This month’s post is partly a follow on from last month’s where the topic was the age of the characters which you can read here. This time though I’m taking a bit of a wider view of contemporary romantic fiction.
Also last month I featured a novel from this genre – So Many ways of Loving by Christine Webber – where the leading characters were three women either in or approaching their sixties. And this month, once again, I feature another excellent novel where the central couple are no longer young.
And to round things of there are, of course, my favourite reads for this month – all of which are cracking good stories.
Variety is the spice
So, as I said in the intro, last month I was talking about the age of the main characters in contemporary romantic fiction. My point being that having an ‘older’ lead couple can lead to just as satisfying a read as you’d expect from novels where the pair are in their twenties. And in the end it’s not as if it’s that ages of the characters alone that are going to make for a romantic read – there’s their life stories to date, the places they live in or visit and then there’s the story.
My first novel Change of Life is set in East Lothian and Edinburgh and features a couple in their late forties while my trilogy of novels set on the Isle of Skye – Displacement, Settlement, Fulfilment – has a couple in their fifties at its heart. While in the novel I’m currently writing I’ve changed decades again and the main couple are in their thirties. And this latest book is set in the Scottish Borders. Why have I gone for a younger pair? Why have I chosen this location? Because that’s what the story demanded.
The story’s the thing
As both a reader and writer of romantic fiction I find it’s good to keep an open mind when approaching a story. I like reading and writing stories set in a variety of places and equally I like to read and write about different age groups at various stages in life. But much as the characters and the setting are important so too is the story. The novel can be set in the most beautiful, most challenging or most familiar or unfamiliar of places. The pair who are falling in love can be twenty-five or sixty-five, they can be the most beguiling, most handsome, most infuriating types. But it’s what happens to those characters in those places as the romance plays out that matters, that’s what will keep me hooked both as I write and as I read.
All of which would suggest that the age of the main characters is just one detail and not something that on its own should attract or repel us.
And now, I’ll step down from my soapbox and it’s over to you. What makes a story – romantic or otherwise – work for you. Is character age a deal breaker? Please do leave comments below.
The Life She Dreams by Maggie Christensen
Sadly, this is the last story of the wonderful Granite Springs series but the good news is it ends on a high.
The Life She Dreams is the story of Granite Springs bookshop owner, Liz, and the new editor of the local newspaper, Sam. And as with the other books in the series both Liz and Sam are in the more mature age range.
When they first meet she is still grieving for her late husband and he is looking for peace and quiet after the stresses of his previous job. Both have plenty emotional baggage and neither is looking to fall in love.
But fate has other plans.
This is another great read from this prolific author. The story has its fair share of conflict and doubt but it also has so many heart-warming moments too. The strength of friendships, family (by blood and not) and community also feature strongly. And, of course at its heart there is a slow-burning and wonderful romance.
Yes, safe to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely, satisfying and enchanting romantic story. It is available as a paperback and as an ebook. Here is the link to buying it online.
From the back cover:
Can the past ever really be left behind?
Liz Pender has lived alone since her dreams for the future were shattered by the death of her husband. She retreated to Granite Springs where her life now revolves around her bookshop, The Reading Corner, and her cat, Marmaduke.
Newly appointed editor of The Granite Springs Advertiser, Sam Walker, recently moved to the small country town to seek a quieter life.
When Liz’s bookshop comes under threat, Sam and Liz are brought together causing sparks to fly. But a summons for help from overseas threatens to ruin Sam’s country idyll and reignites the past for Liz.
Can Liz put the past behind her and face a future with Sam, or are her dreams destined to remain just that?
Another feel good second chance romance set in the small country town of Granite Springs where it’s never too late to fall in love.
Books of the Month for July – lots of variety and all of them fab stories …
Happy Dreams at Mermaid Cove by Marie Laval
From the back cover:
From the big city to a little yellow mobile library on the Isle of Skye … When Jenna Palmer agrees to the new position of mobile librarian on the tiny Arrandale peninsular of the Isle of Skye, she knows she’s signing up for difficult working conditions and mediocre wages. But Jenna needs to get away, and a little yellow mobile library called Buttercup could be her escape to happier dreams … However, whilst Jenna can get to grips with foggy island roads, local mermaid legends and even big purple monsters, she never expected to have to contend with a boss as grumpy as Daniel McGregor, or a young book lover as enthusiastic as his niece, Katrina. Arrandale might represent Jenna’s safe port in a storm, but could she and Buttercup also become a beacon of hope to Daniel, Katrina and the entire island community?
Summer of Hopes and Dreams by Sue McDonagh
From the back cover:
Can “Dozy Rosie” spice up her life and prove she’s not boring? Rosie Bunting has spent her life caring for others, often at the expense of her own hopes and dreams. But when she overhears somebody describing her as “boring”, she decides it’s time for a change. Little does she realise that the outdoor pursuits weekend brochure handed to her at the local Art Café will kick start a summer that will see her abseiling down a Welsh cliff face in “eye watering” leggings, rediscovering her artistic side and unexpectedly inheriting an old fire engine. It also involves meeting hunky outdoor instructor, Gareth Merwyn-Jones – although of course he’d never be interested in Dozy Rosie Bunting … would he? One thing’s for certain: Rosie’s path to achieving her hopes and dreams might not be smooth, but it’s definitely not boring.
Unbreak Your Heart by Katie Marsh
From the back cover:
Seven-year-old Jake’s heart is failing and he doesn’t want to leave his dad, Simon, alone. So he makes a decision: to find Simon someone to love before he goes.
Beth is determined to forget the past. But even when she leaves New York to start afresh in a Lake District village, she can’t shake the secrets that haunt her.
Single dad Simon still holds a candle for the woman who left him years ago. Every day is a struggle to earn a living while caring for his beloved son. He has no time for finding someone new.
But Jake is determined his plan will succeed – and what unfolds will change all three of them forever.
So another great month of reading. have you read and enjoyed any of the above? What has been your favourite book from your July reads? Feel free to share in the comments below.
Age should be no barrier to living and loving – in real life and in fiction
Regular readers of this blog will know that when it comes to both reading and writing my genre of choice is romantic fiction. It’s a wide-ranging genre and includes various sub genres such as romantic suspense, historical romance and contemporary romance – to name only some.
But for too long there was one aspect that was anything but wide-ranging and that’s the age of the main characters. Indeed up until relatively recently you’d be hard pushed to find romance novels where the central couple were over thirty. Now while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a novel about a couple in their twenties and there are many excellent such books – lots of which I’ve read and enjoyed – I’m guessing I’m not alone in wanting to read and write about older protagonists too – especially as I myself am an older reader and writer.
And I’m talking here particularly about contemporary romance because by definition it should reflect contemporary times – times in which attitudes and expectations have broadened and changed. So authors and publishers are missing a trick if they don’t reflect that.
