Wednesday Windback with Janet MacLeod Trotter @MacLeodTrotter

Today I’m delighted to revisit my Five on Friday interview with Janet MacLeod Trotter which was first posted in October 2018. It’s been brought up to date to reflect Janet’s latest publications. Janet has had 24 books published, 19 of them historical family dramas.

Janet’s India-set novels, such as The Raj Hotel series, were inspired by the discovery of a treasure-trove of long-lost family diaries, letters and cine films left by her grandparents who had lived and worked in Northern India from the 1920s to the ’50s. ‘Reading their frank and intimate words brought my grandparents vividly and poignantly alive for me, long after their deaths.’ Janet first went to India herself on an overland bus at the age of 18, eager to see the land where her grandfather had been a forester and her mother had spent her childhood. Her India Teas series, set in Britain and India, has proved hugely popular. The Tea Planter’s Daughter (the first in the series) was nominated for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year and was an Amazon top ten best seller. It has gone on to be a best-seller in translation, including in Russian, French, Italian and Spanish.

Janet’s storytelling has brought recognition: her first historical novel, The Hungry Hills, was nominated for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, while In the Far Pashmina Mountains was shortlisted for the RNA Historical Romantic Novel of 2019.

She has written for teenagers and numerous short stories for women’s magazines, some of which are published in an ebook anthology Ice Cream Summer. She has been a columnist and reviewer for The Newcastle Journal and editor of The Clan MacLeod Magazine. Her childhood memoirs of Durham and Skye in the 1960’s, Beatles & Chiefs, was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Home Truths.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

Over to Janet:

Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

I Want to Hold Your Hand by the Beatles – it conjures up childhood memories of playing pretend guitars with my brother Rory (me being Paul and he being John) and wearing our plastic Beatles wigs!

Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones – my ultimate dance tune.

My Home played on the bagpipes by my son Charlie. It reduced me to tears at a recent clan gathering – and was my dad’s favourite pipe tune.

Hide in Your Shell by Supertramp – reminds me of being on a bus trip to India in 1976 where it was played so often that the tape nearly wore out. Yes, it was tapes in those days! As I had just left school, the journey opened my eyes to a wider world of amazing diversity. It inspired my mystery novel, The Vanishing of Ruth.

The Gael by the Vatersay Boys (or any of their uptempo ceilidh music). It reminds me of so many good memories of family Hogmanays and impromptu ceilidhs.

What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.

Photos of my one year-old granddaughter Connie.

Coffee beans – continental ones from Cuttea Sark in Edinburgh mixed with Café Direct’s coffee club selection.

My Kindle – it’s a Mary Poppins-like bottomless bag, except for books!

The sea – a beach walk and a sea swim are good for body and soul.

Tea – Darjeeling First Flush for breakfast and Rooibos throughout the day. My tea consumption has definitely increased since writing the India Tea Series!

Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?

It doesn’t matter that you can’t spell – word processing spell checking will come along one day!

Ask your grandparents all those questions about their life in India before it’s too late.

Procrastination isn’t always bad – it can give you thinking time.

When you took that writer’s correspondence course and were offered your money back because you hadn’t earned a penny by the end of it, don’t worry! One day, writing will be your living.

Never stop challenging perceived wisdom – one day women will become sailors! (See below)

Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you

I became a feminist at the age of three or four when I was told I couldn’t become a sailor when I grew up; I could only be a wren. (I used to like dressing up in my Dad’s naval hat). I was baffled and indignant to learn that wrens didn’t go to sea – it was my first conscious experience of girls not being treated as equal to boys.

Aged 8, I starred in a BBC docudrama about the 1926 Miners’ Strike as the coal owner’s daughter. My speaking part was left on the cutting-room floor but I still got paid six guineas and was on telly for about ten seconds!

Aged 18, I climbed on an old Bristol bus in London and got off four months later in Katmandu.

I’m named after my great-granny Janet. She and her three daughters were members of the suffragette WSPU in Edinburgh and my grand-aunt Belle was their champion newspaper seller in all of Scotland.

