Blog Post: Writer Wednesday guest author Carole Mortimer and giveaway

From Thea:  I’m so delighted that author Carole Mortimer reached out to me in an email.  She had read DRAGON BOUND and enjoyed it.  We began corresponding, and then at the 2011 Romance Writers of America conference we were able to meet in person, and she’s just as delightful and warm as her emails were.

In her blog post here, she shares an extremely special experience with us, and a very great honor.  I’ve even got photos of how lovely she looked on her wonderful day!

Carole is offering a giveaway this week–details follow at the end of her post.


My story starts a couple of days before Christmas 2011 – hey, I’m a writer, and I don’t know how else to tell this story!

So, it’s a couple of days before Christmas, and half a dozen Christmas cards have arrived in the morning post, along with an innocuous-looking envelope addressed to me.  Assuming the latter was a bill, I naturally opened the Christmas cards first – I love everything about Christmas, and consider sending and receiving cards from family and friends, as being part of the joy of the season.  It finally came time to open the innocuous looking envelope, which I duly did, quickly read the contents of the letter inside, before throwing it down onto the table beside me in disgust, with muttered comments like ‘it’s disgusting the scams people get up to nowadays’, and ‘at Christmas time too!’.  My husband came into the room about fifteen minutes later, and I showed him the letter, expecting him to be outraged too, but instead he picked up the letter, said he would be back in five minutes or so, and duly disappeared.  As he had said, he did reappear five minutes later, gently placed the letter down on the table beside me, and said softly ‘it isn’t a scam, Carole, you really are being asked to accept an invitation to attend the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in May 2012,in recognition of your outstanding service to literature’.  I actually began writing in 1978, and have just completed my 180th novel for Harlequin Mills and Boon, but even so…!

Now in my own defense, in regard to thinking it was all a scam of some kind, I would just like to point out that the second paragraph of the letter asked me for details of my passport, and that of the guest who would be accompanying me.

Secondly, things like this do not happen to people like me.  I was born in a small village in Bedfordshire, more years ago than I care to think about, the youngest of three children, and the only time I have ever seen the Queen, or any of the royal family, has been when they were being driven past in a car, or on the television.

Thirdly, I had never heard of a Harlequin Mills and Boon author having received such an honour, and if there are some of them out there then they probably haven’t talked about it for the same reason I haven’t – they were in shock!

I believe, along with the rush and bustle that is Christmas, that I truly did go into shock for a few days, and then I learnt that a dear friend was very seriously ill – Penny Jordan – and the whole thing just faded into the background.  Unfortunately we lost Penny on New Year’s Eve, and it was just so sad, that everything else paled into insignificance, and I really didn’t give the garden party invitation another thought until much later that month, when I finally remembered I had to send my acceptance.

Being of bit of a worry wart, I was still reluctant to share the news of the Royal invitation with anyone – what if it turned out to be a mistake, and they had the wrong Carole Mortimer? Or the official invitation, which they told me would be sent out in mid April, never arrived?  How foolish I would look, for ever having believed they could really have meant me in the first place!  So I told very few people, just close family – my Mum and Dad were so proud! – and three dear friends.

But to my surprise a buff-coloured envelope duly arrived mid-April, bearing a Buckingham Palace postmark, inviting myself, and my husband, to the Queen’s Garden Party, at Buckingham Palace, on May 29th, 2012.  One of those three dear friends asked me if I had very carefully opened the envelope so that I might frame it, along with the official invitation – but I’m sorry to say, that in my haste to see if it really was THE invitation, I had ripped the envelope open (perhaps a bit of sticky tape…?).

So, I now had six weeks in which to find something to wear – being superstitious, and that worry-wart, I hadn’t so much as looked at what I would wear for such an occasion.  And I had to wear a hat.  The instructions for the day, which had arrived in the envelope with the official invitation – we were not allowed to take cameras into the Palace, or have mobile phones switched on, nor would the official photographers be allowed inside the grounds – definitely said I had to wear a hat.  I never wear hats!  Not even to the weddings of two of my sons.  The gold silk suit was easy – I love the silk clothes from a certain shop, and they very kindly made the suit I wanted in the appropriate time.  The hat?  I’m not telling where I found the hat, but I’m sure you will agree, it goes perfectly with the suit?  And my husband – who retired when our youngest son was born, and hates wearing suits after having to wear them to work for thirty years – actually went out and bought a new suit and shirt for the occasion.  I was most impressed!

So, we’re all set, suits bought, hat also bought, now all we have to do is go to London and attend the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on May 29th.  ATTEND THE QUEEN’S GARDEN PARTY AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE!!!!  I felt sick with nerves every time I thought about it – which was more and more often, the closer the date loomed.

