Today I’d like to say ‘Happy Publication Day’ to Lucy Coleman as she launches her latest book. Christmas at Lock Keeper’s Cottage into the world. Though I’m not normally one for mentioning the ‘C’ word before November, I’m prepared to make an exception this time. To be honest when I turned on the central heating last weekend and hunkered down in my reading ‘den’, with my lamp and candles lit – this would have made the perfect read.
So what’s it about?
Imogen Tolliman never knew her mother. And when an accident robs Immi of her father too, she goes to live with her grandfather, Tollie, in his picturesque lock-keeper’s cottage by the Aysbury marina.
Tollie is the star of the Santa Ahoy Special each Christmas – a festive boat ride along the canal that enthralls both children and adults alike. And as Immi grows up, she starts to appreciate the magical community she is lucky enough to live in.
When Immi meets Gray Adams, she instantly realises he’s someone special. And as their relationship gets serious, they start to plan for the Christmas to beat all Christmases.
But as the day approaches, and the romantic snow showers turn into blizzards, their dream of a Christmas to remember, looks set to be one they’ll never forget – for all the wrong reasons. Can they salvage the festivities, or will old secrets that are finally uncovered turn Immi’s life upside down forever?
Let Lucy Coleman transport you away to a dreamy Cotswolds Christmas full of snowflakes and secrets, log fires, mistletoe, friends and much-loved traditions. Perfect for all fans of Trisha Ashley, Holly Martin and Sue Moorcroft.
Here’s Lucy explaining what inspired the setting for the book (first published 26 August 2020 via Boldwood Books).
THE INSPIRATION FOR THE SETTING FOR CHRISTMAS AT LOCK KEEPER’S COTTAGE.
It was probably about seven years ago and my husband, Lawrence, and I were living in a converted barn in the small village of Arlingham, in Gloucestershire. It nestles on the edge of the Cotswolds and has views out across the Severn. It’s situated on a horseshoe bend in the river and is surrounded by lush pastureland, farms, and a small network of lanes where you will discover cottages old and new.
The walks are a delight and it’s a treasure, being a little off the beaten track. It even has its own pub – The Red Lion, which was purchased by a group of villagers who clubbed together to save it from being closed. And a village hall and small post office in the high street.
To reach Arlingham you drive through a place called Frampton on Severn, another delightfully quaint, although much larger village which has the largest village green in the UK. It has three ponds and a cricket green, which is marvellous in summer. The Bell Inn sits alongside and is a wonderful place to eat.
On the way down to the river, you also drive over the swing bridge at Fretherne, to cross the Gloucestershire and Sharpness canal. The kids always loved it whenever we arrived just as it was about to lift, and we’d get out of the car to watch the narrowboats as they chugged by.
Often, we would drive to Saul Junction Marina, which is where the Gloucestershire Canal meets the Stroudwater Canal. And it was there that the idea for Christmas at Lock Keeper’s Cottage began. One Christmas we did get to join Santa for a cruise along the canal and it was a treat our family will never forget.
We only lived in Arlingham for three years but one Christmas the snow fell and kept on falling. It wasn’t easy getting around as the lanes are narrow, but the farmers were out on their monster tractors ploughing the snow in the early hours of the morning, so we didn’t get cut off.
While the Lock Keeper’s Cottage is fictional, as is Aysbury Junction Marina, it was inspired by Saul Junction and its surrounds. And the sense of community conjured up in the storyline reflects experiences we’ve had living in several close-knit little villages that were tucked away. Another such place was Huntingford, in south Gloucestershire.
Life is different in out of the way little places. You get to know your neighbours and yes, people still knock on the door to borrow the odd cup of flour, or sugar. And there are situations that arise where someone will phone a friend and in no time at all someone pops in to sort out that domestic emergency.
On one occasion, the vehicle I was driving hit black ice and I ended up in a ditch alongside a narrow lane. Within five minutes a neighbour appeared to help me, in my shocked state, out of the vehicle. I was driven home, less than five minutes away. They rang my husband and waited with me until he arrived back.
In the meantime, I was totally unaware that a local farmer had sent a tractor and two of his men to pull my trusty little Jimny back onto the road, ready for the recovery vehicle to take it to the garage. So, while villages often look sleepy, whenever anything happens people always appear as if from nowhere, to lend a hand.
In creating Aysbury Junction Marina, I took myself back to some extremely happy times as the story began to unfold and, hopefully, reflect the way newcomers are welcomed with a generosity of spirit. And if you get a chance to take a trip with Santa on a canal at Christmas, I promise you that it’s not only the kids who will have fun!
Here’s a further tempter for you,
I read an article the other day, giving tips on how to manifest the life you want. You begin by writing a letter and… burning it. Whether you want to free yourself of worry, realise a dream, or simply declutter your mind, a well-respected life coach believes that the universe is listening. I’m not sure how I feel about that statement, but I can see how it might be cathartic for some people – assuming they have the guts to do it properly.
What I’m discovering, though, is that being honest with oneself isn’t easy. After almost an hour, most of it spent with a pen in my hand hovering over the piece of paper in front of me, it remains blank. Even though I love the idea of releasing negative energy into the ether, or drawing positive energy towards me, I can’t do it. I’m not ready to bare my soul to anyone. Least of all, myself.
Maybe I’ll write a letter to Santa, instead, and burn that. Start small and work your way up, Immi, I tell myself. As one of my three jobs involves wearing an elf costume every weekend in December, I figure that if I’m not ready to reach out to the universe, Santa is the next best option.
This year I’m hoping Christmas is going to be a truly joyful occasion to make up for the disappointments of last year. When the man you love – your soul mate – is supporting a parent through the big C, life can feel as if it’s on hold. I won’t lie, it’s been tough. My mind and my body ache when he isn’t here with me because I’m simply going through the motions rather than living my life.
Anyway, what harm can it do to honour an age-old tradition? After all, I’m one of Santa’s biggest fans. They say the act of believing makes things happen and I’ve seen that with my own eyes. So here goes:
When I was six years old, I wrote you a very special letter. I handed Dad the sealed envelope and we stood together, hand in hand, as he threw it onto the fire. I watched in fervent anticipation as the wisps of pale grey smoke, tinged with little curls of white, disappeared up the chimney.
Everyone thought I was asking you for a doll’s house, but actually, I asked you to bring my mum back home to us. Dad didn’t understand why I burst into tears on Christmas morning, after I’d unwrapped the wonderful presents beneath the glittering tree. And, at the time, I didn’t understand that I had asked for the impossible.
Every year until I was twelve, when I wrote my last letter, I just asked for toys, books and clothes, as the other kids did. But in my heart there was only one thing I longed to have, because I honestly believed that it would make my life complete.
But I appreciate now how lucky I was, and that the true magic of Christmas was there all along. I was surrounded by love. The love of my dad, my grandparents and our friends. No child could ask for more than that.
This year there is only one thing on my list and it’s to be able to celebrate Christmas with the man I love, Gray, by my side. I need it to reassure me there really can be an us and that life isn’t going to cheat me, yet again.
Just keep everything crossed for me, will you? That’s all I ask. And keep up the good work. A lot of people believe in you, regardless of their age. In today’s world that’s both magical and inspiring, because what is life without hope?
With much love, Immi x
If that has tempted your festive taste buds you can buy copies here :-
Lucy is no stranger to Christmas novels as this will will be her third.
About the Author
Lucy (who also writes under the pen name of Linn B Halton) is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. She writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships. Lucy is the bestselling author of eighteen novels and counting. When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either up-cycling furniture or working in the garden.
Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.