Read the 1st chapter of Where There’s a Will by Beth Corby

Read the 1st chapter of Where There’s a Will by Beth Corby

where there's a will promo

Read the never before seen 1st chapter of Where There’s a Will by Beth Corby – THE fun, uplifting, romantic read for summer 2019!

Would you take the chance that could change everything?

After leaving university at the age of twenty-five with no idea what to do with her life, Hannah is stunned when she is left a mystery bequest by her rich, estranged great-uncle Donald.

But there’s a catch: before she can find out what she’s inherited, she must undertake a series of unknown tasks alongside Alec, Donald’s reluctant (but rather gorgeous) PA.

As the tasks progress and she and Alec grow closer, Hannah begins to think that Donald’s real gift might have more to do with love than money . . .

This funny, romantic and uplifting novel is perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Cathy Hopkins and Anna Bell.

Read the 1st chapter by clicking on this link here.

Where There’s a Will is out in eBook on 30 May 2019. Pre-order it now.

Paris in Springtime…

Paris in Springtime…

What could be more perfect, ahead of Valentine’s Day, than an insider guide to Spring in the most romantic city in the world? These Dividing Walls author Fran Cooper shares her favourite spots.
Is there anything more romantic than the idea of Paris in the spring? Those days when it’s warm enough to walk around without a jacket; when the trees along the Seine are in leaf and bloom, and birdsong mingles with the accordion music being played on the bridges. Of course, this vision doesn’t quite take into account the proliferation of dog’s mess underfoot, or the crazed Parisian motorcyclists who roar gleefully past you, or the thousands of tourists clamouring for the most picturesque photograph. That was the Paris I tried to capture in These Dividing Walls – one that’s beautiful, yes, but messy, complicated and troubled, too. But that being said, there’s no denying that Paris has its moments of simply breathtaking beauty, and for my money many of those creep up on you on an idyllic spring afternoon when you suddenly spot the city at its most charming.
I imagine plenty of Parisians are dreaming of those spring days right now, as they cope with some of the fiercest snow storms of recent years. So for anyone who might want to take a little séjour (whether real or imaginary) in Paris this spring, here are some of the places I most enjoyed visiting during my three years in the city…
The Jardin du Luxembourg is one of the Left Bank’s jewels. It combines everything you might possibly want in a park – lush green lawns, an ornamental lake for racing toy boats, formal flower gardens, tree-lined walkways, and groups of extremely professional chess players competing on the park’s free boards. This is the perfect place to while away a springtime afternoon, not least because Parisian parks have dozens of reclining garden chairs at your disposal – perfect for settling in with a friend or a book!

On the other side of the river, escape the bustling medieval streets of the Marais in the gardens of the Archives Nationales. The archives are housed in the Hôtel de Soubise, a private home dating back to 1375 and largely remodelled in the eighteenth century, but the gardens are open to all and provide a little oasis of calm amidst one of Paris’s most fun and chaotic quarters. If you’re looking for something a little grander, take an ice cream to the Place des Vosges or the gardens of the Palais Royal – both have plenty of tree-shaded benches on which to people watch.

If you’re willing to venture a little further afield, take metro line 10 to its last stop and marvel at the gardens of the Musée Albert Kahn – a hidden gem of a museum dedicated to the early days of photography. English, French and Japanese gardens are a riot of colour, especially at this time of year when the cherry trees are in blossom. And of course, if you’re willing to leave the city for a day, nothing beats the magic of Monet’s gardens and waterlily pond at Giverny, which are every bit as beautiful as his paintings.

These Dividing Walls is out now in paperback.

*KLAXON* Exclusive extract

*KLAXON* Exclusive extract

If you love delving into some historical fiction, or were gripped by the TV series The Crown, we think we have just the thing for you with Gill Paul’s beautifully written novel Another Woman’s Husband . 

Two women who challenged the Crown.
Divided by time. Bound by a secret…

This is the latest gripping novel from the bestselling author of The Secret Wife. Beginning in Paris in 1997 with the death of Princess Diana, Another Woman’s Husband journeys back to 1934 when Wallis Simpson captures the heart of Edward, Prince of Wales. The novel also shines light on the close friendship between Wallis and Mary Kirk, who went on to marry Wallis’s second husband Ernest Simpson.

