Comfort Reading with Jo Fenton

This week I’m joined by psychological thriller writer Jo Fenton to talk about the books she considers her ‘treasured friends’. Jo’s debut novel, The Brotherhood, was released last year and her second book, The Refuge, is out later this month.

Rosie has kindly invited me to share my 5 favourite comfort reads today. To be honest, narrowing it down to 5 was the hardest bit!

My first is Persuasion by Jane Austen. I’ve always loved Anne Elliot as a character. She’s gentle, and yet holds firmly to her beliefs, even in the face of severe opposition, and even to the detriment of her own heart. This book has strong themes of friendship, loyalty and kindness – an ideal port in any storm.

From just a little later in time is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. My copy of this has fallen apart, so I now read it on kindle! Jane’s strength and vulnerability are the key characteristics that bring me to read this over and over again. Like Anne Elliot, Jane does what she think is right, despite it nearly killing her.

Moving forward to the early(ish) 20th Century – I believe around the 1930’s, I come to another book that’s fallen apart from overuse: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers. Harriet Vane was saved from hanging by Lord Peter Wimsey five years earlier. An incapacitating gratitude and inferiority complex has kept her from accepting his marriage proposal, but when he helps her tackle a dangerous poison pen writer at her old Oxford college, they are able to meet as equals. Dorothy L Sayers introduced me to the idea of combining a powerful love story with a crime thriller, and I return to this book at least once a year.

For my next choice, I return to my youth, and a book I was recommended by a sympathetic primary school teacher, who allowed me access to her ‘special shelves’. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner, was my first introduction to magic, and the links with mythology. Like JK Rowling, Alan Garner’s books dwell close to the origins of our local and not so local legends. This book is based on the legend of Alderley, and is incidentally set in the same county as The Brotherhood and The Refuge.

Finally, I’m returning to a novel covering the period 1860-1901 with Victoria Holt’s On The Night of The Seventh Moon. This is probably classed as gothic romance, and has all the required elements of a fantastic love story: a mysterious hero, hints of Northern legends, Princes and Dukes from the little principalities that made up Germany at that time, and a vulnerable, but strong and determined heroine. Match these with a charming but evil villain, and death threats – how could I resist?

About Jo

Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled “Science Can Be Fun”. At eleven, she discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.

Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.

When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, two sons, a Corgi and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.

Her first novel, The Brotherhood, is available from Amazon: https://t.co/YXdn8AM506

The sequel, The Refuge, will be released on 28th May by Crooked Books. It’s available for pre-order:  http://mybook.to/therefuge

Website www.jofenton137.com                

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jofentonauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jl_fenton

The Refuge by Jo Fenton

Following the death of The Brotherhood’s charismatic but sinister leader, Dominic, Melissa and her husband Mark resolve to turn the Abbey into a refuge for victims of domestic abuse. But when Melissa’s long-lost sister, Jess, turns up at the Abbey, new complications arise.

The Abbey residents welcome the new arrival but find it hard to cope with the after-effects of her past. As Jess struggles to come to terms with what she’s been through, her sudden freedom brings unforeseen difficulties. The appearance of a stalker – who bears a striking resemblance to the man who kept her prisoner for nine years – leads to serious problems for Jess.

Meanwhile, Mark also finds that his past is coming back to haunt him. When a mother and daughter venture from the Abbey into the local town for a shopping trip, there are dreadful consequences.

A build-up of tension, a poorly baby and a well-planned trap lead Mel, Jess and their family into a terrifying situation.

Can Jess overcome the traumas of her past to rescue her sister?

Thank you Jo, for taking part. There are only a handful of books which have made a regular appearance in this feature and Jane Eyre is one of them – a testament to the lasting influence of a feisty female heroine!

Comfort Reading with Angela Wren

In France, 1 April is known as Poisson d’Avril and according to the internet (so it may not be true at all) the idea of playing jokes on friends and family evolved from the tradition of giving the gift of fish at the end of Lent. So in keeping with the French theme, albeit very tenuously, I’m delighted to welcome self-confessed Francophile Angela Wren to my blog this week to discuss her favourite comfort reads.

Hi Rosie and thanks for inviting me to your blog today.  I know it’s April Fool’s Day today, but my book choices are genuine despite the title of the first one!

Peacock Pie by Walter de la Mare – This book, published in 1946, wasn’t bought for, or by, me.  But it has been in the family home ever since I can remember.  I love it because some of my earliest experiences on stage are wrapped up in it.  As I flicked through the pages when I picked it off my shelf, I had to stop at ‘Silver’.  Before I’d even looked at the page properly I found myself reciting the first stanza :

Slowly, silently, now the moon

Walks the night in her silver shoon;

This way, and that, she peers, and sees

Silver fruit upon silver trees…

I was surprised that I could still remember the lines.  I was 6 when I first recited it for a poetry speaking competition and took 3rd prize.  Later I had to learn ‘The Bees’ Song’ and a couple of years after that, ‘The Listeners’.  It reminds me of the unencumbered bliss of being a child

Island-Nights’ Entertainments by Robert Louis Stevenson – I discovered this little gem, published in 1907 and leather bound, in a box of books in a junk shop whilst on holiday with my parents.  It cost very little from my holiday money and, once I’d started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.  This and some of the poems I had to learn for Mrs Burns – my speech and drama teacher – probably turned me into the RLS groupie that I am today.   Stevenson has been with me all my life and I have just about everything he wrote, some stories in more than one edition!  I know that, at times of great stress or difficulty, I can pick one of his books from my shelves and become lost for a while in the magic.