My husband – he’s such a romantic on the quiet! – had arranged for a suite for us at The Savoy, overlooking the river, for two nights, with a lovely bottle of wine chilling in a bucket of ice when we were shown into our suite – which I have to admit, we very much enjoyed drinking.  That was followed by the two of us going downstairs, and enjoying one of The Savoy’s Afternoon Teas.  I’ve always loved Afternoon Tea.  So much so that I’ve been known to decide on whether a hotel is any good or not by the quality of their Afternoon Tea!  The Savoy’s Afternoon Tea is, I am happy to say, the best in London as far as I’m concerned.  Absolutely delicious.

The following morning – the morning of THE garden party – it all started to seem so very real, when before it had all seemed like a bit of a dream.

Again, my husband – how I do love that man! – had arranged a surprise for me, in that he had arranged for The Savoy’s chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce (number plate S8 VOY) to drive us to Buckingham Palace, and collect us again at the end of the afternoon.

It was wonderful being driven through London in that lovely Rolls Royce, arriving at the Palace, and ACTUALLY BEING ALLOWED TO GO IN THROUGH THOSE BEAUTIFUL ORNATE GATES.

The gardens at the back of the Palace are extremely lovely; rolling lawns and beautiful beds full of shrubs and flowers.  The sort of garden where you could imagine children playing hide and seek in the bushes, with tree-houses or hammocks amongst the trees.  I hope that they did, and still do!

At four o’clock a dozen Beefeaters appeared in the garden in full Regalia, announcing the arrival of the Queen and the royal family.  The Queen looked lovely in lilac, and Prince Phillips was his usual debonair self in his morning suit, and it seemed incredible to think that they were 86 and 90 years old.  Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were also there.  And the Duchess of Cambridge looked lovely in pink – Prince William was, unfortunately, on duty, and so couldn’t accompany her.  Prince Harry was his usual friendly and handsome self.  The Princess Royal looked very regal.  Prince and Princess Michael of Kent were also present, and extremely charming.  Plus a number of other minor royals – I was so bedazzled by this time I honestly don’t know who else was there!

Afternoon tea was served all afternoon, a lovely selection of sandwiches and cakes, and hot tea or chilled coffee – and I can honestly say I have never eaten such delicious cucumber sandwiches.  They had put mint leaves in with the cucumber, and somehow turned a bland sandwich into a delight.  The newspapers the follow day stated that each guest at the garden party had eaten an average of thirteen sandwiches – thirteen! – and as I only ate three, and my husband six, I’m curious as to who ate the other seventeen…

It was an incredible, magical afternoon, and one I will never ever forget, along with the honour of the reason I had received the invitation – ‘in recognition of my outstanding service to literature’.


Carole is kindly offering a copy of her new Harlequin Presents book HIS REPUTATION PRECEDES HIM, which will be released in North America in July.

To enter her giveaway, please answer the following question:  have you ever had an English tea with cucumber sandwiches, scones and cakes?

The giveaway ends on Friday June 22nd, and the winner announced at 12 noon MDT.

33 Responses

  1. Foreveramber says:

    no sadly i have never had an english tea as i live in a small town in the middle of the Midwest there is noplace for things like that near by.

  2. Tracey Cox says:

    No – I have never had a real English Afternoon Tea, but I am now thinking that a bit of internet research is in order because it should like a great way to spend a summer afternoon with my two daughters.

  3. CrystalGB says:

    Hi Carole. I love your books. I have never had English tea. I would love to do that. Sounds so sfun.

  4. Carole Mortimer says:

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you for taking the time to read the blog, and answer the question re afternoon tea.

    love Carole xx

  5. Diane says:

    No, I have never had English tea and cucumber sandwiches. My mother-in-law who came from England as a war bride however used to drink English tea. I never asked her about cucumber sandwiches…

  6. bn100 says:

    Great story. I’ve never had English tea with cucumber sandwiches and scones.

  7. infinitieh says:

    No English tea for me although I will try this year (the St. Francis only serves tea during the holidays).

  8. JenM says:

    What an amazing experience. I love England and have visited several times, so yes I have had English afternoon tea. My favorite part is the clotted cream for the scones.

  9. Kassy Whetten says:

    I grew up in the SW of the US and I have never had a scone, afternoon tea, or a cucumber sandwich. I had lots of chips and salsa though. 😉

  10. Sumiyati E Monoarfa says:

    Actually I have at Harrod’s on a visit to London around 1986(? memory on date kinda fuzzy). However Afternoon Tea at Buckingham Place by invitation surpasses all. What an honor. The cucumber sandwiches at Harrod’s did not have mint. I’ll have to try that. discovered I like cucumber sandwiches.

    • Carole Mortimer says:

      The memory gets a bit fuzzy as I get older, I’ve discovered!
      And I had never had mint in cucumber sandwiches before, either – but it compliments the cucumber perfectly.

  11. SarahD says:

    I’m English so I’ve had afternoon tea lots. For a unique twist a hotel near where I work does unlimited chocolate afternoon tea-YUM!

  12. DM Moore says:

    Um, being from Texas we don’t actually do “tea”, though we are very big on ice tea. However it sounds absolutely delightful!
    I have to say that I have been reading your books since the late ’80’s (off and on when I could find them) and I am so happy to hear that you recieved such a wonderful honor!

