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Romantic writers reveal their passion for Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 19:30 11 February 2020

Rachel Hore  Picture: Charlotte Murphy

Rachel Hore Picture: Charlotte Murphy

Charlotte Murphy

With sweeping beaches, restless seas, star-studded skies and countryside alive with birds and bees, this is a landscape for love. Four romantic writers reveal their passion for Norfolk

Heidi Swain   Picture: DENISE BRADLEYHeidi Swain Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Rachel Hore's own love story includes marrying one of her authors, DJ Taylor. She was an editor for a publisher before beginning writing herself. Her 10th novel, The Love Child, was published in January. Set between the world wars it tells the story of a child searching for the mother she has never known. "There is plenty of romance in it, too!" said Rachel who lives in Norwich with her husband and their youngest son.

Where is the most romantic place in Norfolk?

Whether there's a sharp winter wind or blazing sunshine it's hard to beat Holkham Beach for generating a feeling of exhilaration and a zest for life. With its vast expanse of rolling sands, the sight of horses galloping by the water's edge, the fringe of pinewoods, this is a setting for high romance, the Norfolk equivalent of Poldark's Cornwall.

Pam BrooksPam Brooks

What prompted you to start writing romances?

For me, the romance is always part of my story, not the whole of it. In The Dream House, my first novel, I wanted to write about family relationships, our connection to the past and our search for personal happiness. Romantic love, of course, comes into that.

Mary Mackie's book 'Chris'is  based on the life of her husband. Picture: Ian BurtMary Mackie's book 'Chris'is based on the life of her husband. Picture: Ian Burt

What do you enjoy about writing romances?

I love discovering what it is that is keeping two people apart - another relationship or a misunderstanding, for instance - and dramatising their personal journeys before allowing them to get together. In the best romantic fiction - from Jane Austen onwards - it's the way the writer explores character that makes a novel feel believable and memorable. I also enjoy finding an ending that is truly satisfying. It can be a mistake to tie up all the ends happily because we all know that life isn't like that.

Who is the love of your life?

I would get into a huge pile of trouble if I didn't say David, my husband of 30 years, but fortunately this is true! There are many kinds of love, naturally, and love changes across the course of a relationship, so it can be a problematic question to answer. I was brought up in a traditional way to believe that there would be a 'Mr Right', but we now tend to see that as a simplistic approach and I certainly don't believe it any more. Is there such a thing as 'true love'? Is there really 'someone for everyone', 'plenty more fish in the sea' and all those other platitudes? These days all I can safely say is that everything is usually more complicated!

Heidi Swain lives with her family just south of Norwich. Her 10th novel, The Secret Seaside Escape, set in the fictional Norfolk coastal village of Wynmouth, will be out in April.

Where is the most romantic place in Norfolk?

There are so many beautiful landscapes and views in Norfolk but one place does stand out for me and that's Wells-next-the-Sea. It has it all - stunning scenery, a sandy beach, great walks and lovely places to eat, stay and shop. It's a perfectly romantic spot at any time of year.

What prompted you to start writing romances?

I never wanted to be anything other than an author, but it took me an awfully long time to pluck up the courage and try my hand at getting published. Once I'd made the commitment however, my love of a happy ever after prompted me to write commercial fiction with a romantic twist. Strong female friendships and family relationships are also important threads throughout the plots of my books.

What do you enjoy about writing romances?

Writing romance gives me the opportunity to tell wonderful stories set in beautiful places. All of my books have been set in and around Cambridgeshire, Norwich and the Norfolk coast. I'm able to whisk my characters away to somewhere warm and welcoming where they can discover themselves and solve their problems as they fall in love.

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Pam Brooks lives just outside Norwich with her husband and two children and writes for Mills and Boon as Kate Hardy. Her book, One Night to Remember, is out this month. "It's about an archaeologist who has a mad fling with a cellist - except then she rescues a child from an accident, bumps her head and can't remember anything," said Pam. "I'm currently working on a romance about a lepidopterist and an architect - and that one has a lot of Norfolk in it. I made my research team come with me to Warham Camp and Wheatfen Broad to see the butterflies - utterly amazing and such a privilege to see. That'll be out later in 2020, my 90th book for Mills and Boon. I've also written a few others, including some local history books so I'm somewhere around the 125-130 mark!"

Where is the most romantic place in Norfolk?

Can I be greedy and have two? The first is Wells-next-the-Sea - the perfect place to walk hand-in-hand for miles - and the second is Blickling Great Wood when the bluebells

are out.

What prompted you to start writing romances ?

I read my first Mills and Boon when I was 12, and that's when I fell in love with romance. I'd written stories ever since I can remember, and that book crystallised for me that I wanted to write love stories with happy endings.

What do you enjoy about writing romances?

That my characters learn to compromise and earn their happy ending.

Who is the love of your life?

My husband. We've been together 35 years this summer!

Mary Mackie of Heacham has had more than 70 books published. The most recent, Hunstanton's Highland Heroes, is about Scottish soldiers who were based in Norfolk in 1915 before being sent to fight in Turkey. She is now working on a family saga inspired by the soldiers, and on her memoirs. "I believe everyone should try to record their own memories," said Mary. "They can turn out to be useful social history if nothing else." Her book, Chris, tells her late husband's story. He was an orphan, and evacuated four times, eventually ending up in Heacham. "We could never think how the story would conclude. Then in 2012 he finally found his family and I was able at last to write the book, which came out shortly before he died," said Mary.

Where is the most romantic place in Norfolk?

Near a huge oak tree in the woods at Felbrigg Hall, about where the 'rides' meet in a V. Legend has it that wartime pilots would use this as a homing-in point. I once hugged this tree (that is, I leaned on it with my arms round part of its enormous trunk) and really felt myself to be just a part of the whole wide world of nature. Which is of course a fact - we are all a part of the whole and at certain special moments you can feel the connection.

What prompted you to start writing romances?

I've always been a romantic and, perhaps, a fantasist. In real life those moments of real romance are few and far between, so, I guess, I started inventing some fictional ones. The advantage being that when writing fiction you always know there is going to be a 'happy' ending - though this is not always true. One of my heroes turned out to be a real nasty sort and my heroine went off him. Happily there was a nicer man waiting in the wings.

Who is the love of your life?

My late husband, our two sons and my four grandchildren.

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