My four brothers and I have a family tradition of smacking Tunnocks tea cakes on our foreheads before eating them. I have no idea why! Does anyone else do this?

Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.

Visit all the cities that appear on the list of independent Europa cinemas (even if I start now I think this is a lifetime’s work!)

Return to Rawalpindi and Lahore in Pakistan to find where my grandparents lived on and off from 1922 till 1950.

Walk a pilgrim route.

Drink a cocktail at Raffles in Singapore.

Live long enough to dance to Brown Sugar at Connie’s 21st!

Janet’s Books

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

The Raj Hotel Series

The Emerald Affair (Book 1)

In this evocative tale of life in India between the wars, friendships will be tested and loyalties torn. But can love win the day?

In Scotland in the aftermath of the First World War, nurse Esmie McBride meets handsome Captain Tom Lomax at her best friend Lydia’s home. Esmie is at first concerned for Tom’s shell shock, then captivated by his charm, but it’s effervescent Lydia he marries, and the pair begin a new adventure together in India.

When marriage to Tom’s doctor friend Harold offers Esmie the chance to work in India, the two sets of newlyweds find themselves living wildly different lives on the subcontinent. Esmie, heartbroken but resolved, is nursing at a mission hospital on the North West Frontier. Lydia, meanwhile, is the glamorous mistress of the Raj Hotel, where Tom hopes his sociable new wife will dazzle international guests.

As Esmie struggles with her true feelings for Tom and the daily dangers of her work, Lydia realises the Raj is not the centre of high society she had dreamed of. And when crisis strikes both couples, Esmie faces a shattering choice: should she stay the constant friend she’s always been, or risk everything and follow her heart?

The Sapphire Child (Book 2)

In the dying days of the Raj, can paths divided by time and circumstance ever find each other again?

In 1930s Northern India, childhood friends Stella and Andrew have grown up together in the orbit of the majestic Raj Hotel. Spirited Stella has always had a soft spot for boisterous Andrew, though she dreams of meeting a soulmate from outside the close-knit community. But life is turned on its head when one scandal shatters their friendship and another sees her abandoned by the man she thought she loved.

As the Second World War looms, Andrew joins the army to fight for freedom. Meanwhile in India, Stella, reeling from her terrible betrayal, also throws herself into the war effort, volunteering for the Women’s Auxiliary Corps, resigned to living a lonelier life than the one she dreamed of as a child.

When Andrew returns to the East on the eve of battle with Japan, the two former friends are reunited, though bitter experience has changed them. Can they rekindle what they once had or will war demand of their friendship the ultimate sacrifice?

The Diamond Daughter (Book 3)

In this emotional story set in 1946 post-war India, can a woman’s quest for love survive shocking secrets and betrayal?

Filled with excitement and a little trepidation, Jeanie Munro is returning to India and her husband Mungo, having been forced apart from him by the long years of the Second World War. She has high hopes of helping him with his new role as headmaster of the prestigious Nicholson’s School in the idyllic setting of Murree in the foothills of the Himalayas. Together, they can start their longed-for family. But post-war India is in a ferment of change and the undercurrents of tension begin to disturb their tranquil outpost. Still grieving for her beloved brother, killed in action in the recent war, Jeanie – vivacious and optimistic by nature – tries to make the most of her new life. But after serving in the Anti-Aircraft Brigade during the war, she is no longer the biddable, naive young wife who left India in 1939 and finds life at Nicholson’s restrictive and lonely. Despite Mungo disapproving of them, her only true friends are the Lomaxes, a family haunted by scandal and owners of the glamorous Raj Hotel in Rawalpindi. Invited to the Raj for an Anglo-Indian wedding, Jeanie finds escape and enjoyment among this vibrant mixed-race community – and is especially drawn to handsome, fun-loving Rick – but knows that duty must not allow their mutual attraction to grow. Then, just as Jeanie is becoming reconciled to her lot, explosive, long-buried secrets come to light that shake her world to the core – and leave her facing the hardest decisions of her life.

