October 2020 -THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELER

About twelve years ago I wrote an article that was republished in several newsletters about how writing books helps to transport me to other places and lives. However,I also experience the same joy traveling to other places and lives by reading books. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote: “Travel far, pay no fare … a book can take you anywhere.” My life has never brought me the opportunity for great travels, but in books I have visited far away places and sampled lives in other countries I’d never have experienced otherwise. Though books I jump on a magical tour bus, taking me off to wonderful places.

I love the British Isles and books have taken me on many adventures to England, Wales, and nearby Scotland and Ireland. I love England’s quaint villages and towns, so different from ours in Tennessee, and I especially like authors who take me visiting there—classic authors like Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, R.F. Delderfield, Phyllis Whitney, Agatha Christie and Beatrix Potter. Romance authors Julia Quinn and Mary Balogh have carried me off more recently to rural villages and vast country estates in their lovely regency titles. English author Anne Perry has swept me away to London through her intriguing Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries, like The Cater Street Hangman, and Anna Lee Huber has kept me enthralled with her delightful Lady Darby books set in different spots around the British Isles. I also loved every one of James Herriott’s books about a country vet in the Yorkshires, beginning with All Creatures Great and Small.

As a younger reader I discovered Nora Roberts through her romance series set in Ireland that made that beautiful coastal scenery and Ireland’s small towns come alive for me, especially the Irish Trilogy starting with Jewels of the Sun. Michael Phillips took me to Scotland in his books, too, like Angel Harp, and M.C. Beaton took me visiting time and again to Scotland with her humorous coastal mysteries about Hamish Macbeth. Recently I’ve traveled to more remote Scottish towns and to the Cornwall coast in Jenny Colgan’s captivating stories—and in fact, I’m reading one of her books right now.

Always wishing I could travel to France, I first visited there as a girl reading the Madeline books, and later Collette’s Claudine novels and Dumas’s books like The Three Muskateers. More recently I traveled to France and down the Seine on a bookstore barge in Nina George’s charming novel The Little Paris Bookshop and to Paris, also, in Colgan’s The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris. Moving on to Italy, I loved visits there through E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View and Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun. And Susan Elizabeth Phillips book Breathing Room, set in Tuscany, was also a fun read.

Although most books I read set abroad are in Europe, I’ve ventured further to Botswana, Africa, many times via Alexander McCall Smith’s Ladies #1 Detective Agency series—a total delight with every book. I’ve taken adventures to other countries, too, with unlikely spy Emily Pollifax in Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series. I also enjoyed trips to Canada, earlier as a girl, with Nancy Freedman’s Mrs. Mike and L.M. Montgomery’s beautiful Anne of Green Gables novels. And in recent years I’ve enjoyed following Louise Penny’s stories about Inspector Gamache, with The Beautiful Mystery still my favorite of that Canadian series.  For trips to Alaska I’ve traveled with my friend Shannon Brown, writing as Cathryn Brown, in her Alaska series romances. I’ve also ventured to many unusual spots, like to Israel and Jerusalem, with Laurie King’s character Mary Russell and Sherlock Homes.

Back in the U.S. I’ve traveled to a lot of state parks in Nevada Barr’s ranger mysteries and I’ve come to know and love small towns in North Carolina in Margaret Maron’s wonderful mystery series about Judge Deborah Knott, beginning with The Bootlegger’s Daughter. And, of course, I’ve read every one of Jan Karon’s Mitford books, set in small town North Carolina, too. There are so many wonderful Southern authors I’ve traveled with, too many to ever mention and applaud here … but I loved reading all Eugenia Price’s Georgia coastal books, Carolyn Hart’s fun Death on Demand mysteries, Susan Boyer’s South Carolina Lowcountry series, and Deborah Smith’s engaging books set in the Georgia and North Carolina mountains. … I also enjoyed, and still follow, Rita Mae Brown’s Sneaky Pie books about Harry and her pets who solve small town mysteries and murders in rural Virginia, Sherryl Woods books like The Sweet Magnolia series, and Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries set in New York’s earlier days.

As a horse and cowboy lover, I read every Zane Grey mystery set out west and I like Linda Lael Miller’s romance books about cowboys and ranches, too. A favorite recent book that I laughed a lot over was Ree Drummond’s story of marrying her cowboy husband The Marlboro Man  in Black Heels and Tractor Wheels, a fun read worth looking for. Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles mystery series keep me traveling frequently back to Pecan Spring Texas, and authors like Robyn Carr, Susan Wiggs, and Debbie Macomber keep taking me on wonderful trips out west and to the Pacific Northwest coast.

Book visits as an “Armchair Traveler” never have to end—because there are always more books to discover! “That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” [T. Laliri] … And, yet, J.L. and I also love to travel, explore, and hike nearer to home, so one day we decided to begin sharing our adventures in guidebooks. First, we wrote a hiking guide to take you on trails in the Smokies. Then we took off and visited all 56 Tennessee state parks and wrote another guidebook called Discovering Tennessee State Parks. So you can “armchair” travel to our world here in Tennessee—and plan a trip here, too!

Because I’ve always enjoyed my “Armchair” travels in novels so much, I decided to also write some novels of my own to bring you traveling to my part of the world—and to different places around the Smoky Mountains I love so much. The picture here shows my four latest mountain books,Daddy’s Girl set in Bryson City, Lost Inheritance set in Gatlinburg, The Interlude set on the Millhouse Resort in Greenbrier, and Happy Valley set below the Chilhowee Parkway in rural Happy Valley.  There are nine more to enjoy, too, and with a new one publishing this spring!

We don’t travel far and wide—or to faraway places—even for vacation, but we have gone year after year to a lovely quiet island on the South Carolina coast, Edisto Island. So I thought I’d take readers there to visit, too. You can “Armchair Travel” to visit Edisto right now in my new trilogy, with two books out now and the third coming in the new year.

Do you love to travel? But is the ongoing pandemic keeping you a little housebound right now? Well, “escape” and travel in books! And remember: “A book is a magical thing that lets you travel to faraway places without every leaving your chair!” [Katrina Meyer]

See you next month! … And don’t miss also reading my October newsletter, too.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.] …  Thanks also to Unsplash for many free stock photos used in this blog post.