Inheritance Books: Eleanor Harkstead

Children Reading by Valerie Everett

This week’s guest on Inheritance Books is Eleanor Harkstead. Hello Eleanor. Why don’t you take a seat on the Inheritance Books sofa and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Profile picture of Eleanor Harkstead

I’m Eleanor Harkstead. I co-write romantic fiction with my friend Catherine Curzon. We’ve adventured into all sorts of genres: contemporary, historical, romcom, paranormal, romantic suspense… By day I’m a librarian. My interests include family history and the history of forensics.

Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?
When I was about 8 or 9, my dad gave me a book that had been his favourite as a child. Now, my dad’s ambition was to be a lighthouse keeper, and to visit every RNLI lifeboat station in the country. He loves Douglas Reman’s WW2 naval adventures, so the book he gave me, and which I read very carefully because it was clearly precious to my dad, came as a surprise.

It was “The Family from One End Street” by Eve Garnett. And there’s very little nautical action in there at all.

The novel was first published in 1937, and it has gorgeous illustrations. The family struggle to get by, the children have adventures, and by the end of the novel, you feel like they’re your friends. Although the novel was almost fifty years old when I read it, it still had the power to enchant me as a reader because the characters, their adventures and their world were so realistic and engaging.

Eleanor Harkstead's bookshelf!

At the beginning of the story, the mum and dad have just seen John Singer Sargent’s painting “Carnation Lily Lily Rose” and they decide to name their daughters after it. And around the time I read the book, we went on a trip to the Tate (you won’t be surprised to learn we only had time for a quick jaunt round the galleries because we’d spent most of the day at the Boat Show in Earl’s Court) and I saw the painting in the flesh. The light from the lanterns in the painting seems to glow. It’s an astonishing artwork, and had an even greater effect on me as it came leaping out of a book at me too.

The Family from One End Street” showed me that even though fiction comes from the imagination, it’s perfectly okay for it to be rooted in the real world too. And it gave me a glimpse into the world of my father’s childhood. Unfortunately, I don’t have the book anymore – I gave it back to my dad!

Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?
My niece and nephew love books – they view them in the same way they do their toys, they’re sources of fun and amusement to them. I’d leave them Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch novels. They’ve been overshadowed by you-know-who, that wizard boy, but Mildred Hubble will always be my heroine. Those stories told me that even the kid who struggles, who’s awkward and odd, can triumph in the end, and that’s a powerful message for any child when they’re growing up and all at sea.

We love the books and the TV series in our house. Well met!

Thank you for sharing your favourite books with us Eleanor. All the best with your latest book.

Book cover for The Dishevelled Duke by Eleanor Harkstead and Catherine Curzon

You can find out more about Eleanor Harkstead and her books on her website, Twitter , Facebook or you can follow her on Bookbub (always a good idea!). Her latest book The Dishevelled Duke is available to buy now

Christmas For Commitmentphobes is out now!

Book cover Christmas For Commitmentphobes. SE Asian girl with snowy festive background

As if one book wasn’t enough, I’ve got a second book out just in time for Christmas. This one is a shorter read (but still a full story). It seems 2019 is my year of releasing LGBTQ+ romances. Christmas for Commitmentphobes and A Convenient Marriage were written many years apart and released under two different pen names, but it seems that now is the time to release books about BAME people who are queer.

Book cover - Asian girl in front of snowy Christmas scene

At Christmastime, the last thing you need is more commitments.

Lara needs to give her full attention to her haulage logistics company (Haulistic Solutions). Tilly can’t wait to go travelling again. Neither of them is ready for a relationship. But when they end up stranded in a village in Yorkshire, the attraction is undeniable.

A holiday romance is all well and good, but what happens when they have to go their separate ways again?

A New Christmas novella! Christmas For CommitmentphobES -coming soon!

At Christmas time, the last thing you need is more commitments.

