It’s my pleasure today to be joining the publication day push and sharing my review of Christmas at Ladywell, the new novella from Nicola Slade: it’s published for kindle by Crooked Cat Books today (4th November), and available from Amazon in the UK and US. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support: my advance e-copy was gifted to enable an early review.
I can’t believe it’s two years since I read and reviewed The House at Ladywell – you’ll find my review here, along with an extract. I enjoyed it very much, with its historical interludes that whisked me back into different periods of history, all focused on the house that Freya had inherited. So I was particularly thrilled to see that Nicola had decided to revisit Ladywell for her new novella – the perfect length for a shorter Christmas read, and once more looking like just my kind of read.
A time for spilling secrets…
Having refurbished her inherited house and upcycled her whole life in the process, Freya – now happily married to Patrick, and with a small child – has to transform her tiny stone barn into a romantic hideaway for a mystery guest who is also looking for change. With Christmas only a week away, things don’t go according to plan…
In the past old uncertainties are resolved when an elderly woman seeks the truth of a legend on Christmas Eve and confesses to a deception; a Tudor wife listens to a story that must never be repeated and is given a precious relic that must never be displayed; and in the early nineteenth century an old woman tells a younger one the story of the hares at Ladywell.
Past and present are only a whisper apart when Freya learns of an astonishing discovery that will make Ladywell famous, but meanwhile her house is full of unexpected visitors, she has a turkey to cook – and a very special secret of her own that must be told.
I must say, I thought this was excellent. In under 100 pages – including a rather lovely character list – the author tells an enchanting contemporary story with an intriguing mystery, a nice touch of romance, and a Christmas theme, as well as some other surprises: but she also weaves in three short historical stories linked with and exploring the house, its history and its magic.
I’m glad I read The House at Ladywell, because it was a particular pleasure to meet its characters again, to see how their lives had moved on – but it’s certainly not required, as the contemporary story has a beginning, a middle and an end. But I also enjoyed revisiting the details I’d enjoyed in the earlier novel – the vivid setting, the intriguing recurring scent of flowers, the hare motif in the window of the long room and its place in the historical tales.
The writing is particularly strong: the historical interventions have the feel of good research and authenticity combined with a measure of imagination, the contemporary story has a nice modern edge that contrasts with it really well. The “astonishing discovery” was everything I wanted it to be – the “special secret” wasn’t a great surprise, but the absolutely perfect ending.
If, like me, you sometimes look for shorter reads at Christmas time – or if you just find the concept and its execution intriguing – I’d really recommend this one. I said it back in 2017 too, but I really must read more from Nicola Slade – I very much like her writing.
With thanks to Rachel and Nicola, I’m delighted to offer the chance to win a .mobi or PDF of The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade (open internationally). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions Worldwide entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Nicola Slade is an award-winning, bestselling author of historical and contemporary mysteries and romantic fiction, all set in and around Winchester and Romsey in Hampshire – which is where she lives. The House at Ladywell – a contemporary romantic novel with historical echoes – won the Chatelaine Grand Prize for Romantic Fiction at the CIBA awards in April 2019.
She is the author of the mid-Victorian Charlotte Richmond mysteries and the contemporary Harriet Quigley mysteries and The Convalescent Corpse, published November 2018, is the first in a new series, The Fyttleton Mysteries, set in 1918.