Books born in Berkshire - lockdown literature to keep you occupied

PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 April 2020

Berkshire in Photographs by Jim Hellier

Berkshire in Photographs by Jim Hellier


In need of a bit of escapism? You won’t have time to be bored with these new releases from authors in the county


Jim Hellier took his first transparencies with a Kodak Instamatic during a visit to Windsor Castle when he was 11, which led to a life-long passion for photography. Now, he has released his book, Berkshire in Photographs, a stunning collection of images showcasing the scenic splendour, intrinsic character and contrasting treasures of our county through the seasons. So, while we might not be able to

visit all of these stunning places right now, we can still enjoy the views Jim has captured.

“I live in Purley on Thames with my eldest son, Rob. My youngest son, Stuart, lives with his wife in Thatcham. Our house is a 10-minute walk from Mapledurham Lock and the Thames,” says Jim.

“I love the diversity of Berkshire: Windsor in the east with its history and the deer park, and to the west the Downs, the Ridgeway and all the Saxon and Roman history. I love the river, especially early mornings with the mist sitting just above the water and the river appearing to be so still. ‘Where still waters glide’ is a good description of the Thames at Mapledurham.”

After his trip to Windsor Castle when he was a boy, Jim began an on-off affair with photography. “In my mid-20s I was married and living in Reading, and I bought my first SLR; a Praktica,” he says. “By this time I had set up a small darkroom, and was developing and printing my black and white films. Any spare time I had was taken up with photography. My first picture sale was a cover shot in Canal & Riverboat magazine.”

Jim had worked for the local water company as a Building Surveyor but with changes to the company structure, he had a chance to take early retirement.

Having decided to make photography his full-time job, Jim went on to become a landscape and travel photographer, although he has worked with well-known fashion and fine-art photographer Jerry Mason. His work has appeared in numerous calendars and magazines. He has also written ebook guides to photography and also runs landscape photography courses.

“I hope to carry on with my courses again soon; they are based on landscape photography. I assume that people who come on my course know how to use their cameras. I think in photography the most important thing is seeing a picture and

the composition, and the use of hyperfocal focusing. These are the points I like to put over. Most of a one-day course is spent out in the field,” Jim says.

“The thing I like to capture in a picture is mood and atmosphere, and I do seem to be drawn to water, whether it is the river or the coast. I would love to have an exhibition of my work in one of the London galleries.”

In Berkshire in Photographs, Jim captures the spirit, essence and identity of Berkshire in a series of superb images. The book highlights the immense variety of places and landmarks to be discovered, and towns such as Maidenhead, Windsor and Marlow; small villages including Aldworth and Stanford Dingley; beauty spots along the River Thames and Kennet and Avon Canal, together with the glorious countryside of the Berkshire Downs. It’s a breathtaking adventure around Berkshire for us all to enjoy.

£17.99, Amberley;



Theresa Cheung is a Sunday Times bestselling author in the fields of spirituality, heaven, the science of the paranormal and the afterlife. Author of numerous titles, including The Premonition Code and Answers from Heaven, she has also been interviewed by Piers Morgan and Russell Brand. And it was this interview on Russell’s podcast, Under the Skin, that gave her the idea for her latest book, The Sensitivity Code, out in May.

“In that interview I talked about my life as a highly sensitive author and my sensitive readers. It’s an entertaining interview because I could not hide my emotions and Russell is in fine comedic form,” says Theresa. “After the interview, as I’d never done such a high-profile interview before – my preference is to be an invisible spiritual author – I was convinced I would be ridiculed as a cry-baby. But much to my surprise the reaction was the opposite. People wanted to know more about being a sensitive person in a material world that often overwhelms.

“I got stacks of positive messages and my wonderful editor at Bookouture, who is highly sensitive herself, suggested I write the book. So that’s exactly what I did.”

Theresa set to work, writing her latest book from her home in Berkshire. “For the last 20 years I have lived in Old Windsor with my husband and two children. We are lucky enough to live right beside Windsor Great Park and nothing gives me more joy than walking my two dogs there,” says Theresa. “I love the woodland and beautiful countryside, as well as the rich history. Living here feels close to nature but also close to the hustle and bustle of London. I feel very fortunate.”

