My eighth novel, A VILLAGE VACANCY, will be published on October 22nd by Head of Zeus/Aria. I’m so excited about this book as I was able to bring back characters from earlier books. It was an email from a lovely reader who asked were Grace and Harriet ever going to have another story? If they were, she said, could I possibly introduce a young Irish teacher into the plot as she was sure there was room for one somewhere!! There certainly was.

I want to reiterate that, while all my books are set in the mythical Yorkshire town of Midhope and most in the large (and getting larger!) village of Westenbury, the novels can all be read as total standalones. I’d hate new readers to think they can’t read this book as they’re not aware of Harriet’s and Grace’s backstories. Three earlier novels: GOODNESS, GRACE AND ME, THE ONE SAVING GRACE and AN OFF PISTE CHRISTMAS have Harriet as the storyteller. in A VILLAGE VACANCY it is now Grace who is the main protagonist, the main storyteller and we join her when her life is at a bit of a crossroads.

Grace is in her early forties, an attractive chestnut-haired teacher who can appear overly strong willed and, at times, prone to making the wrong decisions. In this, Grace’s story, I wanted to get over that people are flawed. We can all, at some points in our lives, act illogically and maybe out of character, making mistakes we regret. Grace is no exception. It’s been suggested that, as her creator, it might be that I expect readers to understand, accept and excuse Grace’s behaviour – rashness even – on that night out in Leeds simply because she is the white, middle class professional woman she is. Not at all. Grace is going through much internal conflict, is newly separated from her husband,Dan once again, has taken on a full time job with a very unruly class of ten-year-olds and is single-handedly bringing up two small children, one with Down’s syndrome. I’ve tried to show Grace’s vulnerability and how her need for love and a sound, meaningful relationship make her behave as she does. The brittle persona she sometimes takes on is a mantle to cover her insecurities. People can, and do, make foolhardy decisions, act illogically and do the wrong thing at the wrong moment.

I do hope you, the reader, will join Grace, Harriet and Dr Juno Sutherland as events unfold in another Westenbury tale. There are some twists and turns, some darker moments, hopefully some laugh-out loud ones but ultimately I do hope you will find it a jolly good read. After all, isn’t that why we do read? I’d love to know what you think.

"I cannot tell you just how much I adored this book. I’m an avid reader of Julie Houston’s novels, and their heady combination of heart and humour draws me in every time. There’s something truly magical about following this remarkable group of women through their lives, each one skilfully brought to life by the author’s beautiful language and masterful grasp of human nature. With enough twists and turns to keep you up into the night reading, and all the right moments of humour and anguish, ‘A Village Vacancy’ is a tour de force of beautiful, funny and emotional storytelling that will leave you, as it left me, desperate for the next instalment." FK Netgalley reviewer

"I've read all of Julie's books & have loved them all. I wait in anticipation for the next book to be realised & this book did not disappoint!  I want to shout out the ending as it was so good but I won't spoil it for you all. All I hope is that Julie is busy writing the next book..." Christine D Reviewer

"A book that has you wanting to finish it all in one sitting to find out what happens next and how it ends..." Netgalley Reviewer

"I LOVED this book - I've read all of Julie's books set in Westenbury and, I really think this is the best one yet. It was funny, serious, emotional and there were a few twists and turns along the way. I hope there are going to be more books to follow because I can already see two extra stories starting to unfold. Julie is such a good author and I really recommend that you read this book if you love books with heart!" Mel A Reviewer

"I absolutely love Julie's books and this is no different. In fact, this might be my favourite book yet. I know I say that for every book but this is definitely a great read. I have been completely torn between wanting to devour page after page and wanting to slowly enjoy each event as they have unfolded. This is another book with a beautiful setting, which I really wish I could escape to. Plus we have more fantastic characters. Our main character Grace will make you shake your head with disapproval throughout the book. She is a single mum of a child who has additional needs. I honestly feel that this alone makes this a unique read and I wish more authors would touch on these aspects." Vickie W Netgalley Reviewer

