Behind the Book posts look at the inspiration behind and details within my books – and where they come from. First up, my Grandparents’ Welsh Dresser, as featured in Room for Love.
When we were trying to sell our old house, there was one question every single person who came to view it asked. Not about local schools, or parking, or the mythical underfloor heating we’d been assure the house had when we bought it (but which turned out to actually just be the hot water pipes). No. Everyone asked:
“Will you sell the dresser with the house?”
Perhaps if they’d known how splintered and lopsided it is, they wouldn’t have been interested. Then again, perhaps they would – it’s the quirks it has that makes my dresser so unique and appealing.
I’ve written about my Welsh dresser before, as it’s almost a member of the family, these days. It belonged to (I think) my Great, Great Grandma – although where she got it from, we’re not really sure, so it might be older. My whole life, it lived in the dining room at my Grandparents’ house (fondly called HQ), a reminder of the time my Great Grandma came to stay for a weekend and never left. She moved the furniture in shortly afterwards.
That dresser presided over family dinners and events for decades. Every Sunday lunch, every Christmas dinner. It survived four children and eight grandchildren running rampage around it. It even survived my Auntie Barbara walking along the back of it as a child, and causing the top half to separate from the bottom and crash to the floor – almost killing Uncle Stephen, and shattering all of Grandma’s Willow Pattern plates. (Fortunately, it got caught on the window jam before it hit Uncle Stephen. The hole it caused is still there today.)
I loved that dresser. Even polishing it was a pleasure, because the heady scent of the wood polish just smelled like home to me.
Shortly before my Grandma died, I spoke with her on the phone. I’d just bought a much smaller and cheaper pine dresser for my house, and my husband was painting it white, I told her.
“I don’t know what will happen to our dresser once I’m gone,” she said. “It goes to your Mum in the will, because she’s always loved it. But I don’t think they have room for it in that house.” She paused. “Maybe you could have it.”
After the funeral, we had to pack up the house to sell it. We all got to take something from the house as a memento, and other things were split according to the will. Mum took the dining table and the heavy wooden chest from the hallway, amongst other things. We all strived to keep what mattered to us, what said ‘HQ’ or ‘Grandma and Granddad’ when we looked at it. But it was a big house, with lots of furniture, and in the end, a lot of it had to go to a house clearance sale where it made pennies.
“What about the Welsh dresser?” I asked, before the sale.
“I’m not sure anyone has room for it,” Mum said, sadly.
“I have room. I’ll take it and look after it, until someone else has space,” I said.
Amazingly, I did have room. We’d recently moved into our first home, after years renting, and the house was far larger than anything we’d ever had before. It also had a strangely shaped kitchen, with one long wall empty at the end, too close to the doors to put a table there. We measured up; the Welsh dresser fitted as if it had been made to sit there.
These days, the dresser lives in my new dining room. I decorate it for the seasons, use it to display cards and artwork, keep cake in the glass dome on the top… and every time I look at it, I think of my Grandparents, and my family, and find a little piece of home, a long way from Wales.
In fact, I love that dresser so much I even wrote it (and some smashing crockery, in honour of Auntie Barbara) into a book:
When wedding planner Carrie Archer inherits the crumbling Avalon Inn where she spent her childhood summers, she knows she’ll do whatever it takes to make it home. With no money for renovations, that means finding investors if she ever hopes to turn the Avalon into a dream wedding venue. But Carrie has been left more than the inn—she’s also inherited its occupants, including three senior citizens, a single-father chef with childcare issues, a panicky receptionist, and one very gorgeous gardener. So when her cousin Ruth declares her intention to get married at the Avalon on Christmas Eve, Carrie finds herself juggling decorating with dance nights, budgeting with bridge games…and sabotage with seduction.
With only three days to go until Carrie’s cousin and her entourage arrived, things were looking pretty good. Nate had done what he could in the gardens, given his limited finances and the fact that it was now October and most of the plants were ready for a long, peaceful sleep. Not unlike himself.
Carrie had been dragging furniture from one room to another, painting over the wallpaper in the bridal suite with a thick, creamy paint that would probably do for a week or two, until the pattern started to show through again. “I know we’ll have to do it properly later,” she’d said to him a few days earlier, as he helped her shift a chaise longue into the newly painted room. “But for now, I just want things to look clean and bright. We can work on actually making them that way when we have a bit more time and money.”
She was working on the lobby today, cleaning rather than painting, Nate had seen, passing through on his way to the kitchen. The unicorn tapestry was down and draped across one of the armchairs in the drawing room. He wondered if she was going to put it back.
