About the author:
When she is not writing or reading, or promoting her book, she loves to attend literary festivals, go for long walks, travel whenever possible, bake cakes and try new cuisines and do a spot of yoga.
What inspired you to write your book?
I am a lawyer by profession. The people that I have met through my work over the years have provided some inspiration, as well as the beautiful landscapes buildings culture and heritage in England
Here is a short sample from the book:
The Clarendon Park Hotel was always the venue for the Christmas bash, being probably the finest hotel in Leeds. It was just a few blocks around the corner from Chambers, in the heart of the city. It was an old imposing building, with intricate architectural designs on the exterior and ornate original features inside. The hotel was sumptuously decorated for Christmas. There were plenty of fairy lights adorning the outside of the building, and they didn’t let the guests down inside either, with a huge elaborate Christmas tree in the foyer.
Isabel walked in and saw most of her colleagues were already there with their canapés and drinks in the reception room. She had deliberated for so long as to what to wear. She usually went for red or black on such occasions. However, this year she thought she would ring the changes, and bought a rather stunning full length champagne coloured dress. It was made of chiffon, and designed in an A-line princess cut. It was very eye-catching, with intricate embroidery and beading to the bodice. She went all out by putting her hair up; save for a few cascading strands that framed her immaculately made up face. She wasn’t sure why, but she had just decided to make an extra effort this year, which didn’t go unnoticed. She made her way round and stopped at Edward. He was pleasantly surprised when he saw Isabel looking as pretty as a picture. She looked striking, and he had to look twice to make sure it was actually her.
‘Isabel, you look…lovely.’
‘Thanks,’ she replied, looking away, blushing a little. ‘So are you staying until the bitter end and having a dance with Sandra, or are you still set on leaving early?’
‘No, I can’t stay long. I’m going to head off at around eight o’clock, that way I will be home before half past ten. Mum will probably try and stay awake, so I don’t want to get home too late.’
Just then dinner was announced by a short skinny man with a remarkably loud voice. They all strolled in to the function room, and took their seats at the beautifully laid table, which had a number of elegant fresh flower arrangements spaced throughout it, and tall red and ivory candles glowing to create a warm ambience. The table sparkled with shiny cutlery and gleaming crystal glasses. Moments later, the young serving staff arrived with the smoked salmon starters, which they presented to the guests with co-ordinated, effortless ease. There was music playing, and everyone was chattering away.
As the starter plates were cleared away, Isabel thought she heard a buzz from her bag, and sure enough her mobile was ringing. She didn’t manage to catch the call on time. She looked at her phone and noticed she had had five missed calls, all from her neighbour. She thought this was most strange, as she rarely, if ever, received calls from her neighbour Donald on her mobile. He had phoned on the landline once or twice, to tell her he had signed for a parcel which she could come and collect from his flat, or something similar. She was curious, even a little nervous, and she telephoned him back immediately. Edward was sat diagonally opposite her and noticed Isabel on her mobile. He was surprised to see her making a call in the middle of dinner. She couldn’t hear anything for all the chatter and music so she left the table to go out towards the far end of the room. He continued chatting to the Roger, the most senior QC at the Chambers who was sat next to him, but then he noticed even from afar, that Isabel’s face had gone stone cold white, as pale as the snow. Her eyes were wide and fixed, and she was holding onto the phone tightly. Something was wrong, he could tell just by looking at her. He immediately excused himself and walked across to Isabel.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked, genuinely concerned, never having seen Isabel look so worried.
‘I don’t believe it, what, what on earth am I going to, do?’ she stuttered, bringing the mobile phone down away from her ear.
Edward noticed that she had tears in her eyes, and she was shaking a little, so he quickly but softly grabbed her arm and guided her out of the room.
‘Now, that’s better, it’s a bit quieter out here,’ he said when they reached the reception area of the Rochester Suite in which their function was being held.
‘So tell me Isabel, whatever is the matter?’
‘That was my neighbour on the phone. It’s bad news. It’s my apartment block. It’s on fire!’
‘On fire! How bad is it?’ Edward asked.
‘I don’t know anything else really. I just know what Donald, that’s my neighbour, what he told me. That there’s a blazing fire and everyone has been evacuated.’
‘Okay,’ said Edward, taking charge, ‘let’s go find out, where is it you live?’ he asked as he grabbed her coat from the rail and handed it to her.
‘Riversdale. The block of flats just by the train station.’
‘Alright, you just wait here for a second.’
Edward quickly dashed back into the dining room to make their excuses, and was back in a matter of seconds.
