Disaster and betrayal in Brighton novelist’s new, sweeping page-turner

Joanna Rees
Joanna Rees

A visitors’ book was the starting point for The Girl from Lace Island, the latest novel from Brighton-based author Joanna Rees.

It was a book she saw on a family holiday to India with her husband and fellow writer Emlyn Rees and their three daughters.

“In 2002, when Tallulah was only two, we decided to go on a big holiday,” Joanna recalls. “Obviously, we were worried about travelling to India with a two-year-old so we went to southern India, to Kerala, and it was the most wonderful holiday. It was just magical.

“Ten years later, we decided to go back with all three girls, and again, it was the most magical holiday. We were at a place owned by a fantastically eccentric couple that had all sorts of people through their doors even though it wasn’t remotely glamorous. At the end of the day, the woman gave me the visitors’ book to look at, and I was just totally entranced. You look at the names of the families, and you make connections. So many families had come through, and that’s when I got the idea for this book.”

Its setting is the fictional Lace Island, off Kerala.

In 1989, when happy-go-lucky 15-year-old Leila is exiled from her exotic home on Lace Island to a cold English boarding school, it is just the beginning of her woes. Feeling that she’s just too foreign to fit in, she’s desperate to get back to her family and friends. But in her absence, her paradise island has changed beyond all recognition and the life she once loved is now just a memory. Worse still, everyone she loves is now in terrible danger.

In 2016, Jess dreams of far off places, of white sandy beaches and tropical seas. When she gets her a job as cabin crew, those dreams are suddenly realized – especially when she’s swept off her feet by the handsome and charismatic Blaise. But Jess has a troubled past and her present is about to become complicated and dangerous.

The book is the tale of two women, decades apart, their lives submerged in disaster and betrayal.

Joanna describes herself as a writer of sweeping page-turner books, commercial fiction for women essentially – though there is plenty for the men to enjoy: “You have got lots of romance, but you have also got lots of suspense. I want people to go on holiday and have a lovely time but not be able to put my book down!”

Joanna, aka Josie Lloyd and Jo Rees, is the author of 17 novels. She regularly teaches creative writing in schools and libraries and runs a novel-editing business, noveleditors.com. She also records regularly for Radio Gorgeous. With husband Emlyn, she has co-written seven novels, including the Sunday Times number one bestseller Come Together, which was translated into 27 languages and made into a film.

They have written three bestselling parodies of their favourite children’s books, including We’re Going On A Bar Hunt and The Teenager Who Came To Tea, as well as a light-hearted activity book encouraging people to stop being addicted to their technology called Switch It Off. Visit www.joannareesbooks.com.

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