For my latest series of contemporary romance books (The Levanté Sisters Series) I travelled into London to do some much needed research.
The beauty of living in Surrey, is that London is only a half-hour train ride away. It was a brisk, but sunny winter’s day as donned with my trusty Barbour jacket, I set off on the train to Waterloo station.
My talented and beautiful violin-playing heroine, illegitimate daughter of Dame Serena Levanté, arrives in London for her famous opera diva mother’s funeral. Reeling from her recent break-up and anxious about meeting her sisters for the first time, Donna feels lost and alone.
Enter the dashing hero – family solicitor, Greg – who takes the sad, but very lovely Donna under his wing and shows her around London. This is where the sparks first start to fly.
As I was writing this scene, it suddenly struck me that it had been a while since I’d been to the city, and even longer since I’d done the tourist thing.
I have to admit, there are few sights more wondrous than crossing Westminster Bridge on a bright winter’s day. The sun shone off Big Ben and coated the magnificent Houses of Parliament in a golden glow so bright it took my breath away. The ancient clock conveniently struck twelve o’clock as I made my way along the bank of a grey and restless river Thames. I stared up at it’s beautiful golden face, along with hundreds of other tourists, and listed, enchanted as it chimed twelve times. I got shivers as I thought about how this clock had been setting London’s time for centuries.
Westminster Bridge was typically lined with red London busses. It made a great photograph.
After gazing in awe at the Houses of Parliament, and admiring the coats of arms on the cold, stone walls, ornate wrought-iron gates tinged with gold, and perfectly landscaped lawns, I walked up Birdcage Walk and through St. James park to Buckingham Palace. This is the route, I imagined, my hero would have taken with the woman who would become the love of his life by the end of the book.
St James Park was alive with wildlife, both of the tourist and animal variety. School children chased birds on lawns covered with fallen gold and bronze leaves, while suited men talked earnestly on mobile phones and groups of tourists gawked at the beautiful but wintery scenery. I felt humbled to watch a surprisingly violent, but very macho fight between two colourful, big-chested geese (at least I think they were geese) over a dull-looking female. Who would be victorious and end up as her mate? Appropriate really, given the context of my visit.
The Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace shone brightly as the clouds parted and the sun hit it like a laser-light. The golden statue, wings spread, was blinding in its intensity.
Then men with rifles appeared, along with a motorbike escort and the gates to the palace opened. A cavalcade of darkened cars emerged and disappeared down The Mall. I couldn’t see who was inside, but it seemed a fitting end to what had been an inspired walk and a great research opportunity.
After that I made my way through Green Park to Piccadilly, and of course, Fortnum & Mason’s for some much-needed tea and scones – and of course some Christmas shopping. They always have the most delightful things to give as gifts.
PS. The window dressings at F&M are excellent this year. I fully recommend making the trip just for that!
Floria, Book 1 of the Levanté Sisters Series is due out in February 2017, and available for pre-order soon.
The Levanté Sisters Series (Books 1 to 4)
When much-loved opera diva, Dame Serena Levanté is murdered in her Surrey mansion, she leaves her vast fortune, not only to her legitimate daughter, Floria, but also to three illegitimate daughters (Mimi, Donna and Carmen) who were adopted at birth. The four young ladies, reeling from the revelation that Serena is their birth mother, meet for the first time at the funeral. The series follows Floria, Mimi, Donna and Carmen as they come to terms with their famous legacy, their own startling musical talents, and their quest for love and happiness.
Book 1 – Floria (February 2017)
Book 2 – Mimi (April 2017)
Book 3 – Donna (June 2017)
Book 4 – Carmen (August 2017)
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