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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