Thursday, May 30, 2024

Join us as author J.G. Harlond shares her Writer's Journey #WritersJourney #HistoricalFiction #BookSpotlight @JaneGHarlond @cathiedunn

* Premier Book Spotlight *

Secret Meetings

A Bob Robbins Home Front Mystery

by J.G. Harlond

A Bob Robbins Home Front Mystery - Book 4

Cornwall, Spring, 1944

A lone traveller arrives at a harbour inn carrying a satchel of weapons, then appears in the grounds of River Lodge, a typical English country house in wartime.

Except with a scandalous family history, the owner’s wife and servants hiding secrets and grievances, a glamourous trans-Atlantic socialite and an uninvited American professor in residence, there is nothing normal about River Lodge.

Then Bob Robbins arrives impersonating Winston Churchill and there is a tragic accident. Or is it daylight murder? And who was the intended victim? Was it caused by the crank stalking Churchill, or is it a domestic homicide?

Could it be related to the nearby preparations for D-Day?

Reverting to his real identity, DS Robbins investigates the crime knowing his own life is in danger.

Can cynical old Bob and keen young Laurie Oliver identify a murderer at River Lodge and ensure the outcome of the Normandy landings?

Winner of 2024 Author Shout Reader Ready Award

Readers Favorite 5*: ‘a gripping wartime mystery with an intricate web of characters and secrets, steeped in historical detail but fresh and relatable

If you liked Foyle’s War and love Agatha Christie this is a must-read.

A Writer’s Journey(s)

A good part of my life has been spent packing boxes to move house, often from one country to another. My children were trilingual from a young age, having Spanish and English at home and learning to read and write in Italian. They then easily acquired new languages when they left home to work elsewhere. It was tough on all of us at times, but in the long run our peripatetic lifestyle was to our benefit. As a school teacher I was able to work in international schools, and this led to writing school text books, initially, for Pearson, then for Oxford University Press (under my married name). When this workload increased, I gave up the day job to write full time. One of my projects was a re-telling of Norse myths and legends for Penguin. This was subsequently cancelled, but, like other upheavals it worked to my advantage: my narrative fiction moment had finally arrived. I’d tried to get a novel published before, but this time I’d see it through.

(Which reminds me, if you are a budding author or still at second novel stage – never delete early drafts of anything. One day those words may come in very handy.)

To begin with, I had to decide on a pen name because there’s adult rock’n’roll behaviour in my fiction, and then I had to face up to a significant handicap. It’d spent most of my working life teaching and writing about how to study Literature, from Defoe to Zola, Dickens to Allende: were my narrative writing skills really good enough to be published? Plus, I was – still am – a Dorothy Dunnett fan. Dunnett’s books are brilliant in every way, and they are demanding, one has to keep up. I’d been scribbling ideas for stories, bits of description and snappy dialogue in notebooks since I don’t remember when, but finishing a full-length historical novel, and believing it was good enough for publication . . . That stayed my hand. And still does. I’m not gifted with self-belief and still suffer from imposter syndrome.

Years before, while we were living in Holland, I finished a full-length novel and sent it off to an agent, who told me what I needed to change and improve, which I set about doing, but then we moved again and I lost the enthusiasm. The agent moved on. The MS went in a drawer, then in a box in an attic. My second attempt at historical fiction was influenced by the combination of Mary Wesley’s dry humour and a thumping good read called The Far Pavilions. It took a long time to write but the third full draft became The Empress Emerald. It is said that a first novel is always autobiographical; that is largely nonsense, but of course we draw on our own experience, and in this case, I also drew on family history.

My historical crime fiction incorporates my travels: studying in the USA, living in Italy, the Netherlands and Spain . . . I’ve had first-hand experience of just about every location in my novels. I do a lot of research and background reading for the epoch, then try to imagine life in the 17th Century for the wicked adventures of the Genoese rogue Ludo da Portovenere in The Chosen Man Trilogy, and what life was like for my parents and grandparents during WWII for the Bob Robbins Home Front Mysteries.

The first Bob Robbins story emerged from an early draft for something quite different set in wartime Cornwall. My MA dissertation was on WWII Home Front propaganda so I had plenty of accumulated knowledge to deepen the plot, but this story needed a local detective. In those days, retired police officers were called back into service to replace younger men who’d joined up. Fortunately, my grandfather had been a ‘Special’ during the war, so I also had some anecdotes work on. This is how dumpy, grumpy Bob Robbins came into my life – and decided to stay.

And the Norse myths project? That became a re-telling of part of the ancient Volsung Saga: The Doomsong Sword and there may be a sequel. It’s a different genre to historical crime fiction, but the writing skills are much the same. Skills that require practice to get right. Among the useful things I learned while writing school books was how to be clear and succinct, and that editors should not be ignored.

So, whether you are a younger unpublished author or an older person wanting to get started, be aware that it all takes time; that barring a wonderful stroke of luck (which does happen) or the right connections (which should never be underestimated) it will be a relatively long journey from first ideas to writing the cover blurb. If you intend to self-publish, budget for a good editor and cover designer, and be prepared for some bumps along the way. If you are going the traditional publishing route, be prepared for a few long waits then some very quick deadlines, and few bruises along the way.

Whichever route you choose, whatever your background, whatever your age, if you have always wanted to write, get started. Now! It can be very hard work (one of my books went to nine drafts) but the personal reward and sense of satisfaction makes it all worthwhile.

JGH Málaga, February 2024

J.G Harlond: Award-winning author of The Bob Robbins Home Front Mysteries, The Chosen Man Trilogy, The Empress Emerald, Dark Night, Black Horse and The Doomsong Sword

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

J.G. Harlond

Secret agents, skulduggery, crime and a touch of romance . . .

Award-winning author of page-turning historical crime novels set in the 17th and early 20th centuries, Jane weaves fictional characters into real events. 

Creator of the wily charismatic rogue Ludo da Portovenere, and the aging wartime detective Bob Robbins, her stories feature wicked wrongdoing, murder mysteries, and challenging romances. 

Originally from North Devon, Jane has travelled widely and is now settled in her Spanish husband’s home province, Andalucía.

Connect with Jane:
Website • Blog • Twitter • Facebook


  1. Thank you for hosting me on your well-respected blog, Cathie.

    1. Thank you, Jane. You're always welcome. Your post really resonated with me. :-)