Guest Post: The Quarry Girl – How I Build A Story by Tania Crosse #guestpost

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August 1883. The future for Ling Southcott, a quarryman’s daughter, seems to be already mapped. Marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Barney, a cluster of children, a life contained to the hamlet of Foggintor Quarry. For Ling, with her sharp, enquiring mind and love of books, it is an accepted, if unwelcome fate.

But then the new Princetown Railway opens across Dartmoor, connecting her remote hamlet to the neighbouring town of Tavistock, and even Plymouth.

SUDDENLY THE WORLD IS AT HER FINGERTIPS

Then Ling is rescued from a fatal blow. Her rescuer is handsome young medical student Elliott Franfield.

Elliott, man of education, is so different from her unambitious Barney. Almost against her will, Ling feels her eyes open to what life could have in store.

WILL LING CHANGE HER DESTINY? OR WILL SHE LET OPPORTUNITY SLIP THROUGH HER FINGERS?

(This book was originally published as A Dream Rides By.)

Today I am delighted to welcome to the blog, saga author Tania Crosse, to talk to me about her books and how she goes about building a story, with special reference to her book, The Quarry Girl. I’m going to hand over to Tania and her guest post now.

How I Build a Story by award winning author Tania Crosse

As an author, I’m often asked where I get my ideas from. Well, I suppose it comes down to being blessed with a naturally fertile imagination. A book always starts with inspiration of some sort, of course, but then the process of building the story kicks in. Being a writer of historical fiction/sagas, I like to put my characters in a specific historical situation and see how they cope with the difficulties that the era presents.

I’m particularly known for my Devonshire series, which covers from the Victorian period up to 1950s and is set on the western side of Dartmoor and the surrounding area. It’s a region I know well, and its fascinating history has provided me with a wealth of inspiration. Drive across Dartmoor today, and most visitors will appreciate the savage beauty of the windswept uplands and magnificent granite outcrops or tors. They will stop to take photographs of the few wild ponies that survive, smile at the scattering of hardy sheep and perhaps be wary of a herd of cows. All very picturesque on a summer’s day in the comfort of a modern car. But just think what it would have been like to scrape a living from the moor in the past and survive the depths of winter with no mod cons!

Dartmoor was far more intensely farmed in the past, but she also has a hidden history of industry. Particularly during the Nineteenth Century, the moor was dotted with mines and quarries, some larger concerns than others. There was even a gunpowder factory, and railways appeared. Not forgetting, of course, the infamous Dartmoor Prison. All fantastic inspiration for a novel.

Take, for instance, the gunpowder factory. What explosive situations that could lead to, if you’ll excuse the pun! I married that with the history of the prison in Victorian times for what has recently been republished as The Gunpowder Girl. (Also released in audio on 1st March.) However, to illustrate how I build a story, I’m going to use A Dream Rides By, recently re-released as The Quarry Girl.

Foggintor Quarry, a couple of miles west of Princetown, is a massive, mysterious and magical place. It’s also high up on the moor and utterly exposed to all the weather can throw at it. The workers didn’t travel in from cosy towns. They lived with their families in a little community at this remote spot in a square of one up, one down cottages, the ruins of which can be seen today. From one corner projects a small square, the remaining foundations of what was the chapel-cum-school.

Now, sagas are meant to be tough and gritty, so that box is already ticked. A strong, spirited, intelligent heroine is also a prerequisite, so she’s going to be the school assistant. The heroine always needs a foil of some sort, usually of a contrasting personality. This can often be a friend or an older person, but in this case, I decided to make this character her younger sister. Blighted by measles as a toddler, she is left hard of hearing and a little on the vulnerable side, shall we say, far too trusting and needing her elder sister’s protection.

Naturally, they live with their quarryman father and their mother. At a time when the only form of transport for the poor is shanks’s pony, they’re unlikely to have much contact with the outside world. As a consequence, the heroine is promised to her childhood sweetheart, also a young quarryman, of course. He is kind and hard-working, but unambitious. And herein lies the greatest element of any story but particularly of saga, inner conflict.

Though she loves him dearly, the heroine’s enquiring mind and knowledge gained through reading lead her to yearn to experience the outside world. Not necessarily to travel far, but at least to share an interest beyond the world of quarrying stone, an interest that’s beyond her intended’s intellectual sphere. So how will that come about?

Well, in 1883, the Princetown Steam Railway opened, passing by the end of the quarry. Constructed mainly to serve the prison and the local quarries, it was also to provide a passenger service. I saw this as the heroine’s path to the outside world. At the official opening of the railway, I invent a dramatic incident whereby she meets a young doctor, and he is to provide her inner conflict. I won’t give away any of the story, but you can see how she is going to be torn between her solid childhood sweetheart and the higher intellectual plane of this new acquaintance.

Quarrying is a dangerous occupation, especially so in a time when there were no health and safety regulations. I discovered that there was a particular way in which quarrymen buried their dead, so it was a must to have a fatal accident at the quarry, but it had to involve the heroine in some way, and add to her anguish and, in this case, her feelings of guilt.

So, I think you can see how I’m building up the story from historical fact. Something else that is integral to life at such a remote location is the weather. I had always planned to use the 1891 Great Blizzard in which the Princetown train famously got stuck in snowdrifts on the moor for five days. What a gift for a writer over a hundred years later! I turned it into a major turning point in the heroine’s life.

I remember my original agent, the late Dorothy Lumley, saying to me that I should always have someone working against the heroine in addition to the historical circumstances. While trying to dream up another storyline to fill this gap, the answer suddenly came to me when I was considering how I could work in the Great Flood of 1890. I decided to bring in the younger sister here, and link her with the black sheep of the community, another young quarryman who nobody likes. By giving the sister a story of her own and weaving it around the main action, it opened up a whole new prospect for the entire book, making everything gel together. That is something I always strive to do, have one or more sub plots that spiral around the principal thread, which gives a strength and richness to the novel.

When searching for inspiration for the personal stories of the characters, I sometimes draw on my own life experiences, and in some cases, those of my parents. The principal story in my 1945 London-set novel, The Street of Broken Dreams that won Saga of the Year in the 2020 Awards of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, was actually adapted from a wartime experience of my mother’s. Fortunately, what happened to her was nothing like what happens to my heroine, but there again, I built up layer upon layer to achieve all the necessary ingredients of a multi-faceted saga.