The India Tea Series

In the fertile valleys of India, the passionate and resourceful women of the Belhaven and Robson tea planter families have always dreamt big, even in the momentous early years of the twentieth century. From the majestic mountains of Assam to the industrial streets of northern Britain, they must learn to cope with hidden secrets, forbidden love, betrayal and adversity as they strive to make life better for themselves and their loved ones. But as they embark on epic adventures across a fast-changing world, will the upheavals of war and the dying days of the British Raj stop their dreams from becoming a reality?

The Tea Planter’s Daughter (Book 1)

From sumptuous India to gritty Newcastle, beautiful Clarissa must undertake a heart-wrenching journey to find a new life.

1904 INDIA: beautiful and headstrong Clarissa Belhaven and her delicate sister Olive find their carefree life on their widowed father’s tea plantation threatened by his drinking and debts. Wesley Robson, a brash young rival businessman, offers to help save the plantation in exchange for Clarrie’s hand in marriage, but her father flatly refuses. When Jock Belhaven dies suddenly, his daughters are forced to return to their father’s cousin in Tyneside and work long hours in his pub. In Newcastle, Clarrie is shocked by the dire poverty she witnesses, and dreams of opening her own tea room, which could be a safe haven for local women. To provide a living for herself and Olive, Clarrie escapes her dictatorial cousin Lily and takes a job as housekeeper for kindly lawyer Herbert Stock. But Herbert’s vindictive son Bertie, jealous of Clarrie’s popularity, is determined to bring about her downfall. Then Wesley Robson comes back into Clarrie’s life, bringing with him a shocking revelation … 

The Tea Planter’s Bride (Book 2)

In the 1920s Raj, hidden secrets and forbidden love will change two lives forever.

When Sophie is suddenly orphaned at the age of six, she is taken from her parents’ tea plantation, the only home she has ever known, to be raised halfway across the world in Scotland.

As the years pass and her exotic childhood becomes a distant memory, adventurous Sophie finds refuge in her friendship with her kind cousin, Tilly. It is no surprise when the girls follow each other to India to embark on new adventures, new lives and new loves.

But the reality of 1920s India is far removed from their dream: the jungles are too humid and the breathtaking tea gardens too remote. And amongst the stifling beauty, intrigue abounds; while Sophie struggles with affairs of the heart, Tilly, alone in a difficult world, delves into the mystery of Sophie’s parents’ deaths. As the past begins to darken their friendship, will long-held secrets shatter everything they’ve ever striven for?

The Girl from the Tea Garden (Book 3)

She’s half the world away, but her heart remains in India.

In the dying days of the Raj, Anglo-Indian schoolgirl Adela Robson dreams of a glamorous career on the stage. When she sneaks away from school in the back of handsome Sam Jackman’s car, she knows a new life awaits – but it is not the one she imagined. In Simla, the summer seat of the Raj government, Adela throws herself into all the dazzling entertainments 1930s Indian society can offer a beautiful débutante. But just as her ambitions seem on the cusp of becoming reality, she meets a charming but spoilt prince, setting in motion a devastating chain of events.

The outbreak of the Second World War finds Adela back in England – a country she cannot remember – without hope or love, and hiding a shameful secret. Only exceptional courage and endurance can pull her through these dark times and carry her back to the homeland of her heart.

The Secrets of the Tea Garden (Book 4)

She’s gone in search of happy memories. But was her idyllic childhood in India an illusion?

After the Second World War, Libby Robson leaves chilly England for India, and the childhood home where she left her heart—and her beloved father, James—fourteen years ago.

At first Libby is intoxicated by India’s vibrant beauty: the bustle of Calcutta, the lush tea gardens of Assam. But beneath the surface a rebellion is simmering: India is on the brink of Independence, and the days of British rule are numbered. As the owner of a tea plantation, James embodies the hated colonial regime, and Libby finds herself questioning her idealised memories—particularly when she meets the dashing freedom fighter Ghulam Khan.

As Independence looms, life in India becomes precarious for Libby, James and even Ghulam. And when James reveals a shameful family secret, Libby is forced to question her past—and her future.