The Lost Girl by DH Lawrence– I came across my first copy of this book (the one in the pic is the first edition I bought later) as a twenty-year old.  I can recall reading it on the bus to work, and as I got to the most crucial point in the book, the Inspector demanded to see my ticket.  I just fished out a handful of tickets from my jacket pocket, slapped them in his open hand and went on with my reading.  The tears that had already formed began to cascade down my face but I kept on reading.  Eventually, I realised I was being spoken to, and it dawned on me that the ticket he wanted was the one in my book being used as a bookmark.  I thrust it at him and continued reading.  I did manage to get to the end before I had to get off the bus.  Each time I re-read this story, I see something new in it, but I always cry at that same page.  Have often wondered what the bus Inspector thought, though!

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn – I studied this book for my English exams at school and was not especially impressed.  I came across this copy in a bookshop in my thirties and decided to read it again.  Realising I had missed so much of the essence of the writing, and the skill of the writer, I started to build a collection of Hawthorn’s books.  I have copies of his adult and children’s books – some of them very fine editions.  It was Hawthorn, I think, that turned me into the true book collector that I am now.  It was also Hawthorn that taught me that a book is for the words and that there will never be enough of them.

The Golden Reign by Clare Sydney Smith – Published in 1949 this little volume charts the life of T. E Lawrence following his return from Arabia until his death in May 1935 whilst serving in the RAF under the pseudonym of T. E. Shaw.  Written by the wife of his commanding officer it charts the friendship that developed between Mrs Clare Sydney-Smith and Lawrence through their letters, her remembered conversations, and some diary entries.  As a memoir it is one of the most fascinating I have ever read and I came across it by accident.  The foreword, written by Lawrence’s mother, states that the title was ‘his own name for the happy time’ he spent with the Sydney-Smiths.  Considering his vilification following his return to the UK, this book presents a picture of a very different man.

Bio

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre.  I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010.  My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.  My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.  The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Blurb for Montbel (Jacques Forêt Mystery #3)

A clear-cut case? 

A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.

When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques papers and shut down the investigation.

Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?

Links

Amazon : AngelaWren

Website : www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Twitter : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren

Thank you very much Angela for taking part and sharing her love of some very classical and historical books.

Comfort Reads – Guest Jennifer Wilson

Today I am joined by historical fiction writer Jennifer Wilson, and there is a definite theme amongst her choices for her top five go-to reads!

Hi Rosie, and thanks for the chance to visit your blog today; it’s been lovely thinking about my five comfort reads, bringing back some great memories too!

The Animals of Mulberry Common, by Hilary Cannock

I know this isn’t the first book I ever read (Puddle Lane or fairy tales probably count somewhere for that), but this book has come with me everywhere I’ve ever lived for some reason. I just cannot let it go. It’s a tiny, pocket-sized book, about, unsurprisingly, the animals which live on the fictional Mulberry Common, and has plenty of action and adventure, as well as a hint of danger in some of the stories. But then, books for children often do have underlying danger, just look at what could happen to Peter Rabbit if Mr McGregor ever did catch him, not to mention the death and destruction throughout the Harry Potter series. I haven’t re-read this for a while, but just knowing it still sits happily on my shelf keeps me smiling.

Bloody Scotland, by Terry Deary

As a child, I adored history, and found the Terry Deary books a brilliant way in to learning about periods of history which simply weren’t covered at school. Being obsessed with Scottish History meant that this was an immediate favourite, and I was thrilled to bits when the author came to my school, and I was able to get my copy signed. It’s since been reissued as just a Horrible Histories Special on Scotland, but frankly, I think this title is more fun!

Despite having read this dozens of times, there are still cartoons and lines which make me laugh out loud, and I did refer to it when I was researching Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, so there’s definitely some solid facts in there, as well as the humour.

The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory

I love this book. The writing is brilliant, and I think the fact that Philippa Gregory is able to make you believe (spoiler alert) that Anne Boleyn might just be about to be saved, and sent to a distant convent, and not executed after all. I was given a copy to read by a colleague, despite not being interested in the Tudors at all, because she was convinced I would enjoy it. She was right. I devoured it in a matter of days, and that was it; I was hooked on the Tudors. As a result, I began reading as much fiction and non-fiction as I could (see below), and became absolutely obsessed with the era. Once I’d read a lot about the Tudors, I decided I didn’t want to move ‘forward’ in time, to the Stuarts, and decided to go ‘backwards’ instead, and that’s when I discovered the Plantagenets, and in particular, Richard III.

Whenever I’m sick, or stressed, this is the book I go back to. It doesn’t matter that I know the plot inside out; for some reason, on every re-read, I seem to find something I hadn’t noticed, and still enjoy it as much as the first time. It’s the perfect ‘ill read’, as I can open it at any point, read as much or as little as I like, and put it aside without even worrying about a bookmark for next time.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Antonia Fraser

This is one of the books I bought as a result of having read The Other Boleyn Girl, and again, however many times I read it, I find different nuances, or facts, that I go and research further in other places. It was also where I found ‘my’ Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, for Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, due to the stories, quotes and reported words. It’s another ‘ill read’ for me, like The Other Boleyn Girl, and I always enjoy going back to it.