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Summer 1945. The nation rejoices as the Second World War comes to an end but Banbury Street matriarch, Eva Parker, foresees trouble ahead.

Whilst her daughter, Mildred, awaits the return of her fiancé from overseas duty, doubts begin to seep into her mind about how little she knows of the man she has promised to marry. Or are her affections being drawn elsewhere?

Meanwhile, new neighbour, dancer Cissie Cresswell, hides a terrible secret. The end of the conflict will bring her no release from the horrific night that destroyed her life. Can she ever find her way back?

Under Eva’s stalwart care, can the two young women unite to face the doubt and uncertainty of the future?

One thing I haven’t mentioned that you might find interesting is that I have a strange gift for seeing characters that appear to me in flash visions, usually quite unexpectedly. It first happened when I visited Morwellham Quay, the famous Victorian copper port in Devon that’s been a living history museum since 1970s. I saw a young cooper in Victorian workman’s clothes during a demonstration in the cooperage. I assumed he was a member of the costumed staff, but a second later, he’d disappeared and yet there was nowhere he could have disappeared to! This happened a few more times with other visions, and there I had the characters for a book on a plate. I built them up into a story in much the same way as I’ve described above, and it became my debut release, Morwellham’s Child, that’s soon to be re-released as The Harbour Master’s Daughter. The same sort of thing happened to me after a break from writing for personal reasons, when I really was going to call it a day. Winston Churchill no less spoke to me in a vision during a visit to Chartwell. It sparked such an interest in the Churchills’ private lives that it inspired what became Nobody’s Girl and its sequel, A Place to Call Home, and re-started my career.

Well, I hope the above has given you a little insight into how I build up my novels. I could go on about characterisation and all characters needing to be not black or white but somewhere in between, natural dialogue, avoiding long descriptions but picking out one or two relevant details to capture the essence of a scene, the list goes on. But I do hope I’ve managed to explain just some of the elements that go into the mix, and who knows, it might help you to build a story of your own!

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Thank you for giving us that fascinating peak into how your sagas are built up, Tania. I am not sure I would be quite as calm as you about having such vivid visions!

If hearing Tania talk about her work has piqued your interest in any of her books, I have included all the relevant purchase links in her piece above and her author bio below, so you can just click through.

About the Author

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Tania Crosse was born in London and lived in Banbury Street, Battersea, the setting of her two latest novels, The Candle Factory Girl and The Street of Broken Dreams. Later, the family moved to Surrey where her love of the countryside took root. She  wanted to be an author since she was a child, but having graduated with a degree in French Literature, she did not have time to indulge her passion for writing until her own family had grown up. She eventually began penning historical novels set on her beloved Dartmoor. After completing her Devonshire series, which is currently being re-published by Joffe Books, she took her writing career in a new direction with four Twentieth Century sagas set in London and the south east, which were published by Aria Fiction. She was thrilled when the last of these, The Street of Broken Dreams, won Best Saga of the Year in the Romantic Novelists’ Association 2020 Awards. Tania and her husband have lived in a small village on the Hampshire/Berkshire border since 1976. They have three grown-up children, two grandchildren and a variety of grand-dogs! Tania’s interests, apart from reading and writing, of course, are dance, gardening and rambling, especially on Dartmoor, naturally!

Connect with Tania:

Website: www.tania-crosse.co.uk

Facebook: Tania Crosse Author

Twitter: @TaniaCrosse

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Book Review: Legend of the Lost Ass by Karen Winters Schwartz #BookReview

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I think we should take it through Guatemala.

A random text from a stranger inspires agoraphobic Colin to leave New York. His first stop is Brownsville, Texas, where he meets the sender, half-Mayan Luci Bolon, her ancient but feisty great-uncle Ernesto, and Miss Mango, a bright-orange Kubota tractor. Ernesto’s dream is that Miss Mango be driven to Belize and given to the family he left behind nearly seventy years ago. Colin agrees to join Luci on the long journey through Central America.

In 1949, seventeen-year-old Belizean Ernesto falls painfully in love with Michaela, an American redhead nearly twice his age. Their brief but intense affair changes everything Ernesto has ever known. When she leaves, Ernesto is devastated. Determined to find her, he “borrows” a donkey from his uncle and starts off for Texas. He meets a flamboyant fellow traveler, and the three of them—two young men and the donkey they name Bee—make their way to America.

The past and present unfold through two journeys that traverse beautiful landscapes. Painful histories are soothed by new friendships and payments of old debts.

I have reviewed this book at the request of the author. My thanks to Karen for providing me with a digital copy of the book for this purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I owe Karen an apology. I should have reviewed this book back in the autumn when I finished reading it. Unfortunately, it fell into the black hole of the period where my blogging mojo just completely disappeared and I am only now just catching up. I am hoping it is better late than never.

A tale of two journeys, seventy years apart. In 1949, Ernesto makes the long and arduous journey from the jungles of Belize to a new life in the US. Seven decades later, his great-niece makes the journey in reverse. Each is accompanied by a human and a non-human companion, taking in the scenery along the way and contemplating their lives. The book has everything you could possibly want in a novel – great characters, travel, humour and examination of the human condition. A pretty great achievement.

All of the characters in the book are compelling, and the dynamics between them work brilliantly to enlighten and entertain. Awkward Colin who intercepts a text meant for someone else  embarks on an unlikely journey that changes his humdrum life. Luci, in search of her family heritage finds herself accompanied by a man she has never met. Both of them riding the lumbering, flamboyant and temperamental Miss Mango. Who would be crazy enough to try and navigate the route from the USA to Belize on an orange tractor? In the other direction, we see young Ernesto set off in pursuit of love, on foot, accompanied by a kind-of-stolen donkey and a brand new friend. In both tales, the non-human characters have as much personality and relevance to the story as the humans, and it is delightful to read.

The real stars of this story though are the journeys and the scenery along the route. The author does a fabulous job of describing what each group encounters along the way, bringing the landscape and the people of the countries to life and making the reader feel like they have actually been there. Belize is obviously a place for which the author feels great affection, and this seeps from between the pages until you will be wishing you could dash off there and experience it for yourself.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was tender and beautiful and insightful and humorous. A love letter to Belize and the importance of our roots, no matter how far we travel from our homeland. Well worth a read.

