Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In Celebration of In Farleigh Field--Rhys Bowen is Number One!

“Rhys Bowen is one of the very best fiction writers of the day. With a deep understanding of the wounded human heart, and an uncanny ability to capture the quiet emotions and the grand scale of war, she rises above her contemporaries. This is magnificently written and a must read.”
                             —Louise Penny


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:   If it's rites of passage week--and it may be--today's is one any author would want to experience.

Our own Rhys, with her--no exaggeration--blockbuster novel IN FARLEIGH FIELD is number one, number one! on Amazon. NUMBER ONE.  And has been for like, a month. And Rhys herself is NUMBER ONE in author ranking.  And the pub date is today! 

This is difficult even to comprehend. This is--the pinnacle of success. This is what every author hopes for. Rhys, if I may say is the real authentic deal. This is her--how many books? I can't even count. She works non-stop, she's a dear and generous friend, she's brilliantly talented, and incredibly funny. 

Well,  this is bringing tears to my eyes.


Here's my favorite photo of us--taken by the amazing Barbara Peters. I love the connection it shows.

Rhys, all of us, coast to coast, are cheering. Standing ovation.  And all of us have questions. And all of us are hoping your fairy dust will rub off. But mostly--we are thrilled. I remember having dinner at your house--three years ago? And you told me about this. But  truly, how long have you been wanting to write this book? Why?

RHYS: I came up with the idea for this book about the year 2000. I wrote a couple of chapters and approached my then-agent about it. She told me that nobody was interested in WW2, that it was an insult to write about upper class English people when such terrible things were happening in Europe. So I put the idea aside (also waved bye-bye to the agent soon after). But it kept haunting me. And when I felt that I had reached a stage in my career when I could branch out a little I wrote a little more of the book and showed it to my current agent, who, being brilliant, loved it.

I wanted to write about WW2 for several reasons: one was that I was born toward the end of the war and remember the austere times in the post war years. My father and uncles were all fighting abroad. My family talked a lot of scares and excitements of war time. So it was personal to relive this. Also it was the last time that there was a clear case of good versus evil. Everyone in England felt that if they didn't stop evil, it would swallow the world and they were willing to make any number of sacrifices to achieve this.

HANK: The story feels so authentic--the setting, and the motivations, and the relationships, and loyalties and conflicts--is that research? Or where did that come from?  Is that research-or experience? 


RHYS: Some of the material is personal. I was born toward the end of the war. I don't remember anything except having to sleep under the dining table and hide behind a door when I heard planes approaching. And searchlights still freak me out! But I do remember the austere times in the post war years. My father and uncles returning from fighting abroad. My family talked a lot of what they went through. So it was personal to relive this. But I did a lot of research. I read biographies of those who had worked at Bletchley Park and in MI5. I read Churchill's war books. And then I visited Bletchley Park, The Imperial War museum, Churchill's war rooms.

HALLIE EPHRON: I confess, one of the things I loved about this book is it's about sisters (since I'm one of four). Please, tell us about the sisters, and how you made all of them such distinct creatures.

RHYS: I think this started as a homage to the Mitford girls, all so very different. My family, Lord Westerham's daughters all display characteristics of an upper class background but have turned out to be different in temperament. Livvy, the oldest, is the good child who has married well and produced an heir. I suspect she isn't the brightest of them! The next sister, Margot, has gone to Paris to study fashion design with someone a lot like Coco Chanel, has fallen in love with a French count and stayed on to be with him. As we find out more about her it seems that she might be living a dangerous life in Paris! (no spoilers here). 

Pamela is the daughter we focus on: she's highly intelligent but not been allowed to go to university. Now she has found an outlet for her talents working at Bletchley Park as part of the decoding. She's also in love with a glamorous flying-ace. A little naive and a hopeless romantic.  

The fourth daughter, Dido, is angry and frustrated at being denied her season because of the war. She also is smart, inquisitive and wants to do something useful. Instead she is stuck at home in the country, which could be a dangerous thing.