Fortunately though there are signs of positive changes. Seasoned romance, second chance romance, mature romance, whatever you prefer to call it, is a genre that’s growing. Main characters can be anything from thirty years of age upwards. Characters in these stories have full and rounded lives which include falling/being in love and having sex – as well as negotiating often challenging career and life changes.
A Brilliant Example
One brilliant example of the above is one of my books of the month for June and it’s the latest novel from one of my favourite authors Christine Webber.
So Many Ways of Loving by Christine Webber
This is such a lovely hopeful read. It’s set in 2019 and the three main characters are all women either in or approaching their sixties and all are facing life-changing situations. There is also a fourth female character in her seventies who also features strongly later in the book. The story involves issues such as grief, body-image and ageing and yes, later life romance too. It’s a story of new friendships, new experiences, and new starts. It’s a story about possibilities regardless of age and stage in life. It’s touching, warm, humane and realistic. And its message is that life goes on in all its sometimes surprising, sometimes messy ways – but that as long as it does it is wonderful and it’s there to love, to be loved and to live. And that last sentence – caused a wry smile.
From the back cover:
So Many Ways of Loving is a novel in which, at first glance, nothing much happens – there’s no espionage, no high-speed car chases, murders, or haunted houses. But in a sense, everything happens – loss, death, grief, serious illness, but also birth, unexpected romance, fresh adventures and numerous possibilities. Three women in their 50s and 60s travel through the most momentous year of their lives, and as they do so, they are reminded of just how much we depend upon family, friends and pets.
You can buy So many Ways of Loving in bookshops and online here. It is available as a paperback and as an ebook.
You can connect online with Christine at the following places:
As well as the book above I have three other books of the month to recommend to you. All are contemporary romances and all have main characters who have all lived more than a little.
The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar
An unusual and heart-warming romance. I especially loved the ending and the fact that the grandmother character was no elderly cliché.
From the back cover:
The Borrow-a-Bookshop Bookshop Café invites literature lovers to run their very own bookshop … for a fortnight.
Spend your days talking books with customers in your own charming bookshop and serving up delicious cream teas in the cosy café.
Bookworms, what are you waiting for? Your holiday is going to be LIT(erary).
Apply to: The Borrow-a-Bookshop Bookshop Café, Down-a-long, Clove Lore, Devon.
Jude Crawley should be on top of the world. She’s just graduated as a mature student, so can finally go public about her relationship with Philosophy professor, Mack.
Until she sees Mack kissing another girl, and her dreams crumble. And worse, their dream holiday – running a tiny bookshop in the harbour village of Clove Lore for two weeks – is non-refundable.
Throwing caution to the winds, Jude heads down to Devon, eager to immerse herself in literature and heal her broken heart.
But there’s one problem – six foot tall, brooding (but gorgeous) Elliot, who’s also reserved the bookshop holiday for two weeks…
As Jude and Elliot put their differences aside to run the bookshop, it seems that Jude might be falling in love with more than just words. Until she discovers what Elliot is running from – and why he’s hiding out in Clove Lore.
Can Jude find her own happy ending in a tiny, tumbledown bookshop? Or is she about to find out that her bookish holiday might have an unexpected twist in the tale…
The Getaway by Isabelle Broom
Set in Croatia which is beautifully described throughout the story – you really can imagine you’re there, this is a romantic, mysterious and moving tale of pain, hurt, loss and the power of love.
From the back cover:
Sometimes it takes losing everything to find the person you need . . .
Most people travel to Croatia for its endless sunshine, pebbly beaches and crystal clear sea.
Kate goes there to disappear.
She needs to escape from a life that has fallen apart in spectacular and public fashion, and no one on the beautiful island of Hvar knows who she is or what she’s running away from.
Until she meets another lonely soul.
Alex is different to any man Kate has ever known, yet the connection between them is undeniable. She soon begins to open up in ways she never has before – not even to herself. But Kate is not the only person in Hvar hiding secrets. And, as she is about to discover, it is always only a matter of time before the truth catches up with you . . .
A Summer of Second Chances by Suzanne Snow
Sparks do indeed fly between an, at first, unlikely couple in this thoroughly enjoyable romance.
From the back cover:
Sparks and tempers fly when Ben comes to stay in Daisy’s holiday cottage.
Daisylikes routine. She goes to work, makes dinner for her son, then loses herself for an hour or two in her sewing. She’s not looking for change, until Bencrashes – literally – into her life.
Ben is training for a triathlon, working himself to the limit in an attempt to forget a recent trauma. Daisy wants to help, but even as they draw closer with every week that passes, he pushes her away whenever things threaten to get serious.
Can Ben open himself up to love again? And with Daisy’s life in the Yorkshire Dales and Ben’s in New York, can they have a future together even if he does?
And that’s it for this month. If you’re a fan of romantic fiction, is character age something that attracts you to, or puts you off a book? Please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic and to recommend any examples you’ve enjoyed reading where the main characters are in, or beyond, their thirties.
Books are my thing – writing them and reading them but this year, more than any other, books have provided some much-needed solace and escapism.
Writing my own books
During the initial Covid lockdown and the various tweaked versions/restrictions that followed her in Scotland, I was so glad to have my writing. I did find my concentration was a bit compromised at first but since I got my mojo back it’s been so good to have an imaginary Covid-free world to escape to – a world where I’m in control.
It was a real morale booster when the final part of my Isle of Skye trilogy, Fulfilment,was published. It was lovely to have brought Jack and Rachel’s story to a satisfying conclusion – although I must admit I do miss them. And it’s also been lovely to have so much wonderful feedback from readers. Thank you all of you who messaged, emailed and posted reviews – it means a lot.
And now I have new characters to spend time with as I’ve begun writing the first novel in what I hope will become a new series – this time set in the Scottish Borders. The working title is Happiness Cottage and tells the romantic story of Scottish farmer, Aidan, and Australian conservationist, Lori.
14 Best Reads 2020
But enough about creating my own books 😊 What about the ones I’ve read this year? And which ones out of my Books of the Month featured throughout 2020 here on the blog I have picked as the absolute best?
I’ve read over 100 books since the beginning of the year. There were a few I didn’t finish – based on the ‘life’s too short to spend it doing something you don’t enjoy’ principle but they were a tiny minority. I’ve read some enjoyable non-fiction, some crime, and some thrillers but by far the largest category has been contemporary romance. It’s always my favourite genre – but again with all the difficulties, challenges and sadness that 2020 has wrought, the escapism and happy-ever-after of the romance genre has beckoned even more than usual.
So it shouldn’t surprise you to know that I’ve picked twelve contemporary romances as my favourite books for 2020 and I’ve also added the three specifically Christmas romances that I’ve recently enjoyed and are also amongst my best books read in the last twelve months.
