I have just read this very interesting post about the hot new genre on The Passive Voice– Farm-Lit. As in, town girl ditches stilettos for wellies and falls in love with country life, cows, sheep and the great outdoors.
This made me feel very excited. Because-guess what? I have just finished writing EXACTLY such a novel. I wrote this book just for fun, inspired by my own experiences of doing up a wreck and being catapulted from city life into country life. Shows how writing what you enjoy sometimes hits what’s in the air…
In Hot Property, my new novel, due out mid-June, Megan O’Farrell, city girl and fashion expert learns that she has inherited an old wreck of a house in County Kerry in the wild west of Ireland. What follows are hilarious adventures, frustrations and romantic encounters with not one but two handsome hunks…
Excerpt from chapter one:
“‘To my great-niece, Megan O’Farrell, daughter of my nephew, Sean, I bequeath my house at Kilshee, County Kerry and all the land thereof ’.”
Megan blinked and stared at the young solicitor, momentarily forgetting the cold air creeping up her bare legs in the small office. Having nearly drifted off while he droned on about inheritance laws and other legal gobbledygook, she was now wide awake.
“House? Old Uncle Pat willed me his house? That lovely little farmhouse?” She paused, trying to take it in. “‘And the land thereof’? So there’s land as well as a house?”
“Yes. Ten acres.” He smiled. “Congratulations. I’m sure it was a pleasant surprise.”
“Yes, of course.” Megan was stunned. This was like a dream. She instantly imagined herself in that cute little house by the sea, with the turf fire burning in the grate and the smell of roast lamb wafting around. “I didn’t know exactly what I’d inherited. I was hoping it would be some money. I could do with a bit of cash right now.”
His eyes twinkled. “Couldn’t we all? But this is even better, isn’t it?”
“You bet.” Megan beamed at him. “A house,” she mumbled, “a little house by the sea…”
“Excellent location,” the solicitor said. “A spit from the ocean, at the foot of the Benoskee. Wonderful views and great walking, if you’re into hill walking.” He glanced at her shoes. “But perhaps not.”
She looked down at her strappy sandals. “Well,” she started, “I would naturally change my shoes if I were to go hill walking.” She tugged at her skirt, regretting her choice of clothing, but it had been hot and sunny in Dublin when she left early that morning. Here, in in the south west, it was misty and chilly.
“Of course. But you don’t look like the outdoorsy type.”
Annoyed by the slight scorn in his voice, Megan shook back her hair. “You mean because I don’t have chunky, hairy legs and a butch hairdo? Actually, if that’s what it takes…” she glanced at the little sign on his desk, “Mr Nolan, I wouldn’t be interested in climbing hills.”
“Right,” he muttered, his voice cooler. He turned back to the document. “So, there we are. You’re the proud owner of a house.”
“In the Kingdom,” Megan added.
He glanced at her. “Are you taking the mickey?”
“Taking the mickey,” he repeated. “As in being ironic.”
“Why? Isn’t that what they call Kerry? The Kingdom?”
“Yes. But it depends on the way you say it. It can sound like a sneer.”
“Why would I sneer at Kerry?”
He shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. Dublin socialite, slumming it, popped into my mind. Having a laugh at the peasants.”
Megan bristled. “You’re very quick to judge by appearances, I see.”
“Well, a person’s appearance is often a good hint of their general lifestyle and attitudes, I find. As a lawyer, I often have to make a quick assessment.”
“And how often do you get it wrong?”
He grinned. “Never.”
She smirked. “You just did.”
His smile stiffened. “That’s a first.” He adopted a more serious expression. “Are you married? Sorry, but I have to ask. For the purposes of the registration of the property.”
“Can’t you tell? I mean your powers of observation being so great, one would expect you to know whether I’m a married or a single ‘socialite’.” Megan drew breath. She knew she sounded bitchy but the way he was sizing her up made her feel uncomfortable.
“I take it you’re not,” he retorted.
“What makes you say that?”
“No wedding ring. And…uh, your general attitude.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. You seem a little prickly.”
Megan straightened up on the rickety chair. “I must say your attitude is, uh, a little unprofessional, if you don’t mind my saying so.” She was going to add that his white fisherman’s sweater and jeans were not appropriate for a solicitor but changed her mind. Why sink to his level?
Their eyes locked for a loaded minute or so, until Nolan turned back to his document. “You’re right. Please accept my sincere apologies.”
