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Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm by Liz Taylorson #Review

  I am delighted to feature an author who is new to me, today. Liz Taylorson's third novel, Summer Showers at Elder Fell Farm is set in the beautiful Lake District and is a great summer read.   A simple holiday just got complic ated … Single mum Amy has been struggling since her mother’s death and now her son, Harry, has been accused of bullying schoolmate Oliver — giving Amy’s dictatorial ex-husband yet another reason to criticise her parenting. All Amy wants is the chance to spend time with her son. Where better to escape all her troubles than camping at the remote but beautiful Lake District farm where she spent idyllic summers with her mother when she was a little girl? Her tranquil escape seems doomed when Oliver, and his widowed dad, Matt, turn up on the neighbouring pitch — but at Elder Fell Farm, unlikely friendships can be forged. Are Matt and Amy ready to fall in love again? And will their boys bring them together – or drive them apart?   My Thoughts This story

Times and Places by Keith Anthony ** Blog Tour Author Post**

I am so pleased to welcome Keith Anthony today to talk about his book, Times and Places.  As you can tell from the title, Times and Places gets around a little so Keith is going to tell us about how he came to chose his settings. First though, here's a bit about the story:

Ten years after his daughter Justine's death, an anxious Fergus embarks on a cruise with his wife.  On board, he meets a myriad of characters and is entranced by some, irritated by others and disgusted by one.  These turbulent feelings, combined with a sequence of bizarre events, only lead to his increased anxiety. 

In a series of flashbacks, Justine enjoys an ultimately short romance, a woman concludes she killed her and an investigating police officer is drawn into her idyllic world.  Fergus, haunted by poignant memories, withdraws in search of answers. 

Back on the cruise, Fergus reaches breaking point, fearing he has done something terrible.  By the time the ship returns, his world has changed forever.

Times and Places spans Atlantic islands, the Chiltern countryside, Cornish coasts and rural Slovenia, all of which provide spectacular backdrops to a humorous and moving tale of quiet spirituality.

Welcome to Books, Life and Everything, Keith- over to you!


The Settings in Times and Places
As the second half of its title suggests, my story is set in several locations, with chapters alternating between life on a cruise ship and flashbacks (and forwards) to different "Times and Places".  The cruise itself provides a fantastic setting: Fergus, recovering from his daughter's death, is trapped on board, with colourful characters to charm and (almost literally) madden him; plus there are sparkling seas and sub-tropical calling points such as the Azores and Cape Verde.  And yet...
It is the less exotic, but still naturally beautiful, surroundings in many of the alternating chapters which I most enjoyed immersing myself in as I wrote.  These are special places for me, ones I sought to capture in ways which subtly provided naturally mystical backgrounds against which the story could unfold, though I juxtaposed them with a few harsher, urban scenes.  
A number of chapters are set in the Chilterns, near where I live: not wild enough for tourists, but still captivating in their beauty and wildlife.  One character, resting against a gate in a hedge:
"... gazed out across a field which descended a quarter of a mile or so to woods below.  From this vantage point, he could look clear over the trees and to the rolling hills beyond.  Every now and then he heard a mewing and he wondered what it could be, then, to his right, he saw two red kites sailing high in the air, calling to each other... rusty red wings spread wide in the sunshine."
The "Times" element of my book allows me to paint these locations very differently with the turning  seasons: the Chilterns lush green and carpeted in bluebells, then caked in almost impassable mud, crows cawing high in bare trees, swaying in the frosty wind, beneath a grey December sky.  Similarly two chapters are set in Slovenia, one in summer another in winter, allowing me to capture the beauty of that country in each. At Bohinj, for example, one character hikes around the lake in summer, but years later Fergus sees it very differently in winter, with a wispy cloud hanging just above the surface:
"On all sides there were pine trees, weighed down by snow: dark forests which climbed up the slopes from the water, mirrored with crystal clarity in the pools where the ice had melted.  The bridges along its perimeter and across its tributaries were also reflected on the surface, their arches forming perfect ovals as they reached down to meet their counterparts in the water below.  Mountains arose all around, bleak and beautiful in the winter sky..."
Back in Britain, I convey Fergus and his then young daughter's closeness through a stolen weekend together amidst the natural beauty and wildlife of the Isles of Scilly, creating for him a perfect memory he treasures long after she is lost.  I also describe the atmosphere of an old and sleepy Cornwall when, having arrived by train in Penzance, Fergus and his young daughter head to the ferry:
"They breathed in deep lungfuls of fresh air as they marched, tasting the salt on the light ocean wind blowing against their faces, and on whose currents the gulls above wheeled, crying in joy or despair, or perhaps simply hunger."
Fergus even spends two chapters in a silent retreat in Lancashire.  Not an action packed setting perhaps, but another captive situation and - in the silence - plenty of scope for us to explore inside his mind and faith, as he struggles to come to terms with his daughter's loss.  At their induction:
"... one academic young man... peered dryly over his glasses and told the group he was studying a doctorate in post-enlightenment comparative monotheism.  Fergus gulped and prayed hard that he wouldn't be 'found out' that nobody would ask him what he did, that he wouldn't be chased out of the centre as the fraud he felt himself to be - those prayers at least were answered."
The above are tasters of each location, but the book visits caves, Adriatic towns, exotic gardens, woodlands, not to mention the ship's sub-tropical ports of call.  While many of these places are special to me, I knew they might not be for readers: so they must remain just the settings, but I hope ones against which a strong, colourful, humorous and reflective - even spiritual -  story plays out, complementing but never overwhelming it, because a story without an actual story is of course no story at all. 
Thanks so much, Keith. It is great to find out what some of those places mean to you. 

Book links: Amazon UK

About the Author
Keith was born and brought up in the Chilterns, to where he returned after studying French at university in Aberystwyth and a subsequent spell living in west London.  He has a love of nature, both in his native Buckinghamshire countryside, but also in Cornwall and wherever there is a wild sea.
Keith has been lucky enough to spend time living in France, Spain, Belgium, Serbia and Croatia, as well as being a regular visitor to Germany, and languages were the only thing he was ever half good at in school.  Since graduating he has worked in government departments, but between 2005 and 2008 he was seconded to the European Commission in Brussels and, thanks to a friend from Ljubljana he met there, has travelled regularly to Slovenia, getting to know that country well.  
Keith's other great love is music and he plays classical and finger picking blues guitar, though with persistently limited success.  He has always enjoyed writing, including attempts at children's fiction, and in 2016 he began work on his first full book with “Times and Places" the end result: an accessible, observational story, mixing quiet spirituality with humour, pathos and gothic horror, and setting it against a rich backdrop of the natural world.
You can follow Keith here: Twitter 
Thanks to Keith and Rachel of Rachel's Random Resources for a place on the blog tour.  

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