat back down in his chair with some satisfaction.

“Now, look.” Clarke leaned back against the door. “No lectures, but I’ll give you all an idea of what to expect. Everyone here and at Fighter Command expects your full support in whatever operations you are sent on. The plan is that we carry out two weeks of maximum effort, one week of sustained effort, followed by one week of rest. Our first objectives are raids against German warships in Heligoland—which is just off the north coast of Germany—and the dropping of leaflets, but we are not to raid Germany itself.”

There were mumblings at that and Clarke raised his hands. “Patience,” he told them, then smiled at Charlie. “Congratulations on your promotion.”

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Into The Unknown is currently unpublished and will be republished in due course.

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Operation Pied Piper

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When Kate Sheridan arrived in London on the morning of 3 September 1939, the evacuation of children out of the city and into the countryside was well under way. The evacuation during World War Two was designed to save civilians in Britain, mostly children, from the risks associated with aerial bombing of cities by moving them to areas thought to be less at risk. Some of the children Kate saw at Euston Station were sent to stay with relatives, but others were sent to live with complete strangers.

At the station, children had labels attached to them and they didn’t know where they were going to or if they would be split from their brothers and sisters. The government recommended that in addition to their gas mask and identity card, the child evacuees had the following items with them:

Boys:

2 vests

2 pairs of pants

Pair of trousers

2 pairs of socks

6 handkerchiefs

Pullover or jersey

Girls:

Vest

Pair of knickers

Petticoat

2 pairs of stockings

6 handkerchiefs

Slip

Blouse

Cardigan

Other items packed in their suitcases included:

Overcoat or mackintosh

Comb

1 pair of Wellington boots

Towel and facecloth

Soap

Toothbrush

Boots or shoes

Sandwiches

Packet of nuts and raisins

Dry biscuits

Barley sugar

Apple

The children arrived in the countryside, tired, hungry and uncertain of whether they would ever see their families again. They were taken to the village hall, where they were met by the billeting officer and the host families haggled over the most presentable children while the sicklier and more scruffy children were left until last.

There were no big bombing raids on Britain in the first months of the war (known as The Phoney War) and as a result by early 1940 many children had returned home. They were evacuated again when heavy bombing raids began in the autumn of 1940 (known as The Blitz) and then again in 1944, when Germany attacked Britain with V1 Flying Bombs and V2 rockets.

Over the course of World War Two, Operation Pied Piper relocated more than 3.5 million people including 827,000 schoolchildren, 524,000 mothers with children under the age of five, 12,000 pregnant women and some disabled people.

* * *

London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan, newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle, and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?

Read An Excerpt…

Kate Sheridan opened the train door and, with butterflies fluttering in her stomach, stepped down onto the platform. London at last. Her journey from Ireland had taken three days. Where could she hear the latest news? The ultimatum to the Germans to withdraw from Poland was due to run out this morning. War was all but inevitable.

Glancing up and down the platform for her aunt and uncle, all she could see were hundreds of sobbing children, clinging for dear life to their equally upset parents. She knew it was rude, but she couldn’t help but stare.

“Come on, my love,” a voice from behind her shouted and she jumped. “You’re in the way.”

Picking up her suitcase, Kate moved aside as a man in an army uniform jumped down from the train with a sack-like bag slung over his shoulder.

“Why are all the children here?” she asked.

“The evacuation began the other day,” he explained, lowering the sack to the ground, and taking off his side cap. “They’re all being sent to the country for safety. You’re not a Londoner, are you, Miss? What part of Wales are you from?”

“I’m from Ballycarn,” she replied, wincing as a little boy—he couldn’t have been more than six—was pulled screaming away from his mother. “It’s not in Wales, it’s in the west of Ireland.”

The soldier laughed. “Sorry, I thought you were a Taffy, but you’re a Paddy instead. Still, you’d like to hear what old Neville has to say, wouldn’t you?”

“Neville?”

