HENLEY has inspired yet another new novel. The Elusive Soulmate is what the author Valerie Knight calls a “light summer afternoon read” that will particularly appeal to women as it combines romance with a touch of “New Age” spirituality.
Valerie, who is 62 and currently lives in Cyprus, set the novel in Henley, where she has lived on and off for almost 50 years and her mother still is.
She says: “My connections with Henley date back to 1966 when my parents bought one of the newly built townhouses in King’s Road. We hadn’t had a base in the UK until then as my father was based in the Middle East, with only occasional trips back home.
“I had spent my early years in Iran, Iraq and Libya and at boarding school in Warwickshire, so Henley was my first English home. My parents remained overseas but I lived in the King’s Road house while I was attending Reading University in the early Seventies.
“My parents finally returned from Iran in 1978, after the Shah was deposed, and made their home in Henley — my father until his death in 2006 and my mother right up to the present day. My own life has continued to be nomadic, including 12 years in Australia, 18 months in Italy and frequent periods spent in Cyprus, where I have now settled.”
In her novel, there are passing references to a number of specific places, including Friday Street, the River and Rowing Museum, the Angel on the Bridge, the Anchor, the Plowden Arms in Shiplake and the Old Ropewalk, which Valerie says she still misses because it was “so quintessentially Henley”.
She says she was inspired to become a writer because, as an only child in the Fifties, books “were always great friends” and she started writing stories for pleasure from a very early age.
After university, she held a series of lowly positions on magazines and in PR/advertising until in 1983 she moved to Dorset and became a copy editor at Element Books in Shaftesbury.
She says: “I loved the work because it combined my love of the written word with a lifelong interest in Eastern spirituality and all things ‘alternative’.
“When I subsequently moved to Australia, I worked as a feature writer on a magazine called Life Spirit and submitted articles to Kindred Spirit and Soul and Spirit in the UK as well as writing short stories. I particularly enjoy approaching these topics in a light-hearted way so they are accessible to a wide variety of readers. The Elusive Soulmate is an example of this.”
The Elusive Soulmate, which is published by Troubador, is available as a paperback, price £9.99, or as an ebook. The first chapter can be read at www.valerieknight.co.uk, where there is also a small gallery of photographs of places featured in the book.