Meet Sophia Nelson from A Summer of Secrets


Thirty-three year-old Sophia Nelson is about to start work as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House, a stately home and former Cistercian Abbey in Yorkshire, England. She returned to her home town six months previously to be closer to her ageing parents, working for a short time at the town’s mining museum before a suspicious fire burned it to the ground.

Her mother has dementia, suffered a stroke, and lives in a local care home. When her father fell and badly broke his arm, he couldn’t live on his own anymore, so he sold the family home and moved into sheltered accommodation. Sophia slept on her father’s sofa for a short time before her best friend, Michelle, offered Sophia the bed in her loft conversion. Sophia can’t believe her luck in securing a local job which comes with accommodation – a flat in what used to be the stable yard of Heaton Abbey House.

Sophia gets off to an unpromising start with Thomas, Baron Heaton. She first encounters a man she later realises is him behaving suspiciously at a boathouse on the abbey estate. The following day, trying to familiarise herself with the sprawling house, she wanders into the dark library and begins to examine the leather-bound books on the shelves, not realising her employer is seated in a corner enjoying a glass of whisky. He is not too impressed that the tour guide has managed to lose herself in the house on her first day. For Sophia, it is lust at first sight of her tall, dark, and handsome employer, and who turns her into what she describes as ‘a gibbering mess’.

Matters don’t improve when she witnesses Lord Heaton throwing a man out of his office and later that day she bursts into tears and runs from the library when he asks her about her parents. Returning to the library to apologise for her behaviour, she hears him speaking about his sister, Stephanie, who is in hospital having just suffered a miscarriage. What Sophia overhears leaves her torn between her attraction to Lord Heaton and the fear of opening a Pandora’s box if the truth were to get out. How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?


Read an excerpt…

She was at Michelle’s at eight o’clock on the dot that evening.

“Come in.” Michelle smiled. “I’ve just put the kettle on.” They brought their mugs of coffee into the living room and sat on the sofa. “So what’s up? You sounded like you were about to strangle someone yesterday.”

“Lord Heaton,” she replied simply.

“What, he’s a pain in the arse?”

“Yeah, and the rest.”

“What?” Michelle’s eyes bulged. “Oh, my God, you don’t fancy him, do you?” Sophia looked away. “Sophia?”

“I don’t know what to do,” she said miserably. “I need to leave but I can’t because I need the money and I need the flat but…”

“Heaton,” Michelle finished and Sophia smiled sadly and nodded. “Okay, tell me what’s been going on.”

“Everyone thinks he’s a recluse. He isn’t. I mean, he doesn’t go out much but it’s not like he never leaves the house or anything. I mean, we’ve been going walking together for weeks now—”

“Walking?” Michelle interrupted incredulously. “Hang on. Hang on. Rewind. You go walking together?”

“It came up that I go walking and I asked if he’d like to come. He said yes after a bit and we go walking on the moors. Stephanie comes too at the moment, though.”

“His sister?” Michelle asked.

Sophia swallowed. “Yes.”

“Okay. Go on.”

“I fancied him from the start. Bloody hell, it’s so corny but he’s tall, dark and handsome. But he’s got an awful temper and he smokes.”

Michelle shrugged. “You can’t have everything.”

“No. We just…talk. He’s shy and he’s lonely. He hates to admit it but he is. Everyone just treats him like ‘Lord Heaton’ and it’s like he’s become this character and has to keep on playing it. I mean, he continually calls me Ms Nelson. He’s never called me Sophia once.”

“And what do you call him?” Michelle frowned.

“Lord Heaton,” she replied. “It sounds ridiculous but he’s never once asked me to call him Thomas.”

“And you never once thought to ask him to call you Sophia?” Michelle added and Sophia shrugged. “Does he fancy you?”


“What?” Michelle had reached for her mug but had to put it down again. “How do you know?”

“He, um, draws people. He’s got drawings of me.”

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



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Photo Credit: LoganArt via Pixabay and used under CC0 1.0 Creative Commons

Being A Baron

A peer of the realm is someone who holds one or more of five titles – duke, marquess, earl, viscount, baron – inherited from a direct ancestor, or bestowed upon him by the sovereign. Depending on the terms in which a peerage was originally granted, some cannot be held by a female and others cannot be transmitted through a female line of succession.