The Story of Scotland, by Nigel Tranter

This is one of those perfect history books, which makes facts read as addictively as fiction, just like The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Scottish history always makes fascinating reading, but it can at times be a little complex, especially when you go back so far that the history itself isn’t 100% certain. The book writes every period as though it was a chapter of a novel, and makes it nice and accessible. I’ve never used this as a resource specifically, but I do enjoy my Scottish history, and have often used it as a ‘jumping off’ point, to then go and read more about a particular person, or part of history.

About Jennifer

Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history and historical fiction whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England for work reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.

She lives in North Tyneside, and is very proud of her approximately 2-inch view of the North Sea.

Website:         https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennifer-Wilson/e/B018UBP1ZO/

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/jennifercwilsonwriter/

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/inkjunkie1984

Instagram:     https://www.instagram.com/jennifercwilsonwriter/

Comfort Reads – Guest Post with Nicola Slade

This week I am delighted to welcome fellow  Crooked Cat author Nicola Slade to my blog. Nicola was the first ‘Cat’ I met after I signed my publishing contract and I value her friendship and support. She lives near Winchester and also sets her novels in Hampshire

Thank you, Rosie, for inviting me to talk about my comfort reads.

I have so many old friends that I read over and over again that it would be difficult to limit them to only five, so I thought I’d mention a few of the much more recently-discovered books that have quickly become comfort reads.

I can’t abandon all my much-loved treasures though, so here’s my top favourite, the book I think of as my Desert Island book. The Pillars of the House by Charlotte M Yonge, first published in 1873 is considered by many to be the Victorian best-selling novelist’s masterpiece.

Pillars of the House – Charlotte M Yonge

I was brought up on the novels of Charlotte Yonge, notably The Young Stepmother, but it wasn’t till I was grown up and with a young family, that I discovered her gripping story of the thirteen young Underwoods left to manage for themselves in the 1850s when the eldest, Felix, is only sixteen. He and his sister Wilmet are the ‘pillars’ of the title and their story ranges across several sequels as they struggle to bring up their crowd of younger siblings, including the twins who are born almost at the moment their consumptive father, a curate, dies.

It sounds grim, but Charlotte Yonge created wonderful characters and I love them – and still cry over one particular family tragedy, no matter how many times I’ve read the book. https://amzn.to/2RHOugn

Landscape in Sunlight – Elizabeth Fair

Elizabeth Fair is a recent discovery. I first came across her in the blog, Furrowed Middlebrow, when Scott, the blogger, embarked on a publishing adventure and re-issued all six of Elizabeth Fair’s gentle novels set between the 1940s and 1960. Similar to Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels and gently funny, but without the snobbery and acid wit. I love them all and it’s difficult to choose a favourite, but Landscape in Sunlight gives the flavour of all  the books which usually contain: a small village, a gentry house, usually a doctor, a middle-aged bachelor, a vicar, a vicar’s wife (usually a managing woman), a church fête and, of course, a pair of lovers. https://amzn.to/2AVcjqK

City of Shadows – Ariana Franklin

I read several historical novels by Diana Norman and particularly enjoyed her two books about Henry II, always a bit of a hero of mine. I wasn’t so keen on her later books until I discovered she had reinvented herself as Ariana Franklin and was writing mediaeval novels about Adelia Aguilar, a 12th Century female forensic pathologist at a time when no such creature could possibly exist. A doctor had to be a man and bodies certainly could not be dissected to look for the cause of death, but Ariana Franklin manages to take this unlikely scenario and make it plausible and enjoyable.

However, City of Shadows, her standalone novel as Ariana Franklin, is my favourite and quite different. Set in Berlin just after the First World War, it’s a marvellously evocative story of that city in the dark and dangerous throes of the rampant inflation of the 20s and the rise of Hitler. It also happens to be the best Anastasia mystery I’ve ever read – so plausible that I wish it had really happened that way! https://amzn.to/2ATg2VE

The Little Women Letters – Gabrielle Donnelly

Brought up on Victorian novels, of course I love Little Women and its sequels by Louisa Alcott and was thrilled, years ago, to visit Orchard House in Concord, the model for the March family home. I was delighted to spot a mention of The Little Women Letters somewhere, probably on Facebook, a few years ago.

Set in contemporary London it’s the story of three sisters, Emma, Lulu and Sophie, whose American mother, Fee (short for Josephine) is the great-granddaughter of ‘Grandma Jo’ Bhaer, who turns out to have had a third child, a daughter, from whom the girls are descended.

It’s a fascinating concept that has Jo fabled in the family as having been a writer, though as it turns out her stories were the penny-dreadfuls of the type written by Louisa Alcott. Little Women, it seems, was never written and Jo faded into obscurity.

This is a good contemporary family story, easily readable by someone who has never read Alcott’s book, as it doesn’t hammer home too obviously the three sisters’ story arcs which do follow their famous originals to some extent. It’s when one of the girls is rummaging in the attic and finds a cache of faded letters written by Grandma Jo, that the story comes alive. It adds depth if you’ve read and loved Little Women, but even without that, it’s a very warm, satisfying book.

https://amzn.to/2Cwo3zY

Sally’s Family – Gwendoline Courtney

Published in 1946 this is another family story set in the immediate post-war atmosphere of 1945. Sally Hamilton has not seen her motherless younger siblings since she joined the A.T.S at the beginning of the war, and they – two boys and three girls – were all evacuated after the family home was bombed. Their father died in Burma but had saved the life of one of his comrades, Major Selwood, who feels obliged to help Sally collect up her family and make a home for them.

