Let’s All Make Believe (and a giveaway)

Thanks so much to my quasi-neighbor Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett for inviting me back to talk about Just Make Believe, the third Lady Adelaide Mystery set in the 20s. The 1920s. I’d hate to set a novel in the 2020s—it would be marked up by an editor for including way too much drama, death, and despair. I like to kill off people on the page as much as the next writer, but reality is definitely too real lately.

The 1920s are fraught enough: my widowed heroine Lady Adelaide Compton is off to a house party at fabled Fernald Hall, hosted by a disabled Great War hero and his glamorous wife. The world is still feeling the effects of political upheaval and its own pandemic, with unemployment skyrocketing and soldiers begging on the streets. Addie is keenly aware of the injustices around her, but she attempts to shut it all out and relax for the week. There are new garden improvements to inspect, and quiet rambles around the estate in her elegant new riding habit. How hard can it be to enjoy delicious dinners and the companionship of her oldest friends and neighbors?

Things go awry immediately—the horse throws her, her hostess is murdered, and another body is discovered buried in the garden. But having had some unfortunate previous experiences, she knows just who (whom?) to call—Detective Inspector Devenand Hunter of Scotland Yard.

I’ve used 1920s song titles and their lyrics for inspiration in this series, and Make Believe’s first stanza is the perfect intro:

Make Believe

There are times when you feel sad and blue
Something’s wrong, you don’t know what to do
When you feel that way, stop and think awhile
Just make believe and smile

(Music and lyrics: Jack Shilkret/Benny Davis, 1921)

Just about everything is not as it seems at Fernald Hall, and it’s up to Addie, Dev, and the ghost of Addie’s late and unlamented husband Rupert to figure out what’s what. It’s handy to have a ghostly assistant to rummage about undetected, although Rupert was an awful pain when he was alive, and is still damned annoying in death. Think Blithe Spirit, Topper, and The Thin Man. No guts or gore in this cozy, just pure escape.

I’ve escaped to my own share of English country houses and their magnificent gardens, sadly not as a guest but a paying visitor. I’m in absolute awe of what can be accomplished…if you have the money and the staff! I’ve always done a bit of gardening on a much, much more modest scale in any house we’ve lived in. Last year we moved into a new house (well, it was built in 1880 but it’s new to us) with a park-like three-tiered garden in the back. The previous owner is twenty years younger than I and probably part mountain-goat, and I struggle clumsily to climb the stone steps to the top terrace. But I can make believe (get it?) that I’m in a posh private oasis, far from the troubles of the 2020s. There’s a small stone pond with a burbling fountain, lots of perennials and flowering shrubs. I’ve made my own improvements with scores of day lilies. I can identify most of the stuff that’s growing, but some things remain a mystery, which is as it should be.

Where do you go to escape? Do you garden? Visit gardens? Spend too much at garden centers? I kill everything indoors but seem to have luck outside. I’m giving away a signed paperback copy of Just Make Believe (or any book from my backlist) to a commenter! You can read the first chapter on my website: https://maggierobinson.net/books/just-make-believe/


July 28, 2020 update from Maine Crime Writers: The winner of the giveaway is Alice. Congratulations! Maggie will be contacting you by email.

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18 Responses to Let’s All Make Believe (and a giveaway)

  1. Monica says:

    I’ve got an absolutely un-green thumb! Altho, my house plants (the ones that have survived) have followed me from house to house since the 1980’s. But there are fewer and fewer every year. I’m always drawn to houses with lovely gardens but I make short shrift of them once I move in.

    My escape hatch is the door to the attic. The space is partially finished and I’ve created a tree top haven for my sewing machine and comfy writing chair. The window overlooks the peak of a lower roof and birds often perch there only feet away from me.

  2. I escape in books and writing short stories, but gardening is in there as well. I’m a third generation gardener. My grandmother had amazing gardens in West New Portland when I was a kid. Mom not only gardened, she researched things like the history of rhubarb in America, had a column ‘Downeast Gardening Ways’ in the Camden Herald and was a member of Garden Writers of America. Sadly, we’ve had to cut back now that we’ve moved to half an acre and deer are getting more from the garden than we are thus far this year.

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      Oh, deer. Our garden is fenced, but I know a whole herd (pack?) of deer live right at the end of the street in Bonney Woods. They were hanging out in my driveway this winter! So far I’m just battling chipmunks and birds for the blueberries, and they’re winning.

  3. Kay Garrett says:

    We love to garden. However, it’s been a few years since we have been able to. First we were full time caregivers to my Mom who came to live with us after cancer surgery and the onset of Alzheimer. Then we downsized and moved to the Ozark Mountains. Now that we are settled and have some time, once again we are playing in the soil and having a ball doing it. I might add we live in Stone County which very aptly got its name which makes it somewhat of a challenge.

