An author who grew up in Leeds before moving to Cyprus has returned to her roots by setting her latest steamy romance novel in her home town.
Anna-Maria Athanasiou grew up in Meanwood and attended Abbey Grange School before moving away to Cyprus.
The mother-of-two hopes her new book, La Casa d’Italia For Starters, will be next summer’s must-have beach read despite its setting in an Italian restaurant in rainy Leeds.
It tells the story of Dani Knox, a 25-year-old woman who moves from London to Leeds to restart her life and escape a failed relationship. The fictitious restaurant setting is inspired by Ms Athanasiou’s real experiences growing up.
She said: “I used to regularly pass by an old mill on the bank of a nearby river and I would always think how it would make a lovely restaurant. Thirty years on, and believe it or not there is in fact a successful restaurant in that very spot.
“It may seem odd to some that I’m living in Cyprus, yet writing about an Italian family in the heart of Leeds, but I’ve wholly enjoyed piecing these aspects of my life and personality into this novel. Leeds has played such a huge part of my life. In many ways setting La Casa d’Italia For Starters in Leeds and revisiting all the places that played a key role in my upbringing has been very nostalgic for me. “Leeds locals will recognise many of the places mentioned in my book. Harewood House, Betty’s Tea Rooms, the Butterfly House and the Yorkshire Moors all make cameo appearances.
“Whereas my first novels very much relied on the Cypriot setting to carry the feelings of romance, Leeds is altogether busier, and has more of a hustle and bustle vibe. Despite this, it was still easy to write about romance and I wanted to try and prove that romance does in fact exist everywhere.”