If passion, betrayal and a scandal surrounding the English crown sparks your interest you’ll be pleased to hear we have an EXCLUSIVE extract just for you to read here and you can pre order the eBook for just £1.99!

 

Paris vs Udaipur: the world's most romantic locations

Paris vs Udaipur: the world's most romantic locations

Author Alexandra Potter picks her top romantic locations.

Richmond Park, London

Nothing is more romantic than wrapping up warm and walking hand-in-hand with the one you love through the largest of London’s Royal’s parks, home to hundreds of red and fallow deer. This is a truly special place, filled with lakes, woodland and wildlife – and if you’re lucky, you’ll be rewarded with the sighting of one of the park’s majestic stags.

Bike path, Venice, California

‘On yer bike’ might not be your first choice, when you think about how you’d want to spend Valentine’s Day, but trust me, cycling alongside the pacific ocean, with the sun shining, sound of waves crashing and palm trees gently waving in the breeze, is hard to beat. And the best part? It’s totally flat. Which means the only thing that’s going to take your breath away, is when your boyfriend pops the question… (Well a girl can hope!)

A rooftop in Udaipur.

Picture yourself and that special someone, high up on a rooftop in Rajasthan, watching as the sun slowly sets over the lake. Breathe in the heady scent of perfumed oils and exotic spices. Listen to the sounds of children playing in the street below, mixed with the distant sounds of a sitar being played. But high on this rooftop in the middle of India it’s just the two of you, a million miles from everywhere. Magical.

A pub in the Lake District.

Baby it’s cold outside. So cosy up together in front of a roaring log fire in a traditional pub in the Lake District.  Throw in a bottle of wine, some hearty home-cooked food and weary limbs from a day spent hiking in the magnificent countryside and you won’t want to be anywhere else in the whole world.  And neither will any of your friends when they see your envy-inducing instagram photos!

Bookshop in Paris.

It’s hard to choose one spot in a city that’s been dubbed, ‘the most romantic city in the world’. There are the classic spots of course, such as the top of La Tour Eiffel, a boat cruise along the Seine, or one of the many pavement cafes. But nothing can compare to Shakespeare & Company. Literature and lovers have always gone together, so follow in the footsteps of Hemingway, Steinbeck and James Joyce and step into this enchanting bookstore, with it’s labyrinth of floor-to-ceiling book shelves and cosy nooks. Perfect for snuggling up and quoting poetry to each other.

 

The Love DetectiveDon't You Forget About Me

Two of Alexandra’s titles are part of our Romantic reads promotion and are currently only 99p in ebook. For the full list check out our blog post

Find out what one thing Hilary Boyd would never, EVER give up

Find out what one thing Hilary Boyd would never, EVER give up

Today we’re celebrating the publication of Hilary Boyd‘s latest novel, The Lavender House; which we urge you to pick up a copy of and promise you will not regret it!

In true Hilary style, this novel pulls at the heartstrings while simultaneously making you giggle into its pages, as she introduces you to the world of Nancy de Freitas, a sixty-something woman caught between her ageing, ailing mother and her struggling, demanding daughter. Nancy is fed up, and then she meets Jim, and her whole world spins out of control….for the better!

Can she be brave enough to follow her heart? Or will her duty to her family stand in the way of her second chance at love?

We asked Hilary to to take part in our quick-fire Q&A, so kick back with a cuppa and enjoy the read…

If I were to be stranded on a desert island, my one luxury item would be…

Paper and pens. Perfect opportunity to write without interruption before I starve to death.

The first album I ever bought…

Songs of Leonard Cohen. I’m surprised the LP didn’t explode I played it so much.

The last time I went to the cinema…

La La Land… oops, not very impressed. But feel almost embarrassed to say so.

The thing I could never give up…

Potatoes. Cocktails, coffee, heroin, Sauvignon blanc? No problem. But mashed potato? Not a chance.