The Top Books List –12 best books of 2020
So here they are – in the order that I read them. No reviews but I’d give them all 5 stars. All are available as ebooks and paperbacks – online and in book shops.
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?
Laurie and Jamie have the perfect office romance (They set the rules via email)
Everyone can see they’re head over heels (They staged the photos)
This must be true love (They’re faking it)
When Laurie is dumped by her partner of eighteen years, she’s blindsided. Not only does she feel humiliated, they still have to work together.
So when she gets stuck in the lift with handsome colleague Jamie, they hatch a plan to stage the perfect romance. Revenge will be sweet…
But this fauxmance is about to get complicated. You can’t break your heart in a fake relationship – can you?
A Dozen Second Chances by Kate Field
What are the chances that twelve little tokens could change a life?
Seventeen years ago,Eve Roberts had the wonderful life she’d always dreamed of: a degree in archaeology, a gorgeous boyfriend, and exciting plans to travel the world with him, working on digs. But when her sister Faye died, the life Eve knew ended too. Faye’s daughter Caitlyn came to live with Eve, her boyfriend left, and she quickly gave up on her dreams.
Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Eve faces the prospect of an empty nest as Caitlyn is leaving home. Caitlyn gives Eve a set of twelve ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ vouchers, telling her that she has to start living for herself again, and that she should fill one in every time she does something to treat herself.
With her very first voucher, Eve’s life will change its course. But with eleven more vouchers to go, can Eve learn to put herself first and follow the dreams she’s kept secret for so long? Because life is for living – and as she well knows, it’s too short to waste even a moment…
The Life She Wants by Maggie Christensen
She’s a strait-laced, inhibited career woman. He’s an aging hippie who acts without thinking. What could they possibly have in common?
Fran Reilly has hidden a secret sorrow for the past thirty years. But turning fifty and losing her mother forces her to re-evaluate her future. Returning to her home in Granite Springs, she’s determined to make changes to her well-ordered life. However there are more changes in store than she could ever have imagined.
When Owen Larsen applies for the position as Head of the new School of Music and Drama at the university in Granite Springs, his only concern is to leave the rat race of Sydney and find a more peaceful existence in the country.
Owen is the exact opposite of everything in Fran’s well-ordered world and reminds her of a past she has been at pains to forget. And Owen’s country idyll isn’t proving to be as peaceful as he imagined.
Can these two opposites find common ground and is there a future for them in Granite Springs?
The Life She Wants is the third book in the Granite Springs series set in a small Australian country town
The New Guy by Kathryn Freeman
Sam Huxton doesn’t do one-night stands, especially not with men she’s just met! But the hot guy at the bar was hard to resist and one night is all they share – no names, no numbers, just some much needed fun…
Until the same guy walks into Sam’s life the next day as her new employee. Sam never mixes business with pleasure and makes it clear an office fling with Ryan is off-limits. But after-hours…one thing can lead to another. Can Sam trust her heart and her business with the new guy?
A Summer to Remember in Herring Bay by Angela Britnell
Essy Havers is good at finding things. Her company specialises in helping clients track down anything, from missing china pieces to rare vintage clothing. But now Essy has something more important to find: herself. Essy has always been curious about her mother’s secret past and her Cornish roots. So, when the opportunity arises, she hops on a plane in Tennessee and ends up in Herring Bay in Cornwall; the village where her mother grew up. But once there, she’s mystified by the reactions of the villagers when they realise who she is. Was Essy’s decision to visit Cornwall a mistake, or will it lead to a summer she’ll never forget?
One Winter Morning by Isabelle Broom
Genie isn’t feeling very festive this December.
The frosty mornings and twinkling fairy lights only remind her it’s been a whole year since she lost her adoptive mother, who took her in as a baby and raised her as her own. She’s never felt more alone – until she discovers her birth mother’s identity. And where to find her – New Zealand, half the world away. Travelling there could be her one chance to meet the woman who gave her up . . . But will she find the answers she has been looking for? Or something she could never have expected?
Summer at the Little Cottage on the Hill by Emma Davies
Take an endless stroll through wild meadows and breathe in the sweet aroma of flowers in full bloom. The first ever guest at the little cottage on the hill is looking for an escape, but her past is not far behind her…
Thirty-two-year-old ‘ice queen’ Isobel slams the cottage door and pulls the curtains shut. She has just six weeks to practise for a secret project that could save her career and no one must know she is here.
When Tom, the local thatcher with eyes as blue and deep as the ocean, hears the sound of her violin on the breeze he feels a tug at his heart-strings that reminds him of happier times. Who is this mysterious new lodger, and why does she look so familiar?
Desperate to find out more, Tom is devastated when Isobel refuses to enjoy everything the farm has to offer. He won’t give in, but just when it looks like Isobel is coming out of her shell, someone recognises her and the troubles from her past threaten to take away everything she has been working towards.
Will the lessons Isobel learned at the little cottage help her to stand up and face the music? Will Tom ever find a way to unlock the emotion she needs to move on?
Shadows on the Water by Jo Lambert
After the tragic death of her fiancé, Ava Warren is slowly rebuilding her life. She has a supportive family, great friends and a job she loves, managing holiday letting company Estuary Escapes in her home town of Kingswater. Another relationship is the last thing she wants or needs. Until one evening she meets Alex Penhaligon.
Alex has just returned home from California where he has been working for the past five years. A case of mistaken identity gets them off to a bad start. But discovering his error, Alex is anxious to make amends and soon persuades Ava that he’s not quite as arrogant as she thinks he is. As their friendship begins to turn into something much deeper, Ava wonders whether she can at last put the past behind her and make a new future with Alex.
But someone is watching. A man who not only thinks Ava should be his but also holds a long term grudge against Alex. And he’s determined to get his own way irrespective of the lengths he has to go to or who gets hurt in the process.
Set on the south coast of Cornwall, Shadows on the Water is a story of family ties, lost love and tangled loyalties.
The Saturday Morning Park Run by Jules Wake
Full of romance and humour, this is a book about fresh starts, friendship and the unexpected places we find happiness.
This is the story of two women. One old, one young. One looking for new adventures. One looking for a purpose. Both needing a friend.
And this is how, along with two little girls in need of a family, a gorgeous stranger, and a scruffy dog, they bring the whole community together every Saturday morning for love, laughter and a little bit of running…(well, power walking).
Some people come into your life when you need them the most.
The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain
Freya Fuller is estranged from her parents and has been following her childhood dream of becoming a gardener ever since. When an opportunity to design a winter garden opens up at a Victorian property in Nightingale Square, Freya jumps at the chance to make a fresh start. But while the majority of the residents are welcoming, local artist Finn seems determined to shut her out, and when Freya’s family make a surprise appearance, it seems that her new life is about to come crashing down . . .