Megan sighed, too tired to keep up the fight. “Apology accepted. Sorry if I seem a little irritable but I’m very tired. I practically got up at dawn to drive down here, and I haven’t had any breakfast. So, maybe we could get back to business? I’m sure you have other clients who need your attention. Or you have to go and defend someone in court or something.”
“Yes, I do actually.” He cleared his throat. “So, married or single?”
Is being newly divorced “single”? She found it hard to say the word “divorced”. It was an admittance of failure, somehow, of not having succeeded in keeping a man. Of having been rejected. Even saying that word brought her back to a place she was trying to forget. “I’m not married,” she said after a moment’s deliberation.
He wrote something on the document. Then glanced up. “In a relationship?”
She let out a little laugh. “Sounds like something from Facebook.”
He coloured slightly. “I do have to ask these questions, you know.”
“I see. Okay. No. I’m not in a relationship. At the moment.”
“Right.” He scribbled something. Then he looked up. “You’re on Facebook?”
“I suppose.” He peered at her. “You have a lot of friends there?”
“Uh, yes. Twelve,” Megan said without thinking. “…hundred,” she added, to make it sound less pathetic.
He looked at her with respect. “You have twelve hundred friends on Facebook?”
She met his gaze. “That’s right.”
“Amazing. I only have two hundred or something. But I don’t spend much time on it.”
Tired, fed up and now so hungry, the rumble of her stomach echoed around the small room, Megan sighed. “Neither do I. Can we sort this out, and then I’ll sign on the dotted line. Once I have the keys, I can go and take a look at the house.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible.”
Megan stared at him. “What? You just told me I owned a house and then—”
Nolan sighed. “I explained all that before I read the will. It’s the subject of probate.”
“Probate? Uh, what does that actually mean?”
Nolan adopted a business-like expression. “Probate is a way to determine who has ownership of the property and allows those who may have unpaid debts or bills to make a claim against the estate. There is a probate court which works with this type of thing. It involves executing the will or establishing a means of disposing of property when there isn’t a will.”
Megan blinked. “Oh. I see. But there is a will.”
He nodded. “Yes, but it has to be established that your uncle was actually the only owner of the property when he died.”
“But isn’t that the job of the executor?”
“Yes,” Nolan said. “And I’m the executor. Unusual, but your uncle appointed me because he said he trusted me. He didn’t really explain why he wanted you to have the house, though. Do you know?”
“No. Other than that it should have gone to my dad, but he died two years ago. I didn’t even know Uncle Pat that well. We spent a summer with him when I was eight but I haven’t seen him since. My dad didn’t talk about him much, or had any contact with him, as far as I know.”
He studied her for a moment. “You’re very like your uncle, you know.”
“Am I? I don’t remember what he looked like.”
“Red hair, brown eyes. Just like you. The same strong chin.” He nodded. “Yes. You’re the image of him.”
“I look like my dad, everyone says. But maybe Uncle Pat and he were alike, then.”
“Probably. And your uncle had no children of his own…” Nolan shuffled through his papers. “I think it said something about not wanting to give it to those who didn’t deserve it… I had it here somewhere…”
Megan tried to curb her impatience. She wanted to get out of there, have something to eat and then drive around for a bit to get her bearings. Daniel Nolan was a good-looking man, with his hazel eyes, thick, sandy hair and tall frame, but there was something about him that made her bristle. “Never mind,” she said. “I’m sure there was a good reason. How long will the probate court take?”
Nolan shrugged. “Depends. Could take a couple of months or a year.”
“Oh, shit,” Megan blurted out.
“Quite.” Then he seemed unable to hold in the smile she suspected had been hovering on his lips for some time. His white teeth against his light tan instantly took years off him. “I know. It would piss me off big time, too.”
Megan couldn’t help returning his smile. “Well, I suppose I’ll just have to be patient. But I was so looking forward to telling my sister. She always thought I was useless. But now that I own property, she might change her tune.”
“Why can’t you tell her? You’ll get the house sooner or later.”
“Hmm, no. I’ll wait until I am the rightful owner. Then I’ll wave the deeds in her face.”
“What do you think you’ll do with it?”
“I mean,” he continued, “are you keeping it or are you going to sell it?”
“I don’t really know,” Megan said. “I’d like to see it first.”