  13. Carole Mortimer says:

    My Mum once decided to whip up the clotted cream in a Devonshire cafe – with desastrous results; it goes all runny and dribbles off the scones!

  14. Amanda Grinstead says:

    I sure have! There’s a great place called Maple Grove Tea Room in St. Andrews, Manitoba. It’s a tea house and museum in one since the house was built in 1866 by fur trader and explorer Cpt. William Kennedy. They have an English garden and serve all kinds of sandwiches and cakes. YUM!

  15. Alda says:

    Your story was so beautiful, sounds like the start of short romantic story,lol and yes I have had English afternoon Tea before I was born in Belize where the English life style is practice to some degree, and I have also visited London several times.

  16. Amy R says:

    I can’t say I’ve had English tea but I loooove scones. I do love a cup of herbal tea before bed though.

  17. Carole Mortimer says:

    I discovered that day that putting mint in the cucumber sandwiches makes them delicious!
    And thank you all for telling us about your own afternoon teas – or not. It’s something you either like or don’t like, I think, and I’ve always loved it.
    And thank you to those of you who read my books – this giveaway is going to be signed.
    love Carole xx

    • thea says:

      Hi Carole, I’m so glad you’re visiting with us this week!

      Hi everybody! I can’t resist answering the question either–I love afternoon tea! Love the tea itself, love scones, the sandwiches, and the little pastries you can sometimes get. I’m hoping and daydreaming about a trip to the UK next year, and when I go I want to have afternoon tea at Harrods, which is something I never got around to doing when I lived there in the 80s.


      • Carole Mortimer says:

        Hi Thea
        Lovely to speak to you again – and to know you love English tea too. We’ll have to have one together when you’re over next year – but I can’t recommend The Savoy afternoon tea highly enough!

        love Carole xx

  18. Carole Mortimer says:

    And Sarah – the chocolate afternoon tea sounds wonderful, but unfortunately I’m allergic to chocolate!


  19. Mary Reed says:

    cannot think of a time I had cucumber sandwiches since I’m not big on cucumbers – however, I do belong to a club that has a membership tea every year to encourage new members.

  20. vashti amzt says:

    Actually ,I have the experience of a full English tea upon my visit to London a few yezrs ago and loved it.I have tried to recreate the experience at home,but not the same.@Carole,I have read and loved yourbooks sincd you first started to write.

    • Carole Mortimer says:

      Hi Vashti
      Great to hear you’ve been reading Harlequin Mills and Boon books for so many years – but we won’t say how many it is, and obviously I was only 10 years old when I started writing! I was in my early twenties, actually, which someone at Harlequin informs me is their youngest author to date.
      love Carole xx

  21. Jenny Schwartzberg says:

    What a lovely story and the pictures are beautiful! I love English tea and I live in Chicago which has some wonderful places for afternoon tea aka English tea with cucumber sandwiches, scones and clotted cream. My favorite tea is at the Peninsula Hotel in their Palm Court. If you ever come to Chicago, do check it out.

    • Carole Mortimer says:

      Hi Jenny
      Lucky you!
      And I’ll certainly check out the Peninsula Hotel if I come to chicago.

  22. JenniferRNN says:

    I’ve never had a real English tea, but was fortunate enough to have tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace on a trip to London several years ago (I had Coke thought).

    What a wonderful story! Congratulations on the honor. I’ve been a HUGE fan of yours for 25-30 years since I used to read my Mom’s Harlequin Presents. To me, Carole Mortimer and Penny Jordan are the denizens of HPs!

    • Carole Mortimer says:

      So lovely to hear you’re a big fan of Harlequin Presents.
      And the Orangery is wonderful – I remember knocking a full glass of wine over my editor there!
      We all miss Penny so much…

      love carole xx

  23. Diane Sallans says:

    I had one years ago in a small British tea room in the US. But my favorite was on a trip to England – we drove thru Devon & saw a sign for Cream Tea – it was a t a farm – the scones, cream, jam & tea were just scrumptious!
    sallans d at yahoo dot com

    • Carole Mortimer says:

      Devonshire scones and clotted cream are scrumptious!

      The Savoy had home made lemon curd which was lovely – I love anythign with lemon it in. No scones at The Palace tea, I’m afraid – too messy, I expect.

      love Carole xxx

  24. Dee says:

    I feel so sad, I did not know about Penny Jordan. What a wonderful writer she was. I loved her books.

    Wow Carole Mortimer!
    My absolute favourite author growing up when I first started reading “adult” books in high school.
    We knew them as Mills & Boon in Australia rather than harlequin. It’s where I was first introduced to the wonderful books by Amanda Carpenter, another favourite. 🙂

    As to afternoon tea, we have it regularly here. We know it as High Tea in Australia and it’s become a very very popular thing to do especially for girlfriends getting together. Though I must try putting some mint in to a cucumber sandwich. That does sound a bit different.