Friday, December 25, 2020

A Nativity, 2020

This came from some Twitter speculation about the Virgin Birth, and about Joseph’s acceptance of it, and from a year where hope has seemed in very short supply.

A Nativity, 2020


20th March 2020


Congratulations Mary! You have been selected to receive a very special present!

Mary marked that email as spam and slipped her phone into her locker. An infection risk, these days, and nobody wanted to be the person bringing the killer virus into the care home.

She went through the ritual of disinfecting and protecting herself, a ritual that had become horribly familiar in a short space of time. A fortnight ago everyone had thought it would all blow over. She’d cracked jokes with the residents about bumping elbows and not laughing too loudly.

None of them seemed very funny right now.


26th March 2020


Joe watched Mary stuff her laundry bag into the washing machine and set it going. Yesterday’s scrubs were on the radiator. His were on the airer, which took up far too much room. He had to move it so he could get to the microwave, and then move it back to see the TV.

“We need a bigger flat,” he said.

“We need a lot of things,” said Mary, as she washed her hands, muttering a begrudging Happy Birthday under her breath.

She collapsed onto the other end of the sofa, laid her head back and closed her eyes for a moment. Her hair was still wet from her shower at the Home. “How’d it go? Did you break up with him?”

Joe shrugged, more lightly than he felt. “Yeah.”

“How’d he take it?”

“He said... he’s a dick.”

“No, he didn’t.”

“Not in so many words, but what he said means he’s a dick.”

Mary reached out, and then fell back. They worked and lived together, but over the last few weeks everyone was terrified to touch. It was one thing dressed up like something from a disaster movie, in plastic visors and horrible ventilator masks and gloves and plastic aprons… that wasn’t touching. Not really. But even giving your flatmate a hug, when you we’re both freshly showered and in clean, uncontaminated clothes, and as sanitised as possible… these days that felt weird.

“Takeaway?” she said instead.

Joe thought about his finances. Dire, but they were supposed to be getting overtime payments. “What do you fancy?”

Mary dragged her phone from her pocket. “We could—oh for heaven’s sake.”

“What?”

She showed him the screen. “Mary, a great honour is due to you…”

“So, it’s spam?”

“It’s every damn day. I keep reporting it and it keeps coming. Mary, a great honour. Mary, you have been chosen. Mary, we must inform you of a great joy…”

“Is it a bequest from a Nigerian prince?”

“Nah, they’re all Middle Eastern addresses,” said Mary. “You fancy kebabs? I could eat a kebab.”


3rd April 2020


“How’re you doing, Gabe?” said Mary, shouting through her mask. The horrible things made her ears hurt at the very thought of them these days. Under her latex gloves, her hands were raw from constant washing.

“Can’t complain, Mary,” said Gabe, who had terminal cancer and knew it. “Especially with you looking after me. What an angel you are, Mary, love.”

Mary checked Gabe’s chart. His morphine level didn’t seem to have been raised.

“I do my best, Gabe. All anyone can do,” she told him.

She checked his dressings and his pulse, gave him his hourly cocktail of drugs, made sure he was comfortable.

“Mary,” he said, as she filled out his chart.

“Hmm?”

“You shall receive a great gift, Mary,” said Gabe.

She didn’t look up. “That right?”

“He has blessed you, child.”

“Who? Joe? What’s he done, found some toilet rolls on eBay?”

Gabe didn’t answer.

“People keep telling us to only buy what we need, but I don’t know, I don’t exactly count how many I use a week. I just buy them when I’m running out. Or I did, anyway. Got a four-pack the other day. Felt like Christmas.”

She looked up. Gabe wasn’t just quiet. Mary had worked in the care home long enough to know what his stillness meant.

“Oh Gabe,” she said, but she didn’t pray or kiss a crucifix or anything, because who could believe in God at a time like this?


28th May 2020


7pm, regular as clockwork, the cacophony of saucepans and bells and some enterprising soul with a bugle. People standing outside their doors clapping and cheering to thank the NHS and care workers.

Mary shouted, “Some of us are working nights,” and pulled her pillow over head.


9th June 2020 


“I’m sorry,” said Joe as Mary continued retching in the bathroom, “but the guidelines say if one of us is feeling unwell we both have to isolate.”

“But being sick isn’t on the list of Covid symptoms,” said his boss.

“Do you really want to risk it?” said Joe, and went back to binge-watching Schitt’s Creek.


