Today we welcome Fiona Glass, to talk about our shared love of Mary Stewart and of course, her release!
When Ally first invited me on here I had the usual panic about what to write about. Then, during an online chat, we discovered a shared love of Mary Stewart’s books, and things started to fall into place.
For anyone who doesn’t know her, Stewart was a British writer specialising in romance in the mid twentieth century. She wrote three main types of novel: historicals, ‛holiday’ romances set in (then) exotic locations like Greece and the south of France, and quieter, darker, home-grown romances which often featured an element of fantasy or the supernatural.
I’ve loved her books, and particular those fantasy-tinged romances, most of my life and it was lovely to find someone who shared that interest. I can see shades of Stewart’s writing in Ally’s own books – the slightly old-fashioned romance, the strong hint of fantasy and even full-on magic – and I wondered if the same applied to me.
Well, with my latest book December Roses, the answer is almost certainly yes. This m/m paranormal romance involves Nat, a British soldier wounded in a Belfast bombing in the mid-1990s, who’s sent to a remote army rehab unit to recuperate. At first he’s lonely and depressed, but then he discovers a once-beautiful garden, and the enigmatic man who appears in it, and falls in love, only to question his own sanity when nothing seems to be what he thought it was.
Ms Stewart is sometimes dismissed as ‛fluffy’ but in my experience her books are anything but. Even the gentler home-grown romances are full of the darker corners of human nature: jealousy, greed, controlling guardians, family fallings-out, and even murder. In my own favourite, Thornyhold, there’s an unhappy childhood and hints of the temptation offered by dark magic. But there’s also hope, through the strength of love and the healing power of nature.
I’d like to think the same message appears in my books. My work is often described as ‛dark’ and December Roses has its share of murder, depression, and grief. However, those aspects are leavened by pages of wonder at Nat’s discovery of the garden, support from unexpected sources, and his growing attraction to the mysterious Richie. In the end, those bring him healing in ways he couldn’t begin to expect. And the book’s strongest message, I think, is the triumph of hope and second chances.
If you’d like to find out more about Nat, Richie and December Roses then pop along to my website where there’s a blurb, some quotes and an excerpt involving the garden. And thanks to Ally for letting me loose on here!
Recovering from a bombing in 1990s Belfast, British soldier Nat Brook is sent to remote army rehab unit Frogmorton Towers to recuperate. At first he’s lonely and depressed, but then he finds the remnants of a once-beautiful garden, meets the enigmatic Richie, and begins to fall in love.
Gradually, though, he realises there’s something odd about Frogmorton. He can rarely find the same place twice, and Richie proves every bit as elusive as the Chinese pagoda or the Scottish glen. Nat begins to question his own sanity, because if the garden is imaginary, what does that make the man he loves?
Faced with the shocking truth, Nat must decide whether to stay with the army – even though that means hiding his sexuality – or find acceptance elsewhere.
This poignant ghost story was originally published as ‘Roses in December’ by Torquere Press but has now been extensively rewritten and republished on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.
The air smelt of good rich earth and green growing things, inviting him to linger and enjoy the last of the sun. Oddly, in a garden attached to a hospital, there were no seats. The only thing resembling a bench was the raised stone coping around the pool, so he limped over and lowered himself onto that. Stretching his leg, he shuffled around until he was comfortable and drew in a deep lungful of air. He felt drowsy suddenly, his eyes heavy and the beginnings of a headache tautening across his brow. Exhaustion from his earlier grief, perhaps, or just the warmth and the unaccustomed peace and quiet. It was hard to believe the house was no more than a few yards away, beyond the hedge of shrubs. Surely such a large and busy building would give its presence away. Doors opening and closing, voices and footsteps and trolleys wheeling about, the blare of a radio, the insistent ringing of a phone. But there was nothing. Only the steady trickle of falling water and an occasional buzzing fly…
He hadn’t meant to doze off, especially in such a precarious place. Jolting awake a few minutes later he found he was slumping towards the water and only just managed to right himself. He wondered what had woken him. A sound, he thought. Something sharp enough to have broken into his dreams, but too quiet to have disturbed anything else. He listened but there was nothing, until… There! Faint but unmistakable—the scrunch of footsteps on the gravel path. So someone else had managed to find this place too. He wondered who. Someone who already knew it was here, or someone who’d stumbled on it, like him, by chance? A gardener, perhaps, or one of the other patients who’d slipped out for a fag. The scrape of a match and a sudden flare of flame bore out the latter theory. Twilight had crept in while he was asleep; he couldn’t tell if it was anyone he recognised. All he could see was the glow of the freshly-lighted cigarette, and less clearly, the lips of the person smoking it. A man’s lips, wide and slightly full, that turned up naturally at the corners into a permanent, impish smile. Tolkien’s elf, made flesh and blood after all.