Legend of the Lost Ass is out now as a paperback or ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Karen wrote a guest post for the blog last summer about Belize, the setting for this book, and you can read it here.

About the Author

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Karen Winters Schwartz wrote her first truly good story at age seven. Her second-grade teacher publicly and falsely accused her of plagiarism. She did not write again for forty years.

Her widely praised novels include WHERE ARE THE COCOA PUFFS?; REIS’S PIECES; and THE CHOCOLATE DEBACLE (Goodman Beck Publishing). Her new novel, LEGEND OF THE LOST ASS, was released by Red Adept Publishing on July 21, 2020. 

Educated at The Ohio State University, Karen and her husband moved to the Central New York Finger Lakes region where they raised two daughters and shared a career in optometry. She now splits her time between Arizona, a small village in Belize, and traveling the earth in search of the many creatures with whom she has the honor of sharing this world. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. 

Connect with Karen:

Website: http://www.karenwintersschwartz.com

Facebook: Author Karen Winters Schwartz

Twitter: @authorKWS

Instagram: @_kaws_

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Penny Hampson

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Today I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author Penny Hampson, to share her thoughts on writing romance with us.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Hi Julie, thank you so much for inviting me here.

I came to writing quite late in life, so I feel like I am just catching up. As a historian, I’m an avid reader of stories set in the past, so when it came to writing my own, they too had to have a historical setting. Because I’m a lover of all things Georgian and Regency, my historical stories are set in the early 1800s.

At the very beginning of my writing journey I joined the New Writers’s Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and this meant that I received invaluable feedback and advice on my work.

My three historical books are all self-published and they form my Gentlemen Series. A Gentleman’s Promise, my debut novel, is currently being re-edited and it will be re-released early in 2021. An Officer’s Vow and A Bachelor’s Pledge are the next books in the series, though each can be read as a standalone. There are also at least a couple more stories to come.

My first contemporary novel, The Unquiet Spirit, was published by Darkstroke earlier this year. Writing this was a bit of a departure for me, with it’s present-day setting and supernatural elements, but there is also a good helping of romance and a strong historical thread running through it. As you might guess, I’m rather obsessed with history!

Why romance?

I’ve always enjoyed reading romance novels, especially when life has been a bit stressful. I think they offer much needed escapism and comfort when times are tough. I’ve always been fascinated by what makes people tick and creating two characters who develop a relationship is an opportunity for me to explore and create believable characters.

What inspires your stories?

Lots of different things inspire my stories. For instance, The Unquiet Spirit was inspired by a house I saw for sale on the internet – I wondered what it would be like to live in a house like that. It became The Beeches in my story, a house that had some interesting and spooky secrets.

Another story that I’m currently working on was inspired by a British newspaper report of 1812 about a young French emigré who came to a bit of a sticky end. My young lady however, will have a much better outcome!

Locations also inspire me. I love Falmouth, Cornwall, in the South West of England, having spent several holidays there. It has a long and interesting history and I utilised some of that history in my  historical novel, A Bachelor’s Pledge. Falmouth also plays a large part in my contemporary romance story, The Unquiet Spirit.

Another favourite place of mine is Bath, which will be familiar to any lovers of Jane Austen. Bath too, has appeared in both my historical and contemporary stories. With its fabulous architecture and stunning setting it is truly an inspirational place.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

Gosh, I’ve got lots of favourite authors. However, for stories set in the Regency period, my go-to author is Georgette Heyer. I’d also hesitate to call her a romance author, because her stories are much more than that. Having re-read many of them recently, I was surprised to discover that several that I’d thought of as romances are anything but. I’m thinking of titles such as A Civil Contract which is in fact a realistic portrayal of a marriage rather than a fairytale romance, or The Foundling, which is more like a coming-of-age story.

For present day romance authors, I enjoy reading Mary-Jo Putney, Mary Balogh, and the late Jo Beverley.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

This is a very difficult question to answer! But given no choice, I’d recommend Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer, which tells the tale of the tempestuous Deborah Grantham and the man who is out to ruin her plans, Max Ravenscar. If you enjoy sparkling, witty dialogue, you will enjoy this book, the verbal sparring between this pair is some of Heyer’s best work. Packed with rich comedy, Heyer’s plot weaves its magic, and it is delightful to see how she brings two such unlikely personalities together. And of course she sets it in a world that is recognisably Regency, real facts about places, people, and events are inserted in an unobtrusive and natural way.

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Renowned gamester and the first to admit that he is entirely void of a romantic disposition, Max Ravenscar regards all eligible females with indifference and unconcern.

But when he meets the woman his young cousin Adrian is bent on marrying – the beautiful Deborah Grantham, mistress of her aunt’s gaming house – he finds that none of his experience in risk and gambling has prepared him for such a worthy opponent.

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

There are so many wonderful romantic heroes to choose from, it is difficult to make a choice. I think I’d prefer to spend the weekend with a group of my favourite heroes and heroines from the Regency period. It would be a weekend party at a rural stately home, with lots of walks in the countryside, sumptuous rooms, delicious food, and no washing-up! I might even persuade one of the gentlemen to teach me to ride a horse – something I’ve only ever done once. How nice it would be to go for a gallop and then come back to a blazing log fire. And a weekend like this would involve so many changes of clothes: morning dresses, walking dresses, riding habits, pelisses, spencers, and bonnets. For someone like me who lives in jeans, it would be quite a novelty, but I’d really enjoy putting on a fabulous evening dress for dinner.

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

Where do I start? It’s great feeling a part of the community of romance authors and sharing ideas and information. Before Covid, my local chapter met up for lunch once a month and I rarely left one without having learned something new or receiving encouragement – a real boost when you feel you’re getting nowhere with your writing. You can guarantee one thing, romance authors are a very supportive group.

The best thing about the RNA is the New Writers’ Scheme. This set me on my journey to becoming a published author. I’d recommend it to anyone thinking of becoming an author.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

I’d advise them to join the RNA New Writers’ Scheme! It’s the best place to go to get honest feedback on your work from professionals who thoroughly understand the romance genre.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest book, A Bachelor’s Pledge, is an action-filled adventure set in England during the Napoleonic Wars. At its core is the growing romance between secret agent Phil Cullen and lady’s companion Sophia Turner. Both have their reasons for not wishing to see each other again, but circumstances and a ruthless French spy set their lives on a collision course.

