Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In the Footsteps of the Brontës…

By Ashe Barker (Guest Blogger)

I live on the edge of the Brontë moors in West Yorkshire, UK. Haworth is about four miles away, a mecca for international tourists and locals alike. The Brontë’s birthplace in Thornton is even closer, just down the road. I walk, quite literally, in the footsteps of the Brontës every day, and couldn’t help but be influenced by them. I defy anyone with so much as a passing interest in the written word to remain aloof.

And like the Brontës, I choose to include the stunning local scenery in my stories. It’s almost another character, making its own unique contribution to the action of the other players. They can only be what and who they are because of where they are. Like Cathy, like Heathcliff, Eva and Nathan, Tom and Ashley are products of their place.

And what a special place it is. This picture, taken about a year ago by a friend of mine when we went for a hike up there, is Top Withens (© Steve Swis Photography). This ruined farmstead high above Stanbury is generally accepted to be the inspiration for the Earnshaw home in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights

Although the house Emily described bore no resemblance to the farm, now in ruins, the location may have influenced her. It hasn’t changed much in the last couple of hundred years or so.

I like to describe real places in my stories, and Top Withens is one of the locations mentioned by name. It’s 
close to this remote spot that Ashley becomes trapped in Unsure, when she’s taken ill up on the moors and needs to be rescued. By Tom of course, who else? Top Withens is also a stopping off point for hikers on the Brontë Way, which is the scene for some of Nathan and Eva’s al fresco adventures in Darker. Eva’s first view of this landscape is described in the early chapters of Darkening and this marks the start of her love affair with the moorland setting. Mine started many years earlier and I think this picture explains why.

So, how far does the Brontë influence stretch? The Dark Side has been likened to Jane Eyre though I’m not in a position to comment really, never having read that particular masterpiece (hangs head in shame). 
Nevertheless, I do believe that we are all influenced by our environment, we are all products of our place. These moors are wild, passionate, changeable and timeless. Those qualities can be seen in the people who live and work here today, and whose stories I try to tell. It’s those qualities, and the passionately evocative lure of the Brontë genius which continues to draw visitors from all over the world – even the signage along the Brontë Way is in English and Japanese! And this same wild beauty will inspire artists, writers, musicians for many more years to come. I’m just one in a long line, I suspect.

I do write about other places – this is a huge world we live in and our perspective is now quite rightly a global one. But I’m always drawn back here. I find roots are important to me, and to my characters. They make us what we are.

The Dark Side and Sure Mastery are both set in this atmospheric location. Here’s the blurb:

The Dark Side trilogy charts the sensual journey of academic musician Eva Byrne as she struggles to overcome painful shyness, sexual inhibition and personal tragedy. Lonely, unsophisticated, desperately seeking love and approval, Eva is easy prey for sensual and experienced Nathan Darke. 

He wants her submission, and he knows how to go about getting it. Eva is quickly caught up by the whirlwind of his effortless seduction, though she has her own reasons for agreeing to join him in his world of pain and pleasure, on the dark side.

Inexplicably fascinated and at the same time totally frustrated by his new submissive, Nathan is increasingly drawn to her as she opens up in his hands and he realises there is much, much more to his latest playmate than he ever could have imagined.

The Dark Side charts the turbulent relationship between Eva and Nathan as their mutual fascination builds. They both discover what surrender truly means as together they explore the fragile bonds of desire, trust, risk and reward, and the destructive power of betrayal.

The Sure Mastery trilogy charts the sensual and emotional journey of petty thief turned photographer Ashley McAllister as she struggles to overcome personal tragedy, loss and grief to rebuild her life in the wild beauty of the West Yorkshire moorland. 

Resilient and determined, independent and courageous, Ashley has no qualms about cutting her old ties and starting again. Intent on establishing her landscape photography business, she is horrified when her turbulent past comes crashing back to haunt her, threatening to overwhelm and destroy her fragile new beginning.

Ashley needs Tom to guard her secrets and allow her to stay. He just wants her. He wants her submission, her surrender, but he’s already destroyed her trust in him. Will his seductive charm and sure mastery be enough to rebuild her fragile faith? Can he teach her the difference between the violent abuse she’s experienced in the past and his much more exquisite approach to pain? And where does pain end and pleasure begin?

Tom guides her into his world of pleasure, desire, trust and reward. His gifts to her are beyond price, the rewards of submission. But will it be enough, and can the shadows of her dangerous and violent past be left behind them?


This is taken from Darkening and describes Eva Byrne’s first view of the Yorkshire moorland surrounding Black Combe.


I push back the duvet and swing my legs out onto the floor. I slept in just a long, baggy T-shirt, which I had remembered to screw up in the bottom of my holdall, and now it swishes around my thighs as I head for the window to check what the weather is doing today. Pulling back the heavy yellow curtain, I gasp. I can only stare in awed silence.

