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Today’s featured author is the delightful Victoria Connelly! Learn some interesting facts about Victoria in this short Q&A. Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below and leave a question or comment on the blog for a chance to win a copy of THE BEAUTY OF BROKEN THINGS, open to U.S., Canada & International!
“This superbly written love story will definitely please fans of Debbie Macomber and Susan Wiggs, and readers who fondly remember and miss Rosamunde Pilcher.”
John Charles, Booklist
What genres do you write?
Mostly contemporary women’s fiction, but I’ve also written non-fiction and children’s books too. I just love writing!
Coffee or tea lover?
Name one thing on your bucket list.
To see the Egyptian pyramids.
Do you have pets?
We have a young Springer spaniel called Hattie, and five hens: Portia, Perdita, Phoebe, Audrey and Mini P—they free-range in our garden, eat all my flowers and scratch up the lawn, but we love them!
When I wake up every morning I…
Feel excited about what I might write that day.
Weirdest or unique thing you own.
I own three dresses worn by Juliette Binoche in the film Chocolat.
Do you have any hobbies or particular skills?
I absolutely love gardening and grow heaps of plants from seed each year: fruit, vegetables and flowers. They take over all the windowsills in our cottage each spring.
What do you hope readers will experience or gain when reading your stories?
I always keep in mind the words “Comfort and Joy” and try to create warm, inviting worlds where readers can escape for a few hours.
What inspired you to write The Beauty of Broken Things?
I was inspired by how we use social media these days and how we form really close bonds with people we’ve never met.
Two or three words that best describe your writing style.
Heartwarming, inspiring and lyrical, and on the heat side, sweet.
United by tragedy, can two broken souls make each other whole?
After the tragic loss of his wife, Helen, Luke Hansard is desperate to keep her memory alive. In an effort to stay close to her, he reaches out to an online friend Helen often mentioned: a reclusive photographer with a curious interest in beautiful but broken objects. But first he must find her--and she doesn't want to be found.
Orla Kendrick lives alone in the ruins of a remote Suffolk castle, hiding from the haunting past that has left her physically and emotionally scarred. In her fortress, she can keep a safe distance from prying eyes, surrounded by her broken treasures and insulated from the world outside.
When Luke tracks Orla down, he is determined to help her in the way Helen wanted to: by encouraging her out of her isolation and back into the world. But Orla has never seen her refuge as a prison and, when painful secrets and dangerous threats begin to resurface, Luke's good deed is turned on its head.
As they work through their grief for Helen in very different ways, will these two broken souls be able to heal?
Genres: Fiction, Romance, General, Women, Family Life
Excerpt of The Beauty of Broken Things
“This superbly written love story will definitely please fans of Debbie Macomber
and Susan Wiggs, and readers who fondly remember and miss Rosamunde Pilcher.”
John Charles, Booklist
Luke wasn’t sure how long he sat on the beach, but it was long enough to start to feel better. Standing up, he brushed himself down and walked into the sand dunes and then along a footpath, which led back into Lorford, stopping as he came to the road. He knew his way back to the castle, but there was a grass track that caught his attention, and made him take a little detour. The track widened, and he soon saw that it led to the village allotments.
He paused for a moment, taking it all in. There were dozens of plots, all neatly fenced with tiny sheds in various stages of dilapidation and chocolate-brown beds ready for planting. Spring greens colored some of the spaces, and there were structures erected in others for the beans and peas of summer. There were compost bins and water butts, and whole cities of canes, ready for action. And, rising magnificent above it all was the castle.
He took a minute to absorb it all, and then he became aware of a white-haired man who was watching him. Luke gave him a brief nod, and the older man nodded back.
“Glad to see you’re up and about now,” the man said to him as he walked towards the wooden gate at the end of his allotment.
Luke did a double take. “Pardon?”
“Glad to see you’re okay. After . . .” The man paused. “You don’t’ remember me?”
“On the beach.”
“But I was alone on the beach,” Luke said, becoming more confused by the minute.
“Earlier this morning.”
Luke swallowed hard. “Ah.”
Are you all right?”
“I am. Listen . . .”
“No need to say anything,” the man said.
“I’m sorry,” Luke said nonetheless.
The man opened the gate and stepped forward onto the path, wiping his hands on the front of his cord trousers before extending one towards Luke.
“Good to meet you, Luke.”
“I wasn’t feeling very well,” Luke told him. “This morning. I hope I didn’t put you to any trouble.”
“Not at all.”
“You’ve got a nice plot here,” Luke said, keen to change the subject as quickly as possible.”
“Thank you. You know I garden for Miss Kendrick up at the castle?”
“Oh, right. I didn’t know.”
“I mean, she does a fair bit herself, of course.” Bill pursed his lips together. “You two getting on all right?”
“Sure. She’s made me feel very welcome.”
“Yes.” Luke was surprised that Bill looked so puzzled by this.
“Today was—well—it was the first time I met her in person.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve never seen her before.”
Luke frowned. “Never seen her? What—ever?”
“Not so much as a passing glimpse. We do all our communication through written notes.”
Luke took this in. “She’s a bit of a recluse, isn’t she?”
“The first one I’ve ever known.”
“Do you think it’s because of what happened to her?” Luke asked.
“What happened?” Bill asked.
“I don’t know, but I imagine it has something to do with her face. The way she tries to hide it and the anxious way she behaves in general. It kind of makes me think that something happened to make her hide away from the world. Do you know how long she’s been in the castle?”
