A warm welcome to contemporary romance author, Kate Field today. Kate is interviewing Ethel from her latest novel, The Winter that Made Us. Look at the beautifully evocative cover!
When Tess finds herself unexpectedly alone and back in Ribblemill, the childhood village she thought she’d escaped, she’s sure she can survive a temporary stay. She’s spent a lifetime making the best of things, hasn’t she?
Determined to throw herself into village life, Tess starts a choir and gathers a team of volunteers to restore the walled garden at Ramblings, the local stately home. Everything could be perfect, if she weren’t sharing a cottage and a cat with a man whose manner is more prickly than the nettles she’s removing…
As winter approaches, Tess finds herself putting down her own roots as fast as she’s pulling them up in the garden. But the ghosts of the past hover close by, and Tess must face them if she’s to discover whether home is where her heart has been all along.
Over to Kate now, and her interview with Ethel
Ethel, you run the Ribblemill village store and post office, and know everything that goes on in the village. What’s the latest news?
Ooh, let me think… Have you heard that Tess Bailey is back? Apparently, her husband has got a fancy job in Dubai for twelve months, but there was no place for her, so she decided to come home to Ribblemill. She’s been living down south for years, but she’s better off up here with the folk that know her, isn’t she? Everyone loves Tess. She’s always smiling and never has a cross word. Quite a wonder, considering…
It’s not for me to say. I’m no gossip.
Won’t she miss her husband?
Of course she will; they’re the perfect couple. You should have seen their wedding – horse-drawn carriages, doves, the works! Ribblemill had never known anything like it.
But Tess won’t be on her own. She’s sharing a cottage with my nephew, Noah. They’re housemates, that’s all, so don’t be reading anything more into it. Tess is devoted to Tim, and our Noah’s had a tough time these last few years, so he just wants a quiet life. I’m not sure how he’s coping with Tess’s piano…
Oh yes, she’s a proper little songbird. She’s performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London, fancy that! She’s started a choir in Ribblemill, have you heard? I was one of the first to sign up. And Noah is going to be busy restoring the walled garden at Ramblings, the big house outside the village, so a group of us will be helping out there too. It’ll do him good to have a job again to take his mind off things.
It sounds like it’s going to be a busy few months in Ribblemill.
I reckon it will. Ramblings is going to be open to the public for a couple of weeks at Christmas, so we’re all looking forward to having a proper toot inside there at last. And then there’s the New Year Purge – you’ve heard of that, haven’t you? It’s the most popular event of the year. The whole village turns out to get rid of the troubles of the old year and welcome in the new one. You can only buy the kits in my shop, so get your order in early if you want to take part. You don’t want to miss it. It’s a special night. Everyone deserves a fresh start, don’t they?
Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it? Here’s and an extract from The Winter That Made Us:
‘What’s all this? Homework?’ Tess peered over his shoulder. It took some doing. He was over six foot standing up and still huge sitting down and, close to, the full breadth of his shoulders was even more apparent. The back of his neck was tanned, with a paler streak just below his hairline. Tess shifted her gaze back to the papers. It looked like plans of some sort, but the paper had yellowed with age and cracked where it had been folded, so it was hard to make sense of it. She pulled out the chair next to Noah and sat down, leaning over the table to get a closer view.
‘Cassie found them in a drawer at Ramblings. We think they’re the original plans for the walled garden.’
‘I didn’t know there was a walled garden.’ The Ramblings estate had been private for as far back as she could remember, with only the reclusive elderly owner living in the house; even the public footpaths and bridleways had been too overgrown to use. It had been a revelation to return to Ribblemill and find the house and grounds had become the heart of village life. She pointed at the plan. ‘So this is…’
‘A hedge running across the middle of the garden, dividing it in two. This part nearest the house had a more formal design and was used for growing flowers and exotic plants. There’s an ornamental iron gate for the family to use. The other half was used as a kitchen garden. There are fruit trees marked here, vegetable patches in this area and a dipping pond where the gardeners collected water.’ His hands swept over the plans as he spoke: strong, capable, worker’s hands. Safe hands, she thought unexpectedly. Tess glanced at his face. She had never heard him say so much. Signs of life were breaking through the usual bare soil of his face.
‘And is all this still there?’
‘Possibly. It’s hard to tell under all the chaos. No one has been in for years by the looks of it.’
‘All this could be hidden below the surface, waiting to be rediscovered? That’s incredible! Is that what you’re going to be doing for Barney, restoring the garden?’
‘Maybe.’ He ran his finger along a fold, trying to smooth it down. ‘I’d like to. It’s not a large garden, only about a couple of acres, but it will take a lot of work and there’s so much else to do…’
‘You’ve been working on the garden here, haven’t you? Are you a keen gardener?’
It was a straightforward question, but Noah appeared to struggle with an answer. He stared at the sheets in front of him, avoiding eye contact. The answer, when it came, was a surprise.
‘I’ve found it the best way to forget.’
Forget what? Tess was dying to ask. But she wouldn’t. She understood. Music was her way to escape – to leave behind who she was, who she pretended to be and who she might have been. It was the one thing that was solely hers, solely her. If gardening was his way, she wasn’t going to damage it by making him explain.
Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers in 2017.
Thanks for dropping by to talk to us, Kate. Good luck with your book.
When Saffy’s sister called to say she was stuck abroad with no hope of getting home to run her usual ‘singles Christmas lunch’, Saffy knew she would have to abandon her plans for wild festive parties in the city and head down to remote Cornwall to save the day. But family parties are so not her thing and both her sister Hannah and sexy single dad Logan seems certain she’ll never manage. Can she prove them wrong? Now on pre-order from Amazon and other retailers.