After chatting to Jane Lovering on Monday over a large mug of Yorkshire tea during our Monday Merry Meet, we’re excited to share our review of her new book, There’s No Place Like Home. Thank you Rachel’s Random Resources for the blog tour invite and providing a copy to read.
Book Review: There’s No Place Like Home by Jane Lovering
Isabel, Izzy to her friends, has got nothing left to lose when she makes the bravest decision of her life.
A month living under canvas on the Yorkshire Moors with five strangers wouldn’t normally be her idea of a good time, even if there is prize money to be won at the end of it, but she’s all out of options.
Joining her in this wild goose chase, being filmed for a TV show, are farmer Seb, whose marriage is creaking but who is desperate not to lose his family. Sheltered Ruth who needs an opportunity to show she can make her own decisions. Glamorous socialite Kanga, who has been living a lie. American Junior who has his own secret that has led him there. And last but not least, mysterious and brooding Mac, who Izzy can’t help but be drawn to.
As the fickleness of nature tests them all to their limits, this disparate group come together to face the challenge. But when Izzy finally tells them the truth that has brought her out on the Moors, will that be the end of their adventure, or the beginning of her future? Because what Izzy really needs is a place to call home, and someone to share it with could be even better…
Thoughts from the Emporium
Last year The Forgotten House on the Moor appeared on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf and we all loved it so when There’s No Place Like Home arrived in Rosa’s Box of Romance, Willow and her had to flip a coin to see who would read it first. Rosa won. With high expectations, this novel didn’t disappoint.
Within pages, both were hooked into Izzy’s life and the stark realities of camping in the Yorkshire moors in horrid weather, with strangers tracking down a potential mythical creature for a TV prize. Jane Lovering has a talent for world building and providing a strong sense of place. With knowledge of the locality, Rosa and Willow can both say it is an accurate depiction of the moors and its atmosphere. Even snuggled under the duvet, Rosa found herself shivering when Izzy and company are faced with bad weather thanks to the immersive writing.
Six strangers living in close quarters with sporadic appearances of the camera crew and film staff provided a memorable cast for this original novel, plenty of drama and clashes of personalities. They all have a backstory and reasons for joining the show, including Izzy. As a protagonist, she had depth and everyone connected to her and wanted her to have a happy ever after she sought after. Sprinkled with humour, deeper themes are blended in this uplifting novel with care and realism. Despite the weather and camping trials, romance blooms and the slow burn chemistry between Izzy and Seb is just right for their story.
This unique novel was an ideal read to start the year and a welcome addition to Rosa’s Box of Romance where the love will be shared with visitors to the Emporium. It will be a hit. After chatting to Jane on Monday, everyone is already looking forward to her next one and if you read her chat you’ll understand why.
Jane Lovering is the bestselling and award-winning romantic comedy writer who won the RNA Novel of the Year Award in 2012 with Please Don’t Stop the Music. She lives in Yorkshire and has a cat and a bonkers terrier, as well as five children who have now left home.
Today we’re excited to chat to Alys West, author of the witchy series the Spellworker Chronicles. We hope you enjoy hearing about Samhain, her books and spells.
Monday Merry Meet: Alys West
Willow:Hi Alys, come in it’s blustery out there. It’s as if you brought your Storm witch with you. We’ve heard the waves hit the harbour walls all day. Usually we’re too far away.
Amber:On the plus side the courtyard has gathered so many autumnal leaves, I can make a wreath. Can I get you a drink? We have our own blends of tea, Yorkshire tea, as no one can beat that for a proper cuppa, coffee or something different?
Alys: I’ll have a cup of green tea with jasmine if you’ve got it. Thanks for inviting me to visit your wonderful shop. I love Whitby. It’s one of my favourite places. I always feel history really strongly here and there’s so many stories to tell about Whitby. I set my steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter here and I’m sure I’ll come back to it in future books.
Willow:We’d love to read those. You write novels surrounding witchcraft and the occult. What drew you to that genre?