My choice of superpower…

A finger-click and all my clothes appear clean and pressed in my drawers. Sad, eh?

The book (by another author) that I wish I had written…

Fortune’s Rocks, Anita Shreve. Gripping, romantic, beautifully written. Read it and weep.

The one piece of advice I would give my teenage self…

Have some fun! I was an anxious, serious kid, scared to let my hair down.

If I had to choose between saying everything I think or never speaking again…

Never speaking again, no question. Words are powerful and can be dangerous – often misinterpreted.

If I had to choose between appearing on Strictly Come Dancing or X Factor…

Strictly would be heaven. But at six foot, two left feet and oldish, perhaps not.

The best thing about being a writer…

Disappearing into a world of my own invention.

If you liked this post, then why not catch up on…

Hannah Doyle tells us all about her perfect weekend

Download Team Bookends romantic reads for just 99p 

Read an extract from Amy Engels’ provocative debut The Roanoak Girls 

 

Romantic Reads from Team Bookends

Romantic Reads from Team Bookends

We’re in the mood for romance! And just in time, too – we’ve selected some delicious ebook reads guaranteed to gear you up for Valentine’s Day. Added bonus: they’re all 99p!

Getting Over Mr Right

Getting Over Mr Right by Chrissie Manby

Have you ever had your heart broken? How did you get over it? Did a tub of ice cream cheer you up? Did you delete his number and start again? Are you now friends with your ex? Perhaps you’re godmother to his children?

In which case, you’re a weirdo and this book is not for you.

But if you reacted with denial, begging or a spot of casual witchcraft, then you’ve come to the right place. This is one woman’s journey from love to lunacy and back again . . .

Buy now

Perfect Wives

Perfect Wives by Emma Hannigan

Perfect for fans of Maeve Binchy, a heartwarming novel of love, friendship and coming home from the Irish bestseller…

When actress Jodi Ludlum returns to the Dublin village of Bakers Valley to raise her young son, she’s determined to shield him from the media glare that follows her in LA. But coming home means leaving her husband behind – and waking old ghosts… Francine Hennessy was born and raised in Bakers Valley. To all appearances, she is the model wife, mother, home-maker and career woman. But, behind closed doors, Francine’s life is crumbling around her. As Jodi struggles to conceal her secrets and Francine faces some shocking news, the two become unlikely confidants. Suddenly having the perfect life seems less important than finding friendship, and the perfect place to belong…’

Buy now

The Love Detective

The Love Detective by Alexandra Potter

Because love is the greatest mystery of all . . . Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime with this magical romantic comedy from the bestselling author of Me and Mr Darcy.

Buy now

Bay of Secrets

Bay of Secrets by Rosanna Ley

Set between England and the Spanish Canary Islands, three women learn the truth about their shared past, and discover the importance of family.

Buy now

Monday to Friday Man

Monday to Friday Man by Alice Peterson

A funny and heart-warming novel about love and loneliness, family and loyalty, lodgers and friendships – it’ll put a big smile on your face.

Buy now

The List

The List by Joanna Bolouri

The List: ten things you’ve always wanted to do in bed but never had the chance (or the courage!) to try. A bucket list for between the sheets. One year of pleasure, no strings attached.

Buy now

Now That I've Found You

Now That I’ve Found You by Ciara Geraghty

Everyone deserves to find that one person who’s meant for them, don’t they? Honest and wise, poignant and warm, this is completely absorbing storytelling for fans of Jojo Moyes and Marian Keyes.

Buy now

Katherine

Katherine by Anya Seton

‘A great adventure, powerfully told’ (Philippa Gregory)

A sumptuous tale of passion and danger in the medieval court, Anya Seton’s Katherine is an all-time classic.

Buy now

A Proper Family Holiday

A Proper Family Holiday by Chrissie Manby

Could you survive a week-long holiday with your entire family? Newly single magazine journalist Chelsea Benson can’t think of anything worse.
Your grubby small nephew torpedoing any chance of romance with the dishy guy you met on the plane . . .
Your eighty-five-year-old granddad chatting up ladies at the hotel bar . . .
Getting nothing but sarcastic comments from your older sister, who’s always been the family favourite . . .
And all this is before your parents drop their bombshell.
Is a week enough time for the Bensons to put their differences aside and have some fun? Or is this their last ever proper family holiday?

Buy now

Amy Snow

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

Unlock the secret with the Richard and Judy bestseller. ‘My favourite novel of last year’ Lucinda Riley. Perfect for fans of The Seven Sisters, The Lake House and Dinah Jefferies’ The Tea Planter’s Wife.

Buy now

Don't You Forget About Me

Don’t You Forget About Me by Alexandra Potter

From the bestselling author of Me and Mr Darcy, this funny, magical love story is for every girl who has loved, lost and dreamt of getting her man back.

Buy now

Turning Forty

Turning Forty by Mike Gayle

How to turn forty:
1. Set yourself a personal challenge.
2. Clear wardrobe of all age inappropriate clothing.
3. Relax.

How not to turn forty:
1. Have a complete meltdown . . .

‘Wise, witty and wonderful . . . a triumph!’ Jenny Colgan

Buy now

Lavender House

The Lavender House by Hilary Boyd

Emotional, page-turning women’s fiction from the author of #1 ebook bestseller, Thursdays in the Park. Will Nancy dare to risk a second chance at love with a man her family and friends tell her is totally unsuitable? Beautiful storytelling for fans of Erica James, Veronica Henry and Harriet Evans.

Buy now

 

 

Britain's Cosiest County with Wendy Holden

Britain's Cosiest County with Wendy Holden

If you’re itching for a weekend break in the countryside, dreaming of long wintery walks and curling up by a roaring fire, the Queen of romantic comedy Wendy Holden has just the place for you.

‘DERBYSHIRE, where I live, is Britain’s cosiest county. It’s cosily located right in the middle of England, the furthest point from chilly seas, safely tucked up in the middle of lots of other shires. Yorkshire to the North, Leicestershire to the South, Lincolnshire to the East and Cheshire to the West keep it nice and warm and protect it from nasty cold blasts. Its topography is cosy as well, lots of nice little green hills and snugglesome valleys; plenty of broad, sheltering trees and lush fields thickly edged with fluffy bushes.

So if cosy is what you’re looking for – and who isn’t at this time of year – you could do worse than spend a weekend in this wonderful spot. Derbyshire is just the place to beat the winter blues and jolt you out of your January grump. Those snugglesome valleys I just mentioned contain some adorable little grey villages; picturesque scatterings of cottages and farmhouses, gardens and greens. All have their own little ancient grey church with its solid stone tower or graceful stone spire and the stained-glass windows which, at dusk, glow like jewels between the tracery. And there’s the pub, of course.

Always the pub. Derbyshire’s pubs are some of the best you’ll find anywhere, as is the beer. We’ve got craft ales coming out of our ears up here, some with amazing names (Hairy Helmet, anyone?). If, like me, you’re not a beer person, you can get a decent glass of wine and, more importantly, a decent bowl of chips at establishments such as The Barley Mow in Bonsall (the world centre of, ahem, hen racing) and the Robin Hood Inn, Baslow.

In my new comic novel, Honeymoon Suite, my heroine Nell leaves London after being stood up at the altar and flees north to the welcoming arms of a county a lot like Derbyshire. As the eponymous honeymoon suite has been booked by the absconding not-quite-husband, Nell is persuaded by her feisty friend that she may as well stay in it. It’s paid for, it’s luxurious and it’s in the most delicious location imaginable, the recently-refurbished gastropub of a village on the borders of a vast and beautiful aristocratic estate.

There are many gastropubs in Derbyshire, some of them quite near me. The village of Barlow, near Chesterfield, is bookended by two splendid examples of this marvellous breed. And as The Peacock and The White Horse belong to the same family, Barlow is fast becoming a landlocked northern version of Padstein.

On the aristocratic estate front, Derbyshire’s no slouch either. Halls Kedleston and Hardwick are famous and fabulous, but the tourist lodestar is unquestionably Chatsworth, home of the Duke of Devonshire, which offers a number of ultra-cosy places to stay. The estate has a couple of boutique-y pubs, both called, somewhat inevitably, The Devonshire Arms. They do nice wine by the glass, food in big white dishes and have trendy en suite bedrooms, some done up by the Duchess.