Click on the image for The India Tea Series in one volume

The Rebellious Women Sagas

A Crimson Dawn (Book 1)

Emmie Kelso is only nine years old when she is rescued from a dingy Gateshead tenement and sent to Crawdene for her health; taken in to the vibrant, loving household of the MacRaes, a radical mining family. Blossoming into a pretty, spirited young woman, Emmie is swept off her feet by handsome miner Tom Curran, but learns too late of his possessive, violent nature. As war engulfs Europe in 1914, Tom enlists but Emmie joins the MacRaes and others in their cries for peace. Working alongside Rab, the MacRaes eldest son, their childhood devotion to each other sparks into a love too strong to hide. But when Rab is arrested as a conscientious objector and Emmie becomes an outcast in her own home, her ideals and love are put to the ultimate test, in this dramatic and heart-wrenching story.

The Suffragette (Book 2)

Raised in the slums of Edwardian Tyneside, spirited and out-spoken Maggie Beaton joins the ranks of the suffragettes, determined to prove herself to her more wealthy comrades, in particular Alice Pearson, haughty daughter of the powerful local shipbuilder. But Maggie is betrayed by someone close and is soon a fugitive, spurned by family and friends. Only miner and passionate man, George Gordon, stands by her and for a blissful time his love is enough. But war is looming and Maggie is left alone and pregnant. Will she ever see George again? Her courage and endurance will be tested to the limit, in this heartbreakingly moving and inspiring novel.

Click image for both books in one volume

The Highland Romance Collection

The Flower of Scotland (Book 1)

Scotland, 1722: on a remote and windswept Scottish island an enigmatic poetess foretells tragedy for the proud Macdonalds of Clanranald and the birth of an extraordinary child. That child is the passionate and free-spirited Flora, daughter of Marion. Flora’s early years are spent roaming around her father’s cattle farm, running wild and free with her brother and his friends. From early on she adores fair Neil MacEachen. But when her father dies suddenly, Flora and her mother are plunged into poverty and it seems beautiful Flora is destined to skivvy in the kitchen and dairy for her harsh aunt. Until one night dashing soldier, One-eyed Hugh, her mother’s former lover, kidnaps mother and daughter and takes them to Skye where he swiftly marries Marion.
Back on the Outer Isles they settle into family life and Flora is taken under the wing of the lively Lady Clan, the chief’s wife, who teaches her the skills of a noblewoman. Flora still dreams of the day she might marry the handsome Neil, who has by now disappeared to France. But when the Clanranalds are invited to the grand wedding of the MacDonald chief of Sleat in Skye, Flora finds herself irresistibly drawn to dark-haired, teasing and passionate Allan of Kingsburgh, one of the mighty Skye MacDonalds, who makes no secret of his desire for her. Her heart is torn; she loves the mysterious and increasingly elusive Neil but struggles to control her attraction to Allan, who is meanwhile being groomed for a prestigious match with the chief of MacLeod’s daughter.
Before affairs of the heart can be resolved, the exiled Prince Charles Stuart lands on the Outer Isles in his bid to win back the crown and his arrival ignites the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Scotland is plunged into bloody civil war; families and clans are torn apart in their loyalties and Flora’s fate is changed forever. She faces the biggest decision of her life – whether or not to help the now fugitive Prince to escape the islands and certain execution – knowing that to do so will not only put her own life in danger, but those of the people she loves most in the world.

*** This novel was first published as THE JACOBITE LASS ***

The Beltane Fires (Book 2)

Chief’s daughter, the fiery Mairi Lismore is in love with Douglas Roskill, heir to Duntorin Castle, but they are wrenched apart by the zealous witch-hunts of Zechariah Black and the jealousy of her step-sister. Sent to the Royal Court of James VI in Edinburgh, Mairi discovers that its gaiety and glitter hide dark treachery and the ruthless ambition of Robert Boswell who determines to have her for himself at any cost. With treason, betrayal and revenge thwarting Mairi and Douglas’s attempts to be reunited, this is a gripping historical love story which moves from the embattled fringes of the Scottish Highlands to the dangers and intrigues of 16th century Edinburgh.

