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Barbara O’Neal and The Art of Inheriting Secrets

Barbara O’Neal is not only a beloved longtime contributor here at WU, she is an award-winning, internationally published author of eleven novels. Her latest is called THE ART OF INHERITING SECRETS, and releases on July 17th!

Said bestselling author Patricia Sands (The Love in Provence series) of the book:

“O’Neal’s clever title begins an intriguing journey for readers that unfolds layer by surprising layer. Her respected masterful storytelling blends mystery, art, romance, and mayhem in a quaint English village and breathtaking countryside. Brilliant!”

“This is my first mainstream book in four years!” said Barbara. “I’m very happy to be publishing with Lake Union, who’ve done an amazing job on this book.”

Read on to learn more, and big congratulations to Barbara!

Q: What’s the premise of your new book?

BO: A San Francisco food editor discovers that she has inherited a derelict English estate along with a lot of secrets. To discover the truth of her mother’s life, she’s going to have to do a lot of digging.

Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?

BO: There is more to it than the simple inherited house and secrets angle—which is, by itself, a ton of fun. Who wouldn’t want to run away into a world where you’ve suddenly discovered you’ve a pedigree and a title?

It is part mystery, part love story, part family saga.

Olivia is grieving her mother deeply and trying to understand why she never shared such important knowledge. I have a passion for the connection between England and India during the 20th century, so the book is rooted in that uneasy relationship.

And finally, this is my love song to the English countryside, which is in as much danger from development as any other part of the first world. There are few places on the planet so amenable to the human being as England in summer, or a place with better strawberries.

Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?

BO: Olivia has just finished with a brutal year—her dog died, she had a bad car accident and her mother died—and now she has to decide what she wants for the rest of her life. She has a fiancé and a fabulous job back home in San Francisco, but the possibility of something else, both harder and more satisfying, in England. She isn’t sure she’s up to the undertaking.

To make her inheritance work, she first has to unravel who is opposing her inheritance and who stole the funds she should have had to restore Rosemere Priory. The house is literally starting to fall down. Some of the villagers can be prickly and there is a lot of money to be made on the manor lands.

Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?

BO: Honestly, this book was a joy from the moment it arrived, practically whole, one morning during the Writer Unboxed conference in 2016. It springs directly out of many of my loves—England and 20th century history and food (of course) and the Indian diaspora to England in the 50s.

I had to do a ton of research, of course. So much research, but I love that. When it came time to create the authentic, upscale, British-Indian fusion restaurant and menu I wanted for background, I found myself waaaaay over my head—Indian culture and food are enormously complex, and I needed help. A Facebook friend, Kaumudi Marathe, memoirist and cookbook author, gave me a ton of help and direction. I also asked friends Monica Pradhan Caltabiano and Sonali Dev to read for me after the first draft for cultural sensitivity.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?

BO: When I started the book, I wanted an escape from real life in the worst way. It was a challenging time personally and in the world, and I love that I can now offer that escape to others. Come away to the English countryside, take a break, let your spirit rest!

Learn more about The Art of Inheriting Secrets on Barbara’s website, HERE, or by exploring the book feature below. Enjoy!


Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between aspiring novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in January, 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~40 regular contributors–including bestselling authors and industry leaders–and frequent guests. You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, or join our thriving Facebook community.

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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.