Novel set amid Omagh horror picked as read of the month for TV book-club

It promises to be another best seller for Northern Ireland author Emma Heatherington.

he Promise, which has just been released, tells the story of two people who forge a relationship in the midst of the Real IRA 1998 Omagh bombing.

It is believed to be the first time the atrocity, in which 29 people and two unborn babies died, has been used within the framework of a novel.

And Ms Heatherington, a Co Tyrone native, is delighted that her new work of fiction has already been chosen as Tesco Book of the Month by TV presenter Fern Britton — for a second time.

“This is the second year in a row that Fern Britton has chosen a book of mine so it’s an added shock and delight,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

“When she picked Secrets in the Snow last year I thought that was the pinnacle of my career and that I would never better that.

“Fern Britton’s influence is massive. My book shot up the best seller charts last time and reached number 21.

“I’ve over the moon that she’s chosen The Promise. It’s a huge compliment. I wasn’t expecting it and I’d love to meet her and thank her in person one day.”

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Over the last decade, the 45-year-old author has penned 12 romantic novels but The Promise is the only one to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, not to mention through the lens of one of its deadliest incidents.

“It was a very sensitive subject to deal with but I’ve been getting very positive feedback and I appreciate that,” she said.

“Fern said she was captivated by the plot of a novel with such an atrocious event at its heart and that means so much to me.

“I hope my book will help a wider UK audience understand how much the Troubles has marked so many lives here in Northern Ireland and beyond.”

She added: “We grew up with bombscares in shops, nightclubs and even schools. They were scary times but it seemed normal in those days. Looking back, it was far from normal for anyone.”

Ms Heatherington also revealed a close relative “literally missed the bomb” on August 15, 1998, “by minutes”.

“My cousin and a car load of friends were on their way to Donegal and they almost stopped for snacks in Omagh, only for a last-minute decision not to,” she said.

She recalled hearing the news while she was in a parked car with her then two-year-old daughter.

“I was getting ready to go to my cousin’s hen party that evening,” she said.

“The news became more and more horrific as the evening went on and some friends who were nurses were called in to help out at different hospitals.”

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