Chocolate locations with Carole Matthews

Chocolate lovers
Why a booktrail?

2000s: How lovely is it to spend Christmas with Carole Matthews. She has chocolate!

Story

The third book in the chocolate lovers series sees a Christmas themed book more Christmassy than Christmas itself. The Chocolate Lovers Club is bigger and better than ever. Lucy has been managing the shop Chocolate Heaven for nine months now and it’s the place to meet for her and friends Nadia, Chantal and Autumn.

There are chocolate recipes to discover, some more traditional than others. And for the friends, a boyfriend, a former fiance and the chance of finding new love all wrapped up with a huge Christmas bow!

Place and Setting

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The three places connected by friendship and chocolate

London

What can we say – this is  a walk underneath a chocolate fountain. Even in the end notes, Carole writes of her ahem ‘ research’ for this novel such as a tour with the Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. She’s even had a chocolate weekend or two at the Three Ways House hotel in Mickleton.  They have chocolate weekends!!! The friends she’s met -rather like those in the book have bonded over a love of chocolate and like love she says, it seems to be a universal language.

In London, the chocolate shop is in the city where the Christmas spirt is alive and well. The crowds are out in Oxford street and Hamleys is buzzing with kids and more kids. However the four friends spend their time, chatting, and just getting through their family and romantic entanglements.

“Chocolate Heaven is still a place of refuge to all of us in times of need, A little corner of this earth that wraps up in in cosiness, comforts us and feeds us chocolate. Hurrah! Long may it thrive.”

Keswick

The outing to Keswick is where both Carole’s and the girls spiritual home is.  Cumbria cottage is in the village, it still has  high street like the villages of old. A traditional time gone by. “It was pretty stone buildings ”Nadia doesn’t think she has seen anywhere quite so lovely. “ The Lakes is  a place to rest and relax when you need to escape the buzz of London if only for a while.

Bruges

And Bruges – the home of chocolate on the continent. There’s a Christmas market and a myriad of chocolate shops like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

“Bruges looks flipping fabulous in its festive garb.”

Review

This is a warm feeling of a novel. A mug of Hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and sugar sprinkles. Never is it sickly sweet however yet it gives you the same feeling – tasty, warm, and very inviting. And afterwards you sit back with a huge smile on your face and this book is so realistic on the chocolate front that I swear I had a chocolate tash as well.

It goes without saying that you have to eat chocolate whilst eating this book or at least have some to hand as you’ll be racing out that door to get some when you start reading. I’d read the other books and had experienced that before so I was prepared. Well it would be rude not to I thought.

Carole’s writing is always warm and friendly and I enjoyed meeting the friends again. This is what true friendship is all about – laughs, support through troubled times and advice aplenty. I loved Lucy who goes all out to get new recipe ideas and her trip to Bruges! Well that had me chuckling.

These friends have been through a lot together and what a wonderful way to wrap up their story with a Christmas bow. The next book is out early next year and there’s a new development! Can’t wait.

Susan booktrailer

VERA – Telling Tales – East Yorkshire – Ann Cleeves

telling-tales-ann-cleeves-paperback-cover-art

Why  a booktrail?

This time Vera heads to East Yorkshire and the bird watching landscape of Spurn Point. Vera however is watching and waiting for criminals…

Story in a nutshell

Ten years ago Jeanie Long was charged with the murder of fifteen-year-old Abigail Mantel. But now it turns out that she may in fact have been innocent all along – and if that weren’t bad enough this means the killer is still at large.

Emma Bennett was Abigail’s friend who found her that day and it’s something she has never forgotten. Justice now for her best friend is what she wants.

Enter Vera and her straight talking investigation which takes the villagers of East Elvet back to a time they would rather forget. Just what is it they wish to remain buried?

Place and setting

Hull The nearest large town to fictional Elvet which is east of the city Spurn Point - http://www.ywt.org.uk/reserves/spurn-nature-reserve and http://www.spurnbirdobservatory.co.uk/ Humber River The home of the coxwains Humber Life boat station Humber is the only lifeboat station with a full-time crew and a 200-year history. Coxswain Robert Cross who worked at the station has received many medals including gold and the George Medal.
Hull
The nearest large town to fictional Elvet which is east of the city
Spurn Pointhttp://www.ywt.org.uk/reserves/spurn-nature-reserve and
http://www.spurnbirdobservatory.co.uk/
Humber River
The home of the coxwains
Humber Life boat station
Humber is the only lifeboat station with a full-time crew and a 200-year history. Coxswain Robert Cross who worked at the station has received many medals including gold and the George Medal.

