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.