Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

The Reluctant Investigator: Edward’s Outlaw

In the first two novels of the series, The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw, Mathilda of Twyford (now Lady Mathilda de Folville), found herself thrust into situations where she had to get to the bottom of a crime simply to stay alive. In book three, Edward’s Outlaw, however, Mathilda’s reputation for solving mysteries sees her being asked to solve a murder by the sheriff…and she is in no position to say no…

Blurb

January 1330: England is awash with corruption. King Edward III has finally claimed the crown from his scheming mother, Queen Isabella, and is determined to clean up his kingdom.

Encouraged by his new wife, Philippa of Hainault, and her special advisor ‑ a man who knows the noble felons of England very well ‑ King Edward sends word to Roger Wennesley of Leicestershire, with orders to arrest the notorious Folville brothers… including the newly married Robert de Folville.

Robert takes his wife, Mathilda, to Rockingham Castle for her own safety, but no sooner has he left than a maid is found murdered. The dead girl looks a lot like Mathilda. Was the maid really the target ‑ or is Mathilda’s life in danger?

Asked to investigate by the county sheriff in exchange for him slowing the hunt for her husband, Mathilda soon uncovers far more than murder… including a web of deception which trails from London, to Derbyshire, and beyond…

The third thrilling instalment in Jennifer Ash’s The Folville Chronicles series.

***

Mathilda has only been married to Robert de Folville for three days, and already trouble has coming knocking at door of their home; Ashby Folville manor, Leicestershire. A warrant for the brother’s arrest sends Mathilda alone into Rockingham Castle for her own safety. Under the protection of its constable, Robert de Vere, she shelters within the castle while her husband and his brothers are on the run.

Mathilda doesn’t have time to worry about Robert for long, for within only a few days a young girl is dead and the sheriff thrusts the role of detective upon her.

Why would anyone here believe her, even if she did find the killer? The word of a woman, even one who has married into one of the most notorious households in England, is not worth much without substantial evidence. And what if she gets it wrong and accuses the wrong person? Mathilda’s terrified that she might send the wrong person to the gallows.

The pressure on Mathilda to succeed becomes even greater when she begins to wonder if Agnes, the murdered maid, was the intended victim after all. The more Mathilda thinks about it, the more she sees how easy it would have been for the killer to mistake the dead girl for her…Was Mathilda the intended target after all?

Extract

Blood hammered in Mathilda’s ears. She had tracked down killers in the past, but never by appointment. The first time had been unintentional, a task she’d stumbled upon to save her father’s honour and her freedom. The second had come with an even higher price tag. The cost of failure would have been her life.

Now, these previous successes had earned her a third attempt, and Mathilda doubted she was up to the task. In Ashby Folville she had Sarah and Adam to back her up, not to mention Robert and his brothers. Here, she was alone but for Daniel, who’d already had a myriad of household duties heaped upon him.

Would her desire to find justice for Agnes, and her equally strong curiosity to uncover what was going on in the castle, be enough to solve the crime. Or crimes?

Whatever her misgivings, Mathilda’s starting point was clear. The sheriff and his associates had not yet left the castle. She wanted to talk to each of them privately. The constable had promised her the freedom of the castle while he’d had little choice but to agree, but would he continue to extend that offer once Wennesley and his comrades had gone to recommence the search for her husband.

Not sure if she was heartened or worried by Sheriff Ingram’s claim that she was unstoppable in her pursuit of felons, Mathilda wiped away the perspiration from her palms.

As she walked towards de Vere’s rooms, Mathilda forced herself to focus. Even if the arresting party remained with the constable, that didn’t mean they would be willing to answer her questions. After all, they hadn’t been there when Agnes had died, yet Mathilda couldn’t shift the uneasy feeling that it was all connected somehow. She had no logical reason for that suspicion beyond the coincidence of Isabella’s abrupt reappearance and the night-time movements of a tall, short-haired man who could have been either of the younger men on the warrant party… or someone else entirely….

***

Edwards’ Outlaw can be read as a standalone book, or as part of The Folville Chronicles. (Book 1- The Outlaw’s Ransom– Book 2- The Winter Outlaw)

If you’d like to read Edward’s Outlaw, – or any of The Folville Chronicles, they are available in eBook format and paperback from all good reatilers, including…

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading,

Jennifer xx

Mathilda: An Unexpected Heroine

When I first created the character of Mathilda of Twyford, she was simply a character that one of my contemporary fiction heroines, Grace Harper (from Romancing Robin Hood), invented. Mathilda was a protagonist within a novel that was never supposed to be written- created by an author I’d made up.

At that time, I had no idea Mathilda was to going to escape from Grace Harper’s imagination to become a major player in a series of darker novels, which are far more crime and romance.

Mathilda of Twyford is a nineteen year old potter’s daughter, thrown into the midst of the notorious criminal family, the Folvilles – quite literally. Originally their hostage, Mathilda’s skill for finding out information – and her quick wits – quickly made her an asset that the Folville’s don’t want to give up. She has also- much to her surprise, found herself endeared to the principles of the seven brothers (well- six of them- one is just pure evil). She admires their brand of justice, which is less corrupt than the legal officials that run the country.

