The Return of the Writer

Who doesn’t enjoy a trip down memory lane? There are several good reasons why I haven’t been cracking on with my writing this year – and one of them is because of travel. Yes, Mr T and me have too many holidays, but my most recent excursion has been a solo trip to catch up with friends in the Netherlands.

We lived in the beautiful Dutch city of Haarlem for two years from 2014 to 2016. We then moved down to Den Haag for a further year. I haven’t been back to the Netherlands since we left in 2017 (apart from the cheese buying pitstop in Schipol Airport on our recent journey back from South America).

During my time in the Netherlands I joined an international women’s group in Amsterdam –  I didn’t partake in a great deal of the activities on offer, I’m fairly unsociable, but I did enjoy the organised walks and the yoga sessions. After we left, a few of us stayed in touch, meeting up back in the UK a couple of times. Then Covid struck, and we hadn’t seen each other since.

A catch up was long overdue. As one of the gang permanently resides in Haarlem, she offered to host. Flights were arranged, the hotel booked. I must admit I was worried my memories of the city had become blurred; that my rose-tinted spectacles had fogged up entirely and nothing would be as charming as I remembered. But on the flight over, I discovered the passenger in the next seat was travelling to a conference in the city, and I felt like the native, able to give helpful hints and directions. This was then followed by the joy of dragging my suitcase over the cobbles, the forgotten pitfalls of negotiating bicycle lanes, inhaling the lingering aroma of cheese and chips…

It was soo good to be back, eating my appeltaart met slagroom in the Grote Markt. I never learned to speak more than the most basic Dutch because the locals understood me better when I spoke in English, but it was heartwarming to be surrounded by the buzz of those guttural conversations. Haarlem hadn’t changed; I noticed a few of my favourite shops and cafes had gone, but others had replaced them. I trod the well-worn streets, soaking up the atmosphere like a drug, all the while acknowledging how lucky I was to have lived in such a beautiful part of the world. We took the bus out to the beach at Zandvoort to sit as the Dutch do, in a windy open-air bar, admiring the grey skies and the even greyer North Sea. And talking of bars – I’ve never been kicked out of one in my life, until our last night, when the young hotel barman switched off the lights and asked if we’d mind finishing our drinks in the lobby because he had a home to go to. Midnight already? Surely not? I thought the Dutch liked to party….

Anyway, that was my trip back in time, pure nostalgia and I left feeling warm and fuzzy inside with the promise to return again with Mr T.  But the Netherlands is not the only place I’ve revisited recently. I’ve picked up on an old manuscript that’s been stuck in the drawer for the last seven years.   To be honest, I am struggling with my historical weepy, and I thought revisiting something more lightweight and in my usual style, would be a good way to get back into the writing zone. It’s worked! As I re-write huge chunks of my contemporary romcom, ideas keep popping into my head for the war time love story. It’s like a part of me that had been missing has now come back, the words are tumbling out as quick as I can type. How long this euphoria will last, I’ve no idea. At the moment I’m escaping to my desk at every opportunity – especially as we’ve another holiday in a couple of weeks…


If it’s Tuesday, this must be Argentina…

Five Countries, 26 days, 9 planes, 1 boat and 44 travelling companions – a recipe for disaster or a cracking good holiday?

It all seemed like a good idea back in the New Year of 2023 when we first saw the trip advertised – a fully-organised tour of South America with all the highlights conquered in one go.

Fast forward fourteen months and there’s a packing dilemma. How to fit suitable clothing for exploring an entire continent with a variation in temperature from 30 degrees hot to zero degrees cold into 23 kgs worth of luggage. Part of the adventure included a twelve night cruise, but cocktail wear was the first thing to be discarded. Fortunately we were sailing with Celebrity Cruises and me and Mr T have sailed Celebrity before. No tuxedo required. The only jacket Mr T would need would be a warm snuggly waterproof thing for circumnavigating Cape Horn.

The day arrived and flight number one involved a short hop from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, where there was an unfortunate incident involving the tiled floor of the airport and my bottle of Bachs Rescue Remedy. I do not fly without Bachs Rescue Remedy in my hand luggage – or at least I didn’t. Now I had to complete another eight flights without it. Was this an omen? Clearly not because three films, a cat nap and some of the worst airplane food I’ve ever eaten later, we landed safely in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio was everything I expected it to be.  Copacabana beach teemed with bronzed bodies  jogging up and down in minimalist sportswear.

We took a tour to the statue of Christ the Redeemer, squeezed into tight lines with hundreds of other hot sweaty tourists. It was very much a case of tick the box and get me out of here. In the afternoon we took the cable car to the quieter Sugar Loaf mountain for more fantastic views of the city and the circling vultures and frigate birds, but as dusk fell our guide refused to let us off the coach to venture into the city centre. It wasn’t safe, he warned. In any case, we had an early morning pick up in preparation for the next leg of our journey…

Early morning pick ups were soon to become a recurring theme on this trip.  Flight number three was to Izuagu waterfalls in Brazil. I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of Izuagu before booking. Niagara, Victoria, Rainbow Falls, heard all about them, but Izuagu – the largest waterfall system in the world? Why are they not more famous? Izuagu Falls are amazing, spectacular, a total wow, no several wows moment – a system of over 250 waterfalls stretching for 2.7 km hidden in the depths of the rain forest. Add into the mix monkeys, coatimundis, iguanas and toucans…yes, more wows.

We spent one night on the Brazilian side of the Falls in Foz do Iguaçu and two nights on the Argentinian side at Puerto Iguazú, a lively border town where every other shop sells duty free liquor and gallon sized jars of olives. It was perfectly safe to venture out after dark in Argentina our guide assured us so we did – off to a local restaurant to sample a steak and a glass of Malbec, because it would have been rude not to.

