Visit Sheffield with Anita Waller and #OneHotSummer! Read Anita’s blog for our #GreatBookishRoadTrip 📚
 
One Hot Summer is set in an area in the south east of Sheffield; a beautiful area that gives an instant impression of green. In the fifties Sheffield embarked on a slum clearance programme, and huge estates were built, with every home enjoying back and front gardens that had never been available to tenants who had lived in the back-to-backs and the tiny slum houses close to the city centre. And they kept the greenery. The whole area is filled with trees and green spaces, and is a wonderful place to live.
Sheffield, of course, is an industrial city of some magnitude. A visit to the Kelham Island Museum will teach you a lot about why this city was so perfect for making steel, and cutlery. It is also a city of music – Pulp, Arctic Monkeys, The Human League, Def Leppard to name but a few.
And just to top all of this, everything is set within the beautiful frame of the Peak District. Within a five minute drive of where I live, I am in spectacular countryside, filled with hills, valleys, beautiful meandering rivers, tiny villages, and Teashops! A big shout out for the Derbyshire Teashops!
The city, like Rome, is built on seven hills, and many small businesses here use Seven Hills in their company name. We have five rivers, Don, Sheaf, Porter, Rivelin and Loxley.
So why set most of my twenty-one novels here? The answer lies above. It is a city of diversity and from the second you walk out of the train station you are blown away by the massive steel water feature, that stretches the full length of the road outside the station. The Park Hill flats, built in the fifties and newly renovated to provide luxury accommodation with a brilliant view of the entire city centre, are very visible and pleasing to the eye, and this is all within one minute of your arrival here.
This is my home and has been for seventy-six years.
It is also the home of Sheffield Wednesday FC. Oh, and a red and white team. The blue and white team (Up the Owls) feature in many of my novels, because football is a huge part of living here. Enjoy this beautiful city through my eyes, but better still visit it! – Anita

Take a trip to Manchester on our #GreatBookishRoadTrip with bestselling author Samantha Tonge ✨ Read Samantha’s blog post on the influence of the city on her brand new novel Lost Luggage 📚 

Like Under One Roof, my first novel with Boldwood Books, Lost luggage is set in Manchester. I’ve lived in South Manchester for almost thirty years, and like to think of myself as an honorary northerner. I’m incredibly fond of the city – its down-to-earth nature, its tolerance, the diversity, the humour. Its soundtrack is vibrant and eclectic.
Across the whole of Manchester, in December, you’ll find the Christmas markets, and this is where the story starts. Specifically the first chapter is set in the Northern Quarter, where Dolly visits a lost luggage auction. This area is characterised by quirky shops and independent coffee and brunch places. The street art there is amazing, and I used to visit the Buddhist centre for lunchtime meditation. It’s also home to Afflecks, an indoor market that houses indie commerce, with so many amazing stalls that sell crystals, jewellery, vintage clothing, old vinyls and there’s an LGBTQ bookshop that Dolly’s friend, Leroy, has no doubt visited.
Broad and bustling Market Street, with its buskers and street preachers, leads you to the more mainstream establishments and into the Arndale, with its food court and pop up cake shops and eyebrow bars. You can lose yourself there for an afternoon, visiting all the big brands and stopping at Costa, Starbucks or Subway for fuel to keep you going.
One chapter is set in the Trafford Centre, where Dolly completes a challenge. I remember it opening in 1998. The building is made up of three domes and full of authentic artefacts, paintings and sculptures, and a beautiful rococo and baroque interior, with marble throughout and real gold leaf decor. It’s so much more than just a shopping centre.
During the story Dolly has many memories of Manchester years ago, as she thinks back to her childhood and the first love she lost touch with, Fred. If you ever get a chance, spend some time here, and soak up the city’s architecture, including the cathedral and town hall. You’ll be welcomed by the open, friendly, Mancunian vibe, and perhaps you’d like to grab a drink the Gay Village, or visit the cinemas, theatres and so much more.

Fancy a trip to the seaside? Visit Cleethorpes with Tracy Baines and the Variety Girls on our #GreatBookishRoadTrip! 🌊

Start reading The Variety Girls series now!
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Things to do Summer ‘39 in Cleethorpes by Jessie Delaney, Variety Girl

Hello from Cleethorpes!

My boss at the Empire, Mr Jack Holland has asked me to write about what’s on offer in Cleethorpes this summer. This is my top ten.