‘Riversdale, you say. I’ve heard of it but I don’t really know that neck of the woods all that well, come on you can put it into the sat nav,’ he said, as they darted out of the hotel to Edward’s car.
They both stood in utter silence as they watched the building burn. Tears rolled down Isabel’s face. She tried to force them back but they just streamed down anyway. The building consisted of three storeys, and as far as they could see, the whole lot was burning away. There were multiple fire engines there, some ambulances too, as they treated some of the residents for smoke inhalation.
It was, or at least it used to be, a three storey apartment block, situated at the bottom of a hill in Riversdale, a large picturesque village in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Further up the hill there were mainly old stone terraced houses and cottages, with a sprinkling of newer houses and a couple of modern developments of flats. But Brook Gate, as this apartment block was called, was different and quite unique. It was actually an old school building built in the Victorian era which had been converted to modern apartments about fifteen or twenty years ago. Being a listed building, many of the original features had been retained; including signs on different parts of the school engraved into the stonework to display the separate entrances there had been for the boys and girls. Every time Isabel had gone in through the main entrance, she saw the sign for the “boys” and it conjured up images of little boys in school shorts and caps. The original staircase with the high railings was a dominant feature that hit you straight away as you walked in. Isabel lived on the top floor and had always relished the panoramic views which she enjoyed to the rear of the old school, of beautiful green hilly open space beyond the railway line, and small villages in the distance.
Isabel stood shivering, clutching on to her bag tightly with both her hands in front of her chest.
‘Everything I possessed was in that little flat. Apart from the clothes I’m stood in and the contents of my bag, I have nothing else left. All my photos, memories, belongings, everything’.
Isabel was mourning the loss of the little that she had which meant so much to her. Her existence was a lonely one. She didn’t profess to have to have an abundance of friends or family, or a busy social life. She was a measured person, a quiet soul, who was very content with her tiny little world in her even tinier little flat. She threw herself into her work, frenetically at times. She had a prominent role at Chambers, managing Junior Clerks, promoting the services of St Matthews, allocating work to barristers as she saw fit. She negotiated fees, was responsible for training staff, and the time management of her barristers could test the patience of a saint when courts decided to change trial dates, or hearings were adjourned because witnesses didn’t show up. But that was one side of her life. Busy, sometimes chaotic. However, in contrast, her sanctum at home was calm and ordered. Here she wasn’t perfectionist Isabel on a mission to make everyone’s life miserable until things were just as they should be. Here was a serene place where she could stretch and feel at home, without any stress or pandemonium. And it was hers. But now she feared for herself as she saw her belongings destroyed and swept away, as she gazed up at the billowing smoke leaving the violent waves of fire.
Isabel was visibly distressed, and Edward wished he could help in some way, however little. After all, she had listened to him enough recently going on about his troubles, and had bent over backwards with rearranging his work. Quite a crowd had gathered now, and they all stood gawping at the inferno.
‘Now listen, you wait here and I will go talk to the fire officer. Don’t move a muscle, I will be right back’. She did as she was told.
Edward somehow managed to talk to the senior fire officer who filled him in as much as possible.
‘Sorry mate,’ said the fire officer, ‘there is no chance of anyone getting into that building tonight, or any day soon, it won’t be safe for a while, and certainly won’t be habitable again for some time.’
Edward relayed the sad verdict to Isabel who looked thoroughly downhearted.
‘Where are you going to go?’ asked Edward.
‘I don’t know, I will have to book a hotel or a Bed and Breakfast somewhere I guess,’ replied Isabel, looking away, not wishing for Edward to see her so tearful. There was a cold breeze that hit her face, and it only served to increase her tears. She thought herself a far cry from the usual Isabel who was always so composed.
‘What, for Christmas? Can’t you stay on with whoever you’re going to spend Christmas with, your family I mean?’ Edward said, staggered at Isabel’s previous comment.
‘I don’t have any family,’ said Isabel as she turned her head and looked straight at Edward, ‘my mum died when I was nineteen years old, and I don’t know where my father is, he left us when I was little. And I don’t have any other family to speak of. I usually go to my friend Martha’s but she’s away visiting family in Canada this year.’
‘So you were going to spend Christmas alone?’ Edward said, his face unable to hide the astonishment he felt, even though he tried to conceal it with the tone his voice.
‘Yes, alone. I know what you’re thinking, Isabel no mates Harris, nobody to spend Christmas with,’ Isabel said, by now feeling quite sorry for herself, and even though she realised she had spoken in a way which really was out of character for her. The very last thing she wanted in the world right now was for Edward to feel sorry for her. Isabel didn’t do pity. The giving of it, perhaps, occasionally, but the receiving of it, never.
Without hesitating Edward announced, ‘well that won’t do, I mean it’s just not right, your home burning down and you having to spend your Christmas and New Year alone in some crumby bed and breakfast. No arguments, you’re coming with me, to our house. Tonight. Now.’
Isabel was horrified at the prospect.
‘What, to your mum’s place? I can’t do that. She’s already really ill; I don’t want to add to her troubles. What will she think of me, that you’ve dragged me to your home like some stray cat you picked up on the street?’ Isabel grumbled, her arms folded tight to stop herself from trembling, which was partly due to the cold, but largely due to what she perceived to be the sorry state she found herself in.
‘Nonsense!’ snorted Edward, whilst shaking his head in quite an animated fashion. ‘I know my mother and she will be absolutely delighted to have you come down and stay. Anyway, it’s not for long, just for the festive break till you’re back at work and have sorted somewhere else to live. It’s not even two weeks, so that’s settled, you’re coming with me,’ and with that Edward, for the second time this evening, gently got hold of her arm, and led her to the car. Isabel wanted to protest again, but she was upset, exhausted and confused and she couldn’t see a better alternative at this precise moment in time. May be she would be able to think straight in the morning.
Isabel didn’t realise just how tired she was until she opened her eyes and asked how long to go.
‘About half an hour.’ Edward told her.
‘What? I’ve been asleep all this time? You should’ve woken me.’
‘Really? And incur the wrath of a sleeping lioness! I don’t think so. Anyway, I figured you needed your beauty sleep!’
Isabel took a little look at Edward as he was driving, and began to ponder about the way he had acted this evening. She had already seen a caring side to his personality at times. He demonstrated that with the way in which he dealt with his clients. But she herself had never witnessed this strong decisive nature of his which she had seen tonight. Around her he was usually just a fairly laid back sort of fellow. But then, she had never seen him at Court much. She had heard from others that he was totally different when he was on his feet in front of a Judge and Jury. Apparently, he was imposing, even commanding as an advocate. She had observed this for herself today, much to her amazement. Dare she say it, his actions today had made her see him less as the mischievous flirt she usually knew him for and more an endearing man of presence and sensibility.
Edward drove his car up a narrow little road, and then Isabel’s jaw dropped as he turned into the driveway of the house. The beautifully lit wide tree lined drive seemed to go on forever, and when she saw the house, or rather the mansion, even in the dark, her jaw nearly fell to the ground.
‘This is your family home?’ she asked to which he nodded as they pulled up outside.
‘You never said it was …. like this, that it was so big. Like some stately home or something,’ she said as she got out of the car.
‘Hmm, guess not, but then why would I?’ Edward replied, perfectly logically, ‘but yes, it is a commanding old building I suppose. Sixteenth century I am told. So, anyway, welcome to Oakhurst,’ he said as they went up the four large steps which led to the huge arched solid oak front door.
As they got through the door, the housekeeper, Grace came into the oak panelled reception hall, which was the size of three lounges. She was a large lady, with an endearing smile. She greeted Edward most warmly, and informed him that his mother was in her bed, but still awake and waiting. Edward introduced Isabel and Grace to each other, and told Isabel how Grace was more of an aunt than a housekeeper, which brought a smile to the housekeeper’s face.
Grace proceeded to update Edward as to his mother’s condition.
‘We are going to move your mother downstairs tomorrow, into the annexe; mobility is, as you know, becoming more of an issue for her. At least when she is downstairs she will be able to come in her wheelchair to the dining table and even pop out onto the patio, if the weather allows it, for a bit of fresh air.’
‘Yes I agree, she shouldn’t be isolated upstairs, she will much prefer to be where the action is down here!’
‘So if it’s alright with you I will leave now,’ continued Grace. ‘Lucy will be here first thing. And in accordance with your instructions I have cancelled the carers’ night shifts whilst you’re here, so there will be two of them now, one from morning until after lunch, then the second one will take over until the evening and will leave after she has settled you mother to sleep for the night.’
Edward thanked Grace for staying late, and ran for the stairs to go up and see his mum, gesturing with his hand to Isabel for her to come also. She took off her coat, which she was about to pop onto the bottom of a splendid original Queen Anne balustrade staircase, when thankfully Grace came over and took the coat from her to hang it in the cloak room just down the hall.
Isabel followed Edward up the wide staircase and into the room. The room was large; she couldn’t see much of it as it was very dimly lit. Edward’s mother was in the bed, propped up with a couple of pillows, her eyes half closed.
‘Hi mum, how are you today?’ he said to her in a hushed voice, as he leant over and gave her a soft kiss on her cheek, and then sat down beside her on the bed.