Romantic suspense author Mollie Blake joins me today to chat about her newest book, The Secret at Arnford Hall.
Living in the heart of the Cheshire countryside in the UK, Mollie is a regular mum of one son and wife of one husband. As a former finance director, she was a bit of a latecomer to writing, but now she has ventured from analyzing figures in her spreadsheets to creating steamy scenes for her characters between the bed sheets.
Her stories are filled with provocative romance and laced with suspense. She loves to wander through Google Earth in search of locations to inspire—from castles in the Channel Islands to high rise flats in London, from the streets of Melbourne to hotels in Kenya. Directionally challenged, you can find her getting lost in most places! However, the heart of her stories rests in Cheshire, England.
She is also guilty of a love of reading, swimming, fast cars, Prosecco and chocolate. Not one for cooking, she has been condemned in the kitchen on more than one occasion.
In November 2015 Mollie was delighted to sign a publishing contract with Black Opal Books. Her first book has recently been published and there are four more contracted for publication over the next few months. A sixth adventure is in progress. Since gaining the publishing contract, Mollie has been accepted into the International Thriller Writers’ group and as a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK. She is one very excited lady.
Please tell us about your current release.
The Secret at Arnford Hall is set in the county of Cheshire in the UK. In a story of shameful secrets and cruel blackmail, the reader escapes to Gabriel Black’s world of wealth and control. As he struggles to develop a relationship with his seven-year-old son, the chance meeting with a schoolteacher, and the discovery of her hidden past, provides him with the distraction he needs.
If Grace is ever going to get her life—and her sanity—back, she needs to discover his secret.
At the age of forty Gabriel’s mission to be a loving father, inspires him to reunite his family, confront his demons, and fight for the love of a woman for the first time in his life.
But if Grace discovers his secret, will she ever be able to return his love?
What inspired you to write this book?
I loved reading Fifty Shades and Sylvia Day’s Crossfire books, followed by a lot more lust-filled romances. It reminded me how much I enjoyed reading them when I was younger.
Excerpt from The Secret at Arnford Hall:
Nine years earlier:
Tall, dark and handsome, thirty-one-year-old Gabriel Black, probably the richest, most eligible bachelor in the north-west of England, was waiting in a boardroom for a meeting with his financial advisor. As he lounged in one of the high-backed leather swivel chairs at the oak boardroom table, Eliza Redfern walked in and poured some coffee for their client. Gabriel immediately took in her shapely five feet four inches, shoulder-length copper-colored hair—no doubt out of a bottle—and air of apparent innocence. He liked the challenge that demeanor often gave.
As he was leaving, he stopped at the reception desk and leaned in toward Eliza, placing his hand palm up in front of her.
“Write your phone number on here.”
Eliza stared at him, shock and embarrassment on her face. “I beg your pardon?”
He spoke with authority and his hand remained in front of her. “I want to take you to dinner. Give me your number.”
Hardly in control of her own actions, she picked up her pen and wrote her mobile number on his palm. He flashed a smile to die for and left the building.
Eliza Redfern was twenty-six. She had had three romantic relationships so far in her life, but was currently not seeing anyone, so what could be the harm in going out for dinner with one of the most handsome, richest men around? Okay, he had a reputation for being a ladies’ man, with a different woman for each day of the week. There’d also been press reports about prostitutes, and a fierce protection of the privacy of his family. And by all accounts it was a weird family. Didn’t he have a twin brother that no one ever saw, a sister, and a mother who looked young enough to be his sister? Well, she was game for most things so when he said he would pick her up at eight, she spent the preceding two hours getting ready.
He came for her in his jet-black Lotus Exige sports car, and wined and dined her with champagne and lobster. Then he enticed her to invite him back to her place for coffee, which ended in her bedroom with one of the best nights of sex she had ever experienced.
To her amazement he called her again and she had three more dates with him over the next two weeks.
One month later she texted him. ~ I’m pregnant.
She was amazed to find him knocking at her door within an hour.
“You said you were on the pill.”
“Are you going to get rid of it?”
“Do you want a relationship with me?”
“Not really. We don’t know each other at all and definitely have nothing in common.”
“Do you want any money?”
“It would be appreciated, or I’ll have to go back to work.”
“Can I have a relationship with my child?”
“Well, you are the father!”
As the weeks turned into months, Eliza found herself spending a bit more time with the father of her unborn child. He took her out to dinner at least once a week, and they went to his family’s villa in Monaco for a week, which was out of her world, almost to the extent of making her reconsider her answer to his question: did she want to have a relationship with him?