We’d been warned about mosquitoes in Iguazu, but we saw none. That was because they’d all flown down to Buenos Aires ahead of us. We encountered more mozzies in our city centre hotel lobby than in three days in the rain forest. A whistle stop tour of the city’s top spots (and yes Eva Peron’s grave is one of them), followed by an evening tango show and we were starting to bond with our fellow travellers. There were 44 of us in our tour group from all walks of life, from all corners of the UK. At the dinner before the tango show we sat next to a couple who used to live in Nottingham. Our daughter lives in Nottingham we said. Turns out the guy used to play squash with her father-in-law. It really is a small world, although South America itself is very big, and we still had three countries to go…

Eva Peron’s grave

We boarded our cruise ship the next morning. At last a chance to unwind, and more importantly, unpack. Me & Mr T have a few cruises under our belt, but we were novices compared to others in our group. Personally, I was impressed with the facilities and entertainment on board the Celebrity Eclipse. Our first port of call was a short hop across the River Plate to Montevideo in Uruguay, which seemed a pleasant enough place to stroll around, before heading to the upmarket resort of Punte Del Este – the “Monaco of the South” apparently. Umm. I’ve been to Monaco. Not sure about that one.

After that we had a sea day and our first encounter with the Eclipse resident naturalist, Milos, a man who spends 11 months of the year sailing with Celebrity delivering talks. Eleven months on a cruise ship? He had to be mad, and he was, in a very congenial sort of way. No sooner had he given his first lecture than right on cue little dolphins jumped through the waves along side the ship. Our next stop was Puerto Madryn in Argentina where we took an excursion to the UNESCO world heritage site of the Valdes Peninsula, a 3000 square metre nature reserve in the hope of spotting the odd Orca or two gliding along the coast. And how lucky we were. We arrived after a two hour coach journey for our two hour slot of whale watching and within fifteen minutes spotted a pod of half a dozen Orcas.

Elephant seals on the beach

Our cruise was turning into a mega episode of Springwatch – elephant seals, sealions, llamas, dolphins, albatrosses, and now Orcas. After Puerto Madryn we had another couple of sea days, but our second sea day was due to be super exciting because we were going around Cape Horn, and Cape Horn, as we had now learned from our lessons with Milos, was not a cape in the true geological sense, but an island, and if the weather was good, the captain was going to sail completely around the island so that we could see Cape Horn from all sides. It was finally time to bring out the snuggly waterproofs, the hats and the gloves, because boy was it cold, and although it is wonderful to say we’ve sailed around Cape Horn, to be honest, it’s a rock, and it looks pretty much the same from every angle.

Onwards to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, and a short excursion to the Tierra del Fuego National Park – barren but beautiful.

Back on board we admired the glaciers along the Beagle Channel, followed by a day in Punta Arenas, Chile, where we went Condor spotting. These huge scavenger birds nested a two hour drive out of town, and on that two hour drive we saw nothing but scrubland and a few local ostrich, but my inner Michaela Strachan knew it was worth it. From Punta Arenas we joined the humpback whales and sealions navigating the straights of Magellan where the waters got decidedly choppier.

After two more sea days we were impatient to disembark and begin the final leg of our South American tour. The cruise ended at Valparaiso in Chile, and Sunday morning in Valparaiso means one big car boot sale. The streets were rammed with traders but there was no time for bargain hunting because we were heading straight to Santiago and a brief overnight stay before flying onto Cusco in Peru for what was for most members of the group the main reason for booking the whole tour – a trip to the Sacred Valley and the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Cusco is 3,400 metres above sea level. That’s very high, and yes we did suffer with altitude sickness – all the pain of a hangover with none of the pleasure of having drunk yourself silly the night before.

In Cusco there was the opportunity to play with alpacas, eat alpacas, and of course, if an alpaca steak isn’t enough, you can also sample the local delicacy of guinea pig. Not for me, though. The journey to Machu Picchu itself involved a bus, a very bouncy train ride, and then another bus, but Machu Picchu was everything I’d imagined, a magical spiritual place shrouded in mist, but for all its history, all its magnificence, it didn’t outshine Iguazu Falls. I’ll be honest, I don’t think anything ever will.

Our tour of the continent ended in Lima, another frenetic and decidedly frustrating city tour we could probably have all done without, followed by a thoroughly enjoyable boat trip to Palomino Island, where Mr T braved the pungent water to frolic with the sealions. I stayed on board. Somebody had to take the photographs. And we saw penguins. The final tick of the box.

Last night drinks in the hotel bar was a fun but poignant affair. After twenty six days of being together on plane, train, bus and boat, it felt rather sad and surreal to be saying goodbye to our travelling companions. You never know quite who or what you’re going to get when you sign up for these things, but I really don’t think we could have found a nicer bunch of people to share our South American experience with.

Our final flight back to Heathrow involved a stop-over at our favourite airport,  Schipol in Amsterdam, which almost felt like home. I’ve realised I can now fly without reaching for Bachs Rescue Remedy but I couldn’t pass through the Netherlands without purchasing a chunk of Old Amsterdam cheese.

If Peru’s most famous bear can have marmalade sandwiches I can have cheese!

And finally, an apology to regular blog followers for the lack of posts since the start of 2024. It’s been a bit of a year. I always knew there were going to be challenges and writing would have to take a back seat. The books are still out there on Amazon – as always – and ideas still whirr around in my head, but just for now, Rosie Travers Author is having a break!

