West Berkshire author Heather Barnett's latest book inspired by the small ads in Private Eye and reality tv
Lord Seeks Wife is the perfect antidote to the gloomy daily news bulletins we are subjected to.
The book is Thatcham-based author Heather Barnett’s second after her first, Acts of Kindness, came out in March 2021 and opened the door for Heather to revisit the draft of a book she first wrote 10 years ago.
She said: “Lord Seeks Wife came about when the likes of The X Factor and other reality tv programmes were dominating the television ratings and it was all about those open auditions.
“I wondered how that would play out if you combined that with one of those small ads you see in the back of, say, Private Eye.”
But after a series of knockbacks, she put her first draft in a drawer and forgot all about it.
Fast forward 10 years and publishers Serpentine Books asked her if she had any other plots in mind following the success of Acts of Kindness.
“I revived Lord Seeks Wife and with the help of an editor and a bit of trimming and discarding of characters, it was ready to face the reading world.”
Heather grew up in the village of Eastcott, near Devizes, and is no stranger to the village fete and the sort of characters that live within a small community.
“The characters in my books are not based on any one person. I might put in bits and pieces of characteristics or behaviours of people I have met.
“The name Noblet though is a real name. When I was at uni a friend mentioned that her father was nearly named Noblet because it was a family name that went back generations.
“Fortunately his parents were not impressed with the idea so it didn’t happen, but the name always stuck with me and I was determined to use it.”
Heather said she is heavily influenced by the works of PG Wodehouse and EF Benson and another heroine of hers, Jane Austen.
Is romantic fiction her favourite genre? “I like escapism – to be able to enter a world a bit softer than our world.”
Her day job is as a marketing specialist, but she says she has always been creative.
“When I was younger I wanted to be an actress, but at uni I changed tack and I absolutely love writing.
“I’m a 'lock myself away and just go into my own world' kind of writer.”
Heather’s next book is set in Cornwall and has the same feel-good vibe as her first two books.
“I love absurdity and ridiculousness and that is the route I will go down.
“I might return to Gently Rising and see how the characters are doing or come up with a different plot based in the village.
“When you are writing, the characters become more real so even though I might think I am going to send them in a certain direction, once I’ve written about them I realise that actually they would never do that, so I take them down a more logical path.”
Whichever path her next characters follow in Cornwall you can be sure it will be a riotous piece of escapism, which is something we could all do with everyone now and then.
• Lord Seeks Wife by Heather Barnett /Published by Serpentine Books /Available in bookshops and online.
REVIEW: A much-need piece of escapism
Lord Seeks Wife by Heather Barnett is daft – I’m not being rude.
It is daft in the same way that PG Wodehouse’s capers are nonsense and EF Benson’s gentle tales of Mapp & Lucia provide light relief.
The premise is simple enough. Lord Noblet de Beeble who resides in the quintessential English village of Gently Rising is looking for a wife.
Or more accurately his mother insists that he should look for a spouse and so he turns to the small ads column, as you would, to advertise for a potential suitor.
Noblet – real name Robert – is a harmless soul who is quite happy with his own company and in his own little world. But if his mother says he needs a wife, then he will obey.
With the help of his all the more worldly younger brother Henry, Noblet becomes acquainted with various would-be Lady de Beebles.
There are twists and turns at every stage, but as you would expect with a romantic comedy everything is resolved quite amicably.
The characters are all likeable – even the ‘baddies’ – from the mysterious Mia, to the self-centred Saskia, deluded Sinead and quiet Alice.
Athough the name Gently Rising is made up, it could very well exist in the depths of the English countryside. Think Midsomer or St Mary Mead, but without the murders.
If you think the outcome is obvious, think again, the reader is kept guessing to the end with a few surprises thrown in.