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Author Helena Fairfax shares her novel setting – The Lake District

16th July 2017

#TalkingLocationWith… author Helena Fairfax, who shares with us the real romantic setting of the Lake District, the setting for romantic novel Felicity at the Cross Hotel.

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Daffodils (photo courtesy Pixabay)

This poem by Wordsworth – inspired by the sight of daffodils at Ullswater in the Lake District – must surely be one of the most famous poems in the English language. We may not all have Wordsworth’s gift for poetry, but anyone who has visited the Lakes can’t fail to be moved by the stunning and spectacular landscape. It surely is “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found,” as Wordsworth described it.

Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home in the Lakes (photo courtesy wordsworth.org.uk)

The shining lakes, the green, lush fells, and the dramatic changes in weather that are found in the Lakes provide the perfect backdrop for a romance novel. Fliss, the heroine of my novel Felicity at the Cross Hotel, has travelled to the Lake District from her home in Norfolk – a part of England renowned for the flatness of its landscape, stretching unbroken to the horizon. Imagine the contrast with the mountains of Cumbria. Here’s Fliss’s first sight of the spectacular view looking down on my fictional lake, Emmswater:

“The jagged mountains of the Lake District rose and fell in great dark peaks on the skyline, their sides flecked with splashes of bright, mossy green. Soft fields crept down into the valley, dotted with the fluffy white forms of sheep, and lying at the centre of it all was the gleaming lake.

Fliss took in a deep breath, letting the fresh air fill her lungs. ‘What a magical place,’ she said to the man standing next to her. ‘ And look, the sun’s come out.’ She held up a hand to the pale sky. ‘Where I come from is so flat. I’m starting to get vertigo here, but in a really good way. Like being on the roller-coaster at Great Yarmouth fun fair.’”

There are some people who find living in mountains claustrophobic, but my heroine is trying to escape the stresses of working in her father’s business, and rather than feeling hemmed in after the long stretches of flat land in her home county, she finds the mountains exhilarating. It was this feeling of wild escape that the Lake District conjures up that I tried to capture in this passage.

Exhilaration and recklessness are similar emotions. The setting of the Lake District is a novelists’ dream because of the dramatic actions the landscape can inspire. The beauty of the scenery can become threatening, as swiftly as the clouds that roll in from over the fells. Patrick Cross, the hero of my novel, is grieving the death of his friend, who died because of an act of recklessness while diving the still, green waters of the lake.

The Lake District

Ullswater (photo courtesy Pixabay)

The fells in the Lakes attract climbers, and there is always going to be an element of danger. There have been many deaths in the mountains and lakes of Cumbria, and again, I’ve used the symbolism of the landscape to reflect the contrast between the beauty and the danger. Fliss studies an oil painting of Emmswater, my fictional lake:

She tilted the painting towards her, and as she did so, noticed something extraordinary. At first sight, the lake was a shimmering green, but an element of darkest grey – almost black – in the brushstrokes meant that it could also appear a dark, threatening shadow, brooding amongst the splendour of the hills. Your view of it depended on the angle you held the painting to the light.”

It’s a shame that nowadays some parts of the Lake District are inundated with tourists, and the roads in summer are very often clogged. But it’s only in recent times that the Lakes have become a tourist destination, and there are many quieter areas that have remained unchanged for centuries. Alone in this magnificent landscape, away from the traffic, you can’t help but feel a part of a long, long history of the soil that stretches back thousands of years. The language of the Lakes has strong links with the Norse settlers who arrived in the tenth century – words such as tarn (a pool) and beck (a stream) are derived from the Old Norse. I wanted to give a feel for the history of the landscape with my fictional hotel. The Cross Hotel dates back to Tudor times, and seems “part of the very fabric of the fells themselves”.

Ennerdale (photo courtesy visitcumbria.com)

Finally, there are many people who have fallen in love in this wonderful setting, but there are some exceptions. Bill Clinton was famously moved to propose to Hillary for the first time by the shores of Ennerdale Water, but she turned him down. Obviously there are some people who remain unmoved by the romance of the Lakes!

Will love blossom for Patrick Cross and Felicity Everdene, the hero and heroine of my novel Felicity at the Cross Hotel?

A quaint hotel in a romantic landscape. The Lake District is the perfect getaway. Or is it?

Felicity Everdene needs a break from the family business. Driving through the Lake District to the Cross Hotel, past the shining lake and the mountains, everything seems perfect. But Felicity soon discovers all is not well at the Cross Hotel …

Patrick Cross left the village of Emmside years ago never intending to return, but his father has left him the family’s hotel in his will, and now he’s forced to come back. With a missing barmaid, a grumpy chef, and the hotel losing money, the arrival of Felicity Everdene from the notorious Everdene family only adds to Patrick’s troubles. With so much to overcome, can Felicity and Patrick bring happiness to the Cross Hotel … and find happiness for themselves?

Author Biography

Helena Fairfax is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now which is just as well, since these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. Helena walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings. Subscribers to Helena’s newsletter receive news of free stuff, competitions with prizes, gossip, and links to cool websites she’s been looking at when she should have been writing. You can follow Helena on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and check out her Newsletter and Website

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On our database, we have collated many more books to transport you to the wonderful Lake District!

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  1. User: Susan Bernhardt

    Posted on: 16/07/2017 at 12:29 pm

    Wonderful post about the Lake District. We’ve been in the Lake District at least twice. It’s beautiful. We saw where Wordsworth lived and also his grave. I enjoy his poetry.

    Helena, your latest novel sounds wonderful.


    1 Comment

    • User: Helen Fairfax

      Posted on: 16/07/2017 at 2:56 pm

      Thank you so much for dropping in, Susan, and for your lovely comment. That’s great that you got to see Wordsworth’s house. I hope you get back to the Lakes again. Thanks for your kind comment about Felicity!