Rosie’s Review of the Year

Here it is – the final post of 2023. I originally drafted a blog post to go out before Christmas but you know how it is, life and other stuff gets in the way. I’ve now scrapped the festive frolic, and instead, here’s my review of the year.


We managed three trips, without any trips, so to speak. A huge relief after last year. We walked the Guernsey coastal path, visited Crete to undertake a 18 km hike through the Samaria Gorge, and enjoyed a leisurely cruise around the Adriatic, all without major mishap. It’s always good to discover somewhere new and if you like your scenery to be stunning, I highly recommend the Krka National Park in Croatia. We’d never heard of Krka before we booked our cruise but it really was an ooh aah just look at that view type of place.

Books Read

2023 has been an eclectic year in terms of books read. In the name of research I’ve had to broaden my habits and have become a regular visitor to my local library’s history section. Some books have impressed me, others not, but I am soaking up a whole new layer of knowledge – ask me a question about the Free French Army, why don’t you (who? what? Exactly. I didn’t know such a thing existed either twelve months ago). Anyway, talking of France, my favourite book, chosen for research purposes, would have to be Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks, closely followed by Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield, chosen not for research purposes but because it called to me from the library shelf with its beautiful cover and I needed a break from World War II.

The book that probably left the most lingering impression was When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott – the haunting and poignant story of a soldier with complete memory loss in the aftermath of World War I. This was one of those books that just reaffirmed my love of reading; one of those books that made me wistfully sit and think I wish I could write like that…

And talking of writing…

Books Written

2023 saw the publication of the third Eliza Kane novel, Trouble on the Tide. I’m pleased to say the book was well received and sales of all three Eliza Kanes continue to trickle in when I pop my head out of my shell and do a bit of publicity. More than one happy reader has commented they think Trouble on the Tide is the best book to date. Another said it made her cry – always music to an author’s ears! As regular readers of this blog will know, this will be the last Eliza Kane for now. I always think there’s nothing worse than watching season 6 of a TV series you know should have finished at season 3. I like to think the Eliza Kane series is fresh and original. It’s good to end on a high.

Random Moments

What else have we been up to this year? The weather was pretty pants but we did visit the theatre a few times. I finally got to see Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap which has been on the list for a while, and more recently, we went to London to see Back to the Future, the musical – a great evening of entertainment and nostalgia. Also while in London we visited the Monet Immersive Experience where you can literally step into a Claude Monet painting. As surreal as it sounds – highly recommended!

Life hasn’t been all jolly this year, there have been some real lows, but there’s a lot of misery in the world right now without me adding my pennyworth. All I will say is I’m glad I’d already made the decision to take a break from Eliza Kane in 2024 because if I’d promised book 4, I’d be panicking. Next year is going to be busy, and full of new challenges – some of which I’m very much looking forward to. I may not have much book news to blog about in my posts for 2024, but please keep reading because I’m going to have lots of other stuff to keep you entertained.

Meanwhile, thank you for your continued support of my writing journey throughout 2023. I wish all book lovers and readers everywhere, a very happy, and peaceful new year.

Carry on Cruising

They say travel broadens the mind, but when you’re cruising it also broadens the waistline.

Me and Mr T have just returned from a holiday and I thought it would be fun to write a little travel blog – after all, that’s how my writing career started off . We’re not seasoned cruisers but when you live in Southampton, have family and friends in the business, can see the tops of the cruise ships from your bedroom window, it’s hard to avoid the lure of the liner.

A cruise is an opportunity to explore a lot of different places in a short space of time. Last year we set off in search of winter sun, and as any regular followers will know, it ended in disaster. Three choppy days at sea and in our first port of call, Lisbon, I fell over, broke my arm, and we flew straight home. This year we decided to cut out the Bay of Biscay and fly direct to the sunshine for a week’s exploration of the Adriatic embarking in Valletta, Malta.

To be honest, Malta has never appealed as a travel destination, simply because for many years our parents used to holiday there. Our reasoning was if they liked it, we probably wouldn’t. Now, of course, we’ve reached the age our parents were when they started visiting the island, so we booked ourselves in for a three night stay ahead of the cruise to sample Valletta’s delights. The old fortified city is very impressive, history seeps out of the crumbling masonry every which way you go. In a three hour walking tour on our first morning we learned an awful lot about the country’s troubled past from the Crusades to World War II, but nowadays Valletta is vibrant and bustling. Despite myself, I liked it.

As for the cruise itself, we’d booked onto P&O’s Azura for seven nights. We’d selected the cruise for its itinerary – we’d visited Croatia before in 2016 and always wanted to go back. This trip included four ports – with only two sea days at either end of the trip.  Sea days give you time to join in with the onboard entertainment programme, get to know your fellow guests, and of course, take advantage of the endless food and beverage options. One thing I have learned over the years is that cruising attracts the very people who should never be allowed anywhere near an all-you-can-eat-buffet, not just for their own health and welfare, but for the future burden on the NHS.

We were joined on our table one morning by a rotund couple who plonked themselves down opposite us with their over-loaded plates. “Steak for breakfast”, Mr Extra-Large gleefully proclaimed, marvelling at his haul, “whatever next”. Seriously, it took all my powers of restraint not to quip back “a heart attack?”

To be fair, it’s easy to over indulge with so much food on tap. The buffet restaurant only closes for five hours between 1.00 am and 6.00 am, you have to stock up. Before you know it, you’ve joined the roly-poly club. The shorts I wore on my first day were definitely tighter on the last.

