Bookends Beach Party | Which of your characters would you go on holiday with?

Bookends Beach Party | Which of your characters would you go on holiday with?

Each week we’ll be asking some of our favourite authors to share their summer essentials – from holiday routines to travel bucket lists. This week we asked Deborah Moggach, Ruth Hogan and Rosanna Ley, if you had to holiday with one of the characters from your book, who would it be and where would you go?

Deborah Moggach, author of The Carer

I’d go with Buffy. He’s the boozy, charming and chatty old actor from “the Ex-Wives” and “Heartbreak Hotel”. He adores women and loves talking about relationships. He also has some good jokes. We’d go to Lisbon because I’ve never been.

Ruth Hogan, author of Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel

I’m torn between Queenie and Joseph Geronimo Heathcliffe O’Shea. I fell more than a little in love with Joseph when I was writing about him! But I think it would have to be Queenie – she’d be an absolute riot and we’d get up to all sorts of mischief on an American trip. We would spend a couple of days in New York and then head off to Los Angeles. I think Queenie would very much like to go shopping in Beverley Hills!

Rosanna Ley, author of The Lemon Tree Hotel

It would have to be Dante from The Lemon Tree Hotel because he’s passionate, interesting and funny and he makes the best gelato in Italy. We’d go to the Italian Riviera, maybe down to Tellaro in the romantic Bay of Poets. I wouldn’t want to come home…

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The Bookends Beach Party is back! Three of our favourite authors share their summer must-reads…

The Bookends Beach Party is back! Three of our favourite authors share their summer must-reads…

The sun has finally come out, and that can mean only one thing… the Bookends Beach Party is back!

Summer flatlay image showing The Flat Share by Beth O'Leary, The Lemon Tree Hotel by Rosanna Ley, Her Husband's Mistake by Sheila O'Flanagan, The Carer by Deborah Moggach, Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls and Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

Each week we’ll be asking some of our favourite authors to share their summer essentials – from holiday routines to travel bucket lists. First up, we have Sheila O’Flanagan, Ruth Hogan and Rosanna Ley sharing their must-reads for summer 2019…

Sheila O’Flanagan, author of Her Husband’s Mistake

  1. Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty
  2. The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney
  3. The Birthday Party by Roisin Meaney

Rosanna Ley, author of The Lemon Tree Hotel

I am most looking forward to reading The Salt Path by Raynor Winn which fortunately has also been nominated by my Book Group for July. It is autobiographical and about two people who have not only been made homeless but also received some other devastating news. They decide to walk the South West Coast Path (630 miles) while they decide what to do. I am fortunate enough to live beside this coastal path in West Dorset and I walk part of it most days (a very small part usually). The story sounds emotional and fascinating and I can’t wait to get started…

Ruth Hogan, author of Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel

  1. The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans
  2. Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn by Kit Fielding
  3. 59 Memory Lane by Celia Anderson

And don’t forget your tickets for our Bookends Girls’ Night In, a summery evening of great books and goodies, in partnership with Prima and Sanctuary Spa!

Image showing authors attending the Bookends Rooftop Book Club, including Sheila O'Flanagan, Chrissie Manby and Beth O'Leary
Quickfire Q&A with Rosanna Ley

Quickfire Q&A with Rosanna Ley

Today we welcome author Rosanna Ley who delights us with a quickfire Q&A!

Author of the bestselling novels The Villa and The Saffron Trail, Rosanna returns with a gorgeous summer read about love and starting over The Little Theatre by the Sea – set in West Dorset and beautiful Sardinia. It is available in hardback now and will be out in paperback 1st June 2017!

My dream holiday destination…

is always going to be Italy. The Cinque Terre, Lunighiana, Elba, Tellaro…

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

Never-ending paper with everlasting pen attached.

The last song I listened to… OR The first album I ever bought…

Hunky Dory by David Bowie – still one of my all-time favourite albums.

My guilty pleasure…

Very dark chocolate (apparently very good for the brain!)

The last time I went to the cinema…

Beauty and the Beast in Brighton with my daughter. It was magical. I loved it.

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

Definitely saying everything I think – this would be much better fun!

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

Absolutely Strictly – and I wouldn’t need much persuading…

When I was 5 years old I wanted to be…

A teacher.

If I could go back to any time in history…

I love the 1920s – I think I’d be a good flapper…

The best thing about being a writer…

is researching interesting subjects and places and then getting to travel there too!

Rosanna Ley's Ode to Sardinia

Rosanna Ley's Ode to Sardinia

Books of the Month author Rosanna Ley writes about her favourite theatres and why she chose to set her book The Little Theatre by the Sea in sunny Sardinia.

I’ve always loved the atmosphere in theatres. One of my favourites is the Theatre Royal in Brighton which is over two hundred years old and was built for the then Prince Regent (later King George IV). I first visited the Theatre Royal as a child and it had a profound effect on me – which is why I gave Faye in Little Theatre by the Sea this same memory…

I‘d also like to visit the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, though I haven’t got there yet. Open-air theatre is wonderful because it takes on the atmosphere of the light and landscape too (unfortunately in the case of the UK it will take on the weather as well!).

I studied drama at college many moons ago but chose to write about a theatre this time because I wanted to explore ‘transformation’ and ‘unmasking’ and how people are not always what they pretend to be. In this case the theatre was symbolic of this concept for me.

But where should my theatre be located? I love Italy and have visited many times. And there are some very special theatres – such as the Colosseum in Rome. My favourite Italian theatre though is an ancient amphitheatre I visited in Sicily when researching for The Villa. It was a magical experience just standing there and imagining all that history – so I decided to make it special by having my character Tonino spontaneously sing an aria in it!

When I first went to Sardinia I fell in love with the landscape. It seemed relatively unspoilt – at least on the west coast – and has so much to offer. I liked the fact that you could literally discover ‘secret beaches’, which no one seemed to know about. It was the perfect setting for Little Theatre by the Sea – which is a novel about secrets. As for Sardinian theatres, there are plenty to choose from, including the Roman amphitheatre at Nora on the south coast of the island.

We travelled around Sardinia in our motorhome to explore and research and I discovered the charming town of Bosa, which became my town of Deriu in The Little Theatre by the Sea. It’s near a beach, it has a fascinating history – it was my kind of place. And it didn’t have a theatre… Which sounds contradictory, but it would have been tricky to write about an existing theatre – it had to be one which I had made up and therefore could own!

Rosanna Ley

The books I'll be giving (and the ones I'm hoping to get) this year…

The books I'll be giving (and the ones I'm hoping to get) this year…

We asked a couple more of our authors what books they’ll be dishing out this year, and what ones they’ve popped on their own Christmas lists. Kathryn Hughes plans to put KFC out of business in the New Year by encouraging her son to get Lean in 15 with Joe Wicks, and Rosanna Ley would like some diamonds under the tree please. Sounds reasonable to us…

Rosanna Ley, author of Last Dance in Havana and The Saffron Trail 

The books I’ll be giving are…

  • I Found You by Lisa Jewell. One of my top reads of 2016 (see my website blog) and one of my favourite authors. I’ll be giving this to a close friend who needs to sit down with a nice cup of Rooibos tea, put her feet up and have a good read.
  • The Definitive Guide to Yoga Practice by Iyengar, B. K. S. My daughter’s yoga teacher swears by this volume and in an increasingly stressful world it seems to me that this is a good way in which to care for our minds and bodies.
  • The Tiger Who came to Tea by Judith Kerr. This along with Lion in the Meadow and Where’s Spot are among my favourite books for young children. One of the great things about having a grandson is being able to buy little Tristan books like these. Let’s hope he inherits my love of reading…
  • Interference Effects by Claire Dyer. I don’t know who I’m giving this fabulous poetry collection to – possibly myself.

Under the tree this year I am hoping for…

  • The Mexican type multi-coloured poncho I tried on in Exeter recently which my daughter says makes me look like a drunken cowboy.
  • Another cashmere scarf from Malabar in Bridport which is similar to the one I already own, but actually completely different…
  • Claire Dyer’s Interference Effects.
  • More notebooks.
  • More gel pens.
  • A builder (last year it was a plumber – spot the theme)
  • Diamonds (a girl can only hope!)


Kathryn Hughes, author of The Secret and The Letter 

The books I’ll be giving are…

Arthur by Mikael Lindnord

Who doesn’t love a good dog story?  Someone who has just lost their beloved pet perhaps?

This time last year, just two days before Christmas we had to say goodbye to our gorgeous dog, Teddy.  Plenty of tears were shed that day and on many days since then, but I think my husband, Rob would now be able to appreciate this wonderful uplifting true story of a stray dog in Ecuador who latches onto a team of athletes and refuses to let go.

Hello, is this Planet Earth? By Tim Peake 

Dads are notoriously hard to buy for.  Thank goodness then for this offering from Tim Peake.  My Dad has always been interested in all things astronomical. His default setting when he leaves the house is to look up and point out where the International Space Station is, whether you’re interested or not! 

Joe Wicks – Lean in 15 

My son, Cameron, left home to start his first job a couple of months ago.  He works long hours so I’ll be buying him this book so that he can whip up a delicious, nutritious meal when he gets home.  Expect shares in KFC to plummet as a result.

Kathryn Hughes books

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

Jo Thomas and Debra Daley share their favourite Christmas memories 

Tracy Rees, Louise Lee and Louise O’Neill reveal what books they’ll be giving this year

Emma Hannigan’s gingerbread cake recipe 

Win a beach bag bundle with Last Dance in Havana

Win a beach bag bundle with Last Dance in Havana

rosanna giveaway

Summer is just around the corner and we’re itching to jet off to a beach on our summer holiday. While we love shopping for a new summer wardrobe there are always a few essentials that we forget to update.

To celebrate the publication of Last Dance in Havana and the start of summer reading we’re giving one lucky Bookends reader the chance to win a beach bag filled with summer essentials! With this prize you’ll look like an A-List jet set traveller and the envy of all other beach-goers.

The prize includes

  • A striped beach bag from John Lewis
  • Hayley Slogan Orange Passport cover
  • A colourful beach ball
  • A fluffy John Lewis beach towel
  • A playful whale-shaped luggage tag

To enter simply email with your address under the subject link ‘Havana competition’.

Rosanna Ley visited Cuba for inspiration before she wrote Last Dance in Havana. Follow the footsteps of her journey with her here

Last Dance in Havana is available to buy in ebook and paperback

Finding inspiration in Havana

Finding inspiration in Havana

Cuba is hot, colourful and crazy. The people are warm, smiley and welcoming. And they love to party! When you visit Havana you hear music drifting from every bar and restaurant, you see musicians playing on every street corner and you see dancers salsa-ing on the cobbles outside Cabaret Tropicana. How could anyone resist the place? This is Cuba. And Cuba, as they say, is life.

I know from the start – and before I had the title! – that dancing would feature in this novel, so I spend time walking around music shops full of shiny hand-made maracas and drums, listening to the rhythms of the city, letting the music play in my head. The colour crashes the party too. It’s in the bright baroque facades of the restored colonial buildings, the blowsy street markets and the parrot greens, yellows and scarlets of the blindingly bright ‘out there’ clothes that the Cubans love to wear.

And then there are the hot pink Cadillacs . . . American Classic cars line the streets of Havana. I decide that one of my characters, Duardo, who fought with Che Guevara in the Cuban Revolution and now lives in Havana, will buy an American Classic car and start up his own tourist taxi business. So I start chatting to taxi drivers (and there are so many of them . . .). The most memorable is the driver who takes us back to our hotel in a sexy black Chevy with deafening speaker system blasting out some mind-blowing Cuban rhythms. We can’t see out of the windows which are covered with black plastic (needs must, apparently) and we stop to pick up several of his friends who squash happily in the back with us. When the engine stalls, the driver re-starts it with a machete and we all hoot with laughter. What else can he do? Spare parts are not available since the embargo following the Revolution. It is a small miracle there are any American cars left here at all.

This is Havana, so we have to follow Ernest Hemingway’s example of drinking a mojito in the most interesting watering holes in the city. There are a lot, and Ernest frequented them all. Our favourite is the bohemian La Bodeguita del Medio (literally ‘the shop in the middle of the street’, which was how it began) once frequented by artists, musicians and writers whose signatures on the walls bear evidence. Hemingway stayed at the Ambos Mundos Hotel, which has a roof top bar with magnificent views of the city. When we visit, a band of musicians are playing ‘Que será sera . . .’

But for Last Dance, I also need a more downtown feel. Tourism may be the lifeblood of Cuba but this isn’t a tourist trail. So we escape the tourist hotspots and wander the backstreets where houses haven’t been restored and hotels and museums don’t even exist. These areas are rough but real. There are derelict buildings, once grand perhaps but now housing extended families in crumbling apartments. There is poverty and there is decay. There are potholes, broken paving, rusty scaffolding, washing hanging on dilapidated wrought iron balconies. Downtown Havana is one huge restoration project waiting to happen. There is political graffiti everywhere; posters of Che and Fidel. For some, the Revolution lives on. And I want to write about these people too.

Back to the Malecon for sunset. It’s special – showing Havana’s long and sweeping promenade off in its best light. The Malecon is a place for lovers’ trysts (Ok, and prostitutes tout for business here too) where poets speak and musicians play. It’s romantic. Duardo and Elisa will have to meet here and sit on the wall looking out to sea as they dream of their future – everyone does. Classic cars cruise along by the seaside. The stately villas are evidence of Cuba’s past glamour. Neo-classicism meets art-nouveau and we get lucky – the wind picks up and massive waves crash over the sea wall, soaking us to the skin before we can run away.

The Cuban people are inspirational. Perhaps it’s the hardships that give them so much spirit. Cuban music and dancing exploded into my story. I return from Cuba and Last Dance In Havana has truly begun.


Rosanna Ley’s next sizzling read Last Dance in Havana is publishing 19 May, pre-order yours here

Author's dream ride....jpg_small Baroque Facade in Havana_small

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


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?


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?


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?


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

Team Bookends pick the best book settings

Team Bookends pick the best book settings


Spring has finally sprung in the UK (we think…) and as the Bookends team come out of hibernation we’re starting to plan our exotic escapes for 2016. As in all areas of our lives we’re using books to inspire our choices. Here are a few of our favourite settings in literature.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – Narnia


I’m not big on sand and I burn easily so I prefer something a bit more wintery. Forget the fact that it’s never Christmas and it’s ruled a wicked ice queen, I would love to live in Narnia. The snow, the Turkish delight, the talking beavers – heaven!


The Villa – Sicily


If I’m not in a hot country reclining (okay sweating) on a beach then I want to read a book that makes me feel that I am. Instead of my passport I’ll pick up a paperback and jet off via my imagination. Rosanna Ley’s books are set in beautiful, exotic locations that make me green with envy. From Sicily to Marrakech to Cuba, I love to travel the world with Rosanna.


NW – London


It doesn’t sound very exotic but one of the reasons I love Zadie Smith’s books are her vivid depictions of contemporary London. I love reading about characters walking the same streets and visiting the same places as I do. And Zadie does it all with so much authenticity. In her most recent novel NW, the dialect is so accurate, I felt like I was listening in on a conversation on my local bus. There’s something beautiful in her the urban, cultural melting pot that she paints.


Shantaram – India


One of my all-time favourite books is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, and one of the reasons for that is because of his incredible descriptions of India. He paints such a vivid picture of Mumbai that when you’re reading the book you could almost be right there, sitting in the boiling hot Leopolds café or weaving your way down a busy, noisy market street with the exotic smells of Indian cooking filling your nostrils! If this book doesn’t want to make you travel to India and experience the craziness of Mumbai then nothing will!