Written originally for teenagers, it nevertheless gives a very clear picture of the difficulties at that time: rationing, shortage of most household furnishings, shortage of housing, shortage, in fact, of everything – and the way Sally manages to turn five strangers into a family is warm and fascinating.

A relatively new find for me, but one that’s already a favourite.

https://amzn.to/2Mpgik0 (Not available as an eBook)

Bio

Nicola Slade was brought up in Poole, in Dorset, and since then has lived in various places including Cairo, in Egypt. Nicola’s books are all set in Hampshire and her first published novel, Scuba Dancing, a romantic comedy, will be reissued in February 2019 by Endeavour Media. She then turned to crime with theCharlotte Richmond Mysteries, an historical series featuring Charlotte Richmond, a young Victorian widow, and The Harriet Quigley Mysteries, a contemporary mystery series which features recently-retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley and her clergyman cousin, Canon Sam Hathaway.  In 2017 The House at Ladywell, a contemporary romantic novel with historical echoes, was published by Crooked Cat books. It is currently a semi-finalist in the Chatelaine awards based in the USA.

The Convalescent Corpse, a cosy historical mystery set in 1918, was published, also by Crooked Cat Books, in November 2018 and is the first in a planned new series. Nicola wrote magazine short stories while her three children were growing up and at one time was an antiques dealer. She now lives with her husband near Winchester.

Links

Website: www.nicolaslade.com

Blog: www.nicolaslade.wordpress.com

Twitter: @nicolasladeuk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nicolasladeuk

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nicola8703

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2SrDDUt

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2QRCEeh

Thanks Nicola for taking part. I’ve just finished reading The Convalescent Corpse and highly recommend it!

Comfort Reading – Guest Paula Martin

De-cluttering guru Marie Kondo has caused quite a stir amongst the reading and writing community by stating we only need keep 30 books on our shelves. I’m a harder taskmaster than Marie, because I only let my guests choose 5 “keepers”! Today I’m handing over the challenge to romantic novelist, Paula Martin.

Thanks for inviting me to share my ‘comfort reads’ with you and your readers, Rosie. I must have read thousands of books in my life, so it wasn’t easy to pick only 5 books. In the end, I’ve chosen 5 which are ‘special’ to me for different reasons.

The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown

I first read this when I was ten or eleven, and then read it over and over again! It’s a story of seven children, each with different talents, who form their own theatrical group and write, produce, and act in their own plays. I’ve heard that this book (first published in the 1940s) inspired many future actresses, including Maggie Smith, Victoria Wood, and Eileen Atkins. In my case, it led to a lifelong love of the theatre, and also inspired me, when I was about twelve, to write my first full-length novel of over 60,000 words, which I called ‘We Wanted a Theatre.’ I still have it somewhere, written in long-hand in pencil on whatever paper I could find!

 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I ‘met’ Jane when I was twelve and my mother took me to our local repertory theatre to see a play based on the book. The next day I rushed to the library to borrow the book, and then asked for my own copy for my next birthday. I always loved Jane whose inner strength enabled her to cope with so many traumatic events in her life. She spoke her mind, and considered herself to be Mr. Rochester’s equal, even at a time when women were considered ‘inferior’ to men. In later times, I’m sure she would have been a suffragette or an ardent supporter of women’s rights! An interesting footnote to my love for this book is that a few years ago, I discovered Charlotte Bronte started writing the story when she was staying with a friend in Hathersage in Derbyshire, and based her heroine on a medieval brass on the tomb of Joan Eyre (hence the surname, of course) – and Joan Eyre was actually one of my ancestors.

 

Katherine by Anya Seton

In my teens I was hooked on Tudor novels, especially those by Jean Plaidy, but this book changed all that. Based on the factual story of Katherine Swynford, and set in the 14th century in the reigns of Edward III and Richard II, it brought the later medieval period to life for me. Historical people who had just been names became real people, especially John of Gaunt – and I must admit I fell in love with him! I was full of admiration for Katherine, too, who became governess to John’s two daughters (echoes of Jane Eyre here?). After his wife’s death, he and Katherine began their love affair, which continued until his second ‘political’ marriage to a Spanish princess. After Constanza’s death, John returned to Katherine and married her. This was at a time when royal Dukes simply did not marry their mistresses, so it is an indication of John’s lasting love for her. This book led to my fascination with later medieval history which I later studied at university, and in turn, led to my next book:

 

The Sunne in Spendour by Sharon Kay Penman

Many novels have been written about Richard III, but in my opinion this is by far the best. Sharon’s research is second to none and, like Anya Seton with the 14th century, she brings the events and historical characters of the 15th century to life. The story begins in 1459 with Richard as a young boy, covers the period of the Wars of the Roses, includes family and political intrigues, and ends in 1485 with Richard’s defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Like many others, Sharon rejects the Shakespearean portrait of Richard as an evil monster, and shows him as a man with loyalty, courage and strong principles. It’s a novel I return to again and again, but as it is such a thick tome (over 1200 pages), I now have it on my Kindle!