Endless Skies by Jane Cable
If you want to move forward, you have to deal with the past…
After yet another disastrous love affair – this time with her married boss – Rachel Ward has been forced to leave her long-term position in Southampton for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University.
Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out.
But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again…
She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney.
He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…
As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past.
Why is she unable to get into a healthy relationship? What’s stopping her from finding Mr Right?
And what are the echoes of the past trying to tell her…?
Harper’s Highland Fling by Lizzie Lamb
After a gruelling academic year, head teacher Harper MacDonald is looking forward to a summer holiday trekking in Nepal.
However, her plans are scuppered when wayward niece, Ariel, leaves a note announcing that she’s running away with a boy called Pen. The only clue to their whereabouts is a footnote: I’ll be in Scotland.
Cue a case of mistaken identity when Harper confronts the boy’s father – Rocco Penhaligon, and accuses him of cradle snatching her niece and ruining her future. At loggerheads, Harper and Rocco set off in hot pursuit of the teenagers, but the canny youngsters are always one step ahead. And, in a neat twist, it is the adults who end up in trouble, not the savvy teenagers.
Fasten your seatbelt for the road trip of your life! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!
And Three Top Christmas Novels
Christmas Wishes by Sue Moorcroft
Hannah and Nico are meant to be together.
But fate is keeping them apart…
As soon as Hannah bumps into her brother Rob’s best friend Nico in Stockholm, the two rekindle a fast friendship. But Hannah has a boyfriend – and Nico has two children to look after.
When Hannah loses her beloved shop in Stockholm, though, she is forced to move back to the little village of Middledip – only to find Nico has just moved in too. Under the same snowy sky, can the childhood friends make a romance work – or are there too many obstacles standing in their way?
A Little Christmas Hope by Kathryn Freeman
Newly promoted head teacher Anna Dalton needs a Christmas miracle – and fast! After years of sitting through excruciatingly dull Christmas productions, complete with crying children and sleeping parents, she’s determined Riddlescomb Primary School will put on a Nativity to remember.
Enter bad boy actor Dan Ramsey, recently axed from the lead role in a TV drama and in desperate need of cleaning up his image or he’ll never work again.
Dan can flash those heart-stopping dimples all he likes, Anna tells herself she isn’t going to fall for them. She knows why he’s decided to volunteer at the school, and it’s for the good of his bank balance…not his soul.
But as Anna and Dan are forced to work together for the sake of a truly magical Christmas for the children, sparks fly and they can’t help but wonder what will happen once the festive season is over…
Together by Christmas by Karen Swan
When Lee first came to Amsterdam, it was with a newborn baby and a secret. Five years later, her life is approaching normal: her career as a celebrity photographer is flourishing, her son Jasper is growing up, and they are enjoying the run-up to Christmas with their tight circle of close friends.
But all this changes one morning when Lee finds a book in the basket of her bicycle – and scrawled inside it, a desperate message. Who left it for her, and why? Lee feels compelled to help and tracks down the book’s author, Sam. With an instant, undeniable connection it seems they might have a shot at a real future together.
Until her past comes calling. As the snow falls and ice thickens on the city’s canals, the secret Lee has never told resurfaces. Suddenly everything she holds dear hangs in the balance. Christmas is a time for being together – but what if the truth means she ends up alone?
That’s all folks!
And that’s it – my favourite books for 2020 list is complete. Have you read/enjoyed any of them. What are your top reads for the year? Have you found that you’ve read more or less than usual this year? If so is that down to Covid/ As always please do feel free to comment below.
And that’s also it for 2020 here on the blog. Thanks to all of you who stop by here to read, comment and share your views. You make doing this so worthwhile and rewarding. I wish every one of you a happy festive season and a safe, sane and happy 2021. See you back here in January.
As this most unsettling of years has gone on I’ve become more and more grateful for books – both writing and reading them.
When I’m writing I’m in my own (Covid free) imaginary world and I’m in control of what happens in that world.
And when I’m reading I can escape into someone else’s (Covid free) imagined world.
Now, I know there’s some debate in the writing and reading communities about whether authors of contemporary fiction ought to/want to/ don’t want to/ write fiction that includes ‘the virus’ in the story line and whether readers want/don’t want/ to read such books – but that is a discussion for another day.
Safe to say, for now, I want to steer clear of Covid in both my writing and my reading.
So here are my favourite 2 reads for the month of October and there was no need for sanitiser, social-distancing or masks while reading them 😊
Both are contemporary romances and both provided a wonderful escape
Books of the Month October 2020
First up is The Winter Garden by Heidi Swain
From the back cover:
Will love bloom this winter?
Freya Fuller is living her dream, working as a live-in gardener on a beautiful Suffolk estate. But when the owner dies, Freya finds herself forced out of her job and her home with nowhere to go. However, with luck on her side, she’s soon moving to Nightingale Square and helping to create a beautiful winter garden that will be open to the public in time for Christmas.
There’s a warm welcome from all in Nightingale Square, except from local artist Finn. No matter how hard the pair try, they just can’t get along, and working together to bring the winter garden to life quickly becomes a struggle for them both.
Will Freya and Finn be able to put their differences aside in time for Christmas? Or will the arrival of a face from Freya’s past send them all spiralling?
The Winter Garden is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance.
Regular reads of the blog will most likely recognise this book and its author from last week’s post HERE where author Heidi shared her Life in a Day of an Author with us. And in that post I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed this book. As I said then, it’s a perfect autumn/winter read and I thoroughly enjoyed this satisfying and so romantic story. The main characters Freya and Finn are perfectly flawed and so likeable and I loved all the garden details too.
And my other book of the month is A Granite Springs Christmas by Maggie Christensen
From the back cover:
A return to Granite Springs. A family Christmas. A time for love and joy…or is it?
A year after a devastating bushfire destroyed Magda Duncan’s home, she returns to Granite Springs determined to resume her life and organise a wonderful family Christmas. But the elation of her homecoming quickly turns to disappointment as she discovers not everyone is in tune with her plans.
George Turnbull was Magda’s late husband’s best friend. A bachelor, he has always carried a torch for Magda and remained close to her and her sons. When he finally musters the courage to reveal his true feelings, a life changing surprise from his past threatens to ruin any chance at happiness.
Emotions are high as Christmas Day approaches. Will this be the most wonderful Christmas ever? Or will the hopes and fears of the past come home to haunt them?
A poignant story of a Christmas friends of Granite Springs will never forget.
If you enjoy heartwarming second chance romance in a rural setting with a Christmas flavour, you’ll love this book.
Okay, I have to admit I’m cheating slightly here as this book doesn’t come out until 28th October but I was given an advance copy by the author and so I got to read it early.
