I’m often asked what inspires my books and in this case it was a very sad but true story which has haunted me since childhood. It happened to one of the male teachers at my primary school and I was ten years old at the time. He was the most popular teacher in the school and everyone, boys and girls alike, adored him; I was no exception. He was friendly, good-natured, and always telling jokes and making us laugh. Then one day his wife became ill and died.
She was only 27, and I’m guessing he was around the same age himself. He disappeared on sick leave for a few months, and when he came back to school the change was shocking: he was a shadow of himself. He’d lost weight, there were shadows under his eyes and he never smiled any more. Never.
His grief was so visible that it really marked me. And, being so young, this was my first experience of grief and how it can break someone. I left that school shortly after and, although I always hoped that he’d rebuild his life and find love again, I can’t be sure what happened to him.
I suppose this mystery fuelled my imagination, and in my book, The Christmas Holiday, I wanted to explore how a grieving widower, still in love with his wife and clinging to her memory, might move on and find love again. Enter my fictional hero, Jake Hartwood.
Once I had Jake, I needed a heroine, and I thought it would be fun to make her his polar opposite: a cheerful, chatty optimist. At the beginning of my story Jake is broken, and I knew Evie’s happy outlook would really grate on him. The only problem was, he’d go to any length to avoid her, so how would I get them together? I conjured up a snowstorm which forced them to spend the night together in a freezing old house with only a log fire and Jake’s faithful Dalmatian for company. Now they had to talk to each other, and I had great fun watching the sparks fly!
But Jake and Evie had a lot more in common than they first realised and much to teach each other, so drawing out the romance between them was a delight. I like to share my love of Provence in my books, and since they were both dreading Christmas they made plans to escape there – together.
I won’t give away any spoilers, but I hope you’ll enjoy following their journey – and perhaps fall in love with Jake too along the way.
A moving, masterfully written story of love and sacrifice, perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Dear Mrs Bird.
Hope flies behind enemy lines…
September 1940. As enemy fighter planes blacken the sky, Susan Shepherd finds comfort at her home in Epping Forest, where she and her grandfather raise homing pigeons. Of all Susan’s birds, it’s Duchess who is the most extraordinary, and the two share a special bond.
Thousands of miles away, Ollie Evans, a young American pilot decides to travel to Britain to join the Royal Air Force. But Ollie doesn’t expect his quest to bring him instead to the National Pigeon Service – a covert new operation involving homing pigeons – and to Susan.
The National Pigeon Service has a dangerous mission to air-drop hundreds of pigeons into German-occupied France. Despite their growing friendship Ollie and Susan must soon be parted – but will Duchess’s devotion and sense of duty prove to be an unexpected lifeline between them?
Based on true events, The Long Flight Home is an uplifting and timeless wartime novel, that reminds us how, in times of hardship, hope is never truly lost.
Do you overthink everything? Do you struggle to say no to people? Are you paying membership for a gym you never go to? Do group chat politics make you want to throw your phone under a bus? Are you overjoyed when people cancel plans so that you can sit at home in your pyjama bottoms eating Coco pops for dinner?
If so, this book is for you!
We spend our childhoods wanting to a be adults and, when we get there, find ourselves lost under a pile of life admin, half completed to-do lists and anti-ageing face creams that promise to make you look as good as Natalie Imbruglia.
In her new book, Katie Kirby (Hurrah for Gin) pinpoints with painful precision just how overwhelming life can be when you’re all grown up. From the worry spiral that keeps you up at 3AM, to maintaining a professional aura when you can’t stand other people – this is for everyone struggling to stay afloat.
Honest, relatable, funny and containing no useful advice whatsoever, take comfort in the knowledge that it’s not just you, we’re all as f*cked as each other.
Maggie and her new friends Annie, Irene and Sarah come from very different backgrounds, but they’ve got one thing in common: they’ve all signed up for the Women Police Volunteers. They can’t wait to show the men just what they’re made of.
But soon, Maggie realises she’s in over her head. Hiding her involvement with the WPV from her tyrannous father is becoming ever more difficult, and when she bumps into an old acquaintance with a big chip on his shoulder, the dangers of her new life become all too clear . . .