28th June 2020


“We’re sorry,” said the automated voice, “but we can’t take calls right now. Due to Covid-19 please do not come into the surgery. To book an appointment, please use Patient Access. If you don’t have Patient Access, please go online to find out how.”

Mary glowered at the website, which told her she’d have to go into the surgery to get an access code for the app that meant she wouldn’t have to go into the surgery.


4th July 2020


“No, I’m sorry,” said Mary, once she’d stopped laughing. “That can’t be right at all.”

The doctor shrugged, or maybe her screen had frozen. “You can get a test from a pharmacy,” she said. “Blood and urine tests at the surgery are not very easy to do right now, but a pharmacy pregnancy test is pretty reliable. If if it says positive, it’s probably positive.”

“I work in a care home,” said Mary. “Negative tests are everything right now.”

The doctor laughed bitterly. “And if you can get hold of one, won’t you tell me how?”


5th July 2020


“Well, the doctor was wrong,” Mary said, staring at the pregnancy test with its cheery little smiley face. What was there to smile about?

It was clearly a false positive. There was no way she was pregnant. She’d get another test tomorrow.


6th July 2020


“Manufacturing default,” she said to the little plastic stick. “I should complain to the company.”


7th July 2020


“You have got to be kidding me,” said Mary.

A row of little plastic sticks covered the bathroom counter. Some of them had smiley faces, some of them had plus signs, some of them had the word PREGNANT written in capital letters.

“Are you okay?” said Joe from the hallway. “Do you want me to get one of the cystitis tests from the Home for you?”

Mary opened the door, showed him the sticks, and burst into tears.


10th July 2020


“And how is everything where you are?” said Aunt June, having filled him on her allotment and Aunt Helga’s new interest in crochet.

“Oh, you know,” said Joe. “Work work work, spend half our time decontaminating like we’re in a disaster movie, Mary thinks she might be pregnant, my sourdough starter keeps dying.”

A slight pause, then June said, “Just checking, but you didn’t name your sourdough starter Mary, did you?”

Joe sighed. “He’s called Herman,” he said. “Mary’s my flatmate. She says she can’t be because she hasn’t been with anyone, but she did like a hundred tests and they were all positive.”

“Well then,” said Aunt June. “Must’ve been a star in the East lately.”


17th July 2020


“Probably about fourteen weeks,” said the midwife. “Which puts your due date around… oh! Look at that. Christmas Day.”

“I repeat,” said Mary, “that you have to be kidding.”

The midwife had all the PPE Mary wore every day, and the tests she’d done were probably less invasive than a lot of the daily tasks Mary did at the Home. With the notable exception that Mary had never had to check if one her patients was pregnant.

“We’ll book you in for a scan. I’m afraid right now we’re asking patients to come in by themselves if at all possible. You can have someone wait for you in the car of course. Do you think that will be all right for you?”

Mary didn’t have a car. She’d made it here on the bus, wearing a mask and gloves. Joe had an old rust bucket that took them to the supermarket during those inconveniently early hours when essential workers were prioritised in supermarkets.

“Mary? We can sort out a video link to the father if you like.”

Mary shook her head. “That won’t be necessary,” she said, faintly.


25th July 2020


“Is it a boy or a girl?” asked Joe, peering at the photo she stuck the the cork board.

“It’s a baby,” said Mary. To Joe it looked like a black and white potato, but he nodded as if it was perfectly comprehensible.

“Well, congratulations,” he said.

“For what?” Mary looked tired. These days they were all tired, but it seemed worse on her. She kept maintaining she couldn’t be pregnant, but here was the evidence, in literal black and white.

“Well, babies are always good news,” he said. “I’d love a baby.”

“Really?” Her hand was on her stomach now, slightly more rounded than it had been. She didn’t seem aware of the gesture.

“Yeah. Always wanted one. Never found the right chap.”

“You could adopt?” said Mary.

“What, on my own? No. I suppose I’ll just have to be Uncle Joe,” said Joe, and Mary said, “Try not to be too excited about this.”


20th November 2020


“But you said it was just the Covid Stone,” said Beryl.

“You’re not even married,” said Peter.

“I knew it,” said Rita.

Mary smoothed her plastic apron over her belly, which was approximately the size of a beachball, and said, “No, I’m pregnant. And I’ve got to go on leave now. But look, there’ll be a vaccine soon. They said so on the news. And everyone here will be the first to get it.”