“A couple of years,” Bill told him. “And, to my knowledge, she’s only ever left the castle to walk on the beach.”
“And you’ve never seen her there?”
“No. We go at different times, and I like to respect her privacy. I value my job at the castle and wouldn’t want to make her uncomfortable.
“And she doesn’t go into the village?”
“Never. It’s a strange thing, isn’t it? To come to a place as friendly as Lorford and not be part of things.”
“It does seem a shame,” Luke agreed.
“You staying long?”
“No,” Luke said, staring up at the castle now. “I’d better get back to work. I’m a builder, and there’s always plenty to do.”
“You don’t fancy a spot of work on the castle, then?”
Luke laughed but then looked back at the great building. “I’ve worked on some old buildings in my time, but never a castle before.”
“I dare say there’d be a bit of work for you there.”
“I dare say you’re right.”
“Well, it was good to meet you,” Bill said.
Luke watched as Bill returned to his plot, picking up a spade and settling down to some work. It really was time Luke thought about returning to work too. Chippy had been more than understanding over the last few weeks, but Luke knew that he’d have to get back to things at some point.
He returned to the castle. Orla had asked him not to leave without saying goodbye, and he wanted to thank her for her kindness in looking after him. It really was an extraordinary place, and he almost felt jealous of Orla living there. He felt he could do with something like that at the moment. A huge fortification against the world.
Then something occurred to him as he thought of Bill’s words about the castle needing a builder. Perhaps this placed needed him as much as he believed he needed it. One thing he knew for sure was that, in the brief time he’d spent at Lorford, he’d come to be very fond of it, and he didn’t feel ready to leave just yet. And then something else occurred to him. Perhaps Orla needed him too. Perhaps he could help her. Hadn’t Helen said Orla had sounded lonely and that she’d wanted to help her? If she spent all her days holed up in a castle, not talking to her neighbors, he could understand why. But perhaps she was scared. Perhaps she needed help reaching out.
Perhaps I can help her.
He rang the bell outside the front door and waited for Orla.
“You okay?” she asked when she opened the door, One Ear by her side.
“Yes,” he said, wondering how he was going to say what he wanted to say. Quickly, he told himself, before he lost his nerve. “Orla?”
“I have a proposition for you.”
They made their way into the great hall, and Luke looked around the stonework, noticing bits of plaster that were flaking away. He’d noticed a lot of other jobs that needed doing as he’d left the room he’d slept in. His builder’s eyes meant that he couldn’t help making a mental catalog of all the work needed on the floor, walls, ceilings and windows.
“This place of yours,” he began, “have you ever had any work done on it?”
“Yes, lots. Before I moved in. I got planning permission for extensive repair work and had a team of builders in for a while.”
Luke frowned. “There’s still a lot to do.”
“I know. I thought I’d better stick to a budget, so I was careful in the jobs I chose to tackle first.”
“I see. So you’ve got planning permission and everything?”
“Yes. It was a bit of a nightmare getting it all signed off with English Heritage, but I’ve got all the paperwork. Why?”
“Well, there are a few things I wouldn’t mind having a go at.”
“I’m afraid I’m not really in a position to hire anyone at the moment.”
“That’s okay. I thought we could so a trade.”
“What do you mean?”
Luke ran a hand over the back of his neck. “I wondered if I could stay here for a while. I don’t really want to go home, you see. It’s been nice to get away for a bit, if I’m honest.” He stopped, feeling the thud of his heart and the ridiculousness of his request as he looked at Orla’s stricken face. “Look, forget it. It was wrong of me to ask. You’ve been so kind, and I shouldn’t impose any longer. I’ll get out of your way.”
He turned to leave, regretting having made even more of a fool of himself than before, and then he winced and clutched his head.
“Are you okay?”
“Just my head.”
“Where you hit it on the beach?”
Orla hesitated. “I don’t think you should be thinking of driving anywhere yet.”
Luke sighed. “You’re probably right.”
“I think . . . I think you should come back inside.”
Luke saw the nervousness in Orla’s face and instantly regretted having even broached the subject of staying. What had he been thinking?
“No, no. Really. I should go.” He turned to leave, and then Orla said something that surprised him.
“It’s what Helen would have wanted, isn’t it?”
The mention of Helen stopped him, and he looked round at Orla.
“Don’t you think? She would want us . . .” Orla paused. “To be friends, I think.”
“Yes,” Luke said, not needing to think about the answer. “I think so.”
Orla’s hands twisted together in front of her.
“Listen—this is strange for me,” she told him. “I haven’t spoken to anyone other than my mother for months now, let alone lived with someone under the same roof. And I know I’ve got a pretty big roof, but I think you can guess that I like my own space.”
“I had kind of gotten that impression, yes.” He smiled.
“So I think you ought to stay.”
Luke blinked. He wasn’t sure who was the more surprised: him or Orla.
He laughed. “Really?”
“Yes,” she said. “There’s plenty of room, as you can see, and you looked very comfortable in that room you were sleeping in.” She stopped. “And I want to help, and I’m sure—quite sure—that your wife—Helen—would want me to help you.”
Luke swallowed but didn’t say anything.
“Look, I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through, but if being here at the castle can help in any small way, then I’d love for you to stay.”
One Ear came forward and pushed his wet nose into Luke’s hand.
“I think he wants you to stay too,” Orla said.
“Then I’d better not say no.”
Orla smiled, her face lighting up. “Good. Then it’s settled.”
Lake Union Publishing – THE BEAUTY OF BROKEN THINGS by Victoria Connelly
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