Hi Cameron

Thanks so much for letting me join you on your latest blog.

If I had to describe my debut novel The Matchmaker, the Milliner and the Man from Maastricht I would say it is an uplifting romance with a healthy dose of ‘chick lit’ running through it. Set in England and Zambia, the central love story is woven around a colourful cast of characters, the relationships they have with each other and the friendships that develop between young and old, and across different cultures and continents. Alongside the warmth and gentle humour, I also touch on subjects like life after divorce, women’s empowerment, guilt, loss and grief.

I always wanted to write romance but knew I wanted my novels to be about everyday people – I love sultry sheiks, brooding Counts and dashing doctors, but I personally didn’t want to write about heroes with chiselled jaws, piercing blue eyes and private jet bank balances, sweeping away hapless young beauties to their tents/castles/operating theatres.

My main characters have to be honest and kind but also relatable and flawed. Dann Huismann is handsome, of course, but not obvious, strong but not macho, decent but definitely not boring. Anna Peel is beautiful (inside and out), smart, interesting and accomplished but sometimes struggling with the same insecurities we all have.

In terms of the setting, I thought about my love for southern Africa and particularly the time I have spent in Zambia, in and around Victoria Falls and the mighty Zambezi river. The people there are resourceful, generous and endlessly inspirational and the awesome landscapes, birds and animals are so alluring that I couldn’t think of a more magical setting for my love story to unfold.

I started my career as an ‘author’ by writing speeches for top civil servants but, for the last five years, I’ve had the privilege of editing a glossy life-style magazine with a readership of over 35,000. I’m also a published non-fiction features writer, mostly focusing on people and places, historical figures and events and the natural world and, when needs demand, I’ve turned my hand to a bit of crossword compilation too.

I tried to write my first novel about twenty-five years ago but, what with full-time work, family and generally ‘life’ getting in the way, it wasn’t a dream I was able to realise until later in life – but I must say, I think the experiences I have had over the years and the sheer number of stories and articles I’ve written in that time have really helped to hone my skills as a novelist.

What I love most about ‘romance’ is the ‘will they / won’t they’? Even though I know that (mostly) romance fiction will have a happy ending, I think the joy of reading it is conflict and misunderstandings along the way with a healthy dose of emotional turmoil and sexual tension throughout which, hopefully, creates a very satisfying narrative arc.

The hardest part of writing The Matchmaker, the Milliner and the Man from Maastricht was that its in the epistolary style, the word derived from Latin after the Greek word, simply meaning ‘a letter.’  I knew I wanted to create a cast of characters and hear them speaking in their own voices so writing my book wholly in a series of letters and emails was the perfect medium but was also quite a challenge.

You certainly have to develop a ‘split personality’ to make sure all your characters have individual voices, with particular ways of speaking and use of language. If you have a character who is a child, as I do, you can’t make them sound like an adult so you have to think really hard about the language and particularly the vocabulary they use. It would be too easy to fall into the trap of having everyone sound like you do – a criticism I think that was once levelled at that most famous of epistolary books, Dracula.

In my book, my main characters – Anna, Dann, Grace, Henry and Izzy – are, respectively, a Devon-born London hatmaker, a Dutch geography teacher, an African hotelier and academic, a 10-year-old African boy and a feisty police sergeant – so couldn’t be more different from each other – or me.

I was particularly pleased when the first agent I approached commented about the distinct and individual voices she was reading – it made me happy that I had got it just about right.

However, I think this style has definitely split my readership!

If you are British or an ex-pat, you will know what I mean by saying it is a little bit like Marmite. For those of you not acquainted with this, Marmite is a strong savoury spread made from the yeast waste of the brewing industry which you spread on toast – and advertised using the slogan ‘You either love it or you  hate it’!  I’ve had some absolutely lovely 5* reviews but also a couple of horrible 1* from readers who definitely didn’t like the style but, thankfully, I have a thick skin and know you can’t please everyone all the time!

In terms of sex, The Matchmaker, the Milliner and the Man from Maastricht is definitely one you would feel happy for your mother to read! This book leaves our heroine and hero at the bedroom door. Actually, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to write about sex so decided to leave it out of my debut novel.

However, for my second novel The Writer of Sea Thrift House, I’ve decided to add more spice and I’m actually quite pleased with how it’s turned out. Having said that it has more spice in it, the sex is always related to love (even if the hero and heroine don’t know it at the time!), otherwise what’s the point of calling it a ‘romance’?

The Writer of Sea Thrift House will hopefully be out in the autumn.

If you would like an eBook copy of The Matchmaker, the Milliner and the Man from Maastricht, it will be available at only 99c / 99p for a limited period between the 4th and 7th January 2024.

If you would like a paperback copy, it can be ordered from all good bookshops.






Why not comment on this blog and be in with a chance to name a character in Ali’s new book! (contest now closed)

Ali’s hero is a wealthy New York property developer, Elliott Markham, who falls in love with Lucy Ashton, an English conservationist on the beautiful Caribbean island of Antigua. Ali is looking for a suitable name for Elliott’s Personal Assistant – it needs to be feisty, fierce and suitable for a New York girl with sass and attitude.