A Bachelor’s Pledge is available as an ebook (free on Kindle Unlimited) and a paperback from Amazon here.

A Bachelor's Pledge

The woman who haunts his dreams

Secret agent Phil Cullen is upset when he discovers that the young woman he rescued from Mrs Newbodys establishment has absconded from his housekeepers care without a word. Thinking he has been deceived, he resolves to forget about her… something easier said than done.

The man she wants to forget

Sophia Turner is horrified when she is duped into entering a notorious house of ill-repute. Then a handsome stranger comes to her aid. Desperate that no one learns of this scandalous episode, Sophia flees to the one friend she knows she can trust. With luck, she will never see her mysterious rescuer again.

But fate has other plans…

Months later, Phil is on the trail of an elusive French agent and Sophia is a respectable lady’s companion when fate again intervenes, taking their lives on a collision course.

Traitors, spies, and shameful family secrets – will these bring Sophia and Phil together… or drive them apart?

About the Author

Penny Hampson

Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.

Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA and  three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a traditional Regency romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.

But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.

Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).

Connect with Penny:

Website: https://pennyhampson.co.uk/

Blog: https://pennyhampson.co.uk/blog/

Facebook: Penny Hampson Author

Twitter: @penny_hampson

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Spotlight: The French Emperor’s Woman by David Bissenden

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It’s 1871. Napoleon III is living in exile in Chislehurst Kent, after being deposed as Emperor of France following his defeat at the battle of Sedan in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

Marie Anne, one of his many mistresses ,and mother of his illegitimate son Pierre, had arranged for her boy to be taken as a stowaway from Rouen to London, but the boy never arrived and was allegedly last seen on a rowing boat coming ashore near Gravesend.

Distraught, and suspecting foul play, she seeks the assistance of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Gordon, the Commissioner for the Thames Forts who was later to achieve fame as ‘Gordon of Khartoum’, who knows just the man to help and soon William Reeves, Private Investigator, is on the case.

An Emperor, his mistress, a private detective and one missing boy – what secrets will the investigation unfurl?

Another book recently publisher by Matador Books is The French Emperor’s Woman by David Bissenden which sounds like it has quite an interesting premise, a mix of historical and detective story. I must admit to be quite drawn to this one.

If you feel the same, you can buy a copy of The French Emperor’s Woman in ebook and paperback formats here.

About the Author

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David Bissenden is a retired town planner who spent many years working and living near the marshes and chalk pits of the Thames estuary, which feature in much of his work.
 
He has written numerous articles and dramas drawing on the history of the area and now lives in Cheshire.
 
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Blog Tour: The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell #BookReview

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As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another… Why is the killer seemingly targeting her business?

Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them.

But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…

My second blog tour today is for The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell and I am delighted to have been invited to take part by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. My thanks also to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Well, Laura Purcell, you owe me a tube of expensive eye cream to try and undo the ravages to my face inflicted by sitting up late into the night finishing your fantastic book. I inhaled the whole thing in a single day. It would have been one sitting if pesky things like having to feed my family hadn’t got in the way. Talk about compulsive reading, I couldn’t tear my eyes or mind away from this immersive story you have woven.

Life in Victorian Bath is alive on the page here, in all its grimy glory. Because this isn’t the world of the gentry, will dances and dinners and pretty dresses. This is the world of the impoverished, who are scratching around for the next pennies that will save them from the arms of the workhouse, walking a fine line that will keep them out of both there and the jail, because neither of those places are anywhere that a person wants to be in Victorian England, and Laura makes this quite clear in her writing. The prose is so evocative, it is alive with sights and sounds and scents, tastes and textures, and it is a pretty dark place she paints on the page. Not here the golden stone and gilded society of Jane Austen’s Bath. This is the perfect setting for a gothic tale that will keep you saucer-eyed into the wee small hours, as I was.

Our protagonist is Agnes, a feeble women of advancing middle-age, trying to scratch a living from her profession of cutting ‘shades’ or silhouette portraits for sitters who are becoming fewer and fewer as the silhouettes fall out of fashion, replaced by advances in technology. To make matter worse, tragedy seems to be striking her few recent clients, making her fear for her reputation and even her safety. This fear makes her seek answers from a spiritualist child, Pearl. But is Pearl’s gift real? And who is really haunting Agnes?

This is such a clever book. From beginning to end, nothing is what it seems. It is impossible to tell what is real and what isn’t, who is honest and who is a charlatan, who is the villain and who we can really trust. My thoughts and conclusions changed from page to page, I had so many wild theories but I never came near to the truth and, oh my god, the ending completely blew me away and left my mind reeling. This is one of those books where everything you think you know gets completely flipped on its head by the end and you end up wondering how the author managed to fool you so completely all the way through. One of the most satisfying books I have read for a long while.

This book has everything you could possibly want in a gothic novel. Darkness, danger, mystery and misdirection. Parts of it are quite vividly disturbing, because the author does not shy away from the real life horrors of this period of history for those who were not wealthy, as well as filling the book with supernatural thrills, but if you are a fan of this type of book, and of Laura’s previous books, you will absolutely love this.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. There aren’t that many books that I can afford to give up my beauty sleep for at my age, but this one was definitely worth it.

The Shape of Darkness is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats and you can buy a copy here.

There are lots of other great reviews and contents being hosted on the other blogs taking part in the tour so make sure you pay them a visit:

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About the Author

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Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Her first novel for Raven Books, The Silent Companions, was a Radio 2 and Zoe Ball ITV Book Club pick and was the winner of the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award, while her subsequent books – The Corset and Bone China – established Laura as the queen of the sophisticated, and spooky, page-turner.

Connect with Laura:

Website: https://www.laurapurcell.com/

Facebook: Laura Purcell

Twitter: @spookypurcell

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Melissa Oliver

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Today I am very excited to be discussing writing romance with the winner of the 2020 RNA Joan Hessayon Award… Melissa Oliver.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Hi Julie, thank you for having me on your blog.

I write historical romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, with the first series; the Notorious Knights set in early 13th century England.