The inspirational setting for much of the action

Elvet may be fictional yet the area around Spurn Point and the region of East Yorkshire as a whole is clearly the setting for the third Vera novel. The point is geographically similar to Spurn but its not all the same. A fictional landscape somewhere East of Hull which is very reminiscent of the area however,

The fictional Elvet is a small town with many secrets of its own-

And this closed community seems reluctant to have its secrets looked into or for the old investigation to be reopened and reexamined. Vera has a lot on her plate but her presence, even if not on her usual home patch is necessary to reveal the secrets of this place

Hull and the Humber River

The raw and rocky storm wrecked coast at the mouth of the Humber River is an unique setting – the ships which go up and down the coast here in and out of the port make for a unique history of the area –

He joined ships at the mouth of the Huber and brought them safely into the docks at Hull, Goole or Immingham

The activity of pilots on the Humber illustrates a certain way of life which brings the area evoked to life. The life of the Coxswains is one we’d never read much about in literature –

Most of their life was spent waiting. The coxwains of the pilot launches waited for the tide and the crew of the sole permanently manned lifeboat

In real life, the pilots have moved out of their old office in Hull but to the author’s knowledge the office has not been sold for redevelopment, and the coxwains of the pilot launch don’t live there for real.

Spurn Point from the air as seen on Wikipedia
Spurn Point from the air as seen on Wikipedia

Spurn Point

Spurn Point’s a very distinctive place. Ann Cleeves speaks of a place she knows well since her husband is a keen bird watcher as is she and they have spent much time near here. The open spaces, the fact that the land is slowly merging into the sea as it erodes away and the sense of impermanence of the area with the migrating birds and the changing weather and waters.

It was skinnier than it had been, a spit of land shaped like a dropping wasted phallus hanging into the mouth of the river from the north bank

Bookish musings

Vera is back in her second literary outing and this time heading to East Yorkshire we see Vera venturing out to solve the murder of a young girl who was strangled 10 years previous. Together with a new killing, Vera has two problems to solve and the biggest one has to be the deceit and insular small village by the name of Elvet.

There’s something about small and insular villages or island communities which is fascinating in crime fiction and I loved the way Vera edged or rather barged her way in. She enters the novel earlier than in book one and so I felt I got to know her better. She’s quite a character and if she were real, I would love to meet her in real life, over a beer or a cup of tea.

The two murder threads and the strange police in a closed co,,unity setting are great features of this book and it’s not easy to discover who is guilty. What appears at times clear cut is not and the case is a lot more complicated than it seems.

Love Ann’s writing – so evocative of place and deep in characterisation so you can clearly picture everything you read. It was also lovely to find out more about Spurn Point and the birdlife there since this is a love close to the author’s heart.

A unique Vera adventure for sure.

The Jane Eyre ‘trilogy’ – Jamaica and Yorkshire, England – Jean Rhys, Jane Stubbs and Charlotte Bronte

JANE-PIC

We assume you’ve read Jane Eyre before you read this ‘Jane Eyre Trilogy’ as well there are a few mentions of a certain someone who appears in the story but is only revealed slowly….

Before we even return to the desolate and remote moors of Yorkshire and the towering imposing home of Thornfield Hall, we are thrust into the heady and sweaty days of Jamaica at the time of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 .

Money, power and influence still spoke however when Mr Rochester arrives in Jamaica….

JANE

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jamaica and Yorkshire

This is the start of the story of a certain young girl by the name of Antoinette – for she will have arole to play in these three novels and her story will be tied up in everyone else’s as indeed it wil be in the story of Thornfield Hall itself. She tells her story of her arranged marriage to an Englishman by the name of  Edward Rochester. She reveals her difficult childhood and family life with the problems of her mother and brother both having mental health issues.

Once married they travel to Granbois in Dominica and Edward and Antoinette who he has named ‘Bertha’ – his suspicions of his new wife and of her family background and her suspicions of whether he is faithful and whether he married her for anything other than money.

