Thursday, 27 February 2020

Had me in Tears...

What one reader had to say about Satchfield Hall


“Very emotional page turner. The characters are very recognisable as real people. The ending had me in tears and the last time I recall that happening was as a teenager when I read Gone With The Wind. This is the first I’ve read by this Author but will definitely not be the last. Highly recommend.”

  Satchfield Hall is available in

Kindle and paperback

From all Amazon site

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Town Travel - Avignon, France with Ian Thomson


Town Travel - My Favourite Town by Ian Thomson

Avignon, France

This was a difficult choice. My adopted home town of Lincoln has, arguably, the finest cathedral in England. The majesty of London and Rome, and the romance of Paris are well-documented. Venice is uniquely astounding. Walking down the steps to catch the water bus on the Grand Canal and first walking into St Mark’s Square rendered me inarticulate, able only to utter little squeaks of astonishment and delight. Over the last few years, I have been charmed by Lille, Rouen, Rheims, Dijon, Tours and Cluny; by Tournai, Brussels, Bruges and Ghent but it is in Avignon that I have felt strangely ‘home from home’.

            On my first visit I stayed in a hotel at the corner of La Place de l’Horloge, the city’s main square. It was October and quite balmy unlike the grey, chilly London I’d left that morning. I was hungry and a little tired but finding a resto was no problem. One entire side of the square comprised restaurant after restaurant with tables on their terraces reaching into the square, covered with awnings and hung with lights. There was a carousel in the middle of the square and on the far side were the Mairie and the theatre, both very interesting architecturally. By chance I had discovered the perfect focal point for exploring.

            By the end of my stay I had become completely enchanted by the place and, within a year, I was back. This time I rented an apartment near Les Halles, the huge indoor market, and I did most of my food shopping there. It’s not to be missed. A stall sold spices, piled high, bright yellow turmeric, crimson paprika, grey-black pepper, green cardamon pods, cinnamon sticks wrapped in bundles with ribbon. There are at least two fromageries. At the greengrocer’s, as well as the usual stuff, there were white asparagus, round courgettes, and purple artichokes. I bought a frisée lettuce as big as my head. I bought a proper bouquet garni tied off with twine. And I bought some mussels. The fish counter was spectacular with lots of different kinds shining on the slabs. Now my French dries up a bit when it comes to different fish species (I’m better on trees) but I was up to moules so I bought a kilo. The rattle of the shells in the fishmonger’s scoop was very satisfying and I cooked them in white wine that evening back in the apartment. Sweet and juicy. The flat was above a boulangerie so there was fresh crusty bread on the side.

            One day, I went to Les Halles to buy the wherewithal for a picnic by the Rhône. There were pieces of rôtisserie chicken, savoury beignets, a potato galette, a massive sweet green tomato, gooseberries and a quarter litre of Côtes du Rhône - naturally. A passerby said it looked like the perfect lunch - and he was right.

            The famous bridge is a must, of course. It is only half a bridge, in fact. The Avignonais grew tired of rebuilding it whenever the Rhône flooded - which was often. You can dance on it, if you like, but do as I did and go early when you can have it to yourself for half an hour. By half-nine it will be swarming with tourists waving selfie sticks. 

            The Papal Palace is absolutely monumental with its crenellations and massive stone faces. During the Fourteenth Century it was the home of a succession of popes and two ‘anti-popes’, rivals to the pontiff in Rome. The cathedral with a golden statue of the virgin is part of the complex and if you press on up through the gardens to the Rocher des Doms, you will be rewarded with a view over the bright blue ribbon of the Rhône below, over to Mount Ventoux with its white cap. If you are lucky enough to be in Avignon when there is a son et lumière in the palace courtyard, don’t pass it up. It is mind-blowing. At the far end of the immense space in front of the Palace is the Musée des Beaux Arts which contains as fine a collection of medieval art as I have ever seen.

            One of the great pleasures of the city is getting lost on purpose. The narrow medieval streets twist and wriggle and turn back on themselves in a disorienting way but fear not - you will eventually end up at the city walls, still intact and forbidding after so many centuries.

