Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau has been getting great reviews as you can see on my home page. I’ve been writing lots of articles about the inspiration for the book.
Something About my New Book…
So, is Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau your first novel or your ninth? I’m confused!
It’s both in a way. I’ve had eight novels for young people published, but Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau is my first adult novel. So, in a way it’s a debut.
Tell us about the story.
Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau is a bittersweet romantic comedy about friendship, loneliness, and the unexpected places where we find fulfilment.
Why does April McVey, who hasn’t a romantic bone in her body, believe she’ll be the perfect assistant for Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau? Well, she won’t steal the best clients for herself. Also, she can’t help trying to work out what the clients really need to complete their lives. Which often isn’t marriage at all.
Matchmaker Martha hopes the lively Irish girl will be a breath of fresh air for the business which has been her passion since her husband died at Passchendaele.
But when lonely widower Fabian falls for April, Martha’s matchmaking skills are put to their greatest test. Is April as immune to romance as she claims? Is Martha’s interest in Fabian purely professional? Will there be enough happy endings to go round?
Why the 1930s?
I love reading and writing about the early twentieth century. As a child I pestered my granny for stories about ‘the olden days when you were a wee girl’ and my favourite novels included Ballet Shoes, the Chalet School books and the Swallows and Amazons books. As well as the stories I was always hungry for details about daily life – what did they eat? What did they wear? What comics did they read? What sweets did they buy?
My historical trilogy for young people explored the lives of young women in 1916, 1918 and 1921, so it felt very logical to set my first adult book a decade or so later. I love historical fiction which is very deeply rooted in its time, but which can make us look with fresh eyes at our own times. So although Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau is set in a world of rented rooms and black-and-white films, it’s also a world of romance fraud, gender politics and the looming threat of international unrest. And of course its themes of loneliness, hope and friendship are universal.
I began Mrs Hart in lockdown, when I was in the mood to read something that wasn’t too light, or too dark, something hopeful and uplifting but grounded in reality. I wrote the book I wanted to read. It’s been such a joy to write, and I can’t wait to share it with readers.
Was it harder to write for adults than for young people?
No – I would say it was easier. I could take more for granted, in terms of the reader’s experience of the world. It felt much freer, and I felt closer to my imagined readers.
I heard you got married while you wrote the book – aged 53!
That’s absolutely true. It’s one reason why it’s been three years since my last novel! Like my character April, I was very happily single for many, many years, until, aged 50, I fell for an old friend who was now a widower. There’s no doubt that falling in love so unexpectedly opened my mind and imagination to stories that I mightn’t have been so interested in before – especially stories of people who, as matchmaker Martha says, have had a difficult time and could do with a helping hand. Love isn’t just for the young and carefree!
As well as the three main characters – and you’ll have to read the book to find out how they all manage to get happy endings – I had great fun arranging futures for the bureau’s clients – some of whom were quite challenging.
Will there be a sequel to Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau?
I very much hope so! I’ve got lots of ideas about where April’s matchmaking spirit is going to take her next. In fact, I haven’t been able to resist writing them down, so watch this space.
Links to buy
Mrs Hart's Marriage Bureau is available to buy in ebook and paperback.
Of course, if you're lucky enough to have a local independent bookshop, they will be very happy to order it for you, and if you're in Ireland, north or south, look out for signed copies!