Hibernation, Saxon jewels, a cathedral, and some welcome praise.

 I seem to have been hibernating since Christmas, partly because I picked up a graveyard cough – the one that half the population seems to have suffered from – and it took weeks to get over it. I swear that at times I’d wake in the night to see Burke & Hare looking impatiently at their watches and hefting their shovels while I hacked away.

The other reason for the Groundhog retreat is that it’s been really cold – not by most people’s standards, but we live in a sheltered spot in England’s Deep South, where primroses bloom at Christmas but where I’ve never, ever seen snow on Christmas Day, and it’s been really, really chilly. Anyway, the daffodils and primroses are out now, the crocuses are all over the lawn, including some in places I certainly didn’t plant, and the birds and the squirrels are chasing each other all through the wood at the bottom of the garden. So I might actually perk up a bit!

Despite barking like a seal for weeks, I broke cover for one or two things, one of which was a trip to Somerset and while there we saw the fabulous King Alfred Jewel in the Taunton Museum, on a brief visit from its usual home at the Ashmolean in Oxford.Alfred_Jewel_Ashmolean_2014

In my second contemporary mystery, ‘A Crowded Coffin’, there is mention of a wonderful Saxon jewel that, while nothing like the King Alfred one, was certainly inspired by it, so it was great to see it.   Read all about it here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Jewel

I love Winchester Cathedral (as I may have mentioned previously) so I was happy to do a tour a few weeks ago, with a bunch of bookish friends. Every February they take out all the chairs and leave the floor bare, as it would have been before the Reformation when the congregation stood. A guide told us that the chairs came in when Protestant clergymen began to preach very long sermons, sometimes more than two hours long.
winchsnailcarving

There’s also a tiny, secret carving of a snail amid a spray of roses (start at the bottom of the carving and go up a bit – it’s very small). This is on the Bishop Waynflete chantry.

Finally, I’ve had some lovely reviews recently – and several people have told me that they cried at the end of the most recent Charlotte Richmond book, ‘The Dead Queen’s Garden’.This is music to my ears, it’s great to know you can move readers to laughter and tears.I’m enormously grateful to these readers for posting such terrific reviews, it makes it all worth while.

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‘It’s always refreshing to find a historical fiction heroine who you would dearly like to meet in real life – or to find somewhere in your family tree. Charlotte Richmond is just such a character. If she seems a little too good to be true, that’s because of the facade which she has put up herself, to disguise a decidedly unorthodox past, but she is well on the way to re-inventing herself and the reader wishes her every success and the comfortable, family-orientated life for which she yearns. But, in both this book and the two sequels which follow it, murder is never far away and threatens to unsettle everything for her… Highly recommended – the best historical whodunnits I’ve read in a long while!’

 ‘Victorian era books aren’t really my thing, but I’ve read Nicola’s other books and I should have known it wasn’t going to be dull and uptight. It is a well written book with interesting characters who are multi-faceted. Charlotte is a lively character with an interesting past and an astute eye. The murder is indeed most welcome as the victim is an unpleasant character and I was very glad to finally see the back of him.’

 Having devoured the first in the series, the second was equally fascinating. Murder, a bit of European history and a different look at Bath. There were some great characters in this specific book and I loved Nicola’s characterisation of the young girl, but her development of both Charlotte and Elaine was what really interested me. It is a book with many threads and you may not realise the relevance of tiny details until the murderer is revealed. It might be a Victorian murder mystery but it’s modern and humorous and much recommended

 ‘Nicola Slade has done it again. The third instalment of her ‘Charlotte’ series was as good as her first and the whole series is multifaceted and marvellous. You get absorbed and don’t realise you are learning things you never knew, whether that is historical, literary or just who murdered who. This Victorian Murder Mystery series is witty, lively and engaging. Nicola’s writing reminds me of Cold Comfort Farm and I mean that as a compliment as she sees, through her heroine, the faults of the time. She did, however, make me cry with this book, a sub-plot came to fruition and I had missed her signposting, mostly cos I was engrossed in the whodunnit element. I can’t wait for the next book.’

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