Not only does has Mathilda become a vital part of the Folville family, she has become their friend. And soon…if the winter outlaw can be stopped…she is destined to become much more…

Blurb

1329:  It is the dead of winter. The notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside—a man who has designs on the Folville family’s criminal connections.

Determined to stop this usurper in his tracks, Robert Folville unearths a man hiding in one of Ashby-Folville’s sheep shelters. A steward from far-off West Markham in Nottinghamshire, the cold, hungry Adam Calvin claims he knows nothing of any threat to the Folville family. He has troubles of his own, for he is being pursued by vengeful sheriff, Edmund de Cressy, for a crime he did not commit.

Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story, but with rumours about a vendetta against the family growing, the Folville brothers are suspicious of every stranger.

After an attack on the household’s trusted housekeeper, it falls to Mathilda to work out who can be trusted and who can’t… With the Folvilles’ past about to trip them up, it’s going to take a level head and extreme bravery if Mathilda and Robert are ever going to make it to their Winter Solstice wedding.

The Winter Outlaw is the sequel to The Outlaw’s Ransom

(You don’t need to have read The Outlaw’s Ransom to enjoy The Winter Outlaw)

One of the things I like best about, Mathilda, is that she stops to think before she acts – unlike the brother’s she is helping! Here’s an extract from The Winter Outlaw to whet your appetite. An unwanted messenger has delivered bad news to the household- a ruthless outlaw is in the area…

… Robert de Folville rose to see if his steward, Owen, had returned, but Mathilda put out a hand to stop him.

‘There’s something else.’

Robert frowned. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Someone has been taking food from the store in the night.’

‘What?’ Robert’s shout echoed through the room ‘Why didn’t you say?’

‘Are you going to stay calm long enough for me to tell you; because I don’t think it has anything to do with what happened to Sarah, nor with the messenger. Yet it occurs to me that the soul it does concern is in danger of becoming a scapegoat for whatever else is going on around here.’

‘What in Our Lady’s name are you talking about Mathilda? I think you’d better start from the beginning.’

The afternoon of Sarah’s attack, Mathilda reported, she had been working late in the kitchen, making a thin broth to tempt the housekeeper with once she’d come to her wits. She thought she’d heard something moving outside. The yard had already been secured against the early winter night, so the slight shuffling sound had alerted her attention.

When Mathilda had gone to investigate, there had been no sign of anyone. On entering the stores however she’d discovered that a few apples had been knocked over. As she’d looked around she had wondered if everything else that should have been there, was there. Nothing was obviously missing, so she had assumed all she’d heard was the fall of badly balanced fruit. The following evening, though, she’d listened out on purpose, and again heard the soft shuffle of something that sounded very much like feet. Waiting until the noise had passed, her heart beating fast, Mathilda had gone to check, and found that two apples were missing.

At the time, she explained, she’d decided not to say anything to Robert, as he was already in a fury about Sarah’s attack, and thinking that only the very desperate or very stupid would steal from the Folvilles, Mathilda had been convinced that someone with a score to settle against the family would have caused as much damage as possible, not just scrumped a few apples.

Convinced her instinct was correct, and that the minor theft from the store was nothing to do with Sarah’s attack, Mathilda had kept her suspicions to herself.

‘I decided to test my theory before I accused an innocent man of theft. So the following night I baked three extra loaves of bread, making a distinctive cross pattern in the top. I sprinkled them with flour and crept out into the store to leave them as tempting bait.’

Mathilda had spoken into the flames of the fire as she relayed what had happened until that moment. Now she squarely faced her future husband, ‘I checked that Sarah was alright. Then I waited until the household was asleep, before hiding at the back of the store.’

Robert sighed. ‘I ought to be angry. I am angry; yet at the same time… well, let’s just say I’m sure you were born to be a member of this household.’

Touched and surprised by her future husband’s calm acceptance of what she’d done, Mathilda took up her story again, ‘The more I thought about it, and the fact that no damage had been done and only a tiny amount of food had been taken, convinced me that this thief isn’t greedy. This is a person who needs to eat. This is a question of survival, and having found a good supply of unguarded food, they dived in and out at speed, taking what they could consume instantly, and hopefully, what won’t be missed. I thought however, that the lure of fresh bread last night would be too hard for him to resist.’

‘Last night!’ This time Robert did shout, but Mathilda held up her hand placating him.

‘Yes, last night. I crouched behind the barrels of cider. I didn’t have to wait long. That was when I knew I should have told you, my Lord. I was anxious, and your comforting presence was missed. Especially when a shadowy figure sidled into the store. I could hardly even hear his breathing. This person had learnt to be careful.’

‘Get to the crux, woman!’ Robert barked in exasperation.

‘The man hesitated in the doorway. He hadn’t expected the loaves. His hand hovered over them for ages while his eyes stayed on the apples he’d evidently returned for. I guess he was weighing up if he could hope the missing loaf would be blamed on theft by a dog or some such.

‘In the end I got fed up with waiting for him to do something. He was just stood there, staring longingly at the bread. So, without showing myself, I spoke to him.’

‘Saying what? And I hope you truly did keep to the shadows that time!’

‘I did, my Lord. I said, “You must be extremely hungry to invade this particular household.” He ran to the door straight away, but I called after him. I said, “Enjoy the bread, I made it for you.” That’s when he stopped and turned to where I was crouched.

