Wedding Season!

illustration of wedding couple

I have been posting recently using the writer’s platform Substack, which you can subscribe to for free to receive new posts and support my work.

Here is one of my Substack posts:

I absolutely love a wedding, don’t you? They’re just so exciting, the music, the clothes, the confetti, the happiness of the bride and groom or the two brides or the two grooms. The sheer hope and joy of a couple taking that leap of faith, entering into a life together. A wedding is such a wonderful, positive occasion.

illustration of wedding couple

I also love the excuse to dress up. It’s one of those no holds barred times to wear what you like. An excuse to buy a new outfit (not that I really need one of those but still).

And maybe I’m a bit addicted to love stories and after all a wedding is a mini love story in itself. Besides, I am a romance author so I guess I have some excuse. To be perfectly honest, I watched William and Kate’s wedding about a hundred times. My children who were little then, were thoroughly bored and asking when we could put CBeebies back on – lol! But it was so perfect. The groom, handsome and dashing, the bride radiant and glowing. The guests all garbed in vibrant splashes of colour.

But it’s the story behind the wedding that really captures my interest. My favourite part of the Royal Wedding was that moment between William and Kate which spoke so much more about their relationship than the lavish pomp and ceremony, the money, the status. And that was all captured in a simple look. The look of love. As though they were sharing a secret between them, an intimacy as if all the millions of viewers were not there. A moment in time between just the two of them.
And that’s what makes a wedding magical and the world go round.

William and Kate at the royal wedding

It’s the story of what brings about such a great and sincere love, all the ins and outs that is so fascinating. It always frustrates me when writers of other genres, or those who have an intellectual snobbery about romance as a genre complain, ‘but we always know what happens. They get together in the end.’ I always reply, ‘it’s not the what, it’s the how that captures our interest.’ We are all able to fall in love all over again whilst reading a romance story. Along with the heroine, we witness first hand all those little nuances, the frissons, the looks, the brush of a hand like Mr Darcy’s in Pride and Prejudice. One of the best scenes from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice in my humble opinion:

And of course that hand gesture symbolises so much more. It is the not the first connection between Elizabeth and Darcy, but it is one of the major turning points in their relationship. When Darcy begins to feel a physician connection to Lizzie.
And speaking of love and weddings, this week, K and I celebrated our 24 year wedding anniversary. We have been together 31 years. I have to confess I forgot it was this week when I booked our trip to Yorkshire with G and F and little A. But it’s a lovely place to celebrate all together.

Yesterday we visited Fountains Abbey in Ripon. I’ve wanted to go there since I was a small child and my return visit yesterday did not disappoint. It was simply beautiful and the perfect way to celebrate love. I was much struck when we wandered down the path into the valley where the Abbey nestles by a sense of peace and tranquility. It was as though the monks had popped out for a while, maybe to gather some herbs and it was silently, patiently waiting for them to return at the end of the day when all the visitors went home.

Fountains Abbey ruins

The ruins are so romantic, positively picturesque with wild flowers protruding from the ancient stones.

ruined window of Fountains Abbey

It brings to mind Catherine Morland’s delight in the gothic and romantic in one of my favourite Jane Austen novels, Northanger Abbey. But alas, poor Catherine is to be disappointed…

..every bend in the road was expected with solemn awe to afford a glimpse of its massy walls of grey stone, rising amidst a grove of ancient oaks, with the last beams of the sun playing in beautiful splendour on its high Gothic windows. But so low did the building stand, that she found herself passing through the great gates of the lodge into the very grounds of Northanger, without having discerned even an antique chimney.

Being of a romantic sensibility myself, my mind always runs away with imaginings of mysterious happenings and desperate love stories with love lorn youths when I visit abbey ruins, so I can always relate to Catherine Morland in particular. This love of whimsy and amusement at both Catherine and my own ability to terrify myself with gothic stores provided the inspiration for my second novel, A Wedding at the Jane Austen Dating Agency.

And I’m super excited to announce that today is Audiobook Publication Day for A Wedding at the Jane Austen Dating Agency. It is being published by Saga Egmont, who have done a wonderful audio job as well as providing a lovely cover. Hurrah!

Jane Austen Dating Agency Audio Book Cover

I’ve also been lucky enough to have received some lovely reviews from kind readers and listeners on Netgalley, so thank you so much for these 🙂

OMG!! What a fantastic book. When I selected this I did not know what to expect. The characters are just so great. I could just picture the book unfold in front of me, and was so crushed when it was over. It was like closing the door on a group of best friends. It was so easy to get swept up in the story. I was given a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest opinion. 

I’ve already searched out, and am currently reading, the first book in the series. I received this audiobook through Netgalley. This book was everything that I wanted it to be! It has so many characters and I loved Sophie. Sophie faces a lot of relatable challenges that most of us have been through. I love all things Jane Austen and was the reason why I chose this audiobook. I didn’t see the ending coming, but it was exactly what I wanted. If you want a feel good book with some twists along the way, this is the book for you.

I feel super lucky to have such lovely readers and listeners, so massive thank you!

I also had one of the loveliest things any writer can wish for happen this week. A reader has messaged me asking when I am producing another book, as she has read all of my three published novels several times each. Well this is the kind of feedback that just quite simply makes my heart sing and has made this novelist a very happy bunny!