Then, quite by accident, she discovered his secret.
Her reaction was straightforward. “I don’t want your money. You cannot have a relationship with my child. I never want to see you again.”
Soon letters from his solicitor started arriving through her letterbox.
My client will be seeking paternity rights…
He will approach the court for full access to his child and will attempt to gain custody…
Eliza was worried sick she could lose her baby. Her sister couldn’t understand why she had suddenly refused to see Black anymore. She thought their relationship had been progressing.
“Eliza, you’ll need the money. Think what a future your child will have with that inheritance to look forward to!”
“You don’t understand, Carol. It’s better that my baby has nothing to do with any of them.”
Eliza Redfern never told anyone Black’s secret.
However, she needed a compromise, and also needed to know what would happen if anything should prevent her from raising her child in the future, God forbid.
One night she sat at her computer screen and began to type.
This agreement will be in place until the child of Eliza Redfern and Gabriel Black reaches the age of eighteen. It will come into effect on the death or incapacity (total physical and mental) of the mother, Eliza Redfern. It will cease on the death of Gabriel Black.
Gabriel Black will have no contact whatsoever with the child unless and until this agreement comes into effect.
On the signing of this agreement by Gabriel Black, Eliza Redfern vows to acknowledge the father of said child to be Gabriel Black.
That father is to adhere fully to the following conditions:
The child is not to attend any private schools up to the age of eighteen. He/she is to be educated in the state system.
The child is never to sleep at Arnford Hall when Mrs. Black is in residence.
He/she is to be allowed to choose his/her own religion, if any.
He/she is to be given the choice to join the family business, but under no compulsion.
He/she is to be free to leave Arnford Hall once he/she reaches age eighteen, with no restrictions to be put on where the child lives.
The child is not to be spoiled.
The child is to be allowed to play with children of his/her own age.
The child is to be allowed to join in his/her school’s activities.
The child is to be allowed to go to football matches, tennis tournaments, and other events of his/her choosing.
The child is to be shown love.
It was simple and heartfelt. In exchange for his agreement, Gabriel’s name would appear on the birth certificate, and the child would bear its father’s surname.
Gabriel realized this was as much as he was going to get without a threat of really bad publicity. All his lawyers put together would have great difficulty in keeping the press quiet, and he could never take that risk.
He also realized he would have no relationship with his own child until he or she reached the age of eighteen. Then he or she would probably want nothing to do with him anyway.
He visited Abacus and Cornworthy Solicitors and signed the agreement.
Eliza relaxed, tried to enjoy her pregnancy, and looked forward to the birth of her first child.
Gabriel Black no longer gave a damn about the world.
What exciting story are you working on next?
It’s a story about a man who is haunted by an incident that happened in his youth. The son of a former major in the British Army, he finds his own journey to a battlefield with only memories of love, and conflicts about who needs saving.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was offered a contract by a publisher.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am a full-time author although I try to put the needs of my son and husband first. This isn’t always easy if I’m in the middle of a juicy bit that I just have to complete. That said, there is a lot more these days to being an author than just writing a good story. I do my own social media and marketing and it can be very time-consuming. I’m an early bird and like to start work about 7 o’clock in the morning. I begin with social media postings. Then I try to focus on my current story during school hours when the house is at its quietest. I target eight to ten thousand words a week. But if edits have come back from the publisher they take priority. I actually love going through the edits as it really takes you into the depths of your book. Sometimes when you’re writing you lose sight of the wood for the trees. Even after doing your own re-reads, you can still miss things. So the editing process is crucial. Likewise if I have a guest post scheduled, that needs to come first. After mealtime I will put in another hour or so but try to end the day by 8 o’clock. One of the reasons I wanted to write after retiring from finance, was because of the flexibility it gave me. But I have to be disciplined to make it all work.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have a different notebook for each story and the cover has to relate to the main character or story line in some way. It’s easier said than done and I’ll browse through good stationers for a cover that feels right. This has no bearing at all on the book cover I decide on; it merely touches on some characteristic of the story. As an example, for “The Secret At Arnford Hall” the notebook is an antique red color, embossed with an elegant border in gold. It expresses expense and elegance and I imagine something like this on a coffee table at Arnford Hall.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A missionary teaching English in Africa
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
One of my ambitions is to connect with a charity that deals with victims of abuse. I touch on such subjects in most of my stories and I would like to give something back to the community. My stories have happy endings but I know life isn’t always like that.