An Interview with crime writer Frances Brody


I am delighted to welcome to Bookish Jottings, best-selling author Frances Brody for a chat about her delightful sleuth, Kate Shackleton, the enduring appeal of crime fiction and where she gets her inspiration from!


Thank you so much for joining us here at Bookish Jottings, Frances. It’s lovely to have you here. Could you please start by telling us something about yourself and the books you write?

Thanks for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be here. My home is in Leeds, where I was born and grew up, though I’ve also lived in New York, London and Oxford. My Kate Shackleton mysteries are set in Yorkshire in the 1920s. Kate is a First World War widow, and former Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse, turned sleuth. She has a sidekick, Jim Sykes, and a housekeeper, Mrs Sugden.

You are the author of the popular historical crime series featuring your intrepid heroine Kate Shackleton. What originally attracted you to writing crime fiction?

My first “jottings” were sketches and short stories. Only one of those stories was crime, featuring a detective in Hong Kong. I was lucky enough to have my work published in magazines and broadcast on radio which was a great boost. I didn’t think about genre but simply wrote what came into my head. I then had some success with scripts for radio and television and plays for theatre. My first three published novels, partly based on family stories, came under the heading “women’s fiction” or “family sagas”. In the third saga there was a bank robbery and a murder. Dying in the Wool, the first Kate Shackleton mystery came next. Turning to crime felt more like an organic development than a big jump.

What sparked off the original idea for the Kate Shackleton series?

I had an image in my head of a man behind a high wall unable to return to his family. He turned out to be a millionaire mill owner who went missing in in 1917. Someone had to find out what happened to him. Kate Shackleton took on the task when she was approached by the man’s daughter, several years after the disappearance. The modern equivalent would be a “cold case”.

Who inspired Kate Shackleton?

Over generations, women have had to be strong and resourceful wherever they lived. There is a particularly strong tradition of that in the north of England. Kate is partly based on real people. Her image came from a photograph in our family album. She has some of the characteristics of an elderly friend of our family, Aunty Amy. I had the privilege of spending much time with her. A child full of questions, it was good for me to find an adult who would chat back. She told me something about her life and her family. She had never married, having been responsible for the care of her younger siblings. Her brother died in the 1914-18 war.

Your stories are set in the 1920s. What drew you to this period of history?

See above! I’m sure it was partly thanks to Aunty Amy. Socially, the twenties is a fascinating period. In in many ways it’s very modern – the jazz age, picture palaces, new dances and great clothes. More people had telephones, wirelesses and gramophones. But it’s also a time of great fracture, of extreme poverty and an overwhelming sense of loss. It’s particularly a time of enormous change for women. Millicent Fawcett said that at the start of the Great War women were serfs, and afterwards they were free.

What kind of research do you do for your books?

I love to visit the locations for the stories. A Death in the Dales is set in and around the village of Langcliffe and the market town of Settle in the Yorkshire Dales. I’ve spent time there in different seasons, soaked up the atmosphere and met local people. Contemporary newspapers provide useful snippets, sometimes “hard” news but also advertisements, and announcements of what’s on at the local theatre or cinema. I read local histories. People are a great resource and usually very helpful and willing to answer questions. I’m friends with a retired police officer, an expert in poisons and the press officer of the Jowett car club – the Jowett being Kate’s motor of choice.

Your latest book, A Death in the Dales, has just been published. Could you please tell us what the book is about?

Briefly, Kate and her niece Harriet arrive in Langcliffe for a holiday. They stay in a cottage whose owner died while still regretting her failure to convince a jury that the wrong man had been charged with murder. There’s a story strand concerning a missing boy, and another to do with love letters. Harriet is determined to find the boy, brother of a girl who has become her friend. Kate and Harriet are lively and witty and the story was a pleasure to write.

If the Kate Shackleton series were to be made into a film or a TV show, which actress would you like to play her?

With so much fine acting talent around, it’s hard to name the one, so I’ll cheat and say that Harriet Walter was perfect as Harriet Vane in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. A young Harriet Walter, please!

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Read Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer. Follow the tasks she sets, including her advice to write as soon as you wake. She says that any difficulties you have experienced in writing are not technical but come from the inside. Her advice is specific and helpful.

Something I found useful, when holding down a full time job, commuting and juggling family commitments, was to analyse the pattern of my week, pick the hours available for writing and draw up a timetable.

What’s next for Frances Brody?