“Neville Chamberlain? The…our Prime Minister. Let’s find a wireless so we can hear him, though I know what he’s going to say.”

Replacing his side cap and hauling the sack onto his shoulder, he grasped Kate’s arm without asking permission, and she had to grab her suitcase. They hurried along the platform, weaving in and out of distraught families and porters, until they came to a railway guard who took their tickets.

“Is there a wireless nearby we can listen to?” the soldier asked.

“Yes, there’s one in the ticket office,” the guard replied. “Wait outside.”

“Good. Come on, let’s find a seat.”

They sat down outside the ticket office, Kate glancing anxiously around for her aunt and uncle. Had they given up after she hadn’t been on yesterday’s train? If only she hadn’t listened to that woman and followed her ridiculous advice. Still, if they were here, it wasn’t surprising they couldn’t find her in all this chaos.

“Shh.” The soldier nudged her arm even though she had been quiet. Don’t talk to any strange men, unless you absolutely have to, her mother had warned, and now look at her. Not five minutes off the train and she was sharing a bench with a soldier, listening to the wireless, expecting Chamberlain to tell them Britain was at war.

Her father had wanted her to go to America to find work and live with his cousin and family. America was the land of opportunity for so many Irish people, far away from Europe and the threat of war. Her maternal aunt and uncle then offered to take her and help her find work in London. So, despite her father’s grumblings, close family in London were chosen over a cousin she had never met in Philadelphia.

“…and against them, I am certain that the right will prevail.” Chamberlain’s speech ended and a long silence followed.

“You picked a great day to arrive.” The soldier turned to her with a wry smile. “There’s another train going out in a few minutes, you can get on it if you’re quick?”

“No,” she replied. “I’m staying.”

Hearing the opening bars of God Save The King, the butterflies in her stomach began to riot. Should she stand or not? She was Irish but Mummy was English, so she stood respectfully as the small group around the wireless sang the anthem as if the Germans were watching them at that very minute.

When the wireless was switched off, the soldier smiled at her. “What are you Paddies doing in Ireland now, eh? Do you have a National Anthem?”

“Yes, we have an anthem,” she told him. “It’s called The Soldier’s Song.”

He roared with laughter. “That’s priceless. We could do with an anthem like that now. Do you want to swap?”

“No.”

“Please yourself.” He saluted her and Kate wasn’t quite sure if he was poking fun at her or not. “I’d better be off. Good luck.”

“Thank you. You too.”

Feeling very alone, she watched him go. No-one had come to meet her so she would have to continue on to her aunt and uncle’s home herself. Wondering if she should take the underground train or the bus, she heard a loud wailing sound, and people began hurrying past her.

“Oi, Irish?” It was the soldier beckoning to her. “Quick.”

Fighting the urge to cry with relief, she grabbed her suitcase again, and ran to him on shaky legs. “What, what is it?” she stammered.

“Air-raid siren,” he said, pulling her out onto the street. “Come on, down here.”

Taking the suitcase from her, he pushed her in front of him, and down some steep steps. “This is an air-raid shelter; you’ll become familiar with them now you’re staying.”

They sat down on one of two benches parallel to each other and she took the suitcase back.

“Thanks for coming back for me.”

“Don’t worry about it. I knew you wouldn’t know what to do.”

The shelter quickly filled with people. By their white faces, they felt as frightened as she did.

“How long do these air-raids last?” she asked.

“Don’t know,” he replied, lighting a cigarette. “But take my advice, Irish, go to wherever you’re going—and fast. Who knows what’s going to happen now.”

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Into The Unknown is currently unpublished and will be republished in due course.

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Why I Chose This Setting and Era

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I chose London and the south east of England as a setting mainly because I have no close family connection with either area and I wanted Into The Unknown to be a work of fiction and not a family memoir.  

I chose the Second World War because my grandparents’ experiences of the war couldn’t be more different. In 1939, my maternal grandparents were living in The Netherlands while my paternal grandparents were living in the Irish Free State.

