A birthday weekend fit for a romance novelist

My birthday is tomorrow. I know, it doesn’t give you much time to shop for me. But don’t worry – my husband’s already given me the best gift ever, so you don’t need to get me anything.

Almost every year since we’ve been together, my husband has taken me away for my birthday weekend. Each time he’s made the location a surprise. This year, I had a couple of clues: we were going for one night and driving, so it had to be somewhere near London.

On Saturday morning, we got in the car and that’s when he revealed our destination: Rye in East Sussex. You might not have heard of it before. It’s a very small town just inland from the south coast. Henry James lived there for several years. My husband said he chose it because it looked like it would appeal to an American (in other words, it’s got really, really old stuff) and to a romance novelist.

He was right on both counts.

We stayed in the Mermaid Inn, originally built in the 12th century, then burned down and rebuilt in 1420. It was used by smugglers for hundreds of years. With its little lounges and massive fireplaces, I could totally see couples through the centuries hiding away there or stopping overnight while on a long coach journey.

Mermaid Inn

We did lots of walking around the harbor and down to the sea. We also drove around the Sussex countryside and visited Bodiam Castle, built by Sire Edward Dalyngrigge in 1385. The outside castle walls are incredibly well preserved, but since its owner fought on the losing side during the Civil War, Cromwell had the interior destroyed.

Bodiam castle

Despite the fact that the weather was overcast (which you get used to when you have a January birthday), we had a beautiful weekend. The only downer was seeing this sign, which killed all my childhood fantasies.

Sign saying "There's no such thing as the dog poo fairy"What’s one of the most thoughtful gifts you’ve received?


  1. Awwwww. I knew it was going to be something good! You totally made me put this on my want-to-go list. I think the most thoughtful gift I’ve received was my birthday last year, after I’d sold my two novels. My best friend shopped for months and gave me a scrapbooking kit–a beautiful empty scrapbook, plus all the charms and letters and background papers had to do with writing and fiction, so I could chronicle my journey along the way: first advance check stub, contract, etc. It wasn’t a huge gift, but meant a lot to me because she “got it,” which most people don’t.

  2. With all this to choose from, you write contemporaries? Do you know what I would give to walk those streets? A lot. Lucky you–for both the trip and the thoughtful husband. This gift sure beats my chainsaw. Happy birthday!

    1. I know, it makes no sense. I have ideas for historicals, but by the time I get around to writing them I’ll probably leave London and find them impossible to research.

      I hope the chainsaw was something you asked for and not a gentle hint that you could be more helpful outdoors. Or that you’re a homicidal maniac.

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