Welcome to Painshill Park! Once Upon A Scandal Now Available…

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Painshill Park

Painshill Park, Cobham, Surrey, England

Today is the release day for Once Upon A Scandal, the sequel to my debut novel, Once Upon A Wager, and I’m excited and nervous all at once! I sincerely hope people enjoy it, because I had such a wonderful time writing the story of Jane Fitzsimmons and Benjamin Marworth. The two characters really crafted themselves, and I just came along for the ride.

When you have a moment, I urge you to find out more online about the glorious Painshill Park, Benjamin’s home in Scandal. One of the finest remaining examples of an 18th century English landscape park, it was created between 1738 and 1773 by the Hon. Charles Hamilton. I find it fascinating that many of the tree specimens planted there were actually imported from Philadelphia, which is not far from where I live. During Hamilton’s life, it attracted the most famous horticulturalists and botanists of the day, and a few other people besides, including (as noted in Scandal) Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Catherine the Great of Russia.

If Benjamin showed up at the door in 1813, he’d have been greeted by a disgruntled Henry Lawes Luttrell, the 2nd Earl of Carhampton, a subsequent owner.

Unfortunately, the original home is long gone, but the estate grounds are still maintained by the Painshill Park Trust. I can’t wait to get back to England so I can go for a visit!

Here’s a link to more information…

http://www.painshill.co.uk

All the best,

Julie

Revving Up for Once Upon A Scandal

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9781440586651So perhaps it’s best not to post onto one’s blog after two glasses of wine (or maybe three…) But I’ve just received the cover for my latest book, Once Upon A Scandal, and I love how closely Crimson Romance, my publisher, adhered to the story. It’s a rather crazy plot, with spies, a faked death, and a reemergence for our heroine, Jane, as her mysterious French cousin.

To be honest, it was not a story I was going to write, but I was thrilled to have so many people ask for Jane’s story following her appearance in Once Upon A Wager.

And then she became this very strong-willed, angry character all on her own, a complete departure from her Wager persona. And Benjamin, the hero, crept out of his perfectly coiffed façade, and insisted on his own voice, as well.

I wish I was making this up, but characters in your head really do demand to be heard, don’t you think?

As always, thanks so much for reading.

All the best,

Julie

Once Upon A Wager Nominated for National Award

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I was really excited to learn today that my debut novel, Once Upon A Wager, has been nominated for a 2015 RONE Award in the Historical, Post Medieval category. Given out by InD’tale magazine, the awards recognize the best in indie and small publishing house books. The public phase of voting runs from today, April 20th, and will be open for one week.

If you have the chance to visit their site, I’d love to have your vote!

http://indtale.com/2015-rone-awards-week-two

Also, I’m working on final edits now for Wager’s sequel, Once Upon A Scandal. It’s being released on June 22nd. If you’d like to receive a free advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review, I’d be happy to send it along!

All the best,

Julie

On Arbury Hall and Crawling Out From Beneath My Rock…

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Asbury Hall in Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Just a few days ago, I emailed my second book, Once Upon A Scandal, to my publishers. To quote my husband, upon its completion, “Does that mean you’re going to go to the grocery store?”

Writing on deadline is really hard! My exercise routine went out the window, I ate everything in sight, and the diet coke distributor in my area must wonder why sales have doubled.

But it’s done, and I’m so excited to see what people think. It’s the story of Jane Fitzsimmons and Benjamin, Lord Marworth, and  they go on quite a ride, I must say. It will be published on June 22nd, 2015.

For now, though, I’m returning to Annabelle and Alec’s world. Readers might not know that most of the characters and locations in my first book are real. The people, of course, have passed on, but the places still exist.

Arbury Hall in Nuneaton, Alec Carstairs’s country estate, is currently the home of Lord and Lady Daventry, and I’m thrilled that a copy of my book was requested for the library there. The acclaimed author, George Eliot, was born in 1819 on one of the estate’s farms, and she immortalized the Hall as Cheverel Manor in “Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story,” one of the short stories in her first published fictional work, “Scenes of A Clerical Life.” The  Hall was also the setting for the film, “Angels and Insects,” a 1995 Victorian-era romance.