Alys: Ooh, thanks for the tea. That looks lovely. I’ve always read a lot of fantasy and I’m a big fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Merlin. I’m also deeply fascinated my folklore. When I started writing Beltane I wanted the magic to be organic, to come from the earth and the folklore of Glastonbury. I think all of the witches in my books are essentially hedge witches. Their power is mainly instinctive and comes from hedgerows and gardens rather than reading magical books.
Willow: We know all about instinctive magic and it often gets Amber into trouble.
Amber: Willow prefers tried and tested magic from books.
Willow: Not always.I love your atmospheric settings. Beltane was set in Glastonbury and Storm Witch is located in West Orkney. How important are locations for you and what comes first, the location, character or plot?
Alys: Location is hugely important to me. I’m very influenced by the spirit of a place. With my writing, I start with the place and the story grows from it. Beltane grew out of the landscape around Glastonbury. Storm Witch was inspired by a folk tale about a girl called Janet Sinclair who lived on the island of Westray in Orkney in the seventeenth century who was believed to be able to call up storms.
Amber:I found the Storm Witch highly relatable and their emotions cause havoc with their powers. How easy was it to write those scenes?
Alys: I’m pleased to hear you related to the Storm Witch. It was pretty cathartic to write those scenes. It was a bit of a release to allow those emotions out. As a person I feel things deeply but do my best to hide it so I was probably working through some of my own anger by allowing the Storm Witch to let rip!
Willow:As you can see with our pumpkins and window display, we are looking forward to Halloween. Is Samhain something you usually celebrate?
Alys: Yes, Samhain is a really important time of the year for me. I love autumn. In the Celtic tradition, Samhain is the start of the new year. It’s the time when our energies turn inwards as the days grow shorter. I’ve got much more comfortable with the idea of retreating and recharging in the winter and Samhain is the start of that period.
There’s a Samhain tradition which I like to follow; you eat an apple and each seed symbolises something you’d like to grow or develop during the winter months. Traditionally you would then eat the seeds but I like to see that as optional!
So I won’t be out Trick or Treating but I’ll be celebrating the turn of the seasons at home with candles and the leaves and seeds I’ve gathered on my walks.
Willow:It’s a beautiful way to celebrate it and we must give you one of our Samhain candles before you go. Every writer seems to tread different paths to publication. What has your journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Alys: My journey has been a bit twisty-turny but I feel I’ve ended up in the right place. Initially I tried to get a traditional publishing deal and had an agent for a while. However that didn’t work out so I indie published Beltane. It’s been hard work but I wouldn’t have changed it. It’s allowed me the freedom and time to write the stories I wanted to tell. I’ve also met some absolutely brilliant people along the way who have supported my writing and helped me keep going. If I was to change anything, I think I’d have gone indie straightaway. Indie publishing is right for me and my books. I could have saved myself a lot of rejection letters if I’d embraced it sooner!
Willow:Spells and magic can be very ritualistic. Do you have writing rituals are strict writing regime?
Alys: I always sit in the same green Ikea chair. We moved house a few months ago and the writing chair was not available for a few weeks and it really threw me. Other chairs are available in our house but none of them felt right. I also need tea when I sit down to start writing. That’s usually a pot of green tea but I move onto peppermint later in the day. I like to write first thing in the morning but don’t think that means I’m up at six every morning. I like my sleep so for me first thing in the morning is about 9.30am!
Amber:I secretly write. Do you have any advice for new writers?
Alys: There’s masses of advice out there for new writers and it can be overwhelming. When I was younger I absorbed the maxim that you must write every day. I have a long-term health condition which means that’s simply not practical for me and I spent a lot of years feeling that because of that I would never be a writer. I’m older and wiser now and have learnt what works for me.
In my opinion, many writing books are about what works for that writer. Some of that may work for you but other bits won’t. The most important thing you can do is keep writing and as you do that, you’ll find out what approach works for you.
Having said all of that, I do recommend reading books on story structure. These are generally written for script writers but apply equally to fiction writers. My favourite is ‘Into the Woods’ by John Yorke. It’s definitely worth picking up a copy of that, Amber.