  I think my favorite was twelve year old Phoebe. She's the afterthought (an accident, Dido tells her). She's also smart, inquisitive and into detective novels. I loved writing about her and the evacuated Cockney boy Alfie as they help to put pieces of the puzzle together.

JENN: The librarian in me has to know, what primary resources did you use for your research? Old newspapers? Museum visits? How much did you have to learn about code breaking? What was the one thing you learned that you didn't know before that fascinated you the most?

RHYS: I read a lot of personal experiences of the war, diaries that housewives and soldiers kept. I assembled books that were handed out on making-do, cooking with limited war-time ingredients, using old clothes and turning them into new ones. I have a war-time ration book and patterns for making dresses. Then I did go to the exhibit on WW2 on the homefront at the Imperial War Museum. I spent a couple of days wandering around Bletchley Park. I visited Churchill's war rooms.  And I read a lot about code-breaking. In fact the messages in my book were actual decoded messages from Bletchley.

The one thing that surprised me the most was that debutantes, upper class girls like Pamela, were actively recruited to work at Bletchley, because it was supposed that they were brought up to "do the right thing" and not divulge what work they were doing. Everyone at Bletchley had to sign the official secrets act, promising not to say anything to anyone of their work. So the other thing that surprised me was that this act was not lifted until the 1990s. That meant that parents died never knowing their child had done something brilliant and vital to the war effort, which I thought was so sad. And I was excited to read that Kate Middleton's grandmother was one of the Bletchley girls. I'm sending her a copy of the book!

DEBS: Did you visit Bletchley Park? And is Farleigh based on a real place? I so loved the atmosphere and the sense of authenticity of the settings.

RHYS: I did visit it. I spent two days there, getting a feeling for what it was like to work in those uncomfortable huts. The first impression is the elegant country house, which would have seemed familiar to my girls, but then the huts were so spartan and poorly lit. It took guts to work there.

I have placed Farleigh in Kent, near to my childhood home. So it's an area I know well and suits my story as it is really close to Biggin Hill RAF station and to Churchill's country home, Chertwell. There are two real stately homes in the area, Penshurst Place and Knole Park, both of which we had to visit on numerous occasions with the school and Farleigh is a combination of both.

LUCY: Rhys, I remember you saying that when you sit in front of the computer to write a book in either one of your series, you don't have trouble getting back into the minds of Molly and Georgie. So I wondered how writing this one felt different, with a whole set of new characters to imagine? And how in the world did you have time to do this??

RHYS: I think because it's not written in the first person like Molly and Georgie it's not quite as intimate, but I could certainly identify strongly with Pamela, Ben and Margot. Also with little Phoebe because she is the sort of lonely child that I was.


As for time... I'm a crazy person, I admit. I wrote the first part of the book a couple of years ago and showed it to my agent. She loved it and urged me to write more. So I wrote a little more. Then it was accepted and I was given the go ahead. So the book wasn't all written at once. And I found it went really easily and quickly because I was enjoying it so much and it was fun to jump from one setting to another, setting up clues and building suspense.

INGRID: If you were a Westerham sister (which one?!) in England during WWII, what job would you have chosen to perform to contribute to the war effort?  

RHYS: I wouldn't be Margot, that's for sure. I'm not the intrepid type hiding out in German-occupied Paris. I think I identify most with Pamela. I'd have enjoyed working in code-breaking at Bletchley Park. And I am bilingual in German so I would have been able to help with translation.

INGRID: Also, did you start writing the book with a complete cast of characters in mind or did that evolve as the story unfolded?

RHYS: When I started it I knew I wanted a family of sisters who were very different from each other. Also I wanted the triangle of Pamela, Jeremy and Ben, all former childhood best friends. I have to say that both Margot and Dido took on characters of their own that I hadn't planned at the beginning. It's exciting when that happens.

HANK: So, Rhys? How does it feel?  

