The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


Opening Lines: An Unexpected Affair by Jan Ellis

Here we are again. Thursday has dawned, and there are some wonderful new opening lines to read.

This week Jan Ellis, friend, fellow RNA member and contemporary fiction author, is with me to share the very beginning of her novel, An Unexpected Affair.

Over to you Jan…

The 500 words I’ve chosen for you come from An Unexpected Affair, which began life as an e-novella back in 2013. When it came out, I was intrigued by the reactions I got from friends: these ranged from jaws dropping in disbelief to barely suppressed hilarity. This is not because I can’t write – I write and edit other stuff for a living – it was more the thought of a cynical old bag like me writing romcom that set them off.

I never intended to write fiction (you can find out more here https://jennykane.co.uk//?s=jan+ell) but once I sat down and thought about the settings and the basic plot, I was amazed by how quickly ideas flowed. As soon as my bookselling heroine Eleanor Mace appeared, the personalities of her mother Connie, sister Jenna and other family and friends followed on quite naturally.

Later I wrote A Summer of Surprise because I wanted to know what had happened to Eleanor and the other characters in the seaside town of Combemouth. The e-books no longer exist, but you can read both stories in one lovely paperback. I hope you enjoy the extract and decide to read on…

First 500 words…

SHE CAREFULLY SLIPPED THE BLADE of the knife under the tape and cut. Peeling back the flaps, she lowered her face to the contents and inhaled deeply. Erika, her assistant, smiled conspiratorially.

“You’ve gone over to the dark side. You’re definitely one of us now.”

“You’re right,” said Eleanor as she lifted the pile of paperbacks from the box, sniffed them and set them on the counter. “My name is Eleanor Mace and I am addicted to books.”

It was three years since Eleanor had bought the bookshop. Three years since she’d left her boring office job and caused her friends’ collective jaws to drop by announcing that she was leaving London and moving to Devon. She might as well have said she’d got a new career as a yak herder for the consternation this had caused. They clearly thought she was deranged, though only her sister Jenna had told her so to her face.

“Just because you’re divorced from Alan doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself away from the world.”

“Jen, I’m moving to the English countryside, not entering a convent.”

“I can see it now,” said Jenna, ignoring her. “In six months’ time you’ll have stopped shaving your legs, embraced tweed and discovered jam-making.”

“Now you’re being silly,” said Eleanor, thinking that it had already been some time since her pins had seen a Gillette disposable. “It’s not the end of the earth, Jen. There’s a train station and you and Keith can come and stay any time you wish.”

“I’d rather come on my own,” said Jenna, wrinkling her nose as she tipped the last of the Chardonnay into Eleanor’s glass. “You finish it. They probably don’t run to white wine where you’re heading. And what on earth will you do down there?”

That had been easy to answer: with the money from her divorce Eleanor could afford to buy a slightly crumbly bookshop with an adjoining cottage in a small, unfashionable seaside town. It had been a huge leap and scary at times, but running the shop made her happy, and her enthusiasm for what she sold and her knowledge about the books and their authors was undoubtedly behind the small success she had managed to build for herself. She’d made sure the shop was a welcoming place with comfy sofas to sit on and coffee and homemade biscuits on offer. With help from her son Joe, she had built a kind of den at the back of the shop where children could read, and there was always an eclectic selection of new and second-hand books to browse through.

“Don’t forget you’ve got that house clearance to go to this afternoon,” said Erika, bearing coffee and biscuits.

“Nope, it’s in the diary,” said Eleanor, eyeing up a chocolate cookie. “Do you think you can control the rampaging hordes for an hour or two while I’m over there?” she asked, looking at her watch.

