After yet another disastrous love affair Rachel has been forced to leave her long-term position for a temporary role as an Archaeology Lecturer at Lincoln University. Rachel has sworn off men and is determined to spend her time away clearing her head and sorting her life out. But when one of her students begins flirting with her, it seems she could be about to make the same mistakes again...
She distracts herself by taking on some freelance work for local property developer, Jonathan Daubney. He introduces her to an old Second World War RAF base. And from her very first visit something about it gives Rachel chills…
As Rachel makes new friends and delves into local history, she is also forced to confront her own troubled past. Could a wartime love story have any bearing on her own situation? Could this time be different?
Endless Skies was a long time in gestation, but it all started on a visit to the wonderful Winteringham Fields restaurant with rooms. If it hadn’t been for the reputation of the chef patron, Colin McGurran, we wouldn’t have gone there. We’d never have visited Lincoln either, and these two wonderful places would never have sparked my imagination.
It’s the skies, you see. Those broad, open skies that seem to go on forever over Lincolnshire. We arrived on a blisteringly hot day, went for a walk along the Humber and I was smitten. When I dug a little into the history of the area I immediately discovered it was where Roman Ermine Street ended. What a place for an archaeologist to find herself.
But much as I loved my archaeologist, the story took many versions to gel. It was almost there when Sapere acquired the book, but in my heart of hearts I knew it could be better. We went back to Winteringham Fields again for my husband’s fiftieth birthday, and while he spent a day in the kitchen as his present, I visited the antiques centre at the old RAF base at Hemswell.
There, finally, everything fell into place. I stood in a tiny room at the back of one of the buildings, watching the motes of dust dance in the sunshine. I could almost hear the airmen running down the stairs. A line of poetry came to me: “Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
So for this book, the history came last. At Hemswell I bought a book of first hand accounts from World War Two Bomber Command aircrew. It gave me an insight into the psyche of these brave men and was further inspiration.
During the war Hemswell was home to Polish squadrons, particularly in 1942 and 1943 when they suffered heavy losses. The Poles had the reputation of being courageous to the point of foolishness but it is no doubt they made a massive contribution to winning the war. After all they, too, were fighting for their homeland.
That much is certainly true – as is Hemswell’s reputation for being haunted – but the personal histories told in Endless Skies are very much of my own making.
I love a feisty heroine and telling a story from her point of view is even better. And because of the setting, Rachel just had to be an archaeologist. I knew she was going to be spirited and in-your-face, but I didn’t realise quite how much so until I wrote her first piece of dialogue. She even surprised me and I certainly had to tone down her language in the final edit.
We’ve all had friends like Rachel, friends who can never seem to pick the right man, but deep inside Rachel has never wanted to. Men are almost the enemy, no use to her unless they’re intellectually stimulating or good in bed (preferably both), and she is sent to Lincoln after a particularly disastrous affair with her boss. Something clearly has to change and she’s terrified by the thought it might just be her.
It wouldn’t be a romance if there weren’t men in her life but inevitably sparks fly. It was fun writing a cast of male characters as foil for her; the complex and sophisticated property developer Jonathan; the off limits but besotted student, Ben; and laid back musician Jem. Each have their part to play as uncomfortable secrets from the past knock harder and harder on Rachel’s door.
However my favourite character is octogenarian Esther who is unashamedly based on my own mother. She is Rachel’s link to Hemswell and its World War Two past and their friendship became pivotal to the story. My mother died just before I started to write the book, and Esther is my way of paying tribute to her.
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