Author Rosie Howard believes it’s high time West Sussex was given the kind of romantic, idyllic, feel-good literature that the West Country so routinely inspires.
Her answer is the fictional Sussex market town of Havenbury, a place which draws on Arundel and Chichester – and launches her new series of books.
The Homecoming is the first instalment, a heart-warming and witty new tale that combines a cosy Sussex setting with relationship drama and a cast of endearing characters. As Rosie says, it will be just perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Veronica Henry, Carole Matthews and Jill Mansell.
“I was having a conversation with my agent when she first decided to represent me, and we were talking about developing a series. And she said that Havenbury sounded like my safe place. The clue is in the name!
“It’s an environment I have created where I love to spend time, where I love meeting my characters. The tone is absolutely an entertaining and feel-good book, attractive characters in an idyllic setting.”
Busy with life and work in London, Maddy has put behind her the trauma which caused her to flee the Sussex market town of Havenbury. Or so she thinks…
When she’s asked to help run the slightly-shabby Havenbury Arms after her old friend Patrick suffers a heart attack, how can she refuse? But that’s when the panic attacks return worse than ever.
Psychologist Ben is sure he can help Maddy face her fears, but as he finds himself falling for her, he is also struggling with a recently-uncovered family secret that heaps uncertainty on everything...
Behind the light touch and the romcom fun, however, lies Rosie’s own trauma.
“I am far too lazy to make things up,” she laughs. “I have ruthlessly pillaged my own experience.
“When I was 18, somebody spiked my drink with acid. I didn’t realise what had happened. I went to bed and I went to sleep, and the next thing I knew I had loads of broken bones. At some point I had jumped or was pushed or fell three storeys down onto concrete.
“I am still feeling the effects of it, physically and psychologically, 30 years later. When something like that happens, it changes the way that you look at the whole world. This book is a romcom. It’s a feel-good. But I suppose I can’t help but deal with the issues that have bugged me for all these years… the fact that I can’t remember what happened. I understood that somebody spiked my drink, but I can’t remember what happened after that. You have just got to come to terms with the fact that somebody could do that to you.
“My protagonist in the book experienced a very similar incident, and her problem is her lack of ability to remember.
“I suppose it is something that has been very big in my own life. I think I was exploring the issues here. I am not sure it has been terribly helpful, but it also helped bring together some lovely themes that I could enjoy exploring!
“The protagonist is looking for answers. She has been avoiding the place for three years, and when she comes back to Havenbury, she finds her memories and her lack of memories there unbearable…”
It’s a place Rosie, who lives just outside Arundel, is certainly hoping to return to repeatedly.
“It is a two-book deal with Allison & Busby, and I appreciate their faith in me. But it was about time someone was writing about rural Sussex in this way. There is another manuscript in the pipeline. We are just going to have to see where it goes. If people like Havenbury, then there will be more!”
The Homecoming (Havenbury 1) by Rosie Howard is published in hardback by Allison & Busby at £19.99.
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