Nate Greene: Originally from Little Woodville but moved away to start a plumbing business. A skilled woodworker, he’s back in the village to be with his dad, Trevor and to sort through his workshop. 

Morgan Rosewood: Morgan returned to the village to care for her ailing mother. Engaged to Ronan she intends to deal with the practicalities before she moves to Scotland to be with him and move on with their lives. 

Tegan: Morgan’s sister. Owns and runs a farm with her husband in Northumberland. 

Trevor: Nate’s father. A widower since his wife Ruth passed away. Quite happy in Little Woodville and has no desire to leave. He has friends here and a very good life.  

Elaina: Morgan and sister Tegan’s late mother. Elaina bought Forget-Me-Not Cottage when the girls were teenagers and loved the village where she also ran a market stall selling vintage items.  

Sebastian: Owns Snowdrop Cottage. He’s dating Belle and together they run The Bookshop Café in the village. 

Belle: Good friend to Morgan. Girlfriend of Sebastian. Belle runs the café part of The Bookshop Café. 

Logan & Kiara: Landlord and landlady of the local pub, The Rose and Thatch. 

Jeremy: Local man, drives a Robin Reliant, and not the safest person on the roads!  

Gillian: Belle’s gran, former owner of Snowdrop Cottage. She visits the village regularly and is a true force of nature.  

Betty & Peter: Own and run the village bakery.  

I’m getting old. I can tell because of the way I have to ask my kids to do things like get a new SIM card to install and work in my phone, or put a new app on the TV. And I can feel their impatience, although they dedicatedly try to explain how it works every time they show me, my brain just refuses to take in “you press this, then this, then go to this option, select number 3, then press this and go back to the main screen” when it’s delivered at breakneck speed.

Because inside, I’m still 20. Well, 30, then. And I’m lucky, because I’m still fit and active, with a day job and a dog and friends, and more to do than I can squeeze into an average day, so my body and brain can keep up the pretence that I’m not really getting old, as such, just older.

And old age is a privilege. I’ve plenty of friends and relations who never got there, so I try to embrace the whole ageing process as just another natural part of life that you don’t have to like but which is a positive thing – like cutting your toenails or cleaning the windows. I find myself wondering when I will actually start to feel ‘old’. Some mornings, when I get up after a late shift at work and an inadequate night’s sleep, and totter down the stairs feeling about a hundred, or when I’ve been ill and I don’t shrug off the symptoms in a couple of days like I used to, I wonder if this is it. Am I now old? But then I get out for a run and come back full of energy (sweaty, purple faced and wishing for death, but there’s energy too) and think, nope. Still got it. Still young, if only at rapidly-beating heart.

So in The Recipe for Happiness I’ve tried to show that being old doesn’t mean moribund. You can be over 70, hell, you can be over 90, and still have a lust for life, you just have a bit less ability to take that lust and turn it into action. Plus, people try to stop you by saying “you’re too old for that”. My characters know that you are never “too old for that”, whether that is trying new foods, getting out to new places or, indeed, starting a rock band. Age is a state of mind. Arthritis and back problems might slow you down, and you may need a touch more augmentation through spectacles, new teeth or a replacement hip, but while the spirit is willing, the flesh can have a damned good try at keeping up.

Even my mother, who died with dementia, kept a youthful outlook and a willingness to get out and experience the world, right to the end. So I tend to subscribe to the theory that age really is a state of mind. You’re as young as you feel.

Rock on!

Pick up your copy of The Recipe for Happiness today:

Ballyholme: A Little Corner of Heaven

You can take the girl out of Ireland, but you can’t take Ireland out of the girl.

 After Daddy retired, my parents moved to Bangor, Northern Ireland. Their house was a five minute walk from Ballyholme Beach.

I often wonder, of all the beaches in the world, why it felt so special. It became even more important to me after Daddy died. In the mornings, when Mum would lie-in, I set off for an early morning jog along the beach. About 1.3km of sand, peppered with shells and pebbles.