Amber:I’ll seek it out. Thank you. If we used magic to bring one of your characters to life so you could share a coffee with them, who would you choose?
Alys: Gosh, that’s a tough one because I love them all. I’m going to go with Winston because he’s got that bad boy charm going on but underneath he’s a bit of a softy. In the next book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’ we’re going to find out a bit more about Winston’s past. Over coffee I could ask him a few searching questions but I know him too well to think he’d open up and give me a straight answer. Most likely I’ll get a lot of jokey deflection. Seeing behind that as one of the challenges of writing his character.
Willow:Talking of magic, we sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Alys: I’m a bit of a people pleaser so the ability to say no would be useful. If you can make that the ability to say no without guilt then that would be even better.
Amber:Releasing the guilt is important and already accounted for in the spell. The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity all year round. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Alys: I’m originally from York which is absolutely packed with ghosts. There are stories of ghosts in most of the pubs, the theatre and various historic buildings. I’ve never experienced anything paranormal even though I’ve worked in a few buildings which are known to have ghosts. The most I’ve experienced is a strong sense of negative emotions in certain places. I do believe buildings can absorb the feelings of the people who inhabit them and I think I pick up on that sometimes.
Willow:If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours what would it be and what would you do with it?
Alys: Right now, I could do with a superpower that allowed me to travel instantly to where I need to be. My Mum is currently in hospital. It’s an hour’s drive each way to visit her. I’d like to be able to teleport straight to the ward to see her rather than spending ages stuck in traffic and then pop to my parent’s house to have a cuppa with my Dad.
Amber:We hope she feels better soon and teleporting would be ideal. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Alys: ‘Spirited’ by Julie Cohen. I’ve only just finished it and I absolutely loved it. Julie’s a fabulous writer and she packs such a lot into a book. ‘Spirited’ is about Victorian spiritualism but it’s also about sexuality, female power and colonialism. The characters became so real to me that I’ve kept thinking about them and wanting to know what happened to them after the novel ended.
Willow:We loved that book. Great choice. Our assistant Rosa couldn’t be here today because of childcare issues but she has a box full of romances for people to borrow. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?
Alys: Oh gosh, it’s so hard to choose! I’m going to go with ‘Thornyhold’ by Mary Stewart. I loved Mary Stewart’s books when I was younger and read them all again when I decided to start writing myself. This is my favourite. It’s a wonderful story of romance and magic which a big dollop of mysticism.
Amber: I’ve heard good things about her. And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Alys: I’m working on ‘Stone Magic’ which is the third book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’. It’s taken a while for this one to reveal itself (turns out living through a Pandemic is not good for my creative process) but I’m really excited about it now. It’s going to pick up the story from the end of Storm Witch and follow the investigation into the deaths of The Order. After ‘Stone Magic’, there’ll be a fourth and final book in the series which has the working title of ‘The Winter Tree’. I’m not making any promises as to when they’ll be ready as I don’t write very fast and life has a habit of getting in the way but I will get there.
Thank you so much for inviting me to visit The Enchanted Emporium. It’s been lovely to sit in your wonderful shop and chat to you both. Thanks as well for the tea, very much appreciated!
Struggling artist, Zoe arrives in Glastonbury seeking inspiration. The small Somerset town is steeped in myth and legend and Zoe’s sure it’ll be the perfect place to work on a book about King Arthur. But behind the shops selling witchcraft supplies and crystals real magic is being practised. When Zoe meets Finn her life changes forever. Not only is he a druid connected to the ancient energies of the earth but she dreamed about him long before they met. Finn’s life is in terrible danger and Zoe’s dreams start to reveal more of the plot against him. After dreaming of a deadly battle at a stone circle on Dartmoor, Zoe starts to wonder if the dark magic around her is playing tricks of its own or if she really can see the future. Will she learn to trust Finn, and herself, in time to stand any hope of surviving the powerful magic that will be unleashed at Beltane? Or is it already too late? This gripping story of magic, romance and the supernatural will entrance fans of Deborah Harkness and Phil Rickman and keep you spellbound until the very last page.
