A Perfect Cornish Summer by Phillipa Ashley

Blog Tour

The first in a gorgeous new series from the author of Summer at the Cornish Cafe.

Summer is on the horizon, and the people of Porthmellow are eagerly awaiting the annual food festival. At least, most of them are…

For Sam Lovell, organising the summer festival in her hometown is one of the highlights of her year. It’s not always smooth sailing, but she loves to see Porthmellow’s harbour packed with happy visitors, and being on the committee has provided a much-needed distraction from the drama in her family life (and the distinct lack of it in her love life).

When their star guest pulls out with only a few weeks to go, everyone’s delighted when a London chef who grew up locally steps in at the last minute. But Gabe Matthias is the last person Sam was expecting to see, and his return to Porthmellow will change her quiet coastal life for ever.

Chells and Books Review:

I would like to thank Avon for asking me to review this book and to ask me to be apart of the blog tour.

Here we have a delightful story that melts the heart.

Set in the amazing idyllic setting of Cornwall in the village of Porthmellow we meet Sam. Sam is still coping with the past hurt in her family and by running herself into the ground with work. The community are all behind her in organising a food festival which started out to safe this beautiful Cornish village from being lost from all the tourist maps, like forever and that cannot happen. Defiantly not, by the sound of the gorgeous descriptions that Phillipa Ashley writes describing the location of her story. Sam also works for herself baking and selling pies and does not have time for love, especially after being heartbroken in the past.

However, is all that about to change? In walks Gabe a famous handsome chef who is here to save this years food festival. His arrival is not all together smooth and he is in need of some real smooth talk and action if he wants to make up for the past.

A brilliant read and one I was so excited to get my hands on.

Phillipa Ashley has created a beautiful love story set on the idyllic Cornish coast. One not to be missed.!   

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The Liberty Girls by Fiona Ford

Blog Tour Review and Interview

March, 1942

New mother Alice Milwood is itching to return to her job as a shop assistant at Liberty’s.

Despite her husband still being missing in action, Alice is determined to give baby Arthur the best possible start. She soon settles back into the rhythm of life on the shop floor, and the Liberty Girls rally to help keep everything on an even keel.

But when the American GIs start swarming into London, there are more complications to come. And each of the Liberty Girls has their own impossible storm to weather.

Chells and Books Review:

Firstly I would like to thank Arrow for asking me to review this book and to be apart of the blog tour. I am also very excited to be able to welcome Fiona Ford to my blog in a brilliant interview which you can find further below. Thank you so much Fiona for taking the time to answer my questions.

I adore The Liberty Girls. Having read the first in the series The Liberty Girls at Christmas I was hooked. I feel in love with the setting of the story, the characters and the period its set in. Fiona has such a way with words that she draws you completely into her story. I felt every emotion that the characters feel.

In this story we follow Alice, who is a strong women who knows what she wants from life and is determined to give her son what she never had. The American GI’s have landed in this series and Alice’s life gets complicated when she meets one certain good looking American GI. Alice’s home life is not the only thing with complications her work life soon becomes difficult. Alice and her Liberty Girls soon have to lean on each other for support.

If you love wartime sagas then this is most defiantly a book for you. I loved it and really looking forward to ready more from Fiona.

Read Fiona’s Interview below to find out more about The Liberty Girl’s.

About the Author:

Fiona Ford

As a child, Fiona’s mother used to joke that wherever there was a book, Fiona wouldn’t be far behind. With a passion for reading from practically the moment she was born, it was inevitable Fiona would become a writer. Sure enough after studying English Literature at university, Fiona became a local and national journalist before making her move to books where she began ghost writing fiction for celebrities (too famous to name, of course). One day, some bright spark suggested she write her own stories rather than those of celebs and suddenly an idea was born.

Now, Fiona’s passion for writing currently sees her penning the World War 2 Liberty Girls series for Arrow. She also writes contemporary women’s fiction for Aria under the name Abby Williams. 

She lives in Berkshire with her husband, two cats and has an unhealthy attitude towards exercise and chocolate – believing one must surely cancel out the other. If you’d like to find out more about Fiona you can follow her on Twitter @fionajourno or visit her at facebook.com/fionafordauthor.