Opa (my late grandfather) joined the Dutch Army. When it surrendered to the Germans in May 1940, he was taken as a prisoner of war to Bremen, Germany and worked on clearing and developing sites to be used as graveyards. Oma (my late grandmother) spent the war in boarding school and in Rotterdam, which was almost destroyed by aerial bombardment by first the Luftwaffe and then the RAF and USAF.

Oma’s father was a baker and there is a family story that he and other bakers chartered a ship and brought flour back to Rotterdam from America. I have no idea whether the story is true and if anyone can dismiss or confirm the story, I’d love to hear from them.

When Oma’s family home was destroyed in a bombing raid, they moved into the bakery. The family photographs survived, having been given to one of Oma’s sisters for safekeeping while she was away at boarding school.

Meanwhile, in neutral Ireland, my paternal grandfather worked as an insurance inspector. My paternal grandmother’s parents were farmers and kept Granny and Grandad supplied with chickens, eggs, turf (peat) and also a goose each Christmas. Despite rationing and shortages of commodities, to them, the war must have seemed a very long way away.

* * *

London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan, newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle, and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?

Read An Excerpt…

“It seems like I’ve known you for years,” she told him.

“A year since Christmas Day.” He kissed her. “I love you so much, Kate.” They both jumped as they heard a bomb fall some way off and more planes approach.

“Bastards,” he whispered. “Leave us alone.”

“I wonder if there are people like us in Germany, sitting in shelters like this—frightened—not knowing when it’s going to end. They can’t all support Hitler.”

He’d never thought of that. “I suppose not,” he conceded. “But Hitler has brought it upon them all. Kate.” He turned her face towards his. “Your father wants you home, doesn’t he?”

She nodded. “He wanted me to go to America. It was Mummy who persuaded him that I come here. Now he really hates Bob because he thinks Bob put me under pressure to join up.”

“Is your father…” Charlie began. How could he put this delicately? “A bit anti-British?”

“He doesn’t like the British, Charlie; there’s no point in me denying it. He conveniently forgets that Mummy is British. The censor has had a field day with his letters. Churchill isn’t his favourite politician in all the world.”

“So he does hate me?” Charlie asked. “Like you said he would?”

She sighed. “He’s never mentioned you, even though I write about you in all my letters. It’s his loss.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Oh, Charlie, don’t be silly.” She kissed him. “Mummy likes the sound of you, though. Even Granny Norah does. If anyone should be able to persuade Daddy otherwise it’s her. He’s a bit of a mammy’s boy at heart.”

But an idiot apart from that, Charlie thought angrily, but smiled to placate her. Bloody hell, the man could support the IRA, or be in it for all he knew.

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Into The Unknown is currently unpublished and will be republished in due course.

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Meet Jane Hollinger from Only You

pretty-2150882_1920Jane Hollinger is thirty-one and recovering from a devastating divorce. After being dumped by her husband and business partner then discovering he had been having a year-long affair with a client, Jane doesn’t think she will ever recover from the betrayal. She isn’t in any hurry to begin dating again because, as she puts it, she’s the wrong side of thirty. She spends her time teaching family history evening classes and one of her students is a man named Mitch. His strange appearance makes her very nervous but at the same time she is intrigued by him.

After a few classes and encounters with Mitch, Jane discovers that the man who has been sitting at the back of her class is a man she thought she would only see in her dreams. His name is Robert Armstrong, one of Britain’s biggest acting stars, and she is stunned. Robert asks Jane to help her with an up and coming television role and also to help him with a mystery in his family tree.

Jane and Robert become friends but realise the chemistry between them is too strong to ignore. Jane begins to discover what dating a celebrity is like and Robert gets a taste of the normal life. Then, the British press get wind of their relationship, and Jane must decide whether she can put up with press intrusion and the paparazzi to be with Robert. Find out what she decides in Only You!