Alys West writes contemporary fantasy and steampunk. Her first novel, Beltane was inspired by the folklore of Glastonbury. Her second novel, The Dirigible King’s Daughter is a steampunk romance set in Whitby. Storm Witch is her third novel and is set in the beautiful Orkney islands which she fell in love with back in 2010 and has used every excuse to return to since (including setting a novel there!) She is fascinated by folklore and folk tales which are a big influence on the stories she tells.
Alys has a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teaches creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. She’s also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.
When she’s not writing you can find her at folk gigs, doing yoga and attempting to crochet. She occasionally blogs at www.alyswest.com, intermittently tweets at @alyswestyork and spends rather too much time on Facebook where you can find her at Alys West Writer. She is also on Instagram at @alyswestwriter. To keep up with Alys’s news you can join her Facebook readers’ group ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles’.
It’s a new week and to help shift the Monday blues, we’re excited to host our first author visit at The Enchanted Emporium. Yes, it’s the Monday Merry Meet, and our visitor today is romance author, Sharon Booth.
Sharon has published twenty-three books, and is one of Rosa’s favourite romance authors — she’ll be here shortly I’m sure, when she has recovered from a fan girl moment – and is followed by Willow and Amber, thanks to her witchlit series based in the Yorkshire town of Castle Clair. With witch sisters and their familiars in a town where magic brews, they were hooked. With the upcoming release of her novel, it’s the perfect opportunity for a chat.
Monday Merry Meet: Author Sharon Booth
Amber:Hi Sharon. Willow will be with you shortly. She’s just finishing brewing the novel dream time draught in the back. It’s a potion created by me but it has to be dealt with carefully, otherwise fumes will put you to sleep in minutes. It makes you dream about the latest book you’ve read. Ideal for romance readers who want to escape reality for a while and linger in communities where everyone pulls together, or explore lush landscapes. I mean, who wouldn’t want to linger in Castle Clair and visit the museum? It doesn’t work so well for those who enjoy psychological thrillers. I’ve had complaints about that one.
Do you want a drink? We have tea, coffee or something stronger. One of our customers brought us some homemade raspberry gin, Willow has hidden in her workroom.
Sharon: Thanks so much for inviting me to The Enchanted Emporium, Amber. All the times I’ve visited Whitby and I never knew it was here! How fabulous. I don’t suppose you have any raspberry lemonade? I’ve developed a bit of a passion for it lately. If not, coffee will be fine, thank you.
Amber:Sit down and don’t worry if you feel any cold patches on your back as we talk, it’s just Mrs Marley, our ghost. She adores romantic novels and will just be being nosy. It’s the ghost on the stairs you have to worry about.
Willow:Amber, stop scaring our guests.
Hi Sharon, glad you could make it and you have a drink. It’s lovely to catch up with you as we all adore your books. They are all set in Yorkshire, a place we all love. Was this a conscious decision?
Sharon: Hi, Willow. No, it wasn’t. In fact, initially, There Must Be an Angel, which was my first novel, was set in Glastonbury! But as the writing developed, I realised the voices I was hearing in my head all had Yorkshire accents, and since I’ve lived in East Yorkshire all my life (apart from those years we were in North Humberside which we don’t like to talk about as it’s still too traumatic) it made sense to set my books in a county I knew and loved.
Willow: Both Amber and I love Castle Clair and would love to visit. How did you go about your world building to make it a vivid place for readers?
Sharon: If I’m being really honest, I didn’t have to do a lot of world building to create Castle Clair. It was already there. It just needed a bit of tweaking! Castle Clair is based on the North Yorkshire market town of Knaresborough, quite near Harrogate, and it’s one of my favourite places. It really does have everything: ruined castle, cliffside shrine, legend of the prophetess, the beautiful river, the riverside walk, the market place, the museum in the castle grounds… There’s even an old chemist’s shop which was the inspiration for The Broom Closet. In real life it’s now a gift/sweet shop, and there really are steps in the shop leading up to The Lavender Tea Rooms, which I changed to The Rosemary Tea Rooms. All I had to do was create the legend of the St Clairs. Everything else was in place.