 

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Not a novel this time, but a play, which I first saw on stage when I was eleven, and then bought the full script (a hardback book at that time) with my Christmas money. I love Wilde’s clever wit and brilliant one-liners, and also his satirical comments on the so-called ‘rules’ of Victorian society and morality. Every time I read the script, I seem to discover something new.

 

 

 

 

Bio

Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons.

She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances.

Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places. She has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.

Her most recent book is Irish Shadows, the fifth book in the ‘Mist Na Mara’ series, published by Tirgearr Publishing. All five books are stand-alone stories, set in beautiful Connemara in the west of Ireland, and combining romance with suspense and intrigue. They are available from various distributors (Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Smashwords) via http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Martin_Paula/

Other Links:

Website: http://paulamartinromances.webs.com

Blog: http://paulamartinpotpourri.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paulamartinromances

Thanks to Paula for taking part – and for telling us about her intriguing personal connection to Jane Eyre. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to inspire a story, even if it is just in name only!

Guest Post – Helena Fairfax on Comfort Reading

How many of us are making new year resolutions to take more care of our personal well-being? I’ve always believed in the magic of books and the comfort they bring, and I’m delighted to hand over my first guest spot of 2019 to romantic novelist Helena Fairfax, who shares her thoughts on the subject.

I’ve loved reading ever since I was a toddler and first opened a picture book. It doesn’t matter which author I’m reading, I nearly always find comfort immersing myself in the world of stories. I was really interested to find out recently that the Reading Agency once did some research and discovered that regular reading is beneficial to people’s mental health. [Link: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/reading-improves-relationships-and-reduces-depression-symptoms-says-new-study-10446850.html ] I’m not alone in finding reading a great reliever of stress and it really does help my mood when I’m low.

Because I love reading so much, trying to choose just five books that bring me comfort has been a virtually impossible task. But here we go – in no particular order, here are five authors I regularly turn to for a joyful read!

 

The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer is absolutely my go-to comfort-read author. My favourite novel of hers changes often, but they are all delightful. I chose The Grand Sophy today because Sophy is the perfect strong, charming, bright, witty heroine. Sophy is the only daughter of international diplomat Sir Horace. She has been used to travelling round the world with her father, but when he goes to South America, he decides it would be much better if Sophy went to stay with his sister’s family. Horace’s sister is expecting a quiet, biddable girl. I love the scene in which Sophy arrives at the house – all five foot nine of her, carrying a pet monkey. Sophy soon takes charge of the family in an affectionate and charming but resolute way. Heyer’s style is funny and her books are beautifully researched. And there is nothing more comforting than knowing that a whole cast of characters is heading for their own happy endings.

 

Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens

I completely love the melodrama of Charles Dickens’ novels, and this one has melodrama in every page. There are so many scenes and characters that stay in my mind long after I put the book down. Poor Smike, the orphan from Dotheboys Hall; the depraved Sir Mulberry Hawk, who has his wicked heart set on capturing the heroine; the villainous Sir Ralph Nickleby; Whackford Squeers, the bullying master of Dotheboys Hall. Even the characters’ names have a melodramatic ring to them. Dickens is a master storyteller and even though you suspect that he is shamelessly manipulating your response, there is one particular scene in the book that never fails to bring tears to my eyes. I even get upset thinking about it – which doesn’t sound very comforting, but Smike, the character involved, is one of my favourite characters of all time. The only reservation I have is that the female characters are quite wishy-washy, but I still love the story and the brilliant, page-turning ride towards a happy ending.

 

Madam, Will You Talk?, by Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart is another of my go-to authors for comfort reading. This book seems a little dated now. There is a lot of smoking, and the characters speak in a fairly plummy way. This doesn’t detract at all from the romance of the Greek setting and the developing love story, along with the thrilling suspense. One of the things I love about Mary Stewart is her portrayal of ordinary women who are caught up in a dangerous situation by chance, and who act in a heroic way. Madam Will You Talk? is set just after WWII, and the heroine, Charity, is grieving the man she loved. I love her dashing car chase scene as she escapes the hero, the bad guys are suitably villainous, and there are lots of twists and surprises. It’s the perfect comfort read, especially for this time of year, with its glorious Mediterranean setting.

 

Persuasion, by Jane Austen

I was given a complete set of Jane Austen for my fifteenth birthday and completely fell in love with her books from the first. My favourites change from year to year. At one time it was Pride and Prejudice. I vividly remember first reading P&P in the playground at school, completely engrossed and oblivious to everything. When Darcy first proposes to Lizzie, I didn’t see it coming at all. My jaw dropped open. O.M.G! He’s in love with her!! I was so completely wrapped up in their story, I missed the bell, was late for class and got a detention. I’ve just re-read Persuasion, and it’s my favourite at the moment. I love the way Captain Wentworth and Anne start off with so much history between them and a seemingly unbridgeable gulf, and the brilliant way Jane Austen brings them gradually together. The scene where they finally understand one another is really moving.