By this writer

Short Stories

The Mouse Triptych

The Swan Diptych

Come Away, O Human Child




Humphrey and Jack

The Northern Elements

Work in Progress

Lord Lindum’s Diary
A Dish of Apricots

You can find out more about me and my work on my website:

Other Town Travels to visit…


Leiden, the Netherlands with Pauline Barclay

Barnstable, UK with Helen Hollick
Lectoure, France with Michael Reidy
Somerset, UK – with DizzyGreenfield

In the coming weeks and months you can visit these other fabulous places... Click HERE to find out where you are going

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Town Travel - York, UK


Town Travel – My Favourite town by Ann Victoria Roberts

York: A Personal View  

York has always been part of my life. As a child in the 1950s, roughly once a month we’d visit my grandmother for the weekend. On that two-hour bus journey, I’d watch the landscape change from the wild moors of Brontë country to the gently rolling wheat fields of the Vale of York. Then, as we reached the city outskirts – passing the racecourse, climbing the hill – Mum would gather our belongings, we’d step down and she’d look up with a happy smile. There, in all its grandeur, stood the great limestone gateway of Micklegate Bar, guarding the entrance to the city, its medieval walls stretching away to either side.

It felt like magic to walk those walls, to be looking down on houses, streets and people – and to see the Minster, rising above the rooftops like a great ship in full sail.

Going into town, I’d beg to climb the steps and go along the walls, but Grandma didn’t always agree. She had several different routes and would distract me by telling stories of when she was young. Stories about her father, a compositor at the York Press, and her father-in-law, a bookbinder with his own business; and how she’d worked for Rowntrees’ chocolates as a girl, and had a friend who lived in the slums of Walmgate…

Her stories of ordinary life before WW1 added reality to the fiction I read while Mum and Grandma were talking over afternoon cups of tea. Collections of Victorian magazines – all beautifully illustrated – had been bound into books and lodged in Grandma’s attic sometime in the 1930s. I’d haul down my favourites, follow the serial stories, read sentimental poems and accounts of foreign travel, and marvel at fashion plates from the 1890s, showing the latest styles from Paris.

Entering my teens, I’d wander through the nearby park and along the riverside, discovering more of York’s past in the Castle Museum. It was and still is, a magical place. I was mesmerised by the Victorian cobbled street, frozen in time with its shops and police station, its coaching inn and Hansom cab complete with horse. I wanted to sit by the fire in the moorland cottage, take tea in the elegant drawing room, try on those elegant gowns, and go to a ball with a handsome soldier...

Decades later, researching the military side of my own Victorian novel, ‘Louisa Elliott’, I contacted the Museum and was invited behind the scenes to see the arms and uniforms up close – to get a feel for what I was writing about. Perhaps for the first time, I realised fully that museums are there to educate and not simply for entertainment on wet afternoons!

Thanks to the curator, that visit opened up other avenues of research, not least to a study of Victorian poverty, and life in the poorest part of York. The area that Grandma had described to me – Walmgate – where she’d gone to find her missing friend; which in turn led to a fictional account in the novel. 

In town, the butchers’, bakers, grocers and tobacconists – one with a statue outside, depicting a man taking snuff – are largely gone now, replaced by cafes, restaurants and enticing shops. But the historic buildings remain, and ‘The Little Admiral,' standing on top of the clock, is still there on Coney St, still taking a sight of the sun after 200 years. Both survived the WW2 bomb which destroyed the church next door. Luckily, the Minster escaped and still dominates the city, its towers appearing above the rooftops from so many different angles. Worth a visit at any time, especially to hear the choir at Evensong.  

Exploring the city, as I’ve done many times over the years, I’ve discovered most of the short cuts between streets. These paved paths and alleyways often have strange names, like ‘Coffee Yard’, ‘Mad Alice Lane’, and ‘Lady Peckitt’s Yard’. It pays to be bold, as wandering through reveals hidden gems and the true age of buildings behind the facades. 

Over the years, I’ve often felt the best time for exploring is in the evening, when the streets are quiet. As night falls, those ancient buildings seem to release a sigh of relief and come alive – time no longer matters. From the Romans to the Vikings, through Plantagenets and Stuarts to the Victorians and beyond – they’ve all been here and left their mark. And at twilight time it’s as though they never left…

Ann Victoria Roberts


Louisa Elliott

Liam’s Story

Dagger Lane

Moon Rising

The Master’s Tale

One Night, Two Lives


Other wonderful places to visit on Town Travel, click on the links for more…

Leiden, the Netherlands with me
Barnstable, UK with Helen Hollick
Lectoure, France with Michael Reidy
Somerset, UK with Dizzy Greenfield
Las Vegas, USA with BarbaraGaskill-Denvil
Hexham, UK with Annie Whitehead
Assos, Greece with Gilli Allan

Find out where Town Travels is taking you next by clicking HERE

Monday, 17 February 2020

All Cosy!