Highlander in Muscovy (Book 3)

1700s: Beautiful and impulsive Katherine Putulo, daughter to a Scots doctor, has been raised in the foreign quarter of Muscovy (Moscow) among European émigrés. On her sister’s wedding day, Katherine recklessly disguises herself as a Russian maid servant and slips away to the forbidden part of the city to join in the revelry of Tsar Peter’s victorious returning army, dancing the night away with the native Russians. There she captures the interest of hardened mercenary and handsome Scottish Highlander, Major Alexander Ballantyne, one of the Tsar’s bravest officers who has caused a scandal by taking a Russian princess as his mistress.

Click on image for The Highland Romances in one volume

The Tyneside Sagas

A Handful of Stars (Book 1)

It’s 1931 and the Depression has brought Tyneside to its knees. Young, pretty Clara Magee is devastated when her father commits suicide leaving secrets behind him and the family is forced to sell their fancy-goods shop to a German couple. Despite her mother Patience’s disapproval, Clara befriends their daughter Rennie and hot-headed son Benny, but her heart lies with their dashing elder brother Frank. Patience thinks businessman Vinnie Craven, who runs the local boxing hall, a far better catch for Clara. When Frank leaves abruptly for Germany, Vinnie single-mindedly pursues the vivacious Clara, determined to make her his wife. Tempted by the glamorous life-style Vinnie is offering and security for her family, Clara buries her feelings for Frank. But she hadn’t bargained for Vinnie’s ruthless nature or growing fascination for Mosley’s Fascist Party. Yet the greatest shock is still to come …Set against the momentous backdrop of rising fascism in the 1930s, A Handful of Stars is an enthralling story of poverty, passion and survival with a captivating young heroine.

Chasing the Dream (Book 2)

1920: Millie escapes the bleak pit village of Craston and eviction when her mother poses as a widow to start a new life running the station hotel in Ashborough. Haunted by childhood poverty Millie sees security and happiness in the form of handsome but wayward Dan Nixon. Dan pursues his own dream of playing professional football as a means of escaping the hardship and dangers of the mines and for a while it seems their dreams will come true. But as tragedy strikes, Millie’s dreams begin to unravel and when a terrible, long-kept secret is exposed, her endurance is tested to the limit.
Passionate, dramatic, and spanning the 1920s to the 1950s, Chasing the Dream is a compelling story about the cost of ambition and the sacrifices we make for love, with a wonderfully warm and compassionate heroine.

For Love & Glory (Book 3)

Warm-hearted, fun-loving Jo Elliot grows up on Tyneside in the 1960’s with her widowed father and older brother Colin and his friends. She has a special bond with the lively but rebellious Mark Duggan who is rejected by his violent father and ignored by his hostile brother Gordon, to whom he can never measure up.
Mark longs for acceptance, but it is mature and masculine Gordon for whom Jo falls dangerously in love. Tragedy unfolds that leaves Jo outcast from her old friends. As she forges an acting career and tries to rebuild her life, war breaks out in the Falklands and both Colin and Mark are called up to fight before she can make her peace. As terrible family secrets come to light that have blighted the two families for years, Jo realises she must act to stop tragedy ruining the future. Emotional, entertaining and utterly engrossing, this magnificent saga explores the depths of love and undying loyalty.

Click image for The Tyneside Sagas in one volume

The Jarrow Trilogy

The Jarrow Lass (Book 1)

Brought up on her parents’ smallholding in Jarrow in the harsh years of the 1870s, selling vegetables to poverty-struck Irish labourers such as the unruly McMullens, Rose dreams of the world beyond the grime of the town, a world she glimpsed at a fairytale wedding on the Ravensworth Estate as a child. Capturing the heart of handsome and respectable steelworker William Fawcett, it seems her wish for a better life is finally within reach. But tragedy strikes, and to save her young family from destitution, Rose must turn to wild John McMullen. A powerful tale of passion and heartache, and a wonderful heroine who – for the sake of those she loves – refuses to give in to loss and despair.

