The world of Valerie Holmes’ fiction is based and inspired by some of the beautiful scenery from my childhood home in North Yorkshire. Growing up in the north-eastern seaside town of Redcar I was always impressed by the variety of scenery that surrounded me. From the moors, woodland and dales further inland to the rugged headland of Huntcliffe (my Stangcliffe).

Its overshadowing presence dominates the seaside resort of Saltburn (Ebton) that nestles at its foot at the southern end of the long sandy bay to the marshes and river mouth in the north. I have adapted the settings and recreated the notorious smuggling past within the region for my novels and many of my novellas.

In To Love Honour and Obey, Stangcliffe is the scene of a brutal murder. The protagonist, Willoughby James Rossington, sets out to discover the murderer of his father.

His journey will take him to the magnificent setting of the ancient city of York where the majestic Minster is visible to him from atop a coach as he crosses the Vale of York. Unbeknownst to him, Beth, the young woman who is destined to share his quest, is also admiring the spires from the yard of an inn where she works.

From York they both travel to Whitby stopping at an inn on the moor road, similar to the ancient Spout House near Chop Gate in Bilsdale. This cruck built building has been lovingly preserved. In Whitby, the ancient, bustling, whaling port, with a fascinating history going back beyond the famous Synod of Whitby, with St Hilda in AD 664, they find peace and tranquillity in the grounds of the ancient abbey. Not far from this location is the church of St Mary’s, founded in the twelfth century and perched on the cliff above the ancient whaling port, which has acted as a landmark for many a returning weary sailor. The unusual boxed pews provided an excellent location for a fight between the evil Oberon Spratt and one of his minions, whilst an anxious Beth looks on from the gallery trying not to give herself away.

The old town has many narrow lanes, yards and snickets one of which inspired a scene for a bath house that Beth is treated to, much to her chagrin.

On leaving Whitby they head north to return to the scene of the murder at Ebton and pass the fires and industry of an alum works. Alum was important and had been for centuries for the fixing of dies and paper making. The remains of one such of these workings can been seen at The Peak Alum Works, south of Whitby.

Authors are often asked what inspires them to write. I cannot claim that the locations are always my starting point, but my work is definitely influenced and enhanced by the places I visit in my research around the area and provide an excellent reason to return to this beautiful, wild, historical and very friendly region.


Valerie’s novel To Love, Honour and Obey is available now.

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