OUT NOW: The Dead Queen’s Garden by Nicola Slade

The Dead Queen's Garden by Nicola SladeNicola Slade had her first short stories published in her early twenties and wrote for children and for women’s magazines for a number of years. As well as writing, Nicola has been a Brown Owl and an antiques dealer. She currently lives in Hampshire with her husband; her three grown-up children live nearby.

For more information on the author visit: www.nicolaslade.com

The Dead Queen’s Garden by Nicola Slade

Young Victorian widow, Charlotte Richmond, has lately found herself tripping over the occasional corpse, but surely the festive season, beginning with a christening party, can’t present the same hazard?

Oh yes it can….

There are some strange incidents and a death, apparently from natural causes, that leaves Charlotte puzzled and anxious over questions that seem to have no answers. Over Christmas, however, she does manage to learn a surprising amount about medieval gardening, some unusual and unpleasant ailments, London property values, and how to conduct a rat-hunt.

As if that isn’t enough, Charlotte encounters someone who may know far too much about her unorthodox upbringing in Australia, and Florence Nightingale keeps making an offer that she insists Charlotte can’t refuse.

To cap it all, Boxing Day finds the resourceful Charlotte in a garden dedicated to a long-dead queen, fighting for her life and armed only with what is possibly the least likely weapon ever.

The Dead Queen’s Garden by Nicola Slade is available to buy now with a limited time only discount of 30%

The Dead Queen's Garden by Nicola Slade

Author Nicola Slade discusses The Dead Queen’s Garden

The Dead Queen's Garden by Nicola SladeNicola Slade had her first short stories published in her early twenties and wrote for children and for women’s magazines for a number of years. As well as writing, Nicola has been a Brown Owl and an antiques dealer. She currently lives in Hampshire with her husband; her three grown-up children live nearby.

Here, Nicola talks about what inspired the story and why location was so very integral to her tale….

If you visit Winchester and go to see the famous Round Table, as you certainly should, you will find an interesting little piece of history by opening a small door inside the echoing Norman Great Hall. Queen Eleanor’s Garden is a recreation of a mediaeval garden of the time of Queen Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III, daughter-in-law of King John. This little garden is planted only with plants that were known in the Middle Ages and tucked into its tiny area are a vine tunnel, a grass seat, a fountain and a little stream, as well as herbs, berries, and early roses. The garden was opened in 1986 by the Queen Mother and it’s an oasis of quiet in a busy city. (For more information, click here).

When I came to think about the third adventure for my resourceful young Victorian widow, Charlotte, the mediaeval garden immediately sprang to mind. It didn’t matter that I was writing about 1858 and the garden was a late twentieth century creation, I could fudge that. However, it really is very small and I needed a much larger space where I could hide a corpse or two. So I did the next best thing: I invented my own version.

Charlotte’s first two adventures took place in spring 1858 and August/September of the same year and, as I didn’t want to leave her too long without being thrown into another perilous situation (I’m all heart), Christmas loomed large – and with it, all the fun of the festive season. Sadly, an unfortunate death in the house meant that the celebrations had to be muted but I had fun with an ill-assorted house party, including two guests in deepest mourning, while Charlotte found herself pursued by a determined widower, and by Florence Nightingale who tempts her with an interesting offer.

A quiet Christmas didn’t give me much scope for jollity, though the book begins with a christening party complete with a wassail bowl, but what I did have fun with was researching the clothes and assorted ailments. Last year I haunted the Oxfam Bookshop in Winchester, wondering whether I could justify spending £40 on a book. I did, of course, and it’s fabulous: ‘English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century’. Every single year is marked by a brief history, but it’s history as reflected in women’s clothing. 1854’s entry is: ‘The Crimean War, beginning in February of that year, influenced the current fashions in characteristic ways…’ (lots of Turkish influences). This is followed by descriptions of cloaks, shawls, bonnets, day dresses, sleeves….

I researched the ailments via ‘The Family Health Book’ which is a little late for my period, at 1892, but covered the topic pretty comprehensively. There’s a scary diagram illustrating the evils of tight-lacing your corset and an endorsement for hearty eating by instancing Goethe whose appetite was ‘immense’ and who lived into his eighties.

