The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures by Holly Hepburn
Some cities are magical. They cast a spell on everyone who goes there, beguiling them with an indefinable charm that seems to flow from the buildings, the streets and even through the air itself. Often, these cities are old, well-practised in luring people in and encouraging them to stay, and they seem alive – the twisting streets have bloomed and grown over time, like roses winding around a trellis, with no order or logic. Perhaps you know what I mean – the cities you can stand in and feel them breathing along with you. Paris is like that, with her history so near that you can almost touch it; Rome and Prague too. Closer to home, I’ve felt this way in London, Edinburgh and Dublin. But the first city that really bewitched me was York.
I visited when I was thirteen or fourteen, with my Great Aunt Nancy. The city had me from the first glimpse of the magnificent station, which seemed impossibly ripe with adventure and possibilities, and drew me in further as we explored the curiously named streets and snickelways. By the time we reached The Shambles, with its black-and-white timbered buildings and lattice-paned windows, I was ready to believe I’d somehow slipped into a story. And then we visited the Jorvik Centre, which brought the city’s Viking past vividly to life, and I felt history unfurling around me. For perhaps the first time, I got a sense of the real lives that had gone before and I like to think that was when my interest in archaeology was born – an interest that eventually led me to study at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London.
Fast forward some years (I’m not telling you how many) and I find myself in York again, this time virtually strolling along those unchanged snickelways and imagining a world for my characters. I think perhaps I always knew I’d write a story set there one day. What I didn’t know was that it would be a story about stories, set in an old antique shop, full of items with tales to tell – an emporium with a magic all of its own. I also had no idea that this would be the story that took me back to archaeology – transporting me to the dusty streets of Cairo and reminding me how powerful history can be. For my main character, Hope Henderson, taking a job at the shop she loved as a child is a dream come true but she has no idea that the Ever After Emporium is about to simultaneously plunge her into the past and change her future forever. And maybe it might just mend her broken heart at the same time.
I hope you enjoy your visit to the The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures. Goodness knows I’ve loved writing it!
When Hope loses her husband, she fears her happiest days are behind her. With her only connection to London broken, she moves home to York to be near her family and to begin to build a new life.
Taking a job at the antique shop she has always admired, she finds herself crossing paths with two very different men. Will, who has recently become the guardian to his niece after the tragic death of his parents. And Ciaran, who she enlists to help solve the mystery of an Egyptian antique. Two men who represent two different happy endings.
But can Hope trust herself to choose the right man? And will that bring her everything she really needs?
Parts 1-3 of #TheLittleShopOfHiddenTreasures out NOW in eBook.
Pre-order Part 4: Christmas Wishes today!
Seasons of Love York
As we enter what some are dubbing ‘the winter of discontent’ I can’t help but feel optimistic. The news might be heralding the season change as all doom and gloom but for me it means warm jumpers, Bake Off and brisk and colourful walks in the park.
There’s something magical about the change in seasons – the firm (or sometimes wet and windy) line between the times in the year that often marks our own growth and personal journeys. It’s probably the reason why my novels tend to span a year and are segmented by the seasons.
I like how different a place can feel, dependent on what time of year you visit. For my current novel, The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures, that meant focussing on a year in York. Luckily for me, York is one of the most picturesque cities I can think of so my imagination (and Mr Google) got a real treat.
Researching always makes me desperate to set up shop in a place so I thought I’d share my top picks for days out in York – no matter what time of year it is.
Regular readers probably won’t be surprised that my first stop takes us back in time, to when York was a Viking city. The Jorvik Viking Centre brilliantly recreates some of the sights, sounds and smells of the past so you actually feel you’ve been whisked away from your busy modern life. And you didn’t hear this from me but if you know where to look, you might glimpse a couple having a *very* romantic moment. Proof that some things never change! Cool any blushes with a proper Yorkshire afternoon tea. People will obviously recommend Betty’s but my personal favourite is found at The Grand on Station Rise.
You’ll struggle to beat a sunny summer’s day in York… think blue skies paired with a refreshing breeze. If you are lucky enough to have good weather, I’d take a walk around the museum gardens and enjoy the flowers that perfectly frame the ruin of St Mary’s abbey. If you want, you can grab an ice-cream in the park and then head straight to the accompanying museum (for some history!) but what you can’t miss is a trip to Brew and Brownie. Choose just a coffee or have the pancakes, a brownie (obviously) or anything on the menu and you won’t be disappointed. To be honest, it’s so good I was tempted to keep it to myself.
Hope, the protagonist of The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures, wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t recommend you spend a good day exploring the Shambles. This medieval street will appeal to a bargain hunter or indeed any fan of Harry Potter. If – like Hope – you’re a fan of old things follow up with a wander around Devil’s Elbow Antiques where you’ll find all manner of things that the Emporium would be proud to stock, and a window Hope would be just itching to dress. As the cooler weather will be settling in, I’d finish the days with some tasty cocktails at Dusk – I’d try the Fidel Castro but, as most of you already know, any cocktail will do!
Part 4 (out November 4th!) is set during winter in York for a reason – it’s the most romantic time of year. As Hope is a York native who has returned home – I couldn’t let her do too many touristy things but I definitely gave in to some indulgence in this part, as well as letting my imagination flow. Follow Hope’s example with a trip to the St Nicholas Fair and a lovely evening of ice-skating at The Ice Factor. Handsome hero not supplied, sadly…
What my writing research really taught me is there’s no perfect season to visit York. Every day in the city is a different one full of all the possibilities the change in season brings. For my character Hope that means a new life and the start of a happier beginning. For you, that might mean an ice-cream in the park, a thrilling Viking encounter or even a hidden treasure uncovered at the antique market.