Monday, 6 February 2023

Guest Post with Victoria Cornwall

I'm very pleased to welcome author Victoria Cornwall to the blog. Her latest novel, Waiting for our Rainbow, was published by Choc Lit Publishing UK last week.

Victoria, welcome. Your new book looks and sounds wonderful. I can't wait to hear about the inspiration for the story so it's over to you!

Thank you. Sometimes historical facts can be all the inspiration you need for a story. It leads to questions like what must it have been like to be there at the time? What would I have felt and done in the same situation?

Try to imagine you’ve just reached adulthood. Dances, boyfriends and a little independence from your parents are finally on the cards. Suddenly all that is put on hold when war is declared. The horror of war affects every aspect of your life during the years that follow. It’s no wonder you begin to feel war-weary and despondent.

Suddenly a truck full of American soldiers arrives and park-ups in the village square, turning the quiet village into a hive of activity and excitement. Their accents and white, broad smiles remind you of handsome movie stars and for a moment it feels as if Hollywood glamour has arrived in your provincial life. Unlike your own British soldiers, who wear cheap serge wool, these foreign soldiers wear expensive and combatively stylish uniforms. These young men have a surprisingly laid-back attitude and you watch, intrigued, as they climb down from their trucks with cigarettes casually held between their lips. No standing to attention for them, instead they chew gum as they wait to be told what to do.

You soon discover these men are very different to any male family member or neighbour you have met before. These men are extrovertly confident, with money in their pockets and unique chat-up lines. Even the music and language they use are very different to what you have ever known before. It's all very alluring to you, a war-weary young woman starved of fun.

You don’t yet know that despite their outward confidence, these men have never known the terror of war and shot a gun in combat before. They don’t even know why they have arrived in your village. But you soon learn that they want to have fun in their time off and so do you. There is almost a tangible air of excitement around you as you soak in the organised chaos with your eyes.

A lone soldier’s gaze meets yours across the crowd. The connection sends a pleasant shiver through your body, a feeling you have never felt before. If he asks you on a date, could you resist him?

As I researched the arrival of American troops in Cornwall preparing for D Day, I had to ask myself the same question. Inspired by numerous relationships between British women and American soldiers during the preparations for D Day, this novel is about Joe and Anne’s blossoming love story, the hurdles they face and the inevitable goodbye they would one day have to say. Find out if Anne can resist Joe in Waiting For Our Rainbow as he prepared for the greatest amphibious assault in military history – an operation that would become the turning point in the war that killed and maimed so many.

Thank you, Victoria. I want to read your novel even more now. I can't wait to read Joe and Anne's love story.

Waiting For Our Rainbow was released as an Ebook on 31st January, 2023. A paperback and audio version will follow shortly afterwards.

Social media links


Twitter: @VickieCornwall



YouTube Channel:


About the book

Waiting For Our Rainbow is a WW2 romance between an American soldier and a young Cornish woman during the preparations for D Day.

 Would you give your heart away if you knew it could only end in goodbye?

It should have been a time of romance and excitement for Anne – but it’s 1941 and the war is raging. So instead, she spends her days repairing spitfire wings and reminding herself that the real sacrifice is going on far away from her Cornish village. 

When the news breaks that America has entered the war, it brings cautious hope to Anne and her family. And eventually, as the Jeeps filled with GIs roll in, it seems their little community is to play a pivotal role in the next stage of the fight.

But the Americans don’t just bring Hollywood glamour and optimism, they also bring something more tantalising – so when Anne meets handsome Joe Mallory, she has to remind herself of exactly why he’s there; that any relationship between them could only end in goodbye.

But is the inevitability of ‘goodbye’ powerful enough to stop what has already begun to blossom?

Buying Links

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:




Google Play:


Victoria grew up on a farm in Cornwall and is married with two grown up children and three grandchildren. She likes to read and write historical romance with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.

Her books have subsequently reached the finals of the NEW TALENT AWARD at the Festival of Romantic Fiction, the RNA's JOAN HESSAYON AWARD, the 2021 RNA's Goldsboro Books HISTORICAL ROMANTIC NOVEL AWARD. Her books have also been twice nominated for the RONE Best Indie or Small Published Book Award by InD'tale magazine.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Thank you for reading. As a writer, has a historical event inspired you in your writing? As a reader, what history-inspired novel would you be drawn to? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you.

You may also follow me on Twitter: @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

For more about me and my writing, please visit my AMAZON page.

Monday, 30 January 2023

 Guest Post with Marie Laval

This week, I'm delighted to welcome Choc Lit author, Marie Laval, back to the blog to talk about her latest novel.

Welcome, Marie! I can't wait to hear more about your novel so it's over to you.

Thank you so much for welcoming me on your blog today to talk about CAPTURED BY A SCOTTISH LORD which was released by Choc Lit UK on 24th January.

This novel is a historical romance and the third book featuring a member of the Saintclair family. I loved every minute of researching and writing the love story between my fun and intrepid heroine Rose Saintclair and my wonderfully stern, dutiful and brooding hero Bruce McGunn, and I hope that readers will enjoy it too.

The story mostly takes place in the far north of Scotland, so you may wonder why I am today writing about Algeria's infamous Ouled Nail dancers. Algeria is a long way from Scotland!

Well, here is why. My heroine, Rose Sinclair, was born and brought up in Bou Saada, a beautiful oasis in the Sahara desert, and this was where many dancers from the Berber tribe Ouled Nail lived and worked.

They were made famous by painters such as Etienne Dinet, who settled in Bou Saada in the late nineteenth century and who, like so many other visitors to North Africa, was fascinated by them. They trained young in the art of dancing before leaving their villages to earn a living in market towns. When they had saved enough money they usually returned home, settled down and married.

Unlike most women in Algeria, they were always unveiled and wore heavy makeup. Their eyes were lined with kohl and their hair was adorned by elaborate headdresses. Their costumes featured voluminous and colourful skirts, lots of necklaces, charms and bracelets. These bracelets often had studs and spikes which the girls used to defend themselves against the unwelcome attentions of overexcited spectators.

The Ouled Nailliterally wore their wealth on their person, usually in their long necklaces, sewn into their skirts and shawls, or on their headdresses. This made them easy preys to unscrupulous thugs and many were attacked and robbed. 

Rose Saintclair, the heroine of CAPTURED BY A SCOTTISH LORD, learnt the art of dancing like a Ouled Nail from her childhood friend Malika. However, now she is married to wealthy landowner Scottish Cameron McRae and sailing to be with him in the far North of Scotland, she has to forget about her most unbefitting and unladylike skills...Or does she? 

Can a Desert Rose survive a Scottish winter?

The wild Scottish landscape is a far cry from Rose Saintclair’s Saharan oasis, although she’ll endure it for Lord Cameron McRae, the man she married after a whirlwind romance in Algiers. But when stormy weather leads to Rose’s Scotland-bound ship docking on Cape Wrath – the land of Cameron’s enemy, Bruce McGunn – could her new life already be in jeopardy?
Lord McGunn was a fearless soldier, but his experiences have made him as unforgiving as the land he presides over. He knows McRae won’t rest until he owns Wrath, and the man is willing to use brutal tactics. Bruce decides that he’ll play McRae at his own game, take the ship and its precious occupant, and hold them hostage.
Rose is determined to escape, but whilst captured she learns that there’s another side to her new husband – and could her supposedly cold and ruthless kidnapper also be concealing hidden depths?

CAPTURED BY A SCOTTISH LORD is available on Amazon and Kobo and other platforms.

About the author

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire and writes historical and contemporary romance. Best-selling LITTLE PINK TAXI was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit.  A PARIS FAIRY TALE was published in July 2019, followed by BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC in November 2019 and bestselling romantic suspense ESCAPE TO THE LITTLE CHATEAU which was shortlisted for the 2021 RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Award. Marie’s historical romances, ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, QUEEN OF THE DESERT and CAPTURED BY A SCOTTISH LORD, all feature members of the Saintclair family and her short stories are published in the bestselling Miss Moonshine anthologies. Marie is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, and her novels are available as paperbacks, ebooks and audiobooks on Amazon and various other platforms.

