Singer Jane McDonald tells Steve Pratt why she is glad to see the back of her husband after the breakdown of her much publicised romance.

JANE McDonald, the singer who found fame through the BBC reality show The Cruise, has a message to deliver: "I'm back". She's embarked on a nationwide tour and has released her first album in three years. It's taken time to recover from the split with her husband and manager Henrik, whose wedding was seen by ten million viewers in a TV documentary in 1998.

As honest and open as ever, the Wakefield-born entertainer says: "I had a bad break-up of a marriage and it took me a long time to come back on my own. Now I'm back. And, my God, I'm glad he went now.

"It's funny when you go through something like a break-up. You think you're never going to be in love again, but I'm much happier now. I have no regrets whatsoever."

McDonald became a star after her appearances on the BBC fly-on-the-deck series The Cruise. She knew it represented her last chance to make the big time after years of cabaret and cruise singing. She seized the opportunity with both hands.

That success led to an album which not only hit the number one spot but earned her a place in The Guinness Book of Records, as the first singer to reach the top of the album chart without a prior release. Sell-out concerts and presenting the BBC1 talent show, Search For A Star, followed.

Now she's on a marathon concert tour that coincides with the release of her latest album, You Belong To Me. It's a salute to all the singers that inspired her growing up, artists like Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield and Vicki Carr.

"Those singers who stood there and belted out a song," she explains. "It's always difficult deciding what to include, but we sat down - the record company, my management and me - and sorted it out. Songs like Kiss Me, Honey, Honey, Kiss Me which is the one that's going down a storm in the concerts. We've put a different slant on it."

The tour is a long one and the day we spoke she'd had to go to the doctors after waking up feeling rotten with the beginnings of a cold. "You forget the adrenaline rush every night which brings your immune system down. I have to look after myself a bit more," she says. "I haven't been home for three weeks. I've been living in different hotels all the time. I'm on another six-day run of dates at the moment, so I've not had a day off for 30 days. They keep saying, 'It'll keep you out of trouble'."

The tour, which takes in dates in North Yorkshire and the North-East, sees her playing a mix of new venues and those she's visited before. "There are a lot of new ones," she says. "It's always lovely when people want to have you at their theatre. I've been touring for six years and you get your own fan base in theatres. I am so lucky."

Eight years have passed since she cruised to national fame and she still can't quite believe what's happened. "I keep my head down and hope no-one will find out," she says. "I think there's a big difference between fame and success. I've always been a successful singer. As long as I can keep on being successful, that's fine."

Since her marriage ended, McDonald has branched out into other areas of entertainment. She spent several months in London's West End playing the Nurse in a musical version of Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet. "I loved it and was gutted when it finished, but it did me an awful lot of good. Although the critics didn't like the show, I got quite good reviews."

She hosted her own Yorkshire Television show, Jane And Jury, and perhaps more importantly became a regular panellist on ITV1's daytime talk show Loose Women. She's been asked back when the series, which has women pulling no punches in talking about their personal likes and dislikes, returns in April and has readily agreed.

"I have really enjoyed doing that, it's like therapy every day," she says. "I suppose being a lady of a certain age, I have been through a lot. I was apprehensive about going on but once you get into it and are a bit more open, that's when it runs along smoothly. I don't think you should be afraid of what you've done - it's all in the past.

"It was a great experience and I'm getting offers of TV which is fun. I am glad I took time out to do it."

Once the current tour is over, McDonald will do more writing and recording for her next album as well as Loose Women and corporate work. There is talk of her going to Europe and Mexico too.

She's already done sell-out concerts at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. "That was phenomenal, going on stage and thinking, 'These people don't know who the hell I am and especially don't know me from The Cruise. I had to prove myself," says McDonald.

"Different people have approached me about going to Europe because there aren't many live acts with a show who can go out there and do it."

What she wants more than anything at the moment is pretty simple - to get home. "My own bed is beckoning," she says.

* Jane McDonald appears on January 30, Harrogate International Centre (tickets 01423 537230); February 1, York Grand Opera House (tickets 0870 606 3595); February 5, Newcastle City Hall (tickets 0191 261 2606) and February 6, Middlesbrough Town Hall (tickets 01642 242561).