With Bertha’s paranoia and mental state suffering, she is taken to Rochester’s home in England, together with a maid Grace Poole and her life becomes even more painful and punishing. She is soon driven to extreme measures…

The settings of Wide Sargasso Sea
The settings of Wide Sargasso Sea

Place

Bertha’s background is revealed and her Creole heritage examined and contrasted with Rochester’s rich and privileged one.

While Rochester is keen to marry for money and land, possessions and t be able to control the ‘secret’ of the locale. The novel was written to reflect the time and setting of English colonialism and Jamaica’s road to freedom. Rochester’s words on the landscape of the country of his new bride –

I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness.

thornfield hall

Thornfield Hall, By Jane Stubbs – set in Yorkshire

Berta is taken to his English home – his turf, his homeland where she will be easier to manage and control. She and Grace are set up in the house with the help of Mrs Fairfax who now takes over the narrative of how she came to know and work for Mr Rochester.

Thornfield Hall becomes darker and more prison like in this novel and the ‘behind the scenes’ events and the whispers of the servants make this a thrilling and secretive visit to the hall with secrets in its walls….

Place

The Main street in Haworth - pic courtesy of Wikipedia - perfect for wandering down with Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester
The Main street in Haworth – pic courtesy of Wikipedia – perfect for wandering down with Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester

We walked carefully on the roof leads for the wind was buffeting in from the east. Leah leant against the battlements and took in the view, the patchwork of fields the toy cow and the miniature sheep. This I reflected would be a splendid place for an invalid who lived secluded from society to come and take exercise and enjoy the fresh air, though a lady who had lived on a tropical island might find the Yorkshire air bracing.

jane 3

Jane Eyre – set in Yorkshire

This is the story of the governess who comes to Thornfield some time later and who at first does not know of Bertha or who she is, nor of her past. Jane is nervous at first of the strange noises she hears, of Rochester’s strange behaviour and of the servants’ behaviour towards her. That Mrs Fairfax has some strange ideas she thinks and doesn’t seem to appreciate her growing relationship with Mr Rochester, but the full facts are not always at her disposal. The secrets are once again in those walls of Thornfield Hall….

Place

The Bronte Parsonage - pic courtesy of Wikipedia -  A must see for the Bronte aficionado - http://www.bronte.org.uk/
The Bronte Parsonage – pic courtesy of Wikipedia – A must see for the Bronte aficionado – http://www.bronte.org.uk/

Jane Eyre describes her arrival at Thornfield, her sense of needing to pace the corridors and to be free from social and physical sense of being trapped in a  man’s world.

I could not help it; the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes. Then my sole relief was to walk along the corridor of the third story, backwards and forwards, safe in the silence and solitude of the spot, and allow my mind’s eye to dwell on whatever bright visions rose before it.

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot

The ‘Jane Eyre Trilogy’ is an epic story of Thornfield, the background and history of its inhabitants long before Jane Eyre ever even hears of it. The Hall is the main character throughout, a hall of imprisonment, but also of salvation. A Hall which will also give Jane Eyre the adventure and achievement that she never thought she would have from her days of ‘torture’ at Gateshead school.

To experience this story – seen through the eyes of three different authors and various characters within the house and beyond it, this is an epic tale of an old hall and its inhabitants, its secrets, its history and the effect of legacy and duty on all those who live there. Listen to the whispers of the secrets from its walls……

For more information on the settings of these wonderful series of books – we found the Bronte parsonage  http://www.bronte.org.uk/and surrounding area to be THE place to visit and the Visit Yorkshire website http://www.yorkshire.com/what-to-do/jane-eyre. If you take any one of these books with you the area will come more alive than you could ever imagine……

Thornfield Hall – Yorkshire – Jane Stubbs

thornfield hall

The  real story behind the scenes of Thornfield Hall – Mrs Fairfax tells her own story of what really went on behind the scenes of Thornfield Hall and how Jane Eyre really felt about Rochester and the legacy of Mr Rochester.

While the story of Thornfield Hall and the relationship between Jane and Mr Rochester is only really known from Jane’s point of view. This story tells of the arrival of Bertha to the hall and her subsequent stay and scandal whilst there. How did she come to the hall? What is Mr Rochester’s real intentions? What links does Mrs Fairfax have with the family of the house?

The house is full of mystery and intrigue and by the time a certain young governess enters the frame, there is a lot of secrets whispering in the walls, down the stairs and along the corridors.