"Another fabulous escape to Westenbury. No Spoilers. Julie Houston's latest addition to the Westenbury tales is fast and funny. Her storytelling doesn't pull any punches and is peppered with characters that you wonder about and miss long after you've finished reading. A cracking story and a great read. Highly Recommend." Netgalley reviewer

Julie Houston

October 2020

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553B9CEB-3BD4-48C9-9E85-27E1F4DD5648This blog made its first appearance in the blog  of Jane Hunt Writer


SING ME A SECRET returns to the village of Westenbury in West Yorkshire where Pandora Boothroyd, the self-appointed First Lady of the village, has put forward an application to The Really Useful Group – an actual organisation that gives permission for local rep. companies and choirs to perform the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The story was somewhat inspired by my own venture into musical theatre.

About fifteen years ago, the choir I’d sung with for several years, was given permission by The Really Useful Group to put on a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in Leeds Town Hall, the several hundred-strong choir taking the part of the chorus waving palm leaves and belting out the many songs, while Jesus and Judas were drafted in from another part of Yorkshire to strengthen the ranks.

And what a Jesus! I can’t even remember his name now but he was gorgeous, and at every weekly rehearsal we’d be asking, ‘Jesus, just look at Jesus. Is Jesus here yet? When’s Jesus going to do his bit? No Jesus tonight?’ We were all a little bit in love, starstruck even, by this talented young man who, during the day, was possibly a painter and decorator, a postman, a teacher – I really have no idea – but at every Monday rehearsal night was transformed into the son of God.

Similarly, when the characters from SING ME A SECRET are first introduced to their Jesus, there is much wide-eyed oohing and aahing amongst the women:

‘Everyone…’Pandora trilled, holding out an arm before kissing Jesus as if she were compering the Oscars. ‘Everyone, I want you to give a warm welcome to Brett Bailey. Brett is from Barnsley – he’s just finished a run of Joseph in Sheffield – but has agreed to travel over every week to be with us.’

‘Brett Bailey from Barnsley?’ Ariadne, at Juno’s side, who up until then had said very little throughout the proceedings, gave a loud bark of laughter and then started giggling, unable to stop.

‘Oh, but look at him,’ Izzy sighed. ‘Look at Jesus. Jesus, he can lay his hands on me anytime.’


At our actual rehearsals in Leeds, it appeared that someone was missing: seemingly we didn’t have a Herod. During rehearsals, at the point where Herod should be going for his one big number – historically camped up and wearing an over-the-top costume – our musical director, Gary, would simply pass over Herod’s entrance and go on to the next. It wasn’t until the dress rehearsal, when we’d almost forgotten that Herod even existed in the musical, that he made an appearance, flamboyant in yellow suit and purple wig. To begin with, we couldn’t quite work out who was hiding under the wig until he started to sing and we realised it was Gary, the musical director himself. He was brilliant, really superb, and I’ve recreated this scene in SING ME A SECRET when the village have lost their first Herod and a new manifestation then makes an appearance in yellow suit and purple wig, the rest of the choir at first unable to work out just who it is up camping it up on the stage.


What was so great for me, when writing this story, was losing myself once again in the many fantastic numbers in this musical, almost waving a virtual palm leaf as I wrote, remembering not only our very own gorgeous and brilliant Jesus, but my eight-year-old son constantly singing around the house:

Jesus Christ, Superstar

Six feet tall and he wears a bra.


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I’m so pleased I’ve given my website a bit of a spring clean. Do come over and have a look and say hello and sign up for news, new publication dates and competitions!!


gray and brown floor mop on white wall

Photo by Rony Stephen Chowdhury on Pexels.com

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Screenshot 2020-04-27 at 18.35.00.pngSo, I’m often asked, are your novels all part of a series and, if so, should they be read in any particular order? 


The books are all set in Westenbury which is a mythical village in the town of Midhope, half way between Manchester and Leeds, and the same characters do pop up again and again. They can all be read as stand alone novels but, if you’ve not read any of my books yet and fancy doing so, then the following order might be helpful, But not essential!!Screenshot 2020-04-27 at 20.40.58.png





Screenshot 2020-04-27 at 18.35.00.png This is the first novel of the series and introduces Harriet, Grace and Amanda.