This is book number 6 in the Australian set Granite Springs series – I’ve read and enjoyed all the others – and this time it’s the lovely story of Magda and George. The pair, who have appeared earlier in the series, and who are in their 70s, have been friends for years but as the story unfolds it becomes clear now might be the time for them to take their relationship further and to become romantically involved.
Yes, this magical, heart-warming and hopeful story would have been fine with younger protagonists, but it’s especially lovely that they are that bit older.
This book is another warm and engaging read from this author. I loved it. And I loved the message that it’s never too late to fall in love.
And while it was good to catch up with characters from earlier stories, this book could easily be read as a standalone.
I heartly recommend it.
Over to you:
What are your favourite reads for October 2020?
Would you read/not read fiction that has Covid as one of its themes/storylines?
How do you feel about romantic stories where the couple are middle-aged or older?
Two great reads to recommend in this post as well as a heads-up on part three of the blog tour for my own Skye series of novels, and news of my appearance at an upcoming book festival..
A mixed start to autumn
September has been a month of contrasts here in Scotland – some beautiful cool but sunny autumn days as well as some incredibly rainy and grey ones.
And as regards my social life it’s been a month of contrasts too.
I got to see friends I hadn’t seen since the start of the Covid lockdown, got out for a couple of lunches, had a couple of friends to the house, and had a lovely staycation week away in Argyll with family.
But then the Scottish government announced we’re back to partial lockdown and we can’t have friends or family to visit us at home or visit them in their homes.
However through all the ups and downs of the pandemic – one thing has remained constant. I continue to find much solace in reading.
And below I have my two of my favourite reads of the month to share with you.
September Books of the Month
First up is a beautiful non-fiction book of contemporary writing about the nature and landscape of Scotland. Antlers of Water is edited by Kathleen Jamie – a favourite writer of mine, and the contributing writers got me thinking even more than normal about our relationship as humans with the natural world.
From the backcover:
The first ever collection of contemporary Scottish writing on nature and landscape, Antlers of Water showcases the diversity and radicalism of new Scottish nature writing today.
Edited, curated and introduced by the award-winning Kathleen Jamie, and featuring prose, poetry and photography, this inspiring collection takes us from walking to wild swimming, from red deer to pigeons and wasps, from remote islands to back gardens.
With contributions from Amy Liptrot, Malachy Tallack, Chitra Ramaswamy, Jim Crumley, Amanda Thomson, Karine Polwart and many more, Antlers of Water urges us to renegotiate our relationship with the more-than-human world, in writing which is by turns celebratory, radical and political.
And second, is a contemporary romance – I know no surprises there – but what is surprising is I read this one in a day – something I’ve never done before. It was a wet Sunday, I wasn’t feeling energetic and the sofa beckoned. And wow! Just wow! The Saturday Morning Park Run by Jules Wake is a five out of five stars and is in line for my book of 2020.
From the back cover:
This is the story of two women.
One old, one young.
One looking for new adventures. One looking for a purpose.
Both needing a friend.
And this is how, along with two little girls in need of a family, a gorgeous stranger, and a scruffy dog, they bring the whole community together every Saturday morning for love, laughter and a little bit of running…(well, power walking).
Blog Tour for Fulfilment
As well as reading, I have of course spent much of the month writing. And after a couple of false starts I’m now underway with the first novel in my new series. However, that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about the novels I already have out there. And I’m delighted that Fulfilment – the third and final part of my Rachel & Jack: Skye series is off on its blog tour this week – and as before the tour will include reviews and extracts.
This follows on from the recent tour weeks for the first two novels in the series – Displacement and Settlement. These proved very successful and got lots of interaction and sharing and I’m hopeful the same will be true for Fulfilment‘s trip out.
And I must say a huge thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group who organised the tours and to all the book bloggers who have taken part.
You can see below all the stops Fulfilment will be making on its tour – and as always I would appreciate it so much if you could visit, like and share some or any of them. Thank you.
Oh, and before I go, just wanted to let you know that I’m delighted to be appearing at the Portobello Book Festival this Friday (2nd October) at 8pm. Portobello is a seaside area in the city of Edinburgh and has hosted its own live book festival for several years.
This year, of course, the festival is online and free to attend – so even if you can’t watch my session – where I will interviewed about my books – as it goes live on the 2nd – you can catch up any time online on YouTube later. You will be able to find my event by clicking on the link HERE any time after 8pm on the 2nd.
The festival runs from the 2nd to the 4th October 2020 and you see the full programme and timings HERE.
I’ve not read quite as many books as I did during the first months of lockdown. This is partly to do with being busy once again with my writing and with attempting to keep the garden under control, but also because my social life has made tiny steps back into existence – however, I do have three good reads to share with you.
All of them are contemporary romances – all quite different from each other – and all of them are ideal relaxing summer reads.
And in no particular order they are:
A Day That Changed Everything by Beth Moran
Amy Piper is in need of a bit of luck. She’s lost her confidence, her mojo and her way.
But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…
What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.
The trick to changing your life, is to take it one day at a time. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, Amy is determined to make just one day special – for herself and for Joey. And who knows, today might be the day that changes everything…(This book was previously published as How Not to be a Loser).
Escape to the Art Café by Sue McDonagh
Heartbreak and cake at the Art Café … It was meant to be the perfect romantic holiday. But then Flora Bexton’s boyfriend does the unthinkable, and she responds in the only logical way: she steals his motorbike and escapes for a holiday by herself on the Welsh coast. Far from the lonely trip she imagined, Flora soon finds comfort at the friendly local Art Café where the legendary hot chocolate and cake help to ease her troubled mind. And when Aussie-Welsh lifeguard Jake Foley steps in just when Flora needs help the most, she realises that her ‘holiday’ feels more like home with every passing day …
Coming Home to Merriment Bay by Emily Harvale
This novel was originally a four-part, serial. This is all four parts and forms Book 1 in the Merriment Bay series. If you have read the four-part serial, you have read this book.
Cat Devon left Merriment Bay eighteen years ago with her baby daughter, Kyra. Now a letter from Cat’s estranged mum has brought them back.
Cat has tried to forget her heartbreaking past and forgive her mum, Mary and her gran, Viola. But nothing seems to have changed and Mary still insists on keeping secrets.
Sitting beside Viola’s hospital bed, isn’t exactly fun, so when Cat and Kyra stumble on a faded photo of an RAF pilot and a pile of unopened letters in a trunk in Viola’s room, they decide to find out who he is and what he meant to Viola.
Amias Wells, who owns Bay Water Sports but also flies a vintage Spitfire for the Merriment Bay WWII Museum, is the perfect man to ask. Except Cat and Amias haven’t spoken since the accident that killed his friend and left Cat scarred, eighteen years ago. Sparks fly when they meet again.
But Amias traces Bailey Mitchell, who lives thousands of miles away and is almost ninety-eight. Exchanging Christmas cards leads to revelations Cat had not expected. Then a surprise visitor means Cat’s Christmas takes a delightful turn. Now she’s facing choices she never thought she’d have to make.