Some of the residents cheered. Others muttered darkly about Bill Gates. Of course, the Home had excellent wi-fi.

“We have hope,” Mary said. “I know this year has seemed endless, but we have hope.”

Her baby had no father, no money, no future and not even a past, but she supposed there was always hope.

“And will you be back, love?” asked Rita. “After the baby?”

“I hope so,” said Mary, who had no idea. There was a flat pack in her bedroom that promised it would be a cot one day. Joe had bought a rainbow babygro.

“Can you bring him in to show us? I love a baby,” said Beryl.

“What baby?” said Peter.


2nd December 2020


“Aunt June says we can go to her,” said Joe, as Mary flicked morbidly through Netflix. “For Christmas. With the new rules. Be nice, won’t it?”

“Spose,” said Mary.

“Ever so nice, Aunt June,” said Joe. “Got that cottage in the garden so if we have to isolate we can do it there but still go out into the garden with her for a cup of mulled… er, apple juice.”

“Can’t wait,” said Mary.

“And her wife is lovely. Helga. Midwife for years. Been knitting for the baby, she says,” said Joe, watching Mary’s glazed eyes.

“Mmm.”

“Or crocheting. I don’t know. Mary, babe, are you all right?”

Mary shrugged. “I’m having a baby I can’t be having,” she said. “What do you think?”

Joe and Mary had worked the same shifts for ages. He knew when she was at work and at home, and given their working hours and pay, there was little in between the two. He’d have known if she brought someone home. But there must have been a night that slipped his mind when Mary had found a fella. There must have been.

“Are you sure,” he began, but when Mary looked up at him he stopped asking her who the father was. “Are you sure you want to watch Call the Midwife, babe?”


22nd Dec 2020


“Look, so long as we stick to the cottage we can go,” said Joe. “June will bring us dinner to the door and we’ll have a live FaceTime any time we need her, okay?”

“We can FaceTime from here,” said Mary. Her back was killing her.

“I know,” said Joe, and his face nearly lost its sunny expression. “But June is all the family I have. She’s home to me. I need to go, Mary. Please. We can be there in a couple of hours. We know how to be safe.”

Mary sighed. 25th December was the due date, but Joe promised her Helga knew what to do if the baby was born. Which she still didn’t entirely believe was going to happen.

It couldn’t be true. Nine months made no difference to her acceptance of the facts. But the baby she probably wasn’t having could probably be born here or in St David’s.

“You’ll make a note,” she said, “of every service station along the way. Which I’ll need to pee in. And if we get stuck in traffic—”

Joe grinned and brandished a bedpan.

“I hate you,” she said.


23rd December 2020


“The ports are what?” said Joe.


24th December 2020, mid afternoon


“All right, I accept we should have stayed at home,” said Joe, turning his back as Mary grumbled about the bedpan again. Cars and lorries thundered past in a hurry, every one of them doubtless with a very good reason to be on the road.

“You said you wanted home,” said Mary. “We might as well go to your Aunt J—oh. Oh. Um, Joe?”

“Yes?”

“Um, how far are we from your Aunt June?”

Joe turned to look. Mary’s dress was soaked.

“Close enough,” he said.


24th December 2020, later afternoon


“It’s all the rain, you see,” said the police officer, peering into the car as said rain hammered down on him. “Floods everywhere.”

“We just need to get to a hospital,” said Joe.

“Hospital, you say? Well, nearest one is quite a way from here if you avoid the flooding. And I hear the roads are full of lorries. Backlog from all the ports being shut, you see.”

“That’s,” Mary said through gritted teeth, “not helpful.”

The officer peered in. He had a face covering and a plastic visor, spattered with rain. “No, I see that,” he said. “Well look, I’ve called for an ambulance, but I want to reassure you I’ve been there when all my children were born. I’m sure we can get through this. I’m Officer Shepherd, by the way.”


24th December 2020, early evening


“Guys you’re not going to believe this,” said Joe from the screen, “but my flatmate has gone into labour while we’re stuck in traffic. We’re somewhere near Dunstable I think? There’s a police officer here and I’ve gone around asking if anyone is a doctor but no one has said yes yet. If anyone sees this, and you can send help, please do!”


