Book club notes for The Goodmans

The Goodmans gets picked as a book club read from time to time so here are a few notes based on frequent questions I’ve been asked by the readers and their discussions.

Where did the idea for The Goodmans come from?

I’d had this idea around a middle-aged mother meeting an old flame at her daughter’s wedding for a long time. I’d even outlined the story a little. But the main character I originally envisaged was quite submissive and she couldn’t carry the story as I intended. But after the referendum to leave the EU in the UK, I wanted to play around with a raging left-wing character and that’s when Maggie Goodman marched into the plot and took over the story.

What were the challenges of writing this book?

I always like to have a new challenge when writing a book.

I’d found that a cold homophobic mother is quite a common character in lesbian/bi romances. She’s often an unsympathetic shallow figure and I thought she could be more intriguing. So the biggest challenge I set myself with this book was to explore the reasons why someone might be this way and even gain some sympathy or understanding from the reader. I think Maggie is by far the most complex figure I’ve written. Readers may love her or hate her but she always infuriates either way.


It’s set not too far from Poppy Jenkins country (Mid Wales). This time it’s over the border to the English side in the county of Shropshire. Ludbury in the book is very closely based on the beautiful town of Ludlow. There are a few pictures here on my blog.

How long did it take to write?

I write part time and it took about a year from serious note taking and planning to final edit. It usually takes me about 5 months to get a decent first draft that’s readable. Then I have a major edit for structural changes and clarifying themes and character motivation. Another serious draft for pacing and impact. Then perhaps a couple of minor drafts for polishing, one of which I will read out loud to make sure it flows well.


This has been up for debate. I wrote it as a romance – actually a double romance – and I’m happy with that still. It’s very much embedded in a family saga and I was tempted at one point to abandon the romance formula and go for a full length family saga.

What have readers liked about the book?

Maggie. It’s hard to be neutral about her. She was incredible fun to write and I think because I enjoyed her so much it gave the character enormous energy.

The drama and humour.

The relationship between Jude and Abby – its kindness and compassion.

The twists – it’s a fairly complex plot for a romance with the odd surprise.

The setting – some describe the setting as almost another character in the book which is a lovely compliment.

The range of characters across generations and personality types – another facet which was enormous fun to write. I love writing family scenes. With two young kids, I have a very family-oriented life, and some snippets of my life make it into the books. The scene where Maggie rushes her nephew crying “poo!” to the toilet only for him to emit wind was based on an incident with my daughter.


It’s been a good seller (by my standards) on the back of Poppy Jenkins and well received, although at the same time quite divisive. The politics has put off some – Maggie is clearly left-wing, but the book was also meant to be critical of divisive politics and lack of reconciliation on either side of the political debate. The book is more optimistic and finds more common ground than exists in British politics at the moment!

Also the ensemble cast and intertwining stories either thrilled readers or left some wanting a simple romantic story featuring one of the couples – usually the younger.

I’m unrepentant. Maggie Goodman is one of my favourite characters and some readers have written to me to say how much they admired her and wished they could unleash their inner Maggie!

7 thoughts on “Book club notes for The Goodmans”

  1. So glad you’re ‘unrepentant’!
    I’ve always liked your books. (As for the politics, I’m with Maggie, except when she’s in lesbophobic mode).

  2. I’m on the “I loved Maggie“ bench, I was frustrated with her, cried for her and then gave her a big high five at the end.

    Can’t wait to read your next book whenever that may be.

  3. Hi Clare, only discovered your books this year, what a treat. Loved Poppy Jenkins. I also like the way you give us oldies thought. I have now read all your books , l look forward to next year for more entertainment, love laughter and a few tears but always a happy ever after.

  4. Pennance, After Mrs Hamilton and The Goodmans are three of the best novels I have read. You are very talented. Thank you

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