When distressing events end more than one person’s dream, Cat realises what – and who – she wants. As Merriment Bay prepares to toast in the New Year, can Cat finally put the past where it belongs and find the love she deserves?
So, what’s everyone else been reading in July? Any recommendations? Please do share below.
I’ve always included book reviews amongst my posts, but regular readers may have noticed I do fewer now than I used to. It’s not that I’m reading fewer books, it’s simply a matter of time management. This isn’t a book blog as such and I wouldn’t claim to be book blogger but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do some reviewing and sharing in amongst all the other writing related things I blog about. So I’ve decided to try posting a monthly recommended read (or reads) throughout 2020.
I’ll only share my best reads – those that score 95% plus on the Anne Scale of Good Reads 😊 in terms of plot, character, setting and all round reading satisfaction.
And I’ll post the reviews on the last Monday of each month.
So let’s get this new feature kicked off –
Anne’s January Recommended Read
The Life She Chooses by Maggie Christensen
From the back cover:
Two families. Two troubled pasts. Can they find a future together?
Following the loss of her husband and the devastating accusations surrounding his death, Kay Jackson has experienced the icy chill of alienation from the close-knit town of Granite Springs. Thrust into the position of personal assistant to a professor at the local university, Kay, who prefers to stay in the background away from the town gossips, is unsure how she will cope.
When Nick Kerr’s wife leaves him for a younger man, the professor is left nursing a broken heart while struggling to adapt to life as a single parent of two teens. Reeling from the indignity of his wife’s actions, Nick has no intention of putting himself in such a vulnerable position again.
However, as Kay and Nick’s professional relationship develops, they find themselves drawn to each other. As their friendship begins to morph into something more, Kay’s daughter arrives in town intent on controlling her mother’s life. The combined actions of Kay’s daughter and Nick’s children reinforces the many doubts the couple have on embarking on a new relationship.
Is there a future for Kay and Nick or will their families destroy any chance of happiness?
The Life She Chooses is the second book in the Granite Springs series set in a small Australian country town.
This is another most enjoyable and satisfying second-chance romance from Maggie Christensen. It tells the story of Kay and Nick – and it’s wonderful (as in all this author’s books) to read about characters who, although they’re a bit older, still want to live life to the full – including being in involved a romantic relationship.
Kay is a character who featured in this author’s earlier novel The Life She Deserves and it’s great that she now gets her own story in this book. Kay is a widow, having lost her husband to suicide – and as if that wasn’t bad enough there was a bit of a scandal surrounding her late husband too. However, Kay is doing her best to recover from all the trauma and to get on with her life.
Nick is divorced, his wife having left him for a younger man.
And when the two of them meet it seems at first there could be a chance of a relationship and some future happiness for them both.
However, there are obstacles – obstacles which seem insurmountable – as both have family issues which could prevent them being together.
There’s a real sense of conflict for both Kay and Nick – with family duty on the one hand and, on the other, the desire to live the lives they want for themselves.
The Life She Chooses is an emotional, warm and eventful story – and a most romantic read.
The book is available as a paperback and as an ebook and you can buy it here.
This latest book from Maggie Christensen is the first in the new Australian set, Granite Springs series. It’s a contemporary second-chance/ seasoned/ mature romance and it’s excellent.
Regular readers of this blog will know that this author is a favourite of mine. Her books are realistic but romantic. The main characters tend to have a fair bit of life experience behind them but they’re still looking to the future, not dwelling in the past, and they’re certainly not immune from falling in love. And the stories and their settings easily hook me in.
So I suspected I was going to enjoy The Life She Deserves – and I certainly did. Maybe even the best yet from this author.
It tells the story of divorcee Jo and widower Col. Being older or, ‘in their prime’ if you prefer, they both have baggage – and it’s baggage that gets in the way of their fledgling romance. Jo has to fight for the life she most definitely deserves.
All the characters are three-dimensional and believable – flaws and all. Change is hard for all of them and there is plenty internal and external emotional conflict driving the story on. And there are surprises along the way too.
Yes, this is another hit from this wonderful, talented and prolific author.
From the back of the book:
Growing up in the small Australian country town of Granite Springs, Jo and Col have been lifelong friends.
Following Jo’s divorce and the death of Col’s wife, the pair find comfort in their common grief. But as they tentatively explore their new relationship, they have little idea of the challenges that lie ahead.
What they haven’t bargained for is Jo’s interfering ex, along with their three children, all of whom have their own agendas.
Can Jo ride out the storm? Will she be granted the life she deserves?
If you enjoy heartwarming second chance romance in a rural setting, you’ll love this book.
The Life She Deserves is available in Paperback and ebook formats and you can get it here.
AND I can also reveal that the second book in the Granite Springs series The Life She Chooses is out on 9th December and you can pre-order it here.
Hello everyone and welcome to event number 24 in the Virtual book festival programme. Today we have an interview with author of contemporary romantic fiction, Kate Field.
And hello and welcome to you too, Kate. Let’s begin with why and how you became a writer?
The earliest memory I have of writing is from primary school, when I wrote a story about an octopus and his underwater friends. The teacher pinned it on the wall, even though it stretched for pages and pages. I was a shy girl, neither sporty nor musical, and for the first time it felt like there was something I might be good at.
I wrote terrible poetry in my teens and eventually started my first novel in my early twenties. I wrote on and off for almost twenty years as a hobby, and then had a ‘now or never’ moment when I turned forty. I plucked up the courage to start sending my writing out and entering competitions. I was a runner up in a competition organised by Woman magazine and Accent Press, and Accent published my first three books.
I didn’t ever dare call myself a writer during those early years. It wasn’t until I was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance and met other writers for the first time that I realised I was one of them. I had found my tribe!
Anne: Well done for going for it. Your courage in taking the leap certainly paid off.
What genre do you write in and why does that hold a particular appeal for you?
I write romantic fiction. It’s been my favourite genre ever since I read Pride and Prejudice as my GCSE set text and was swept up in the story in a way I’d never been before. It’s the genre where I can relate to the characters and situations and see parts of my own life reflected on the pages, and that adds extra appeal to the books. I also have more emotional connection to romantic fiction novels than any other, because I love a happy ending and I find it comforting to be able to pick up a book knowing that’s exactly what I’ll get.
I never actively thought about what sort of books to write. It was always going to be romance.
Anne: Yes, I like ‘the deal’ between romantic fiction authors and readers – as a reader you know you won’t be left hanging and that you’ll get a story you can relate to along the way.
How many books have you written? Tell us a bit about them.
Four books have been published so far, with the fifth due out in February 2020.
