The Joy of the Letter

Butterfly cardNicola here, talking about letters and cards, letter-writing and research. Last week, a friend who lives a few doors down, put a hand written card through my door to fix up a get-together. She could have texted or used any one of a half dozen other ways of getting in touch but the card really thrilled me because it feels so unusual to receive hand-written cards and letters these days. Despite this, cards and other beautiful stationery are very popular and I’m always tempted to buy some when I visit historic houses or other lovely places that sell smart stationery. As a result, I have an ever-increasing pile of cards in my desk and seldom seem to have the chance to send them to anyone, though I do my best to find those occasions when I can.

At the same time, I’ve been researching the book I’m writing about the history of Ashdown House, and have been reminded of how important letters and letter-writing was to our forbears as a way of sharing news (and gossip!) and consequently how useful letters are to historians. In fact, my new fiction timeslip book also underlines this, as the heroine and her sister are both illiterate, never having been taught to read or write as children because they were poor (and girls). Learning to read is one of my heroine’s ambitions.

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Crying over a good book!

Baby cryingNicola here. Last week I spent a day on writing retreat with a very good friend of mine, also a romance writer. Over lunch, we got chatting about the books that make us cry. We weren’t talking about those books that drive us to tears of frustration as we’re writing them although there are plenty of those. We were talking as readers about the scenes that can make us cry every time we read them, even though we know them back to front and word for word. Not all of our favourites were romance books although some of them were. Others were thrillers, crime stories, even biographies.

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There is No Friend Like a Sister . . .

“For there is no friend like a sister, in calm or stormy weather, to cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands.” Christina Rossetti

P&P sistersSisters. It is one of the most elemental bonds of all. And yet, a number of us—me included—have never experienced that close relationship. I have two brothers. They are wonderful, and I’ve learned a lot of important life lessons from them—how to throw a curveball, how to drive a stick shift, the important of sucking it up and NOT crying when you fall out of a tree.

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All About Aunts

Spinning wheelNicola here. Today, 7th January, is St Distaff’s
Day and I am writing in praise of aunts. I expect a lot of us may have been
back at work a while but in the past the 7th January was
traditionally the day on which everyone went back to work after the Twelfth
Night holiday. It took the name St Distaff’s Day because it was the day on
which we ladies were supposed to be picking up our spinning once again, the
tool of the trade for women being the distaff to spin flax. From the trade of
spinning comes the word spinster, a recognised legal term for an unmarried
woman. The spear side and the distaff side were legal terms to distinguish the
inheritance of male and female children. 

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