So far, I have written three of the books, with my debut published last summer, the second out at the end of this month and the third coming in the summer of 2021. I was ecstatic that my debut- The Rebel Heiress and the Knight won the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon Award for 2020. Honestly, getting that first publishing deal as a new writer was an incredible feat in itself but to win the award was really the cherry on top and something I will always treasure.

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Why romance?

Romance is a glorious genre that celebrates love in all its various forms, examining the connection between two people through the prism of time, or a contemporary back-drop. Whether it’s with comedy or tragedy, mystery & adventure- there’s always a great pay-off at the end in the happy ever after or happy for now- which can only be a balm in these troubled times.   

What inspires your stories?

Anything and everything! I’m attracted to the medieval era at the moment, as there’s a certain immediacy about real-life events from that time giving my books a sense of heightened intensity (I hope) blending romance, emotion, conflict, intrigue even a little humour and at times, mystery & adventure.

I really enjoy incorporating real historical events and people through the narrative at key moments. So, reading a lot and I mean a lot of factual books is key to getting a sense of the period in an attempt to capture the essence of the time. Having said that, my characters are the real driving force of my books. I need to know everything about them- who they are, what they are doing and where they want to go before I even start a book.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

Ooh, that is such a difficult question and really does depend on my mood. My favourites’ include; Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Milly Johnson, Jilly Cooper, Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Mary Balogh, Meredith Duran, Mimi Matthews & Lisa Kleypas. I know I’ve probably missed out a few but this list can be quite flexible and ultimately changeable.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Katherine by Anya Seton. A vividly compelling historical romance. One of my absolute favourites.

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Katherine comes to the court of Edward III at the age of fifteen. The naïve convent-educated orphan of a penniless knight is dazzled by the jousts and the entertainments of court.

Nevertheless, Katherine is beautiful, and she turns the head of the King’s favourite son, John of Gaunt. But he is married, and she is soon to be betrothed.

A few years later their paths cross again and this time their passion for each other cannot be denied or suppressed. Katherine becomes the prince’s mistress, and discovers an extraordinary world of power, pleasure and passion.

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

We recently got a lovely cocker spaniel puppy named Mr. Darcy, so I am going to go with Lizzy’s other half. Mr. D would escort me on a whistle-stop tour through Regency London. From Gunter’s tea shop for an ice, to a horse ride down Rotten Row, then a hop and a skip to Almack for a dance and finally to Vauxhall Gardens which was pretty magical, by all accounts.

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

A sense of community as well as the amazing support and friendships built over the last few years of being a member. Added to this are the fantastic events such as the Winter Party and the Summer Conference, where I met my lovely editor from Harlequin Mills and Boon at the industry one-to-one meetings in 2019. There’s still so much to learn for me, so it’s quite reassuring being a member of the RNA, knowing there’s a wealth of knowledge out there.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

I would say not to give up, if you’re serious about becoming a writer. It can be tough and sometimes quite lonely dealing with rejection and keeping that self-doubt at bay. So, do your research, hone your craft, enjoy what you’re doing but above all, write the book you have always wanted to write.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Her Banished Knight’s Redemption is the second book of the Notorious Knights series and is set in 1218. It features Sir William (Will) Geraint – the gorgeous best friend of Hugh de Villiers (the hero from The Rebel Heiress and the Knight– book 1 of the series.)

Will is quite embittered and different from the affable, easy going knight we first meet in the previous book and is now living in exile in France as a sword-for-hire. He goes on quite a journey in this book as he escorts the lost heiress, Isabel de Clancey back to England where they’re forced to work together to uncover the secrets of their past. There’s even a medieval treasure hunt to discover.

There was quite a bit of research to do on this book. From the history of the Knights Templar, to the Tour de la Lanterne in La Rochelle- the only tower that would have been erected at that time and not the one that stands there today, to the herbs and plants used to treat various maladies. I loved writing this book and wanted to give Will and the lovely Lady Isabel an exciting story filled with romance, passion mystery, and adventure.

Mills&Boon cover for Her Banished Knight's Redemption

A lady’s need for protection
A knight’s chance for redemption

Exiled Knight William Geraint answers only to himself. Yet, a mission to reunite lost heiress Lady Isabel de Clancey with her family is Will’s chance to finally atone for the torment of his past.  With every rushed mile, their intense attraction becomes dangerously thrilling.  He swore to protect Isabel not seduce her, but their desire for each other could threaten the redemption he’s worked so hard to achieve…

Her Banished Knight’s Redemption is out 21 January 2021 in UK & Australia and 26 Jan in US and you can pre-order your copy here.

About the Author

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Melissa Oliver is from south-west London where she writes historical romance novels. She lives with her lovely husband and daughters, who share her passion for decrepit, old castles, palaces and all things historical.

Melissa is the WINNER of The Romantic Novelist Association’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers 2020 for her debut, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight.

When she’s not writing she loves to travel for inspiration, paint, and visit museums & art galleries.

Connect with Melissa:

Facebook: Melissa Oliver Author

Twitter: @melissaoauthor

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Mick Arnold

Romancing The Romance Authors

Happy New Year and welcome back to the blog all my lovely readers for what I am hoping will be another wonderful year for books.

I’m kicking off the year with a new episode of my feature on writing romance, and I’m delighted to welcome back to the blog, romance author, Mick Arnold, to tell us what he writes and why he writes it.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I started off writing pure romance or, to be more precise, women’s fiction as my very first novel to be published was, The Season for Love. This was set on the run up to Christmas and thought with a small American publishing house, it did provide me with that important first on the publishing ladder. I’ve since moved sideways into writing WW2 historical sagas, though the romance element in them is very important and central to the stories.

Why romance?

Don’t let it slip, but I’m a very romantic husband however, I only began reading romance when my wife passed me a book and said, ‘read that’! I did then the next morning, I found myself at my ancient laptop tapping away without knowing what was coming out. That’s how my very first and unpublished book came about. I then heard about the Romantic Novelist’s Association and was lucky enough to join. Being around these wonderful people inspired me to carry on and it seemed natural, at the time, to write romance.

What inspires your stories?

