The Natural Ingénue

While exploring the idea of Natural Romance it occurred to me that my own personal style – the way I dress – also fits into this theme.Childhood styleLike most people, as a child, my parents dictated my outfits. In my case that meant wearing clothes that tended towards the tomboyish and outdoorsy – dungarees and checked shirts that were practical, hard-wearing and wouldn’t show the dirt – and chunky seventies style knitted dresses for special occasions. Does anyone remember Clothkits? (I’m really defining my age now).

Later, as a teenager, the garments I picked out were all about copying the latest fashions and trying to fit in with my friends, rather than choosing what might suit me personally. Experimentation was all part of the fun back then, but a glance at photos from that time is enough to prove that mistakes were made.

Grace Lowrie Teenage Years
Grace Lowrie, the teenage years

Trend-following has become far less important to me as I’ve grown older – feeling good in my own skin and not wasting money on clothes I won’t wear, have become priorities. A few years ago I attended a series of three style analysis sessions with Margaret, a wonderful woman from House of Colour, with the aim of determining which colours and clothes would suit me best, thereby making future wardrobe choices both easier and wiser. It was a lot of fun (I went with two friends), I learnt a great deal and I can highly recommend it.Autumn threadsAs a result of this process I was interested to discover that a Rich Autumn colour palette best suits my skin-tone (rather than black) and that and my predominant style personality is that of a Natural Ingénue. Basically I’m the sort of (contrary) person who looks good wearing feminine dresses teamed with chunky leather boots. Of course this is not to say that I don’t still favour the rock chick vibe on occasion, or that I don’t spend whole days in slouch pants and my comfiest, ugliest, slob gear, because I do – regularly – but I never felt less like myself than when trussed up in a smart suit and heels. Since the style classes I no longer feel any pressure to make that look work for me (luckily my day job doesn’t require a strict dress code) and I have more confidence in my own personal style.

Dress and bootsWhat I can’t help wondering is this: did the way my parents dressed me as a child have any bearing on what is now considered to be my style personality as an adult? Or would I always have ended up this way…? I won’t bore you with pictures of my various outfits – that’s what Pinterest is for – but I’m a sucker for a pretty fabric, so here are some of my favourite florals with a hint of romance:Grace Lowrie FabricsWhat is your style? Do you have a favourite outfit for writing in?

Secret Garden – Vanessa Conyers

Vanessa ConyersFor Christmas my wonderful sister gave me a beautiful gift – a small vase designed by ceramic artist, Vanessa Conyers. The vase, a part of her Secret Garden range, is so lovely and so perfectly fits with my idea of Natural Romance that I had to share it with you.

Secret Garden Vase

The original ‘devilishly delicate’ collection… A magical meadow where bunnies bounce and stags bellow under a molten sky…

Standing at just 8.4cm tall and 6.3cm in diameter this vessel is modestly-sized with a soft, slouching, overlapping shape – as if composed of fabric rather than finely-rolled clay. The exterior draws inspiration from nature and is lavished with a lustrous design of rose blooms and gold-flecked grass, while the interior is patterned with blue lace to striking effect. For me this vase perfectly bridges the divide between traditional and contemporary styles and lends a subtle, but glamorous, edge to my bedroom dresser.

Secret Garden InteriorDo you have a favourite piece of ceramic?

My Chelsea Flower Show 2017

I was in two minds about attending Chelsea Flower Show on Tuesday – partly because of the devastating terrorist attack, which had happened the night before in Manchester and left me feeling shaken and emotional, and partly because I usually visit the show with my mother. This year she was unable to accompany me due to ill health, but she insisted I go without her.

And I’m glad I did. It was a wonderful spectacle of colour, sunshine and positivity. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take as many photos as I intended because of problems with my camera phone (gotta love modern technology) but the few I did take I thought I’d share with you.

Chelsea Flower Show 2017

For me Kate Gould’s City Living garden was a particular highlight, as was Kazuyuki Ishihara’s Gosho No Niwa – No Wall, No War. The gardens are perfect illustrations of how even the smallest of spaces can be greened up – something becoming increasingly important in our cities where human population growth is exerting so much pressure. Pictures and details of all the show gardens can be found here:
https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/Gardens

Rogue PrimulaOne of my favourite pieces of planting was the woodland area of Chris Beardshaw’s Morgan Stanley garden – where a rogue, red primula utterly outraged a woman next to me in the crowd. The deliberately placed bloom, with its quietly clashing audacity, made me smile and, in my opinion, lifted the whole planting scheme. What do you think?

Cover Reveal – Safe With Me

I’m absolutely delighted to be able to share the brand new cover for my latest book with you – I think you’ll agree Accent Press have done me proud!

Safe With Me by Grace Lowrie

An emotional and evocative story about the deepest bonds of friendship.
Abandoned as children, Kat and Jamie were inseparable growing up in foster care. But their bond couldn’t protect them forever.
From a troubled upbringing to working in a London greasy spoon, Kat’s life has never been easy. On the surface Jamie’s living the high-life, but appearances can be deceiving.
When they unexpectedly reunite, the bond they share becomes too intense to ignore. But as secrets come back to haunt them, are they destined to be separated once more?
Perfect for fans of Hilary Boyd and Nicholas Sparks.

Safe With Me, a standalone novel and the first in The Wildham Series, will be published in both paperback and e-book on 22nd June 2017 – in time for the summer holidays – and is already available to pre-order online here:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071F2QZB7

A massive thank you to the team at Accent Press for all their hard work in bringing this book to life!