There are other restaurants to choose from besides the stuff-yourself-silly option. I know some complain the dinners in the main restaurants are not plentiful. They’re perfect for me, but if you’ve a voracious appetite you may find yourself wanting. I must admit I could have done with a bit more of this gorgeous frozen chocolate and raspberry lollipop – but it was just the “pre-dessert” in a five course menu.

The writer in me relishes the opportunity to eavesdrop and observe my fellow passengers. Our set dining companions were a lovely couple from Ipswich and if you’re in the Ipswich area and want your roof fixed, I’d highly recommend James the roofer, despite his fear of heights (hashtag wrong job question mark). Other passengers we encountered were not so humble. There seems to be a competition amongst travellers to see who has covered the most nautical miles; up the inside passage, across the artic circle. You name it, they’ve done it. Nor do you have to be covert in your eavesdropping, some people need a volume control fitted as well as a gastric band. Mrs Booming-Voice from Connecticut who we encountered in Valetta is definitely going into a future book. In fact I may have to send Eliza Kane on a cruise specifically so that Mrs Booming-Voice can be bumped off.

At least the ports of calls excelled our expectations. We explored the ancient city of Split, took an excursion from Trieste in Italy to Slovenia which was a revelation, another trip from Zadar to the Krka National Park was a real highlight, and then our final stop Dubrovnik, now a mecca for Game of Thrones fans, as busy as always. I’m just so glad we’d stayed in Dubrovnik on our previous trip because it meant we could skip into the old town and then fight our way out without feeling we were missing anything.

Beautiful Lake Bled

Krka National Park

On our return to Valletta we weren’t being transferred to the airport until the afternoon. We whizzed back into the city for one final look around and decided to visit the Co-Cathedral, which our walking tour guide had told us was a must-see, but with all the splendour and opulence on display, not to mention the collection of Caravaggio’s, needed at least an hour and a half of our time to be fully appreciated. He was wrong. Me and Mr T did the whole cathedral in thirty minutes. Forget the culture, you can’t linger when you’ve got one last chance to sample the delights of the all-you-can-eat-buffet before you fly home.

The magnificent Co-Cathedral in Valletta

Never mind the Carravaggio’s, the tombstones on the cathedral floor are pretty impressive – I’m seriously re-thinking my gravestone options!


All’s Well That Ends Well…

2021 has been a bit of a bumpy ride for all of us, and just when we thought things were getting better… the year seems to be ending as it started.

For me personally 2021 hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Along with the lows there have been highs, the biggest of which has to the publication of A Crisis at Clifftops. I proved I could do it – more to myself than anyone else, and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved.  Not having had a highflying career, I don’t have a lengthy CV of professional accomplishments. Self-publishing and launching Clifftops probably comes third in my list of all-time personal triumphs, only surpassed by giving birth to my two daughters. Writing a book and sending it off into the big wide world is pretty similar to raising children. You do your best and just hope other people like them. It’s definitely a Proud Mamma moment when I see my babies altogether (and yes, the kids are pretty special too!)

Promoting my work still remains my biggest bugbear. I spent a large part of 2021 maintaining what I considered to be a chirpy social media presence with the aim of making myself more alluring to  potential readers. Of course it wasn’t enough to generate mega sales, but I exceeded my expectations and received enough good feedback to have the confidence to go ahead with a paperback version of Clifftops. I lack the mindset, skillset, stamina and patience to be a good marketeer and of course I should have been more prolific, telling my Twitter followers what I had for breakfast every day and posting artistic pictures of it on Instagram. But there’s only so many ways I can make yoghurt and berries look enticing, and none at all for a bowl of Weetabix and chopped bananas. Besides who actually cares?

What I do care about though is travel. Unlike breakfast cereal, travel is interesting, informative and enlightening. I love looking at other people’s holiday photographs and I am very happy to post up my own. With so many restrictions in place over the last twenty months opportunities to explore have been few and far between. Me & Mr T look back on our wonderful hike around the Isle of Wight as a highlight of the year, along with our road trip to Ireland. Both excursions provided scenic photo opportunities galore. 

We also just managed to squeeze in an escape to the sun before restrictions changed and spent a 10 days in Tenerife at the beginning of December. It was our first trip to Tenerife and will probably be our last. I didn’t post up an awful lot about it on social media because I didn’t find the place particularly inspiring, nor did I we have wi-fi in our hotel, which was actually a blessing in disguise because it made me realise yes I can live without Facebook 24/7, and in fact, I’ve hardly been on social media since we got back. Tenerife was good for re-charging the batteries, and although I say I didn’t find it inspiring, I did come up with a potential novel plot – Murder on the Mobility Scooter. I’ve never seen so many of the things in one place – they were everywhere, including tandems. I may send Eliza Kane off there at some point in the future to investigate a rogue tourist who takes revenge after been pushed off the pavement one too many times…

And talking of Eliza, her next adventure, The Puzzle of Pine Bay, is now pencilled in for launching in early summer 2022. Life has got in the way again and I’ve got side-tracked by other stuff. I’m also a perfectionist and I’m not going to rush something out there that I don’t think is ready. And that’s why I know self-publishing is the right route for me. I’m appalling at time management and need flexible deadlines!  

The downside of being an indie author is that slipping off the social media radar is not good for business. Ebooks sales have slumped, but that’s only to be expected when I’m not constantly maintaining online visibility. But I have found other ways and means of spreading the word which are, quite frankly, far more enjoyable. An author talk postponed from 2020 finally took place in November and if I say so myself, I went down a storm, or maybe not a storm, this was the WI after all. I went down with a polite ripple. But I sold books, and acquired another booking. I’ve also got a potential library talk on the back of my first podcast. And in case you’ve not listened to the podcast, here’s the link. Friends and family have also been doing their fair of sales on behalf, and for that I’m very grateful!