‘He asked me why I’d baked for him. I told him only a desperate man steals from a Folville, so he must be truly in dire need of food. He stuttered, “A Folville…?”, then he ran. I doubt he’ll be back. He had no idea this was your manor, Robert, I’m sure of it. Which means this man is not connected with today’s loathsome messenger.’

‘Why in the name of all that is Holy didn’t you tell me? Why so reckless? Honestly, woman!’

‘I was going to tell you this morning, but our conversation was interrupted.’

Incensed that someone had dared steal from them, Robert threw his tankard of ale at the fire. ‘There was a time when the Folville name was enough to keep the thieves away. Is the state of the country so bad that I have to employ a guard dog?’…

***

I hope you enjoyed that. It is so hard to share an extract that won’t give too much away!

Buy Links-

The Folville Chronicles

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Morwenna Blackwood: Glasshouse

This week I am delighted to be welcoming former Imagine ‘Novel in a Year’ student, friend and fellow author, Morwenna Blackwood, to my blog to share the ‘Opening Lines’ from 

Glasshouse.

Over to you Morwenna…

Thanks for having me again, Jenny!

Glasshouse is my second thriller. It stands alone as a story, but is part of the series that began with my debut novel, The (D)Evolution of Us. I have seven books in the series planned, and they run alongside, rather than follow on from, each other. I wanted to capture a point in time, and explore its events through the eyes of interconnected people.

BLURB

From the Hippocratic Oath (translated By WHS Jones):

Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I break it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me.

Psychiatrists, Drs Whittle and Grosvenor, have dedicated their lives to helping their patients, but their approach, and the complications it reveals, lead them into relationships that harm not only themselves.

As their lives entangle, both men find that doing “no harm” is not as cut-and-dried as they perceived.

Can the patients in their care really trust them? Or are more sinister motives at work?

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

Spring 1999

Julia

I hit the brakes. There’s a couple crying on the pelican crossing outside the hospital. I miss them by inches. The man holds the woman back when she starts screaming at me; maybe he’s seen the state of my face. Once he’s pulled her clear of the road, I stamp on the accelerator, and abandon the car in the ambulance bay.

A few of the smokers outside the main entrance scowl and shout things at me, but I barely register them and push my way through to the big plan of the hospital that takes up most of the wall in the reception area. I scan the list of wards for the one Sasha told me Elizabeth is in, locate it on the map, and run down the corridor.

I’m not worried that I’m causing a scene – I figure that people will think I’m a desperate relative trying to make it to a dying loved one in time – so I don’t stop running until I reach the ward. I stand in the crowd of people around the nurses’ station and look for her name on the board; I can’t believe my luck: she’s tucked away in the far corner, with the curtains closed around her bed. Hiding in plain sight, I rush down the ward to her bed, check there are no doctors in with her, and slip behind the curtain.

Elizabeth looks tiny in the bed, like a child. I note that her hair is dark. She is lying down, and I can’t see her face. There are tubes and wires attached to her, and a monitor is beeping steadily. My hands are clenched, and I’m suddenly aware that they’re sweating. I approach the head of the bed. Elizabeth’s eyes are closed, and she is breathing regularly. I presume 3she’s asleep – if she was in an induced coma, she’d be in a more secure ward, surely.

I stand there, running my fingers across my damp palms, looking at her. She’s pretty – that’s evident even under the oxygen mask. I consider pulling all the plugs out of the wall but check myself – the monitors will be alarmed. I try to remember all the episodes of Casualty I’ve seen. I sit down in the inevitable uncomfortably upright chair next to her bed, absentmindedly moving the spare cushion that was on the seat, onto the moving table thing that holds a dry plastic tumbler, and a jug of water. I sit like this for some minutes before the obvious occurs to me. This whole situation started with her. If Erazmus hadn’t met her, I would not have lost my baby. I stand, pick up the cushion, pull the mask from her face, try to commit her features to memory, and using both hands, I press the cushion into her face.

Autumn 1998

Lizzie

The patterns, the symbolism – it’s like a code that I’m beginning to decipher. I sketch the moments that seem important, in the hopes that one day…

***

Here are my buy-links…

mybook.to/devolution for The (D)Evolution of Us

mybook.to/glasshousenovel for Glasshouse

BIO

When Morwenna Blackwood was six years old, she got told off for filling a school exercise book with an endless story when she should have been listening to the teacher/eating her tea/colouring with her friends.  The story was about a frog.  It never did end; and Morwenna never looked back.

Born and raised in Devon, Morwenna suffered from severe OCD and depression, and spent her childhood and teens in libraries.  She travelled about for a decade before returning to Devon.  She now has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter, and lives with her husband, son and three cats in a cottage that Bilbo Baggins would be proud of.

Morwenna is the author of best-selling psychological thriller, The (D)Evolution of Us, and her second novel, Glasshouse, also published by darkstroke, is released today.

When she is not writing, Morwenna works for an animal rescue charity, or can be found down by the sea.

She often thinks about that frog.

