The World at my Feet

51cEaWpxaOL._SY346_In 1990 Harriet’s job as a journalist takes her to Romania to report on the terrible conditions in the state orphanages there. Her mantra is never to become involved in ‘the story,’ or to make it about herself but on this occasion, she breaks all the rules. In 2018 Ellie is suffering from agoraphobia and anxiety: a legacy from her childhood. Her sanctuary is her garden and her highly profitable Instagram account where she creates an image of herself as keeper of the quintessential English country garden. When two, very different men enter her life, Ellie is forced to make that leap beyond her garden gate and take her life back to its bare roots, not only to find a future but to discover who she really is.

This is light, intelligent fiction with a romantic slant and a compelling, time-slip structure which kept me turning the pages. It does not suffer from cliche or sentiment and the denouement is equally satisfying without being overly predictable. Lovely, original read

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The Giver of Stars

Alice marries a rich, attractive American to escape the tedium of her life. But when she arrives in small town Baileyville, Kentucky, she soon comes to realise she’s exchanged one prison for another. Her husband, Bennett, shows no interest in her, romantically or otherwise and they soon begin to lead separate lives. Desperate for independence and a sense of purpose in life, Alice joins the horseback librarians. These women ride out to remote homesteads delivering books to those families who are isolated, in both senses of the word. But this is 1937 and women were expected to be homemakers. Her father-in-law, the domineering mine owner is especially over-bearing towards Alice. His behaviour – unchallenged by her husband – eventually becomes intolerable and results in Alice taking up residence with feisty head librarian, Margery O’ Hare. When Margery is accused of foul play, it’s the women against the town as they fight to clear Margery’s name and make a stand for the sisterhood.
Horseback librarian – my dream job! I generally like Moyes (especially loved The Horse Dancer and One Plus One) and since I’m a horse-riding book-lover I really thought I’d find much to enjoy about this novel. Sadly, this wasn’t a dream read. All the fabulous ingredients were there but I didn’t feel the author made quite enough of them and so as a result it’s not developed enough in any one direction, as if the surface had been skimmed off a complex range of topics. Basically, it’s a light romance with a vaguely historical background – and its a sweet, predictable, cheesy romance at that – disappointing when the scope promised so much more. The standout character for me was Margery (and her wonderfully stoic mule) because her story seemed so much stronger and more interesting than Alice’s story and at least she did develop, unlike the rest of the cast. The numerous secondary characters came across as shades of grey, or shrouded in cliche. For example there’s no explanation or backstory as to why Bennett was such a coward, why he was so cold and sexually repressed, and his character more or less faded to black. For those who enjoy one, there’s a wildly happy ending for all the good guys: love, marriage, babies. I thought this took the shine off the main theme, as if the sisterhood meant nothing in the end. Loved the concept and some of the scenes, I just didn’t love the book.

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Centaur Romance: 50 Shades of Dappled Grey?

Lake Crafnant, White Horizon and the latest trends in romantic fiction.
When does a romance become something else? When I first started writing and submitting manuscripts in the traditional way, it was either a romance or it wasn’t. The definitions were very clear, but incredibly restrictive. Although I think it’s a huge step forward to have the freedom of being a cross-genre writer, I must admit I am sometimes baffled by the many sub-divisions in the romance slot and it seems they are constantly evolving. Just for fun, I had a look at the top five most er… unusual genres in romance. At number five then, Amish Romance. This one speaks for itself, but who, other than the Amish community, would read them? Number four was interesting, Nascar Romance. This is where the hero is a driver and all the action is car related, nothing too odd about that, but number three had me cringing… The Personification of Death. As the title may suggest, these novels feature a romantic interlude with the Grim Reaper. Number two was plain old Romantic Suspense, but number one on the list… Centaur Romance! Okay I like horses, but really? The piece said it was nothing to do with My Little Pony, but you’ll love it if you are a horse lover and like sex with hairy men
Maybe my work is more conventional than I thought! But I did get to wondering if White Horizon could allude to any of these trends.   Now, the Nascar thing I can understand a little, since my male character did the first thing that any working class hero coming into a lot of money might do – buy a fast car; and the Romantic Suspense speaks for itself and is extremely relevant to White Horizon. The Grim Reaper does indeed show himself to one of the characters but you may or may not be relieved to learn there is no sex scene. No, I’m sticking with dramatic romance. Or is it romantic drama?
The location re White Horizon is certainly both romantic, and dramatic. Crafnant, is far more accessible than it looks in the pictures. I say accessible, but to be fair the single track road is not built for the modern car, and if someone needs to pass, don’t look down. Llyn Crafnant is a ¾ mile-long lake (well, reservoir actually) that lies in a beautiful valley where the northern edge of Gwydyr Forest meets the lower slopes of the Carneddau mountains and, more specifically, the ridge of Cefn Cyfarwydd. The head of the lake offers what could be regarded as one of the finest views, across the lake to the mountains above, in North Wales. Crafnant takes its name from “craf”, an old Welsh word for garlic, and “nant”, a stream or valley. Even today the valley of Afon Crafnant smells of wild garlic when it flowers.
It’s a popular location for a Sunday stroll, a family walk on mostly level paths and the whole circuit only takes 40-60 minutes depending on your pace. There’s a tea shop selling Welsh ice cream on the left bank and in bad weather the mountain ponies come down to graze, often with young at foot. On one such amble, I said to husband, wouldn’t this make a great location for a hotel? Maybe with a huge decked area jutting over the head of the lake. What a wonderful vista to have a restaurant overlooking the water, imagine the sunsets! Oh, the romance of it all.
‘Why don’t you use it for a book location? Then you can build a hotel in your head,’ he said. Our imagination ran riot, well, mostly mine, although we soon became bored with just the hotel and began to spice it up, adding a character hell-bent on destruction, manslaughter, domestic violence and eventually, running out of sensible plans, we set it all on fire! What a story… we turned a pleasant picnic area into a scene of death and devastation! (I’ll have to keep my eye on that idea of his though, the one about building things in my imagination. I can see how it might become used and abused beyond its original motive)
And I haven’t forgotten the sexy centaur. Is it relevant to White Horizon? Well, yes, he gallops in somewhere towards the end… Oh, and I kept the fire, the manslaughter and the domestic violence. But it is romantic as well, trust me.

2013