As Maggie and the girls work together to find their feet on the beat, will their friendship get her through the darkest of times?
‘A sparkling and heart warming Christmas gift of a read!’ Kathryn
‘A bit of Christmas magic’ Barbara
‘Charming, effortless and leaves you with a smile on your face’ Katharine
Jane thought she would be alone this Christmas, but will a luxury trip to Norway mend her broken heart? A heart-warming, feel-good festive treat to curl up with this winter.
Jane Brook has given up on love. She might have uncovered the news scandal of the year, but she’s also been dumped by boyfriend Simon (and has spent the last month avoiding him at the office). With Christmas fast-approaching, Jane’s heart is no closer to mending.
But Jane’s boss has other plans for her. She needs someone to go on a luxurious press trip to Norway to cover the story of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, and despite her protests, she’s selected Jane to go.
Jane would much rather wallow at home than spend a week in the fjords with some ditzy bloggers, a snippy publicist, ever-cheerful colleague Ben and handsome-but-arrogant TV presenter Philip Donnelly.
But as Jane throws herself into the trip and starts to enjoy herself, it seems that love hasn’t quite given up on her just yet. Amid all the snow, could a gift be awaiting her underneath the mistletoe?
‘I’m here to remember – all that I have been and all that I will never be again.’
At the bar of a grand hotel in a small Irish town sits 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan. He’s alone, as usual –though tonight is anything but. Pull up a stool and charge your glass, because Maurice is finally ready to tell his story.
Over the course of this evening, he will raise five toasts to the five people who have meant the most to him. Through these stories – of unspoken joy and regret, a secret tragedy kept hidden, a fierce love that never found its voice – the life of one man will be powerfully and poignantly laid bare.
Heart-breaking and heart-warming all at once, the voice of Maurice Hannigan will stay with you long after all is said.
The life of 79-year-old pensioner Peggy Smart is as beige as the décor in her retirement village. Her week revolves around aqua aerobics and appointments with her doctor. The highlight of Peggy’s day is watching her neighbour Brian head out for his morning swim.
Peggy dreams of inviting the handsome widower – treasurer of the Residents’ Committee and one of the few eligible men in the village – to an intimate dinner. But why would an educated man like Brian, a chartered accountant no less, look twice at Peggy? As a woman of a certain age, she fears she has become invisible, even to men in their eighties.
But a chance encounter with an old school friend she hasn’t seen in five decades – the glamorous fashionista Angie Valentine – sets Peggy on an unexpected journey of self-discovery.
Can she channel her ‘inner Helen Mirren’ and find love and friendship in her twilight years?
Strangers living worlds apart. Strangers with nothing in common.
But it wasn’t always that way…
Kerry Hayes is a single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never hope to afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot ever forget her past.
Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a child, Noah always looks forward, never back.
When Kerry reaches out to the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will have life-changing consequences for them both.
By turns funny and moving, Half a World Away is a story that will stay with you long after you read its powerfully emotional, heartbreaking final page.
Some novels hold you in their spell and never let you go…
1960. Thirteen-year-old Rebecca and her mother live in fear of Rebecca’s father’s violent temper. As a storm batters Seaview Cottage one night, Rebecca hears a visitor at the door and an argument ensues. By the time the police arrive, the visitor has fled and both Rebecca’s parents are dead. No one believes Rebecca’s story that she heard a stranger downstairs…
2014. Iris, a journalist, is sent to cover the story of a new mother on the run with her desperately ill baby, as the police race against time to find them. When the trail leads back to Seaview Cottage, the childhood home of Iris’s own mother, Rebecca, Iris must unravel the events of the night Rebecca is desperate to forget for Seaview Cottage to give up its secrets.
Jill’s heartwarming, romantic and funny new novel will delight her fans, as Mimi discovers that love doesn’t always wait till the timing is right…
Mimi isn’t looking for love when she spends a weekend in Goosebrook, the Cotswolds village her dad has moved to. And her first encounter with Cal, who lives there too, is nothing like a scene in a romantic movie – although she can’t help noticing how charismatic he is. But Cal’s in no position to be any more than a friend, and Mimi heads back to her busy London life.