Here are my social media links and website…

www.morwennablackwoodauthor.com

www.amazon.com/author/morwennablackwood

www.facebook.com/morwennablackwood

Instagram: morwennablackwood_

Twitter: MorwennaBlackw1

Many thanks for sharing your opening lines, Morwenna.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

There’s a new neighbour in town: A Cornish Wedding

A Cornish Wedding (previously published as Abi’s Neighbour), introduces a new character to the Abi, Max, Beth and Jacob mix.  A high flying Londoner called Cassandra – a woman who really doesn’t want to be this close to a beach…

Blurb

Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Heidi Swain and Milly Johnson, A Cornish Wedding is the best kind of summer escape.

Abi has what she’s always dreamed of: her perfect Cornish cottage, great friends and a gorgeous boyfriend. But her idyll is shattered when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Rude and obnoxious, Cassandra doesn’t make a good first impression on Abi. But with the unexpected wedding of one of Abi’s friends to prepare for, Abi has bigger things to worry about.

However, avoiding her new neighbour proves harder than expected and Abi and Cassandra soon realise they might have more in common than they first thought. . .

But with the wedding only weeks away, can they set aside their differences before the big day?

Extract

Cassandra stared at the ‘For Sale’ sign in the front garden. A fresh slogan had been pasted proudly across it, proclaiming Another House Sold!

She frowned. The estate agents must have made a mistake. Justin had talked about renting the cottage, this poky little two-bed terrace in some Cornish backwater, but he’d never once suggested buying it.

Sitting on the low stone wall that ran in front of the row of cottages, with her back to the sold sign, she let out a string of vehemently whispered expletives. Resisting the temptation to throw a pebble at the seagulls which were squawking their hearts out on the roof behind her, she steadied her breathing, like she did when faced with a particularly demanding client.

Shrugging off her suit jacket in deference to the early summer sunshine that poured from a cloud-free sky, Cassandra tried to focus, but doubts continued to assail her. She hadn’t misunderstood Justin, had she?

They’d been laughing over the breakfast table at one of the most exclusive hotels in London when the subject of Cornwall had first come up. Making plans for their future life together, they’d celebrated in grand style the fact that Justin had, after six years of secret trysts and stolen nights together, decided to leave his wife; the dreadful Jacinta.

Excitedly they’d plotted and planned over plates of eggs Benedict and smoked salmon, raising their glasses of Buck’s Fizz to Justin’s promotion to senior partner at the law firm. A promotion which meant that, providing they merged their finances, Justin could afford to get a divorce without being catapulted into penury.

There was only one snag.

The legal company Justin now worked for, Family Values, prided itself on its moral integrity. There was no way he could risk a scandal after securing the promotion he’d coveted for so long. It would be bad enough when he explained to his colleagues that he was getting a divorce – suddenly producing a long-term mistress would be too much for them to accept in one go.

So Justin had asked Cassandra to move away for a while. He’d suggested they use this short diplomatic period of separation to their advantage, and rent a property to later sublet – at a vast profit – to exhausted executives seeking a spot of relaxation. Cassandra, who could run her own business from anywhere via the Internet, would go and make sure the property was up to date, arrange any decorating that was required, and then rejoin Justin in London once things had died down.

Thinking back, Cassandra realised she should have asked a lot more questions about exactly how much research Justin had already done into this move. But under the influence of the early-morning alcohol, not to mention the triumph she felt at having finally succeeded in persuading Justin to leave his wife, she had suppressed all her instincts and agreed to everything he’d said.

 

 

Sequel to A Cornish Escape, this feel good romance returns you to the world of Abi, Max, Beth and Stan in sunny Sennen Cove.

 

If you’d like to read A Cornish Wedding, you can buy it as a paperback or ebook from all good retailers, including

Universal link – mybook.to/CornishWedding

Happy reading everyone.

Stay Safe.

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Christina Jones: Summer at Sandcastle Cottage

This week I’m delighted to welcome Christina Jones to my site. 

Showing casing the first 500 words of her brand new novel, Summer at Sandcastle Cottage, today’s Opening Lines forms part of Christina’s blog tour.

BLURB

After trials, tears and a torturous break-up, Kitty Appleby has finally found where she’s meant to be. Tumbledown Sandcastle Cottage, in the delightful seaside village of Firefly Common, is home, and Kitty’s eccentric band of friends and neighbours are enjoying a glorious summer.

There’s just one tiny little problem. Sandcastle Cottage doesn’t belong to them. And Mavis Mullholland, Kitty’s landlord, is on her way home from her round-the-world cruise . . .

Kitty can’t bear to lose the community that’s welcomed her in. But secretly, she can’t bear to leave Sandcastle Cottage without finding out more about the mysterious and enigmatic Vinny . . . Why can’t she stop thinking about him, when she’s faced with losing everything?

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

The thump of mail through Sandcastle Cottage’s letterbox made Kitty jump. Despite living on the rural south coast for six months, she’d never quite got used to the early morning arrival of the post. When she’d lived in the centre of Reading’s urban sprawl, letters had sometimes not been delivered until well into the after- noon. She blinked at her watch. Lordy – it wasn’t even seven o’clock. An insane time for posties – or fish-restaurant waitresses for that matter – to be awake, not to mention up, dressed, and al- ready getting on with the day.

Kitty yawned and stretched. No doubt the post would just be flyers and junk mail as usual. Nothing important. She’d deal with it once she’d had a good shot of caffeine.