The Magic of Ramblings was the first to be published. It’s about a desperate woman who runs away from her life and takes a job as a companion to an old lady who lives at Ramblings, a country house in Lancashire. It’s a story of friendship, of community spirit, and of starting again when all seems lost.
I went back to Ramblings in another book, The Winter That Made Us, as I couldn’t resist revisiting some favourite characters! It’s a standalone story about an unlikely couple who connect through music and the restoration of the Ramblings walled garden.
The Truth About You, Me and Us is also set in Lancashire. It’s about a community of craft people and tells the story of Helen, who made a controversial decision a few years ago and who faces a challenge when her past catches up with her.
My most recent book is The Man I Fell in Love With, and there’s more about that one below.
Anne: And all of them are such good stories.
Tell us about a typical writing day?
I don’t have a typical writing day. I have a day job, so writing has to fit around that and family life. This means that I pick up my writing whenever I have chance, and write for as long as I can, without having a set plan for how many words I need to write. Some days even one paragraph is a good outcome!
Anne: Yes, I can see why you need to be flexible as regards your writing word count expectations. But every paragraph counts.
Do you plot your novels in some detail before you actually start writing?
I don’t plot in detail. My sensible side tells me that I should and that it would save a lot of time, especially on those days when I reach the end of a scene and have no idea what is going to happen next. But when I try to plot ahead, it doesn’t seem to work for me. I need to write into the story and to get to know the characters and what they might do as I go along.
Having said that, I do fill out character questionnaires before I start, and spend some time thinking about the opening scene and a few other scenes or wisps of conversation that could happen along the way.
Anne: So a bit of planning but an open mind too.
What comes first for you characters or plot?
You can probably guess from my answer to the last question that characters come first! I think that’s partly because I write romantic stories, and it’s essential that readers can relate to the characters and want to follow their journey over several hundred pages, even when they know that the book will finish with a happy ending. I also enjoy reading character-driven stories so it’s inevitable that I’m drawn to writing them too.
Anne: That makes perfect sense for the sort of stories you write. The characters are indeed memorable and it’s a pleasure to go with them through their story.
Where do you get your ideas?
The simple answer to this is that they come at any time and from anywhere! The Magic of Ramblings was inspired by my love of Georgette Heyer books, and in particular those stories where an unassuming companion wins the heart of a dashing hero! The Winter That Made Us was inspired by an advert I saw on television featuring floating Chinese lanterns. I thought of a scene where I could use floating lanterns and the whole book was built around it. It’s still one of my favourite parts of the book. Other stories have been inspired by magazine articles, items in the news or – in the case of The Man I Fell in Love With – a piece of gossip at work!
Anne: That’s the magic of writing ( and Ramblings), isn’t it? Ideas come from all sorts of places and situations.
Have you got a favourite character out of the all the ones you’ve created? Tell us about them if you have – or is it too hard to pick just one?
It’s very hard to pick one, as I have favourites for different reasons. The book that’s coming out in February, A Dozen Second Chances, features a character called Phyllis, who is the heroine’s grandmother, and I loved writing her scenes. She’s funny and wise and thinks she can get away with saying and doing anything she likes because of her grand old age!
It’s tough to choose between my male leads, as I love them all, but I have a soft spot for Noah Thornton from The Winter That Made Us. He starts off as a prickly bear of a man, who rarely smiles or speaks after facing a tragic event in his past, and I loved watching him thaw as the story develops.
Anne: Ah, Noah. I’m still in love with him …
Can you share some of the feedback/reviews you’ve had from your readers and/or any awards your books have received?
The Magic of Ramblings won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers, which was a complete surprise and a huge honour!
I’m grateful to anyone who takes a time to leave a review. Here are a few:
‘This was the first time that I’ve been so engrossed in a book, that I’ve forgotten where I was. It is totally consuming and the writing is enchanting and natural. Exceptional depth to the characters and a beautiful story. Loved loved loved it. Not my usual type of book but it was my favourite read of the year by a mile.’ Amazon review, The Magic of Ramblings
‘I thought this story was utterly delightful and a perfect example of truly romantic women’s fiction.’ Linda’s Book Bag, The Truth About You, Me and Us
‘The whole book is beautifully written, with real warmth, a strong sense of place and of the people who live there. I found it quite captivating, heart-warming and so uplifting – one of those rare and lovely reads that you put down at the end with a smile, and just want to say out loud “I really enjoyed that”.’ Being Anne, The Winter That Made Us
‘Kate Field has made me believe in love again, not the teenage meet-cute kind of love, but the real, enduring, self-sacrificing love. The love that really, as adults, we all hope is truly real.’ The Glass House Girls Online Magazine, The Man I Fell in Love With
There is an extract from your novel The Man I Fell in Love With below. Tell us a bit more about this particular book and why you chose it for the extract.
This is my most recently published book, and for a long time this was my secret writing project. I loved the characters so much, especially Mary Black, that I was too scared to submit it as I knew that rejection would hurt! Mary has proved a more controversial figure than I expected. She supports her husband when he reveals that he is gay, and her reaction has divided opinion, with some readers seeing her as weak and others acknowledging her strength. I think she’s wonderful!
This is the blurb from Amazon:
Sometimes we find happiness where we least expect it…
After twenty years of contented marriage, no one is more surprised than Mary Black when her husband announces he’s leaving her… for another man.
For the sake of the children, Mary has no choice but to pick herself up and start again. She hosts family meals that include Leo and his new partner. She copes with the kids wanting to spend less time with her and more time with their ‘fun’ dads. But one thing she can’t quite ignore is Leo’s gorgeous brother, who has just come back to town…
After living a life of sliding doors and missed opportunities, can Mary finally put herself first and take a chance that could change everything?
A wonderfully uplifting novel full of wisdom, spirit and charm. This is a love story with a difference, perfect for fans of Jill Mansell and Heidi Swain
In this extract, Mary has invited Leo and his new partner to the family home for Christmas, and Leo’s brother Ethan challenges her over her behaviour:
After dinner, Ava pulled out the box of Trivial Pursuit for the traditional game of everyone trying to beat Leo. I ducked out this year, letting Clark take my place, and went to tidy the kitchen, finding simple pleasure in restoring order in the one area I could. Noise and laughter floated down the hall.
‘What are you doing?’
Ethan followed me into the kitchen and pushed the door shut.
‘I don’t mean in here.’I knew exactly what he meant, knew what he was going to say, and it was one of the reasons why I had spent the whole of Christmas Eve out shopping, so that there was no danger of this conversation taking place. I grabbed a pile of cutlery, and fed it into the dishwasher with as much rattling as I could manage.
Ethan touched my arm.
‘Mary.’ I ignored him. He grabbed the cutlery from me, threw it in the basket and slammed the dishwasher door closed. ‘What’s the matter with you?’
‘With me?’ That riled me. How was any of this my fault? ‘Nothing.’
