A Cruise to the British Isles

An affable cruise representative met us at Heathrow Airport, London, and accompanied us to the bus that drove a whole group of passengers to the ship terminal in Southampton, where we boarded the ship, our home away-from-home for the next twelve days. We didn’t visit London where we have previously spent time.

The next morning we docked in Guernsey Island (St. Peter Port), 30 miles west of Normandy,  where the French author Victor Hugo lived in exile for 25 years at Hautevile House and wrote both Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. We were welcomed with a gorgeous sunny weather and 70 oF temperature for our visit of the island, an idyllic paradise with cobbled streets and picturesque seafront marina.

Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom but it is part of the British Islands. Residents speak English and French, and their money is similar to the English pound. Many of the houses in Guernsey’s west have an unusual strange piece of granite sticking out of them – these are “witches’ seats”. Back when they supposedly ran wild in the western parishes, residents built them onto their houses so that the witches could stop and rest, rather than causing havoc. The world-renowned Guernsey cow produces some of the most rich and delicious dairy products in the world.

St. Peter Port is the main town on the island of Guernsey. It’s full of hills, colors, and super cute shops! The top speed limit in Guernsey is 35 miles/hour. If you drive along the coastline of Guernsey you will hit military fortifications almost every 2 minutes or so. These were built during the Napoleonic wars to protect Guernsey from France.

The Little Chapel is actually the smallest chapel in the world! But the astonishing thing is that the entire chapel, interior and exterior, is covered with broken bits of pottery, glass, and china. 

We sailed to Ireland and stopped in Cork where we visited the romantic ruins of Blarney Castle. In the Blarney garden, the trees were dressed in knitted wool. Many visitors climbed the one-person narrow stairs to the Stone of Eloquence, all the way to the top of the castle (NOT me) and admired the amazing view.

In the Blarney village, we shopped for wool and Waterford crystal, and didn’t buy any, but we enjoyed watching young girls performing an Irish dance for us.

Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland is an old city boasting imposing castles and estates. The Druids believe the shamrock could ward off evil and the Christians believe it represent the Holy Trinity. In Dublin, we visited Trinity College and St. Patrick Cathedral.

Trinity College is huge, with several buildings. We were impressed by the crowd of young people and students. A Ford ancestor was autistic, and bullied by his friends. He was shot and fell from the window and died. They say that his ghost roams the University ground. His sibling left and went to the US. His grandson is Henry Ford.

TRINITY COLLEGE founded in 1592

At St. Patrick Cathedral we saw  the tile of Dean Jonathan Swift, who had been the dean of the Cathedral. When someone dozed during his homily, he had a chaplain drag his sermon chair to the culprit and hit him with his cane. My son-in-law’s grandmother had the same name and claimed him as an ancestor.

Our next stop was Liverpool, England, where we visited a very modern and circular church, the Catholic Metropolitan church of Christ the King and the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral that is humongous, of Gothic style in red brick, with gorgeous painted glass.

We strolled along Penny Lane and took pictures of the street where the Beatles lived.

In Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, we visited the yard of City Hall with Queen Victoria statue and a moratorium for the people who died in the Titanic. The “unsinkable” Titanic was built in Belfast over two years and sailed from Liverpool. After it was built, the engineer said: “Not even God can sink the Titanic.”

In Scotland, we docked in Greenock and drove through Glasgow. Our guide wore a lovely yellow kilt. We passed by George Place, in front of the spectacular City Hall, big square with several statues, among which that of Walter Scott.

After a day at sea, we were still in Scotland. Our next stop was in Inverness and Loch Ness. We woke up at 5:30 am for the long ride by bus. It was rainy and cold but worth it. I stoically waited under the rain with my umbrella while my husband climbed up the old castle.

During my visit to Guernsey, I was greatly impressed by the peaceful island that boasted a tumultuous history. As our guide described the special autonomy and numerous privileges the residents enjoy under the leadership of a Lieutenant Governor, I decided that this Channel Island would become the Principality of Rensy Island, the setting of a new series of romance novels. So far, I have five books relating the stories of the princes/princesses from Rensy Island. I hope you will enjoy reading this series.

A Bride For Prince Paul: She can’t abandon her patients for his crown! A Bodyguard For The Princess: A murder at Harvard in Princess Chloe’s student building. Jingle With My Princess: The doc and the princess… He saves lives but Princess Charlene may save his heart. Prince Philip’s Cinderella: A charming jogger saves her from danger. But he’s a prince… and she comes from nothing. Should she run or risk her heart? A Dance for Prince Eric: A ballerina with a promising career on the run for her brother’s sake. A charismatic prince who saved them both. Do fairytales exist?

A Colt is born

Colt

Or simply a new pen name, a new identity, a new beginning.

Many of you know me as Melinda De Ross, writer of quirky romantic comedy and tension-filled romantic suspense. But like many of my favorite authors and role models, including Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Loreth Ann White, and others, I feel it’s time to expand my horizons. I’ve always wanted to write crime thrillers and mysteries, but only after being a professional writer for seven years did I feel I was ready. And this is how my new pen name, Melinda Colt, is born.

garda seriesMy first dive into the crime thriller genre is a series of detective mysteries with a twist of romance called The Irish Garda Files.

Why Irish? Well, I felt there are enough FBI, NYPD, LAPD, and other PD’s books out there – some of them true masterpieces I could never surpass, written by talented members of this very group. So I wanted to write something new, something different. Ireland is a country with a low crime rate, but An Garda Síochána, their police service, is extremely competent and well-trained. I’d imagined how the fictional Garda detectives I have created would solve complicated, challenging cases, and this is how the first three Garda Books came to be: Dare Game, Killer Score, and Foul Play. I hope the flesh-and-blood Garda members will never have to confront such twisted killers in real life, but I know they deserve to be the heroes in my books.

Researching this series was a huge operation and I’d like to thank the Garda Síochána themselves for being so helpful and patient when I reached out and asked for their cooperation. I was pleasantly surprised by their promptitude as they answered my questions and explained police procedures I didn’t know about. My books are fictional, but as crime thrillers go I wanted to offer you, my readers, the most authentic experience I could create. I hope you’ll be there with my detectives, both male and female, go over the clues, inspect murder scenes and cyber data, feel the tension that builds up when they know a serial killer will strike at any moment and it’s up to them to make sure there isn’t another victim.

The first three books in The Irish Garda Files are up for pre-order, and I hope one day I will reach JD Robb’s record and publish the 50th Garda book. I’m just getting started and writing these books is incredibly fun and rewarding.

While I worked on them last year and prepared my launch, I outlined every detail, calculated the timing, worked very hard to make the moment when I present my new pen name perfect. I thought I had everything figured out – except I didn’t predict this moment will be in the middle of a pandemic. But you know what? I won’t let this get in the way of my celebration – not the virus, not the quarantine, not even the financial crisis that will follow.

dare-game_preview-coverThis is just a phase and we’ll get through this together. What better way to practice social distancing than to escape in captivating stories that tear us away from every alarming piece of “breaking news”?

To make you forget about it for a while, it’s my pleasure to offer you an exclusive preview into DARE GAME, the first Garda book, which you can download by subscribing to my newsletter HERE.

I would love to have you in my VIP club and share my journey with you! My author friends and I will offer you free books as often as possible to get through these difficult times. My social media accounts are just taking off and I very much hope you’ll join me there.

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And because I always like to save the best for last, I have a special Easter present for you: for a limited time I have decided to put DARE GAME, the first book in The Irish Garda Files, at the introductory price of 99 cents. Click on the image below to grab your copy today!

Stay safe and escape into books!

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