Today I am honoured to be hosting a guest post by the author Eleanor Harkstead, to celebrate the launch of her latest book with co-author Catherine Curzon, The Colour of Mermaids.
First, here is the book!
Blurb: When artist Eva Catesby is invited to an exhibition in honour of art world enfant terrible Daniel Scott, she’s expected to follow the crowd and sing his praises. Instead she tells him what she really thinks and sparks fly. As they plunge headlong into a wild affair, Eva becomes the target of unwanted attention from an unseen enemy.
Daniel Scott is famous for his paintings. Filled with darkness and tormented imagery, his canvases are as mysterious as his background. Until he meets Eva, Daniel is a stranger to criticism and doesn’t know what it means to fall in love.
Can Eva help Daniel overcome his childhood demons or will a fatal secret from the past destroy their future?
The Colour of Mermaids is published on 24th March (today!) by Totally Bound in ebook and paperback. Available direct from the publisher: https://www.firstforromance.com/book/the-colour-of-mermaids And on Amazon https://mybook.to/thecolourofmermaids and from all other ebook platforms and bookshops.
Now straight over to Eleanor, talking about the power books have to change us…
Books that change us
Novels long been considered by some as purely escapist. In between the pages, readers discover exciting and enticing worlds and characters which are far more interesting than the real world around them. But novels aren’t only escapist. They linger in our minds long after we’ve closed the covers and can affect our lives.
When I was a child, I voraciously devoured C S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I loved being transported into the land of Narnia, just as the children in the book were. But it left me with a rather odd habit that took a few years to shake off.
I became fascinated by wardrobes.
If we visited older relatives, I would sneak off and work my way around their wardrobes and cupboards, looking for Narnia in the back of them. This strange habit has left me with a love of antique wardrobes, the bigger and darker the better, and if they have lots of shelves and drawers in them too then it’s all the better.
I did get caught once by my mum, after I’d vanished for some time at my great-aunt’s house. I don’t think my aunt had bought any new furniture since she’d moved to the house in the 1950s, and a lot of the furniture was much older. There were even two old mangles and irons in the back garden that I used to play with, which dated from the 1920s or even earlier when my great-grandmother had run a laundry. How I didn’t crush my fingers, I don’t know. When my mum walked in on me peering into a wardrobe filled with crimplene frocks, she demanded to know what I was up to. I was taken by surprise and had no time to come up with a lie (because what exactly could I have said?). So I was honest and said, “I’m looking for Narnia.”
Fast-forward several years and I was in my back garden, armed with spade and secateurs, ready to dig up a gnarled old rose. It only managed to put out one rather feeble flower each year, while taking over the flowerbed with long, thorny branches. I did what I could with the secateurs, then it came to digging it up. As I laid into it with the sharp spade, the remaining branches that had been too thick for the secateurs whipped at me, scratching at my face and arms. It felt as if the plant was fighting back, defending itself for all it was worth. It didn’t want to be dug up.
I’d just read Daphne du Maurier’s quietly terrifying short story “The Apple Tree”, in which a man projects his guilt about his late wife onto a tree in his garden. He decides to cut the tree down, with unfortunate consequences. As I battled the rose, that story forced its way into my mind, and I had to stop. I just couldn’t hack away at it anymore.
The rose still lives. I learnt how to properly care for it, bought ladybirds from a garden shop when it was plagued by aphids, and although it’s never grown particularly big, partly because the leaf-cutter bees are overly fond of it, I can at least say it’s a plant that was saved by a book. And it helped to inspire a book, too, because the battle with a gnarled old rose found its way into The Ghost Garden.
Thanks to The Ghost Garden being shortlisted for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards, I got out my best hat and went along to the awards ceremony in London. I was lucky to hear the speech given by author Milly Johnson, who had been awarded the Romantic Novelists’ Association Outstanding Achievement Award.
She tackled headlong the notion that romantic fiction and happy endings are escapist fluff, by saying “We are the glorious counterbalance to this climate of hate.” And she told us about the readers who’d got in touch with her to tell her that her books had inspired them to change their lives. They had started their own businesses, or left abusive relationships. Their lives had been changed through the power of fiction, and that power had stayed long after they’d read the last words and closed the book.
By Eleanor Harkstead
Thank you so much, Eleanor, for your thoughts. I am completely in agreement about the way books can change your life.
I will never forget borrowing a tatty hardback copy of Gone With the Wind to read when I ran out of books as a teenager, staying at the house of a friend of my parents. It was the first time I ever came across the idea of fiction without a happy ending and the shock reverberated through me so strongly that I can feel it to this day. The short-term effect was to temporarily turn me into someone who read the back page first, purely in self-defense. I wasn’t having that kind of realism sneak up on me again!
I confess that, whilst I no longer “cheat” when reading, I do still prefer a happy ending. I like the reassurance that no matter what is happening in the real world, someone somewhere in fiction does still give a damn!
About the authors:
Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead began writing together in the spring of 2017 and swiftly discovered a shared love of sauce, well-dressed gents and a uniquely British sort of romance. They drink gallons of tea, spend hours discussing the importance of good tailoring and are never at a loss for a double entendre.
They are the authors of numerous short stories and two novel series, the de Chastelaine Chronicles, and the Captivating Captains, published by Totally Bound and Pride. Their novel The Ghost Garden was shortlisted for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards.
Find out more at www.curzonharkstead.co.uk
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