Interview with Fiona Ford:

  1. Please, tell us a little about the next instalment of the Liberty Girls? This time around we are following the fortunes of the ever lovely, but savvy Alice Milwood. When we meet her in this book it’s spring 1942, she’s coping with a four month old son alone and believes her husband is missing presumed dead. However, she is itching to return to her job as a shop assistant at Liberty’s and soon settles back into life on the shop floor. But when the American GIs start swarming into London, there are more complications to come for Alice, Dot, Mary, Flo and Rose with each of them doing battle on the home front in order to survive a bitter tangle of secrets and lies.
  2. How much pre-planning do you do regarding your characters?  I want to say a fair amount, I have a rough idea of what I want to happen to them, but then when I start writing and we start chatting to each other (Yes I know that sounds weird but in my head these girls are so, so real), I soon discover that actually what I originally thought would happen might change. It’s really important to be flexible I think and let your character take you where they want to go.
  3. Historical fiction research must be fascinating, what research was needed for The Liberty Girls?  I absolutely love it Michelle. Honestly I lose weeks and months of my life disappearing down rabbit holes. However, for The Liberty Girls the research was very special as much of the action takes place in my wonderful home town of Bath. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city was hit by the Baedeker raids in April 1942. Fortunately a lot of the most important buildings such as The Pump Rooms and The Circus were missed, but the world famous Assembly Rooms and a lot of the residential areas were hit causing a huge and tragic loss of life.
  4. Do you have a certain place where you like to write and tell us a little about your wiring process? I have my very own writing cave – a shed at the bottom of my garden which is my favourite place in the world.
  5. What advice would you give to any budding writers? (My dream is to be published, so this is a question I am very interested in)  Michelle if you have passion for writing you’ll do it. There are three pieces of advice I would give. The first is write for you because you love it not because you’re hoping to become the next JK Rowling. The second thing is to be disciplined. Write something every day, even if it’s just for ten minutes. This will keep the story with you and ensure your train of thought doesn’t get lost. Thirdly, get used to rejection. If you want to be published you’ll need a thick skin and to get used to hearing the word no an awful lot. My view is that for every no I get, I’m one step closer to getting that yes.
  6. You are off shopping to The Liberty store, you have an unlimited budget, what would you be buying? Oh god EVERYTHING!
  7. What are your future projects? I’m currently working on book three in The Liberty Series which will hopefully be published next January and then this August I’m doing something completely different, as my first women’s contemporary novel, The Time of Our Lives will be published under the name Abby Williams so I’m incredibly excited about that.

The Teashop Girls by Elaine Everest

Blog Tour Review and Interview

It is early 1940 and World War Two has already taken a hold on the country. Rose Neville works as a Lyon’s Teashop Nippy on the Kent coast alongside her childhood friends, the ambitious Lily and Katie, whose fiancé is about to be posted overseas in the navy. As war creates havoc in Europe, Rose relies on the close friendship of her friends and her family.

When Capt. Benjamin Hargreaves enters the teashop one day, Rose is immediately drawn to him. But as Lyon’s forbids courting between staff and customers, she tries to put the handsome officer out of her mind.

In increasingly dark and dangerous times, Rose fears there may not be time to waste. But is the dashing captain what he seems?

What others think:

‘Heartwarming . . . a must read’ – Woman’s Own

‘A warm, tender tale of friendship and love’ – Milly Johnson

‘A lovely read’ – Bella

Before I write my review I would like to welcome Elaine Everest to Chellsandbooks which I am very excited about being one of the authors I have been wanting to do a QnA with for some time and here she is!

The amazing Elaine Everest

Please, tell us a little about The Teashop Girls and the idea behind the story?

The Teashop Girls is the first in my new series of World War Two sagas and is set in the Kent seaside town of Ramsgate and Margate where Rose, Lily and Katie work as Nippies in one of Joe Lyon’s teashops. Rose meets and falls in love with a handsome army Captain but there are misunderstandings as the path of true love twist and turns. Her childhood friends also have problems with Katie wishing to marry her sailor fiancé and Lily finding herself in terrible trouble. Rose’s mother, Flora runs the Sea View guest house which is a haven for locals as well as the mysterious Anya.