Our authors share their most romantic moments ever (part 1)

Our authors share their most romantic moments ever (part 1)

TRACY REES, author of Amy Snow and Florence Grace 

I’m going to start with the second most romantic gesture I’ve ever received (because I’m like that!) I once received from a boyfriend, for my birthday, a beautiful, specially commissioned pen and ink drawing. It was beautifully framed and the artwork was exquisite but that was not the most special thing. The most special thing was that the drawing was of all the main characters from a story I’d written, a story I still absolutely love and so want to have published one day. The amazing thing was that the boyfriend in question had never read the story, yet the figures and the atmosphere in the picture were spot-on. He said he’d just listened when I talked about it! Either he was a REALLY good listener or I just talk too much. Anyway, that was a very thoughtful, romantic gesture. Which brings me on to the MOST romantic gesture… Well, I haven’t received it yet of course! But I’m looking forward to it.

Read Tracy’s quick-fire Q&A here

ADELE PARKS, author of If You Go Away 

I’ve tried very hard to think about the one big romantic gesture that swept me off my feet and left me breathless, but I can’t. It’s not that my husband is unromantic – far from it – but I’ve realized his gestures to show his love for me tend to be small and endless, rather than grand and spasmodic. His actions are not gestures, their meaningful actions designed to make me as happy as possible as constantly as possible. Our days are full of texting, laughing, teasing, listening. He’ll light candles, run baths and buy me flowers when it’s not my birthday but maybe just a bad day.

Read how Adele is changing the face of love with four special short story collections here 

ROSANNA LEY, author of The Saffron Trail 

I woke up one Valentine’s morning to find my bedroom strewn with pink paper hearts. They were everywhere; heart-garlands hanging from the walls, hearts poking out from behind the wardrobe, hearts inside the chest of drawers, even hearts under my pillow. On the bed was a small cassette. My boyfriend had gone to work. I listened to the cassette with trepidation. What might it be? A love poem recited? An invitation to a swanky restaurant? A proposal?

It was one of my favourite songs: ‘My Girl’ sung and recorded by my boyfriend. He had a great voice and he had gone to SO much trouble. I would love to tell you that we got married the following year and lived happily ever after. But sadly, romantic gestures cannot stand alone and we split up two weeks later… I still smile though when I hear that song. Right romantic gesture, wrong man. What can I say..?

Read a free extract from The Saffron Trail here 

CLÉLIE AVIT, author of I’m Still Here 

Just some weeks ago, my soon-to-be husband, getting on one knee and promising me to marry me this summer in the mountains because he knows I have always dreamt of it.

MARINA FIORATO, author of The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh  

I’ve always dreamed about going on the Orient Express – there’s just something so romantic about train travel, and the Orient Express is the ultimate train, a rolling work of art.

On the morning of Valentine’s Day 2014 my husband (film director Sacha Bennett) found babysitters for our children and told me to put on something glamorous. He whisked me off to Victoria Station, where we were conducted (by liveried guards!) to board the world’s most famous train.

We couldn’t quite make it to Venice or Istanbul on that occasion, as we both had work commitments not to mention two school-age kids, but we had a lovely morning pootling around the picturesque counties in the south of England. We had a private compartment complete with art deco marquetry and Lalique sconces, and the service was amazing. Our own steward served us an eight course brunch and as much Buck’s Fizz as we could drink (which was a LOT).

It was so lovely of my husband to surprise me in this way, but I had a surprise of my own up my sleeve – the first proof of my novel Beatrice and Benedick had arrived that morning, and I gave it to him over brunch. He started to leaf through it and saw the dedication – ‘To Sacha, who is my Benedick’. I’m not ashamed to say that we both cried!

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

Authors share their worst Valentine’s dates (part 1)

Authors share their worst Valentine’s dates (part 2)