For my next novel, I had chosen a similar set-up to A Proper Family Christmas, an extended family forced together for a holiday, but this time I decided to have them hiring a property attached to a stately home, whose owners would also feature in the book. The heroine was to be lured into spending Easter with her dreadful ex in-laws, who, knowing her passion for architecture, sought out the most beautiful house they could find. I planned to do a little research on the internet and look for somewhere suitably stunning to base it on.
Then at Christmas I was staying with my sister in Gloucestershire, and we drove through the beautiful village of Frampton-on-Severn. I was drooling over the wonderful old properties on either side of its long village green, (like my heroine, I’m mad about houses), when suddenly I shrieked ‘Stop the car! That’s the house in my book!’ It was little mock castle, with pointed windows and crenellations, peeping over a wall, the very thing I needed.
I took a photo, and when we got home, I looked Frampton up on the Web, trying to find out what the house was called. It involved some detective work, but eventually I traced it to The Orangery, belonging to Frampton Court. The estate website had more details and a better photo. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The house whose back view I’d glimpsed from the road just happens to be ‘the prettiest garden building in England’, one of the most unusual examples of Strawberry Hill Gothic architecture in the country. What’s more it belongs to a stately home, – and they let it out as a holiday cottage! Spooky, or what?
So as promised, the book features Catherine Slimbridge, gratefully free from her artist husband, and wondering why his family should have invited her to spend Easter with them. Not that she’s any intention of going, until she checks out the picture of the beautiful house they’ll be renting. No harm in staying for one night…
Jessica Rodborough is doing her best to fill her mother’s place as Lady of the Manor, and keep the peace between her reactionary old father, Sir Henry, and Ian Haresfield, the expert her brother Philip brought in to find ways of saving their crumbling estate. Letting the Dower House to holiday-makers was Ian’s suggestion, strongly opposed by Sir Henry, as well as by Jessica’s other half-brother, the speciously charming Gerry. Jessica is desperate for it to succeed, and not just because of her attraction to Ian.
Young Lewis overhears his parents discussing Daisy’s plan to reunite Auntie Catherine and Uncle Martin by luring them both to the Dower House. Mummy adores Uncle Martin almost more than Daddy, and can’t believe they really meant to split up. Lewis has plans of his own. His great ambition is to become a wizard so that he can cast spells on his little sisters, but this was thwarted when Daddy said he couldn’t afford to send him away to Magic School. Somehow he needs to bring money into the family, even if that means a little rearrangement.