Characters in your stories often become like family to readers. How much pre-planning do you do regarding your characters? 

I have to get to know my main characters long before I write my first words. They have to be different so as not to confuse my readers – or me! I like to see them and know how they would act under any circumstance and then, when I know them, I decide how to throw their lives into turmoil eventually giving them an ending I feel they deserve. Sometimes a character surprises me. One such lady is Mildred, who lives at Sea View guest house. She was only supposed to walk into the kitchen with a packet of fish, but she stepped into the girls lives and became a true friend.

Historical fiction research must be fascinating, what research was needed for The Teashop Girls? 

My first task was to make sure I knew enough about the Lyons empire of which the teashops is just a small part. The life of a Nippy, her training and her working day. What about rationing in the teashops during 1940 and also that of the people of Ramsgate. The first part of !940 was very much a phoney war but rumours and planning for what might happen was very much in the forefront of people’s minds on the Home Front.  I was able to delve into local history of the time, reading newspapers and non-fiction books of the period. Along with writer friends I visited second hand bookshops in Kent and found so many gems that gave me extra ideas.
I know Ramsgate well because it was where my parents took me and my siblings for our annual holiday back in the early 1960s. It was a thrill to be able to set my story in a place of which I hold such wonderful memories. I visited the Ramsgate Tunnels a while ago and just knew that when I was able, they would feature in my books. If you ever visit Ramsgate, then please take a tour to find out how these tunnels saved hundreds of lives during the height of the war. Then of course there are the Little Ships and the big part they played in bringing our lads home from the beaches of Dunkirk. I’ve studied this momentous event before, but it was a joy to revisit and recall how great our country was when people pulled together.

Do you have a certain place where you like to write and tell us a little about your writing process?

I have a lovely room that holds my books and all my memorabilia from my research as well as my desk. One day it will be straight and there won’t be boxes piled high with ‘things’ I need for my work. Often you will find me working in the kitchen on our large table, again with piles of books and notes and everything required to help me with my latest work in progress.
My writing process is one of thinking, planning an outline, visiting archives, listing required research which gradually gels to the point I can start to write. I’m a planner although my plans are fluid and often change as a write. I work seven days a week but if it happens that I need to be sociable, or I have an appointment, I simply stop work and resume when I return home. The joy of working for oneself means being able to down tools and have a day out if I please. On a daily basis I first go through my emails and post to see if there is any writing related business to complete before I start to write. At the moment I follow the Pomodoro method of writing whereby I set a timer for 25 minutes and write then take a five-minute break. I do this four times and, depending on the number of words written, or how close I am to a deadline I will have another session.

As a teacher of creative writing, what advice would you give to any budding writers? (My dream is to be published, so this is a question I am very interested in)

My advice is first not to expect success with the first thing you write. Read all the time and read as much of the genre you wish to write yourself – especially the bestselling authors. After that just keep writing. You have to love writing and reading and the writing world. Don’t be afraid to fail and try to write any genre that interests you. Good luck!

You are having a tea party and can invite three characters from any of your books, who would you invite? (I know for me 3 invitees would not be enough)

I love a tea party- any excuse for cake! First I would invite Johnny Johnson from The Butlins Girls. Who wouldn’t like a handsome matinee idol to gaze at over the tea table? I do think Ruby from The Woolworths Girls would enjoy a tea party as she so often feeds her family and friends it would be a treat for her to not have to make a cake. Finally, I’d invite Anya from The Teashop Girls. Coming from Poland she could tell us about her home country and give us her views on English cuisine. Anya if a very forthright character so it could be an entertaining meal.

An era in history that I would love to experiences is the Tudor period, as an historical writer is there a period of history you would like to go back and experience.