When they meet again four years later, it’s still not to be. Cal is focusing on his family, and Mimi on her career. Then Cal dives into a potentially perfect new romance whilst Mimi’s busy fixing other people’s relationships.
It seems as if something, or someone else, always gets in their way. Will it ever be the right time for both of them?
A heartwarming tale of love, family and acceptance, The Love Note is a simply gorgeous read…
In their townhouse in Richmond, Blue and her family are as happy and as close as can be – well, on the surface at least.
But with the arrival of a young, destitute woman hoping to escape her abusive husband, they must finally confront the rifts that keep them apart. When they welcome Delphine into their home – and their hearts – they think it’s for her benefit only. But what they don’t realise is that she will bring them together in ways they never thought possible.
Emotional family saga following the Angelotti food dynasty, from household name Prue Leith.
A new generation. It is 1968. Angelica Angelotti has grown up in her parents’ Italian restaurant. Now she is striking out on her own in Paris. There she falls in love with her charismatic but unpredictable cousin Mario.
A fresh challenge. Navigating a blossoming career, from the Savoy hotel to the world of television, alongside an increasingly toxic relationship proves impossible. The offer to run the pub on her family’s estate as a restaurant seems like the perfect escape. Chorlton has called her home…
A brighter future. Soon she has a thriving business, and even the chance of a new love. But when Mario reappears, determined to win her back, will Angelica be able to hold on to everything she’s sacrificed so much for?
Escape to the heart of enchanting Brittany with the bestselling author of The Villa and The Little Theatre by the Sea.
For many years Colette has avoided returning to her homeland – the magical island of Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany – afraid to confront the painful memories she left behind. She is living on the Cornish coast when she hears about her mother Thea’s failing health and realises that the time has come for her to go home. But can Colette ever forgive Thea for what she has done?
Despite Colette’s wariness, romantic Belle-Île still fascinates her. She takes on the running of her mother’s flower shop and makes friends with Élodie from the Old Lighthouse where Thea once worked as a nanny and with the enigmatic Étienne who shares Colette’s mixed feelings about the island. As Thea opens up to her for the first time, Colette finds herself softening and being drawn back into the landscape of her past. But can Belle-Île also be a part of her future?
The ghosts of that past still linger. What happened all those years ago and how did it cause the rift between mother and daughter? It becomes clear that the beauty of Belle-Île hides a devastating family secret – one that Colette is determined to unravel at any cost.
Warm up for winter on a Caribbean beach with New York Times Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand.
Irene Steele’s life is idyllic, until it is rocked by a late-night phone call that brings news of her husband’s sudden death. Even in the midst of her crippling grief, Irene cannot get one question out of her head: why was his body found on St. John, a tropical Caribbean paradise far removed from their suburban life?
Leaving the cold Nantucket winter behind, Irene flies hundreds of miles to get to the island – only to learn that her husband had a secret second family. As she delves deeper into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the man she loved, she is plunged into a web of intrigue and deceit belied by the pristine white sandy beaches of St. John’s.
‘I just LOVE [Elin Hilderbrand’s] books, they are such compulsive reads’ Marian Keyes
Each week this summer, we’re asking some of our favourite authors to share their summer essentials. This week, David Nicholls, Sheila O’Flanagan and Beth O’Leary tell us which characters from their books they would whisk away for a summer trip…
Ooh, interesting question! I think I’d like Leon to take me to Ireland. We both have Irish roots (though mine are more distant than Leon’s!) and I would love to explore that side of my family with someone who knows Ireland well. Plus I think Leon would be great to travel with: he’d want his own space, he’d be nice and quiet on the plane so you could read your book, and if you, say, sprained your ankle while swimming in the sea, well, he’d be able to carry you to shore…
Interesting question! I think Juno, from The Hideaway, is more like me than some of my other characters so we might have fun together. I know she’s a big fan of Spain since she found her summer hideaway in the orange groves of Valencia, so I’d bring her to the beautiful Basque country and the town of San Sebastián which is one of the loveliest places in the world.