It can be anything. I’ve lots of ideas for stories inspired by songs I’ve heard on the radio, which I haven’t written yet, but also by things that I read and watch on the television. It’s always handy therefore to have a notepad by my side, as I’ve absolutely no memory.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

OMG, are you trying to get me into trouble? I know an awful lot of great authors now, the majority of whom are romance authors. However, if I’m going to be pushed, I particularly adore the novels of Sue Moorcroft and Bella Osborne. Sue makes me laugh, cry and question life in general, often at the same time as she’s not afraid to use sensitive subject matter. Bella is quite a new, yet established author whose style is more traditional romance. She has a beautiful way of brightening up my days when I read her books. Jill Mansell has great twisty, turvy plots that I always wonder how she comes up with! I’ll finish with TA Williams. He always takes me on a wonderful journey around the world!

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Though I can keep coming back to read Sue’s books at any time, I would have to say it’s Jill Mansell’s utterly brilliant, moving novel, Three Amazing Things About You. It’s a tale of a girl who has Cystic Fibrosis and though sad, in all the right places, is also so funny and so moving! I’ve said many a time that this book needs to be made into a movie.

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Hallie has a secret. She’s in love. He’s perfect for her in every way, but he’s seriously out of bounds. And her friends aren’t going to help her because what they do know is that Hallie doesn’t have long to live. Time is running out…

Flo has a dilemma. She really likes Zander. But his scary sister won’t be even faintly amused if she thinks Zander and Flo are becoming friends – let alone anything more.

Tasha has a problem. Her new boyfriend is the adventurous type. And she’s afraid one of his adventures will go badly wrong.

THREE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT YOU begins as Hallie goes on a journey. A donor has been found and she’s about to be given new lungs. But whose?

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

Tricky. Should I say that I’ve never read Jane Austen? I’m not certain I won’t be drummed out of the RNA if this gets out, but it’s true. I don’t suppose I can get away with saying, my Lady Wife? If I can, it would have to be having Walt Disney World to ourselves for the weekend. Crowds are such a bind and neither of us are much for beaches. There’s nothing like riding Space Mountain!

I would never have had you down as a fellow Disney World devotee! The things you learn in this game. What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

Oh, the friendship and support! Without a doubt, I don’t believe I would have got published so soon if I hadn’t become a member of this wonderful organisation. I had a bad time health wise over the last couple of years and was taken care of so well at the 2019 convention because people were so worried about me. You cannot buy friendship and support like that.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

I don’t think it matters what genre you want to write in, it would be the same. Read in the genre you want to write and keep writing. Persistence is the name of the game where writing is concerned. Not many people manage to get a deal with the first thing you write. Also, make sure that you are prepared for rejection; you need a backbone to write. I know that’s not one piece, but my editor tells me off for long sentences, and it’s now a habit.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

This, my second published novel is called, A Wing and a Prayer and is the first in a series called, ‘Broken Wings’. These are set in World War 2 United Kingdom and is actually an historical saga, though with a strong thread of romance running through it for my lead characters. However, it is also a mystery and has the billing on the cover of – The Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club! I stumbled into this genre as whilst recovering from my illness, I’d tried to pick up my writing, but couldn’t get going, then an author friend advised me to try something different and I happened to be watching a documentary called, The Spitfire Girls. I then did some research and before I really knew what was happening, I’d the general gist of a story fleshed out. Book 2 is with my editor and I’m nearly halfway through the third, my first Christmas book!

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When Betty Palmer’s sister dies under suspicious circumstances whilst landing her Tiger Moth, Betty and three other women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary in WWII England unite to discover who killed her and why.

Estranged from her family, Penny Blake wants simply to belong. American Doris Winter, running from a personal tragedy, yearns for a new start. Naturally shy Mary Whitworth-Baines struggles to fit in. Together though, they are a force to be reckoned with as they face the mystery that confronts them.

Against the backdrop of war, when ties of friendship are exceptionally strong, they strive to unravel the puzzle’s complex threads, risking their lives as they seek justice for Betty’s sister.

You can buy a copy of A Wing and a Prayer here.

About the Author

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Mick is a hopeless romantic who was born in England and spent fifteen years roaming around the world in the pay of HM Queen Elisabeth II in the Royal Air Force before putting down roots and realizing how much he missed the travel. This he’s replaced somewhat with his writing, including reviewing books and supporting fellow saga and romance authors in promoting their novels. 

He’s the proud keeper of two Romanian Were-Cats, is mad on the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, and enjoys the theatre and loving his Manchester-United-supporting wife. 

Finally, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. A Wing and a Prayer will be his second published novel, and he is very proud to be welcomed into The Rose Garden.

Connect with Mick:

Facebook: M W Arnold Author

Twitter: @mick859

Instagram: @mick859

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Friday Night Drinks with… Sarah Mallory

FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS

Welcome to another Friday night on the blog and tonight I am having a cheeky tipple with fellow RNA member, author…. Sarah Mallory.

Sarah Mallory Rona Rose 2012

Welcome to the blog, Sarah, thank you so much for joining me this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Bubbly! I thought a nice glass or two of fizz would be a good way to celebrate the weekend, and the fact that my latest book, Forbidden to the Highland Laird, has just been published.

And thank you for inviting me to your virtual bar: I am imagining ultra modern – swish black and chrome fittings, comfortable chairs, soft chatter and the gentle chink of glasses around us.

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Do you know, I’ve never wondered how people envisage my imaginary bar before, that’s really interesting! If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I would whisk you away to our local inn. It is a couple of miles from my home and set on the edge of a beautiful bay of the loch. Being winter, we would have to sit inside by the log fire. In summer, when the weather is good, we sit out on the decking, looking out over the bay until the sun goes down.

The view from the inn

Sounds wonderful, I love Scotland. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

One could definitely be Victoria Wood. I loved her comedy and was so sad when she died and I realised there would be no more of her genius stand-up routines or series like Dinner Ladies. I would love to talk to her about the north (we lived for 30 years very close to where she grew up) and to listen to her observations. On anything and everything!

A man… now that is more difficult.  I spend a lot of my time looking for heroes for my historical romances – guys who look like heroes, that is, but we all know that a handsome face and body does not always mean a great mind or an interesting character. I think I would like to invite Stephen Fry. He is clever, witty (but not, I believe, cruel) and it would be so interesting to talk to him – or just to listen to him and Victoria Wood chatting!