I would love to experience the first half of the 20th century. The house where Ruby from The Woolworths Girls lives is the house I owned when first married.  Built in 1902 that solid bay fronted, three-bedroom terraced house has survived two world wars and so many changes. For twenty years I heard stories of the past residents of Alexandra Road and the town of Erith and it would be great to go back and see it for real. I even know when a bomb dropped making a wall a tad wonky so I could take cover in the air raid shelter!

What are your future projects?

I’m currently finishing another Woolworths book to be published in the Spring of 2020 which has been fun as I get to move on to 1947 and 1948 and see what the girls are up to now that the war is over. After that I will be writing another Teashop book and the ideas are already buzzing around in my head.

Thank you again for appearing on my blog and taking the time to answer these questions? It means the world to me as one of my favourite authors. My Grandma sends her love, she has been quite unwell and struggling to read, so hasn’t managed to read the last Woolworths Girls but I will still be buying her this and will be reading to her, although she falls asleep so often these days. We have had so many chats about the characters in Woolworth girls and Grandma has related it to her life experiences from the war, so I sit there with a note pad and jot a few things down inspiration for my writing and also just to spend time with Grandma and have this great connection. Thank you!

Chells and Books Review:

Firstly, I would like to thank all at Ellen and Bethan from EDPR for organising the blog tour and Elaine for answering my questions, I cannot tell you how exciting it is to have you on my blog.

The Teashop Girls is just as good as I thought it would be if not even better. Elaine’s writing style is just perfect it truly is like a comfort blanket wrapping me up ready for a cosy journey into the 1940s. As for the characters well they are just as good as all of Elaine’s other characters from her other books such as The Woolworth Girls, strong women who become friends that you welcome into you home again and again. Very glad this is to be a new series.

The setting for this book is Ramsgate and it has really grabbed my attention, so much so that I have booked a holiday to visit the sites this very weekend coming.

In The Teashop Girls we meet Rose and her friends Lily and Katie who are all Nippies who work for the famous tea shop Lyons. I would have loved to have been around to visit one in the 1940s but Elaine captures it perfectly in her story, you can almost taste the tea cakes and sausage rolls. The girls along with their families and friends have to endure the hardship of the beginning of the war, coping with loved ones away fighting and running to the air raid shelters at the drop of a hat. What with all that and the secrets that they are keeping from each other, this is one eventful read that will keep you gripped right until the end.

I adore Elaine’s writing and her books are amazing if you love sagas then this is most defiantly one for you.

Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen

Twenty-five years after her passing, Audrey Hepburn remains the most beloved of all Hollywood stars, known as much for her role as UNICEF ambassador as for films like Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Several biographies have chronicled her stardom, but none has covered her intense experiences through five years of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. According to her son, Luca Dotti, “The war made my mother who she was.” Audrey Hepburn’s war included participation in the Dutch Resistance, working as a doctor’s assistant during the “Bridge Too Far” battle of Arnhem, the brutal execution of her uncle, and the ordeal of the Hunger Winter of 1944. She also had to contend with the fact that her father was a Nazi agent and her mother was pro-Nazi for the first two years of the occupation. But the war years also brought triumphs as Audrey became Arnhem’s most famous young ballerina. Audrey’s own reminiscences, new interviews with people who knew her in the war, wartime diaries, and research in classified Dutch archives shed light on the riveting, untold story of Audrey Hepburn under fire in World War II. Also included is a section of color and black-and-white photos. Many of these images are from Audrey’s personal collection and are published here for the first time.

Chells and Books Review:

I feel I have been very lucky to have been asked to review this book and to be apart of a blog to for it.

This book is a well written account of Audrey Hepburn’s life during war and I found it fascinating. I do not have a great interest in Audrey par say but I do know who she is of course and love hearing about peoples life during the war and this one especially from her parents points of view was very interesting. I highly recommend this read especially if you are a fan of autobiography’s although this is much more than one of those. It is quite inspiring. I will be finding more from this author as very interested in the kinds of books he is writing, those about people who we all know but from an area in their lives that we don’t the war years.

The Girl In The Pink Raincoat by Alrene Hughes

In wartime it takes courage to follow your heart.

Manchester, 1939.