Thank you, Marie. What a fascinating background to your novel. I'm sure the readers will want to know if Rose does forget her 'unbefitting and unladylike skills'.

Thank you for reading. Had you heard of the Ouled Nail dancers before?

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Please go to my AMAZON to learn more about me and my books. Thanks. 

Monday, 23 January 2023

St Dwynwen's Day

The Welsh Custom of Giving Lovespoons

Siop Y Pentan
Cyfres Lucila Lavender

The 25th of January is the feast day of Saint Dwynwen who is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, making her the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine. Saint Dwynwen lived in the 5th century and was a Welsh princess, the daughter of  King Brychan Brycheiniog. She was unlucky in love, and became a nun. She prayed that happiness would be granted to all lovers. She set up a convent on Llanddwyn island off Anglesey. Her church and 'holy well' is a pilgrimage shrine, especially for lovers, from the Middle Ages until today. The popularity of celebrating St Dwynwen's Day has increased considerably in recent years.

A Welsh love spoon may be considered an ideal St Dwynwen's Day gift.  Lovespoons were traditionally given as a token of love and affection and each spoon was unique. Although individual, over time a series of symbols was used to convey romantic thoughts and feelings. Here are some designs and their meanings:

Hearts - the universal symbol of love. Twin hearts may indicate a mutual love between the sender and recipient.

Double Bowls - this indicates the union of souls when joined together.

Balls in a Cage - these are commonly thought to represent the number of children desired by the carver.

Chain Links - generally considered to indicate loyalty and faithfulness, chain links may also symbolise a couple bound together in their love.

Diamonds - these are believed to represent a wish for prosperity and good fortune as well as a promise to provide well for a loved one.

Keys and Keyholes - as well as representing domestic contentment, these are thought to represent security and a key to one's heart.

Wheels - these are said to represent the carver's vow to work hard and guide a loved one through life.

The young man would spend hours carving the lovespoon with his own hands, in the hope that the young girl would accept it. If she did, they would start a relationship, which is the origin of the word 'spooning'.

Today they are often given as a gift of affection or a memento of a visit to Wales.Lovespoons are given to commemorate special events such as weddings, engagements, birthdays, anniversaries, births, christenings, house-warming and St Valentine's Day. Over the centuries, many more symbols and motifs have been added and now lovespoons have become more elaborate and collectable.

Here is one made for me when I left my first teaching post to get married and move away from the area. Obviously, those were the days before disposable nappies and by carving the heart's safety pin, the carver thought babies would be on the horizon for me!

Lovespoons do not always come in wood. Clogau Gold has a range of beautiful lovespoon jewellery. For an anniversary, and three babies later, my husband presented me with this beautiful pendant in yellow and rose gold. I was thrilled.


A very special lovespoon features in my short story Christmas Surprises on Péfka in the anthology Cosy Christmas Treats, published by Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction

'Yiannis unwrapped the gift and held up a beautifully carved lovespoon, with two hearts engraved with the initials A and Y.

    "In Wales, these were given as love tokens." Sadie pointed out each part of the design. "The hearts are obviously for love, the bell here is for marriage, the knot symbolises everlasting love, and see the little balls inside the frame? They signify how many children you'll have."

    "Three?" Yiannis and Alexandra laughed.

Yiannis handed the lovespoon to Alexandra... "With three woodturners in the room, you could not have chosen a better gift. We all see the craftsmanship and care that has gone into this. Thank you."


Thank you for reading. Do you own or have bought a lovespoon? Was it for a special occasion? What symbols are part of its design?

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

For more about me and my novels, please visit my AMAZON page. Thank you.

Monday, 9 January 2023

 Guest Post with Evonne Wareham

Continuing with the series of blog posts on research which proved so popular at the end of last year, today I'm delighted that my first guest of 2023 is fellow Cariad author, Evonne Wareham. We write for the same publisher, Evonne writing for Choc Lit of which Ruby Fiction is an imprint. Having read her books, I know what she has to say will be very interesting.

Welcome, Evonne. Over to you!
First I’d like to say thank you to Jan for inviting me on today to talk about research. It’s lovely to be here in the company of the wonderful authors who have already occupied the slot.

Very many writers will tell you that they adore research. It can be a lot of fun, and is the most marvellous displacement activity. You can dive down any number of fascinating rabbit holes that will never go near the book you are supposed to be writing and still say you are working.  It is also quite often a painstaking graft, doing your best for accuracy.

I divide research into two types – the big stuff - which is often also the fun part - and the detail checking. The latter is why I now know more than you might expect about formalities for getting married in France, proceedings in UK courts and the journey times between stations on the French and Italian Riviera.

One of the trademarks of my books are the settings  - glamour, sunshine and escapism - along with mayhem and the occasional murder – well, I do write romantic suspense. (I assure you that the allegation that I know all the best places to bury a body is completely unwarranted.) Location is important, particularly, as you would imagine, in the ‘Riviera’ series – love and crime on the Mediterranean coast. Well - usually on the Mediterranean coast, but we’ll get to that. I’d class this research as big and fun stuff. Best done by visiting, but sadly difficult or impossible in the last few years. In A Villa in Portofino, written in lockdown, I had to rely on memory, guide books and some excellent walking tours of the town that obliging tourists had posted on You-tube.

The latest book, Masquerade on the Riviera, which is currently wending its way through the editing process, to be available around Easter, opens on the English Riviera. To my editor’s relief it does make it to Monaco – the setting for a grand masquerade ball. Sadly I haven’t made that trip yet, so it was the same process as for Portofino for that part of the book. I did have a very enjoyable weekend in Torquay though, attending the Crime Writers’ Association Annual Conference and doing research on the side. When I came to writing, I‘d forgotten how much easier it made things to know first-hand how everything looked. 

Torquay takes us to its most famous resident – Agatha Christie. Dame Agatha has an influence on the book as the opening chapters include a house party, as do many of hers. No body in the library, just a stolen necklace – although there are a few murders along the way.  I’ve tried to capture at least some of the atmosphere created by the Queen of Crime. My one-line summing up of Masquerade is ‘Death on the Nile meets To Catch a Thief.’ Why the Nile? Well, my hero is an Egyptologist.

Where did that come from? I have no idea, and research was needed – books, talking to experts, and an enjoyable wander around the British Museum. Fingers crossed I have got it right. Elliott the Egyptologist – and I have only just realised what I said there - is an academic, as is Megan the heroine of Portofino. I do know a bit about that but I invented my own university, so if things are done a little differently there, that’s my excuse. More research too, to find a suitable name for it. The occupation of the hero in Portofino was easier as he is a landscape gardener. I’m a long-standing, although not necessarily successful gardener, and an avid attendee of the kind of flower shows where Gideon would have won medals. As for the overgrown garden that Megan inherits and Gideon tames for her, I only had to look outside the back door for that! My own garden had taken on Sleeping Beauty dimensions during a period when life threw a lot of spanners in the works, as it is wont to do on occasion. All fixed now, I’m glad to say. I did research the kind of qualifications that Gideon might have as a professional gardener – that is where the detail comes in. Similar detail work has included investigating the helicopter transfer from Nice Airport to Monaco, how an artist would transport a work in progress when it was still wet, the history of famous jewels reputed to have a curse on them and popular bathroom colours from the 1970s.

One element I didn’t have to research for A Villa in Portofino was the period artefacts, as I used items from within my own family. As the book is about family secrets – not things that have been deliberately hidden but just things that are lost in time or are unexplained – I needed pieces that would contribute to the structure of the story. One was a collection of postcards that my father brought back from his war service in Italy. They were very useful in sending Megan’s own research off in exactly the wrong direction. Writers are mean and sneaky like that.

