It’s been a difficult couple of weeks.
Ok, who am I kidding – it’s been a tough couple of months - and the last two weeks have been particularly hard. One of those times when life gets up and bites you and turns the peace and quiet you’d been hoping for upside down.
My dearest friend – we’ve been friends for over 33 years and we met when our sons were both in playgroup - has been fighting breast cancer for almost 3 years. But she’s been losing that fight recently and 3 weeks ago she had to go in to hospice care where she could get the best possible help. At the same time I was called up for jury service . This meant a long train journey to travel to the court – sometimes with a long wait between trains if the timings were wrong. Then there were long difficult hours in the court.
Sometimes these were spent waiting and waiting for something to happen. And at other times the jury was actually in the court – and that was not exactly fun by anyone’s description.
Rarely, if ever, have I been so grateful for a good book. There was all that extra travelling. When I’m used to getting dressed, making a cup of coffee and walking through a door into my office, the trip to the railway station, train journey, walk to the court – and back at the end of the day, seemed really long and tiring ion contrast. The sitting about waiting for something to happen - well, I’d been warned, so I had preloaded my kindle with plenty to read.
And then at the weekend I was warned that my friend had taken a turn for the worse. Sadly she died two days later. I’ve been feeling lost as so so sad at this and once again I found that the only way to escape from the miserable day was to bury myself in a book.
So I’ve read plenty - Last Year’s Bride by Anne McAllister and Second Chance Bride by Trish Morey were great company in the jury room. Liz Fielding’s For His Eyes Only and This House is Haunted by John Boyne helped those train journeys pass. And a great psychological thriller Precious Thing by Colette McBeth kept me focusing on its mystery and tension when I couldn’t cope with much else.
If ever I wanted a classic example of why ‘escapist’ books are so valuable – contrary to the opinions of those who might look down their noses at ‘light reads’. These books were friends when I needed them, distractions when I needed distraction, and fillers of empty spaces of time when I wanted that.
Some years ago I received an email from a reader who wrote to tell me how much she had enjoyed one of my older books – His Miracle Baby. That’s always a welcome event but this time it was particularly lovely to read this one. The book had originally been bought by this reader’s mother who then passed it on to her
At the hospital, waiting for news of her father, she finished the book – shared it with her sister, her aunt, even her male cousin. It helped distract them from their worries, fill those anxious hours. And then, when everyone in the family had read it, the nursing staff – particularly those on duty at night – were able to share it and relax during their long shifts in the dark hours.
Luckily my reader’s father recovered, which was great news. But as a writer the great news for me was the way that my light romance novel provided the perfect escapee from stress and worry for people who needed it. I’ve experienced that for myself this past few weeks and I’m truly grateful to the people who wrote the books who helped me through some difficult days.
It’s another reason why I’m proud to write what I do – why I’m never insulted or feel criticised when what I write is described as escapist. That’s fine by me. And if I what I wrote helps someone through a hard time then I’m doubly pleased – couldn’t be more so.
What about you? Have you read a particular book that helped you through a bad time? Or is there one you turn to again and again knowing it will cheer you up when you’re feeling down? I hope so.
A Question of Honour - or A Question of Honor depending on whether you're reading the Mills and Boon Modern edition or the Harlequin Presents one is out now .
And the new, revised and updated Kindle edition of Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide
You can find out more about Kate Walker and her books over on her web site which has just been updated with new information added.