1. See a show! The Empire is my first choice of course, but there’s so much on offer. There’s dancing at the Café Dansant and on the beach by the railway station you’ll find Jimmy Slater’s Follies – weather permitting.
2. Paddle! You have to at least get your feet wet or you haven’t been to the seaside.
3. Buy fish and chips – they always taste better out of the newspaper and sitting in the fresh air. If you like shellfish, cockles and mussels with plenty of vinegar are a treat – fresh from Cleethorpes mussel beds.
4. A stroll along the pier is free and if it’s a hot day and the doors are open you might catch strains of the Don Twidale Orchestra as you pass the concert hall.
5. The North Promenade is alive with amusements penny arcades. My favourite is the Laughing Sailor – the jolly red-faced doll that rocks to his own laughter. It never fails to get us all chuckling.
6. Ride on the horse and cart that takes you right out to the shoreline – and believe me, when the tide’s out that’s a long way indeed.
7. Take a dip at the outdoor bathing pool – it’s the largest on the East Coast – and quite possibly the coldest! But so much fun!
8. If you have your sweetheart with you a trip on the Boating Lake is a must. You can sit back and relax and he can show you how manly and strong he is. All a bit of fun!
9. Try and find a table at the Grotto Tearooms on the Central Promenade. Tea and cake are my favourite treat.
10. Don’t forget to send a postcard to let all your friends know what a wonderful time you’re having in Cleethorpes!

I ❤️ Scotland! Read Judy Leigh’s top 10 favourite things about Scotland, inspired by her research for #TheHighlandHens 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿
I’ve visited the Highlands of Scotland a few times to research The Highland Hens and another novel (yet to be announced,) and I’ve totally fallen in love with the place.
So, here is my top ten count down of things about the Highlands that I love, all of which find themselves in the story of The Highland Hens. Try them for yourself…
10. Food and drink.
As a vegan, I had to ask other people about the haggis, Cullen skink (a fish soup), venison (Ew!), Scottish tablet, cranachan, (an oat and raspberry dessert) and the Athol brose (whisky cream liqueur). They are all highly rated. I stayed in a lovely inn in Drumnadrochit with a hundred whiskies on a separate menu, and I tried several of them. They are beyond belief. Each morning I’d be given porridge with maple syrup, which was the best I’ve tasted, and the oatcakes are super delicious. Then, of course, there are the haggis crisps…and the neeps and tatties…
9.Wild Boar
This episode found its way into The Highland Hens: I was driving past Loch Ness on the way to the Isle of Skye, as you do, and I had to slow down to allow a small wild boar to trot along the road towards me, ambling at its own pace as if it had all the time in the world. A beautiful creature.
8. The forests
The forests are incredible, the pine smell, the freshness. The episode in The Highland Hens when Jess goes into the forest at night and hears a thundering waterfall is something I’ve done myself and it’s such an incredible feast for the ears. You can hear it, almost feel the power of it, but it’s so dark you can’t see a thing. It was like being in Valhalla among the partying gods!
7. Snow on the mountains
There is just something incredible about snow capped mountains stretching for miles. Living in the south west of England, I’m always like a happy kid when it snows. But there is a majesty and a danger about the snow which excites, and it’s great to be in a place where snow is normal and part of daily life in the winter months. I love it.
6. The beaches.
From Gairloch beach to Dunvegan beach in Skye, there is a wild beauty to Scottish beaches. In The Highland Hens, Mimi says the air in Scotland is clean and sharp as whisky. And she’s right.
5. Deer
I’m a complete sucker for deer. Whether it is a single young deer bounding across the road towards the forest, or a grazing group, or a massive stag perched on a rock, its antlers held high, I’m just in awe of them. Every time I’ve been to Scotland, I’ve been out in the forests in the midnight darkness searching for wild deer. I’ve never been disappointed.
4. The Isle of Skye
It’s a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list, Skye is beautiful, a place of contrasts with its beaches, wildlife, waterfalls, castles and mountains. One woman I spoke to said that the deer in her garden were a nuisance as they came to feed off her parsnips. In all honesty, that’s a problem I’d be happy to live with on a daily basis. Spending an hour on Dunvegan beach, climbing to the top of a hill and watching the weather come in from the Hebrides while leaning into the embrace of the strong wind is just therapy.
3. The castles and the history.
I love a castle. I spent a day in Urquhart castle on Loch Ness and I was thoroughly engrossed in the history. The setting was sublime – old stones, a view of the loch and the mountains. Then the snow came in and filled my eyes. It was food for the imagination.
2. The mist over the loch
The first time I drove towards Loch Ness, I couldn’t help the squeals of delight. It was early in the morning and the mist hung over the water in a way that was so moody and atmospheric. I had to reach for my notebook and pen – and my camera. It’s wonderful.
1.The warmth of the people
I met so many wonderful people while I was in Scotland, every one a gem. Most of them were Scottish although a couple were from Birmingham: from the nice man in the Co-Op in Drumnadrochit to the kind woman in the pub and the knowledgeable guide at Urquhart, I couldn’t have met more helpful and warm people. And of course, a Scottish voice is always so lovely…
I highly recommend a trip to Scotland, and to the Highlands south west of Inverness and beyond, to the north – Skye, the Hebrides. I’m going back as soon as I can – autumn, winter and spring are the best times for me.
And meanwhile, if you want a taste of Scotland, have a look at my novel, The Highland Hens. I know my appreciation of the beautiful location and the wonderful people will shine from every page. I really couldn’t help it!

In The Split, Amanda Brookfield writes about the complex ups and downs of relationships — and today she’s here to tell us about her experiences with online dating!