Jane Hollinger is divorced and the wrong side of thirty – as she puts it. Her friends are pressuring her to dive back into London’s dating pool, but she’s content with her quiet life teaching family history evening classes.

Robert Armstrong is every woman’s fantasy: handsome, charming, rich and famous. When he asks her to meet him, she convinces herself it’s because he needs her help with a mystery in his family tree. Soon she realises he’s interested in more than her genealogical expertise. Now the paparazzi want a piece of Jane too.

 Can Jane handle living — and loving — in the spotlight?

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Read An Excerpt From Chapter Six…

“Why do you run away?” he asked quietly. “Do I still frighten you or something?”

“No.”

“Then why?”

“Because, if you want to date me, I don’t know how,” she confessed, feeling blood rush to her cheeks. “I haven’t dated anyone since university and that wasn’t even proper dating. Tom took me out to dinner once. We were students; we couldn’t afford to go to restaurants, so it was usually fish and chips or a burger. I don’t know how to date properly, Robert. I’ve never been out with a man your age and it’s mortifying to have to admit it. That’s why I take the easy way out and run. And, apart from that, your ex-girlfriend was everything I’m not.”

“Which is precisely why she is now my ex.”

“Why did you split up?”

“It’s a cliché, but we ended up wanting different things. I’m not into all that ‘let’s see how often we can get in the papers’ stuff. I didn’t like going to clubs or restaurants where there would be photographers outside. She did. I’m an actor, not a celebrity. I hate the whole celebrity thing.”

“But you’re very famous now,” she protested. “And you’ll be even more famous when Mitch Barnes is aired. I mean, on the web…” Tailing off again, she pulled a face.

“What on the web?” he asked.

“There are websites dedicated to you. Lots of websites. Some of them are a bit…” More blood gushed into her cheeks and he rolled his eyes.

“Look, I’m just an ordinary bloke.”

There was nothing ordinary about him. “There are millions of women out there who compete against each other to see who can come up with the best sexual fantasy involving you. That doesn’t really strike me as normal.”

“Looks like I’ve got some work to do, then.”

“What?”

“I’ll boot up my laptop and dedicate a few websites to you.”

“What?” she squeaked. “No you bloody won’t. If my parents saw—”

“You’re beautiful when you’re angry,” he interrupted softly.

“And that’s just corny.”

He shrugged. “That was meant to be a compliment. All right, you look like crap, if that’s what you really want to hear.”

She couldn’t help but roar with laughter. “Thank you,” she said and he inclined his head.

“Look, Jane. Just tell me whether I’m wasting my time.”

“No,” she replied with a sigh. “But I think you’re mad.”

He came slowly towards her and held her hands. “No, I’m not.”

“Are.”

“Not,” he whispered, then gently kissed her lips. “You’re not going to run, are you?”

“It’s my house.”

“Ah. Good point. Can I have your phone number?”

“Why?”

“Don’t you want me to text you sometime?” he teased with a wink.

“Sexy ones?” She winced as soon as the words were out of her mouth.

“They might be,” he replied mischievously. “So don’t show anyone.”

“I won’t,” she said as they exchanged phones and added their numbers then passed them back.

“Thank you.” He returned his phone to his jacket pocket. “I’ll ring you, too. Now, can I have a look at these websites about me?” he asked and her jaw dropped.

“No.”

“Why not?”

Because the women – and quite a few men – in the guest books, message boards and forums would queue up to rip your clothes off and handcuff you to the bed so they could smear cream all over you and lick it all off.

“Because you’d find some of them a bit embarrassing.”  

“That bad, eh?”

“Coffee?”

“Yes, please. Milk, no sugar.”

“I won’t be long.”

She went to the kitchen, switched the kettle on again then leant heavily on the worktop. Right, let’s get this absolutely straight, she told herself. You are in a relationship with Robert Armstrong. She inhaled and exhaled deeply before reaching for the jar of coffee.

