I’m delighted to welcome author and fellow Yorkshirewoman Sharon Booth to the blog with her new release, Once Upon A Long Ago, the third book in her series set in Kearton Bay. I read the first Kearton Bay book, There Must Be An Angel, earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it!
I had plenty of questions for Sharon, but first, the picturesque cover and blurb . . .
Lexi Bailey doesn’t do love. Having seen the war zone that was her parents’ marriage, she has no interest in venturing into a relationship, and thinks romance is for fairy tales. As far as she’s concerned, there’s no such thing as happy ever after, and she’s not looking for a handsome prince.
For Will Boden-Kean, that’s probably a good thing. He hardly qualifies as a handsome prince, after all. He may be the son of a baronet, and live in a stately home, but he’s not known for his good looks. What he is known for, among the residents of Kearton Bay, is his kind heart, his determination to fund Kearton Hall — and his unrequited love for Lexi.
While Lexi gazes at the portrait of the Third Earl Kearton, and dreams of finding the treasure that is reputed to be hidden somewhere in the house, Will is working hard to ensure that his home survives. When he goes against Lexi’s wishes and employs the most unpopular man in the village, she begins to wonder if he’s under a spell. Will would never upset her. What could possibly have happened to him?
As plans take shape for a grand ball, Lexi’s life is in turmoil. With a secret from Will’s past revealed, a witch who is far too beautiful for Lexi’s peace of mind, and a new enchantress on the scene, things are changing rapidly at Kearton Hall. Add to that a big, bad wolf of a work colleague, a stepmother in denial, and a father who is most definitely up to no good, and it’s no wonder she decides to make a new start somewhere else.
Then she makes a discovery that changes everything — but time is running out for her. Is it too late to find her happy ending? Will Lexi make it to the ball? Will Buttons save the day? And where on earth did that handsome prince come from?
So, Sharon . . . You clearly like to stick to your Yorkshire roots and set your books in your own beautiful county (as a Yorkshire lass myself, I can only approve!) but Kearton Bay is a fictional place. Can you tell us more about it and where inspired it?
Kearton Bay is, indeed, fictional, but it’s based on Robin Hood’s Bay, a beautiful little village on the North Yorkshire coast, a few miles south of Whitby. It’s a former smuggling stronghold, and I’ve loved it since the first time I went there, when I was fifteen years old. The steep, winding street down to the beach, the old whitewashed buildings with red roofs, and the quirky businesses—not least a dinosaur and fossil museum, a shop selling Whitby jet, and a book shop with a broomstick above the window—were enough to inspire me, and decide that it was the perfect setting for my Kearton Bay stories. I changed the street names, peopled the place with my fictional characters, and added an Elizabethan stately home, Kearton Hall. The Hall was actually inspired by Burton Agnes Hall, a gorgeous house further south, near Driffield in East Yorkshire. My daughter took me a couple of times to mooch around, take photos, make notes, and soak up the atmosphere. In my mind, Robin Hood’s Bay has become Kearton Bay, and Burton Agnes Hall is Kearton Hall. I find it very easy to imagine my characters wandering around both of those places.
I love that part of Yorkshire. Those coastal villages have so much character! No wonder you were inspired by Robin Hood’s Bay 🙂
What are the joys and challenges of moving from one set of characters to another within the same setting, for each book?
The joys are, obviously, that I get to revisit my friends, and that I already know the characters, so it’s not like starting from scratch again. The challenge is ensuring that, while previously featured characters are mentioned, and their presence acknowledged, the focus switches to the new main characters, while also sowing seeds for future books. It can be tricky to strike that balance. For instance, I’ve referred to Will’s unrequited love for Lexi throughout both There Must Be an Angel, and A Kiss from a Rose, and also mentioned his struggles to keep Kearton Hall going. In Rose, I had to make sure that I didn’t spend too much time harking back to Eliza and Gabriel, because, as much as I love them, it was Rose and Flynn’s story, and Eliza and Gabriel had to take a back seat. In Once Upon a Long Ago, I started something that will be the focus of the final book in the series, while making sure I gave the main spotlight to Will and Lexi, so it’s a balancing act really. It’s also hard to remember all my facts. I have sheets of paper with ages, birthdays, timelines, eye colour, job histories, family backgrounds etc. I could never remember it all. I’m always having to refer back and double check everything. I love it, though, and it’s so worth the effort. It’s wonderful to return to Kearton Bay and meet up with my pals again. I’m always pleased to find out what they’re up to. Sometimes, they amaze me!
Working on a series myself now, I know what you mean – it’s lovely feeling so comfortable with your own characters, but it can be quite hard to keep track of everyone (good job I love spreadsheets!)
Can each book in the series be read as a stand-alone?
Definitely. Each story is complete in itself. As I said, I’ve got other characters from the village bobbing up in each novel, and I do lay foundations for the next, but nevertheless, each book can be read even if you’ve never read the previous ones.
In the latest, Once Upon a Long Ago, you explore the budding romance between Lexi and Will. What did you particularly love about these two characters that made you want to give them a book all of their own?