An interesting research trip was to The Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. I was asking about which plants would kill you more effectively when the friend I was with hustled me outside, insisting that the curator was eyeing us suspiciously.  Later on, my younger daughter gave me the perfect Mother’s Day present in the shape of ‘The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain was Poisoned at Home, Work & Play’. (She knows how to please her mum, that girl….)

I had an editorial query about the flowers Charlotte finds in the woods on Christmas Day – ‘Primroses? With snow on the ground?’  I happily altered it, realizing that most of the UK is not like this sheltered part of the south, where it’s no novelty to find primroses, violets or even a foolhardy rose out in flower in mid-winter. Snow on the ground on Christmas Day however – well, that’s something I’ve never seen!

It’s an action-packed week for Charlotte, encompassing amusement, fear, annoyance, tragedy, affection, grief and melodrama. The book ends on 1st January 1859 which just so happens to be Charlotte’s twenty-fifth birthday.

– Nicola Slade

The Dead Queen’s Garden is available to pre-order now

Author Nicola Slade on moving into ebooks

9780719810381Nicola Slade had her first short stories published in her early twenties and wrote for children and for women’s magazines for a number of years. As well as writing, Nicola has been a Brown Owl and an antiques dealer. She currently lives in Hampshire with her husband; her three grown-up children live nearby.

For more information on the author visit: www.nicolaslade.com

I’ve always loved books – hardback, paperback, you name it; the floor to ceiling shelves in my house are groaning with books I can’t possibly get rid of.

I didn’t actually learn to read until I was almost six years old – my primary school had only one intake, the September after my Christmas birthday, and parents were forbidden to teach their offspring to read! I soon made up for it and within a term I was promoted to the year above. It was then that I started buying books and at a jumble sale when I was six I bought a girls’ school story, The Abbey Girls, by Elsie Oxenham – it cost a penny which was a lot of money to a six year old! By the time I was seven I was receiving further books in the Abbey series for birthday and Christmas, and as school prizes – my school was enlightened. We just went to the local bookshop, chose what we wanted and it turned up on Prize Day, with no attempt to ‘improve’ our choices.

These days I do sometimes buy new books, particularly paperbacks, but second-hand bookshops are my spiritual home. Sadly these are disappearing in droves so I rely on charity shops to feed my addiction and a laden bag is greeted with: ‘Oh look, just what this house needs, more books!’ (This from a man incapable of ignoring a gadget, tool or piece of equipment!)

However, when we were planning a trip to Australia last year I realised my normal holiday routine wasn’t going to work. I usually trawl round the charity shops for paperbacks and discard them along the route as we travel. Some enlightened hotels have shelves full of books for the guest suffering withdrawal symptoms and I’m always delighted to browse amongst their offerings. I also sneak copies of my own books on to such shelves occasionally. It soon became clear that I couldn’t possibly carry enough books to cover a five week trip to Australia. I doubted I’d be able to carry enough books to while away the flights, let alone the rest of the time, so drastic action was needed, particularly as word had got out that books in Australia are incredibly pricey.

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Luckily, an e-reader turned out to be the solution. My normal attitude to technology is to let a new gadget lie for some time after I’ve bought it. I like to keep an eye on it, sometimes sneaking a sidelong glance in case it’s showing signs of activity or alien life forms. There’s also the possibility that it might blow up – you can’t be too careful. My Kindle arrived for Christmas and we were due to set off at the end of January; this gave me time to circle it warily and admit it seemed harmless.

It was a revelation and a new addiction! The only annoying thing is the way it runs out of battery when I’m in the middle of something good, but I’m gradually remembering to juice it up on a regular basis. It’s been to Australia and back, had a trip to France, holiday in the States, train journeys, lots of places now, as well as tucking handily into my bag when I suspect I might need distraction. I wouldn’t be without it now I’ve discovered the thrill of finding out-of-print books (usually free), but with new books I do have to check myself now and then, when I realise I’ve bought a whole series!

I am delighted to say that Charlotte Richmond’s third adventure, The Dead Queen’s Garden, will be published in hardcover in December 2013 by Robert Hale Ltd. Besides this, my contemporary mysteries, featuring feisty former headmistress, Harriet Quigley, will be available as ebooks on 30th July 2013.

Murder Fortissimo and A Crowded Coffin are available to pre-order as ebooks now and available from all good ebook retailers.