24th December 2020, late evening


“...and now his heartfelt video has gone viral,” said the news anchor. “Hundreds of offers of support have poured in, from a GoFundMe to people trekking across the fields to offer blankets and tea to the young mother. The clip has been retweeted by BeyoncĂ©, RuPaul and Queen Latifah, prompting the hashtag #ThreeQueens on social media…”


25th December 2020


The lights of several cars illuminated the scene, reflecting brilliantly off the rain on the windscreens like thousands of tiny stars, as Mary cradled her new child in her arms and Joe wrapped a blanket around them both.

“And this is Joe,” said Mary, “who will be your uncle or father or best friend.”

“Or maybe all three, because you’re very lucky,” said Joe.

“And here is Officer Shepherd, who will be your godfather,” said Mary, and Officer Shepherd beamed.

A tiny starfish hand clutched her finger, and Mary knew she would move heaven and earth for this child.

She looked up, and realised that, in small groups, under umbrellas, wearing home-made face masks, a crowd had gathered. Many carried bags, blankets, toys and foil-covered food.

Quite a few of them seemed to be filming her.

“People have brought you all sorts of gifts,” said Mary to the huge, unblinking eyes of her baby. “Because people are kind, even when everything seems terrible.”

“And does this little one have a name?” said one of the onlookers.

Mary looked down at the baby who had come from nowhere and been born during the worst year anyone could remember.

 Above, the first rays of light broke through the darkness, and a new day began.

“Hope,” she said. “Your name is Hope.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Death Comes to Cornwall

Announcing a brand new cosy mystery series!


  ‘If you're a mystery lover then don't miss this one.' NetGalley reviewer

 The perfect holiday destination. The perfect place for murder... 

 Molly Higgins never expected to be caught up in a murder investigation. All she'd hoped for this year was to work hard, save enough money to open her very own cafĂ© on the Cornish coast and avoid her ex, Conor Blackstone, who has just arrived back in the village.

 But when she and Conor discover a body on the cliffside in Port Trevan they are thrown once more together. Molly is keen to leave the mystery to the police, but when she finds herself their top suspect, Molly has no choice but to catch the killer herself - before it is too late.

Death Comes to Cornwall is out now in all ebook formats

 Readers and reviewers on NetGalley love Death Comes to Cornwall:
 'Cosy crime with a hint of snark, reminded me a bit of M C Beaton' 
 'A deeee-lightful book'
 'I really enjoyed this one. Atmospheric and exciting.'

Death Comes to Cornwall is the first in a new series featuring amateur sleuth Molly Higgins, set in the charming and only slightly deadly Cornish village of Port Trevan. The second, Murder Most Cornish, will be out in May. Buy Death Comes To Cornwall now!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Max Seventeen: Empire of Dirt

Max Seventeen: Empire of Dirt

The explosive finale to the award-winning sci-fi action trilogy


Charlie is running. From the stinking Theta Empire, from its cruel Emperor, and from a terrifying red-haired enforcer.

Max is tired of running. Not only does she have family to contend with, but she seems to be in charge of a brothel and deep into a serious relationship. Her days of carefree thieving, whoring and pirating seem to be flying away from her.

Riley has stopped running. He’s left behind his old life, and he likes being a space pirate, and he loves Max. He can’t imagine anything coming between them—until Charlie turns up.

The starship Eurydice has given them a home, and freedom, and even family, but there’s a viper in the nest and new enemies rising in high places. With the deadly Firebrand still wreaking havoc across the galaxy, and old alliances being tested, can Max and Riley trust the crew any more?

And worse, can they even trust each other?

Perfect for fans of Firefly, Mad Max, and Black Sails, Max Seventeen: Empire Of Dirt follows the award-winning Max Seventeen and Max Seventeen: Firebrand. Order it now from Amazon.

Max Seventeen and Firebrand also have new covers!


Max Seventeen: mybook.to/Max17

Firebrand: mybook.to/Max17Firebrand

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Join us in Leeds

Authors North: Writing Romantic Fiction Join our Authors North group for a day of defying conventions, historical romance, diversity and representation in romantic fiction and lots more! 

I'm heading to my birthplace, Leeds, on 11th May 2019 for an Authors North event in partnership with the Romantic Novelists' Association. Hear from authors, agents and publishers offering their practical advice and industry insights.



Join Rhoda Baxter, Chair of Authors North, authors Jane Lovering and myself, literary agent Kate Nash, Editorial Director at Trapeze Phoebe Morgan, Editor at Mills and Boon Sareeta Domingo, novelist Alison May, and authors Liam Livings and Val Wood.