Oh, I’m very fond of Will and Lexi, and they were always going to “star” in their own book. They were the first characters—along with Eliza’s uncle, Joe Hollingsworth—to pop into my mind, over five years ago. It was Will and Lexi who started the whole Kearton Bay adventure, and they were initially planned to be the focus of book one. Before long, though, I realised that their story was going to be a slow burner, and that the series had to begin with Lexi’s father, because his story would have a huge impact on hers, and turn her into the character she’s become. I love Lexi. She’s been through a lot, but she’s strong, gutsy and fun, with very firm principles and beliefs. Will, on the other hand, is a gentle soul, with a great sense of responsibility and duty, and infinite patience. He’s really sweet and I absolutely love him to pieces. I just had to give him the happy ending he deserved. Once Upon a Long Ago is very romantic, but it’s also got a bit of a mystery in there, plus some history, heritage, secret rooms, missing treasure…Will and Lexi’s story turned out to be more dramatic than I could ever have imagined back in 2011.
Are you a hopeless romantic? Or is there a little good-humoured cynicism in there?
Hmm. That’s an interesting question. In real life, I think I’ve developed a bit of healthy cynicism. You can’t reach your (early!) fifties without realising that real life men aren’t the heroes you find in books. Mind you, thank God for it, really. Who could live up to those kind of standards? When it comes to writing, though, I’m a hopeless romantic. Although I put them through the mill, and make them work hard for their happy ending, I always want both my hero and heroine to find the partner of their dreams. I make sure I give my characters a few flaws, though. No one wants perfection. Who could cope with that?
I think you just described me!
So, what can we expect next from Sharon Booth?
I’ve just published my Christmas novella, Baxter’s Christmas Wish, which makes three books and a short story published this year, so I’m quite pleased with that. I can’t rest on my laurels, though. I’ve just started work on the second Skimmerdale novel, set in the Yorkshire Dales. I’m always terrified starting the next book, because I can’t help worrying that I’ll never be able to do it again. However, I’ve written the first couple of chapters so far, and I’m already beginning to really enjoy myself. I love the Dales, and I’ve developed a real fondness for Swaledale sheep, which— since my hero, Eliot, is a sheep farmer—is quite handy! Of course, it helps that he’s also a dead ringer for Aidan Turner. Funny that…
You’re certainly a busy lady, Sharon (and quite a spokesperson for the delights of Yorkshire!) Thank you so much for visiting.
Catch up with the first two books set in Kearton Bay:
When Eliza Jarvis discovers her property show presenter husband, Harry, has been expanding his portfolio with tabloid darling Melody Bird, her perfect life crumbles around her ears.
Before you can say Pensioner Barbie she’s in a stolen car, heading to the North Yorkshire coastal village of Kearton Bay in search of the father she never knew, with only her three-year-old daughter and a family-sized bag of Maltesers for company.
Ignoring the pleas of her uncle, chat show presenter Joe Hollingsworth, Eliza determines to find the man who abandoned her mother and discover the reason he left them to their fate. All she has to go on is his name – Raphael – but in such a small place there can’t be more than one angel, can there?
Gabriel Bailey may have the name of an angel but he’s not feeling very blessed. In fact, the way his life’s been going he doesn’t see how things can get much worse. Then Eliza arrives with her flash car and designer clothes, reminding him of things he’d rather forget, and he realises that if he’s to have any kind of peace she’s one person he must avoid at all costs.
But with the help of beautiful Wiccan landlady, Rhiannon, and quirky pink-haired café owner, Rose, Eliza is soon on the trail of her missing angel, and her investigations lead her straight into Gabriel’s path.
As her search takes her deeper into the heart of his family, Eliza begins to realise that she’s in danger of hurting those she cares about deeply. Is her quest worth it?
And is the angel she’s seeking really the one she’s meant to find?
After having a pretty rubbish life for years, Rose MacLean thinks she’s overdue a break, and, at last, things are going her way. She’s a partner in a thriving business, her financial problems are easing, and her eldest daughter has finally found employment, while her youngest is doing well at school.
The trouble is, nothing in Rose’s life ever runs smoothly for long. Sure enough, her eldest daughter quits her job, and her youngest changes—almost overnight—from Shirley Temple into Miley Cyrus. To make matters worse, her mother is back on the scene, and she seems to be reliving her misspent youth with her oily-haired, horse-faced ex, Alec Thoroughgood.
With her best friend preoccupied with the arduous task of baby-making, a slimming club leader in meltdown, and a family that seems determined to break her, Rose finds herself relying more and more on the quiet Flynn Pennington-Rhys, who seems to be everyone’s hero.
But Flynn has his own problems, and as events take an unexpected turn, Rose realises that she may not always be able to rely on him.
Will the quiet man come through for her? Will her daughters ever sort themselves out? And will Rose ever get her bedroom back from her mother, or is she destined for a life on the sofa?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sharon wrote her first book when she was ten. It was about a boarding school that specialised in ballet, and, given that she’d never been to boarding school and hadn’t a clue about ballet, it’s probably a good thing that no copy of this masterpiece survives.
She writes contemporary romance with a good sprinkling of humour—fun-filled fiction with heart—much to the disappointment of her mother, who wants to know why she isn’t the next Catherine Cookson.
Sharon lives in Yorkshire, with her husband and their dog, and is passionate about her home county. Her novels are set on the Yorkshire coast, or deep in its beautiful countryside. She has also written for The People’s Friend. She is one tenth of The Write Romantics, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, and prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes. The situation has recently become critical since she was given a DVD of Outlander and discovered Jamie Fraser.
Find out more about Sharon at these links: