I had an interesting conversation on Facebook the other day, the gist of which was, “Do I need to read your books in any order? They are all part of the same series, aren’t they?”
The short answer to that is Yes and No. Or rather, No and Yes but no, sort of.
My four most recent books and my most recent short, have all been set in the “Westmouthshire” universe and I’ve retconned the four “Ladz Local Lovelies” stories into the universe too. But that doesn’t mean to say that you have to read them in order.
Apart from A Good Man and A Tortured Soul the second of which carries on the story from the first and in you don’t read AGM before ATS, you’ll likely get lost along the way. That’s why I call these two books together Tutelam Venit. They are smaller parts of the same story.
But, aside from that, you can read Kissed by a Rose, Eternally & Evermore, Tutelam Venit and The Big Four Ohhh! in any order you like. They do have a chronological order in which the plots happen, but you don’t have to read them that way if you don’t want to.
So, what do I mean by the “Westmouthshire Universe” if they are not a series. Good question, and one I’ve been meaning to add a page or two to this website dedicated to answering for quite a while now. For now though, this post will have to do.
Essentially, all the stories take place in the same fictional county, which is situated on the South Coast of England. If it were real, it would be squeezed between Kent and Sussex. Westmouth is the Shire Town (or County Seat, if you prefer), although it’s not the largest town in the county – Walminister is.
I created Westmouth for the book Kissed by a Rose. I wanted a seaside town with a ‘hip’ vibe, kind of like Brighton, that would be attractive to a young movie star. So Westmouth and Westmouth University were born.
I’ll be honest, much of the town and university campus are an embellishment of my memories of Aberystwtyh, where I studied in my youth. (Twenty years ago now. Damn!)
At the time, I thought I was just making up a town for the book. Then as I wrote the book, I made reference to “Ladz” magazine, which is the focus of four short stories I originally wrote for Ruthie’s Club. That’s when I thought I might be able to create something bigger. A whole group of stories which are separate stories but have similar elements – the setting, some of the characters and events.
Kissed by a Rose introduced a couple of characters who have gone on to either appear or be mentioned in subsequent books. England’s Rose, the movie star Chloe Goodman, is mentioned in Eternally & Evermore as is the movie she made in Kissed by a Rose. She also appears in both Tutelam Venit books – a very brief cameo in A Good Man then a longer appearance in A Tortured Soul.
Chloe’s good friend, Pop starlet Tina Thomson, is also mentioned in all three books written after Kissed and her song have significant meaning to many of the characters.
Eternally & Evermore introduced Will Brown, who is an important secondary character in Tutelam Venit. Although most of his book takes place in Westmouth, it also introduced the town of Walminister.
A Good Man led to the creation of the small town of Micester and some of its surrounding villages, but some of the story also takes place in Westmouth.
A Tortured Soul takes us back to Westmouth University and introduces yet another new town in the county – you’ll have to read it to find out why.
So, as you can see, although the stories are interwoven, which characters and settings in common, they are separate stories and you can read them in any order. What I would like to do, when I can find the time to sit down and do it, is produce a timeline that easily illustrates when each of the stories take place in a chronological order. And perhaps put together some sort of table that shows who appears in which story and in what capacity.
But in the meantime, if you are looking forward to the 5th May when you can get your hands on A Tortured Soul, rest assured that the only book you absolutely NEED to have read before it is A Good Man. Everything else, can wait until after.