“Oh, I think we’ll cope, won’t we Bella?” said Erika, addressing the…

***

Those 500 words were taken from A Summer of Surprises and An Unexpected Affair, available from all good bookshops as well as online via https://goo.gl/cZUFmR

Blurb

An Unexpected Affair

After her divorce, Eleanor Mace decides to begin a new life running a quirky bookshop in a quiet corner of Devon. She adores her seaside home in Combemouth and her bookshop is a hit and yet … Eleanor is still unsettled. So when she rediscovers an old flame online, she sets off for the South of France in search a man she last saw in her twenties. But will she find happiness on the Continent or does it lie in rural England?

A Summer of Surprises

In this enjoyable and eventful sequel to An Unexpected Affair, Eleanor Mace is finding life sweet and rosy in her Devon bookshop, but unexpected clouds on the horizon in the form of an ex-wife and a town-planning monstrosity are about to bring our charismatic bookseller a summer of surprises.

Author bio:

Jan Ellis began writing fiction by accident in 2013. Until then, she had led a blameless life as a publisher, editor and historian of early modern Spain. In 2017, her four e-novellas were published in paperback by Waverley Books who also commissioned a brand-new title, The Bookshop Detective.

Jan describes her books as romcom/mystery with the emphasis firmly on family, friendship and humour. She specialises in small-town settings, with realistic characters who range in age from young teens to 80-somethings.

As well as being an author, Jan continues to work at the heart of the book trade. Jan Ellis is a nom-de-plume.

Website: www.janelliswriter.com

Follow Jan on Facebook and Twitter @JanEllis_writer

Jan’s Amazon page: http://goo.gl/yqmAey

Instagram (even if I don’t know how it works…)

https://www.instagram.com/jan_ellis_writer/ 

***

Many thanks Jan,

Great opening lines.

Don’t forget to come back next week to read what Roger Price has to offer.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


Guest Blog by Jan Ellis: An Accidental Romantic Novelist

I’m delighted to welcome the multi-talented Jan Ellis to my blog today! Writer, historian, Nobel prize winner, and pole dancer – apparently…

Jan Ellis2 small

 

Hello Jenny and thanks for inviting me to share my deepest darkest secrets on your blog. Okay. Confession time: when I said I was an ex-pole dancer and a Nobel prize winner, that was actually a fib. However, when I said that I have a PhD in early modern history, that was true. Which sort of explains how I got into writing fiction:

1) I like making things up.

2) It’s easier and more fun than writing about history.

I guess you could say that I became a ‘romantic novelist’ by accident. I was approached by digital publishers Endeavour Press to write a history book, but we couldn’t agree on a topic. ‘No problem,’ they said. ‘Have a go at some chicklit instead.’ Because the first rule of being self-employed is to say ‘Yes’ to everything and figure out how to do whatever it is afterwards, I decided to give it a go. Fortunately for me (and the publishers), I was able to come up with quite a jolly story that people have actually paid money for.

We called it An Unexpected Affair. In it my heroine – Eleanor Mace – is a 40-something divorcee who leaves London, buys a lime-green camper van and escapes to Devon to run a bookshop. Life is ticking along quite nicely for Eleanor until things take an unexpected turn, sending her on a journey across France on the trail of an old flame.

An Unexpected Affair small

Here’s an extract:

“You look miles away, El,” said Jenna, pausing from examining an array of straw hats in the local market. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes, fine. I was just wondering how things were back at the shop.”

Jenna peered at her from over her sunglasses. “You always were an unconvincing liar.”

“Alright – I was thinking about Christophe. And about my life . . .”

“And what might have been if you hadn’t married Alan the Android?”

It was an open secret that Jenna had never really warmed to her brother-in-law and had not shed many tears when the marriage had eventually broken up. Eleanor opened her mouth to protest, but Jenna held up her hands in submission.

“Okay, okay. I know he was a good husband, a devoted father, blah, blah, but he was bloody boring El, you have to admit. All that running around squash courts with the lads and traipsing across golf courses . . . “

“Keith plays golf!”

“Kiff may play golf,” Jenna agreed, arranging a hat on her head, “but he doesn’t actually enjoy it.”

