Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel by Jane Costello
As someone who fell hopelessly in love with the Lake District many years ago, I’ve always known that I’d write a novel set there sooner or later.
There’s something about its rugged landscape, clean air, shimmering lakes and abundance of action men in climbing gear that made it ideal territory for my kind of book.
I got the idea for Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel when I was on one of my regular trips to Cumbria. I was taking a run along the shore of Windermere on a gorgeous May morning – the kind of morning that makes you not mind that the kids have been up since six, having not received the memo that you’re meant to be on holiday.
Dotted along the both sides of the shore were dozens of great mansions, the kind with gothic turrets and Elizabethan-style gables; the kind, in the words of my book blurb, that exuded vintage glamour. Many of them have become hotels these days, and each had a story to tell beyond their grand walls, hence the idea for my novel was born.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot over the years and, although I’ve got my favourite destinations (The Maldives, Iceland, New York), I can say with absolute certainty that I’ve never felt happier than the times I’ve spent in the Lake District.
For me, it’s got everything: glorious seclusion or bustling activity all within a walk of each other.
You can exhaust yourself by climbing a mountain in search of the best view in Britain, or lie on your front getting your cellulite massaged in an award-winning spa.
You can have a Michelin-starred meal, or head straight for an ancient pub for a glass of red and a Cartmel sticky toffee pudding (fortuitously, calories do not exist there).
You can stroll around chocolate-box towns with old-fashioned shops and the kind of cinemas where they still sell ice creams in the interval (see above re calories).
Or you can get close to nature and try your hand at my sons’ favourite – ghyll scrambling. For the uninitiated, this involves donning a wetsuit and helmet, climbing a mountain, then sliding down a series of waterfalls and diving through crevices into freshwater pools. It’s actually good fun, something you can fully appreciate once you’ve recovered from your hypothermia.
But the Lake District is not just for big kids.
The region was voted ‘the most romantic place in Britain’ a few years ago and, deciding to test the theory, I had my first mini-break there with an exceptionally nice and very attractive guy I’d just started dating. We’re now married, so draw your own conclusions.
It was for all these reasons that writing Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel was the most pleasurable experience any author could ask for.
There are times when writing can be hard, but this book never felt like that: Every day I sat down in front of my laptop, I went back on holiday to my little corner of heaven on earth.
And it’s no exaggeration to say that when I got to the words ‘The End’ I was genuinely bereft. I only hope, dear readers, you feel the same.
* Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel by Jane Costello is published by Simon & Schuster on 24 March 2016 priced £7.99