Willow:Tell us a bit about your new book.
Sharon:Will of the Witch is the fourth in The Witches of Castle Clair series. I only ever intended there to be three books, but they proved to be surprisingly popular, and I got lots of messages pleading for more. Since I loved writing them, I thought, why not? So in Will of the Witch you’ll meet three new St Clair sisters: Keely, Harley, and Romy. They never knew their Castle Clair cousins existed, and it’s a bit of a shock to them when they receive a mysterious invitation to Cornwall and discover Sirius, Star, Celeste, and Sky have all been invited too. There will be two more Castle Clair books after this one, so still lots to look forward to.
Willow:We can’t wait to read. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Sharon: I’m a bit different to most of my writer friends, in that I started writing with indie publishing in mind. Finding a traditional publisher was never really on my radar. I was lucky enough to get scooped up by blogging group The Write Romantics and realised pretty quickly that most of them were looking for deals. I was too embarrassed to admit I wasn’t! Yes, I really was that person back then. So I subbed to about six publishers and got one request for the full manuscript, but by then my Write Romantic friend, Jo Bartlett, had decided to set up her own publishing company, Fabrian Books, and asked me to be her first signed author. I was delighted to accept, and Jo sent my book off to be edited and proofread, and I got to choose my cover, which was exciting. But Jo had a change of heart about running a publishing company, and after she and I, and another author, had a chat, we decided Fabrian Books should become an author collective instead. We would all indie publish our books under the Fabrian Books imprint. After a few years, I set up my own imprint, Green Ginger Publishing, and now I’m happily indie all the way. I’ve had two pocket novels, five large print books, and two audiobooks published by other publishers, but mostly it’s just me. What would I change? I’d stop dithering, thinking I really should be traditionally published to achieve anything, and realise that it’s perfectly possible to make a living and find fulfilment forging your own creative path.
Willow:Wise words. What is your writing routine?
Sharon: I’m kind of an all or nothing person. I’m either up early, writing furiously for hours, then sorting admin and marketing etc before finally finishing work at 7pm. Or I’m pretty much faffing around doing bits here and there and achieving nothing. I’ve stopped beating myself up about it. I know they say you should write every day, but the truth is I don’t. I still get the work done, so I’ve stopped worrying that I’m “doing it wrong”.
Willow:We have several customers who wish to write. Do you have any advice for them?
Sharon: My only real advice for writers is not to worry about most of the advice you’ll be given. There are so many “rules”, and you’ll get told frequently that “this is the way you should do it”. You have to find your own way. We’re all different. Eventually you’ll figure out the best way for you.
Rosa:What are you working on currently? Can you say, or is it top secret?
Sharon: Right now I’m working on a Christmas book. I know! We’ve had a record-breaking heatwave, and I’m sitting here with an electric fan on full blast, trying to muster some festive feeling. It’s actually the 26th book I’ll have written but will be the 25th book to be published. It’s the first in my new Tuppenny Bridge series, set in a Yorkshire Dales market town. It’s also a follow-on from my How the Other Half Lives series and will give a couple of characters some closure at last — something that so many readers have requested — although it can be read as a standalone.
Rosa:25 books published, I need to catch up with some I’ve missed.
Willow:The Enchanted Emporium sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Sharon: Ooh, that’s tricky. I think Luck. So much in life is down to luck, isn’t it? You can work your socks off, but if you don’t get lucky, it won’t make a jot of difference. Mind you, I’ll be honest and say I could do with all of those except the “help without asking” one. My kids have all left home, and my husband is an absolute star. I couldn’t do any of this without him.
Amber: One candle, when lit, invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day? Where would it take you?
