Alison Sherlock talks about the new installment in the Willow Tree Hall series, Escape To The Country.
Escape To The Country is the second book in my Willow Tree Hall series – and my very first sequel! All of my other books have been standalone but the idea for this series is to discover the lives and loves of those who live at Willow Tree Hall throughout 4 books.
The series is set at Willow Tree Hall, the idea of which came from watching Downton Abbey one day and began to wonder what life would be like in the current day for any owners of a stately home. As I researched the subject, I realised that many of our country estates had fallen into disrepair due to the high running costs.
One stately home that particularly stood out during my research was Rise Hall in Yorkshire. It had been rescued from the brink of dereliction by Channel 4 property expert Sarah Beeny and her husband. The story of its both loving and painful restoration had been the subject of the tv series Sarah Beeny’s Restoration Nightmare.
Once I’d discovered how much of a financial burden they can be, I began to think about a crumbling house and the owners and staff that could live there.
And thus became the ‘eureka’ moment! In my mind I began to think up the plot for Book 1 in the series, A House To Mend A Broken Heart.
Where I live, there are lots of very small but extremely pretty country villages and so I designed the tiny hamlet of Cranley with those in mind. I decided that all the cottages should belong to the imaginary estate of Cranley, the head of which is the proud stately house of Willow Tree Hall which has been the home of the Earl and Countess of Cranley for centuries.
But Willow Tree Hall, like so many that I discovered with my research, has fallen into disrepair. So I decided that the renovation and transformation of Willow Tree Hall will take place over all four books, although you don’t need to read them in any particular order.
The first book in the series, A House To Mend A Broken Heart, concentrates on Annie’s story. She’s the housekeeper to widowed Arthur, the charming current Earl of Cranley. After a bad fall puts Arthur in hospital, it’s up to a reluctant heir apparent Sam Harris, to lend a helping hand and try to find a sustainable future for the Estate.
The second book is called Escape To The Country and this time, the story concentrates on Eleanor who’s one of Annie’s best friends. Eleanor is a journalist and leads a glamorous life in London exposing the sordid secrets of famous celebrities for Hot Gossip! magazine. But her perfect life is a sham. So when her world collapses, she has to reluctantly head home to her mum and friends in Cranley which, after almost a decade away, is a bit of a shock for her!
Eleanor has two best friends, Annie and Megan, both of whom live in Cranley. They have been friends since their school days but like so many, the friendship has slipped a little due to work and life constraints. I wanted to take Eleanor on a journey to rediscover the important things in life. To remind her that once you strip away any designer labels or fakery, that it really is family and friends who can complete your life.
My hero is Tom, a global rock star. He popped into my mind whilst I was watching Glastonbury last year and is a hybrid mix of Ed Sheehan, Chris Martin and Captain America Chris Evans! The mind of a writer is a very strange place sometimes!
Tom has found fame and fortune as a rock star but is struggling with the pressures of both. Burnt out after a gruelling worldwide tour, he escapes the paparazzi after yet another scandal to hide away at Willow Tree Hall. Eleanor cannot believe her luck. A story on the world’s biggest superstar would be the ticket that gets her job and glamorous life back in London.
Soon Eleanor and Tom begin to fall under the spell of Willow Tree Hall. Eleanor begins to wonder whether she can really betray his trust. And does she really want her old life back or is home really where the heart lies?
Do they find friendship and love over a long, hot summer? You’ll have to read Escape To The Country to find out!
Everyone is running away from something – but will an escape to the countryside suit everyone?
Journalist Eleanor McCartney leads a glamorous life in London exposing the sordid secrets of famous celebrities for Hot Gossip! magazine. But her perfect life is a sham. So when her world collapses, she has to reluctantly head home to her mum and friends in the quiet country village of Cranley.
Willow Tree Hall is still in the midst of extensive renovations under the careful eye of Eleanor’s best friend Annie and her fiancé, record producer and future Earl of Cranley, Sam Harris.
With a recording studio now in the grounds of the estate, it should be the perfect place for global singing sensation Tom Kingsley to hang out. But Tom is burnt out after a gruelling worldwide tour and is escaping the paparazzi after yet another scandal. Eleanor cannot believe her luck. A story on the world’s biggest superstar would be the ticket that gets her job and glamorous life back in London.
But soon both Eleanor and Tom begin to fall under the spell of Willow Tree Hall. Eleanor begins to wonder whether she can really betray his trust. And does she really want her old life back or is home really where the heart lies?
As a heatwave soars, friendships are made, truths are told and, with the help of a stray dog, perhaps love can be found as hearts are healed. By escaping to the country, maybe Eleanor and Tom have found their new beginning.
Alison Sherlock enjoyed reading and writing stories from an early age and gave up office life to follow her dream. Alison lives in Surrey with her husband and a daft golden retriever.