See the full programme and book now on Eventbrite before Thursday 25 April.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Out now: Not Your Knight in Shining Armour

The final Royal Weddings book is out today! Not your Knight in Shining Armour is probably my favourite of the series, so I really hope you love it too.

Award-winning author Jan Jones called it,
"A great, glorious smile of a book," adding, "As with all Kate Johnson's books, there are dark themes and surface difficulties, but what comes over most strongly in "Not Your Knight in Shining Armour" is the transforming power of total trust and unconditional love."


They call him the Problem Prince. They call her a rock'n'roll disaster. Together, they're about to make a royal mess!

Scarlet is not the sort of woman who needs rescuing. That’s something she’s pretty clear about. The other thing she’s really clear about is that if she wants the relaunch of her music career to be taken seriously, she’s got to clean up her act. No more sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. The last thing she needs is a messy affair with another celebrity.

 Except that this isn’t any celebrity. To Scarlet he might just be Tom, a scruffy Royal Navy pilot with PTSD, but to the world he’s Prince Thomas, and his grandmother is the Queen of England. And the grandsons of queens do not marry tattooed rockstars.

Unless it happens to be Christmas in Las Vegas and things get a little bit out of hand...

Not your Knight in Shining Armour is out now exclusively from Amazon and you can buy it in ebook or paperback

Have you bought it, or the other books in the series? Did you like them? Would you consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads? I'd really appreciate it!

Monday, December 03, 2018

Sandringham, pt1

Not Your Royal Christmas, my festive novella featuring characters from Not Your Cinderella and Not Your Prince Charming, will be out in ebook (paperback coming soon) 4th December.

Annemarie loves her husband. And her husband loves her. Those are two things she’s certain of. A third thing she’s certain of, is that he also loves someone else...

Seven years ago, Countess Annemarie married the man who would be king one day. Seven months ago, he died. But Christmas is Christmas, and she’s still a member of the Royal Family, so off she goes to Sandringham, where things are always the same. Apart from all those other Christmases, which haven’t been the same at all...

A story about how love and loyalty can sometimes be the same thing, and sometimes totally different. A story about loss and finding your place in the world. And also a story about a princess and a really hot nanny at Christmas.

 Before I wrote it, I took a trip to Sandringham, the Queen's favourite house, where the Royal Family always spend Christmas. Traditions are strongly adhered to, some of them going back to the childhood of the house's first owner, the man who would become King Edward VII. The house has not changed substantially for over a hundred years, since the Bachelor Wing replaced the bowling alley (you read that right) to the south side of the house in the 1890s.

Accordingly, here are some photos I took on my visit, with their relevance hopefully explained. Alas, you can't take pictures inside the house (although you can take a notebook--I checked!) but the guidebook has lots of photos and useful explanations and you can buy it online, and the stewards are very friendly and knowledgeable.

As you can see, the day was overcast at times, and it was nearly autumn (we had a very, very dry summer, hence the state of the grass in places). If you want to see the pictures more clearly, clicking on them will expand them.

First glimpse of Sandringham, as one enters from the famous Norwich Gates to the north of the house. The main road runs surprisingly close to the house; although it's so well shielded by trees, you wouldn't know it.

Statue of one of the Queen's favourite horses, Estimate, a champion many times over. It was sculpted by Tessa Campbell-Fraser and gifted to the Queen by the King of Bahrain in 2016.
Me in front of Estimate. Just two mares, hanging out.

The entrance and carriage circle (with the statue of the horse directly behind me). This is how a car would approach the front door.
To the left of the porte cochere as you look at it, is the Saloon, and then a private room which may be the Business Office (this may also be accessed from the staircase which I believe to be at that end of the corridor) .To the very left of the picture, behind the hedge, is the Ballroom Wing. The rooms on the right are not open to the public; but as George VI  is said to have died in the room overlooking the statue of Old Father Time purchased by his wife (the Queen Mother), I assume that to be the one upstairs on the very right (Father Time is in the formal gardens behind those hedges).
The porte cochere, which is a fancy way of saying 'porch'. The lantern hanging in the middle reminds me of a witch ball--which is used to protect a place!
It's worth noting at this point that there is a ramp covering the steps up into the house (only two or three steps) and after that, the floors are flat and fully accessible (there may be another ramp in the Gun Lobby, I think, but no steps). There's plenty of room to take a wheelchair in and around.