The scenery stretching out before me is absolutely breathtaking. Stunning. I have never seen any place lovelier. Or more austere. My mental image of the Brontë moors didn’t remotely do justice to the real thing. As far as I can see, in every direction, lies unbroken, undulating glorious moorland. The colours are vibrant, sparkling, still wet from the previous night’s downpour. The near to middle distance is a glittering kaleidoscope of reds, purples, olives, browns, greens and golds as the heather and bracken, grassland and wildflowers blend into one, seeming to move and rotate, still glittering and shiny from the dampness in the air, catching and reflecting the morning sunlight. In the farther distance are soft pale greys, darker smokiness and pale blue smudges of wispy mist circling the higher peaks, a variegated canvas of softly muted beauty. My eye is caught by the glint of light reflecting off water in the bottom of the valley over to my right—a glittering, dark, deep grey, the surface rippling gently in the slight breeze. A lake, perhaps, or maybe a reservoir.

I remember the strong impression of height and distance, and of wide open vastness surrounding me as Miranda chugged on and up through the inky blackness and driving rain last night. That was no illusion and the sense of limitless space overwhelms me now, as the bright daylight washes the expansive wildness before me . Even though all this beauty, the colours and textures of this grand and timeless landscape , was invisible to me, I recognised its aura last night. I felt the essence of it all around me then, unseen, and I am drenched in it again now as I open the window and breathe deeply, let it pour in, filling my senses.

It is irresistible, timeless and yet constantly changing as the light and shadows shift, as clouds flit across the sky, interrupting the sunlight as they pass, then releasing it back to fall across the moorland once more in dazzling rays. A hazy rainbow starts to appear across the clouds, coming into sharper focus before my eyes as the light refracts through the rainwater still hanging there in the air. Nature’s mysteries and wild beauty combining to wrap around my soul. And I am lost.

The confusion and uncertainty I felt a few moments ago evaporate in an instant. This is home. My home, and come what may I am not giving it up now. I am staying. I know it. I recognise it even though I have never been here before, and I know it knows me.

My light-bulb moment is broken by deep, booming barking starting up somewhere a way off to my left. A suitable bark to match a dog the size of a sideboard. Leaning out of the window and straining my neck, I try to peer around the side of the house to see what has set Barney off. I can just make out his huge shape bounding uphill through the bracken about half a mile away. He is followed by a small, skinny little girl in a bright red, shiny coat and blue wellies, her waist-length, straight, dark hair loose behind her. She runs to keep up. Every few yards the dog stops, turns to wait, sometimes rushes back at her to bounce at her side, then the two go on together, leaping and striding through the wet bracken.

Opening the window, I shiver in the sudden damp chill from the outside air, and can just hear Rosie’s voice carrying across the distance. Laughing, she is calling to Barney to wait for her as she battles on in his slipstream, thigh-deep in the moorland undergrowth, wellies flashing.

I watch them until they disappear over the brow of the nearest hill, then turn and head for the en suite shower. Driven by a sudden rush of energy and exhilaration, I want to be down there with them, running across the moor, soaking up my glorious first morning in this glorious place.

Author Bio

Until 2010 I was a director of a regeneration company in Leeds, in the UK, before becoming convinced there must be more to life. I left to work as an independent consultant, and still do some of that though most of my time is now spent writing. At last I’ve been able to realise my dream of writing erotic romance myself. I’ve been an avid reader of fiction for many years, erotic and other genres, and I still love reading historical and contemporary romances – the hotter the better. But now I have a good excuse for my guilty pleasure – research. 

In my own writing I usually draw on settings and anecdotes from my own experience to lend colour, detail and realism to my plots and characters. An incident here, a chance remark there, a bizarre event or quirky character, any of these can spark a story idea. But ultimately my tales of love, challenge, resilience and compassion are the conjurings of my own lurid and smutty imagination.

When not writing – which is not very often these days - my time is divided between my role as resident taxi driver for my teenage daughter, and caring for a menagerie of dogs, rabbits, tortoises. And most recently a very grumpy cockatiel. I’m a rural parish councillor, and I’m passionate about evolving rural traditions and values to suit twenty first century lifestyles.

I’ve completed my third trilogy in the Black Combe ‘family’ which is due for release later this year and I’m well on with writing the fourth. I also have a novella coming out soon, and have written a stand-alone novel for Totally Bound’s ‘What’s Her secret?’ imprint. I have a short story in Totally Bounds Paramour collection, and another in the Jolly Rogered anthology which is due for publication in July 2014. I have a pile of story ideas still to work through, and keep thinking of new ones at the most unlikely moments, so you can expect to see a lot more from me.

Buy Links:

All the books in both The Dark Side and Sure Mastery series are available from the usual places. 


Contact me:

I love to hear from readers. You can find me on my blog, and on the Totally Bound site. I’m on Facebook, twitter and Pinterest, and on Goodreads too. And there’s also my author page on Amazon

1 comment:

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Ashe!

Welcome back to Beyond Romance. The particular passage you've quoted above stopped me short with admiration when I read Darkening. It's absolutely gorgeous.

Many romance authors seem to set their work in generic locales, with no attention to the influence of place on emotion or action. I find that a bit boring. For me (in both my writing and in my reading) the setting is almost another character. That's certainly true in Darkening.

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