Online Dating: Finding True Love

It was lockdown that gave me the final shove. After a decade of sputtering, post-divorce romantic adventures, suddenly all I had for company was my Golden Doodle, Mabel.  Wonderful, loving company, but what if human love was sitting out there too, a face on a dating site, just a few box-ticks away from being found? Covid restrictions actually made it less daunting: mutual interest leading to a socially distanced walk or two, Mabel gambolling at our heels – it would be like dating the safe, old-fashioned way. What could possibly go wrong?

Excited, I joined an established site. Days passed, but no one I ‘liked’ ‘liked’ me back. Was I that bad?  I glared into the mirror, and consulted Mabel, who rolled onto her back for a tummy-tickle.  I was way past the dressing-to-be-noticed malarky, I told myself, stomping upstairs to put on a pretty dress, some lipstick, and take a new profile picture.

Within hours my phone was pinging.  Lesson One: get yourself noticed.  A cattle-market then, but at least I was in control.  I began to enjoy myself.  A new lockdown hobby!  There were lots of dumb messages and posing in sunglasses and cycling Lycra, but I felt a kinship with every hopeful – risking ridicule and looking for “The One”.  Just like me.

My First Date loved dogs – and me! – as he declared very quickly.  Too quickly.  But he seemed warm and open, and when he suggested a minibreak staycation between lockdowns, I agreed.  A HOLIDAY! WITH A NICE MAN! I home-waxed my legs and touched up my roots (oh the joys of Covid) and started counting the days.  My suitcase was half-packed when he sent a message, not to confirm our travel plans, but curtly announcing he had changed his mind and would prefer to holiday alone.  Fools rush in… I managed to laugh between nursing my bashed-up pride.

Date Two I approached with more caution, only agreeing to a park walk (we were back in lockdown) after we had shared a wealth of information in phone calls.  He was witty, and very keen.  On the morning of our big first date however, he rang to ask blithely if I could leave Mabel at home because he “couldn’t stand” dogs.  Mabel and I looked at each and shook our heads.

Third time lucky, I told myself, when the possibility of Date Three popped up.  Kind, clever, wounded, this man’s wariness totally matched mine.  We grilled each other like suspects in court before agreeing to go out together.  We tried our best, over several months.  But Lesson Two is that trying only gets you so far.  Emotions cannot be willed into existence, not even if you both like reading, crosswords and dogs.

I cancelled my subscription.  Life – mine and the world’s – was opening up again and I didn’t ‘need’ a man to be happy.  A few days later, “The One” stepped across my path.  No algorithms, no ‘likes’, just plain old serendipity.  I fell in love and got fallen in love with.  Romantic fiction made real.


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#TravelBold to the Isle of Skye 💫 Read Lisa Hobman – Author‘s blog post on the beautiful settings behind her Skye novels starting with Dreaming Under an Island Skye!
Scotland has been inspiring my writing now for nine years, and every time I travel the vast country I now call home, I still find something new and wonderful to grab my interest.
I’ve holidayed on the Isle of Skye a couple of times and visited many more, and I’ve always found the scenery and atmosphere utterly absorbing. It’s one of those places you can find a spectacular view and lose hours watching the sun travel the sky, and the cloud formations change. There is everything from calm, still lochs, to castles, to sea vistas and mountain ranges, and no matter what the weather is like, the place still has a dramatic story to tell.
The story in #DreamingUnderanIslandSkye is the first time I have consciously tried to create a message. It was inspired partly by the places I have visited on the island and partly by my own experiences with depression and anxiety. As someone who has suffered from, and been treated for both conditions, I felt it was important to try and address these topics in a way that would say to the reader, ‘It’s okay to ask for help’ and ‘It’s okay to not be okay all the time’, messages that I think are incredibly important, especially in light of the past year we’ve all been through.
So in amongst the story runs a thread in which the main protagonist, librarian Juliette, meets artist Reid and recognises symptoms in him that she herself has experienced. She encourages him to seek help and assures him that doing so does not make him weak. They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and this is the basis for the relationship between Juliette and Reid. They have both suffered loss, albeit in different ways, and this common ground helps them to build a friendship that blossoms.
The story is set in a village called Glentorrin. It’s a fictional, coastal village that I based mainly on Kyeleakin at the foot of the Skye bridge, with hints of other places on the island that I’m familiar with. Of course, as a sucker for apair of big brown eyes and a wet nose there had to be a starring role for a dog, and this time it’s a Hungarian Wire Haired Vizsla called Chewie (after the Star Wars character Chewbacca). Chewie was inspired by my friend’s dog of the same breed. He’s a real character and I felt he would make an excellent companion for Reid’s son Evin. Chewie has stolen the heart of everyone who has read the book prior to its release, and I’m excited to now release him into the world. Watch out though! He slobbers!
I hope you love reading about my little seaside village on the Isle of Skye as much as I loved writing it. And I hope the story makes you decide to visit Skye. It really is the most beautiful place. This is the first visit to the village but there will be more as the series progresses.

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