I’m about a third of the way through a draft of the eighth Kate adventure. My breaking news – bit of a thrill for me here!  – is that the three sagas I wrote as Frances McNeil will all be re-published in 2016 as Frances Brody novels, starting in January with Sisters on Bread Street.

Thank you so much for chatting to me, Frances! If you want to know more about Frances and her wonderful books, visit her website at or on her Facebook and Twitter pages. Frances’ latest Kate Shackleton mystery, A Death in the Dales, is on sale now from all good bookshops and online retailers.

A Death in the Dales – Frances Brody


A splendid historical mystery that grabs readers’ attention from the very first page, A Death in the Dales continues the gripping adventures of Frances Brody‘s intrepid 1920s sleuth Kate Shackleton.

With her niece Harriet fresh out of hospital after being struck down with an illness, private investigator Kate Shackleton decides that a fortnight’s stay in the picturesque Yorkshire village of Langcliffe is just what the doctor ordered. With her companion, Doctor Lucian Simonson, offering them the use of his late aunt Freda’s beautiful cottage, Kate and Harriet pack their bags and head off to the countryside for a much needed break. Rest and relaxation are meant to be the order of the day for the two of them, however, no sooner have they set foot in Langcliffe that they realise that it’s far from quiet in the countryside….

Kate soon discovers that Langcliffe is a hotbed of lies, secrets and scandals and when she learns that Lucian’s aunt Freda had been a witness to the murder of a landlord of a Yorkshire tavern and had gone to her grave convinced that the wrong man had been convicted of this crime, her curiosity is immediately aroused. Although her stay in Langcliffe was meant to be a purely recreational one, Kate realises that she will not be able to rest until she uncovers the truth behind the fateful night that had shaken the tiny village of Langcliffe to its very core.

With an ever-growing list of suspects crawling out of the woodwork, dangerous enemies determined to keep long-buried secrets hidden and a murderer on the loose ready to strike again, Kate must trust her instincts if she is to solve this mystery for one wrong move could cost her to lose everything which she holds dear to her heart – including her life…

Will Kate manage to get to the bottom of this mystery and see that justice is done? Or will this be the case that proves to be impossible to solve?

Frances Brody sets the gold standard in historical crime writing with her sublime gift for characterization, her fantastic ability to transport readers back in time and her talent for taking them on a nail-biting journey where the twists and turns come quick and fast, the suspense never flags and the tension is taut and palpable. A Death in the Dales is a gripping, compelling and intriguing tale guaranteed to keep readers eagerly turning the pages late into the night and enthralled until the very last full stop.

Kate Shackleton is a delightful heroine who is intelligent, independent and inspirational, but who is also noble, believable and relatable. She is a woman determined to be the mistress of her own destiny at a time where this was not always possible; yet she manages to achieve this with grace, class and dignity making her one of the most exciting sleuths in crime writing today.

A first class crime novel readers will not be able to put down, A Death in the Dales is another outstanding installment of Frances Brody’s wonderful Kate Shackleton series!

An Interview with Kate Beaufoy


I am delighted to welcome to Bookish Jottings historical novelist Kate Beaufoy for a chat about history, books and her mesmerizing new novel, Another Heartbeat in the House.


Thank you so much for joining us here at Bookish Jottings, Kate! It’s lovely to have you here! Could you please start by telling us something about yourself and the books you write?

Thank you, Julie – it’s a pleasure!

I live in Dublin, Ireland, but spend a lot of time on the west coast where we have a mobile home on  the very edge of the Atlantic. I studied French and English at Trinity College Dublin and was a professional actress for many years before I turned to writing. Another Heartbeat in the House is my  fifteenth novel, but my second under the name Kate Beaufoy. I am a scuba diver, mother and wild swimmer, and proud slave to a beautiful Burmese cat.

Your latest book, Another Heartbeat in the House, has just been published. What originally sparked off the idea for this book?

The novel was inspired by a house that I came across by chance in a remote beauty spot. It’s derelict, but had been built in 1840 as a hunting lodge. As I wandered through the rooms and along the corridors, there was complete silence, apart from the beating of my own heart. And that’s when it struck me that the house needed another heartbeat to make it live again.

You can see images of the house by going to

What is Another Heartbeat in the House about?

It is the story of two independent young women – Edie Chadwick and Eliza Drury. Edie works in a publishing house in London, Eliza is a nineteenth century adventuress.Their lives intertwine when Edie happens upon Eliza’s memoir, and embarks on a literary detective story.