Everyone hated the heat and the deafening noise, but for Gracie the worst thing was the smell of chemicals that turned her stomach every morning when she arrived at the Rosenberg Raincoats factory.

Gracie is a girl on the factory floor. Jacob is the boss’s charismatic nephew. When they fall in love, it seems as if the whole world is against them – especially Charlie Nuttall, who also works at the factory and has always wanted Gracie for himself.

But worse is to come when Jacob disappears and Gracie is devastated, vowing to find him. Can she solve the mystery of his whereabouts? Gracie will need all her strength and courage to find a happy ending.

Chells and Books Review:

First, I would like to thank Head of Zeus for asking me to review this wonderful book. I hadn’t read anything by Alrene Hughes before but I love a romance set in war time and this was amazing. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I adore Gracie who has much more courage than she realises. She goes through so much but yet comes out the other side as a much stronger person. Her romance with Jacob is so amazing to read and how it blossoms brings a smile to your face but there is sadness to for them but this makes it much more real and it has such a lovely positive message. Romeo and Juliet set in war time England. I adore the plot and how the message comes about but I cannot say anything here as it would ruin the reading experience. The characters in this story are so real and the situation they find themselves in due to the war is something I had heard about but had not read about in a story. The Italian and German Jews who had made England their home before the war and were then took away to camps, it added real depth to the romance.

This is such a well written story full of friendship, love and hope. I wen through so many emotions. A must read for all romance fans this is truly a story that will stay with me.

About the author:

Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time.

Born Bad by Heather Burnside

Blog Tour Review + a Guest Post

Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.

Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.

But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. After all, blood is thicker than water…

Chells and Books Review:

I would like to thank Head of Zeus and Aria for asking me to review this book and to be apart of the blog tour.

This is a first book by Heather Burnside that I have read and not sure why as it was such a great read. I loved the gritty setting and the whole vibe of playing on the streets as it reminded me of my childhood although mine was in the countryside. The characters are all very unique and have their own troubles to deal with, I adored Adele and her many emotions and her relationship with her Grandma which was quite straightforward compared to the others in her family.

The plot was brilliant and the way it was written had me gripped from the start, I felt so many emotions while reading this, shock, anger , suspense and hope. Heather really does bring the reader along with her throughout her book.

A must read if you love a good crime/thriller read. I will most certainly be reading more by Heather Burnside.

About the Author:

Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.

Follow Heather:

Twitter: @heatherbwriter

Facebook: @HeatherBurnsideAuthor

Guest Post:

My inspiration for Born Bad came very much from my own childhood both in terms of the setting and the characters. In the first part of the book Adele and Peter are children, and I have drawn on my own childhood in the seventies to paint a picture of what their life was like. Although I have made some changes, such as the type of house they lived in, there are many similarities.

Playing out on the street was commonplace in the seventies when there weren’t so many cars on the roads. Corner shops were also in abundance and this is where the local gossips would gather. Children were taught to respect their elders who were often quick to pass judgement and I have shown this in the scene where Adele is humiliated in the corner shop by the local gossips.

There were lots more pubs than nowadays and it was common for men to call in after work for a couple of pints, which often stretched to several. Because children played out in the street they would see the drunks rolling home from the pub at teatime, and would report back to their parents, giving fuel to the gossips.

In some ways it was a smaller world in the seventies. Everybody knew everybody else’s business in the street so if there was a particular family with a drunken, abusive father and a slovenly mother it was generally known and talked about. Unfortunately, children would often be judged by their parents’ behaviour, which again leads back to the incident with Adele in the corner shop. Likewise, if a child such as Peter regularly misbehaved, they would gain a bad reputation throughout the area.

There is a lot of myself in the childhood Adele. Encouraged by her grandmother and school teacher, she strives for a better quality of life by studying hard at school. However, to create conflict I have added another facet to Adele’s character in the form of her fiery temper, which creates problems for her in adult life.

For many of the other characters, Adele’s brother, parents and grandmother, I have drawn on different aspects from characters I have come across when I was growing up. Adele’s grandmother, Joyce, is a typical working class, matriarchal figure who is strong and feisty. On the other hand, Adele’s mother, Shirley, doesn’t display Joyce’s strength of character; she is bullied by her drunken, abusive husband, Tommy, and relies on tranquilisers to get her through the day.