The Seniors had been squirrelling around the inn for the last week and half, doing God only knew what. Nate had decided early on in the plan that the only way he was going to get through the whole enterprise without losing it with Stan or one of the others, or Carrie, was to let the Seniors get on with whatever they wanted, and to look after his area—the garden—and anything else Carrie needed him to do.
But today, he had a much better plan. Jacob was doing a trial run of his romantic three-course dinner for Ruth and Graeme, and Nate figured he’d need a tester, right? Unfortunately, it appeared he wasn’t the only one who’d had the idea.
“Let me guess,” Jacob said, defending the pan on the stove from Izzie’s wooden spoon. “You thought you’d come and see if I needed someone to taste the duck.”
“Many hands make light work,” Cyb said from her position next to the cheesecake. Nate used the distraction to sidle up to the rack where the duck was resting.
“Too many cooks,” Jacob muttered before smacking Nate’s hand away from the meat. “Not yet. Wait until it’s got the berry sauce on it.”
Nate obediently stepped back, knowing the full dish would be worth waiting for. “Did you make the garlic potatoes?” he asked. As he moved towards the staff counter to put the kettle on, something hit him at thigh level and held on.
“Uncle Nate!” Georgia squealed. “Are you going to play with me next?”
Glancing up, Nate saw his grandmother appear in the doorway, her usually immaculate hair in disarray. “Someone else’s turn to babysit now,” she said, leaning heavily against the frame. She looked exhausted, Nate realised. What on earth had they been up to all week? “Stan needs me to do something with pictures up on the landing.”
“I’ll watch her,” Izzie said, abandoning her spoon. Georgia went happily to the receptionist, reaching out a hand for her to hold. Nate wondered how much time they’d been spending together, and whether that was related to how much time Izzie wanted to be spending with Jacob. Probably without his daughter around. “Come on, Georgie. We’ll go play hide and seek with the curtains in the dining room.”
They followed Moira out, and Nate turned to his cousin with a questioning eyebrow.
“It’s a one-off, I swear,” Jacob said, holding up his hands. “Her mum couldn’t have her, the childminder’s sick, and Gran was already here helping Stan. She’s going to take her home in a little while.”
“None of my business,” Nate said, even though it was, really. Jacob and Georgia were family, and the inn was home. It all mattered to him. “Just… Carrie’s pretty stressed this week. Might not be a good week for her to meet Georgia.”
On cue, Nate’s phone rang, with Carrie’s name flashing across the top. “I’m in the kitchen,” he said as he answered. “About ten metres away. You saw me come in here.”
“I’m on my way into town now,” Carrie answered, and he heard traffic in the background. “Need varnish for the reception desk. I forgot to check if there was anything you wanted for the garden.”
“A greenhouse,” he answered, then laughed to make sure she knew it was a joke. It was hard to tell with Carrie at the moment.
“I’ll take that as a no,” she said, and hung up.
Nate turned to Cyb. “Boss is out for the next hour or so, I reckon. If there’s anything you need to do downstairs today, this might be the time.” Leaving him all alone with Jacob’s trial run.
Cyb nodded. “I’ll go and check with—”
A loud crash from the dining room interrupted her, and Nate winced. Jacob abandoned his saucepan, and ran through to find Georgia. Nate flicked off the gas and followed, Cyb right behind him.
The large oak Welsh dresser that ran along the longest wall in the dining room, laden with rows of bright, white china on its narrow shelves, now leaned at an angle, jammed against the door, and its shelf part entirely separated from the cupboard below. Splinters of bright white china lay all around. To one side stood a trembling Georgia, silent tears dripping from huge blue eyes. Izzie knelt beside the girl, arms wrapped around her waist, holding her back from the carnage.
“What the hell happened?” Nate asked as Jacob rushed to his daughter, pushing Izzie to one side.
“She wanted to hide behind the dresser, I think,” Izzie said, her voice soft and shaken. “I was seeking, so I had my eyes closed…”
Nate picked his way through the broken crockery to examine the dresser. It had been made to come apart, at least, presumably to help with moving. Which meant it should be possible to put it back together. Maybe even before Carrie got back. He opened the cupboard doors and stared at the mass of broken plates and bowls inside. “Was this all our china?”
“The good stuff,” Jacob confirmed, looking up from Georgia.
“Right.” Nate shut the doors again. “I think I can fix the dresser, but you two—” he pointed to Cyb and Izzie “—you need to sort the crockery issues. Before the show round.”
Izzie looked terrified. Cyb, on the other hand, straightened her shoulders and said, “I’ve got an idea.”
“Glad to hear it,” Nate said, and went to fetch his tools.
To read the rest, check out Room for Love, the first in my Love Trilogy, from Carina Press
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