RHYS: I think the word is Gobsmacked! The irony is that the moment this book hit #1 on Kindle I was sitting on a hard chair in a hospital waiting room while my husband was undergoing major surgery. So the book was the last thing on my mind. I came home that night to an empty house, opened a can of soup and had to laugh that this was my celebration meal!

Now John is gradually improving and I have to laugh when I check my author rank and see I'm above J.K. Rowling, George Orwell. Quite surreal.


Hank, Lucy, Hallie, Rhys
And dear Hank and dear Reds, thank you so much for giving me this chance to celebrate pub day when the book is finally available in hardcover, paperback and audio. If you live in Arizona, I'll be having a launch party this evening at the Poisoned Pen. Champagne and chocolates! Do come.

HANK: Oh, Rhys! SO fabulous!  HURRAY! And we are giving away one copy of IN FARLEIGH FIELD today--in whatever format the winner chooses.  Just give our dear Rhys a pat on the back in the comments.

(And you can read more--and buy the book-- here.)

64 comments:

  1. Happy book birthday, Rhys!
    It’s so exciting to see all the wonderful reviews for the book and to see you at the top of the Amazon lists . . . all so well deserved.

    I had to chuckle when I read about what your former agent said to you about your wonderful story. When I read “In Farleigh Field” I truly couldn’t put it aside . . . I just had to know what would happen next. It’s a truly magnificent book . . . .

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  2. Oh, Rhys, I loved this book beyond, well beyond sleep, for one thing. I just posted my review on my reading blog, and I am so excited for you and for everyone who gets to read this amazing book. As I predicted in my review, In Farleigh Field is sure to be one of the most read books in 2017, and it looks like Amazon is already proof of that.

    I loved hearing about the book's development, and I'm so glad you changed agents.

    Happy Book Birthday! And, I'm hoping that you and John will be sharing more than a can of soup to celebrate.

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  3. Good for you, Rhys. I can't believe your agent said no one was interested in WW2 or the upper class. Was she for real? I have In Farleigh Field downloaded on my kindle app on my laptop, TBR soon. I hope John is feeling better and ready to celebrate with you soon.

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  4. Congrats on the new book. Can't wait to read it. My copy is coming from Barnes and Nobel any day now.

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  5. Rhys, you are amazing, in every way. I am so excited for you, and so looking forward to reading this book.

    I'll be getting a copy at Joseph Beth today. Congratulations, dear. And glad to hear that John is doing better, too. Also worth celebrating!

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  7. I am so very pleased for you, Rhys! It sounds like the book of your heart, as a friend said to me recently. And those are the ones that almost write themselves. I hope your husband continues to improve and that you stay at #1 for a good long time.

    I love hearing all this backstory, too! My copy is waiting for me to pick it up and I can't wait to dive in. Congratulations!

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  8. YAY! What a day, Rhys! I know you have been waiting for this for a long time-and persevered through a few road blocks along the way. But wow. SO great.

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  9. Congratulations on your #1 status, Rhys! I already have the book and intend to feature it next Tuesday on my blog. I love the fact that it is set at Bletchley Park, etc. I am fascinated with the part that so many women played behind the scenes during that war. Interesting about Kate Middleton's grandmother. Hope your husband is much better. Have a great event this evening at the PP!

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  10. Congratulations, Rhys! I pre-ordered months ago and now Farleigh Field is finally on my Kindle. Yay!

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  11. Congratulations! I just put in my order for the book. I am so happy for you, and like others hope your John is on the mend. Thank you for sharing your creative process, I feel like a back stage insider thanks to Jungle Reds. I wish you much joy with the book's success.

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  12. I always think about how hard it would be to do historical books… The research is just so full of landmines. Oops, where there landmines? Rhys, I know you're crazed today! What's the plan for the gala at poisoned pen? Do show Barbara the fabulous photo she took! Oh wait… :-) She sent it to me!

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  13. Oh, Rhys, so thrilled for you!! And I loved this book so much that (having been lucky enough to read an advanced copy) that now I'm going to read it again!