Another area of inspiration for me is my interest in mental health issues, which helped me to create characters that have mental health problems. Some of these problems are genetic but others are a result of the strains and stresses of their everyday lives. For example, Shirley has difficulty in coping with a violent, abusive husband who she chooses to stay with because she loves him despite his ways.

Although there were many challenges to growing up in working class Britain in the seventies, we also had the freedom that is lacking for today’s children. My childhood has also given me a vast array of experiences and observations on which to draw in creating my novels.

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Rachel’s Pudding Pantry by Caroline Roberts

Blog Tour Review and Interview

Step inside Rachel’s farmhouse Pudding Pantry, a place where love, laughter and scrumptious bakes bring everyone together.

Primrose Farm is Rachel’s very own slice of heaven. Come rain or shine there’s always a pot of tea brewing by the Aga, the delicious aroma of freshly baked puddings, and a chorus of happy memories drifting through the kitchen.

But the farm is in a spot of trouble. As the daffodils spring, Rachel must plant the seeds of change if she wants to keep the farm afloat, and it’s all resting on a crazy plan. She’ll need one family cook book, her Mum Jill’s baking magic – and a reason to avoid her distractingly gorgeous neighbour, Tom . . .

Swapping their wellies for aprons, can Rachel and Jill bake their way into a brighter future? The proof will be in the pudding!

What others think:

‘Cosy and uplifting – a real treat!’ Debbie Johnson

‘Family, friendships, farming and fabulous food. The Pudding Pantry is perfect!’ Sunday Times bestseller Heidi Swain

Chells and Books Review:

Firstly, I would like to thank Harper Collins and Emilie Chambeyron for all her hard work organising the blog tour and amazing treats that came with the book proof. I would also like to thank the amazing Caroline Roberts who I have been lucky to have an interview with for this blog tour, since reading her tea shop in the castle series I have been hooked and she is a firm favourite author of mine.

Rachel’s’ Pudding Pantry is an unbelievable read and one you will really want to devour all in one go, if books had an actual taste to them then this book would be pure heaven. It is quite literally full to the brim with tasty treats and puddings.

Rachel, her mum Jill and daughter Maisy live on Primrose Farm. The descriptions of the location in this story are perfect. You can really tell that Caroline loves this part of the world, which she talks about in her interview alongside some photos. I really felt like I was riding along on the back of the quad bike wellies on or sitting enjoying a picnic in the sunshine with the hills rolling out in front of me. You could quite literally hear the squeals of fun from Maisy mixed with the barks from Moss their farm dog.

There have been some hard times on the farm for the family and they are in need of an income boost. When a gem of an idea begins to take hold in Rachel’s head she just knows that she cannot let this one go, it has to work. The Pudding Pantry is born, along with a few added lambs to enjoy this spring. With the local community, even the unsuspecting grumpy ones, and her family and friends, including the handsome Tom, behind her Rachel starts a new adventure and a tasty one too, and I am not just talking about the puddings here. I can just imagine Rachel blushing at this point while her friend Eve asks if she has had any crumble recently. Can the farm survive? You will jut have to read and find out!

Caroline has a special way with words. She is able to create a special moment in time when you open the pages to her book. One where you can completely escape to and when you surface you feel you have woken from a very pleasant dream. I can still now remember the way I felt reading The Cosy Tea Shop series, warm and cosy and like I had just stepped into a perfect world full of hope, love and friendship and this is exactly what Rachel’s Pudding Pantry has done.

This is a read that is not to be missed. It is simple a perfect calorie free treat.

About the Author:

Caroline Roberts lives in the wonderful Northumberland countryside with her husband and credits the sandy beaches, castles and rolling hills around her as inspiration for her writing. She enjoys writing about relationships; stories of love, loss and family, which explore how beautiful and sometimes complex love can be. A slice of cake, glass of bubbly and a cup of tea would make her day – preferably served with friends! She believes in striving for your dreams, which led her to a publishing deal after many years of writing.