 

Red Rackham’s Treasure, by Hergé

A boy and a dog are in a submarine shaped like a shark. What child wouldn’t want to read a book with a cover like this? I’ve been reading and re-reading all the Tintin books since I was at primary school, and my love for them has grown more and more. At first I read them for the gripping story. Hergé was a genius, and every page in the books ends with a cliff-hanger. Now I also look far more closely at his brilliant illustrations. His books have excellent characters who grow and develop as the series progresses, the settings are unusual and exotic, and the dialogue and pictures are absolutely hilarious. I still think of some of the jokes and laugh out loud. I only recently discovered that Hergé wrote these strips for a Belgian newspaper that was commandeered by the Nazis in WWII. How horrific and frightening it must have been for him to be obliged to work for them. His Tintin adventures must have brought comfort to many at the time, and they are still very firmly in my top five of comfort reads.

 

Author bio

Helena Fairfax is a freelance editor and author. She is addicted to reading and will read the cornflakes packet if there is nothing else to hand. Helena was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors and the home of the Brontë sisters. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.

 

Social links

Find out more about Helena on her website www.helenafairfax.com, on Twitter @helenafairfax, or by subscribing to her newsletter to news and occasional free stuff http://eepurl.com/dtIDEH

 

Helena’s latest release is a non-fiction historical work called Struggle and Suffrage in Halifax: Women’s Lives and the Fight for Equality. Women’s voices are all too often missing from the history books. This book looks at some of the key events in the fascinating history of the mill town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, from the point of view of the women who shaped the town. It’s available on pre-order now from bookshops and retailers and from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Struggle-Suffrage-Halifax-Womens-Equality/dp/1526717778/

 

Thank you so much for having me, Rosie. I’ve really enjoyed revisiting some comfort reads. I want to read them all over again!

Thank you Helena for taking part. The Independent survey makes very interesting (and comforting) reading for us bookworms!

 

 

Guest Post Sharon Booth on Comfort Reading

Continuing the series, this week romantic novelist and “Yorkshire Rose” Sharon Booth chooses her five comfort reads.

The books I’ve chosen for my comfort reads are all books I’ve read many times, and will no doubt read again. I’ve deliberately left out my childhood favourites because, truthfully, I could easily fill this entire blog with them and there’s no way I could narrow it down to five. Childhood books are the ultimate comfort read for me, and I suspect I’m far from the only person who feels that way.

So, after a lot of debate and with huge apologies to the many, many books that I’ve had to leave off this list, here are the five comfort reads I’ve selected.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend.

Honestly, I could pick five Adrian Mole books and that would be fine by me. I return to this series over and over again because no one makes me laugh like Adrian. His teenage longing for the glamorous Pandora, his hilarious relationship with beetroot-loving Bert Baxter, the endless battles with spots, his angst-ridden poetry, his dysfunctional family – it’s all just priceless. Picking up this book is like being hugged. I just know that, however bad I’m feeling, this will cheer me up. And what makes it even more special is that Adrian isn’t just funny. There are moments of real poignancy and perception. Adrian holds up a mirror to the society he lives in, and it’s a commentary on the times that isn’t always comfortable to read but is never less than truthful. I just love it.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

This is my favourite novel and I can’t imagine ever tiring of it. Jane is just magnificent. She’s insignificant as a poor, orphaned woman in Victorian Britain, yet she has a fire burning within her. Jane knows her own worth. She has principles, and she holds fast to them. She understands that, while others may look down on her, she is worthy and deserving of respect. She rages against injustice in all its forms; even as a small child at the mercy of her awful aunt and cousins she knows that their treatment of her is wrong and protests loudly and at great cost to her welfare. The love story between her and Mr Rochester is beautiful, but there’s much more to the novel than that. Jane speaks for all those other women of her time, or of any time, without a voice. I adore her.

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach.

I was given a copy of this book many years ago by a friend, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but I loved it. It really made me think about things from another angle and, all these years later, I still find comfort in it.

I do love books like this. I’ve read The Tao of Pooh, Conversations with God, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Prophet and many more, and I find them fascinating. My copy of Illusions is a bit tattered now but I’ll never part with it.

 

The Queen and I by Sue Townsend.

Yes, I know it’s another Sue Townsend book, but I couldn’t resist it. I’ve read this several times and it never fails to make me laugh. The thought of our Royal Family slumming it on an inner-city housing estate, after republicans win the general election, is too funny. It always makes me giggle to picture Prince Charles with a ponytail and wearing a shell suit. Of course, it was written a long time ago and nowadays it’s quite poignant to read about Diana’s adventures on Hell Close.

What I admire about this book is that, even though it’s incredibly funny, the author never humiliates the family. In fact, the Queen, particularly, is shown in a very positive light: strong, stoic, courageous and compassionate. And poor Prince Phillip’s despair as he takes to his bed is quite moving. It’s thought-provoking to see society through the Queen’s disbelieving eyes.

Sue Townsend was such an amazingly talented writer. It’s desperately sad that there’ll never be another book from her.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It may be a Christmas book, but I find A Christmas Carol especially comforting and a real pleasure to read. I could happily read it at any time of year, but I always try to save it for Christmas week. I just adore the story and, although it makes me sad and angry in parts, it invariably leaves me feeling positive and uplifted. When I look at the books I’ve chosen, I realise that they’re all about people who are challenged by the times and circumstances they live in, but somehow rise above those challenges by finding their own inner strength. Or, as Richard Bach would have it, the Messiah within. It’s a theme I find fascinating and positive, and so it’s no wonder I selected them as my comfort reads.