As we tick off another year, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my writing career throughout the last twelve months and to all those guests who joined me on the blog to talk about the locations which inspired their own writing. March to November was pretty full on working on and promoting Clifftops, and I’ll be continuing my social media break into the new year. I’m looking forward to polishing off Eliza Kane’s next adventure, and wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful 2022.

Me & Mr T after one too many Christmas sherries!

On Location with Rachel Brimble

It’s season finale time – and we’re staying in the West Country for our last On Location post of the year. I’m delighted to welcome author Rachel Brimble as my guest to talk about the beautiful city of Bath, the setting for her series of Regency novels.

I was born and bred in the maritime city of Bristol but, in 2001, my husband and I moved to a small market town just a short 30-minute drive from Bath, along with our eldest daughter who was two at the time and our youngest daughter who was happily cooking away in my belly!

Back then, writing was little more than a pipedream that I’d harboured for as long as I can remember but, once we were living so close to Bath it quickly became my one of favourite places to visit and all sorts of story ideas began to float around in my mind.

Not that I did anything about them until a few years to later – I didn’t start writing properly until my youngest started school full-time in 2005. As a voracious reader of historical fiction and romance, as well as an avid watcher of each and every period drama that might grace our TV screens, to be so close to where so many famous scenes have been filmed is a constant thrill.

Bath has been used for BBC adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, not to mention films such as The Duchess starring Kiera Knightley and Vanity Fair starring Reese Witherspoon. Most recently, of course, it was used in season 1 of the fabulously successful Bridgerton.

One of my favourite places to visit is No 1 Royal Crescent which is open to the public for most of the year. Each room, it fantastic staircase, kitchens and small yard have all been retained as they might have looked during mid-late eighteenth century. I especially enjoy visiting when I am in the process of plotting a new series which I plan to set in Bath. This house has been used several times in my different books albeit in different guises!

Other famous Bath landmarks I have used in my books include Pulteney Bridge, Parade Gardens, Victoria Park, Sally Lunn’s Eating House, the Assembly Rooms, the Pump room and many of the pubs dotted around the city, some of which date back to early fourteenth century. The city is an absolute godsend to me and my work!

Every September (if circumstances allow), Bath hosts the Jane Austen festival will draws Janeites (devotees of Jane Austen) from all over the world. The events I have attended over the years have always been fantastic and vary from tours around the city, to balls, to regency markets and palm-reading. It’s two weeks of Jane Austen and Regency fun which culminates in the grand Regency Parade where hundred of people snake through the city side by side. Actors and the public dress up in Regency costume, including military uniforms, day dresses, ball gowns and clerical dress. It’s a wonderful sight to see and a date for next year’s diary for any Jane Austen fans!

So far, all of my historicals have been set in Bath and Pennington’s department store, which is the focus of the Shop Girl series, was inspired by Jolly’s on Bath’s famous Milsom Street… although Pennington’s is probably five times the size!

As for other real-life places which feature in my latest series, The Ladies of Carson Street, there are too many mentioned in their real or fictional guises to list them all, but Carson Street itself was ignited in my imagination by North Parade, a beautiful row of Georgian townhouses opposite Parade Gardens.

Bath is wonderful and I feel blessed to live so very close and be able to visit whenever I want…

Books 1 & 2 in the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy are available now with book 3 due for release in February 2022. Here are the buy links for A Widow’s Vow and Trouble For The Leading Lady.

You can find out more about Rachel and her writing at

Many thanks to Rachel for taking part. I’ve visited Bath many times and it has to be one of my favourite cities in the UK. It’s a great way to end the series and I hope everyone has enjoyed reading about the locations I’ve featured over the summer. Hopefully you feel inspired to visit some of these amazing places, even if it’s just through the pages of a book!

The Irish Rover

This week I’d thought I’d write my own travelogue about our two week tour of the Irish countryside. Like a lot of people we’ve had to look closer to home for our holiday ideas over the last couple of years.  In 2020 we ticked off North Wales and Scotland, this year we decided head to the island of Ireland, as it now seems to be referred to in the tourist board adverts.

As a child growing up in the 1970s, the idea of taking a break in Northern Ireland was off the radar, but thankfully, times are very different now. After a short overnight stay in Belfast and the afternoon exploring the city’s amazing Titanic Museum – we headed out into the countryside following the stunning Causeway Coast route north.

It may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones. Blood, gore, death, destruction, it’s not my normally my cup of tea at all, but after we’d been on a trip to Dubrovnik a few years ago and encountered hoards of tourists on GoT walking tours and shops selling plastic figurines of Sean Bean and Charles Dance,  we bought the DVD of the first series to see what all the fuss was about and became completely hooked (I blame Kit Harrington and that bewildered expression he perfected as Jon Snow).  

I forced Mr T to take a pitstop at a couple of locations which were used in the filming, firstly Ballintoy Harbour and then Dark Hedges, before we headed to the infamous Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, which much to my relief, was closed. No need to face the dilemma of whether I’d be brave enough to cross.

Ballintoy Bay (the Iron islands in GoT)

The following day we set out on a six mile coastal walk to take in the Giant’s Causeway and that’s when it all started to go a bit wrong. Somewhere along the route (which really is breathtakingly stunning with numerous photo opportunities), I damaged my foot, or my shin or my calf and quite possibly all three, and I developed a bit of a limp.

Giants Causeway

I know, rest, ice, compression, elevation, but I was on holiday. I had the whole of Ireland to see, a trip Mr T had painstakingly planned, that took us to Donegal, Westport, Galway, Dingle, Killarney and the Wild Atlantic Way…so I dosed up with pain relief and carried on.