Lara is so busy trying to get her fledgling software company off the ground that she’s up in Yorkshire, pitching for business, just before Christmas. When bad weather sees the trains cancelled, the only place she can find shelter is a small pub called the Trewton Arms.

Thilini (‘Tilly’) loves that her art helps feed her travel addiction. She’s back in England for Christmas after two years away and can’t wait to be on the move again. 

When they meet their attraction is hard to deny. But what happens when the trains are running again and they have to go their separate ways?

Christmas for Commitmentphobes is a standalone novella in the Trewton Royd small town romance series. If you like closed door romances, with feisty heroines and realistic dialogue, you’ll love Christmas for Commitmentphobes. Ideal for fans of Lucy Parker or Jackie Lau.

Blog Splash for #AConvenientMarriage

Cover showing brown henna patterned hands, making a heart shape

A Convenient Marriage by my alter ego Jeevani Charika is released on Thursday and, in order to celebrate, a few of my author friends are joining me in a blog splash.

We are blogging around three main prompts. Since I set them, it’s only fair that I answer all three:

1.       Both Chaya and Gimhana make huge decisions in their lives to please their families. What’s the strangest thing you’ve done because of your family? …

This was really hard. It’s not strange, as such, but one thing I did was study science. I was good at English and I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was also good at science. My father suggested I do science, so that I can get a real job and then write in my ‘spare time’. So that’s what I did. Studying science at university, meant that I had to stop writing for a long time. But it also meant that I can work part time using my science, which is handy for keeping the wolf from the door. It also means I can give my heroines sciencey professions. Chaya studied Biochemistry and microbiology, just like I did. We are supposed to write what we know, so I gave her my subjects. I gave Gimhana my foodie tendencies and my love of Jem and the Holograms.

2.       One of the ways Gimhana shows he cares is by cooking for Chaya.  Is there a food that evokes particular memories for you? …

Outside school in Colombo, there were street vendors who sold mangoes – not the ripe, juicy ones you’re thinking of, oh no. These mangoes were green and unripe, they were peeled and sliced partway, so that you could hold the base and tear strips of it off to eat. You dipped them in a mixture of salt and chili powder. They cost about 5 rupees, as I recall. They’re an intense burst of salt, sour heat.

These days, I don’t eat much salt and sometimes I get a craving for crisps. Knowing that the thing I’m really craving is salt, I chop up an apple and dip the slices in salt. Every time I pop one in my mouth, I am reminded of the street vendors mangoes and hot, sticky days taking the van home from school, made even stickier by a green mango and bag of chili and salt.

3.       This book spans seventeen years – If you could talk to your younger self from 20 years ago, what would you tell them?

First of all, it came as a bit of shock to realise that 20 years ago, I was already an adult! I would have been a grad student, already in love with the fellow grad student I would marry, and rapidly realising that academia was too confrontational for me. Apart from reassuring my younger self that things would be okay, I would tell her to write more. When I was an undergraduate, I didn’t write fiction. Partly, this was because I didn’t think I was good enough. Surely, I thought, all the clever people doing English would be able to write amazing prose and even if I did submit something to one of the student newspapers, they’d reject it… so I didn’t. It was only as a grad student that I started writing again. Still not fiction – I wrote film and restaurant reviews for the Oxford Daily Information sheet (It was a wonderful thing – brightly coloured A3 sheets that came out daily and were distributed around town). I’d tell my younger self to be brave and join a creative writing group; to write fiction and to meet other writers. If I’d done that, I might have ended up with useful connections. As it happens, I didn’t know anyone who had anything to do with publishing when I left uni. I had to network from the ground up. Thank goodness for the RNA, which was the most fun networking I’ve ever done.

A Convenient Marriage will be released on the 14th of November. This was the first novel I wrote and it has a special place in my heart.

Cover showing brown henna patterned hands, making a heart shape

It was the perfect marriage… until they fell in love.

Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.

Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding for him.

When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow their heart?

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