In England, where I spend the winter months, the weather has changed quickly: come the morning there’s often frost on the lawn, ice on the path and the kind of freezing mist that makes you shiver. It’s beautiful, really – the delicate frosting on a spider’s web, the white-dusted rooftops, the crunch of the grass underfoot. But my goodness, it’s cold!
The news headlines here – and, I am sure, in many countries – are full of the cost of living crisis, which is making us hesitant to put on the heating. Consequently, our homes may not be as warm as we’d like all of the time. My own home is currently undergoing a renovation, and several parts are without any heating. We have done our best to make the few rooms we are using cosy, but it is difficult to retain the heat.
How to keep warm has become a key question for us all. Many of the ideas we have heard before: wear thick jumpers, scarves, thermal socks; use a hot water bottle; sip hot drinks regularly. But what about reading ourselves warmer?
This idea came to me a few days ago, when I was reading one afternoon. It was a novel set in my homeland, Egypt. The scorching sun beat down on the desert so ferociously, the heroine was sheltering in the shade cast by the Great Pyramid of Giza. From there, she was looking out at a desert mirage, a little magic cast by the heat radiating from the sand. Such a sunny, warm setting – and as I read, I found that escaping into this world made me feel a certain warmth.
When we describe being warm (or cold), we use the verb ‘feel’. Being warm is a physical feeling, but it is also an emotional one. Being around loved ones, for example, can make us feel warmer (you can read the science behind this here).
Can we read ourselves warmer this winter? Yes, I think so. A novel may not make us warm in the way that a crackling fire or a piping-hot radiator would, but it can make us feel warmer.
In my own novels, warmth is guaranteed. From Greece to Egypt, Kenya to Spain, my stories are set in hot, sunny locations. Here are some excerpts that I hope will bring a little warmth to your day. And if you’d like to feel warmer still, well, perhaps you’ll enjoy reading one of my books; all are available to purchase on this website.
Set in Spain.
The day was heating up; it was still quite early, but already the sun was blazing down, like most mornings in the south of Spain in late spring. There wasn’t a ghost of a breeze. Alexandra took her time winding her way through the exquisite gardens, edged with elegant cypress trees, often stopping to sit and read her book or scribble down a few notes in her notepad. After that, beyond the borders of the gardens, she walked for more than an hour, meandering back and forth across acres of fruit trees, soaking in the beauty of the light and heady fragrance of orange blossom in the air. But she was becoming hot and weary. Maybe leaving her hat behind was not such a good idea after all, she thought, as she crossed an unshaded path and walked down the side of one of the apple orchards. She paused just long enough to catch her breath. This was a place to laze and abandon all idea of exercise.
Set in Spain.
The sun was still blazing when she woke up, hot and clammy. Her bikini was sticking to her like a second skin and her hair was damp, unpleasant against her nape. She padded across the sun-warmed sand and stood digging her toes deep in the fine ivory-coloured strip, feasting her eyes on the crystal-clear waters lapping at her feet. Golden sunbeams danced on the glasslike surface; it was seductively inviting.
Set on the Greek islands.
Oriel took a sip from her bottle of water. It was amazing how quickly the sun grew in heat. She could see why the inhabitants of the island all those centuries ago believed that Helios, the handsome Titan crowned with the shining aureole of the sun, drove his glittering chariot across the sky each day. Oriel thought it perfectly understandable that they would have personified such a powerful force: after all, they had no scientific explanation for natural phenomena. She glanced at her watch: ten o’clock. By midday there would be a heat haze over the landscape, scintillating and shimmery, and the sun would be bearing down mercilessly.
Set in Italy.
Although it was already early evening, the warmth of the sun still lingered as Catriona started back to the house to see Umberto. The sky was all broad stripes of lilac, green, rose and amber – everything wrapped in a glory of colour. Such a beautiful sight! She was aware of the wild pulse of nature in this garden, where stone nymphs and satyrs flirted in the twilight. Another beautiful and balmy evening, full of the breath of the myrtle, Catriona thought as she made her way through the shadows, held by the magic of the lake and the broken song of a bird.
Set in Kenya.
She sat in the flickering shade of the flame tree where Rafe had stretched out a couple of weeks before, admiring the lake and the jagged peaks that reared up behind it into the heavy air. The radiance of the sun glowed on the water, transforming it into a great mirror of gold. In the heat of the afternoon, nature was out, blooming and contented. The air was trembling with the hum of insects, the fluttering of vivid butterflies, and the faint rustling of leaves. There was trilling and cooing in the foliage around her, while the steady roar of the waterfalls resounded in the background. From her vantage point, she had a full view of the black rocks, like mysterious giants, fringed by splendid trees. Coral spent a few minutes taking some photographs and then lay there gazing at the wild beauty of the crystalline cascade.
Song of the Nile
Set in Egypt.
Next day dawned brilliant. Kasr El Ghoroub sparkled in the sunshine, its climbing roses and jasmine hanging in heavy, drooping clusters, and in the surrounding gardens the pink petunias and purple orchids flagged somewhat in the glare of the new day. Out in the desert the sand shone like closely packed particles of gold. The air was hot and clear, with the peculiar soft freshness of the Egyptian early morning, and the distant pyramids were veiled in a purple mist, which lay like a faint bloom upon the austere stone outlines. The sky, blue and cloudless, the sand rolling away in endless yellow waves, the pink glow on the faraway dunes combined with an exquisite clearness of effect which enchanted Aida.
Picture credit: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock.