Ilkley Literature Festival #1 – Tracy Chevalier

The Ilkley Literature Festival goes from strength to strength, this year spanning two and a half weeks, with over 200 author talks, workshops and fringe events.


I attended two author talks this year, the first being Tracy Chevalier.

the-lady-the-unicorn-chevalier-hpThis is where I have to confess that although I do read historical fiction from time to time and enjoy it, it’s not a genre  I am well-read in. Hence, I have only ever read one of Tracy Chevalier’s books, The Lady and the Unicorn, so far. I was impressed with the historical  detail and found the book absorbing, and would happily read more of her work – but up to now, I have been bested by that old enemy TIME, and a TBR list that makes my head spin just thinking about it!

I attended the event mainly to accompany my daughter, who is a keen reader of historical fiction and has read several of Tracy Chevalier’s books – and I’m so glad I did.

Ms Chevalier began by reading an extract of her latest novel, At the Edge of the Orchard, about a pioneering family in 1830s Iowa and later the California Gold Rush.

As many of us have been, she was captivated in her youth by the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, but At the Edge of The Orchard is a grimmer tale about a family of imperfect characters forced to grow an orchard within three years of settling to keep the land, and their ensuing hardship and battles with their environment. With Ms Chevalier’s American accent perfectly suited to the passage she read, I was quickly drawn in . . . and oh dear, that’s another book to be added to the TBR list!

ilkley-lit-fest-tracy-chevalier-hpThe author went on to talk about her research in general – mindbogglingly extensive! – and how the idea for this book grew out of research  for a previous book, The Last Runaway, when she developed an interest in trees and how and when they were introduced into different countries, especially apple trees.  As a writer, I was amused and pleased to hear that she is easily distracted by her research, the internet . . . anything to avoid actually writing, and that she has to take herself away from the computer and write longhand in a different room to get anything done!

She explained how her characters only find their own voices as the story progresses, once she has spent time with them and seen how they respond to the events in the book – and so when she has finished, she must go back to the beginning  to make those ‘voices’ match up with what they eventually became.

For the second half of the hour, she moved on to discuss an anthology of short stories she has recently edited, entitled Reader, I Married Him. As part of her collaboration with the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth to celebrate Charlotte Brontë’s bicentenary, she asked women writers to use the line from Jane Eyre to write a short story. The stories in the anthology sound varied, with writers of wide-ranging ages and backgrounds coming at the challenge from very different angles.

In the Q & A session at the end, Ms Chevalier was asked if she would ever write contemporary fiction. With an amusing foray into the fine line between history and nostalgia – are the 1970s history yet? It depends what age you are! – she explained that she believes we are all more than a moment; we are a product of everything in the past.

remarkable-creatures-chevalier-hpAs I mulled this over, I realised that this idea certainly adds more import to a work of historical fiction – it isn’t just a glimpse into lives in a bygone era but can be a commentary on so much more. 

I found Ms Chevalier compelling and unpretentious, knowledgeable and interesting … and I left the event vowing to find time to read more of her books. My daughter has particularly recommended Remarkable Creatures,  a story about Mary Anning, fossil-finder in early 19th century England, her trials in what was a man’s world, and her friendship with Elizabeth Philpot. It has been added to the pile of books on my bedside table . . .




Guest post & new release from Linda Huber!

I’m delighted to welcome back my online friend, author Linda Huber. I was absolutely gripped by her last book, Chosen Child, so I’m thrilled to feature her brand new release here on the blog and to find out more, in her own words, about the element of romance in her thrillers. But first, take a look at the strikingly spooky cover and the blurb . . . 

ward-zero-completeHorror swept through her. Had she been buried alive?

On Sarah’s first visit to see her foster mother, Mim, in Brockburn General Hospital, she is sucked into a world that isn’t what it should be.

Someone is lying, someone is stealing. And someone is killing – but who? With a grieving child to take care of, as well as Mim, Sarah has to put family first. She doesn’t see where danger lies – until it’s too late.

If you think you’re safe in a hospital, think again.


And now over to Linda herself . . .

A thrilling romance… or maybe not…


I’m a sucker for romance. Although my books are all psychological suspense novels, before I started in this genre I wrote romantic stories for women’s mags. So I do like a touch of romance in my thrillers too, and this has worked out reasonably well – until now.

In book one, my heroine met the local GP (and a couple of others too, but we won’t go into that). Book two saw a new teacher meet an ‘old’ teacher. (There was quite a lot more about that in the original draft, but my editor had me remove it…) In book three, Nina meets a handsome young lawyer, and in book four, there’s a nice policeman to help when he’s needed.