Well - this one is.

Thank you, Evonne. I like the way you have divided your research into the big stuff and then the detail checking. Glamour, sunshine and escapism! What's not to like reading about that?

Here are some more details about Evonne:



Evonne is an award winning Welsh author of romantic suspense - more crime and dead bodies than your average romance. She likes to set her book in her native Wales, or for a touch of glamorous escapism, in favourite holiday destinations in Europe. She is a Doctor of Philosophy and an historian, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Society of Authors, Crime Cymru and the Crime Writers’ Association.






A Villa in Portofino , which was a nominee for the Jackie Collins Award for Romantic Thrillers 2022,  is available in e-book, audio and POD paperback from Amazon.

Masquerade on the Riviera will be published by Choc-Lit in spring 2023.

Thank you for reading. I'm sure Evonne has whetted your appetite for finding out what her books are about. Look out for Masquerade on the Riviera soon. Do you agree that even the title sounds intriguing? What do you think?

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

For more about me and all my books, please visit my AMAZON Author page. Thanks.

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

 Happy Birthday, Happy New Year

My blog is nine years old this January and although it has changed since I started out as a newbie with the aim of writing weekly blog posts to chronicle my journey into writing, it's still here! Less frequent now, the posts are more about my novel writing rather than the short stories I'd started with. I love reading those early posts. It really has been a journey. 

Looking back on the goals I set myself last year, I think it was a much better idea to follow the advice I found on a blog post, New Year Writing Inspiration and Prompt Challenge, to set one BIG goal for the year. You may read it HERE. In the past, especially in the early days, I set myself lots of detailed goals and often they were not met. My big goal for 2022 was to finish writing the first draft of novel four and I did it! This time last year, I had done lots of preparation and research but there'd come the time that I needed to write it. With the help of NaNoWriMo where I achieved the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month, I wrote 51,945 words to add to the 52,000 I'd already written. I had a novel to edit and work on.

Smaller goals such as supporting other writers by inviting them onto the blog were achieved, too. Last year, I welcomed nine authors to talk about their forthcoming novels or about the research they did as preparation. A goal to continue learning more about the craft of writing was met by undertaking an excellent ten-week course at Cardiff University on Writing Historical Fiction, led by Katherine Stansfield, and a superb Advanced Imagine Writing Course, taught by Jenny Kane. I hope that what I learned will have had an impact when I was writing my new novel.

Alongside writing novel four this year, I have been able to make research trips that were not possible in the previous two years. Visiting the Hut 9, POW Camp in Bridgend in July was invaluable for viewing the artefacts and wartime clothing on display even though the camp housed German POWs not Italians. The highlight was a trip to Sicily in August where I was able to walk in the footsteps of my characters. Being in the actual places that inspired the setting for the novel was wonderful. On return, I made a visit to Henllan Bridge Prisoner of War Camp 70 in West Wales which was home to 1,200 Italians during the war to view the beautiful chapel the prisoners created from found and scrap materials. By being able to make these trips, I'm hoping my novel will have an authenticity that would have been so much more difficult to create otherwise.

In September, my third novel, Her Nanny's Secret,was published as a trade paperback. It was a great feeling to receive a box of books and see my books displayed on shelves. At the end of the same month, I had my first library event where I was in conversation with lovely Honno author, Judith Barrow. It was a full house and so good to talk to people face to face. In November, I attended the launch of the Worcestershire Literary Festival 2022 Flash Fiction Anthology which included my three flashes. Reading to a live audience for the first time after two years felt so much better than reading on Zoom.

So for me, life as a writer did get back to some sort of normality in 2022 with some live events and meetings. Travel opened up so that research trips were possible.

