Quench your wanderlust thirst with a foray into fiction
I am an unashamed fan of commercial women’s fiction and romance. And why shouldn’t I be? This genre is full of incredibly talented writers telling clever stories in accessible ways, bringing enjoyment and escapism to their readers; which number in the millions upon millions. I don’t have any time for book snobbery.
At a time when international travel is all but curtailed, diving head long into a book has the power to transport you hundreds or thousands of miles away to glorious areas of the UK or to the four corners of the globe, all from the comfort of your sofa, bed or back garden. Staying home doesn’t mean you have to curb your thirst for wanderlust!
And not only that, but in these often anxious times, a novel can be the perfect tonic. As Milly Johnson, the recipient of the 2020 Romantic Novelists’ Association Outstanding Achievement Award, said in her acceptance speech: “We set off writing stories to entertain and end up giving people a place to go when they need solace from stress. The worse the world is, the more we are needed to be the aloe vera on pressured, anxious lives. We give people hope that happy endings are not just restricted to fiction.”
Here I recommend some of my favourite books of the genre to give you the wanderlust fix lots of us are currently craving.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Jojo Moyes had a huge back catalogue before she had her break out with Me Before You, which was later turned into the hit movie starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. Several of her earlier books were set in times gone by and her stunning release last year, The Giver of Stars, went back to that style. Set in 1930’s Kentucky, the story is a fictional account of the Pack Horse Librarians; a real life group of women who would ride horses to deliver books to remote areas of the Appalachian Mountains. This book and the incredible characters within it will stay with you for days after you finish the last page.
The Minute I Saw You by Paige Toon
I could have picked any of Paige’s impressive collection of novels. She specialises in taking us to far flung places; from the Coober Pedy opal mining community in Australia to the glitz and glamour of a rock star’s mansion in Los Angeles and the historical, romantic city of Rome. Her newest offering, which was released in e-book last month, sees the story set in Cambridgeshire with travels to Amsterdam and South Australia. When Hannah and Sonny meet, there’s an irresistible spark, but both have sworn off relationships and have deeply hidden secrets. Are they both too broken to find love? And if they tear down the walls between them, will they still like what’s on the other side?
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Some special books stay with you for days after you finish reading them. This one stayed with me for weeks. This is Delia Owen’s debut novel but it’s written with the confidence and skill of someone with scores of books to their name. The story of Kya is beautiful and haunting; she’s an unforgettable character who makes her way alone through life in the wilds and marshlands of North Carolina in the 1960’s. It’s part murder mystery and a part coming-of age story and the depictions of the surroundings and nature are exquisite and evocative. Quite simply, this book is sublime.
I Heart Hawaii by Lindsey Kelk
The eighth and final instalment of Lindsey Kelk’s I Heart… series is set in Hawaii, after jaunts around the world including Hollywood, Las Vegas and Paris. As the story reaches its conclusion, heroine Angela Clark accepts an invitation from her best friend Jenny Lopez to Hawaii. Desperate to escape New York after struggling to cope under the weight of expectation of ‘Having It All’, she jumps at the chance for some sand, sea and Sex on the Beach (the cocktails obv – Angela would never cheat on her gorgeous husband Alex). But, as we’ve come to expect, it doesn’t quite go to plan… This was quite possibly my favourite of the entire series.
One Thousand Stars and You by Isabelle Broom
Isabelle is a lean, mean, writing machine. Since launching her debut novel four years ago, she’s already onto her seventh release! All of her books transport her readers on magical journeys around the world with her characters; from Spain to Prague and Lake Como to Zakynthos. One Thousand Stars and You is set in Sri Lanka and the descriptions of the colourful and chaotic location are evocative. When Alice and Max meet by chance, sparks fly. But with Alice’s past keeping her prisoner and Max’s holding him back, their future is uncertain.
Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher
Giovanna Fletcher’s debut novel is still my favourite. Sophie keeps a secret; one that saw her give up her dreams of going to university and travelling the world and instead kept her in her local village, working in the charming local teashop. Her world is turned on its axis with the arrival of Billy, an actor set for stardom, who is filming in the area. When they fall in love Sophie is whisked away from her comfortable life into a jet set, yet ruthless world. Can she handle life in the spotlight that comes with the territory of being with Billy? And is she ready for her secret to be discovered by the nation?
Maybe This Time by Jill Mansell
Reading a book by Jill Mansell is like getting a massive hug – and who doesn’t need a hug in these unprecedented times? This book is set in a pretty Cotswolds village and also sees our heroine, Mimi, living for a stint in the beautiful resort of Puerto Pollensa in Majorca. It’s a story about meeting the right person at the wrong time. For Mimi and Cal, it seems like something, or someone, will always get in the way. Will it ever be their time?
Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding
This list wouldn’t be complete without the book that resonated with a generation. For a book that celebrates is 25th anniversary next year (What? How?!), this still reads like it’s fresh off the press. Set in London, the iconic Bridget navigates life, love and her career with her eclectic bunch of friends and family in and around our beloved capital city. Her adventures still make me laugh on the nth read and I still need to take some of her advice. So, post lockdown, I promise to find a nice sensible boyfriend to go out with and not continue to form romantic attachments with any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment-phobics, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits or perverts. Bridget, we will always love you… just the way you are.