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Summer in Andalucía – A Research Trip I Will Never Forget

To celebrate the release of my newest book baby, I thought I’d share with you why the settings I use for my stories are so important. And why experiencing it first-hand is essential for me. I know that some readers might never get to visit the destinations in person. My intention, therefore, is to take you on a virtual trip along with my characters, to experience some of the sights and sounds that captivated me from the moment I stepped off the plane.

In 2019 I undertook a research trip with only a draft title in my head and the names of the two main characters – Lainey Summers, and Rick Oliver. I was excited not only to be visiting Andalucía for the first time, but also to be staying in a monastery. It was a trip I will never forget, and I knew that when it was time to sit down and begin writing the story the words would flow with ease.

Staying at the Hotel Monasterio de San Francisco, in Palma del Río, I was totally captivated by my surroundings. My sincere thanks go to the owner, Alonso Moreno De La Cova, who took time out to give me and my husband a tour of the private areas not on view to the public. The monastery passed into the secular hands of his family in the nineteenth century and a programme of restoration work began. It is an amazing place to stay and the wonderful food served in the monastery’s renowned restaurant gave me the theme around which the story would unfold.

While I’m limited to the amount of history I can include in a fictional novel, I believe that the past leaves its mark in many ways. The sense of peace and tranquillity that surrounded me while I was there was both energising and renewing. It was then that I knew it would have a life-changing effect on my characters, even before I’d written the first word.

I would also like to express my gratitude to acclaimed artist, Cristina Ybarra, for showing my husband and me around her beautiful home. Since 1868, the palace has been passed down through six generations of the same family. The Palacio de Portocarrero is a living project, and her vision has succeeded in bringing it back to life. The palace and gardens are captivating and transported me to another time and place.

Marlyse B. Marin came to my rescue not only in her capacity as an interpreter, but also due to her close links with the monastery. The time that Marlyse and I spent together was both fascinating and informative. It allowed me to include some authentic, descriptive detail of the monastery to satisfy those readers who might never have a chance to experience it for themselves.

The day my husband and I took a trip to the Castle of Almodóvar del Río, we arrived around noon and for about an hour and a half we were among a mere handful of visitors. It was a wonderful experience and, ironically, turned out to be perfectly timed. We left just as two coach parties were arriving and a steady stream of tourists filtered in. I guess only mad dogs and authors go out in the midday sun.

If you can’t travel, then lie back on the sofa and take a trip with Lainey and Rick to Andalucía. Enjoy! 

Lucy x


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