Interview with Caroline Roberts:

Can you please tell us a bit about your new novel, Rachel’s Pudding Pantry?

Rachel’s Pudding Pantry is set on a farm in the rolling valleys of the Cheviot Hills in rural Northumberland. It’s about three generations of women working together to keep the farm going after the sad death of Rachel’s father. It’s about love, loss, family, friendship, the joy of baking, and finding a silver lining in the darkest of times.

Northumberland farm view

Did you have to undertake any research for Rachel’s Pudding Pantry? If so, please could you tell us a little bit about it?

Here in my home county of Northumberland, I met Susan Green, who has built a very successful pudding-making business called The Proof of the Pudding. I visited her farmhouse, from where the business runs, and interviewed her. She showed me where the puddings are made and welcomed me for a cup of tea in her country kitchen. I even got to taste (and take home) her delightful Sticky Toffee and Ginger Puddings. Research is so hard at times!! That certainly provided inspiration for the novel.

Puddings by Proof of the Pudding

As the story is set on a working sheep farm, which also has a small herd of cattle, I did some research into farming, which I really enjoyed. As Primrose Farm in the book is now run by the women of the family, I wanted to find out about the role and experiences of women in farming in particular. Fortunately, I have some good farming friends who let me pick their brains – a big thank you goes to Helen Renner and Jane Ord. I chatted with them in their farmhouse kitchens over coffee, looked around their farms and met some of the animals. There were even some last-minute texts banded about, asking for clarification on farming facts in emergency editing situations!

Hands on with the cattle

I really loved being hands on out on the farm, and enjoyed holding and feeding a very cute pet lamb at Chatton Park Farm – who inspired the storyline about Maisy’s favourite little lamb, Petie! And Macduff really is named after a huge black bull I met, called Macduff, at Bellshill Farm.

Caroline and pet lamb

We can tell from your writing how much you love Northumberland, and it works beautifully as a setting for Rachel’s Pudding Pantry. What are some of your favourite aspects of your home county?

The rolling farmland and countryside around the Cheviot Hills may not be as well-known as the Northumberland coastline, but is as stunning in its own way. This is my home patch and I love walking my dog in the beautiful valleys and hills, woodland and moorland here.

You can climb a hill and be surrounded by moorland with hardy sheep scattered about you, then as you turn, you can see the stunning view rolling away to the inky-blue of the North Sea in the distance. There are small villages and character-filled towns. There’s lots of wide-open space, patchworks of green fields, and the famous Northumbrian ‘big skies’. Primrose Farm and The Pudding Pantry are set in this wonderful landscape.

The people are so friendly here in Northumberland, and life is still quite traditional. I hope I have If any of your readers are thinking of visiting Northumberland, when would you recommend that they go and why? And any tips on what they should do while they’re there?

All the seasons are lovely here in Northumberland, but Spring and early Summer are particularly gorgeous when the weather is getting a little warmer, as you’ll probably want to be outside strolling the hills and the beaches. Inland, there’s the small town of Wooler at the foot of the Cheviots, which is the inspiration behind Kirkton in the book, Chillingham Castle is nearby which inspired The Cosy Teashop books, and go and discover historic Alnwick and Rothbury. My favourite place on the coast is Bamburgh, with its glorious castle, long sandy beach and quaint village, and I also love the bay at Low Newton by the Sea with the dramatic ruins of Dunstanburgh castle in the distance. Craster harbour is pretty and interesting too. Honestly, there are so many places, come and see for yourself and find your own delightful favourites.

Dusk in the Cheviot Valley

Who would be your dream actors to play Rachel and Tom on screen?

Ooh, I love this question, and I hadn’t considered it until now, but I do think Aiden Turner, aka Ross Poldark, would make a great Tom (so if you’re free, Aiden …?) and if he was busy, then Richard Madden would make a very pleasant alternative too. And for Rachel, mid-twenties, brunette wavy hair, down to earth … I’m thinking Jennifer Lawrence but with her hair dark, and a calm and determined strength of character, like she was in The Hunger Games.

Thank you so much for these great questions and for having me on your blog!