At the lovely town of Westport we took a boat trip around Clew Bay, home to 365 islands and a large colony of grey seals. When you’ve visited the Titanic museum only days before, and you’re on a rather antiquated boat which the minute you step on board you think have they got a licence for this, listening to a commentary cataloguing local shipwrecks, the last thing you want to do is hit a rock, but we did. There was a horrible crunch, and the sound of breaking glass…

‘Nothing to worry about,’ the cheery commentator remarked as if it happened all the time. Looking at the state of the boat it probably did.

Much to my horror the following day Mr T suggested another boat trip, this time around Dingle Bay. Dingle Bay has been home to the Fungie the friendly dolphin for several years, and the town has milked poor Fungie for all he’s worth. Sadly he appears to be no longer with us but as this boat looked a lot more seaworthy than the last and Dingle Bay is a very pretty spot, we headed out to sea. To be honest, by this point in the trip anything that didn’t involve walking seemed like a good idea.

From Dingle we headed down to Killarney and the ring of Kerry. According to our Best Roadtrips in Europe Guidebook, if you don’t do anything else Ireland you do this.  It was truly spectacular but by then I’d already fallen in love.

Ring of Kerry

We’d planned our holiday to avoid spending a Saturday night in the cities of Dublin or Belfast, but Killarney should have been on the banned list too. We spent a lovely Friday evening enjoying “the craic” in a local bar, tapping our feet to some traditional music but the following day everyone else turned up. I’m not by nature vindictive but if I actually lived next door to any of the people who were running up and down our hotel corridor all night, I’d have been very tempted to get my lawnmower out first thing on Sunday morning – and possibly my hedge trimmer and jet washer too.

The Cliffs of Moher

After Killarney the scenery mellowed. From the craggy cliffs, barren moorland and mountains of the north, we were in the land of cows and Kerry gold. I have to say I’ve never seen grass as green as I did in Ireland, or as many rainbows.   

At Blarney Castle only Mr T was brave enough to kiss the stone but by then I knew if I got lay down to lean backwards over a parapet, I’d probably never get back up again.

It felt a privilege to visit Ireland without the hoards of usual tourists and it’s easy to see why they come. History is all around you, it’s impossible to avoid the stories of famine and mass emigration and the struggle for independence. There’s a lot of people all over the world who can claim some sort of Irish ancestry (me included!)

My lasting memories of Ireland will be the brave – or foolhardy – surfers riding the untamed Atlantic waves, ruined castles and ancient hillforts, and the remote rural cottages and homesteads with donkeys on the porch and a handful of sheep in the yard. The food was delicious, we were welcomed wherever we went and landscape has to be some of the most impressive and dramatic I’ve ever seen. I knew I’d like the south, because over the years I’ve read lots about it and seen the pictures, but Northern Ireland was revelation, a real hidden gem.

On Location with Isabella May

From Sydney to Scotland, I hope everyone is enjoying our series of armchair travel adventures. I’m delighted to welcome author Isabella May as my guest this week, and although Isabella lives in Spain, we’re actually staying quite close to home to explore her favourite location!

When you have spent toddlerhood through to your late twenties living in (arguably) England’s most mystical town – and you’re an author – it’s impossible not to feature said location in your books.


It’s a word that’s become rather iconic for mud, wellies, and Kate Moss et al posing for Hello! Magazine whilst glamping it up watching the biggest indie musicians in the world. But there’s so much more to my hometown than June’s annual music festival. In fact, the Glastonbury that most outsiders *think* they know, is actually Pilton; a village almost 7 miles away from the real town!

It’s fair to say that the ley lines and the quirkiness of the true Glastonbury have shaped every aspect of my creativity. Yet, for all its fame, Glastonbury rarely features in mainstream fiction. I may not be published with one of the Top Five, and I may not write formulaic commercial romcoms, but I am passionate about shining a spotlight on my former home, whenever a storyline permits. Glastonbury’s push and pull, its magnetism for lost souls and reinvention, and its hedonistic vibe make it impossible not to.

But there are layers to Glastonbury.

Beneath all of the cloaks, wands, crystals and mandalas, generations of farming folk and townspeople are rooted here to the town’s clay-rich earth. All of which makes for the ultimate story: a community steeped in the tradition of the land mingling with those in search of deeper meaning, fused with the generations of partygoers and the plain old eccentric. Glastonbury is a hotspot for plotting and character development. How can a storyline not take shape here?

My first novel, ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’, looks at Glastonbury from an unconventional point of view; that of a successful professional young woman called Kate, who feels trapped there in the confines of comfort zone life – and an abusive relationship – when she is not traveling the world with her career. All she wants to do is escape the place and the limitations it has unwittingly put on her. It’s been fascinating to contrast that writing experience with my second novel, ‘The Cocktail Bar’, where we see rockstar, River Jackson, pine for his hometown so much that he returns there from his South American music tour (much to the disdain of the cider drinking locals and the hash-loving hippies) to open a cocktail bar!

In other novels in my backlist, I’ve simply made mention of Glastonbury here and there, until I wrote ‘The Cake Fairies’; a timeslip romcom that sees professional bakers, Polly and Annabelle, visiting the town’s local Tor fair, where they meet a fortune teller who transports them from 1969 to 2019… an act which feels totally ‘Normal for Glastonbury’, to quote the name of the town’s infamous blog, penned by the wonderful Vicki Steward.