4d76a18c-c433-4308-b3c5-76794e279e11_4_5005_c       This  continues the story of the three women, but absolutely can be read as a stand alone novel.




Screenshot 2020-04-27 at 20.40.58.pngA Christmas novella in Cortina d’Ampezzo. Who will Grace and Harriet find up that mountain?





Screenshot 2020-04-27 at 18.46.40The story of  Clementine and her search for her identical twin.



IMG_0789  Over 125 000 092AD219-EA9A-4DE2-A956-20BD2233265E_1_105_ccopies sold and the seventh most downloaded ebook in the UK throughout 2019.  Meet Cassie Beresford after that explosive auction evening.



dd2299de-e37f-410c-95db-59dfbca2922b_1_105_cThe Maddison sisters, Charlie and Daisy find themselves drawn into the secret held by their grandmother, Madge, for the last seventy years.






My new book out on Thursday May 7th 2020.  I am so excited about this. I loved writing it…it made me laugh so much. Four sisters – two with a secret – and a somewhat zany production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”




Front cover to be revealed!! Out October 22nd 2020

Grace, Harriet and Amanda are back. Or are they? There’s a vacancy in the village. Who has left it? Who will fill it. Again, I’m so excited for readers to get stuck into this. There’s a slight frisson of unease going on…

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Julie Houston

I’m so excited that my new book, Sing Me A Secret, will be released on May 7th 2020. This is my eighth book published by Head of Zeus/Aria and we return to the village of Westenbury to meet The four Sutherland sisters, daughters of renowned classicist, Professor Patrick Sutherland.

DR JUNO ARMSTRONG: A GP working part time in the Westenbury village practice. With her husband recently gone to the states for a year, Juno has time to fill…

PANDORA BOOTHROYD: The village of Westenbury’s Queen of Organisation. Girl guides, the Church Rota, Meals on Wheels, and… the village choir mistress. If it moves, Pandora will suck you in and organise it…

ARIADNE SUTHERLAND: A Classics teacher newly returned to Westenbury -the village of her youth – from abroad. The eldest of the four sisters, she’s single, feisty and feels the need to keep her sisters in order.

LEXIA RYAN: Famous for winning the reality TV show THE BEST as a seventeen-year-old, the last thing she expects, or wants, is to return to Westenbury after fifteen years away.


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Where the hell’s my purse??

So, it’s last Friday afternoon and I’m on the King’s Road in London just walking and window shopping and enjoying the last of my three day break away. I’ve had a great evening at  the RNA Winter do, met up with lovely editors and fellow writers at Aria Publishing, taken son Ben out for dinner and met up with friend Kathy from Geneva. I know I’m due to leave King’s X around 8pm and have arranged to meet friend Chris from  Wimbledon at the station for drink and food before catching train back to Yorkshire.

I remember I have a M&S voucher to spend so decide to head for Kensington High Street and jump on a number 49 bus. Now, London buses won’t take cash – you just flash your credit card at them. I know all this because I’ve been travelling on the tube. What I can’t work out is how do they know what to charge you on the bus? It seems to be the same price whether you stay on one stop or spend the day travelling round seeing the sights and/or having a snooze. I’m gazing round, purse in hand, trying to work out what to do with credit card when I get off. Nothing it seems. Decide to get off to look at some interesting shops. They weren’t, so jump on next 49 bus and go to flash credit card. Except I can’t as purse has gone.

What do you do when you’re in the middle of London with no money and no credit cards? Two hours, 4 and a half miles and 32000 Fitbit steps later I arrive at Kings X. Chris is waiting for me and we attempt to explain to young man in Left Luggage why I no longer have the ticket to get out my case left there earlier in the day.

“Can you describe the case?”

‘Yes, bright purple with an American Express logo and – very helpful – the metal handle has been sawn off (don’t ask!) leaving two metal sticky out bits on which to rip your fingers and ladder your tights”

The young man duly searches out said case. “Can you tell me what’s in it?”