    I am so sorry to have missed you in both California and in Phoenix--we would have celebrated at the Valley Ho! Now I'm waving at you from Lucy's in Key West!!!

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  14. What a leap of faith this took! To step outside of your successful series and persevere--especially after that first agent shot you down! This is a time period that I also find very interesting--I was born in the prosperous fifties after the war's end, but my father and my uncles fought in the war. My grandparents' held up the homefront while their sons were gone, my mother and her sisters wrote letters to beaus and their lonely army buddies, sent supplies, sent love. Congratulations, Rhys, for your well-deserved success!! And I find it incredibly revealing and moving--that your heart was where it was meant to be be--focused on your John, as your book soared. Here's to champagne and chocolate!! Enjoy!

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    1. Yes, it was a it worrying to write something outside my series. In fact one review has complained that it wasn't light and frothy. Well, no, it wasn't intended to be. It's wartime!

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  15. Certainly looks amazing to me! So glad you persevered! Congratulations!

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  16. Congratulations Rhys! What a capitvating and fascinating interview. Your novel sounds fascinating and wonderful. I read many nionovels set during World War 11 which are meaningful and profound. I was born during the 1940's and the era is my favorite.

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  17. Rhys, this is fantastic. Congratulations! I love reading stories that involve Bletchley Park, so this one will definitely have to go on the list.

    Mary/Liz

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  18. Yes, Flora, so true! At one point, one no one was quite sure what would happen to John, Rhys said well, if I need to stay home, I will!

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  19. Sounds so good, Rhys! I can't wait for it to come to my mailbox this afternoon. Quite some time ago, maybe even a year or more ago, you made a rather cryptic comment on FB. You had just written a passage (I think) and was rather pleased with it. But you wouldn't say anything more but we seemed to think it wasn't either a Molly or Georgie book. Was it for this book? Or am I making no sense at all and you have no idea what I am going on about?

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    1. It must have been! I really did enjoy this whole process

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  20. Wonderful news. Congratulations. Anything involving Bletchley Park, World War 2, and the Churchill War Rooms is extraordinary and interests me greatly. This is a novel which I have been waiting for and anticipating.

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  21. Rhys, AMAZON #1 - Trying to wrap my head around how many downloads that actually means. (A lot!) So happy for you!! That agent who told you 'no one's interested in WWII' is probably kicking herself. Though you have such solid series, it must have felt risky writing a one-off. Or will it be??

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  22. You have all been so supportive. Thank you so much! It's an amazing time for me. In fact reading through the post and the comments I see we've used the word "amazing" about a zillion times. But that is how it feels!

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  23. Congratulations on being #1 in Amazon, Rhys! Cannot wait to get my hands around your newest, "In Farleigh Field," jump into my fav reading chair and tuck in with a much anticipated read and a pot of tea.

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  24. Congratulations Rhys! Wow! What an accomplishment, both on your book release date and your already being #1 for a month in book and author ranking on Amazon (you definitely need a celebration of more than a can of soup -- I'm glad there will be champagne and chocolate for you tonight)!

    I look forward to reading In Fairleigh Field. Like Hallie, I come from a family of girls (five of us!), and know that the dynamics about and between the sisters will be fascinating. I also have a friend whose lovely mother worked at Bletchley, and will have to make sure she gets a copy, if she doesn't have one already. Thanks for not listening to that other agent!

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  25. I loved IN FARLEIGH FIELD from the first sentence, and I couldn't be happier that it's such a smashing success, Rhys.

    And Hank, I adore that picture of the to of you!

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    1. I think it looks as though Hank is either converting me or driving out the devil!
      Rhys

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  26. #1 is FANTASTIC! I am so thrilled for you, Rhys. The book is brilliant - naturally - but what I also love is that it's a true writer's book, meaning that the idea came to you years ago, it stayed with you, you never let it go completely, and when the time was right, you wrote it, and now you share it with all of us. I love that! Congratulations!