So yes, as I’ve replied to the lovely reader, my next book is due to be published on September 26th this year, so watch this space. Cover reveal and title coming soon!

And if nothing else this week, feel and spread the love. For who doesn’t adore a bit of romance?

Be kind to yourselves,

Fiona xx

Bridgerton – A Glorious Escape from Reality and Why Not?

Right from the first joyous, rippling opening notes of Bridgerton, I am completely hooked. I adore the confiding gossipy tone of the latest society news from the whip smart pen of Lady Whistledown. Set in a time without Covid, war or the frantic technological pace of modern life, Bridgerton is simply a breath of fresh air. It’s an idealistic world of chivalry and romance, where the handsome hero smoulders longingly at the heroine and who doesn’t love a good old fashioned dose of unfulfilled desire and passion? That and the vibrant blue skies, the lavish flowers and ornate decorations, the satisfyingly pristine uniforms of the servants, the flamboyant houses, stunning rich brocades. The colours are so bright and uplifting, they are reminiscent of the glorious technicolour of 1940s Hollywood. We all need a bit of glamour and opulence as we face rapidly spiralling prices and exorbitant electricity bills. At a time when it’s still difficult to travel and in my case with four teenage daughters, two of whom have health conditions and a frail recently widowed Mum of eighty nine to worry about, it’s practically impossible. Bridgerton therefore like all good fiction, as Mason Cooley once wrote, ‘gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.’

And Shonda Rhimes’ production certainly provides that. It’s a heady eclectic mix of old and new with the Regency balls from Series Two featuring hits such as ‘Material Girl’ and ‘Dancing on my Own’ culminating in protagonists Lord Bridgerton and Miss Sharma dancing to a classical rendition of ‘Wrecking Ball.’ This decision is a progressive nod to the fact the show is not traditionalist. It stretches ideas. Yes, Regency romance is a hugely popular theme but the very diversity of Bridgerton is refreshing, inclusive and far from the reach of other traditional productions. In addition, matriarchal power is wielded throughout, by Queen Charlotte who rules in place of her husband due to his illness and she in her turn is controlled by the pen of Lady Whistledown. Both the Dowager Lady Brigerton and Lady Danbury are independent women, as they are widows of estates with large fortunes. The men by contrast are more emotional, less together, a refreshing portrayal indeed, especially within a genre which has long been criticized for being too obvious, for lacking in suspense or subtlety, as the reader or viewer always knows what is going to happen.

But that’s the whole point. After a truly traumatic start to this year, having witnessed my beloved Dad’s death from Covid, I welcome a fictional world where whatever happens; I know all will end well. Of course we are aware right from the beginning of Series Two that Lord Bridgerton and Miss Sharma will ultimately marry and live happily ever after. But dear Reader, it’s not the what, but the how that matters. We want to see how their story plays out, how they get together, who else that involves and how that affects them. In a society where everything is available instantly at the click of a button, the excitement of the slow burn is all the more satisfying. In any case, most fiction follows some kind of formula, in crime novels, you know that someone will be killed and the detective or whoever else will have to solve the murder. In Agatha Christie, there is a whole tradition of all the suspects gathering together in a room with Hercule Poirot, or Miss Marple to reveal the murderer. Besides romance can have unexpected elements, there are other subplots, which can yield all sorts of surprises. Yet romantic fiction is still tarnished with the quite frankly insulting label of being trashy or easy reading, predictable, not worthy of other literary genres!

I feel it is time we truly celebrate the power of this feel good fiction and affiliated television productions and that we acknowledge the overwhelming need for them. For those who are housebound, have long term conditions, for carers, caregivers, or for those who for whatever reason are struggling with or simply want refuge for a while from the difficulties of modern life, Bridgerton is a wonderful escape. What better testimony do we need than figures of over one hundred and ninety three million viewing hours for the second season already?

I first discovered Julia Quinn’s books over twenty years ago when I was a new Mum. This continued when I was parenting three little ones under four and during very hard times such as when my eldest was diagnosed with serious kidney disease. Often I would fall asleep reading in bed, as I was too busy and too tired to pick up a book at any other time. The exploits of the Bridgertons were always comfortingly reassuring. I love all the different characters of the various children and their stories. They almost feel like a second family.

And then there’s the sparkling witty repartee. I fell in love with Regency romance as an impressionable teenager, immersing myself in the wonderful works of Georgette Heyer. The cut and thrust of verbal swordplay between the hero and heroine. The comedic romp and complicated situations which arise from misunderstandings, eventually happily solved, never threatening or serious. The totally restrictive social backdrop that makes the slightest touch of a hand incredibly exciting. Where else are we to find such perfect romance? Certainly not from real life, with husbands who are exhausted with the daily drudge of work and family life and expect a standing ovation for emptying the dishwasher. Of course we do appreciate their help really. But much as we love our partners and children, we all deserve a little respite from reality, especially when things for so many have been so tough. Modern times can sometimes feel just a little lacking can’t they?

A bit of Bridgerton, with it’s stunning colour and sheer joyous distance from our own situation, is the prefect antidote to reality. And I for one applaud it. Maybe we should ask for it to be prescribed on the NHS?