“White nightie wrapped around Babyliss hair drier”

“Tell me the name of all your make up?’

“HourGlass, Charlotte Tilbury…”

“Name of toothpaste?”

“It’s wrapped in a shower cap and is Sensydne Total White”


It was bit like playing that game at a party when you have to remember what’s on a tray before it’s whisked away.

I’d obviously passed my A Level in Left Luggage and told young man I’d be back to pick it up in two hours once we’d eaten.

Half a bottle of red wine and several phone calls to police to report stolen purse later and

we return to pick up case from Left Luggage with fifteen minutes to go before train leaves.

To same young man: “Hi, me again, can I pick up case now? Friend here will pay for it seeing as I have no purse.”

“Can I see your ID?”

“We’ve been through all this. You’ve seen my toothpaste and nightie.. You know it’s my case.”

“Sorry, need some ID.”

“A letter in my bag?”

“No, it has to be your driving licence…”

“It was in my purse. It’s been stolen.”

“Your passport…”

“At home.”

“Sorry, it’s policy.’

“So why didn’t you tell me this two jours ago when you were rifling through my make up and nightie?”

He points to a notice on the counter. “It’s here in black and white. No ID, no case release”

Various expletives on my part. Ten minutes until train goes. “Just give me my case, don’t be ridiculous.”

Folded arms on his part.

“I’m getting it”

“No, you’re not” He takes case away and puts it in the back.

“So what do you suggest?”

“It stays here at £12 per day until you come back with ID”

I ring husband who is not at home. He zooms the five minute journey home, rushes up to safe to find my passport and sends picture of it to my phone.

Quel hero!!!

Case released and I run for train while friend pays £12 plus £15 lost ticket surcharge to this young man who “is just following procedure.”

All cards stopped, new driving licence applied for as I try to think what else was in wallet.london-2084138_960_720.jpg


Monday morning I ring London Transport. “I don’t suppose you’ve had a brown Ted Baker wallet handed in from Number 49 bus last Friday?”

“Yes, love, you’re in luck, it’s here.”

How amazing is that? My wallet with all its credit and debit cards all intact and handed in. My faith in human nature totally and utterly restored.





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published by Aria

Nov 2018


My new book is out!!

Twenty-six 5* reviews from professional reviewers/bloggers on #Netgalley


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Village-Affair-Perfe…/…/ref=sr_1_1… IMG_0013IMG_0789









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Apricot Plots


So, welcome to newly formed Apricot Plots of which I’m a member. Why not have a look at Apricot Plots on Facebook and find out what Jane Cable, Morton S Gray, Caroline JamesAuthor, Tora Williams, Mariam Kobras, Angela Barton and I are up to over on our APRICOT PLOTS Facebook page?

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Writing Romantic Comedy

Writing Comedy

Humour, Comedy, Being Funny, Banter, Mirth, Being tickled Pink: as I’m writing about Comedy, it seems perhaps sensible to start this piece with some attempt to define Humour, particularly as what one person may find rib-ticklingly hilarious can leave another stone-cold dead.

woman holding baby smiling

Photo by Singkham on Pexels.com


In the same way I am convinced one cannot possibly write a novel without being a prolific reader oneself so, it seems to me, a writer does need to have a sense of humour in order to write comedy and have her characters appear funny. But what is this sense of humour? We talk glibly about the British sense of humour – that presumably only those born a “Brit” can inherit – and scoff derisively at the stereotyped notion of what constitutes German and American humour. To me, and this is purely a personal opinion, having this sense of humour means being able to laugh, not only at the absurdities life throws us, but also able to laugh at oneself.


Last week I had a meeting with my agent in London and, being a Yorkshire lass, was delighted to find, by booking well ahead I was able to buy quite ridiculously cheap train tickets. The day before I was due to travel, I received an email from the train carrier with the good news that for an extra £20 I could upgrade to First Class on my return journey home. Having never aspired to the dizzy heights of First Class travel I was somewhat excited. For £20, the email said, I could upgrade, have free drinks, dinner, comfy seat and free films. What was not to like? All I had to do was sit in First Class, clutch my original ticket in one hand, a £20 note in the other and wink at the guard as he came round (Honestly!!)