What kind of research did you do for Another Heartbeat in the House?

I sought the help of a local historian who furnished me with archival records and anecdotes relating to the house, and I visited it numerous times to get a sense of its character. I haunted libraries and helped myself to scores of books; anyone can search the internet, but the best historical nuggets are to be found in books – often through happenstance. It was from DJ Taylor’s s fascinating biography of Thackeray, for instance, that I learned the details of his tragic wife’s illness: Isabella Thackeray suffered from postpartum psychosis, and on one occasion attempted suicide by throwing herself overboard the steamship that was conveying her and her family to Ireland. I also read countless eye witness reports of the devastation wrought by the Irish famine; a harrowing, grotesque and heinous event in our history.

What are the challenges of writing books set in the past?

Honestly, I would now find writing a novel set in the present day more difficult! Life moves so fast and so much can change during the course of a year that between typing Chapter One on the first page and The End on the last, a novel can already be out of date.

Prior to writing as Kate Beaufoy, you’d written a long list of highly successful contemporary  women’s fiction titles as Kate Thompson. What prompted this change in writing style?

I had just delivered the final novel in the Lissamore series (That Gallagher Girl) when I got a cancer diagnosis. There followed eighteen months of treatment and recuperation, and during that time I made the decision to reinvent myself. Beaufoy was my grandmother’s name, and since Liberty Silk – my first historical novel – was based on letters written by her in the aftermath of the Great War, it seemed a fortuitous nom de plume.

What is your all-time favourite book?

It has to be Vanity Fair. I have reread it countless times, and each time I am bowled over by its wit, high spirits and the satire that is as pertinent today as when Thackeray wrote it. I modelled my 19th century protagonist, Eliza, on Thackeray’s Becky Sharp: the wickedest,most engaging and most enduring of literary heroines.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Lots – but too much to list here! One important nugget is: Shhhh! No matter how much you are tempted to, don’t announce to the world that you are writing a novel. Let maybe two or three close friends know, and trust just one or two to read your manuscript. Choose someone you know will be honest but encouraging; nothing is so dispiriting to a writer as brutal candour, and no question quite so unwelcome – once the word is out – as ‘How’s the book going?’ 

What’s next for Kate Beaufoy?

I’ve embarked on a novel featuring a 19th century literary heroine, but that’s all I’m saying! Right now I am on holiday on our western peninsula indulging in some of my favourite pursuits: swimming, hill-walking, exploring abandoned buildings and reading other people’s books!

Kate Beaufoy’s Another Heartbeat in the House has been shortlisted for the Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book of the Year. Vote for Kate and her fabulous book at the following link:

Another Heartbeat in the House – Kate Beaufoy


Fans of Kate Morton and Rachel Hore are going to love Another Heartbeat in the House, the latest spellbinding and compelling page-turner from Kate Beaufoy‘s immensely talented pen!

The past year has been an absolute hell for Edie Chadwick. Not only has she had to bury her beloved West Highland terrier, Mac, but she has also been betrayed by her best friend, Hilly, in the most shocking and unexpected of ways. Life in London is getting Edie down, and when she hears that her uncle’s lakeside lodge in Ireland is being sold, she realises that this is the opportunity she has been looking for to get out of the hustle and bustle of city life for a couple of weeks and to put all the anguish and disappointment of the last year behind her. However, little does Edie realise that her quiet sojourn in Ireland is going to be as far removed for the cosy idyll she had imagined as it is possible to get…

As soon as Edie walks through the doors of the old house, she is immediately assailed by memories of the past. However, when she begins to look through the lodge’s rooms to get the house ready for sale, she soon uncovers a shocking story that has lain hidden for a hundred years – the scandalous tale of Eliza Drury, whose handwritten memoir has been gathering dust in a chest in an attic for an entire century. Unable to resist this hidden treasure, Edie settles down and is swept back to the Victorian era and by a tale of secret passions, devastating secrets and ruthless ambition.

Eliza Drury was not a a typical Victorian young lady. A woman ahead of her time who cherished her freedom and her independence, Eliza was determined to become the mistress of her own destiny and not let anyone stand in her way. Beautiful, vivacious and intelligent, Eliza vowed to live life on her own terms and not be any man’s possession, but when she met a handsome aristocrat at a society ball, she found herself falling hopelessly in love – unaware of the difficult road that lay ahead.