    Last fall we had the rock layer come back and put up the border for our raised vegetable bed. We are enjoying the bounty of it’s harvest now with lots of fresh tomatoes, peppers and squash. Although the hot summer heat has taken it’s toll on the poor squash. That’s ok because we have oodles of it when it was producing not only for us but for everyone else as well. I’ll post a photo on Facebook just so you can see how fabulous it’s grown this year.

    We also love our flowers both for their beauty and for the bees and birds they bring into our space. We have everything from hydrangea to zinnias that give us both color outside as well as inside when I cut some for the vases.

    Our escape place is on our front porch with the ceiling fans running and cool drink by our side. We are fortunate to live in the Ozark Mountains just outside of town on a small acreage. We are visited daily by a wide array of critter visitors from the winged varieties to those on four legs like deer, rabbits, fox, bobcat and squirrels to name a few. Hubby and I both love photography. We love to set up the cameras. Then all we have to do is be patient for our subject matter to appear. When they are enjoying the shade somewhere else or off visiting friends, I pick up my book and enjoy reading there as well.

    Although we love to travel and see wonderful places this great country of ours has to offer, we are very blessed to live in a home we love, in a place we have always dreamed of living and both books and critters to keep us entertained during these long days of summer.

    Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to win a copy of “Just Make Believe” which sounds wonderful and is now on my TBR list. Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      Wow! Wild Kingdom! We live in town now, but had a house on a lake with 9 acres. Saw lots of deer, foxes, wild turkeys, loons, eagles, osprey, turtles, etc. One of my sons-in-law is quite an outdoorsman and kept identifying scat from creatures we didn’t see! He swore there was a moose but in 9 years we never saw it.

      We’re growing tomatoes and peppers. There are 3 blueberry bushes but as I said above, the blueberries are disappearing!

  4. Alice says:

    I have always enjoyed gardening both outdoors and houseplants. Lately, the indoor plants seem less satisfying and I have been merrily giving them away, one by one.
    The Georges River Land Trust garden tour has always been a highlight of the summer in years past. Instead, we now wander around our neighborhood enjoying what each family has done to make yards beautiful.
    We always look forward to a new Lady Adelaide and donate our books to the Thomaston Library after we read them.

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      I am delighted you like the series and are donating the books! As a former library clerk I love libraries. I also love garden tours. One of my daughters is an property manager for a 100 acre estate on Islesboro, and her gardens are gorgeous. They usually do an annual garden tour out there, and it’s so much fun to see what people plant.

      • Anonymous says:

        I was also a librarian, both a school librarian and a reference librarian in the federal government. Wonderful career for someone who loves reading and loves people.
        As for gardening, I was delighted to learn that my recently retired son is interested in plants. Didn’t fall too far from the tree!

  5. susanvaughan says:

    Excellent post, Maggie. While I do garden, these days it’s with more reluctance than when I started. Someday I hope to stay in one of those English country houses you describe, where I could enjoy the gardens without having to deal with weeds and pests. Just Make Believe is on my TBR pile right now!

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      Yes, the key to gardening is a gardener, LOL. We have a lawn guy to mow the tiny bit we have now, but he hates to weed and doesn’t. Just wait until he hears I ordered 200 purple tulip bulbs for the fall! Actually he planted lots of bulbs at the other house, so I hope he won’t be too mad!

  6. Sally Fortney says:

    Yes, I love to garden but only outside. I have one tomato plants, some herbs, and lots of flowers. I’d prefer your first book as you are a new author to me. Stay safe and well.

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      You too, Sally! I feel pretty safe in the garden as long as I don’t fall down the terraces. 🙂

  7. Tom Burns says:

    As a writer myself, I go into my own head to escape. It’s the perfect place, for there I can be anywhere or be anyone I want to be! Right now, I’m writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche for an anthology, so I’m meandering through Victorian London courtesy of the Internet. I’d love to win a copy of your book – I haven’t read a good English cozy in way too long.

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      Tom, it’s so amazing what you can find for research online. I once had a heroine who was a lace-maker. Having no clue (I can barely sew a straight seam), I watched YouTube videos–still would be unable to personally do it with my 10 thumbs but it helped with my character. Have fun with Sherlock!

  8. Jane Nelson says:

    Love, love, love this series. And reading of somewhat more lighthearted adventures 100 years ago really does take one’s minds off of the various troubles today. Can’t wait to read this one!

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      Jane, thank you! Writing it has kept me out of trouble, and I’m so glad people are having fun with it!

  9. bn100 says:


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