So, at the end of a busy day of discussion with said agent (and, alright, quite a bit of shopping too) I somewhat tentatively made my way to First Class. The other elite First Classers tutted somewhat at having to move their bags, laptops, charging phones etc to make way for me and my (many) purchases, but I eventually settled in my (very comfortable) seat and with a £20 note clutched in my hand practised a few encouraging, if not downright flirty, winks while awaiting the guard. The drinks trolley arrived. ‘…Thank you, I’d love a gin and tonic…’ ‘…a glass of red wine please, if I may?’ ‘…smoked salmon sandwiches? My favourite. Lovely…’ ‘…Another glass of red? Go on then, you’re twisting my arm…’ Two hours later I was seeing double, but not even the whisper of a guard (single or double) came down the carriage with the result that, at the end of the journey, I virtually fell off the train, trailing packages in my wake as I stumbled drunkenly to find my chauffeur (my husband.)

I tell this tale not to boast of getting one over on British Rail (I have since felt very guilty at being wined and dined in First Class for the princely sum of a £7.50 advance economy ticket, and am thinking about  – still thinking – sending the £20 to the favourite charity of a certain Mr Branson) but to typify what, to me, is being able to laugh at the absurdities of life as well as oneself.


I am often asked, as no doubt are all writers, where I find ideas for writing my books and I have to confess, when someone recounts a real-life funny happening, I will make a note and it’s a big possibility it will pop up somewhere in a story at a later date. Children can be incredibly un-funny when they’re telling jokes or long convoluted tales that theyfind hysterical, but hugely funny when they don’t mean to be. In GOODNESS, GRACE AND ME, my first novel, I have woven a number of anecdotes into the story, including the one where a ten-year-old looked me up and down in wonder before uttering the immortal words: ‘Miss, you’ve got the biggest tits I’ve ever seen.’ Wrath was gathering and about to descend on his trendily-shaven head when the little innocent added, ‘And they’re always in green, Miss, not like other teachers who always do ‘em in red…’


Probably my favourite funny story, and one I’ve dined out on as well as included in my second novel, THE ONE SAVING GRACE, comes from my work sitting in court as a local magistrate. You may be aware magistrates sit as a bench of three, all with equal power to make decisions, but with only the chair, in the middle, doing any of the talking and asking questions. One such bench, chaired by a rather elderly woman is listening to the case of a man accused of speeding.

‘…There’s no way I was speeding..,’

‘Oh? The police say you were.’

‘No, I couldn’t have been. You see I have a German car, fitted with a special machine that tells me if I’m speeding…’

At this point one of the male wingers, raising cynical eyebrows, scribbles a note and, without a word, hands it to his chair. The chairwoman reads the one word written there: BOLLOX and, after a couple of seconds, turns back to the defendant in front of her.

‘So, Mr Smith, this, erm, this BO-LOCKSmachine, is it in all German cars or just yours…?’


I love finding something so funny that laughing makes you cry, makes you snort and can, on occasions, result in wet pants. I was reminiscing, only yesterday, about my old girls’ grammar school head teacher who could fell her pupils, in assembly, with one terrifying glare. As a particularly giggly adolescent, I was taking my life in my hands by attempting to get a note to my friend three rows in front of me during an extremely long and tedious rendition of “Fight the Good Fight.”

‘Pass this to Clare,’ I whispered, covertly tapping the back of my friend, Liz in front of me. The look she gave me as she half turned and, in between singing ‘faint not nor fear, his arms are near,’ hissed back, ‘Who do you think I am, bloody Twizzle?’ rendered me so hysterical I was ordered out of the assembly hall to await the wrath of the despotic head.

Which, I suppose, just goes to prove my husband right when, on the many occasions I’ve recounted this tale to him, accompanied by energetic, Twizzle-like extending arm movements, he’s frowned, turned back to his (very unfunny) American sit-com and said, ‘You obviously had to be there…’


This post first appeared as an article in Books For Women in January 2017.