Sharon: Oh, another tricky one! Maybe a holiday I had when I was little. We always had big family holidays in Primrose Valley near Filey on the North Yorkshire coast. There was me, my brother and sister, my mum and dad, grandparents, auntie, great aunts and uncles, half cousins… we were in caravans and bungalows, and we’d go to the beach together every day, visit the pub at night (peanuts and cola for us kids in a separate room, naturally) and walk along the sands to Filey for fish and chips. I remember going winkle picking on Filey Brigg with my nanna, great-aunt and sister. So many of those people are no longer with us, even my dad, so yes, I’d definitely like to invoke all those memories again.
Amber:The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have you had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Sharon: When I was little, I had a friend called David. He was a little boy, about my age, and he wore a blue dressing gown, and every evening he’d sit on the bottom stair waiting for me, and I’d float down to meet him. I can’t remember anything else about him, but I saw him so many times and told my parents about him. My mum still remembers me talking about him. I haven’t had any other really spooky experiences, but I do have the weirdest dreams. They’re fascinating, like mini movies, and some of them may feature in a future book.
Willow:Amber knows all about lucid dreams. If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?
Sharon: Wow, you really do ask tricky questions! You know, thinking about it, I’d like absolute confidence and self-belief for 24 hours, because I’d love to know how different that would make me, and if I could achieve more with that superpower. What must it feel like to be absolutely sure of yourself and your abilities? Yes, I’d love that potion.
Willow:What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Sharon: There are sooo many books I could add. I absolutely adored Threadneedle by Cari Thomas, Deborah Harkness’s Discovery of Witches, Alys West’s Beltane and Storm Witch. I love The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper, and I also love The Whitby Witches series by Robin Jarvis. Can I really only add one book? You know what, I think I’ll go for The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis, because it’s the beginning of a cracking series. It’s supposed to be for children, but I read it in my early forties and loved it. And it’s set in Whitby, so very appropriate for your bookshelf.
Willow:Good choices. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?
Sharon: Hmm. So many to choose from. I’d go for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, so it’s clearly made a big impact on me. I love the character of Jane. She sets herself to high standards and lives by them, and even when society looks down on her, she holds her head high and knows her own worth. She’s wonderful.
Rosa:Jane Eyre is one of the best. Do you have a favourite place to write and read?
Sharon: I mostly write in my little writing office. It’s a small bedroom that’s completely mine, with a desk and chair, sideboard, and bookcase. There are magical canvas pictures up on one wall, along with Dr Who stuff, inspirational quotes, and gorgeous cards that my friends have sent me over the years. I find it really difficult to write anywhere else, although I can do other jobs like marketing and editing anywhere, funnily enough. I can’t seem to read for long in bed, as I always fall asleep, so I prefer to read on the sofa in the living room, with my dog snoozing on the rug in front of me.
Willow: That sounds perfect. Thanks so much for dropping by and good luck with your new book, Will of the Witch out 26th July.
Sharon: I’ve really enjoyed my trip to the Enchanted Emporium, and to glorious Whitby. I hope one day I’ll find my way here again. Thank you for inviting me, and kindest regards to Mrs Marley and the other ghosts for not spooking me!
Sharon Booth writes about the lighter side of life, love, magic, and mystery. Her characters may be flawed, but whether they’re casting a spell, solving a mystery, or dealing with the ups and downs of family life or romance, they do it with kindness and humour.
Sharon is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and an Authorpreneur member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. She has been a KDP All-Star Author on several occasions.
She likes reading, researching her family tree, and watching Doctor Who, and Cary Grant movies. She loves horses and hares and enjoys nothing more than strolling around harbours and old buildings. Take her to a castle, an abbey, or a stately home and she’ll be happy for hours. She admits to being shamefully prone to crushes on fictional heroes.
Her stories of love, community, family, and friendship are set in pretty villages and quirky market towns, by the sea or in the countryside, and a happy ending is guaranteed. If you love heroes and heroines who do the best they can no matter what sort of challenges they face, beautiful locations, and warm, feelgood stories, you’ll love Sharon’s books.