Just who was the real woman in the attic? The house keeper who has been there since the beginning tells her story. Let her voice be heard.

Place and setting

Charlotte visited Norton Conyers in 1839 and heard the legend of Mad Mary in the attic and the room can be visited today. http://nortonconyers.org.uk/index.html Bronte parsonage in Haworth is the site that all Bronte fans should visit http://www.bronte.org.uk/ Another theory is that North Lees Hall in Hathersage is in fact the inspiration for Thornfield  - http://www.peakdistrictinformation.com/towns/hathersage.php
Charlotte visited Norton Conyers in 1839 and heard the legend of Mad Mary in the attic and the room can be visited today.
http://nortonconyers.org.uk/index.html
Bronte parsonage in Haworth is the site that all Bronte fans should visit
http://www.bronte.org.uk/
Another theory is that North Lees Hall in Hathersage is in fact the inspiration for Thornfield – http://www.peakdistrictinformation.com/towns/hathersage.php

 

If you have read Jane Eyre, which if you haven’t, why haven’t you?, you will already be familiar with the gothic large Thornfield Hall located in Yorkshire where the rich Mr Rochester lives alone – well with his ward Adele and his housekeeper Mrs Fairfax. She has seen everything and until now has hidden in the background. But when she says things like this, it is immediately intriguing that we want to know more –

As I said, the Rochesters are very good at keeping secrets

Rochester informs the house that someone will be coming to life there – he is vague to say who this strange lady is – only that she is ill and needs special care. The hall once shut up and empty now becomes  a bustling place as servants scrub and prepare for the latest arrival and the master of the house – Mr Rochester who seems rather biblical and grand:

The Master sat at his uncle’s great mahogany desk. Glints of red and green from the stained glass in the lead window flickered behind him

How difficult must it have been to keep such a secret – of a mad woman in the attic – secret from all visitors, some servants and any outsiders? Mrs Fairfax is worried and concerned for Bertha who she humanises (rather strangely in some ways for us)-

I had not promised to stand idly by while she was treated with harshness and kept like a prisoner.

The moment when Jane Eyre enters the picture, the Hall is a hub of secrecy,  candlelight vigils and late night whispers in corridors and a tragedy unfolding  in the attic at the top of the house.

All the events from those troubled times – the unexplained laughter, the fires, the injuries, the slamming of door and painful noises are all explained by Mrs Fairfax and Thornfield Hall becomes a more chilling and unforgiving place. Far different from that which Jane Eyre described…

thornfield hall

I must admit that I read this with some trepidation as Jane Eyre must be one of the best and most iconic reads in the English language. It does mirror closely the events of that novel except for one important one which I am still thinking about…..

It’s very interesting to see Mrs Fairfax as the main character and to see her view of all the strange goings on which happened in Jane Eyre’s account of the story. I was pleasantly surprised by her human portrayal of Bertha and they way in which she lived and moved through the house. Her secret identity was revealed slowly and it was fascinating to actually get to meet her in this way, face to face as it were instead of through another character such as Jane Eyre. Not everything in a large house like this is ever what it seems and Bertha’s real place at Thornfield and they way the servants and in particular Alice Fairfax was intriguing. The scenes between Alice Fairfax and Grace Poole were the highlight of the book as when they chat and discuss matters, this is when the book really shines and we find out the real meaning of events, and the role of servants of the time.

By the time Jane Eyre arrive on the scene I was aching for her not to enter the house or to get too excited about her impending marriage. It was fascinating to see the background to the world Jane Eyre entered  however and also to see how she is a minor character her as this is the story of Bertha. I will now reread Jane Eyre with a new understanding of the house and its inhabitants. Together with Wide Sargasso Sea,this novel adds to the overall story and explains much which the original only hints at. It is the skill of a clever author who manages to respect the original and explain or hint at events to make events more clearer and the characters of Alice and Bertha more human and people to be admired and respected.

I have a new respect for Alice Fairfax – she had a tough role at the house and a tougher role to play when Bertha comes on the scene. Her warmness and kind nature contrasts with the dark angle of the story and it’s the women of that house and the goings on behind the scenes that really makes you feel as if you’re one of them and that Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, here only sub characters in the story, really unawares of the real goings on at Thornfield Hall.