The Birthday Card features in top selling author, Jennifer S Alderson’s Cozies Selection. All books in the spotlight are perfect for snuggling down with. Click HERE to see all book.

Talking of The Birthday Card, Trish is all loved up over a surprise Valentine! Click HERE for more

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Inspired by a True Story

Magnolia House was the first of my seven published novels. It has two aspects that relate to real life; one the house on the cover is a real property in Cornwall and secondly, the writing of Magnolia House was inspired by a true story. 

It is often said that real life is far more unbelievable than fiction and, like me, you have no doubt come across stories that sound impossible to be true, but they are. My story about Jane Leonard seemed nothing short of fiction because how could someone be so cruel? Whilst all my characters are fiction, the basis of the story was based on a real event. However, whilst it was inspired by a true story, it is fiction.

Jane Leonard lived alone after her husband had died years earlier, however the unexpected arrival home of her only son, with wife and baby, changed everything for Jane. The last thing she wanted was for her little family to leave and return to their foreign home. She would do anything to ensure they stayed and to encourage this she gave half of her home to her son and wife as a belated wedding present. What should have been the start of years of happy families was quickly dashed. No sooner had the ink dried on the contract, when Jane was forced to sell her home; a home that she had lived in for nearly fifty years. 

Tragedy had struck. Instead of standing together as a united family they were bitterly divided. No amount of pleading would change what would happen and before she knew it, Jane had to sell her beloved Magnolia House. Heartbroken, she wondered if anything could be salvaged from the nightmare that had ripped her family apart.

Magnolia House is available in Kindle and paperback from ALL Amazon sites.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Town Travel - Assos, on the island of Kefalonia, Greece


Town Travel - My favourite town by Gilli Allan

I agreed to do this before Christmas.  That’ll be easy I thought to myself.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t well over the holidays – I am still not entirely recovered – and I managed to forget every word about my promise. Worse still, now that I come to think about it, it’s not at all easy to pick a favourite town or city. 

I could pick London. I’ve always loved it.  When I was young it was my hub, it was where I lived and worked.  It’s redolent with history.  As I’ve got older and moved west, it’s the place I go to for a treat, to meet up with friends and relatives, to go to a party or a show, to visit museums and galleries, to do some shopping.  But it’s so busy and manic, I am always pleased to get home

I could nominate the cities near where I live now, Cheltenham or Bath or Bristol, the former two are gracious and elegant, the latter is vibrant and bustling. Or I could nominate the city I fell in love with as a twenty-year-old when it was still in in the communist block of Yugoslavia – Dubrovnik.  But on visiting the place again, now in Croatia, it had lost some of its idiosyncratic charm – the funny little shops, the gypsy markets, the ordinary citizens - in the pursuit of money and glamour and tourism.

The little seaside town of Assos, on the island of Kefalonia (or Cephalonia) in Greece, is so small it probably doesn’t even fall within the classification of town, but I don’t care.  It is undeniably beautiful, and a must-visit jewel on the island, but it is not the least bit pretentious, glamorous or elegant.  Quite the reverse, it has that slightly ramshackle air typical of Greece, augmented by the romantically ruined Venetian buildings which toppled during the devastating earthquake in the 1950s.  
Apart from the earthquake, Assos has its own share of history too.  The island was once an outpost of the Republic of Venice, and a ruined castle fortifies the opposing hill of the horseshoe geology which characterises the natural harbour.  Walking up to the top - you can choose the paved walkway, which is easy but long, as it zigzags all the way, or you can take the shorter but steeper scramble - is a necessary activity to undertake at least twice while you’re there.

In May, when we usually visit, Assos is a riot of flowers – Olleander, Almond blossom, Hibiscus Bougainvillea, Jasmine, Morning Glory - spilling over walls, through lintels, overarching the narrow lanes along exposed cables, softening the ruins and smothering the steep slopes that drop to the implausibly emerald sea.  

But it’s the locals who make the place so special, who make the place feel almost like a second home, who draw my husband and I back year after year.  Every taverna (four), every mini-market (two), farm (two) and taxi firm (one), even the goats who obstruct the road and enliven the soundscape with their clanking bells, are owned by multi-generational local families. Our arrival is greeted with hugs, and on the sad day we make our return journey, we leave loaded down with gifts (my favourite being the litre of olive oil from the farm, which I have, so far, managed to transport home without accident). 

Gillie's Books...

Other wonderful places to visit on Town Travel, click on the town below to read the full story…

Las Vegas, USA with Barbara Gaskell-Denvil

Hexham, UK with Annie Whitehead

In the coming weeks and months you can visit... Click HERE to find out where you are going

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Time Travel - Hexham, UK

Town Travel - My favourite town by Annie Whitehead

Hexham – The Happy Place in the North

 On December 3rd 2019, the market town of Hexham in Northumberland was crowned ‘the happiest place to live in Britain.’

Well, I can’t comment on that because I don’t actually live there, but I can see why it might be true. Hexham is a delightful place, situated close to Hadrian’s Wall, and where you can find a farmers’ market and, apparently, Viking-themed events. The mayor of Hexham, Mr Bob Hull, commenting on the award, said that there is a really strong sense of community and that there is a community-owned cinema, a thriving theatre and an arts centre. He also pointed out that there are more than 200 listed buildings. 

He’s not wrong that Hexham is thriving. On my first visit I found myself happily caught up in the Literary Festival and had access to quite a few free events. It’s relatively easy to park there – often for free – and all the main shopping streets are confined to a small area, where you can browse in art shops, antique shops, as well as finding your basic provisions. 

For me, though, the place to go is the medieval abbey.

There is an emptiness about Northumberland; even now, there are vast areas of open countryside without any buildings, and you’ll hardly see another car on the road. In the Middle Ages the centres of population, such as Hexham, must have been highly valued, by the pilgrim, the weary traveller, or simply the people who lived in what must have been a very tight-knit community. The area has harsh winters, so a sense of community must have been especially valuable during the coldest months.

Hexham Abbey was founded when Queen Æthelthryth, wife of King Ecgfrith, granted the land to Bishop Wilfrid to build a Benedictine monastery. She was quite a character, having been married twice and (according to Bede), managing to preserve her virginity throughout both. She eventually left Ecgfrith and returned to the south, to found Ely Abbey on land which came to her via her first marriage.

The building that the visitor sees today is not that which Wilfrid built. His church was completed in 678, but partly destroyed by Viking raids in 875. In the early twelfth century, the church became the Priory of Canons Regular of St Augustine and from the mid-twelfth to mid-thirteenth century more building took place.

In 1296, Scottish raiders set fire to the priory, and in the process destroyed shrines, books and relics. It is said that molten lead ran down the night stair and can still be seen to this day. The priory was rebuilt once more.

But, excitingly, the original Anglo-Saxon crypt, from Wilfrid’s time, still exists and can be visited. I say excitingly, because visiting it gave me a tangible connection to the people whose stories I write. Although my novels are set primarily in the midland kingdom of Mercia, the Mercians had a long and tangled connection with Northumbria, as it was called then. In May, my new book about Anglo-Saxon women will be published by Pen & Sword Books and Æthelthryth is one of those featured women.

For Dorothy Dunnett fans, Hexham will also be recognisable as it is the setting for some scenes in her novel The Game of Kings, the first book in her Lymond Chronicles. This is especially significant for me as I was the first winner of the HWA/Dorothy Dunnett Society Short Story Award, and part of my prize was a complete set of the Lymond books. 

A visit to Hexham is rewarding. Along with the Abbey café, there are plenty of places to eat, the town is pretty, and pleasant to stroll around. So much of what I write about is encapsulated here: I can see an Anglo-Saxon crypt, I can see a beautiful landscape, and there is a real connection to the people I write about. It’s not often that one can see such things; few Anglo-Saxon buildings survive, and few locations can be identified with any certainty. The other lovely thing about Hexham is that, often, dissolved monasteries are ruins, out in the middle of nowhere. But, during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, Hexham’s chancel and transepts survived because they were needed by the parish church. And, as a parish church, it remains in the centre of this yes, I say it again, thriving town. 

Take a trip to Hexham. I am sure you will be as delighted with it as I am.

My Chill Award winners:

To Be A Queen

Alvar the Kingmaker

Cometh the Hour


Other Town Travel's to visit...


Barnstable, UK with Helen Hollick
Lectoure, France with Michael Reidy
Somerset, UK with Dizzy Greenfield
Las Vegas with Barbara Gaskell-Denvil

See all Town Travels by clicking HERE