‘That’s my point. Leo’s about to leave you, and you look about as bothered as if you’d run out of milk.’
‘Of course I’m bothered! I don’t want him to go. Would you prefer it if I stayed in bed and cried into my pillow? Or if I shouted abuse at him and cut up all his suits? Do you think that would help Jonas and Ava?’
‘It might help you. It might show Leo that you do actually care, and that he has something to stay for.’
‘Me being me isn’t enough to make him stay, is that what you’re saying? That I’ve driven him away? Thanks for that vote of confidence.’
‘That’s not what I meant . . .’
‘And what makes you qualified to give me advice on relationships, with your two failed marriages and string of ex-girlfriends?’
Perhaps I had gone a bit far with that one – his second wife had been unfaithful, according to Audrey – but what right did he have to stand in my kitchen, berating my indifference? I knew some people would find my reaction odd, but I thought Ethan knew me better.
‘I know exactly what you’re doing. You block out things that are difficult, pretend they’re not happening. It’s what you’ve always done.’
‘That’s not true!’
‘What is it then? Some grand sacrifice for Leo? You love him, but you’re letting him go? Listen to me, Mary. It’s not heroic or noble to do that. It’s the wrong choice. If you want something enough you should carry on fighting for it, even if you get knocked down a thousand times, and no matter the collateral damage. Don’t condemn yourself to a life of loneliness and regret.’
He gazed at me then, and it was as if he’d ripped open that confident jacket, and shown me someone entirely different underneath. I didn’t know what to say, and was spared having to say anything when Leo walked in. He looked from Ethan to me, and back to Ethan.
‘What are you saying to her?’ I had never heard Leo’s tone so sharp.
‘The truth.’ Leo’s head jerked back as if Ethan had struck him on the chin. ‘I told Mary that she needs to fight to keep you.’
‘Do you have a problem with Leo being gay?’ I asked. There had always been tension between these two, but this level of animosity was new.
‘Not in the slightest. I only have a problem with him deciding he’s gay now, years after marrying you.’
‘I haven’t made the decision. I met Clark, and I can’t ignore what I feel for him.’ Leo stared at Ethan. ‘You can’t help who you fall in love with. You should understand that.’
And Ethan, whom I had never before seen lost for words, simply shook his head at Leo and walked out.
If you want to read more you can buy the book at the link below:
Today’s event is a joint one. It’s a Virtual Book Festival event and it’s also part of a Blog Blitz which has been organised by author Claire Baldry who set up and runs the popular Books for Older Readers (BFOR) website and Facebook group.
Claire set up the group and the website as places to highlight books which had older/mature main characters and which would therefore most likely appeal to older/mature readers. In doing so she was responding to the fact that older/mature readers often seemed to be finding it difficult to find such books – even although she – and lots of other authors she knew of – wrote them.
The initiative has proved popular and successful in matching books to readers who describe themselves as no longer young and the group and website have lots of members/followers from both the reading and writing communities – including myself.
So I thought in today’s event I’d like to explore and share with you what the concept of books for older readers – both writing and reading them – means to me.
Age appropriate reading
The Publisher Definition
Publishing is an industry and like any industry it needs to make a profit to survive and so it goes where the money is and it targets its customers. Therefore authors of commercial fiction have to follow the rules and conventions of their genre. Two genres in particular are mainly defined by the age of their intended readership – and these are: children’s fiction and its age specific sub-divisions, and Young Adult fiction. But for most of the other genres it’s not age but content that defines them. It’s taken as read (pun sort of intended) that readers will be adults.
And for the most part that works. But sometimes age, and attitudes to ageing, does seem to be an issue – especially when it comes to romantic fiction – and most especially when it comes to female characters
My Author Perspective
When I first sought publication for my debut novel – Change of Life – in 2009, I got lots of nice, but encouraging, rejections. I was told there was no doubt I could write, I could tell a good story, the characters were well drawn.
BUT, they said, the fact that my two main characters were in their forties meant it wouldn’t work as romantic fiction. I was told I could possibly get away with having the male character in his forties but definitely not the female one. She would need to be under thirty-five for readers to find it realistic.
I disagreed. And I’m now the proud author of three successful, independently published (including that first one) contemporary romantic novels with main protagonists who are in their forties or fifties. It turns out there is a market for what are now sometimes classed as second-chance romances. And I should also point out my readership spans the ages – from people in their twenties to their nineties.
Having said that, I don’t want to rule out the possibility that I might in future write novels that have younger main characters, but what I am advocating is an open mind when it comes to age and main characters in romantic fiction.
My Reader Perspective
Unsurprisingly, one of the genres I most enjoy reading is contemporary romance.
And, even although I’m more of an autumn chicken than a spring one, I’m still quite happy to read books where the protagonists are young. This year alone I’ve read several superb romantic novels where the lead characters have been in their twenties and thirties. And there will be more about them and their writers later in the festival.
However, I also like to read books where the main characters are in their forties, fifties and beyond who continue to live full lives – and who are definitely not too old to fall in love, enjoy sex, and begin new long term relationships. And these can be harder to find.
And just as a wee side note, I must say it brings out the grumpy old woman in me when women – and it does mainly seem to be women – over forty are portrayed as past it, frumpy and baffled by technology.
Things Are Changing
However, things are changing. And, as is often the way in publishing nowadays, it is the indie publishers who have made a significant contribution to satisfying demand. Authors such as Maggie Christensen, Christine Webber, and the aforementioned, BFOR founder, Claire Baldry, all write successful and first-class romantic fiction with older protagonists. And the big traditional publishers are at last catching up 🙂
But I think there is still a way to go in raising the profile of books with older protagonists or ageing-related issues at their heart. And that’s where groups like BFOR come in.
I don’t believe ‘older’ readers only want to read about ‘older’ characters, just as I don’t want to restrict myself to only writing about them, but I do believe life after thirty-five can be as challenging, surprising and rewarding as it was before – if not more so. So the lives of characters in the older age groups can provide fertile ground for all sorts of fiction. And surely having the full spectrum of adulthood – especially perhaps female adulthood – represented in fiction makes sense. After all the biggest group of book buyers is women over 45.
Age is just a number and is only one factor in our personalities and interests. It shouldn’t be a barrier to inclusion or enjoyment when it comes to our reading. And I’m hopeful things will continue to change for the better in that regard.
So, I’ll get down off my soapbox now and hand over to you.
What do you think about ageism in fiction? Is it something you’ve noticed or care about? And would you read/enjoy a novel where the romance happens between older characters? And, as I said, groups like the BFOR one are good for helping readers find books they’d like to read – so, where do you find your next good book?
Please do leave your comments below.
And please do come back to the festival tomorrow when, also as part of the BFOR Blog Blitz, I’ll be sharing an extract from one of my novels.