I remember Dad telling me, that on a clear day, you could see Scotland across the Irish Sea. He’d joke, that I might have a long wait. Too often the weather was in default mode, wet and overcast, and shapes were ill-defined. It didn’t stop me looking, and remembering my father’s words. Salty tears mingled with the drizzle.

Strange though, I found solace in the bleakness. There was something magical about the peacefulness, the lone dog walkers with their hoods pulled up, and a dearth of frantic bustle. After London, it really was a little piece of heaven.

They say authors should write about what they know. My latest novel, The Woman in my Home, uses the setting of Ballyholme as the backdrop to much of the action. I’ve also included an eclectic mix of Irish characters, and must own up, that I share many traits with both Flo and Ciara.

Writing the novel has brought back old memories, recall threaded through the book. I used to pop into the café at the top of Bangor High Street for a daily sausage roll, and strong builders’ tea. Often I’d sit by the marina and watch the boats bob up and down. At one end of the beach, I’d walk round the yacht club where grander boats were moored.

And, of course, there were the friendly, warm, and welcoming pubs. Mum and I would talk for hours over wine and whiskey. Wine for me, whiskey and ginger for Mum. Our local was a cosy pub on the Esplanade with views out across the sea. We’d sit for hours and put the world to rights. Patrick, a character in my novel, is the stereotypical Irish landlord. Charming, welcoming, and with a twinkle in his eye.

I miss Ballyholme, but since Mum passed away, I haven’t been back. But it’s up there on my bucket list. Or should I say, Bucket and Spade list!

You can pick up Diana’s brand new book The Woman in my Home here:

When I was in my teens, my parents renovated an old property in a small village below Monte Grappa in the Veneto region of northern Italy for holidays and their future retirement home. I used to love visiting the family of contadini farmers on the hill opposite, where I’d sit in the cosy kitchen and listen to stories about their lives. I was intrigued to learn that these kind people had hidden a Jewish couple from Venice during the war, and I based the family sheltering Lidia, the heroine of The Girl from Venice, on them.

The farmhouse on the hill opposite my parents’ place

For research purposes, I decided to go and visit the memorial to the Shoah in the Venetian Ghetto before writing my book. On a hot summer’s day, I stepped into a big square and my eyes were drawn to the monument on a red brick wall opposite. After walking up to it, I gazed with sadness at the image of a train spilling out its cargo of doomed human beings, sculpted in bronze but looking as if it were wood. The faces and the details of the scene appeared to have been intentionally blurred. Carved on the surface of metal boards – made to look like the wooden slats of cattle trucks – were the names and ages of the Venetian Jews who’d been transported to Auschwitz in 1943, 246 in total, many of them only children. Each name spelt a life lost, and my heart wept for them.

Memorial to the Shoah in the Venetian Gheto

The Jewish couple hidden by the farmers on the hill opposite my parents’ house kept a low profile and survived the Shoah. My heroine Lidia, on the other hand, attracted unwelcome attention and joined the partigiani based on the Monte Grappa massif, to help in the fight against the Nazi-fascists. I’d been fascinated the activities of these partisans for years and found it even more fascinating to write about them.

Monument to the partisans and the Resistance on top of Monte Grappa

Monument to the partisans and the Resistance on top of Monte Grappa

I’ll never forget my initial impression of the Avenue of Martyrs in the picturesque town of Bassano del Grappa, not far from my parents’ house. The shock and the horror when I saw the trees from which, by order of the German Command, the local fascists had hung many of the partisans they’d tricked into handing themselves in. Each tree bears a ceramic photo and the name of a young man who gave his life for the freedom of others. A truly heart-breaking sight, but one that made me want to find out more about the Resistance to Nazi-fascism in this area, and write a historical novel set in those harrowing times.