The front door opens directly into the Saloon, the principal living room and receiving area of the house. Pillars and screens can shield the entrance a little, but there's no hiding from the occupants if you enter that way, as all visitors will. The Saloon is decorated with C18th tapestries and has a minstrel's gallery (the stewards were unable to tell me if it was still used!), but there's also a TV hiding inside a cupboard and a jigsaw always on the go. Apparently, the Queen loves jigsaws.

From the Saloon, you cross the hallway to the Drawing Room or the Small Drawing Room (and they mean small; it's about the size of my front room and is very cosy, with a fireplace). The house is only two rooms deep.

The clock tower, overlooking the courtyard. To its right is a huge thermometer. To its left is the bow window of the Ballroom. The windows either side of the Clock Tower form the Ballroom Corridor and Gun Lobby, which lead from the original part of the house to the newer Ballroom Wing.
Behind the photo above is the Gun Lobby, which isn't a bunch of people campaigning for the right to bear arms but a section of entryway lined with shotguns and other military paraphernalia. There's a shell used in the siege of Mafeking which has now been made into a clock, for some reason.

From the Gun Lobby, you pass through the much calmer Ballroom Corridor, which is lined with family portraits, including those of Princes Albert Victor and George (the oldest two sons of Edward VI; George outlived his older brother and became George V), as they entered the Navy at the ages of 13 and 12, respectively.

The Ballroom Wing was added in 1883 when Alexandra, Princess of Wales got tired of rolling up the carpets in the Saloon when anyone wanted to dance. It has a minstrel's gallery and a curved, ornate plaster ceiling, and the walls are lined with military antiques brought back by Edward VII from a tour of India. Amongst these is a set of ceremonial elephant armour, made of silver chain mail. The Ballroom is sometimes used a cinema, and contains a leather chair embossed with Edward VII's monogram.

The house viewed from the south-west, over the lake.

The back of the house, facing west, with the Bachelor Wing on the right. The rooms open to the public are on the ground floor of the left-hand side of the building. It looks huge from here, but inside the rooms are well-proportioned and homely. Well, homely for a Queen.

A Minton porcelain charger, featuring a portrait of Alexandra, Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra; wife of Prince Albert Edward, who would become King Edward VII), in costume. I greatly admire her choice of cat.

The stables, which house a cafe and museum, mostly dedicated to the estate's vehicles. It's really interesting, but not totally relevant to my books.

The gardens, planted in an informal style and still bright with colour even on a dull day at the end of September.

A love seat overlooking the lake, hidden from the house by the rockery. Now why would that be of interest to a romantic novelist?

Queen Alexandra's nest, a folly overlooking the lake.
The folly is tiny, large enough for three or four people to stand in close proximity, which obviously makes it perfect for a couple looking for privacy. I am, obviously intending to make use of this in Not Your Knight in Shining Armour (out February).
The tiled interior of the folly. I believe that's a Dutch ship, but don't quote me. There are little benches, too.

A sundial on the end of the Bachelor Wing. The legend reads, "My time is in thy hand. Let others tell of storms and showers, I'll only count your sunny hours." As you can see from the lack of shadow, this is quite true.

A Juliet balcony on one of the rooms of the Bachelor Wing. These rooms are, I am told, often used to house family members over Christmas; and so I wrote a scene where Annemarie uses this balcony in Not Your Royal Christmas.
There's a room I found a very old photo of called the Turkish Room, which is tiled throughout and appears to be next to the Billiards Room. Also in the Bachelor Wing is a long, narrow library which, like the Turkish Room, has a curved ceiling. Part of the old bowling alley? Maybe!

The back of the Bachelor Wing, looking towards the main house.
Can you see the person walking on the very left of the photo? The greenery to her right covers part of the building which I believe to be the Billiards Room. It's not on the tour; it's right next to the Dining Room, however, and may be linked by a door or a small lobby. The Billiards Room replaced an earlier conservatory, which belonged to the house that stood here before the current one. It's possible there's also a staircase behind that door and the circular window.

An alcove outside the Billiards Room (you see, so many places for secret assignations!).

Your author on the Lawn. Proof I do my research!

The back of the house from the Lawn, the lake behind me.

The angled door on the right of this picture is directly underneath the turret with the green cupola in the middle of the house. To its left, the two windows belong to the Dining Room.
It's impossible to know for sure, but as the Dining Room is just visible through these windows, and there is a door right at the end of it, I assume that behind the angled door above is a lobby or other entrance to the Billiards Room, which sits between the main house and the Bachelor Wing.

The Dining Room is pale green, and features tapestries gifted to the Crown by the King of Spain. The table is highly polished, and as such a tablecloth is used during the day because the glare from the sun is too bright!

The place mats feature photos of the Queen's favourite horses. Apparently this was started as a joke by her trainer, and she was so delighted he kept up the tradition. Joke Christmas presents are a particular favourite of the Royals, presumably because there's not much you can get the family who have everything.

Not Your Royal Christmas features a unicorn shower cap and a cushion shaped like a poo emoji for this reason.

The Drawing Room larger bay window, where there is a grand piano. Behind the columns flanking the window is a small door to the terrace.

The Drawing Room's smaller bay window, where the Christmas tree is usually placed.
The windows above belong to the Drawing Room; the hexagonal one is right in the middle of the main house as you look at it from the back, with the larger square one to its right. Above the larger window is what appears to be a balcony, but I don't know if it's accessible from the inside.

The West Front of the house.

The West Door, with Art Nouveau fanlight.
The West Front bears the monogram of Edward VII and is dated 1908. I believe--but I'm not sure--this is the door used by the Family as they exit for church on Christmas Day, as it leads to the path going directly to the Church.
The West Front viewed from the formal gardens.

Selfie looking back over the Lawn to the house. Behind me you can see the path from the West Door down to the Church.
That's all for now, as the post is getting a bit unwieldy! Photos of the church will be in a second (shorter!) post, here .

Don't forget, you can order Not Your Royal Christmas here!

Sandringham, pt 2

The first post was getting a little long! Here are the rest of the photos and snippets I leanred about Sandringham; this time, mostly featuring the church.
The gate to the church (turnstile for visitors; beyond this is public access). It's about two or three minutes' walk from the house (maybe more in heels!).

The lych gate to the church, less than 100yds from the gate to the house.


The Church was described by Tommy Lascelles (private secretary to George V) as 'at the end of the garden' and it basically is. Whilst there's a fence and trees between the two, the Family only have to walk five minutes and go through a gate to get there.

Famously, the Royal Family always walk to Church on Christmas Day. It was only after he turned 90 that the Duke of Edinburgh was driven; and recently the Queen has joined him. Apart from that, I believe the only time it's acceptable not to walk is when you're expecting a baby, like, tomorrow.

The Church of St Mary Magdalene, dating from the C16th.
 The church looks small from the inside. That's because it is. 400-ish years old, it was renovated by Lady Harriet Cowper just before the Prince of Wales bought Sandringham House and is a little jewel of a place.

The silver pulpit. Yes, that's all silver.
The pulpit, altar and reredors are all plated with silver, as is the processional cross partly visible in the top right of this photo. Astonishingly, considering all that, on weekdays you can just wander in, any time you like, for free.

 Above the silver pulpit is a plaque commemorating George V. There are memorials to most of the monarchs who've resided in Sandringham (although none were buried here, but George VI's body was kept here before being transferred to Westminster) and a memorial to the King's Own Sandringham Company, who were all but wiped out in WWI.

The choir and altar, which is also covered in silver.

 The walls and ceiling here are particularly beautiful, with golden angels and painted beams. Zoom in on the photo for a better look.

The church from the south. There is a small graveyard, in which many of the graves are military and most not very recent.

The graces of two princes, just inside the lych gate, impossible to miss as you enter the churchyard.

The two little graves just inside the lych gate are particularly sad. The one on the right is terribly small, because its occupant is Prince Alexander John, youngest son of Edward VII, who lived for only a day in 1871. The one on the left, with the sandy-coloured cross, belongs to Prince John, son of one king and brother to two more. His father was George V, and his older brothers became Edward VIII (briefly) and George VI. John had severe epilepsy and lived for most of his life on the Sandringham estate. He died aged 13.

On a happier note, the church has also seen the baptism of several royal babies, most recently Princess Charlotte, and also Princess Eugenie whose engagement announcement inspired the idea of a sequel to Not Your Cinderella in the first place!

"Dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere else in the world." ~George V


I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of Sandringham, which gave me several really interesting details to use in Not Your Royal Christmas and Not Your Knight in Shining Armour, both of which contain more than one Christmas.