There’s also the Hunting Tower, located in the woods above Chatsworth House. This intensely picturesque sixteenth-century lodge was where Bess of Hardwick caught her breath between deer chases; it is now the most romantic holiday cottage imaginable. Its garden offers (from a seat on one of Nelson’s old cannon, no less) a sweeping view over the valley with the silver river snaking through it. Prince William once stayed there and if it’s good enough for him..

Having sweepingly viewed this valley and others like it, you’ll feel the irresistible urge to walk around them. The key to cosy hiking is not straying too far from your cosy pub. Chatsworth has lovely gardens and some mildly exerting parkland; there’s also a great walk from the Robin Hood Inn (op cit) up to the Three Ships rocks. Cosiness demands you must wrap up warm. But, reader, not in motheaten Thinsulate!

A much more stylish solution awaits the weekend visitor. Derbyshire is home to John Smedley, whose cashmere pullovers, sea-island-cotton jerseys and fine-wool hats, socks and scarves are widely available at considerable expense in London’s smartest emporia. Happily, they can also be bought irresistibly discounted at the factory shop in Lea, near Cromford. Open from 10-4 daily, the John Smedley shop is heaven for the hiking and non-hiking hipster alike. Cosy has never looked so chic.’

Wendy Holden returns with a wonderfully warm and witty tale Honeymoon Suite, out in paperback on January 26th

More Info…

www.thepeacockatbarlow.co.uk

www.tickledtroutbarlow.com

www.devonshirebeeley.co.uk

www.devonshirearmsbaslow.co.uk

www.barleymowbonsall.co.uk

www.robinhoodinnbaslow.co.uk

www.chatsworthcottages.co.uk

If you liked this why not try,

Quick-fire Q&A with Wendy Holden

Enter the Sceptre Loves Short Story competition

Enter the Sceptre Loves Short Story competition

To celebrate the publication of How Much the Heart Can Hold, a collection of seven short stories written by seven award-winning authors exploring different concepts of love, we are launching Sceptre Loves, a short story competition. We’re looking for a story based on any sort of love: from obsessive to platonic, unrequited to all-consuming. Entries will be sent via sceptreloves@hodder.co.uk, for more information read the terms and conditions here.

Entries must be between 5,000 and 10,000 words, and submitted before the 14th February 2017. The competition will be judged by Lucy Luck, literary agent at Aitken Alexander Associates, Chris White, fiction buyer at Waterstones, and Emma Herdman, senior editor at Sceptre.

The winning entry will be published in the paperback edition of the book, and the author awarded £150 and a two hour consultation about their work with Emma Herdman, who has worked in the fiction buying team at Waterstones, at Curtis Brown literary agency and is now Senior Editor at Sceptre.

The winner will be announced at a special prize giving evening in March at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road.

Shelia O'Flanagan's Who's Who of her Favourite Characters

Shelia O'Flanagan's Who's Who of her Favourite Characters

Favourite Characters? To be honest, it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite character because all of the women in my novels have become like best friends to me and I always want to do justice to their stories. But for various reasons, some of them have lingered with me longer than others and they’re probably the ones I’d like to be friends with on Facebook if they were real people (which to me they are!)

Imogen (The Missing Wife Imogen was a happy-go-lucky child when she was very young, adored by everyone around her. But when her circumstances changed she had to adapt over and over again, which she found very difficult. When she meets Vince, she’s excited about finally putting down roots of her own – only to find that being married to him means more changes than she ever could have imagined.

I grew really close to Imogen when I was writing about her because her story is all about rediscovering the person you are inside, and having the courage to find yourself again. Imogen’s journey is physical as much as emotional – she leaves her home and husband without telling anyone why, not even her closest friend.

I love how she tries really hard to deal with her past, her present and her future by herself, but gradually realises that there are more good people than bad in the world, that it’s OK to makes mistakes and that they don’t define you forever. There’s a core of inner strength in Imogen that she rediscovers and that’s why writing about her was so satisfying for me.