Only You by Lorna Peel

Buy Only You for 

Kindle

Or read Only You FREE with 

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Buy the Only You paperback at Amazon 

More paperback vendors coming soon!

Amazon ASIN: B07Q24PTTS

Paperback ISBN: 9781094641393

Only You Paperback Cover

 Explore my BLOG for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

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Photo Credit: panajiotis via Pixabay and used under CC0 1.0

Meet Robert Armstrong from Only You

Robert Armstron from Only You

Robert Armstrong is 40 and is a handsome actor who the paparazzi and most red blooded females and males want a piece of. Originally, he thought it would be easier to only date actresses but as his career progressed he didn’t like being in, and being referred to as, one half of a celebrity couple. It caused friction and lead to the break up of that relationship and made him realise he needed to be with someone who wasn’t famous in any way and who could look past the characters he’s played and just see him.

Jane Hollinger is divorced, dumped horribly by her philandering husband and not in any hurry to start dating again. She’s perfectly happy with her quiet life teaching family history evening classes.

Normally their paths would never have crossed, but when Robert lands the role of a genealogist, he starts to attend Jane’s classes to help with research into the part. When he begins to delve into his family tree, he uncovers a mystery and asks Jane for help. It’s the start of an on/off romance where Robert isn’t used to having to chase and almost beg a woman to go out with him. Robert isn’t vain, he’s just never had a woman actually run away from him before!

Like Jane, Robert has personal issues he hasn’t dealt with and he doesn’t like accepting advice from anyone. Attempting to deal with his feelings for Jane brings out the worst in him, which he hates, and it doesn’t help matters that it all takes place inside and on the covers of Britain’s many celebrity gossip magazines. Will Robert persuade Jane to learn to trust again and get used to the pressures of living with him in the public eye?

 

 Jane Hollinger is divorced and the wrong side of thirty – as she puts it. Her friends are pressuring her to dive back into London’s dating pool, but she’s content with her quiet life teaching family history evening classes.

Robert Armstrong is every woman’s fantasy: handsome, charming, rich and famous. When he asks her to meet him, she convinces herself it’s because he needs her help with a mystery in his family tree. Soon she realises he’s interested in more than her genealogical expertise. Now the paparazzi want a piece of Jane too.

Can Jane handle living — and loving — in the spotlight?

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Read An Excerpt From Chapter Two…

An hour and twenty minutes later, Jane was sitting in The Crown – a pub she had never been in before – nursing a pineapple juice. Five minutes passed. Then five more. She was on the verge of leaving when she saw ‘Mitch’ weaving his way through the tables towards her.

“Sorry, Jane,” he said. “I had trouble finding a parking space.” There was still no trace of the Cockney accent. “Let me get you a drink. Same again?”

“Pineapple juice, thank you.”

He returned with two pineapple juices. As he sat down, he went to rub his bloodshot eyes, then clearly thought better of it and grimaced.

“I’m sorry for deceiving you,” he began. “And I’m even more sorry for frightening you the way I did. I come to the classes straight off the set. I frighten myself sometimes when I look in the mirror.”

“You frighten the hell out of me…” Her voice tailed off as she realised she still didn’t know his real name.

“Robert. Robert Armstrong.”

She stared at his outstretched hand. No, it couldn’t be. He, or rather the character he played in her favourite TV series, had been the first man to make her blush since Tom had left. Both Mags and Carol teased her unmercifully over it.

She continued gawping at his hand. Like his face, there was something not quite right about it. Then the penny dropped. It was makeup. Her gaze travelled up his arm. There was makeup there, too. Bloody hell, he was covered in the stuff. Every bare patch of skin was lathered in what looked like very pale foundation. Relieved it was only makeup and not some kind of bizarre skin disease, she finally reached out and shook his hand.

“The other night… I was watching The Lady of the Woods.” For the ten millionth time.

“I see. Good. I hope you enjoyed it?”