A huge thank you for your support this year, especially all of you who have bought and read my books, taken time to leave reviews and send me messages. I appreciate every one of them.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year. 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.
For more about me and all my books, please visit my AMAZON PAGE

Monday, 5 December 2022

 Guest Post with Judith Barrow

Today I'm delighted to welcome author friend, Judith Barrow, back to the blog. We first met at a library event back in 2014 when I was just starting out as a writer. I admire her writing greatly and was thrilled when she agreed to write a blog post about the research she does for her novels. 

Judith, welcome! Over to you.

Research is formalised curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)

When Jan asked me to write about research, I started with one purpose, to research the subject of research, and then to explain how I use it. Two hours later, being easily led by that 'one other interesting... by the way did you know...' fact, and also being insatiably nosy, I was reading about the earliest wigs that were worn. See below * if you're interested!)

Eventually dragging myself back to reality, I thought about the research I carried out for my trilogy - the Haworth series and the prequel A Hundred Tiny Threads.

At the time of Patterns of Shadows (the first book), I made a list of the familiar and the unfamiliar things I needed to know to make my characters come alive, and to give a real sense of place to the world where they exist.

I now have files bulging with the information I found for each book: Patterns of Shadows, in 1944/45, the sequel, Changing Patterns in 1950/51. And, last in the series, Living in the Shadows. 1969/70

And this is the format I've followed ever since. Put simply...

With characters, it's the hairstyles, the clothes, the shoes, the cosmetics and toiletries on the market that they use, the food and drink. There's the work they do, the newspapers and books they read (or don't), the hobbies, the pastimes. Then there are the types of houses they live in according to their social status, the furniture, kitchens, plumbing, gardens.

But here I'll let you into a secret. For the Northern town the Haworth family lives in, I traced an old 1940s map of the streets that surrounded the building that the trilogy is based on - the first German POW camo in the UK in WW2. This was an old disused cotton mill in Oldham, Lancashire. Simply put, it was chosen because it was far from the coast, was surrounded by two mill reservoirs, roads, and later a railway line. And had concrete floors and high fences. At the time all military installations were commandeered by the MOD for the army so other buildings had to be utilised. I traced the town, altered the direction of a few streets, added a park, allotments, ginnels, and alleyways - and renamed the lot. Ashford of the North of England existed.

For the village that some of the family moved to in Wales, I researched and adapted their lifestyles in that era.

 After that, and something vital to any historical novel, I researched the outside world; what was happening as a background that affects the characters, in the same way that what is happening in our world affects us now. For this, I relied on websites, British and international newspapers, radio, and television recordings.

The research for my more contemporary book, The Memory, (Shortlisted
for the Wales Book of the Year Award 2021 - The Rhys DaviesTrust Fiction Award),
was somewhat different. Here, research was more for the conditions of Alzheimer's, which, as a former carer, was more general, and for features of Downs Syndrome, I relied on the expertise of a friend who worked in that field.

Although my next book, Sisters, to be published by Honno on 26th January 2023, is set in a more contemporary time (1970s/1980s), there was still some of the usual research needed: the fashion, hairstyles, the interiors of the houses, the way people lived. But this is a story that is all about the relationships within the family, more confined within a domestic situation, and less about the outside world. For me, this has been one of the greatest differences in my research between my historical family sagas and my more contemporary family stories. 

As a last note, I should add that finding someone who is personally involved in a profession you are researching and can give first-hand knowledge and expertise is invaluable. And, usually, they are only too happy to help.

If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein, (1879-1955), German physicist who came up with the theory of relativity, winnwer of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.

*Footnote: The first documented use of wigs is around 3400 BC, in Ancient Egypt. Egyptians are also credited with inventing wigs, usually;ly worn for ceremonial purposes. They were created using human hair, vegetable fibres, and sheep's wool, and were often attached using beeswax.

Thank you, Judith. I'm in awe of all the research that you do and can see in my mind's eye the bulging files for each book! Your hard work certainly pays off; when I was reading the Haworth family stories, I felt I was actually there in Ashford with each one of them.