Theresa hopes her latest book helps her readers to realise that being sensitive is not a flaw or a weakness but a strength and a gift. “Sensitive people and their personality traits of empathy, intuition and kindness are needed more than ever in the conflicted world of today,” she says. “In fact, I am inspired by every person who finds inner peace and doesn’t look for their completion in material things or in other people but from within themselves.”

Looking to the future, Theresa hopes to keep on writing books that offer people advice, insight, tools and techniques to find greater meaning and purpose in their lives.

The Sensitivity Code, £2.99 ebook, Bookouture, due out on 15 May



Award-winning author Nicola May writes chick-lit from her home in Ascot. “I can see the racecourse from my window; I’ve always loved horse racing,” she says.

Nicola started writing 22 years ago, and still loves her job. “I was dared to write a diary about running a half marathon. I didn’t finish the diary but I did complete the half marathon, and I caught the writing bug,” she says.

Nicola didn’t give up her day job as an events manager immediately, as the road to publication was tough, first self-publishing her novel, Working It Out, before she got signed by an agent and was offered a seven-book deal. But it didn’t work out so she went back to self-publishing.

The School Gates and Christmas Evie won awards for Best Author Read at the Festival of Romance in 2012 and 2014. Let Love Win was nominated in 2013. It Started with a Click was ebook of the week in The Sun.

Then she wrote The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay, “I wrote it as a stand-alone book but it did so well – getting to No 1 in the Amazon chart, holding the No 1 spot on Kindle Store for over a month and selling 2,000 copies a day – that I wrote a trilogy,” she says. Nicola’s third book in the series, The Gift of Cockleberry Bay, has just been released.

Everyone’s favourite characters are back, including Hot the dachshund. “I put my heart and soul into Rosa and everyone seems to love her,” says Nicola. Now successfully running the Cockleberry Café and wishing to start a family, Rosa decides to let her corner shop go. However, her benefactor left a legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who deserves it.

“It is all a dream come true. I have worked so hard and for so long. To make it as an author, you have to have a persistence to resistence.

I dip into my own experiences for inspiration. My mum died when I was young, which led me to write Let Love Win, and I also experienced a stressful infertility journey so I wrote about that in The Women of Wimbledon Common. That was very cathartic. But I do like a happy ending.”



The Street of Broken Dreams won the Romantic Novellist Association’s Saga of The Year award last month, and Berkshire author Tania Crosse is delighted. “You can imagine that I’m absolutely thrilled. I’m still on cloud nine!” she says. “I didn’t go with any expectations of winning, as the standards are so high. I went along to enjoy myself and was shocked when they called out my name. Jenny Eclair handed me the award and she was absolutely lovely.”

Tania has lived in Mortimer for 44 years. “I brought up my family in the village,” she says. “I have three children and two grandchildren and a few grand-dogs!”

Tania wanted to write for as long as she can remember, and she always leant towards the historical. “I saw a black and white version of Jayne Eyre when I was little and one scene, the one where Jayne’s friend gets pneumonia, always stuck with me. I started writing seriously when my youngest went to school. I wrote a few books and sent them off but I was told Victorian stories had run their course. However, while in Devon, we visited Morwellham Quay, the restored Victorian copper port.

“I had flash visions of Victorian characters,” Tania continues. “I thought if I wrote a novel to illustrate the port’s Victorian history, they might sell it in the gift shop. That’s what happened and it started my career.”

Tania went on to have a further nine Devon books published, five of them Victorian.

“I later had another vision about Churchill speaking to me. That inspired Nobody’s Girl and its sequel, A Place to Call Home, both set in Kent,” she says.

“I do draw on my own life experiences when I’m writing,” adds Tania. And having been brought up in Battersea in London near Price’s Candle Factory, she wrote two novels based around that, the second of which was The Street of Broken Dreams.

It is set during the summer of 1945 in the London backstreet where Tania lived as a child. The war is drawing to a close, but for some, the conflict will never end. Can dancer Cissie ever recover from the brutal night that destroyed her life? What does Mildred really know of the man she is engaged to marry and who is still serving in the Far East? Can matriarch of the street, Eva, help them face the pain and uncertainty of the future?

“I liked Eva so much in the first story, I wanted to explore her in more depth in the second,” says Tania. “She has a heart of gold.”

Tania is now researching for a new WW2 novel, so watch this space.


Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest from the Berkshire Life