Eleanor couldn’t help laughing.

“Alan was always so earnest,” she added, handing over a handful of Euros to the stall holder. “Anyway, you are a free woman and your ex-husband is in a much better place.”

“You make it sound as though he’s died!”

“He’s in Canada with a dental hygienist, which I would say was much the same thing.”

****

French Kisses cover small

Flushed with success, I then wrote my second e-novella, French Kisses. In this story, my heroine Rachel has a happy life in rural France until her husband hits 40, discovers his inner love-rat and runs off with another woman. Determined to ignore her friends’ advice to up-sticks and move back to England, Rachel decides to turn their home into a bijou guest house. Romance comes in the form of local admirers and ex-husband Michael, who is never far away.

Like my first novella, the focus of the story is on family, fun and friendship. I don’t do soppy! Also, I am intrigued by the coincidences that run through all our lives, and I like to get these into my stories, so Rachel finds she has an unlikely connection to one of her guests, American academic Josh Perry.

Here’s an extract:

When she awoke the next morning she was naked apart from the pink fluffy bed socks. And she was not alone. She groaned inwardly as she looked at Josh and rolled over, hoping to creep out of bed before he woke. Too late.

“Well good morning, beautiful,” he said, turning around and wrapping himself around her. She felt him nuzzle into her neck and gently kiss the tops of her shoulders, his beard tickling her in a not unpleasant manner.

She turned back to face him, pushing him away when he tried to kiss her breasts. “No, we mustn’t.”

He pulled back and smiled at her. “I think you’ll find that we already have. Or was that just a particularly vivid dream I had there?”

Rachel wriggled away from him and hopped out of bed, grabbing her robe from the armchair by her bed.

“Nice socks.” Josh lay propped up on his arm, smiling at her. “Come back to bed Rachel,” he said, throwing back the covers and patting the place beside him. “It’s still early.”

“Damn, bugger, bollocks,” muttered Rachel, running around the room, collecting clothes and rejecting them again. “I’ve got to collect the kids at 9am and it’s already twenty-to.”

Josh sat up, attentive now. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Make me tea!”

“I’m on it,” he said, running towards the door.

Rachel looked back from the bathroom. “But maybe put your clothes on first?”

“Sure thing,” he said, coming over to kiss her. “God, last night was great Rachel.”

“Milk no sugar. Go!”

****

Autichamp small

At some time in the future I would like to bring Eleanor, Rachel, their families and assorted admirers together for one big party! Keep an eye on my website or follow me on Twitter to see how I get on.

Website: http://jlravenscroft.wix.com/janelliswriter

Twitter: @JanEllis_writer

An Unexpected Affair  and French Kisses are available to download from Amazon:

French Kisses

An Unexpected Affair
****

Many thanks to Jan for taking time out from not really pole dancing, but definitely being a historian, to write a great blog, and serve up two such tasty extracts for us today.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


Where Do My Characters Come From? by Jane Fenwick

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jane Fenwick to my site as part of her ‘Never the Twain‘ blog tour.

Over to you Jane…

Where Do My Characters Come From? by Jane Fenwick @jane_fenwick60 #neverthetwain #historicalcrimenovels #romance #victorianwhitby

I love people watching. I also love ear wigging! Put the two together and you can see how some, but not all of my characters are born. The rest I would say come from my imagination. Imaginations need feeding of course and that means I read and watch TV and films – a lot. I also daydream.

I always carry a note book about with me. (Not just any old note book however they have to be just right.)

If I’m on a train, in a bar or a coffee shop, in the queue at the supermarket – anywhere really, and I hear a particularly good conversation I jot down any interesting tid bits I overhear. I have a terrible memory so I need to jot it down straight away otherwise by the time I get home its either gone out of my head or I’ve lost the gist of it. Sometimes I hear a phrase or a single word which sparks a thought. Sometimes it is the tone of the whole conversation. Often it is a funny colloquialism or a slang term pertinent to a particular part of the country. Always be careful what you say within earshot of an author – it might end up in a book.

***

I’m a Yorkshire lass so hopefully any Yorkshire in my books comes across as authentic so that the character feels real. When I go to Northumberland for research I make notes about the accent and intonations as the accent is less familiar to me. These accents then help build the characters.

What my characters do as well as say is just as important. Watching body language, a person’s stance or a particular “tic” or gesture someone might have either consciously or unconsciously can also add realism to a character. An action can show you how a character feels without me having to tell the reader ‘she is anxious’.

One aspect of characterisation I struggle with is names. A name can mean different things to different people and getting the name right can influence the character in a big way. Also as an ex teacher I have taught a lot of “names”. I’d never have a romantic character called Wayne. Don’t ask! Add to this that obviously you cannot have a “Kylie” or a “Charlene” in a Victorian novel for obvious reasons and it can become quite restrictive finding just the right name to convey the type of person I want my reader to meet. Names then are very subjective.

However, in Never the Twain I was lucky in that there was a limited choice for my two main characters. The identical twin girls in the story are born either side of midnight as the month turns so they are not only born on different days but different months. Therefore there were only two choices; April or May or May and June. I choose the former.

Particular names are prevalent in different centuries; in Georgian times there was a proliferation of ‘George’s’ and ‘Charlotte’s’ after the king and queen and in the Victorian era there were a lot of ‘Victoria’s’ and ‘Albert’s’ for the same reason. Names also are English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish or even regional or foreign. As Never the Twain is partly set in Scotland I wanted the names of the Scottish characters to reflect this, hence Alistair. But some names are more class driven such as Effie May and Edward. Sometimes a character undergoes a name change as I begin to develop the character and realise the name is not quite working. Again I have a note book and make a note of names I think of or hear which may come in useful. I recently bought a punnet of strawberries that were produced by Sean Figgis. Expect that name to crop up in a future book!

Real people are seldom black and white and so it is with characters. People and characters are seldom all good or all bad. In Never the Twain April and May are identical twins who share some character traits but have different personalities nonetheless. I wanted my characters to be well rounded and ‘real’ therefore they are flawed and contradictory on occasions.

It can be fun getting inside someone else’s head and literally putting words in their mouths. Seeing how characters think and react to circumstances is easy once you know your character inside and out. I constantly ask myself how each character would react in a situation and once that is established it is important that they stay true to themselves and don’t suddenly behaviour totally out of character. Yet sometimes we do act out of character under difficult, unfamiliar circumstances. It is a fine line to draw. However the reader will spot if someone suddenly behaves completely erratically unless there is a very good reason. April and May’s twin bond means they have a debt of loyalty to each other but when things get tough May’s dark side manifests itself to April’s detriment.

My characters are like my babies; I watch them grow and develop, change and adapt to their environment. They lead me in all sorts of directions and turn the plot on its head sometimes. As I am a ‘punster’ not a planner I find this exciting and I hope you do too when you read Never the Twain.

Never the Twain: A twin tale of jealousy and betrayal, love and murder.

The year is 1890. The port of Whitby is heaving with sailors and where there are sailors there are brothels doing a roaring trade. Beautiful identical twins April and May are in desperate straits. They have been abandoned by their actress mother and are about to have their virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder by a notorious brothel madam.

Their fate is hanging in the balance when Captain Edward Driscoll a handsome, wealthy shipping tycoon from Glasgow saves them before they can be deflowered.

But have they exchanged one form of slavery for another?

April, reluctantly swept up in her twin’s secrets and lies unwittingly becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy. Is May’s jealousy stronger than the twin bond which has always connected them?

Available from:
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2mbA6hp
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2ksAaZI

Never the Twain: A dark blend of Gothic romance and murder.

