When I started writing The Highland Hens, I was initially focused on the theme of loneliness. A friend of mine told me about her elderly mother-in-law who sat in an upstairs room, coming down occasionally for a tipple of Chardonnay, then slinking back upstairs to sit on her own. I was moved by this image of solitude and I created Mimi Solitaire, the widowed Mrs McKinlay, once the hopeful young Miriam Solomons who in the 1950s wanted more than anything else to dance on the stage. Mimi has her wish, but it comes at the price of an unhappy marriage and the loss of her family.
Mimi spends hours alone in her beautiful rooms overlooking Loch Ness, but she has many people who care about her. Isabella, her best friend, calls round to take her to lunch in the red Triumph Stag; they drink too much, flirt and laugh too loudly, but Mimi is always dreaming of the good old days. She has three sons who adore her, who do their best. Fin is going through a difficult divorce and, as the eldest, he believes it is his duty to make sure Mimi is cared for. Hamish, the youngest, has his heart set on writing musical theatre: it is his way of keeping Mimi’s dream alive. And the middle son, loyal Angus, who was born after Mimi had a brief fling with a man who truly loved her, is home again, brooding and healing after a motorcycle accident.
The sons decide that Mimi needs a live-in companion and divorcee Jess Oliver is the only applicant. On holiday in Scotland, Loch Ness has stolen her heart and when circumstances dictate that she needs to stay a little longer, Jess accepts the job caring for Mimi, explaining that it can only be for a few months.
As summer becomes autumn and winter, as Christmas and Hogmanay arrive, Mimi and Jess become close. They share secrets, fun and laughter and Jess begins to admire the strong woman she is and the bond she has with her loyal sons.
The Highland Hens is also a love story; Fin’s divorce is on the cards; Angus is widowed having lost the love of his life and Hamish is married to his music. Jess has made up her mind that she will remain independent and single. But life has a way of healing and offering new opportunities. And love is universal; Mimi and Isabella, despite being in their eighties, haven’t given up on the chance of one last dance.
The backdrop of the Scottish Highlands is perfect for Mimi’s story. I have visited the area several times and it is stunning whatever the season. Its rugged beauty is the perfect setting for Mimi’s home, as she gazes through the window at the shining loch, a glass of Chardonnay in her hand, dressed in high plumes and frothy lace, singing her favourite songs to the accompaniment of a scratchy record.
It is a story that celebrates family and friendship, love and song and dance. More than anything, it’s a story of hope.
I do hope you’ll enjoy reading it!