The baron is the fifth and last rank of the peerage and the word baron means ‘man’, being formerly the king’s tenant in chief – a nobleman who held land. A Summer of Secrets’ Thomas Heaton is the current Baron Heaton, having inherited the title from his father just after leaving university. A baron is always referred to, both verbally and in correspondence, as Lord (Heaton) rather than Baron (Heaton). A baron can also be referred to as ‘My Lord’ or ‘Your Lordship’. The title baron or baroness is never used, except in formal or legal documents.

The wife of a baron is known as Lady (Heaton). When A Summer of Secrets’ Lady Heaton was widowed, she became a dowager, but the custom has been not to prefix either the forename or the word dowager to the title, e.g. ‘Forename, Baroness Heaton’ or ‘Dowager Baroness Heaton’ until the heir to the title marries. So she continues to use the title ‘Baroness Heaton’ but she is still commonly called ‘Lady Heaton’, and addressed verbally or to her face as ‘Your Ladyship’.

The alternative robe for a Baroness, Coronation of Elizabeth II, 1953.

The coronation robe for a baroness at the coronation of Elizabeth II, 1953

Thomas Heaton’s elder sister, Stephanie, is known formally as ‘The Honourable Stephanie Heaton’, which is written as ‘The Hon Stephanie Heaton’ on letters and legal documents. She is still commonly addressed as Miss/Ms Heaton as no-one is called ‘The Honourable’ verbally or to their face.


The coronation robes and coronets of a baroness and baron

As with all peers, barons are entitled to both coronation and parliament robes. The coronation robe – worn only at the coronation of the sovereign – is of crimson velvet, edged with white fur and has two rows of ermine on the white fur cape. Baronesses are entitled to wear coronation robes similar to those of a baron, these are edged with a two inch border of white fur with a train a yard long. The rank of baron is also shown by the coronet worn at a coronation. As the lowest rank, a baron’s coronet is the plainest design, with six silver balls, known as pearls.


A baron’s parliament robe (left), coronation robe, and coronet

The parliament robe of a baron is a full-length scarlet robe with a collar of white miniver fur and is tied at the left shoulder with a white ribbon. Two bars (edged with gold oak-leaf lace) on the right-hand side of the robe indicate the rank of baron. Thomas Heaton has only worn his only once – back in 1999 – just before most hereditary peers were excluded from The House of Lords.

© Lorna Peel


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…

After the awful rubbery lasagne, Sophia went to the house. Finding the side door open, and with only one wrong turn, made her way downstairs to the kitchen.

“Helen?” she enquired, seeing a middle-aged woman kneading dough on a floury worktop. “I’m Sophia.”

“The tour guide. Hello. Welcome to Heaton Abbey House. All set for tomorrow?”

“Almost,” Sophia replied. “I’m going to do a walk-through of my tour to get it right in my head.”

“Want a bun before you go?” Helen offered, nodding to some buns cooling on a wire tray. “You might need the energy.”

She laughed. “Thanks, I will.”

“I saw his Lordship speaking to you earlier. In a good mood, was he?”

No. “Well, I…” she began.

“He didn’t want the house opened up to the public but didn’t really have much of a choice,” Helen explained. “It was either this or face the possibility of losing it all. So if he’s a bit rude, don’t mind him. He’s had it rough when you realise what he’s had to cope with. His father died not long after he’d left university so he couldn’t have been much more than twenty-two or three. For umpteen years he’s had the burden and responsibility of all this on his shoulders and it’s taking its toll on him from what I can see.”

“What happened to his father?” Selecting a currant bun, Sophia took a bite. It was delicious.

“Lung cancer.”


“On the surface he seems to have everything, but actually he’s not been dealt that great a hand in life when you think about it. You can’t really blame him if he appears to be a little irritable and unapproachable at times. We just have to have a lot of patience with him. He and Lady Heaton are not long back from a funeral. He doesn’t like those either. Well, who does? And, of course with what happened to Stephanie last week… If he’s grumpy…just don’t take it personally, will you?”

“No,” Sophia replied. “How is she? Lady Stephanie? I didn’t know whether to ask.”

“It’s just Stephanie,” Helen corrected her with a smile. “Baron’s daughters or sisters aren’t referred to as ‘Lady’.” Sophia flushed. She should have known that. Visitors could ask her anything. “She lost a lot of blood but she seems to be on the mend. Physically, I mean. Mentally, who knows? Losing a baby… None of us can understand why she won’t leave her boyfriend. It’s not the first time he’s hit her and it won’t be the last, you mark my words.”

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



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