Twitter - @judithbarrow77

Thank you for reading. I'm sure you will have found Judith's post as interesting as I did. If you did, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page. 
For more about me and my writing, please visit my AMAZON page.

Monday, 28 November 2022

Guest Post with Angela Petch

This week on the blog for the third in my series on research, I'm thrilled to welcome an author whose writing I admire immensely, Angela Petch. Her novels are set in WW2 Italy. I'll let you tell you more.

Angela, welcome. You know I'm a big fan of your writing; whenever I read one of your novels, I can only imagine how much research you had to do so I'm delighted that you found time to share how you go about this with me and the readers. Over to you!

When writing #historicalfiction, I always have in my mind the “grey area” between fact and fiction. My responsibility as an author is to present credible history at the same time as threading in stories from my imagination. The phrase, “based on a true story” gives a sense that not everything is real life and so all “what-if” questions, are then allowed to come into play.

Mamma and Baboop 1940s
My first book, The Tuscan Secret inspired by Giuseppina, my Italian mother-in-law, involved research of different kinds. First off, I used her own accounts as a teenager during the Second World War; the difficulties of living in Urbino under occupation; the terrifying descriptions of her father hiding a partisan in their home; venturing into the countryside to find food when a British plane
strafed a line of German vehicles nearby; the day she had to walk alone for several kilometres in order to sit an exam for her Pharmacy degree and was stopped at a road check… her fear of being raped; her diary, full of yearnings for her British army captain (future husband). I could go on.

Mamma’s early life as a new bride in East Anglia - learning English, adapting to a completely different culture was challenging. All her true accounts were spellbinding. I wanted to write her story. Much more research was involved along the way. Personal memories are valuable but can be distorted and exaggerated in time.
Eventually, I tweaked the facts of my in-laws’ lives to create more conflict for the plot.  

Reading academic accounts to back up the history and cross referencing (a vital part of research) was essential to understand the background of the Italian Campaign. My bookshelves of text books are testament to my research. 

Giuseppina’s father kept a record of every letter his daughter wrote from England as a young bride getting to grips with her new life. The price of goods, her observations on British customs, rationing etc, were all meticulously filed away. Treasures for a writer. I’ve used Luigi’s papers for my present work too. He was an active partisan, although working undercover at the town hall as registrar, and we have his box of papers to consult: clandestine newspapers of the day, a letter he wrote to Mussolini, first-hand accounts of secret missions.   

Living in Italy for six months helps, as well as speaking Italian. Many of our elderly friends are happy to talk about their past. Our tourist office has diligently recorded their memories. Our past is the counterweight to our future. How true! I spied that phrase in another local museum recording one of the many massacres that occurred during occupation.

Ten miles or so from our Italian home is a national archive of diaries. Invaluable for research. When I wrote The Tuscan Girl I needed information about local women who consorted with the occupiers. Understandably, these records are scarce. Who wants to talk about what would have been considered betrayal? But I was able to track down three accounts which were gold dust. Nothing is doctored in this archive. There are spelling and grammatical errors. Real accounts written by real people.

I’m sure other writers will back up my final point. Briefly, if you can visit the locations you write about, so much the better. You’ll be able to paint your scenes more vividly, smell the smells, walk the walks, find angles you never knew about. This will definitely enrich your work.

Here are some photos of me on location.

Good luck and, above all, have fun!

Thank you, Angela. I'm sure readers will have been fascinated by the insight into the meticulous research you do. Having first-hand accounts, personal observations and diaries are, as you say, a 'treasure' for a writer. I so agree with your last point about your writing being enriched when you walk in the footsteps of your characters by visiting the locations if you can. 

Angela 's books are all on Kindle Unlimited and Prime at the moment.

Social Media Links:





Buying links:

A Tuscan Memory

The Tuscan Gir 

The Tuscan House

The Postcard from Italy

Mavis and Dot

Thank you for reading. Writers, what 'treasure' have you found when researching for your novel? Readers, what convinces you the novel you're reading is well researched? I'd love to read your comments? Thank you.

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