Still yawning, Kitty reached for the coffee jar, lazily watching the sun-dancing dappled patterns through the kitchen window as she spooned granules into her mug. It was another glorious morning in Firefly Common, heralding another scorching June day. And as she still had plenty of time to enjoy it before she had to leave for work, Kitty decided she would kill two birds with one stone and take her coffee out on to the porch, picking up the mail on the way.

Pushing her tangle of auburn-ish hair out of the way behind her ears, Kitty poured hot water into her mug. Then, closing her eyes, she inhaled the aromatic steam.

Bliss. Absolute bliss.

Her shift at the Silver Fish Bar didn’t start until 11 a.m., but she loved the silence and solitude of these beautiful summer mornings and always made an effort to be first up. Much as she adored her housemates, Apollo and Jemini, they were both night owls by na- ture and both needed noise in the mornings to get going. So, before anyone else appeared and the radio bellowed rock ’n’ pop and Apollo and Jemini sang along – or Peppa Pig squawked from the television to entertain Jemini’s toddler daughter Teddy – Kitty made a point of savouring her first mug of coffee in blissful isolation.

Well, almost.

Hearing a familiar thud above her, then the thundering of eight massive paws on the stairs, followed by an excited scrabble of claws on the tiles, Kitty hastily put her mug down. She reached for the dogs’ food bowls, and managed to fill them and get them on the floor just as brindle Zorro and black Honey rattled to a halt in the doorway. Then, with tails going like rotor-blades, they slithered at breakneck speed into the kitchen. Giving her their best big Staffie smiles they fell on their breakfast with joyous and noisy enthusiasm.

In the time it took Kitty to pick up her mug again, the food bowls were empty.

‘Gannets,’ Kitty said fondly, looking down at Zorro and Honey who were snuffling hopefully under their bowls, chasing them with slobbery joy across the quarry-tiled floor. ‘No, you’re not getting a refill. You’re spoiled rotten as it is. We’re…

If you’d like to buy Summer at Sandcastle Cottage, you can order it herehttps://smarturl.it/SummeratSandcastle

BIO

Christina Jones has written all of her life (as well as having millions of Proper Jobs including factory worker, secretary, nightclub dancer, blood donor attendant, barmaid, waitress, civil servant and fruit picker) Christina first had a short story published when she was just 14 years old. She has written for teenage and women’s magazines – fiction and non-fiction – for a number of years, had her own humour column in The Oxford Times, and has contributed to national newspapers.

Many thanks to Christina for her opening lines. Don’t miss any of the stops on the Sandcastle Cottage blog tour.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

A little Cornish Escape

Life is as hectic as ever as I crack on with writing the fourth Mill Grange novel.

While I madly try and meet my latest deadline, I thought I’d leave a little something from A Cornish Escape for you to read. 

Blurb

Perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Phillipa Ashley and Cathy Bramley, this summer romance is sure to warm your heart.

Abi’s life is turned upside down when she is widowed before her thirtieth birthday. Determined to find something positive in the upheaval, Abi decides to make a fresh start somewhere new. With fond childhood memories of holidays in a Cornish cottage, could Cornwall be the place to start over?

With all her belongings in the boot of her car but no real plan, a chance meeting in a village pub brings new friends Beth and Max into her life. Max soon helps Abi track down the house of her dreams but things aren’t as simple as Abi hoped.

Can Abi leave her past behind and finally get her happy ending?

(Previously published as Abi’s House)

Chapter One

It was the muffins that had been the last straw. As Abi sat nursing a glass of wine, she thought back to the events of an hour earlier with an exasperated sigh.

Hurrying towards the church hall, Abi parked Luke’s unnecessarily large and ostentatious Porsche 4×4, and headed inside with a stack of Tupperware tubs in her arms. With her handbag slung over her shoulder and her key fob hanging from her teeth, Abi precariously balanced her load as she elbowed the hall door open.

Although she was twenty minutes early, Abi had still managed to be the last to arrive, earning her a silent ‘tut’ from some of the executive wives who were adding the finishing touches to the tables that surrounded three sides of the hall, and sympathetic grimaces from everyone else.

Acting as though she hadn’t noticed the air of disapproval, Abi made a beeline for the cake stall and plastered her best ‘this is for charity so be happy’ expression on her face. Polly Chester-Davies, an exquisitely dressed woman whom Abi always thought of as ‘Perfect Polly’, was adding doilies to plates, making the stall look as though it was stuck in a timewarp.

‘Ah, there you are, Mrs Carter, I’d given you up.’

Biting back the desire to tell Polly she’d been working, and was in fact early anyway, Abi began to unpack her wares, ‘Here you go, two dozen chocolate muffins without frosting, and two dozen with frosting, as requested.’

Polly said nothing, but her imperious stare moved rather pointedly from Abi’s face to the chocolate muffins already in position on the table, and back again.

Her disdainful expression made Abi mumble, ‘Are you expecting to sell lots of chocolate muffins today then?’

‘No, Mrs Carter, I am not. Which is precisely why you were instructed to make chococcino muffins.’

It had been that ‘instructed’ which did it. In that moment Abi felt an overwhelming hit of resentment for every one of the orders she had gracefully accepted from this Stepford harridan of the community.