Great choices. Victoria Wood is a very popular pick. Rightly so, I absolutely loved her too. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

Currently I am writing a romance set in Regency England. My second book in the Lairds of Ardvarrick series has just been accepted (another reason for bubbly!) and after talking with my editor we thought it would be a good idea to have a break before writing the third. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about the Highlands, but in the 18th century it was a harsh place to live, and the history is pretty bloody. There were clan rivalries, religious unrest and, of course, the Jacobite uprisings. Much as I love an adventure, I am enjoying writing something set in an English country house.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

Proudest moment? Oh, goodness, writing-wise, that is difficult, because there are so many.  Every time one of my books is published it never fails to give me a buzz, and the feeling that I am a “real” writer. However, the icing on the cake was to win the RoNA Rose award from the Romantic Novelists Association in 2012 and 2013: to receive that accolade was very special.

Rona Rose 2013

As for my biggest challenge, hang on a moment while I refill my glass and think about that one!  Okay…I think the biggest challenge – and it is an ongoing one – is to actually finish writing a book. You see, I get an idea, and it is wonderful, the best thing ever. But then I have to write the darn thing, hours and hours of sitting at a desk, putting down in words this marvellous idea, filling in the details and setting the scene. You get to a stage where you think, “this is rubbish” and you want to walk away. But you battle through it, getting the rest of the story down. Sometimes a book just flies onto the page, but there will still be that little moment of doubt. Most writers will tell you, you just have to write through it.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I suppose I would really like to have one of my books turned into a best-selling movie! But that wouldn’t really be my achievement. Having written the book, my work is done 😊

On a more practical note, years ago I started writing a series of books following the history of an English family from its beginnings in sixteenth century right up to Waterloo. I am so busy enjoying myself writing historical romances that this project sits on the back burner, and I keep saying to myself, “One day”…..

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

I am excited about starting another Regency romance. It will be a mixture of Cinderella and battle-weary soldier romance (which is as much as I can give away, so it’s no good plying me with more drink, I won’t say more!). That, and my third book in the Lairds of Ardvarrick series, will fill my writing time for most of the next twelve months.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

My favourite place is now my home! We made a tour of Scotland in 2016 and I fell in love with it, especially the Highlands and Islands and two years later I am living here! How wonderful is that? I had a lifelong ambition to live by the sea (which may have something to do with being born in the West Country, where you are never far from the coast) and at long last I have achieved that dream.

I really wouldn’t mind too much if I didn’t travel far outside Scotland for a while (except to see my family, of course). There is so much history to explore here, so many castles, lochs and glens to see, then there is Edinburgh and the borders – if I tried to do everything I wouldn’t have any time for writing at all! As for going further afield, I am not one for sitting on a beach, but I have enjoyed some fabulous battlefield tours, including Waterloo and Corunna (Northern Spain, where the British were chased out by Napoleon’s army, but that’s too long a story for tonight!)

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

Oh, that’s a tough one, I spend most of my time making up interesting lives for my characters rather than living it up myself!  However, I did once loop the loop in a WWII Tiger Moth…

Ooh, that’s a good one! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Can’t give you one book, but there is one author who is a must-read for me. Milly Johnson. Her books are a real treat; funny, touching stories of people battling through Life to find happiness. To find themselves, really. The Teashop on the Corner is still one of my favourites. Times are tough at the moment and I find her books a great tonic when one needs a lift.

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Life is full of second chances, if only you keep your heart open for them.

Spring Hill Square is a pretty sanctuary away from the bustle of everyday life. And at its centre is Leni Merryman‘s Teashop on the Corner, specialising in cake, bookish stationery and compassion. And for three people, all in need of a little TLC, it is somewhere to find a friend to lean on.

Carla Pride has just discovered that her late husband Martin was not who she thought he was. And now she must learn to put her marriage behind her and move forward.

Molly Jones‘s ex-husband Harvey has reappeared in her life after many years, wanting to put right the wrongs of the past before it is too late.

And Will Linton‘s business has gone bust and his wife has left him to pick up the pieces. Now he needs to gather the strength to start again.

Can all three find the comfort they are looking for in The Teashop on the Corner? And as their hearts are slowly mended by Leni, can they return the favour when she needs it most?

Oh, I love Milly and her books, she’s a Yorkshire lass like me! So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Well, not mixing my drinks helps, but I have no failsafe, I’m afraid, apart from not drinking too much (and remember, I have been doing most of the talking!). I try to finish with a soft drink, keep a water bottle by the bed in case I wake up thirsty, and drink tea in the morning. Lots of tea, then egg and chips for lunch. Plus a couple of painkillers if really necessary.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

A perfect weekend would be to potter about the house for the morning, then take my lovely dog Willow for a walk along the shore – but that depends on the weather of course!

Willow

Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me tonight, I’ve really enjoyed it and I wish you success with you new book.

Sarah’s very first Highland romance is now on the shelves – Forbidden to the Highland Laird is the first in the Lairds of Ardvarrick series. Set in the Scottish Highlands in the early years of the eighteenth century, it has a reluctant laird, a beautiful Highland lass, it has a touch of adventure mixed in with the romance.  You can buy a copy here.

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Exchanging elegant society balls for clan wars, Logan Rathmore has returned to Scotland as the new Laird of Ardvarrick. Peace is within grasp when he meets musician Ailsa McInnis from a rival clan.

Her stubborn pride and innocence fascinate him—but with her now under his protection, he must do nothing to abuse her trust. The fragile peace is dependent on his being able to resist the forbidden temptation she presents…

Sarah Mallory is an award-winning author who has published more than 30 historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon. She loves history, especially the Georgian and Regency. She won the prestigious RoNA Rose Award from the Romantic Novelists Association in 2012 and 2013. Sarah also writes romantic historical adventures as Melinda Hammond.

After living for many years high on the Yorkshire Pennines, Sarah moved to the Scottish Highlands in 2018 and now lives by the sea, enjoying a whole new adventure.

You can find out more about Sarah and her writing on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

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Book Review: Mango Bay by Serena Fairfax

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Jazz clubs, yacht clubs, aunty bars and a Bollywood beauty shadowed by her pet panther. This is glamorous Bombay in the late 1950s.