 

About Sharon

Sharon writes contemporary love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire. Her books are romantic but fun, and a happy ending for her main characters is guaranteed – though she makes them work for it!
As well as full-length novels she has written pocket novels for DC Thomson, and several of her “Fabrian Books’ Feel-Good Novels” have also been published in large-print format by Ulverscroft, as part of their Linford Romance Library.
Her short story, The Other Side of Christmas, was included in the Winter Tales anthology – a collection of seasonal stories by popular writers, in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust. Her 2017 novel, Resisting Mr Rochester, was awarded a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award.
Sharon lives in East Yorkshire with her husband and their dog. She is half of the Yorkshire Rose Writers, one tenth of The Write Romantics and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, adores Cary Grant movies, and admits to being prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes.
When she’s not writing, she spends as much time as possible getting her money’s worth from her membership of English Heritage.

Find out more about Sharon at www.sharonboothwriter.com

Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sharonboothwriter

Sharon’s latest book, Belle, Book and Christmas Candle was published on 1st December and is available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Belle-Christmas-Candle-Witches-Castle-ebook/dp/B07KCGY7CF

Thanks to Sharon for taking part. I’m pleased to see a couple of my all-time favourites included in this list – Adrian Mole and Jane Eyre.

Guest Post Lizzie Lamb on Comfort Reading

I am delighted to welcome Lizzie Lamb onto my blog today. Lizzie a best-selling novelist, an active public speaker and a prolific supporter of her fellow writers. Over to Lizzie for a timeline of her favourite reads.

We all have books we simply can’t bear to part with because, like the old friends they are, they’ve stuck with us through thick and thin. The oldest book in my collection is Clarendon’s History of the Great Rebellion (1858) followed by The Wild Bird – Margaret Stuart Lane (1933) The Scarlet Pimpernel (1927), The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel, Rupert of Henzua (1930).

My other ‘keepers’ are books which saw me through from girlhood to womanhood: Greengage Summer, I Capture The Castle, Bonjour Tristesse and The Dud Avocado.

With the fickleness of youth I abandoned these when I discovered Jilly Cooper’s novels (1976). My love of rom com developing within their pages before coming full circle with Bridgit Jones in 1996. I can’t let go of my penguin classics or historical romances by the likes of Georgette Heyer, Daphne Du Maurier, Jean Plaidy, Margaret Irwin and Anya Seaton. My particular favourite is Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine.

When I want to remind myself how to write humorously, I revisit Wodehouse, Terry Pratchet, Tom Sharpe and the anarchic Catch 22.

I also treasure my poetry books…John Donne, WB Yeats, The War Poets, TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin.

And in particular, The Mersey Sound – Adrien Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten which reminds me of when I was recovering after an appendectomy in Grantham General (1970). I was reading poems to the other patients in my ward and causing such hilarity that it was confiscated by the ward sister until I was discharged. Honestly…

I have two comfort reads Tristan and Isuelt by Rosemary Sutcliffe (so beautifully written) and Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford which is great fun. I want to spend the afternoon with the Mitford gels in the Hons Cupboard discussing topics considered unfit for young ladies. Want to come with me?

 

About Lizzie

After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided to pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed by Boot Camp Bride. She went on to publish Scotch on the Rocks, which achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon and her next novel, Girl in the Castle, reached #3 in the Amazon charts. Lizzie is a founder member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press, and has co-hosted author events at Aspinall, St Pancras and Waterstones, Kensington, talking about the research which underpins her novels. Lizzie latest romance Take Me, I’m Yours is set in Wisconsin, a part of the USA which she adores. This novel also achieved BEST SELLER status >travel>USA. She has further Scottish-themed romances planned and has just returned from a tour of the Scottish Highlands researching men in kilts. What’s not to like? As for the years she spent as a teacher, they haven’t quite gone to waste. She is building a reputation as a go-to speaker on indie publishing, and how to plan, write, and publish a debut novel. Lizzie lives in Leicestershire (UK) with her husband, David.

She loves to hear from readers, so do get in touch . . .

Lizzie’s Links

https://www.amazon.com/author/lizzielamb

www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter 

lizzielambwriter@gmail.com

website: www.lizzielamb.co.uk

Newsletter – http://tinyurl.com/ELNL-2016

Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/

Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/cbla48d

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/lizzielamb/

https://twitter.com/lizzie_lamb

 

Many thanks to Lizzie for taking part.

Guest Post – Lesley Cookman on Comfort Reading

As the nights draw in it’s the perfect time to return to some more comfort reads – the literary equivalent of putting on a pair of warm slippers.  Comfort reading is all about the books that evoke special memories or the books we return to time and time again. Today I am joined by best selling novelist and the ‘Queen of Cosy Crime’, Lesley Cookman who picks her top five.

 

My comfort reads all date from my childhood, as I’ve noticed so many others do.

The first is The Swish Of The Curtain by Pamela Brown. It concerns a group of children who set up their own theatrical company – The Blue Doors. There are follow up books, but it’s the first that tops the list. As a child with a desperate desire to be an actress, this spoke to me in spades, and I can’t remember how many times I read it.

 

The second is I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith, given to me at the age of twelve by friends of my parents who belonged to a book club. I got all their cast offs… The first line out-Rebeccas Rebecca in my opinion: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…” A journal, written in three different exercise books by a seventeen year old girl. Thoroughly immersive, romantic and inspirational. How many girls started journals as a result of reading this book? I did. I even used Dodie Smith as the subject of a thesis at university.

 

The third is Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K Jerome. My father had a copy, which I inherited, and now have two more of my own.  My parents and I used to read passages out loud to one another and end up in paroxisms of laughter. I am delighted to say that my own adult children still do that – from choice! Amazing. Written in 1889, the language is surprisingly modern, and aficionados only have to say “The Cheese!” or “Uncle Podger!” to one another to be lost in helpless mirth.

 

The final two are both series, from which I can’t single out one book. Monica Edwards’ Romney Marsh series, better known as the Tamsin and Rissa books have a lot to do with my now writing a series about a group of friends. The first I was given was the Summer of the Great Secret, about the Kent Coast, smuggling and –Ponies! That was the other love of my life, although I wrote a lot as well, but that was just something you did, not a great ambition. When I managed to fracture my pelvis two years ago, I re-read the entire series – and, incidentally all the others mentioned here.

 

And last, the Ngaio Marsh Roderick Alleyn series. My parents had all her books currently published, and between us we bought each new one as it came out. It started off as a familiar theme – the aristocratic detective, a la Albert Campion and Peter Wimsey. But Alleyn soon developed his own distinct personalility, as did his wife, son and sidekicks. And he moved with the times. The rather grating treatment of “the lower classes” was dropped as attitudes changed. The other thing that particularly chimed with me was that Marsh received her “damery” as she called it, for her services to theatre in New Zealand, and several of her books have a theatrical setting, about which she  was incredibly knowledgeable. Marsh is the reason that I now write a mystery series, and I have just re-read her entire canon, beginning to end.

About Lesley

Lesley Cookman writes the Libby Sarjeant Mystery series, and Murder And The Pantomime Cat, a short, is coming out for Christmas 2018. She also writes the Alexandrian series, set in an Edwardian seaside town.

You can find out more about Lesley and her books at http://www.lesleycookman.co.uk

Guest Post – Comfort Reads by Morton S Gray

As the nights draw in it’s the perfect time for some more comfort reading. Today’s special guest is fellow romantic novelist, Morton S Gray. Morton is currently writing a series of stand-alone novels set in her fictional seaside town of Borteen. The Girl on the Beach and The Truth Lies Buried are joined by Christmas at Borteen Bay released on 13 November, all published by Choc Lit. Over to Morton.

 

Thank you for having me on your blog, Rosie. As I understand it, I have to choose five books which I turn to for comfort when I have that feeling of being overwhelmed by life.

 

Number One has to be Wintercombe by Pamela Belle. I have read this book countless times. My paperback of the novel is in pieces from overreading. This tale set in my favourite period of history, the English Civil War. The story captures my imagination and I can easily think myself into the role of Silence, the heroine of the book with her realistic maxim of “Make, do, mend.”

 

 

Number Two is Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve read this book at least five times and got something different from it each time. For those of you who have seen the admittedly delightful film of the same title starring Julia Roberts, the book is so much more. It is the tale of a woman, newly divorced, who sets out to rediscover herself in Italy, India and Indonesia. Having once been in this situation of feeling lost after a divorce, I can relate to the heroine and the text is also peppered with observations about life and spirituality.

 

Number Three I decided should be a classic and it was a close run thing whether to choose Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, or the one I have chosen, which is North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Even though this book was originally published in 1855, after being serialised in 1854, it still reads wonderfully and I just adore the hero, John Thornton and the heroine, Margaret Hale. The book shows the industrial North of England and its conflicts in the mid-19th century as seen by the heroine, Margaret Hale, the daughter of a minister who moves to the fictional industrial town of Milton from the South.

 

Number Four is Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon. I love this book because it is a true comfort read, a happy ever after gentle tale with dogs, where the people involved in a local dogs’ home discover loyalty, companionship and unconditional love.

 

 

 

Number Five I’ve chosen because it is the only book I can ever remember giving me so many laughs and I mean absolutely belly laughs! I laughed so much when reading it that my husband and my mother read it too and both laughed just as much. So, if you need more laughter in your life try The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook by Matt Dunn.

 

 

 

Thank you for inviting me over to your blog. I do hope your readers discover something new to enjoy in my choices.

 

About Morton by Morton

Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

Her debut novel The Girl on the Beach was published after she won Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon. This book is available as a paperback and e-book.

Morton’s second book for Choc Lit The Truth Lies Buried is another romantic suspense novel, the book tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past. This book is available as an e-book and will be issued as a paperback in 2019.

Christmas at Borteen Bay is published on 13 November 2018 and is Morton’s first Christmas novella. It is set in her fictional seaside town of Borteen and follows the story of Pippa Freeman who runs the Rose Court Guesthouse with her mother and local policeman Ethan Gibson as they unravel a family secret as Christmas approaches.

Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified clinical hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

 

You can catch up with Morton on her website www.mortonsgray.com, on

Twitter – @MortonSGray, her

Facebook page – Morton S. Gray Author –  https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/morton_s_gray/

 

 

 

 

http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-girl-on-the-beach/

http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-truth-lies-buried/

https://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/christmas-at-borteen-bay/

Thank you Morton for a very varied selection of novels. I’m really enjoying finding out what books other authors take comfort in, although I’m realising my to be read pile is growing!