A few years ago I was asked by Romance Matter’s magazine to write an article about what is it about Britain’s most south westerly county that draws so many creative souls to try and capture its flavour on paper? With the recent publication of A Cornish Escape (previously Abi’s House), I find myself considering that question once again.
Is it the natural geography and geology, the bark-like squawk of the seagulls, the sea, the sand, the salty air, or the aroma of vinegar soaked fish and chips with a promise of an ice cream made from clotted cream to follow?
The sheer majesty of Cornwall, from the haunting spectacle of Tintagel to the crashing of waves against the Battery Rocks in Penzance, alongside the quiet beauty of its villages and narrow country lanes, have conjured and bewitched the imagination of poets, novelists, artists, and potters since mankind first decided that cave walls would look much nicer with pretty pictures on them.
For me however, it wasn’t the scenery which drew me to place the adventures of Abi Carter in Cornwall; it was nostalgia. A nostalgia which I’ve come to learn also applies to a large number of my readers; many of whom have been kind enough to tell me that my stories have transported them back to Cornish childhood holidays.
A Cornish Escape (previously Abi’s House) and its soon to be released sequel, A Cornish Wedding (previously Abi’s Neighbour), are set in the Penwith region of Cornwall. Particularly, the picturesque settlements of Sennen, Sennen Cove, St Just and St Buryan, as well as Penzance.
This very specific area of Cornwall is awash with memories for me. Memories I’ve adapted to form the background of two romance novels.
My Dad was born in Penzance and brought up in a terrace house on Alma Place. His mother, my Nan, ran a lodging house there, taking evacuees in during the Second World War- one of whom never left and became a sort of Great Uncle. My Grandad was a butcher at the long forgotten International Supermarket on St Jews Street; I still can’t conceive how he could cut joints of meat so finely!
Every school summer holiday was spent taking the lifetime long, motorway free, drive from Wiltshire to Penzance. My brother and I would spend weeks building sandcastles on Marazion beach. We’d try and skim pebbles across the surface of the sea (a skill I never mastered), and we’d squint through a pair of my Grandad’s ancient binoculars from the house’s attic bedroom window, straight across the sea and into the windows of St Michael’s Mount.
Each morning we’d wake to the sound of the Scillonian passenger ferry as she made her way from Penzance to the Isles of Sicily. Each evening we’d head to bed with that stretched face feeling that only comes from prolonged exposure to sea air.
I clearly recall the excitement of queuing up outside the fudge shop on St Jews Street in Penzance, desperately trying to make the impossible decision about which flavour of fudge to buy with my pocket money. I remember wondering why the pavements in the centre of Penzance are so high, and sitting with my parents outside various coffee shops along the front; fast melting ice creams dripping all over our hands.
It is this side of Cornwall, the minor events which add up to a feeling of happy security and contentment, that are as important in my novels as the seaside setting and the ready availability of a really good cream tea.
Abi Carter is on a mission to break away from a suffocating and unhappy life on the edge of London. I wanted to relocate her to a place she’d loved as a child. Somewhere that felt friendly and safe before she’d even got there.
While I was thinking about where I could send Abi, I remembered a house I’d seen in Sennen when I was about eight years old. It was an end terrace, halfway up a hill, overlooking the cove. I don’t know if the house has a name, but as soon as the memory came back to me, I called it Abbey’s House; a place destined to become the focus of Abi Carter’s story.
The scene was set. It was time for children’s illustrator, Abi Carter, to go in search of the stone built ex-miners house that, when she was eight years old, her parent’s joked should be hers because she was called Abi.
Now in her twenties, newly widowed Abi is on her way to Sennen to make friends and start her new life. She is also providing me with a way of sending a literary thank you postcard to the county that forms the basis of my own childhood memories, as well as a memorial to my Grandparents, who formed part of the Penzance community for so many years.
You can buy A Cornish Escape from all good book retailers, including – https://tinyurl.com/ybzmd75k
A Cornish Wedding will be launched on 2nd July.
Happy reading – and stay safe.