Ten Favourite Book Romances

I enjoy reading a wide range of fiction in a variety of different genres and my favourite authors range from Iain Banks to Sarah Waters; Chuck Palanhiuk to George R.R. Martin; and Kate Atkinson to Stieg Larsson. But I write Women’s Fiction and mainly Romance so I’ve come up with a list of ten favourites.10 Fave Book RomancesWhile not all are classed as ‘Romances’ these books contain love stories that inspire me. I am drawn to those with an unusual quirk to them, a sinister edge or a tragic undercurrent – traits that I try to bring to my own work. To narrow down the selection I’ve excluded fave classics such as Pride and Prejudice, and focused on those published within my lifetime. (The list is arranged alphabetically, because that was easier than trying to order them by preference).

Archers_VoiceArcher’s Voice by Mia Sheridan

Archer Hale, the tortured male lead in this story, is both original and beautifully compelling and the main reason this book made such an impression on me. Bree Prescott is a girl with her own problems, but has the right combination of skill and determination, to draw Archer out of his shell.

AtonementAtonement by Ian McEwan

A masterfully written book, by one of my favourite authors, which starts in 1935 and takes us on through the Second World War. The potential relationship between Cecilia and Robbie, is witnessed second-hand through the eyes of Cecilia’s younger sister Briony, and yet it is as romantic, powerful and moving as any I’ve ever read.

ControlControl by Charlotte Stein

I’m a huge fan of this author’s work – she has a distinctive, almost neurotic style of writing, which quickly becomes addictive. This is the story of a woman torn between two, very different, potential lovers and the book is both erotically charged and laugh-out-loud funny in places. I can’t recommend it enough.

Gabriels_InfernoGabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

For those who like a bit of taboo, this explores the relationship between a university professor and his student, and has a deliciously Gothic feel; woven out of literary themes of sin, hell and spiritual love. I must admit I didn’t enjoy the second book in this series as much, but I highly recommend this first one.

Night_OwlNight Owl by M. Pierce

This book also features an enigmatic male lead, in the form of reclusive writer Matt Sky, who is as bold and darkly intriguing as he is secretive. This book is the first in a trilogy, and although I’ve yet to read the third, I definitely recommend the first two.

One_DayOne Day by David Nicholls

The quirk of this book is how it cleverly follows the relationship between two people over twenty years, but only on the same day of each year. The characters of Emma and Dexter are brilliantly written and believable and the story moved me to tears.

On_The_IslandOn The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

The enduring appeal of this gem of a book for me, aside from the main characters being stranded together on a desert island, is the unusual dynamic between the two – Anna is thirteen years older than TJ and was due to be his tutor before they found themselves marooned. But as they struggle to survive, with only each other to rely on, the years pass and their relationship strengthens and deepens.

OutlanderOutlander by Diana Gabaldon

A gripping time-slip novel set in rugged Scotland. Claire, the heroine, is feisty and determined, and Jamie Fraser – a true hero in every sense of the word – is perhaps my favourite leading male character of all time. I don’t usually choose to read historical novels, generally preferring a contemporary atmosphere, but I am in awe of this author’s epic work and am currently reading the eighth book in this phenomenal series.

The_Bridges_Of_Madison_CountyThe Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

I first devoured this book, in one sitting, when I was just a teenager and I have never forgotten it. The poignant story of two people who meet and have a brief tender affair in middle age, is as memorable for its quietly beautiful setting, as it is for the fact it made me cry.

The_Time_Travelers_WifeThe Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

An enduring favourite and one of those books that really made me want to write. Henry is a sporadic time traveller but with no control over his ability, which often leads him to some dark places. The journey of Clare and Henry’s unusual relationship (she has known him since she was a child) is deeply emotional and told from both points of view.

What are your ten favourite book romances?

Natural Romance

While trying to decide what to blog about, I brainstormed a list of random things I liked – things that attracted and inspired me – without analysing or worrying about their importance or relevance as possible topics. So I was surprised to discover a common theme emerging – a sense; an overall tone – linking several of my passions. It seems my unconscious style choices, tastes and aesthetic preferences may not be as randomly scattered as I once assumed and I found myself asking:

What is this common thread, which helps to define me as me?

Girl at WoodsOf course I now have an urge to explore this idea – to name it – as if it’s a genre or flavour, or some kind of philosophy; as if by ordering and making sense of it, I might better understand myself. I’m calling it Natural Romance for now, until I come up with something better, but I don’t think it’s something unique to me; on the contrary I suspect that as a general concept it may well resonate with many other people, women in particular, but do let me know if you disagree. In a nutshell I’m drawn to nature and love and the crossover/interaction between the two.

When I say nature I’m mainly referring to plants (rather than animals or the elements) as that’s the aspect I’m most familiar with. I worked as a garden designer for many years and I am instinctively drawn to green spaces and the beauty of flowers. Humans have long tried to tame and control nature and while our gardens range from highly manicured Zen spaces to relaxed wild-flower meadows, and everything in between, nature’s gritty and optimistic spirit always finds a way to shine through.

Wild butterflyAnd when I refer to romance, I don’t mean a twee, cliched perfectionism, but rather the messy and often beautiful struggle of love in relationships.

Love struggleIt is this emotional mix of nature, love and hope that really appeals to me – especially when expressed through design. Over time I intend to blog about a variety of different topics that fall under this heading. But one of the most obvious examples must be the international style of Art Nouveau, defined in the Collins English Dictionary as follows:

A style of art and architecture of the 1890s, characterised by swelling sinuous outlines and stylised natural forms, such as flowers and leaves.

My mother has collected vintage decorative tiles of this period for years, so it was easy to be swayed by their beauty. It’s only now that I realise just why these 6×6 inch tiles appeal to me so much, and I wanted to share some of my favourites with you.

Art Nouveau Tiles CollageFor me these designs capture the essence of nature with a feminine sensuality that speaks of romance. So are you a fan of Art Nouveau? Perhaps you prefer the cleaner lines of the Art Deco style – there is often overlap between the two. Do let me know.