A Child of Jarrow (Book 2)

To escape her possessive and drunken step-father, Kate is sent away from teaming Jarrow to work on the Ravensworth Estate. Swapping a life of hardship for this rural idyll, she is soon attracting the attention of charming, headstrong Alexander, a distant cousin of the Earl. Kate dares to dream of a future with Alexander; but when their love is consummated in one stolen night of passion those dreams are shattered. With her lover forced into an unwanted betrothal, Kate discovers she is pregnant and must return to face the wrath of her step-father and a bleak future. But she refuses to give up hope that one day Alexander might return to claim her and their love child.

Return to Jarrow (Book 3)

Catherine (Kitty) McMullen, is seventeen, restless and rebellious. Resentful of her mother Kate’s new husband, she yearns for stories of the father she never knew and when her gossipy aunt divulges that he was a wealthy gentleman, Catherine’s discontent with grimy, impoverished Jarrow grows. Taking a job at the workhouse laundry, her young eyes are further confronted with the horrors and indignities of poverty, and she becomes even more determined to rise above her wretched surroundings by educating herself. Braving the ridicule of fellow staff, Catherine embarks on a quest for knowledge. Soon the ill-educated and streetwise Kitty McMullen is a ghost from the past, and the well-spoken, well-read Catherine leaves the north-east to follow her dreams. But hardship and heartbreak are not far behind, and there are battles to be fought and won for this plucky and romantic heroine.

Click image for The Jarrow Trilogy in one volume

The Durham Trilogy

The Hungry Hills (Book 1)

With the Great War still raw in the memory and life in the 1920s mining village of Whitton Grange hard and dangerous, Louie Kirkup dreams of a better future. But with a sick mother and a large family of pitman brothers and father, the daily burdens fall heavily on her young shoulders. She fears becoming a spinster drudge until she sets eyes on ‘Red’ Sam Ritson – hard, muscled and a natural leader – climb into the boxing ring at the Durham Miners’ Gala and determines to marry him. But Sam, wedded to his battle for his fellow miners against the ruthless mine owner Seward-Scott, is no ideal husband. As tensions increase and the General Strike looms, Louie’s brother Eb begins an affair with Eleanor, the mine owner’s wife. With the miners locked out of work, Louie fears for the fate of her village and her unborn child. As the strain takes its tragic toll, loving and loyal Louie must stay strong for them all.

The Darkening Skies (Book 2)

When pretty Sara Pallister’s father dies leaving his farm bankrupt, she is begrudgingly taken in by her narrow-minded uncle and aunt in the mining village of Whitton Grange. Made to pay her way, Sara is hired out to Dolly Sergeant’s grocer’s shop where she meets funny, bashful Raymond Kirkup and his warm-hearted aunt Louie. It is through Raymond that she meets the family that is to change her life: the exotic and extrovert Italian Dimarcos who own the popular ice-cream parlour, and finds herself irresistibly drawn to leather-jacketed, motorbike-riding Joe Dimarco. But neither of their families approves the love-match and strive to keep them apart. As the shadows of the Second World War gather and the growing hostility to the Italians erupts into violence, Sara and Joe’s passionate love seems doomed. With its vivid backdrop of a pit-town strained by the tensions of war, The Darkening Skies is a vibrant and moving story of conflicting loyalties, passions and cultures.

Never Stand Alone (Book 3)

When Carol Shannon, the unruly daughter of Brassbank’s pit manager, falls for young miner, Mick Todd, their defiant relationship causes a storm in the close-knit mining village. For the bitterness between their families runs as deep as the coal seams that are Brassbank’s lifeblood. But the hardest battles are still to come for rebellious Carol. With 1984 dawns the year long Miner’s Strike that divides the nation and sets communities at war. Hardship not only threatens Brassbank’s survival, but pushes Carol and Mick’s passionate union to breaking point, leaving tragedy in its wake. Set against the fascinatingly vivid backdrop of a momentous time, Never Stand Alone is an impassioned novel of a woman’s fight for her community, her family and the man she loves.

Click image for The Durham Trilogy in one collection


In the Far Pashmina Mountains

From shipwreck and heartbreak to treachery and war: can their love survive?

Abandoned as a baby and raised in a remote lighthouse off the wild Northumberland coast, Alice Fairchild has always dreamed of adventure. When a fierce storm wrecks a ship nearby, she risks everything in an act of bravery that alters the course of her life.