Love has blossomed in London between vivacious Scottish Presbyterian, Audrey, and clever Indian lawyer, Nat Zachariah.

When the happy newlyweds move to Nat’s exotic homeland and the striking family villa, Audrey must deftly navigate the rituals, secrets, intrigues and desires of his Bene Israel Jewish community, and adjust to perplexing new relatives.

In time, the past unlocks, old family ties unravel, lies are exposed and passions run high as different generations fall out. Then something shocking happens that undoes everything. Will this marriage that has crossed boundaries survive?

I am delighted to be sharing my review with you today of Mango Bay by Serena Fairfax. My thanks to the author for inviting me to review the book and for my digital copy, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of India and its relationship with the UK, a love affair originally sparked by studying the brilliant, Booker-prize-winning novel Staying On by Paul Scott for A Level English Literature. So I jumped at the chance to read Mango Bay by Serena Fairfax, a novel set in India at a slightly later date than Staying On, a time period and a community that I have not read much about.

The book follows the story of Audrey, a Scottish Presbyterian who falls in love in London with Nat, a lawyer from the BI Jewish community in Bombay, and follows him out to India to start married life with him. It is a ‘fish out of water’ story, as we see Audrey trying to fit in to a society and a way of life that is totally alien to her in so many ways, but also warm and welcoming and fascinating.

This is quite a gradual, gentle story, concerned with the minutiae of how people live and their relationships, rather than a book with a dynamic plot and lots of action. It begins with quite a linear story, but ends with a series of vignettes of Audrey’s life, and the events in her marriage, which gives it quite an unusual, although not unappealing, rhythm. Anyone looking for the big bangs and booms of dramatic narrative will not find it here, but the reader looking for a deep understanding of how people actually live, love and relate in this society will find so much to enjoy.

This is quite clearly a subject matter in which the author has a deep interest, and the book appears to have been meticulously researched (although, since I had no prior knowledge of this particular subject matter, I can’t pass judgment on how accurate the portrayal was, only that it felt authentic to me as a reader.) The text contains a huge amount of detail on absolutely everything, from clothing to food to religious festivals and rituals to music, dress, architecture and everything else you can think of. At times, the amount of detail may slow the story down for some impatient reader but, as someone who delights in learning about such matters, I found the picture painted beautiful and absorbing and I read it with rapt enjoyment.

The book gives a riveting insight into both the opportunities and problems which arose as a result of increasing access to the wider world after the Second World War. The mixing, and resultant clashing, of lives, religions and cultures, the slow acceptance of older generations of change, and the ongoing struggle of women for independence are all reflected in the story, and the author has addressed them with interest and care. This particular period, after the war, during which women had experienced more independence than at any previous time, but prior to the cultural revolution of the Sixties, is a period I know least about, and does not seem often explored in many books I have come across, so this was a welcome addition to my education via fiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This book will not be for everyone, as it is more a detailed exploration of a particular time and place in history through people and relationships, rather than an action-packed novel. But for anyone who is interested in historical detail, and the real lives of people, this is a delightful and informative read.

Mango Bay is out now and you can buy it in ebook or paperback here.

About the Author

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Serena spent her childhood in India, qualified as a Lawyer in England, and worked in a London firm for many years.

Some of her novels have a strong romantic arc although she burst the romance bubble with one quirky departure. Other novels pull the reader into the dark corners of family life and relationships. She enjoys the challenge of experimenting and writing in different genres.

Her short stories and a medley of articles, including travel perceptions and her reviews of crime fiction and thrillers, feature on her blog.

Fast forward to a sabbatical from the day job when Serena traded in bricks and mortar for a houseboat that, for a hardened land lubber like her, turned out to be a big adventure. A few of her favourite things are collecting old masks, singing and exploring off the beaten track.

Serena and her golden cocker spaniel live in London.

Connect with Serena:

Website: https://serenafairfax.com/

Facebook: Serena Fairfax

Twitter: @Sefairfax

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Blog Tour: In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton #BookReview

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This warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.

Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife. But as the years go by, they find themselves wishing for more…

After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is only a short novella, that took me a scant eighty minutes to read, but what a lot the author managed to pack in to the pages. Pretty much all of human life is here, as we explore the life of Ted and Rene over the course of half a century. From the dance halls of post-war Morecambe to the modern day, the book explores the nuts and bolts of the marriage of two ordinary people living in the confines of an isolated, seaside town.

The book does not run in a linear format, but dodges about through the relationship, between the perspectives of Ted and Rene and other important figures in their lives and the life of the town of Morecambe. Despite this, the book is not at all confusing, but works perfectly to illustrate the changing relationship and feelings that Ted and Rene have for one another over the course of fifty years.

This book is all about relationships, their complexities and mercurial nature, ever-changing over the course of a lifetime, as both internal and external factors but different pressures on them at different times. The feelings of the couple ebb and flow like the tides in Morecambe Bay, which provides the constant backdrop to their evolving lives, and the changing seasons and moods and fortunes of the town echoing the shifts in the moods of their marriage, the sadness coming from the fact that the times the two of them seem to be in synch are rare and fleeting.

The book felt so honest to me, so truly reflective of so many people’s lives, full of disappointment and compromise, with small moments of joy and shared triumph, but all the same looked back on through rose-tinted spectacles when it is over and viewed very differently by outsiders than those living within it. Right from the beginning, we see through the individual thoughts of Ted and Rene that they have not entered this marriage on the back of a grand passion, and this somewhat sets the tone. Their life is not filled with terrible disasters, but small sorrows, the like of which we all suffer, made sadder by their inability to address them from the same page. Overall, the feeling for me is one of melancholy, and I wonder how many people go through their lives in this way – probably many more than we realise.

This was a really beautiful story, told with understanding, tenderness and a deep empathy. I found the writing really moving, and I came away from the book feeling like I had read something profoundly truthful and illuminating. Triumphal.

The Sweep Of The Bay is out now and I can recommend highly enough that you buy it here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

Cath Barton. Author pic. Feb 2020

Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which was published in September 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. She also writes short stories and flash fiction and, with her critical writing, is a regular contributor to Wales Arts Review. In the Sweep of the Bay is her second novella. 

Website: https://cathbarton.com/

Facebook: Cath Barton

Twitter: @CathBarton1

Publisher Website: https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/cath-barton

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