“If you want to sell, let me know. It’s in a very good location and would sell quickly. The land could be sold separately as grazing land. Farmers in the area are always looking for extra fields.”
“Okay. I’ll think about it.”
“It’s pretty wrecked, you know. It’ll take a lot of work to make it habitable.”
Megan stood up. “Well, we’ll see. I might be able to do it up myself. I’m pretty good with a hammer and nails.”
“It’s more than banging a few nails into a wall, I’m afraid. Or hanging up pretty curtains. It’ll be a while before you can invite your trendy friends over from Dublin.”
“I might find a builder willing to give me a good price,” Megan said, trying to look as if restoring houses was something she did as a hobby.
He laughed. “Around here? This is Kerry, not Dublin. Builders are scarce, and a cheap, honest one even scarcer.”
Megan sighed. “Well, we’ll see. Right now, I just want to go and have some breakfast and then get going. It’s a long drive back.”
He rose. “You know, you could go and have a look at the house if you want. I can’t give you the keys, but no harm done if you just have a look from the outside.”
She was going to say no and flaunt out of his office, but her curiosity got the better of her. “That would be great.”
“I could come with you, if you can wait until lunchtime.”
“No thank you. I can manage all by myself. Just tell me where it is, and I’ll be on my way.”
He picked up a brochure. “Here’s a very good map and a description of the house. It was done before your uncle died. He was thinking of selling, as he was in a nursing home then. But he died before he had a chance to go through with it. We got a few very good offers, actually.”
He nodded. “Yes, my dad is a real-estate agent, and we often work together. Those offers are still on the table. We told the prospective buyers we would ask you what you wanted to do and let them know.”
Megan stood at the door, hesitating. “How much did they offer?”
“With the land, two hundred and fifty K. Just the house and the small garden, a hundred and fifty K.”
“K? You mean thousand? Two hundred and fifty thousand? Euros?”
He smirked. “No, peanuts.”
“Ha, ha.” Megan took the brochure and stuffed it into her tote bag. “I’ll decide when the time comes.” She held out her hand. “Goodbye, and thanks for your help.”
He took Megan’s hand and held it a moment longer than absolutely necessary. “You’re welcome. By the way, there’s a restaurant down the street, where you can get breakfast. I get the feeling you need ‘the full Irish’.”
Megan wrinkled her nose. “Never touch that horrible stuff.”
He laughed. “No, I suppose it’s not very healthy. But sometimes it’s a great pick-me-up after a heavy night. They do a great one there that few people can say no to.”
“I’m sure I can resist the temptation.”
He grinned. “You’re probably not that easy to seduce.”
“Not with sausage and bacon in any case.” Megan withdrew her hand. “Goodbye, Mr Nolan.”
“Goodbye.” He winked. “Enjoy the breakfast.”
So… that’s the start. And, just to put you in the picture, or the setting, if you prefer:
The drive to the house took about half an hour from Tralee. Megan passed through Camp and took the right turn on the road toward Castlegregory, along the Atlantic coast. The sun appeared from behind the clouds, turning the water of Tralee Bay deep turquoise. With the dramatic backdrop of majestic mountains, it was the most stunning scenery she had ever seen. She had trouble keeping her eyes on the road, wanting to take in all the beautiful sights. The blue sky. The endless ocean. Seabirds gliding, dipping, rising again. She had to stop several times to allow her senses to take it all in.
On an impulse, she drove past the turn she should have taken and continued on, past the village and out towards Brandon, turning up the road to the Connor pass. She wanted to get up there to see the views of the whole of Dingle, so she could get an idea of the landscape and the setting of this peninsula she hadn’t visited for so many years.
After driving up the scary hairpin bends, she finally reached the top of the pass and the viewing point.
She got out of the car, looked to the north side of the peninsula and recognised Castlegregory, that lovely decrepit old village with its tangle of cottages and Victorian houses. Further out, the Maharees, with its low-lying landscape, a scimitar of sand edged with long golden beaches, pushed flat and green into the wind-ruffled water of Tralee Bay. The mountains of the Dingle Peninsula, the long spine of Slieve Mish inland, the hills around Mount Brandon away in the west across Brandon Bay, outlined in dove grey and pink against the ever-changing sky. And the Atlantic spread out below, the intense blue meeting the sky at the horizon and the waves crashing onto the rocks.
Out in mid June. I’ll keep you posted.