Carlotta (If You Were MeCarlotta is a very successful business consultant, super-organised and with an almost photographic memory which is useful in her corporate life. She’s engaged to a successful ophthalmologist, and the only fly in the ointment is that his mother has very old fashioned views about the priorities for married women – she thinks Carlotta should be putting his needs before hers. However, Carlotta is pretty sure she can deal with a narky mother-in-law – she deals with difficult businessmen all the time.

Things start to unravel for her when she misses a train on a business trip to Seville and she unexpectedly finds herself face-to-face with her childhood sweetheart.

The early part of the story is set in Seville which is a hot, passionate city, and that has a big impact on Carlotta’s own emotions. Her story is about finding out what’s important to her as a person- is she carefree and romantic or sensible and practical – and I enjoyed her struggle in trying to discover where her true feelings lie.

Claire (How Will I Know?) A few years after the death of her husband in a jet-ski accident on holiday, Claire is still grieving and struggling not to get upset when people suggest that it’s time she was ‘out there’ again. The only thing that’s keeping her going is her daughter Georgia, who was also injured in the accident and who’s now a teenager. Claire has to cope with her own feelings, as well as offer advice to Georgia, who’s starting to grow up.

Claire is like every mother, wanting to do the best for her daughter. But she still finds it difficult to find joy in anything. How Will I Know? is about rediscovering your resilience, which is what Claire has to do even though it’s hard. I love how she eventually keeps challenging herself even though stepping outside the front door is an effort at times. Part of the reason I put her in these circumstances is that although people do eventually manage to accept the loss of a loved one, you’re never the same afterwards, and you have to learn to live with your changed self, which is what Claire finally manages to do.

Isobel (Isobel’s WeddingPeople often ask me if there’s much of me in the characters in my books and I always say there has to be a little part of me because I’m writing them. But Isobel is the complete opposite of me in a million ways. She’s about to get married and has gone a bit Bridezilla about it all, obsessing about every detail but especially the dress, which she’s making herself. (That’s a big difference between us, I can barely sew on a button.)

When it all goes wrong for Isobel and her boyfriend calls the wedding off with less than a fortnight to go, she’s utterly devastated. I’m not sure how I would’ve reacted but after a period of feeling sorry for herself, Isobel heads off to a new job in Madrid where she embraces her inner social butterfly before having to make choices about her future.

Isobel is one of my early characters and I still remember her very fondly. She makes lots of mistakes but in the end she faces up to what she wants from life and not what she thinks is expected of her. So many readers asked for a sequel to her story that I brought her back in my short story collection, Connections.

Domino (Stand By MeIn Domino’s story she moves from being a gawky teenager to the glamorous wife of a successful property developer, only to see it all come crashing down when his business goes bust and he skips the country, leaving her to deal with the subsequent mess. Domino’s story is one of picking yourself up and starting over, even when you’ve been utterly betrayed, and that betrayal is played out in public.

She’s a character who really changes over the course of the novel, from someone who’s always depended on other people to someone who learns to stand on her own two feet and look after herself. I loved how she eventually faces up to her new reality and how she makes hard choices that she knows are the right ones. I think she ends up being one of the strongest of all my characters and I’m very fond of her.

Shelia O Flanagan’s latest book is The Missing Wife available in hardback and eBook editions. The paperback edition will be available 9th March 2017.

If you liked this, why not catch up on…

… Stella Newman’s book makeover

… Sheila’s idea of a perfect weekend

In Conversation: Rosanna Ley and Annabelle Thorpe (PART 1)

In Conversation: Rosanna Ley and Annabelle Thorpe (PART 1)

Two of our brilliant Bookends authors, Rosanna Ley and Annabelle Thorpe, chat about their latest books, their writing processes and what inspired them to set their stories in such exotic places

Rosanna:

Hi Annabelle! I’m delighted to get the chance to talk to you today about your fabulous novel THE PEOPLE WE WERE BEFORE. As you know, I enjoyed the book immensely. It’s such a sweeping story, taking in the drama of the Balkan conflict in a way that is both deeply personal and yet also far-reaching and informative for your readers. Reading this novel made me want to immediately fly to Croatia, which shows me that you have made the place come alive too. My first question is – what inspired you to write about Croatia and particularly about this period of Yugoslavian history?