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  27. Congrats, Rhys! What a milestone! As I was reading "In Farleigh Field" I kept thinking, "my friends who love 'Downton Abbey' will love this book. I'm recommending it far and wide! Have a wonderful time tonight celebrating!

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  28. Congratulations Rhys! I'm so excited. It must be fantastic to finally see a book that you have been thinking about for so long finally come to fruition. My father and Uncle fought in WW2, so I'm excited to read this book.

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  29. My dear husband downloaded the book for me as a gift the other day and I'm so excited to get started reading it.

    So many congratulations, Rhys! You have earned this pinnacle of success and every moment of celebration.

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  30. Congratulations! There is something surreal about the image of you by John's bedside as the book hit #1. I can't even imagine the emotional whiplash of that day.

    Candidly, I have not usually been a reader of historical fiction. But in recent years I have read a few books set in multiple time periods (flashbacks, that sort of thing) that have gradually led me to realize that I actually find the WWII era absolutely fascinating. So I have had to revise my opinion. Based on that revision, I think In Farleigh Field sounds wonderful -- I have just added it to my TBR list!

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  31. Light and frothy, Rhys! Yes, exactly the words I would choose for World War II.
    Yeesh.

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  32. Wow Rhys! I loved this book, particularly the part about the Bletchley Park crew. You brought the period alive for me. I hope to meet you this year in Toronto at Bouchercon. I saw you at LCC last year but was too shy to approach you. You looked so elegant and I kept losing my book bag and sweating a lot.

    I am sure that you get tons of great feedback from you fans, but I am thinking that the kudos from your peers must be the best of all. And you have those today certainly. xox

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    1. Finta, definitely say hello in Toronto. And never be too shy to introduce yourself to authors. We live to meet you and we are just as insecure as you are!
      Xxx
      Rhys

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  33. I loved this book. I received it as a Kindle First book last month and raced right through it. I love reading about how England coped during WWII. I have also visited Churchill's War Rooms on my last visit to London and found them claustrophobic, but then I had just got off a 12-hour flight from California! I'm going back next month and thinking about adding Bletchley Park to the itinerary.

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  34. Congratulations, Rhys. I just finished this book this morning...stayed in bed too long but had to finish. Loved it anbd would like to read more about this family. Might there be a sequel?

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  35. Hank, it looks like you are talking in Sign Language in the Barbara Peters photo of you and Rhys ;-)

    Rhys, congratulations! The more I read about In Fairleigh Field, the more I want to read it! Whoever thought that no one would be interested in reading about the upper class Never heard of Downton Abbey series. I think the timing is perfect for In Fairleigh Field because of the popularity of Downton Abbey. There are many other factors. I always loved historical fiction myself. I was a history major at University. Sometimes I had to read banal books for history classes. One class was about the Tudor and Stuart monarchy. My esteemed professor was talking about the Tudors. I asked about Margaret Tudor, who was a sister of Henry VIII. I had read a historical fiction novel by Jean Plaidy. She mentioned Margaret Tudor. In the boring history book for class, there was no mention of Margaret Tudor!! That is one of the reasons I love historical fiction. For me, historical fiction makes history more interesting. It was a nice surprise to discover that you were writing one. I loved the Constable Evans series, Lady Georgie series, and Molly Murphy series.

    Fingers crossed that I can buy a copy of your new book at the bookstore today! I want to enter that FB contest to win your wonderful giveaway :-)

    Your mention of the Mitford sisters reminded me of a PBS series that I watched when I was in middle school. It was called Love in A Cold Climate. Judi Dench played the mother of the girls.

    And when I was in college, I met Jessica Mitford. Once in a while I would see Jessica Mitford at the local bookstore. I saw her a few weeks before she died.

    Your memories of the Second World War is similar to my Mom's memories of the Second World War. She remembers the rationing. She remembers the victory gardens.

    Yes, I think Kate Middleton, aka the Duchess of Cambridge, would love the book. and I think she will share it with her Dad whose mother worked at BP.

    The actor who was the first Barnaby in Midsomer Murders was born the same year you were.

    Again, congratulations!!!