For almost three years Abi had been doing what this woman asked of her, and never once had she said thank you, or commented on how nice Abi’s cooking was. Probably, Abi thought as she compared her own muffins with those provided by Perfect Polly herself, because mine don’t look like they could pull your fillings out. Nor had any reference ever been made to the fact that she would have to catch up on her own work in the evenings, after helping out with whichever good cause she’d been emotionally blackmailed into supporting this time. Not that Abi was against supporting a good cause, but this was different. These women didn’t raise funds for whichever charity was flavour of the month out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it because it was what they should be seen to be doing. It went hand in bespoke glove with being the wife of a successful man…

Available as a paperback or in eBook format, you can buy your copy of The Cornish Escape from all good book retailers, including

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com 

If you enjoy A Cornish Escape, Abi’s adventures continue in A Cornish Wedding.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Sam Binne: The Kindness Project

This week’s Opening Lines showcases a brand new novel from Sam Binnie.

The Kindness Project.

Sit down for five minutes, put your feet up, and dive on in…

BLURB

Step 1. Help the baker’s ex-wife

Step 2. Find the true calling of the village shop owner


Step 3. Call a truce on a decades-old feud


Step 4. Forgive me . . . ?

The locals of the Cornish village of Polperran are grieving the sudden loss of Bea Kimbrel, a cornerstone of their small community.

Now her reclusive, estranged daughter Alice has turned up, keen to tie up Bea’s affairs and move on.

But Alice receives a strange bequest from Bea – a collection of unfinished tasks to help out those in Polperran most in need.

As each little act brings her closer to understanding her mother, it also begins to offer Alice the courage to open her clamped-shut heart. Perhaps Bea’s project will finally unlock the powerful secrets both women have been keeping . . .

THE KINDNESS PROJECT will draw you deep into the lives of two compelling women who should never have missed their chance to say goodbye. It will break your heart – and piece it back together again . . .

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

She sits at the kitchen table, a table worn smooth with years of teacups and plates of biscuits, balls of wool, tears and paint and linseed oil and birthday cakes.

Her pen is poised over the note-paper, but she takes a moment to put the pen down and flex her fingers – writing for even this long has made her hands tired – before taking it up again and finishing her note.

She pauses for a moment, looking at what she has written, then signs off,

Forever, always, and above all,

Your mother x x x

She folds up the paper, slides it into an envelope, addresses it and adds it to the small pile. Small, but more there than she’ d dared hope, and she looks at them with a smile. It’s time now, she thinks.

Chapter One

The sky has got bigger on this journey, Alice thought to her- self with purposeful calm.

From the muddy skies of Cambridge in the last days of April, all cranes and yellow spires and corners of grey light, the train had carried her away from office blocks and read- ing schedules and into huge, blooming landscapes of hills and clouds.

‘Next stop, Polperran,’ called the guard at the end of the carriage. ‘Polperran, laaast stop.’

I didn’t even know they still had guards, she  thought again, in the same rigidly bright internal voice. Anything to keep herself distracted on the journey.

It was one Alice had taken every year through her child- hood and twenties, bagging up her books and clothes to travel down to Bea on her annual visit to the tiny fishing village. She had never consciously intended it to be only once a year; as a child, other friends spent summers in Cornwall with their parents and siblings, revelling in the sun and sea air, and as an adult Alice knew her colleagues would love the idea of a coastal bolt-hole, but of course that bolt-hole was owned by Alice’s mother, and between one thing and another through her thirties the trips had become further and further apart, more than a year, eighteen months,

the gap growing each time, and the phone calls had become more sporadic, shorter, with Alice always snipping short each call, massaging her temples and thinking afterwards, Next week, I’ ll speak to her properly next week. But next week never came, then it had been almost seven years since Alice had last visited Bea in Polperran.

Bea had been the most beautiful person little Alice had ever seen. She sported bright, wild clothes and occasional dashes of blue-green eyeliner, and sometimes when Alice brought a friend home Bea would have made a huge multi- coloured jelly just because it was a Tuesday. She let Alice wear whatever she wanted to birthday parties, offering her feathered hats and silk scarves and nail polishes and pixie boots with socks stuffed in the toes to fit her. Alice had always just worn her own clothes, though…

BUY LINKS

You can request #TheKindnessProject on Netgalley: http://netgal.ly/nVyapi  or buy it now via – https://smarturl.it/TheKindnessProject

BIO

Sam Binnie has written for the GuardianVice magazine, and Google’s Creative Lab, among others, and was the 2005 winner of the Harper’s/Orange Prize Short Story Competition. The Kindness Project is her fourth novel.

She swims year-round in her local river, and makes the best pink grapefruit cake you’ll ever eat.

Read more at www.sambinnie.com

Opening Lines: Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange

Drumroll please!!

Book three in the #MillGrange series is OUT TODAY!!

Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange.

Excited? Me? YES!!

Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange

BLURB

Helen Rogers has been lying to herself over her feelings for Tom since the moment they met. And for good reason; not only are they colleagues, working together with the archaeology groups at Mill Grange, but her sabbatical is almost over and she’ll soon have to return to Bath.

Tom Harris knows he’s falling in love with Helen. How could he not? She’s smart, kind and great with his son Dylan. But with his ex-wife suddenly offering him a chance to spend more time with Dylan, and the staff of Mill Grange about to host a wedding, everything else has to be put to one side. Even his feelings for a certain archaeologist.