Annabelle:

Hi Rosanna, lovely to talk to you too! Croatia was the first foreign country I ever visited, although it was Yugoslavia then, back in 1981.  We went on a family holiday and went back several times over the next few years.  When the war came, I couldn’t believe it was happening in places that I knew and had visited.  Seeing Dubrovnik being shelled was so shocking.  When the war was over I went back to write a travel piece and found that hotels I had stayed in had been used as refugee camps and that something like 70% of the buildings in Dubrovnik’s Old Town had been damaged.  And yet so little was known or understood about the war in this country.  When I originally started writing the book, I hadn’t intended to write much about the war; it seemed so awful, and I didn’t want to trivialise it.  But the more I read, the more I began to feel I should write about it – that people should know what happened.

So a very personal reason for me for writing about Croatia – what lead to your interest in Cuba?  You describe it so vibrantly in LAST DANCE IN HAVANA;  is there a personal link, or is it just somewhere had a strong appeal?

Rosanna:

That’s interesting, Annabelle, and explains a lot – your feelings and history with Croatia/ Yugoslavia certainly came across.

Some of my books have personal beginnings – for example RETURN TO MANDALAY was inspired by my husband’s family’s experiences in Burma, and when that happens, it’s special. But in the case of LAST DANCE IN HAVANA… I wanted to write about dance, and Cuba appealed because of its long love affair with music and dance and because, like Burma, it has an interesting and turbulent history. I also wanted to use the theme of power and control within the novel and refer to its history of slaves working on sugar plantations there. I used a UK city, Bristol, as the second setting for LAST DANCE because the city grew rich on the profits of the sugar trade. They say – ‘write about what you know’ but in this case it was ‘write about what you want to explore’.

When I found out that the rumba was danced by freed blacks and those still enslaved as a way of celebrating the idea of freedom and relationships between the sexes, I decided to use it both structurally and symbolically within the novel. The rumba is very sensual and I loved writing those dance scenes…  I visited Cuba, of course, and talked to people there, to get a take on how they felt about their lives, the political situation, the Revolution. I read around the subject and the country and watched documentaries and films. My favourite book was ‘Biography of a Runaway Slave’ by Miguel Barnett, translated by Nick Hill which is very moving, but I also loved reading the Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta’s ‘No Way Home’ – and watching Acosta in action on the dance floor was pretty spectacular too.

I was very struck by the character of Miro in THE PEOPLE WE WERE BEFORE. He is a flawed and fascinating character and yet I totally empathised with him and his situation. It was so refreshing to read about someone who seemed so real. I wondered what made you choose this 1st person male viewpoint for the book and how you feel about him?

Annabelle:

I find writing from a male viewpoint very freeing; I always worry with a first-person female viewpoint that people will think it’s based on myself, or whatever the opinions the character has are actually my opinions.  Writing male first-person, that wasn’t so much of a concern.  It’s a very intense way of writing, though, and I think because of that I have a real affection for Miro.  He’s flawed, he makes bad decisions, he’s not always a good person, but he loves.  He really, properly loves; his brother, his friends, his family.  And I think that’s why he’s fascinated by the foreign war reporters, Nic and Marian, because they operate on a different emotional plain to him.  He tries to be like them for a while, but in the end that just isn’t how he’s built.  I love him for that, for being a mix of vulnerability and courage, weakness and strength.  Like most of us.

It’s relationships that trip Miro up, in some ways, and I do find the relationships that you create in your books really interesting.  You often seem to write about relationships built on misconceptions; on people not actually being the people they might first appear to be and the importance – or lack of – communication. Do you deliberately set out to examine relationship issues?

Keep reading in PART 2…

Annabelle Thorpe’s fantastic debut The People We Were Before is out now! And the next scorcher from Rosanna Ley, The Last Dance in Havana will be out on 19 May and is available for pre-order here