Then came Ward Zero, book five. I wrote the first draft, did three revision drafts myself, and sent it to my editor. ‘Ah,’ she said. ‘I don’t like Kenny; he’s a wimp. And as far as the plot’s concerned, you’d be much better making him a woman.’

Kenny was one of two possible love-interests for my heroine, Sarah. Looking at my book with fresh eyes, I did see that making him a woman gave a whole new dynamic to the thriller aspect – but it ruined the romantic part completely. However, my book is a thriller, so I changed Kenny into Caitlyn, and looked around my characters for another romance candidate to compete in the ‘who will Sarah choose’ conflict. Sorted. Back it went to my editor.

‘Ah,’ she said again. ‘I like Caitlyn. But… after all you put Sarah through, do you honestly think she’d end the book feeling quite so romantic?’

Well. Put like that, of course she wouldn’t. What happens to Sarah is enough to have most women running in the opposite direction every time a man looks at her.

But Sarah is made of stronger stuff, and I do like just a little romance…

On to the next draft, and it was the final one. With just a mini, teeny-weeny whiff of romance for Sarah at the end. Is it enough? For me, yes. But then, I wrote it. I know what happens to Sarah and Mr X after the last chapter…  :)


Thank you for the insight, Linda. It’s good to know that romance tries to creep into even the most chilling thrillers!  

You can buy Ward Zero: The Dead Room at:

Amazon UK     and     Amazon US


lindahuber-1Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog.
Linda’s books are psychological suspense novels, and the ideas for them come from daily life. The Paradise Trees and The Cold Cold Sea were traditionally published in 2013/2014 before she self-published The Attic Room in 2015 and Chosen Child in early 2016.
Ward Zero, her fifth book, was inspired by a Swiss TV programme and a hospital in the UK…

You can find Linda at these links:

Facebook          Twitter          Linda’s website          Linda’s blog  





One-way Ticket To Paradise

Love this review from Donna – such an unusual and fun format! And of course it helps that she enjoyed the book so much . . .🙂

Chocolatenwaffles' Blog

I love lists. Lists are handy to keep track of everything, including the essential steps for the perfect vacation. If I don’t write it down, I might forget I want a Suits marathon, or a karaoke night. And without karaoke, what’s the good in going on a holiday?

french guesthouseTitle: Return toThe Little French Guesthouse
Author: Helen Pollard
Publisher: Bookouture
Release date:
August 26th 2016
Format: eBook
Pages: 336
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

In her second book, Helen Pollard invites us to spend a few days in a small French heaven for a well-deserved break.So I packed (heavily, as usual) and wrote a list of everything I am looking for in the perfect summer story, before diving head first into Return To The Little French Guesthouse. Now let’s see if our stay at La Cour Des Roses fits the criteria!

For a perfect summer holiday, you need:

View original post 1,045 more words

Places in ‘Return to The Little French Guesthouse’ #1 – Château de Chenonceau

So many readers have commented on how much they have enjoyed the settings in these books, I’m enjoying sharing some of the inspiration behind them. If you want to know more about the local towns and countryside featured in both The Little French Guesthouse and the sequel, you can look back at:

Inspiration for The Little French Guesthouse #1 – Town and Country

I also wrote about some of the towns and places Emmy managed  a whistle-stop tour of in the first book at:

Inspiration for The Little French Guesthouse #2 –  A Little Sightseeing

In Return to The Little French Guesthouse, Emmy’s new life is busier than she’d anticipated, but she still has time to discover the joy of cycling past vineyards and fields of corn, and experiences an evening at a local fête in the nearby imaginary town of Pierre-la-Fontaine.

She also gets to do a little more sightseeing. Her first proper visit to a château -at Chenonceau – is everything she imagined and more!


Visiting with her French friend Sophie, they catch up with each others’ news as they wander, exploring both the inside and outside of the château.

Emmy particularly enjoys the view out across the river Cher from the windows in the long gallery – she could stand there all day, enjoying the breeze . . .


And then there are the formal gardens to admire . . .




Most especially, Emmy loves the view from the far end of the gardens, where the château is reflected in all its glory in the river!


I loved looking back at these photos to remind myself of my own visit to Chenonceau. They really made me want to go back there! I also availed myself of Google Maps street view, and the official website for the château at where I could take a virtual panoramic tour to fully remind myself of the details for Emmy and Sophie’s visit. Needless to say, I lingered far longer than I should have!  :)

Publication day for ‘Return to The Little French Guesthouse’

***          It’s here!          ***

RTTLFG 3D-mock-up

And this is what people are saying about it . . .

‘Another little slice of French heaven. Perfect reading for a summers day.’ Book Addict Rambles

‘What a fabulous sequel! I fell deeply in love with La Cour des Roses in the first book and was so happy when the sequel arrived so quickly!’ Annie’s Book Corner

‘Lovely follow-up to The Little French Guesthouse which was one of my favourite summer reads. Like its predecessor, it is a great pick-me-up read.’ Met Line Reader

‘I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the vast majority of the characters in and around the guesthouse.’ Well Read Pirate Queen

‘Helen Pollard’s writing style draws you into the story, and transports you to a world that you don’t want to leave.Rachel’s Random Reads


Available from:

Amazon UK          Amazon US  


Blue skies, new love, and a glass of Bordeaux . . . what could possibly go wrong? 

When Emmy Jamieson leaves her life behind and moves to La Cour des Roses, a gorgeous guesthouse amidst vineyards in France, everything is resting on her success as the new guesthouse manager. 

Looming in the calendar is the biggest booking ever, when the entire eccentric, demanding Thomson family will descend for a golden wedding anniversary. With airbeds on the floor and caravans in the garden, La Cour des Roses will be bursting at the seams. 

Emmy knows she’s up to the challenge, especially with the support of the gorgeous Alain, the half-French, half-English, caramel-eyed accountant. But she hadn’t counted on a naked, sleepwalking travel blogger, or the return of owner Rupert’s venomous ex-wife Gloria. 

Gloria has a few things to say about Emmy’s new role, Rupert’s finances, and the unsuspecting Alain, which send everybody reeling. Just when Emmy can see a future for herself of endless sunshine, true love and laughter, are her dreams about to be ripped at the seams? 


Books that have influenced me #2 – childhood poetry

In my last post on this subject, I talked about Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree books – if you missed the post, you can read it here.

This time, I’m concentrating on poetry from my childhood. Now, this is where I have to confess that, as an adult, I’m not particularly keen on poetry. I do like some I come across – Simon Armitage, for example – but I don’t deliberately seek it.

A Child's Garden of Verse - HPAs a child, however, poetry captured my imagination.  In particular, I remember my grandma bought me A Child’s Garden of Verses by R.L. Stevenson. I still have that copy. I loved it because each poem described life through a child’s eyes. At last! I realised I wasn’t the only child with imagined worlds in my head!

In that book, I particularly loved The Little Land, in which a child who is forced to sit and be bored in a roomful of adults simply shuts his eyes and goes “sailing away . . . To the pleasant Land of Play”, totally transported until he must come back to dull reality. Similarly, in The Land of Counterpane, a child ill in bed imagines that bed as a land
populated by his toys to keep himself occupied. The first The Land of Counterpane - HPpoem I learned off by heart was from this book – Bed in Summer. I had a lot of sympathy with the child who didn’t see why they should have to go to bed while it was still light. But my absolute favourite was The Shadow. I learned that off by heart, too, and I thought (still do) that it was such a clever poem.

That was a book that I would read alone. But I had another book of poems, an anthology called My Kind of Verse, which my older brother would sometimes read to me on the odd occasion my parents were out. Since I was only allowed two poems, I chose carefully, picking longer ones to make the treat last🙂 It might be A Song About Myself (“There was a naughty Boy, A naughty boy was he  …”) by John Keats, perhaps The Jumblies or The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear. But one of my choices was almost always The Akond of Swat (again by Lear) because I loved the way it sounded, the way my brother emphasised the end of each line, and the fact that it conjured up of a picture of … well, I didn’t know quite what, but that was the whole point! (“Who, or why, or which, or what, is the Akond of SWAT?”)

On visits to my local library, I would happily work my way through their Dr Seuss books, but since I read those alone, I had no idea how wonderful they sounded until I started reading them to my own children. I love Dr Seuss books – the way they sound, the messages behind the stories, the nonsense words, and of course those fabulous illustrations.

This post wouldn’t be complete without mention of The Lion and Albert by Marriott Edgar. As a northerner, this wonderful poem was instilled in me from an early age, when my great aunt would recite it to us. Most of our family knows it off by heart, or almost. Wonderfully witty and very northern! We have enjoyed many a happy time with other poems by Edgar, too, such as The Jubilee Sov’rin and Runcorn Ferry, but Albert’s adventure with Wallace the lion is in our blood!

Albert 'Arold and Others - HP

Why and how have these favourite childhood poems influenced me?

They showed me that it was okay to imagine, and that those imaginings could be captured by words. They taught me the pleasure of words arranged in a certain way, and that the choice of a word could  be of crucial importance to get an idea across – finding the perfect word, or sometimes using a totally unexpected word to surprise and delight the reader. And they allowed me the simple pleasure of enjoying a perfect rhythm in their recital, like a spoken music, bringing comfort and enjoyment to my childhood years.