Which by the way, I am ordering on Netflix tonight, now that I have a little time on my hands!

All the best,

Julie

In the Middle of A Busy Time, A Remarkable Story

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Martin Pistorious

So I’ve realized of late that I’m not very good at social media. It’s not that I don’t have things to say; it’s more that I worry that anyone else will find them of interest.

But the story I’ve linked to above is more that worth sharing. I first heard it on NPR. I was on my way back from dropping off our car pool when the story was broadcast, and my 13-year-old son and I sat in our driveway for 10 minutes in the cold, just to hear it through to the end.

Martin Pistorious was born a healthy child in South Africa, but when he was 12 years old–so close in age to my own son–he suffered a debilitating illness that robbed him of speech and  then ultimately, all movement and any semblance of brain activity. For 10 years, there was only the shell of his body remaining after his mind had left it.

Except it hadn’t. Two years into his paralysis, his mind woke back up, with no way to express itself, no way to escape from the prison of his body. Can you imagine?

What happens next is nothing short of miraculous, a triumph of the human spirit over the limitations of the body.

I hope find it as inspiring as I have…

Reading and Writing and Romance

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WIN_20140916_164026I was an English major in college. I read a lot of fancy books, and a lot of wonderful ones too, most of them as required reading, but my guilty pleasure has always been romance. In the great long ago, I found a Barbara Cortland novel hidden in my older sister’s room, and was hooked from the start. What’s not to love about a handsome hero, a heroine he comes to adore, a gorgeous estate in the English countryside, and enough drama to keep you on the edge of your seat?

But I will admit that occasionally, I’m embarrassed by the fact that I read romance books almost exclusively. Once or twice a year, I’ll tackle an enormous non-fiction book about Lincoln, or a classic by Faulkner, or even the latest Pulitzer prize winner, just to see if my brain can still tackle that kind of complexity.

But the instant I’m done, I go back to what I love, and I’ve often asked myself why. I consider myself to be a reasonably functioning and responsible adult. I like intellectual challenges. I know that we don’t all have happy endings.

But is there anything wrong with wishing that we did? The wonderful thing about romance books is that in them, love always wins. Seemingly insurmountable challenges are always overcome. And two people get to face the world together, instead of going it alone. It’s what I’d wish for everyone.

A happy ending. I’ll take it every time.

That and an English estate.

On The Care of A Very Special Plant

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Jack's Orchid

Jack’s Orchid

So there are some things I do well, but keeping houseplants alive isn’t one of them. Maybe it’s that whole “need to water them” thing. I have a forgetful nature, and my plants often suffer for it.

However, if there is one I’m desperate to keep alive and thriving, it’s this lovely orchid, a gift from my eldest son, Jackson. He had the great good fortune to join his best friend, Wyatt, and Wyatt’s parents on a high school graduation trip to Hawaii this past summer. Hawaii! It was the trip of a lifetime, and yet Jackson took the time out to select this orchid, and send it to me to celebrate a milestone in the sales of my début novel, Once Upon A Wager. A milestone that was completely unexpected and a wonderful surprise.

But this orchid represents something far more important. Wyatt’s mother, Sandy, helped Jackson pick it out for me. She helped to arrange its safe passage from Hawaii to my home in Pennsylvania, when I’m sure there were far more exciting things she could have been doing on that trip of a lifetime.  And when they all returned from the island, she and I talked about how quickly our sons had grown, and how it seemed impossible that our lives had brought us to this moment, each of us on the cusp of sending a child off to college.

Tragically, Sandy died along with her sister in a car crash one week later, the victim of a box van driver who fell asleep at the wheel, and crossed into oncoming traffic. She was a wonderful woman, beautiful and kind and ebullient, and the memory of her will always remind me that our lives are fragile things. Just like this orchid.

I keep it next to the desk where I am writing my sequel to Once Upon A Wager. I will keep it there as long as, God willing, I can keep it alive. A reminder to live in the moment, and love fully. Because every moment is precious.