As Helen’s time at Mill Grange runs short, the two are forced to consider what matters most…

Set in the beautiful Exmoor countryside, on the border of Devon and Somerset, Spring Blossoms, continues the story of Thea, Shaun, Sam, Tina, Mable and Bert – as well as Helen and Tom, who were newcomers to the house in Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

Helen cradled the stone in her palm. The size of a cookie, grey in colour, it was jagged on one side and smooth on the other. Once upon a time it had been part of the bedrock; a tiny fragment of the geology that had formed the basis of the village of Upwich and its surrounds. Now, however, it felt like the most precious possession she’d ever owned.

She hadn’t had the heart to tell Dylan that it wasn’t an exciting find from the Roman fortlet they were excavating in Mill Grange’s garden. The five-year-old had been so thrilled to be able to help his dad, Tom, when they’d peeled the tarpaulin off the archaeological site after a frosty winter, that when he’d picked up the stone and run to her, his face wide with pleasure, she’d held it with a reverence normally reserved for the crown jewels.

The boy’s eyes had got wider and wider as she’d told him about the land beneath Exmoor, how it had formed, and how the stone he’d found was part of that.

Helen had been conscious of Tom’s eyes on her as his son had sat on her knee and listened with rapt attention to every word she said.

Laying the stone back on her desk, tucked neatly in the corner of the store room, Helen sighed. She had come to Mill Grange to take a break from the pressures of her management job. She had not come to fall in love – especially not with Tom – a man with a horrendous track record with woman – and a son.

Chapter One

Monday March 16th

‘Do you honestly think I’ll need eighteen pairs of knickers? It’s the Cotswolds, not the Kalahari.’

Thea scooped the entire contents of her underwear drawer onto the bed as Shaun flung open a suitcase.

‘No, I think you’ll need thirty pairs or more, but as you only have eighteen, then pack them.’

‘Seriously?’ Thea eyed some of her older undies with suspicion. The greying fabric had been consigned to the back of the drawer to be used in emergencies only, although now she thought about it, she wasn’t sure what that emergency might be. An archaeological excavation in the middle of nowhere, perhaps?

‘You know what it’s like on a dig. Laundry facilities only happen to other people. A flushing toilet can be a luxury sometimes.’

‘Won’t the local village have a launderette?’

‘It’s the Cotswolds, Thea. The people who can afford to live there don’t need launderettes.’ Shaun winked. ‘I tend to wring out my smalls in the nearest public toilet sink or a bucket of cold water.’

Thea laughed. ‘I used to do that when I was a student on excavation.’ Stuffing every pair of socks she owned into the suitcase, she added, ‘Age has softened me!’

‘You’ve got used to manor house living, that’s what it is.’ As Shaun threw a pile of t-shirts onto the bed, he caught a glimpse of anxiety crossing Thea’s face. ‘I was…

***

You don’t have to have read Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange or Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange, to enjoy Spring Blossoms, although you’d probably get more from the story if you have.

If you’d like to hear me read ‘live’ from Spring Blossoms you can do so by clicking this link at 11am this morning- Coffee Time Story Sessions with the Exeter Authors Association | Facebook 

Then at 2pm today I’ll be live on my Facebook page, chatting about the Mill Grange series. Jenny Kane | Facebook

If you would like to buy an e-copy of Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, you can purchase a copy from all good retailers, including…

The paperback version of Spring Blossoms will be out on 10th June!

Many thanks for dropping by today,

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Return to Mill Grange : Autumn Leaves

In two days time, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, will be published!

To help celebrate, yesterday I shared a little about Thea Thomas, who we first met in book one of the series, Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange. Today, I’m sharing an extract from the second book in the series,

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange.

Blurb

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t but adore.

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

Extract

Prologue

September 1st

Rolling onto his side, Sam unfolded the letter he’d hidden inside his pillowcase. It was the third time he’d woken that night, and the third time he’d reached for the pale blue Basildon Bond envelope. He held it against his nose. The scent of his mother’s White Satin perfume was beginning to fade.

This was the fourth letter to arrive from Malvern House in the last month. One a week.

He had no idea how his mother had found out where he was living, nor why she wanted to see him after so long.

The letters, almost identical each time, said very little. Just that she and his father would love him to visit if he felt up to it. Sam groaned. ‘If he felt up to it’ was his mother’s way of asking if the debilitating claustrophobia he’d developed while serving in the forces had magically gone away.

As he slid the letter into its envelope, Sam’s gaze dropped from the tent’s canvas roof to Tina’s sleeping body.

The past was the past. He had a future now. He had no intention of looking back.

Chapter One

September 1st

‘Take pity on an old man, lass.’

Bert fluttered his grey eyelashes as he helped Tina carry a large cardboard box full of tea, coffee, milk and biscuits from her car into Mill Grange’s kitchen. ‘I love Mabel to pieces, but she is driving me mad.’

Tina laughed. ‘But it’s only been two months since the restoration project came to an end. Doesn’t Mabel have heaps of committee work to do? She runs every social club this side of Exmoor.’

As he placed the box on the oak table that dominated the manor’s kitchen, Bert’s eyes lost their usual optimistic shine. ‘Since Mill Grange was sold Mabel’s been so aimless. She led the volunteer restorers here for over five years and now that’s over…’

‘Mabel doesn’t mind Sam owning this place, does she?’

‘Not for a minute. For a little while it was all she could talk about. She’s that proud of your young man for buying the very thing that frightens him. For taking his fear of being inside by the scruff of the neck and buying a house to be enjoyed by other people.’

Tina put her box of groceries on the side and laid a hand on Bert’s shoulder. ‘I’ll talk to Sam. There must be something Mabel could do around here.’ She played with her pigtails as she thought. ‘I’m not sure we can afford to pay her yet though.’

‘You wouldn’t have to. Making her feel part of the team again is all I’m asking for.’ Bert’s smile returned to his eyes. ‘How’s it going here anyway? Sam getting into the house at all, or is he still overseeing things from that screen thing outside?’

‘He hasn’t been inside the manor since he bought it.’ Tina focused her attention on emptying the boxes of biscuits ready for Mill Grange’s first visitors, hiding her face from Bert so she wouldn’t see her concern….

Available from NookKobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US.

On Thursday, Spring Blossoms comes out!

If you’d like to join in my launch day celebrations, I will be on Facebook and Twitter all day, chatting about what I love about springtime – plus, I’ll be doing a live reading from the book at 11a.m.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Say ‘hello’ to Thea Thomas

With the launch of the third #MillGrange novel – Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange – this Thursday – I thought I’d go back to the beginning of the series, and introduce you to the main protagonist of Midsummer Dreams at Mill GrangeThea Thomas.

Thea Thomas is an archaeologist and historian, who – when the story opens- is working as an assistant curator at the world famous Roman Baths in Bath. But, as the blurb below explains, she feels the time to leave her job has come. Not just because she feels stuck in a rut, but because she is being pestered by rather persistent ex-boyfriend, and is keen to disappear to somewhere he’ll never find her – preferably somewhere without Wi-Fi…

Blurb

A warm-hearted, feel-good romance from Jenny Kane, a Kindle #1 bestselling author.

Thea Thomas needs to get away from her old life… and the interfering ex who won’t leave her alone. When she lands a job heading up the restoration of Mill Grange, a stunning Victorian manor in Devon, it feels like the perfect opportunity to start afresh.

What Thea didn’t anticipate was how hostile the volunteer team, led by the formidable Mable Hastings, would be about accepting new leadership. And with the deadline looming before the grand opening, Thea is in desperate need of more volunteers.

A broadcast appeal on the local news attracts the interest of arrogant but undeniably attractive celebrity historian Shaun Cowlson, who wants to make a TV programme about the restoration. It’s hard enough adding one more big personality to the mix – but then her ex turns up as one of the volunteers! What seemed like a dream come true is fast becoming a total disaster! Can Thea find a way to save the manor?

***

Let’s take a look at Thea’s character profile

Age: 32

Appearance: Short brown hair, brown eyes, tomboy manner of dress. More likely to be seen in a chunky jumper and jeans than a skirt and blouse. Thea does not own high hells – I doubt she has ever picked up a lipstick in her life.

Education: Studied archaeology at Durham University

Best friend: Tina Martin.  Thea met Tina at university, where they were both archaeology students. Tina now works for the Exmoor Heritage Trust, which owns Mill Grange. It is Tina who tells Thea about the opening for a Renovation Co-ordinator and Manager at Mill Grange.

Idiosyncrasies: Thea has a habit of talking to a statue of the Goddess Minerva (the Roman goddess of wisdom), that sits in the corner of her museum based office. The goddess is often her first call for advice – even before Tina.

Personality: Rarely seen without a smile, Thea is professionally confident, but privately shy. Thea’s self esteem can easily be knocked – especially in pursuit of her quest to please everyone all the time. She dreads letting people down.

Favourite thing: Lemon cake. (Followed by cheese scones from Sybil’s Tea Rooms.)

Love life: Fairly non-existent since university – with the exception of a recent relationship with John Sommers. A relationship that she thought was just for fun – John however, had other ideas.

Three months after Thea had ended their year long relationship, John turns up, out-of-the-blue at her lunchtime coffee stop in Bath, and informs her he has every intention of persuading her that they should still be together.

Despite her polite but firm refusal, John can’t take no for an answer and begins a rather desperate, attention seeking campaign, which begins wear Thea down so much, that she decides to take the plunge and applies to work at Mill Grange – swapping her work as a Roman historian for the management of a Victorian manor that needs restoring in double quick time. For, after years of half hearted repair from a group of local volunteers, the Exmoor Trust have finally decided on a date for the house to be opened to the public.

As if having the house restored and safe for the public by that deadline wasn’t challenge enough, Thea has to deal with volunteers who heartily dislike her interfering with their work. Especially Mabel – who has an odd whiff of vinegar about her.

And then, just to make matters worse, a celebrity archaeologist – Shaun Cowlson- wants to join the restoration team- a man Thea has every reason to dislike…

Thea, I’m delighted to say, continues her association with Mill Grange, and can be found in all three novels.

If you’d like to buy any of the Mill Grange novels, they are available as ebooks or as paperbacks from all good retailers, including…

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grangemybook.to/MillGrangeOne
Autumn Leaves at Mill Grangemybook.to/MillGrangeTwo
Spring Blossoms at Mill Grangemybook.to/MillGrangeThree

Happy reading,

Jenny x

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