Miranda's Big Mistake – Jill Mansell

This was the first Jill Mansell book I ever read, in my early twenties, and I instantly wanted to hang out with the characters. I was genuinely sad to leave them when I reached The End and have re-read the book several times since – it inspired me to write stories of my own and made me want to create the kind of characters my own readers would want as friends.

Holly Hepburn by Tamsyn Murray

Holly Hepburn by Tamsyn Murray

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Another book I discovered in my early twenties, when I fell in love with Lizzy and her clever, funny observations of society and family life. I cringed at Mrs Bennet and the unbearable Mr Collins, and wanted to shake some sense into Lydia. Then of course there's a certain Mr Darcy – I add a pinch of him into every hero I write.

The Memory Book – Rowan Coleman

This story of a young woman with early-onset dementia made me cry buckets. But for all that, I smiled a lot too and was totally swept up in the story. It's obviously a tricky subject but it doesn't shy away from the emotional highs and lows and it is all handled so deftly that I couldn't put the book down. I'd quite like to be Rowan Coleman when I grow up.

Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens

Is there anyone better than Dickens at writing villains? From Fagin to Uriah Heep, he's the master of creepy monsters hiding in plain sight, and with this book, he gives us Silas Wegg – a social parasite with his eye on a hefty inheritance. Wegg is a villain I love to hate – obsequious, sneaky and nasty to his core, but also oddly pitiable.

Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

Dark and atmospheric, this book inspired and shocked me in equal measure. It transported me back to Cornwall's smuggling past and I fell in love with the lonely, windswept inn of the title. I was especially excited to discover on a recent trip to Cornwall that you can actually stay at the Jamaica Inn – that's definitely going on my to-do list.

Two Weddings and a Baby – Scarlett Bailey

I'm a sucker for a book set in Cornwall and this one ticks all my boxes: gorgeous seaside setting – tick, fabulous heroine – tick, unconventional hero – tick. Poldore is so wonderfully described – I wish it was real so I could visit. I also loved meeting the characters I knew from Scarlett's other books. A fantastic summer read that probably planted the seed to write my own Cornish town.

The Affair – Gilli Paul

This book oozes old-fashioned sophistication and charm. Set in 1960s Rome, when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were filming Cleopatra, the descriptions of the people and places were so vivid that it was the next-best thing to a time machine – I really felt as though I was there, watching the action unfold. And I now have a slight Elizabeth Taylor obsession. Sumptuous and thoroughly Italian – just like the best gelato.

When I Fall in Love – Miranda Dickinson

No one does feel-good stories with a tender heart quite like Miranda Dickinson and this tale of a young widow who learns to live again after losing her husband is a real treat. A lot of the action takes place in an ice cream shop, which very much appeals to my sweet tooth but it's the characters that have stayed with me the longest – the hallmark of a great book. And did I mention the ice cream?

Together – Julie Cohen

A searing, unforgettable love story that will leave you thinking about it long after you've finished reading. The way that the book is structured means that the reader initially meets the characters in the present day and only find out the truth about their lives together at the very end. A masterclass in conveying emotion through the page – I defy you not to be moved.

The Power – Naomi Alderman

A barn-storming, oh-so-clever exploration of the patriarchy, the matriarchy and the inevitably corrupting nature of power. I was gripped by this book right from the very first page and have been recommending it to EVERYONE. One of those stories that really makes you think, with an absolute killer of a last line. And oh, the characterisation…I wish I'd written it.

The Picture House by the Sea by Holly Hepburn is published on Thursday 10th August by Simon & Schuster UK

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