Side note: Vicki has written a fantastically witty book about the town and I simply have to include a link to it here:

Moving on to the second of my 2020 novels, ‘The Chocolate Box’, we see an unlikely workplace reunion of former private school pupils from the town’s fancy school; a fate sealed with a Jumanji-style box of chocolates…

And in 2021, Glastonbury has provided me with just as much inspiration as ever! ‘Bubblegum and Blazers’ was published in June, and is a romcom set on a reality TV show (which I may have based in my former secondary school, wink, wink). That book was a delight to write and really helped me escape during the toughest months of the pandemic. Then in September this year, B&B was joined by ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar’ where we witness the return of River Jackson from ‘The Cocktail Bar’… and this time he’s back to run a retro VW camper van selling decadent hot chocolate and gingerbread biscuits in Glastonbury and the surrounding villages – as you do.

Whilst my current manuscript focuses on Weston-super-Mare and the Algarve (and copious amounts of gourmet custard tarts), and book 10 will be set in sunny Spain, where I currently live, there’s no doubt the carrot dangle of Glastonbury will prove impossible to resist for long…

In the meantime, I’d love to see it represented more accurately in bestselling fiction. As I have hinted above, it’s not just the beauty of the Tor, the Abbey, the Chalice Well, the Holy Thorn, and Gog and Magog that deserve our attention, but the real people of Glastonbury. These everyday characters do more than flit in and out for a weekend of mud, music, and magic mushrooms, they are the town’s beating heart, and they are brimming with stories to share with bookworms far and wide.

You can buy Isabella’s latest release, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar’ here:

About Isabella

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic, as well as a Pranic Healer.

After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children’s publishing… selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!

All of which has fuelled her curiosity and love of international food and travel – both feature extensively in her cross-genre novels, fused with a dollop of romcom, and a sprinkle of magical realism.

You can follow her Foodie Romance Journey series at the following hang-outs:

Twitter –

Instagram – @isabella_may_author

Facebook –

Many thanks to Isabella for taking part – aren’t her book covers just mouth-wateringly gorgeous? Me and Mr T spent our brief honeymoon staying in Wookey, just a few miles outside Glastonbury, and we’ve visited the town many times since. It holds a very special place in our hearts too.

On Location with Sandy Barker

I’m delighted to welcome author Sandy Barker onto my blog this week for another Locations feature. Sandy has used her love of travel to set her books in exotic locations all over the globe, but she’s chosen to tell us about one particular place which is very close to her heart.

I have lived in many cities around the world – LA, London, Seattle, Perth (the Australian one) and now I live in Melbourne, but for natural beauty my favourite city of all those I’ve lived in has to be Sydney.

I moved to Sydney in late 2000, only months after I’d volunteered at the Sydney Olympics. I’d visited before the Olympics, but during those weeks of beautiful Sydney weather and being out and about in the city, which was abuzz with Olympic fever, I fell in love. I returned to Perth, resigned from my job, packed up my belongings and moved east.

I lived there for eight years, always close to the coast, as for me that is one of Sydney’s biggest drawcards. I was a runner back then – running most days along the rugged paths that skirt the coast and hug those sandy white coves. I’d breathe in the briny air, take in the glorious views, including those stunning sea pools, and fall a little more in love with Sydney.

I’ve now set two books in Sydney – obviously part of A Sunset in Sydney takes place there, and it is also the main setting of my 5th book, The Dating Game. Set in the world of reality television, on a competition dating show called The Stag, ‘Stag Manor’ where the Does are housed is a mansion right on the shores of Sydney Harbour. During filming the contestants get to see some of Sydney’s most sights, such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Even though I lived in Sydney for almost a decade, I never tired of seeing the sails of the Opera House or that iconic bridge – and from the Botanic Gardens and Circular Quay, you can see both together.

As well as the natural beauty of Sydney and surrounds, those structural icons literally take my beath away every time I see them.

Speaking of Sydney’s surrounds … one of the destinations that the cast members visit is the Hunter Valley, a wine region a couple of hours north-west of Sydney. It’s where the bush meets vineyards, and I’ve had several mini-breaks in the Hunter over the years – the wine is delicious.

Hunter Valley – credit Kevin Rheese

The Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney, are also a spectacular place to visit, even though they are not really mountains – more like hills – and they aren’t particularly blue either. But the hiking through the forest is fantastic fun and the Three Sisters, natural monoliths, are definitely a sight to see.

So, with the mix of incredible architecture and natural beauty, Sydney is certainly an inspirational city and the perfect setting for falling in love. I can’t wait to get back.

About Sandy Barker

Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.

Sandy lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins.

The series continues in That Night in Paris and A Sunset in Sydney and there are two more to come in 2022. Her standalone novel The Christmas Swap celebrates her favourite time of the year, and next up is The Dating Game, a laugh-out-loud romcom set in the world of Reality TV.

Tags for social media

Twitter: @sandybarker @0nemorechapter_

Instagram: @sandybarkerauthor @onemorechapterHC

Facebook: @sandybarker – author @One More Chapter Books

The Dating Game Blurb

‘Hilarious and highly original’

Julie Houston, bestselling author of A Village Affair

Once upon a time, twelve women joined the hottest reality TV show looking for love. Except one had a secret identity . . .

Abby Jones is a serious writer. Or at least she will be, one day. Right now, she spends her time writing recaps of reality television under a secret identity.

When a recap for The Stag – the must-watch dating show – goes viral, her editor thinks she should be on set, writing the drama as it happens. The good news: the next season will be filmed in Sydney. Sun, sea and a glamorous trip abroad, this could be Abby’s big break.

The bad news: the producers don’t just want Abby to write the recaps, they want her to be on the show. Abby can’t think of anything worse than being undercover and followed around by cameras. But her career depends on it, and when she meets gorgeous producer Jack, Abby begins to wonder if this job might not be so bad after all . . .