Avenue of the Martyrs, Bassano del Grappa

Avenue of the Martyrs, Bassano del Grappa

While staying with my parents a few years ago, I met an elderly Anglo-Italian friend of my mother’s, who told me she’d been in la Resistenza in 1944. She spoke at length about the Allied mission helping the partisans, describing the parachute drops of food and weapons. Her account inspired me to carry out further research and introduce the Englishman, David, into Lidia’s story.

The Monte Grappa massif viewed from a field below my parents’ house.

The Monte Grappa massif viewed from a field below my parents’ house.

Now I live permanently in the Veneto, where hubby and I have our forever home, I cannot help but find inspiration in the kindness of the Italians I’ve met, the beauty of their country, and the strength of their indomitable spirit. I wrote The Girl from Venice as a tribute to them. One of my reviewers said: ‘These war stories that recount of brave and principled people are necessary. They inspire and commemorate happenings which might be lost in time. And most of all, we need to realise that apathy is not the answer. “This is Venice. It won’t happen here.” One of the heroine’s father says this. But he was wrong. It can happen anywhere and everywhere.’

The history of Wakefield Waterfront can be traced back to the industrial revolution when the area was a hub of industry and commerce. The River Calder and the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal was an important transport route for goods and materials, and Wakefield became a major centre for textiles, coal mining, and engineering.

During the Victorian era, Wakefield Waterfront was a hub of industry and commerce, driven by the growth of the textile and engineering industries. The River Calder was an important transport route for goods and materials, and Wakefield became a major centre for textiles, coal mining, and engineering.

One of the main industries in Wakefield was textiles, particularly the production of woollen cloth. Many of the mills that produced cloth were located along the riverfront, taking advantage of the water for power and transportation. The industry employed a large number of people, including women and children, who worked long hours in difficult and often dangerous conditions.

Coal mining was also an important industry in Wakefield during the Victorian era. The area around the city was rich in coal, and many mines were established to extract it. The coal was transported by barges along the river to other parts of the country.

In addition to textiles and mining, Wakefield also had a thriving engineering industry. The city was home to many engineering firms, producing a range of products including steam engines, machine tools, and ironwork.

The growth of these industries in Wakefield during the Victorian era had a significant impact on the city’s economy and development. Many of the historic buildings along the riverfront were built during this time to house the mills and factories that produced textiles and other goods.

The docks along the riverfront were a hub of activity, with barges and steamships coming and going, carrying goods and materials to and from the city. The waterfront was a lively and bustling place, with workers, merchants, and traders going about their business.

However, by the end of the 19th century, the industries that had driven Wakefield’s growth began to decline. Textile production moved to other countries with cheaper labour, and the demand for coal began to wane as other forms of energy became more popular. The decline of these industries had a profound impact on Wakefield and led to a period of economic hardship and decline that lasted for several decades.

Images used by the kind permission of Wakefield Council Libraries Photographic Collection

Agoraphobia in The World Outside My Window by Clare Swatman

When I decided that my main character Laura was going to be agoraphobic, I wanted to make sure I made it authentic. It’s such a complex condition that affects people in different ways – some people literally can’t even look outside their window, while others can get from their house to their car but no further; some sufferers can’t let people inside their home, while for some that’s not a problem. Fortunately, the CEO of Anxiety UK, Nicky Ledbetter, herself an agoraphobic, was kind enough to speak to me. She explained how different people can react, as well as some of the different triggers.

After speaking to her, I decided I wanted Laura’s agoraphobia to be almost crippling. The story hinges on her not being able to leave the house at all, but then being forced into having to leave when her husband goes missing. The thought of stepping outside makes her anxious, until her whole body freezes and she simply can not set foot outside her home. I worked hard on the scenes where Laura’s friend Debbie tries to help her overcome her fear – it’s a really difficult thing to do and I wanted to reflect that properly. I really hope, with Nicky’s help, alongside some other reading I did around the subject, I succeeded in helping people to understand a little bit more about this complex condition. You’ll have to read the book to find out whether Laura successfully gets out of the house in the end!

Pick up Clare Swatman’s brand new book The World Outside My Window here:

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