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Because my husband has a promotional gifts company he is particularly difficult to buy presents for. Present him with just about anything and you know immediately that he is thinking: “how much did she pay for it? I could have found it 25-30% cheaper.” Over the years, particularly when the children were little, it has been a great advantage to have free access to a warehouse full of gifts, giftware, cards, chocolates, tins of biscuits, table gifts, myriad cuddly toys, candles etc etc. Some of the stuff – the 3D clock of the Last Supper with each digit a different disciple; the £0.99 Capodimonte teapot -has provoked hilarity rather than relief at having found a last minute gift, but the problem remains – what do you buy a man who is surrounded by gifts on a daily basis?

Back in August, his birthday, the kids presented him with a motorbike track day – which he still hasn’t done anything about – and I told him his present was an all-expenses paid trip to … Liverpool. As his mother had given him a night away with dinner for two in a  (very limited) choice of hotel, I suggested we combine the two, discovered the nearest participating hotel to be in Preston and perused our diaries to pencil in a suitable date.

It took three months to actually get him there- or not, as it turned out – and turned out a rather different weekend away from the one I envisaged.

My plan involved a relaxing train journey across the Pennines, lunch in an upmarket restaurant, cultural visits to The Cavern, The Tate and The Albert Dock culminating in a rendition of Ferry Across the Mersey as we set sail across the river. We would then make our way to our hotel for a romantic evening meal, journeying home the following day via the Antony Gormley “Another Place” Exhibition on Crosby beach. The birthday boy immediately pointed out to me that if we were staying the night in Preston and hoping to see the Gormley exhibition we would have to go by car rather than as a guest of British Rail. As we drove west along the M62 – windy and wet at the best of times – the heavens opened and the tail end of some storm -Abigail? Barnaby? – hit the motorway causing flooding and queues.

We googled “Liverpool” and saw the city had been hit particularly badly by the rain and wind, the ferries were possibly suspended and we didn’t have an umbrella between us. We decided we’d have to leave the cultural bit of the weekend until later that day and, instead, headed for the Cheshire Oakes designer outlet to do some Christmas shopping. As, it was quite obvious, once we saw the full car parks and queues, had every other person in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire. I actually enjoy shopping – no, let’s be honest, I love shopping – but my husband hates it and even I felt daunted by the sheer numbers of people obviously fleeing the rain as well as trying to find that elusive Christmas gift.

It took us two hours to exit the car park, the rain was assuming biblical proportions and we decided to forget ‘culture’ and head for ‘romance.’

Four-star hotel it wasn’t. The rain was lashing, the wind howling – and that was just the inside!! The room was freezing and, apart from us and a rather disgruntled pair of bridesmaids who appeared to have lost their party as well as the plot, the place was deserted. We were shown four different rooms until we found one that was actually heated- it was, we were told their executive suite – and deciding we needed gin, headed for the bar.

We ate our romantic meal in a gloomy dining room in solitary splendour. Just as I was expecting Norman Bates to appear, the Turkish waiter, obviously bored with his own company, basically joined us. This was the entertainment for the evening.

At one in the morning I went down with food poisoning.

On the Sunday morning, with a new storm  – Cyril? Derek?- revving to compete with Abigail, we decided to leave early and head for Crosby beach and Antony Gormley’s figures. We’d obviously got our tides wrong as the majority of the hundred figures were under water. IMG_7536The beach was deserted except for us and a couple of lone six-footers that had escaped the advancing water.

IMG_7537And then I turned against the wind to a totally surreal scene. One minute there wasn’t a soul to be seen, the next the beach was full. There must have been over a hundred people accompanied by what appeared to be hundreds of identical dogs, each one – dressed in reindeer antlers, mistletoe, holly and other seasonal appendages – a clone of the next.IMG_7538

Next time I plan a romantic weekend away, I shall check that the North West Schnauzer Christmas outing will not be joining us.IMG_7532

We cut our losses and drove home.







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