Will Eliza and Edie manage to find the happiness they’ve been searching for all their lives? Or are they destined for a lifetime of sadness and regret?

Another Heartbeat in the House is sweeping historical fiction at its most mesmerizing! Wonderfully written, beautifully atmospheric and packed with searing emotional drama, compelling characters, authentic historical descriptions and poignant romantic intrigue, Another Heartbeat in the House is the perfect book to curl with and escape from the daily grind.

Kate Beaufoy is an outstanding storyteller who makes the past come gloriously to live and readers will find themselves unable to put down this engrossing and highly enjoyable historical tale that has got winner written all over it!

A spectacular novel from a writer who gets better with every single book she writes, Another Heartbeat in the House is a first-class tale you will want to read again and again!

Kate Beaufoy’s Another Heartbeat in the House has been shortlisted for the Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book of the Year. Vote for Kate and her fabulous book at the following link:

An Interview with Trisha Ashley


I am delighted to welcome to Bookish Jottings the queen of romantic comedy herself, Trisha Ashley, for a chat about her gorgeous books, Christmas crackers and festive books!


Thank you so much for joining us here at Bookish Jottings, Trisha ! It’s lovely to have you here! Could you please start by telling us something about yourself and the books you write?

I’m delighted to be here – thank you so much for inviting me, Julie! I write romantic comedies and Creature Comforts was my seventh consecutive Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller.  My books have also twice been shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan award for Romantic Comedy and Every Woman for Herself was nominated by readers as one of the top three romantic novels of the last fifty years.

I’m originally from St Helens in west Lancashire and suspect that my typically dark Lancashire sense of humour, crossed with a good dose of Celtic creativity from my Welsh grandmother, has made me what I am today…whatever that is.

You are one of the most-loved and popular writers of romantic comedies.  What originally attracted you to writing in this genre?

Well, that’s very kind of you to say so!

I spent several years writing satirical novels which were all rejected, though with increasingly favourable and helpful comments. One of the editors who rejected me was Diane Pearson at Transworld, but she did personally recommend me to a top London agent called Judith Murdoch. Judith told me to rewrite my current novel with a romantic thread running through it, which I did, and it was published by Piatkus as Good Husband Material. Many years and books later, Judith is still my agent.

I think my experience shows that opening your mind to constructive suggestions can be the key to success. What Judith wanted me to do was not take material out of my novels, but weave in an extra thread. It was a lightbulb moment.

What are the challenges of writing romantic comedy?

I think it is only challenging if you try to be funny.  I’ve never tried to write a funny novel in my life: I just write.

Your latest book, A Christmas Cracker, has just been published.  What inspired it and what is the book about?

I was thinking about the way Victorian Quaker factory owners took a benevolent interest in their workers and also about their involvement in penal reform and prisoner rehabilitation.  The character of Mercy Marwood, the elderly owner of Marwood’s Magical Crackers, was formed in that tradition and when she extends a helping hand to ex-con Tabby Coombs, it is in the hope that Tabby’s artistic input will help save the ailing business.  And Tabby herself, who was wrongly convicted of fraud, is a very positive person who throws herself enthusiastically into doing just that and doesn’t let bitterness and anger cloud her judgement when a fresh new future beckons.

Who is your favourite character in A Christmas Cracker and why?

I love Tabitha and also Mercy…but I think my heart belongs to a certain stroppy and vocal black cat, called Pye.

What is your favourite Christmas tradition?

Decorating the Christmas tree has to be up there with my favourite traditions.  Our tree is the same sparkly gold one my son fell in love with at a garden centre when he was about two and is topped with a papier mache Santa over ninety years old.  His once-red coat has gone a soupy brown colour with age, but at some point my mother has jazzed him up a bit with a white cottonwool beard and glitter glue.  I have lots of very old glass baubles and I load those onto the branches, then add strands of coloured tinsel.

What is your all time favourite Christmas movie?

Love, Actually.  It always makes me cry, though.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Here’s a practical tip that others could follow: many years ago Leah Fleming, Elizabeth Gill and I banded together to form a little support group which we called the 500 Club, because we decided that we’d email each other when we had written the first five hundred words of every single day.  We set five hundred as an easily attainable target and three people seems to be a good working model.  Over the years we have each in turn had success, been dropped, had success again…the familiar cycle of the novelist who has come up through the traditional route.  We’re all three now well established and successful, with new books hitting the shelves, but we still email every day.

What’s next for Trisha Ashley?

I’m hard at work on a new book, to be published in 2016.

It may be a little early, but I’d just like to wish everyone a very  Happy Christmas!

If you’d like to follow me on twitter, you will find me at and my website is

Thank you so much for chatting to me, Trisha! Trisha’s latest book, A Christmas Cracker, is published by Avon and on sale now from all good bookshops.

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin blog tour


The Little Bookshop on the Seine

Release day blitz!

La Vie En Rose

Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has been offered the opportunity to exchange bookshops with her new Parisian friend for 6 months! And saying yes is a no-brainer – after all, what kind of a romantic would turn down a trip to Paris…for Christmas?

Even if it does mean leaving the irresistible Ridge Warner behind, Sarah’s sure she’s in for the holiday of a lifetime – complete with all the books she can read!

Imagining days wandering around Shakespeare & Co, munching on croissants, sipping café au laits and watching the snow fall on the Champs-Élysées Sarah boards the plane.

But will her dream of a Parisian Happily-Ever-After come true? Or will Sarah realise that the dream of a Christmas fairytale in the city of love isn’t quite as rosy in reality…

A deliciously feel-good Christmas romance perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Julia Williams

The Little Paris Collection:

The Little Bookshop on the Seine

The Little Antique Shop under the Eiffel Tower

The Little Perfume Shop off the Champs-Élysées

Also by Rebecca Raisin

The Gingerbread Café trilogy:
Christmas at the Gingerbread Café
Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café
Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café

The Bookshop on the Corner
Secrets at the Maple Syrup Farm

Amazon  UK:

Amazon US:







Rebecca Raisin is a bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in various short-story anthologies, and in fiction magazines, and is now focusing on writing romance. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous men who have brains as well as brawn is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships, and, most importantly, believe in true, once-in-a-lifetime love.

Follow her on Twitter: @jaxandwillsmum




The Little Bookshop on the Seine Blog Tour review


A charming contemporary romance that sparkles with warmth, wit and magic, The Little Bookshop on the Seine is the latest irresistible page-turner from the fabulous Rebecca Raisin!

Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has spent most of her life hiding from the world and seeking refuge in her favourite romance novels. When she met dashing journalist Ridge Warner, Sarah had soon realised that real life can be as thrilling and exciting as her favourite sweeping romances, however, the shy book lover has been feeling rather forlorn lately. While all of her friends are getting married, having babies and going on wild adventures, she cannot help but feel that she has been left behind. With her boyfriend on the other side of the world chasing the next big scoop and her business going through a slump, Sarah yearns for some excitement. She is tired of life passing her by and of always being on the outside looking in, so when her friend Sophie asks her whether she’d like to swap places with her and spend a couple of months managing her bookshop, Once Upon a Time, in Paris, she jumps at the chance of leaving her small town behind for the bright lights of the French capital.

When she arrives in Paris, Sarah is immediately overwhelmed by the romance and majesty of Paris, but her fantasy of sitting in a cosy cafe by the Seine, drinking red wine and reading her favourite books are soon dashed when she realises that Once Upon a Time is a thriving concern that is always heaving with book lovers, which requires her constant time and attention. Having given her word to Sophie, Sarah is not about to let her down, so she rolls up her sleeves and throws herself body and soul into managing Once Upon a Time to the best of her abilities.

Sarah might be busy running Paris’ most popular bookshop, but even her crazy work schedule doesn’t stop her from missing her handsome boyfriend. As their professional commitments force Sarah and Ridge to spend even more time apart, will they end up having to pay the ultimate price for their career aspirations? Or will their love manage to triumph over all the obstacles standing in their way?

I devoured The Little Bookshop on the Seine in a single sitting! Rebecca Raisin has got this wonderful ability of drawing you into her captivating stories from the very first sentence and keeping you engrossed and enthralled until the very last page. The Little Bookshop on the Seine is a spellbinding tale of taking chances, having the courage to step out of your comfort zone and living life on your own terms that is sure to strike a chord with readers everywhere.

Sarah is a terrific heroine I just adored. She’s strong, resourceful, believable and the kind of girl you’d love to have as a best friend. Her love of reading and her passion for romantic novels is sure to endear her to every single person who picks up this book.  I also loved all the other supporting characters in The Little Bookshop on the Seine, especially Lil, CeeCee and TJ.

Rebecca Raisin’s books are an absolute joy to read and if you haven’t discovered her magical stories, then what on earth are you waiting for?