“It is you, isn’t it – as Simon Moore?”

“Yes, it’s me.”

“Your makeup person deserves an Oscar.”

He laughed. “I’ll tell her that.”

“Because you look atrocious.”

“Thank you,” he replied.

She flushed. “Sorry. That was a bit rude. You’re a bit of a Daniel Day-Lewis, then? You have to be the person you’re playing?”

“No, not really, but I wanted to keep the accent up. Mitch Barnes was a real East End lad, and I’m not.”

“Go on then.”

He smiled and took a sip of pineapple juice. “How did you find out?”

“My sister looked up Michael ‘Mitch’ Barnes on the Internet,” she said and he made an ‘ah’ face.

“Why family history classes?” she asked, lifting her glass to her lips.

“I start filming a feature-length TV drama next month. About a genealogist.”

She almost inhaled her drink. “You’re joking?” she croaked and coughed to clear her throat. “I mean, I know genealogy is popular at the moment, but a feature-length TV drama? I suppose there are lots of murders and bigamy and other juicy stuff to bring in the viewers?”

“There’s one murder. I play a genealogist, hired by a female solicitor who is acting on behalf of a very rich client, now deceased. The solicitor needs proof that a claimant to the estate really is a descendant of her client.”

“Oh.”

He grinned. “You don’t sound too impressed.”

“No doubt he gets involved with the solicitor?”

“No doubt about that at all. He has flings with the solicitor and the claimant.”

She fought back a groan. It sounded like they’d based this character on her ex-husband and she had to fight the urge to ask if the genealogist’s name was Tom.

“Hey, look,” he said, rubbing the corners of his eyes. “It’s a TV drama. But I did want to try and get a feel for why people want to trace their ancestry. I mean, Dave is doing it because he knows he won’t be having children of his own, while Diana is doing it especially for her children and grandchildren…” Tailing off, he shook his head. “Sorry.” He smiled apologetically. “But my eyes are killing me.”

“When are you finished filming this gangster series?”

“Tomorrow. And it can’t come soon enough. I’ve spent a fortune on eye drops.”

“You need to take those contact lenses out. Maybe we should go?” she suggested, despite a huge reluctance to leave.

“I’m sorry but, yes.” He blinked and rolled his eyes. “Can I walk you to your car?”

“Yes, thanks,” she said, getting to her feet and smiled as Robert helped her into her coat. A young woman at the next table watched his every move as though she was expecting him to run off with not only Jane’s coat but her bag, too. “Thank you.”

They left the pub, more people staring at them as they passed.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a TV drama about a genealogist before,” she told him as they strolled along the street. “What does the genealogist in your drama look like? Is he a bit of a stereotypical geek?”

“Oh, he’s just a normal bloke. Normal clothes, no glasses or contact lenses.”

She thought of Tom again, then banished him to the back of her mind.

She stopped at her car and he watched as she unlocked and opened the door. “Will you be back next week?” she couldn’t help but ask, grabbing the door as it began to swing shut.

“I hope so, why?”

“Well, you won’t be dressed like that.”

He smiled. “No, I’ll be myself for once.”

“Good,” she said, gripping the car door so tightly she was sure she was denting it.

He leant forward as if intending to kiss her cheek then jerked back, opened his eyes wide, then squeezed them closed. “Sorry.”

“Go,” she told him. “Get rid of those awful lenses.”

He nodded. “I will, I promise. Goodnight.

Only You by Lorna Peel

Buy Only You for 

KindleOr read Only You FREE with 

download

Buy the Only You paperback at Amazon 

More paperback vendors coming soon!

Amazon ASIN: B07Q24PTTS

Paperback ISBN: 9781094641393

Only You Paperback Cover

 Explore my BLOG for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

newsletter-295x300

facebook-48x48  twitter-48x48  pinterest-48x48  mewe-500-2  goodreads-48x48  Wordpress  instagram_app_large_may2016_200  newsletter  BookBub Icon