Aboard the doomed vessel is the handsome John Sinclair, a Scottish soldier on his way to India. The connection between them is instant, but soon fate intervenes and leaves Alice heartbroken and alone. Determined to take charge of her destiny but secretly hoping her path will cross again with John’s, she too makes a new start in colonial India.

Life there is colourful and exotic, but beneath the bright facade is an undercurrent of violence, and when the British invade Afghanistan, Alice is caught up in the dangerous campaign. When at last she hears news of John, she is torn between two very different lives. But will she follow her head or her heart?

The Vanishing of Ruth

1976: Ruth English and her lover Marcus, go missing in Afghanistan during an overland bus trip to Kathmandu. A generation later, Ruth’s niece Amber, haunted by the disintegration of her family, determines to get at the truth of their disappearance. Was it murder, as her father suspected, or a suicide pact as the police believed? Tracking down the trip’s bus driver, Cassidy, Amber starts to piece together a lost world: the mystical vibrant – sometimes dangerous – hippy trail to India. As the mystery surrounding her aunt and the charismatic Marcus unfolds, Amber begins a journey of discovery of her own that will lead her not only into the dark secrets of the past but face to face with a tragedy much closer to home.
Bonus content: * Discussion notes for reading groups
Interview with the author about her own overland adventure as an 18 year old that inspired the story

The Haunting of Kulah

1946: far out in the Atlantic a boatload of men returning from war are shipwrecked within sight of their homes on the remote Scottish island of Kulah – and the wailing of the women could be heard across the sea on neighbouring Battersay. But the women are also hiding a shameful secret…
Present Day: When journalist Ally Niven escapes to the remote Scottish island of Battersay after a failed love affair, all she is looking for is a quiet life and a catering job for the summer. But from the outset someone is trying to scare her off and Ally soon discovers that the beautiful surroundings mask tensions among the people who are harbouring ‘Birdwoman’ – a feral young woman found on rocky Kulah. Ally is increasingly attracted to reclusive artist, John Balmain, who has also taken refuge on Battersay, but is elusive about his past. From John, Ally learns of a sinister prophecy which predicted the shipwreck and how Flora, the Flame-haired leader of the Kulah women, would wreak her revenge. Increasingly isolated and intimidated by bizarre attacks on her house and sightings of a lone woman in a blue headscarf that she cannot explain, Ally sets out to discover the truth behind the Kulah story and the secrets the broodingly handsome John is determined to keep from her; as the two stories converge in a shocking climax.

Ice Cream Summer

A collection of emotionally engaging short stories; romantic, sad, funny, ghostly, light-hearted, mysterious and touching. Tales of first love (Ice Cream Summer), ghostly warning (The Haven), baby love (Ray of Sunshine), past secrets that threaten to spoil love (Jackson’s Daughter) and other absorbing reads of family relationships and young love. Ideal bite-size reads to have with a coffee or as fun holiday reading!

Beatles & Chiefs : a ’60s childhood

Featured on BBC Home Truths, this is the delightful memoir of a Beatle-mad, ex-pat Scot growing up in the north-east of England in the 1960s. The only girl in a family of boys, Janet was brought up in the ‘Land of Boy’ – a boarding school in Durham where her father Norman was housemaster. Every year, these seven MacLeods would cram into a Ford Zephyr for the two day journey back to the ancestral home on the Isle of Skye.
Beatlemania, the Girls from U.N.C.L.E, suffragette great-aunts, real chiefs, Donovan-spotting, a pastry scandal and a dash of blood-thirsty clan history – Janet’s tales are amusing and touching, and vividly re-create the lost world of ’60s Durham and the Scottish Highlands before mass tourism.


  1. Thanks so much, Jill, for revisiting this – I’ve had a nostalgic blast listening to the tunes again! Plus, I’ve managed to achieve one of the items on my wish list; drinking a cocktail (in fact two) in Raffles bar lol. It was after attending a family wedding on a beach in Malaysia with bagpipes and ceilidh dancing! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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