Buy Links:

Amazon UK:

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Google Play:





Many thanks to Sandy for taking part and sharing her wonderful pictures of Sydney. I was lucky enough to visit Sydney in 2018 and reading this post brought back some very happy memories. (Also very lovely to see the Three Sisters in full colour – they were surrounded in mist on our trip to the Blue Mountains!)

On Location with Margaret Amatt

With its dramatic and diverse landscape, Scotland has always been a popular location when it comes to art and literature. We’re in for another travel treat this week as author Margaret Amatt tells us about the Scottish island which captured her imagination and provided the inspiration for her writing.

My book series, Scottish Island Escapes, is set on the glorious Hebridean Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland. This has been one of my favourite holiday destinations over the years and I’ve visited it in every season. Each visit has provided me with happy memories, gorgeous views and lots of inspiration!

It was twenty years ago, in 2001, I first travelled to the island, just for a weekend as I was gate-crashing my sister’s island-hopping trip. The two of us were young and carefree and booked a B&B for the night in a place called Fionnphort. As children we’d spent many a summer on another Scottish island, the Isle of Bute. Now, Bute is a fairly small island. You can drive around the whole thing in less than an hour. Mull is not! Mull is the fourth largest island in Britain and the roads are almost all single-track. It takes a looong time to get around. Neither my sister or I realised this and hadn’t bothered to read a map! It took us over an hour to reach the B&B from the ferry, more than double the time we’d imagined.

The shock of discovering just how big a place it was however vanished in the utterly jaw-dropping scenery. Around every twist on the road (and there are plenty of them!), was another view: a splendid mountain, a sparkling loch, a pretty woodland or the sea. And what a sea. All around Mull and its neighbouring Isle of Iona, the ocean is a glorious turquoise colour, sometimes resembling the Mediterranean more than Britain!

That was my first trip and I only touched on a small part of the island. I made a note to return and explore more. Since then, I’ve been back to the island almost every year and often more than once. I’ve travelled there in all weathers, including a memorable new year spent in the Island’s main town of Tobermory. Mull is a photographers’ paradise. There’s barely a place on the island that isn’t a beauty spot. Some trips, I’ve stopped the car every few seconds to snap pictures from the road of passing scenery I can’t bear to miss!

For many years, I was a closet writer and wrote only for myself. All my early work falls into that category and I wouldn’t want it to be anything else. What it meant however was that when I came to publishing my books, I had already written several works. During 2019 was when the dream started coming together for real. I had a story in my head that had been with me ever since my first trip to Mull. I’d only been a gate-crasher on that trip, and when my sister carried on her tour of the islands, I took public transport back home. That trip alone included a somewhat eventful bus trip, but that’s another story. Since then however, I’d wondered how someone from a totally different place would react to living on an island. I’m Scottish born and bred, so single-track roads and crazy weather don’t faze me too much. But what if someone from London, say, had to go to Mull, and even worse had to use public transport? What if they, like me, hadn’t investigated the size of the place, or didn’t realise buses could only get you so far. The more I visited mull the more potential for stories built in my imagination.

The original book I set on the island used the storyline I mentioned above, but as I wrote it, it evolved in my mind and I realised there was so much more than just one story here. I shook things up and decided to make a series of five books. The series called Scottish Island Escapes was born. There’s a book for every season plus a Christmas one due out this October. The original book became book four, An Autumn Hideaway. The lead character comes to Mull seeking her estranged mother but instead she meets a grumpy and enigmatic local who isn’t impressed with her lack of basic planning skills. As the story evolves, they form an unlikely bond, making it all the more difficult for her to leave when her time on the island is up. Let’s hope she finds her happy ending on the gorgeous Isle of Mull with rainbows around every corner.

I’m planning to continue the series next year and with so much inspiration to draw from, I’ll be spoiled for choice. Because it’s a place so special to me, I’ve written in a lot of real villages, beaches and features, but invented the names of houses, hotels, farms etc. This has made a lot of my readers want to visit Mull themselves! Even my editor thinks I should be on commission from the local tourist board – an interesting idea! If you’re inspired to read the series or are curious to find out more please follow this link:

About Margaret Amatt

Margaret Amatt is a Scottish author based in Highland Perthshire. She lives with her husband and young son in a beautiful glen surrounded by woods, hills and wildlife, and close to the River Tay.

Margaret has four published books and more in the pipeline. She has also won a short story writing competition at Pitlochry Festival Theatre and had her winning piece performed live in the auditorium.

For more information please visit.

or sign up for Margaret’s newsletter at:

Blurb for An Autumn Hideaway

She went looking for someone, but it wasn’t him.

After a string of disappointments for chirpy city girl Autumn Elworthy, discovering her notoriously unstable mother has run off again is the last straw. When Autumn learns her mother’s last known whereabouts was a remote Scottish Island, she makes the rash decision to go searching for her.

Taciturn islander Richard Linden has his reasons for choosing the remote Isle of Mull as home. He’s on a deadline and doesn’t need any complications or company. But everything changes after a chance encounter with Autumn.

Autumn chips away at Richard’s reserve until his carefully constructed walls start to crumble. But Autumn’s just a passing visitor and Richard has no plans to leave. Will they realise, before it’s too late, that what they’ve been searching for isn’t necessarily what’s missing?

Buying link

Many thanks to Margaret for taking part and sharing her gorgeous pictures. Margaret definitely should be working for the island tourist board – although I’d just like to point out that Mr T and me still have nightmares about driving around those roads in Mull after our road trip to Scotland last year!