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It’s true that, when the winter winds howl, there’s no better escape than to dive into a book.  But which book?

There are two options, I reckon. You go for nice, warm surroundings, hoping the vicarious warmth of the sun will seep into your bones – or you go for the opposite, where it’s even more cold than you are, so that you feel warm by comparison. Both work. Trust me.

But let’s start with the warm ones.

This Rough MagicSo, book #1: Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic. A trusted remedy for the winter blues. Not only is it set in summer Cyprus, it’s full of action, danger, a talented as well as good looking hero, and multiple references to The Tempest, one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. And it has a dolphin! This is one of Stewart’s best romantic suspense novels, and I love it so. (All the Stewart books are worth a visit.)

Dragonfly Song Book #2: Keeping to the Mediterranean theme,  Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr. Ostensibly for kids, this book will drag you into the world of Mycenaean Crete and keep you there with sheer artistry and tension. One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, full of deep characterisations and brilliant imaginings. (Co-winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award.)

The Paris Seamstress Book # 3:  The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester. Okay, I admit it – I haven’t read this one. But I have blocked out some time this weekend, and I know I’m going to love it because I have loved her past books. Also, Paris, an haute couture etalier and a heroine who makes flowers! What more could you ask to transport you from the grey skies outside?

Billabong Books Book #4: The Mary Grant Bruce Billabong books. This is a bit of work and a bit of fun – the Billabong books were written at the beginning of the 20th century, so they’re great for me to read to get the rhythms of speech and attitudes from that period, which I can feed into my own writing. But it always seems to be summer at Billabong (a cattle station in Victoria where the main characters live) and the world is simpler there, so they are great antidotes to feeling blue and chilly. The first one in the series is A Little Bush Maid, in which the main character, Norah, is 13 or 14. The series follows her, her brother Jimmy and their best mate, Wally, all the way through to Norah and Wally’s marriage, and after, taking in WWI on the way.  If you love the Anne of Green Gables books, you’ll love Billabong as well – and you’ll see that the Australian bush can be described with just as much love and appreciation as Montgomery used to describe Prince Edward Island!

Frankenstein Book # 5: Now we’re going cold. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. One of the great books of all time, and well worth a reread. I say ‘cold’ because of its last scene, where the ‘monster’ escapes across the Arctic ice and Frankenstein pursues him into the polar mist. One of the great endings (sorry if it’s a spoiler).

Looking this over, I see that’s it’s a bit eclectic – but that’s me. I read anything and everything, from very old books to brand new ones, from suspense to myths to romance. I love it all.

  • The Desert Nurse - Pamela Hart

    Amid the Australian Army hospitals of World War I Egypt, two deeply determined individuals find the resilience of their love tested to its limits It's 1911, and 21-year-old Evelyn Northey desperately wants to become a doctor. Her father forbids it, withholding the inheritance that would allow her to attend university. At the outbreak of World War I, Evelyn disobeys her father, enlisting as an army nurse bound for Egypt and the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. Under the blazing desert sun, Evelyn develops feelings for polio survivor Dr William Brent, who believes his disability makes him unfit to marry. For Evelyn, still pursuing her goal of studying medicine, a man has no place in her future. For two such self-reliant people, relying on someone else for happiness may be the hardest challenge of all.

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