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  36. And I hope John is feeling better so you can celebrate in style. A can of soup is perfect for the cold weather!

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  37. Bravo, hugs and congratulations Rhys. You have so earned this...I've got my copy of Farleigh Field!

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  38. Congratulations, Rhys!! I can not wait to read In Farleigh Field. I love all of your books, but WWII is my favorite time period to read about. I don't have memories of the war myself as I was born in 44, but I love the way the people pulled together during that time. Makes it special.

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  39. What a happy day!! I love books set in WWII, and I visit the Imperial War Museum when I am in London. It is an incredible education, and the temporary exhibits are great. I saw the one about women's fashion during the war.

    I hope everyone knows about the TV series, "The Bletchley Circle." In it, Bletchley "girls" reconnect later in their lives to solve mysteries.

    You are amazing, Rhys!

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  40. Can't wait to read this one! And it was so nice to meet Rhys at our AAUW author luncheon.

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  41. Loved the Bletchley Circle, Denise Ann! Such a good series…

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  42. Cindy, tell us about the luncheon!

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  43. Raising a virtual glass of champagne to you while chocolate melts in my mouth!
    Brilliant!
    Why can't I comment as myself anymore? That option is gone
    Libby Dodd

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  44. Hooray for Rhys and Number One status! That must put you over the moon. I started the audiobook this morning and it's fabulous. I'm enjoying the characters and what's not to love about the locales. And then a body in the garden, Bletchley Park, and sisters - one stuck in Paris. I have to put this down and get back to the book. Congratulations, Rhys!

    One question though - was the term "think outside the box" in use in 1941? It seems much more modern.

    I had issues posting this as well. The option to use the name I've been using is gone.
    -Marianne in Maine

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    1. That's a good question, Marianne, and one I know we debated with the copy editor. You may be right and I'm sorry if it slipped through!

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    3. They meant inside the snuff box? The box at Covent Garden? The Royal box? All good.

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  45. Rhys, with great anticipation, I'm waiting for my copy to arrive!

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  46. Rhys, I loved In Farleigh Field! I read it last weekend while on a trip to visit my parents in Texas. My husband was annoyed that I wasn't paying attention to him and I told him that he wasn't nearly as interesting as your book. Congratulations on being at the top of the heap and I wish I could be in Arizona to celebrate with you!

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  47. Congratulations, Rhys! I preordered the book and will be reading it as soon as I finish Garden of Lamentations, which will probably be tonight!

    I love WW II fiction and look forward to getting immersed in the novel.

    Deb Romano

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  48. I got the book in Kindle format, and I can't wait to dive into it. I will be sorry to miss you at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore today, but I am a little under the weather. Have a great time!

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  49. Congratulations, Rhys! How exciting for you! I'm so looking forward to reading this one. And have a wonderful time at the Poisoned Pen -- they are MARVELLOUS book-people!

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  50. Rhys, cannot wait to hear about tonight! I hope you feel the love from all of us! Xxxx

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  51. I just finished Garden of Lamentations, Deborah R. Eagerly anticipating Farleigh Field . . . and in the fall, The Ghost of Christmas Past. Life is such fun! <3

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  52. Many congrats, Rhys! I'm a big fan of the "Bletchley Circle" show, and of your other books, so I know I'll love In Farleight Field. A toast to you and your John, with all best wishes!

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  53. AND THE WINNER of In Farleigh Field is ELIZABETH! Email me at h ryan at whdh dot com Hurray!

    (And the winner of The Dollhouse is Susan D. email me!)

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  54. This sounds fantastic! It's definitely moving to the top of my TBR pile. Congratulations!

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  55. Pats on the back and a big hug too! The book sounds wonderful and my only dilemma is Kindle or hard cover? xxSusan

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  56. Susan, it depends. If you have lots of space, then a hard cover book. If you have too many books and no room for more books, then perhaps a kindle?

    I ordered the book and look forward to reading about the sisters. Agreed that the book sounds wonderful!

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