Jane Fenwick lives in the market town of Settle in Yorkshire, England. She studied education at Sheffield University gaining a B.Ed (Hons) in 1989 and going on to teach primary age range children. Jane decided to try her hand at penning a novel rather than writing school reports as she has always been an avid reader, especially enjoying historical and crime fiction. She decided to combine her love of both genres to write her first historical crime novel Never the Twain. Jane has always been a lover of antiques, particularly art nouveau and art deco ceramics and turned this hobby into a business opening an antiques and collectables shop in Settle. However her time as a dealer was short lived; she spent far too much time in the sale rooms buying items that ended up in her home rather than the shop! Animal welfare is a cause close to Jane’s heart and she has been vegetarian since the age of fourteen. For the last twenty years she has been trustee of an animal charity which rescues and rehomes cats, dogs and all manner of creatures looking for a forever home. Of course several of these have been “adopted” by Jane!

Jane has always loved the sea and although she lives in the Yorkshire Dales she is particularly drawn to the North East coast of Yorkshire and Northumberland. This coastline is where she gets her inspiration for the historical crime and romance novels she writes. She can imagine how the North East ports would have looked long ago with a forest of tall masted ships crammed together in the harbours, the bustling streets congested with sailors, whalers, chandlers and sail makers. These imaginings provide the backdrop and inspire her to create the central characters and themes of her novels. As she has always loved history she finds the research particularly satisfying.

When she isn’t walking on Sandsend beach with her dog Scout, a Patterdale “Terrorist” she is to be found in her favourite coffee shop gazing out to sea and dreaming up her next plot. Jane is currently writing a historical saga series again set on the North East coast beginning in 1765. The first two books are being edited at the moment; My Constant Lady and The Turning Tides. Look out for My Constant Lady in 2020.

Find her on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook , Pinterest or Web.

GIVEAWAY! – You can take part in the Never the Twain giveaway here- 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8b9ec5be191/?

 

***

Many thanks for visiting today Jane,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny


Opening Lines with Jane Risdon: Undercover Crime Shorts

For this week’s Opening Lines, I’m delighted to welcome a great friend to my blog, the fabulous author, Jane Risdon.

Over to you Jane…

Hi Jenny,

Thanks for asking me back to your fab Opening Lines which I enjoy reading so much and contributing towards.

My 500 Opening Lines come from the opening story in my very first collection of short crime stories under one cover for the first time: Undercover: Crime Shorts

Undercover: Crime Shorts features seven short stories which satisfy most fans of crime fiction and its sub-genres (not my words but those of a reviewer) and it was hard to put the collection together when you consider I have over one hundred short stories from which to choose.

These stories are designed to keep you on the edge of your seat and to be read during a train/bus journey perhaps or before bed. When you want read something you can finish in under an hour with more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction.

I was so pleasantly surprised when upon release the collection shot into the Amazon Best-seller ratings at #18 in the UK and #333 in the USA – the first day!  Sadly, it coincided with me being in Facebook jail for a week at the same time, so promoting was a nightmare. I have no idea of which crime I was being convicted, but they have their own rules.

I chose Sweet Sable – The Red Siren, as my opening chapter in the book. It is set in Hollywood in 1939 at the height of the night-club age, when clubs were where singers got to show off their talents and where they stood a chance of hooking a ‘Sugar Daddy,’ and ‘Stage Door Johnnies,’ were on the hunt for a conquest and a quick lay.

A Great Grandfather was a ‘Stage Door Johnnie,’ in London, back in the day – my inspiration comes from so many sources!

Back to my story: The Mafia has a hold on Las Vegas and Hollywood and nearly everyone is in hock to them one way and another, even politicians. Corruption is rife in 1939.

Sable is a nightclub singer with another string to her bow and she uses her good looks, her sexy voice, and diva performances to snare rich men whose egos need stroking – this is how she makes her ‘additional’ living; snaring, hooking, and then stinging her male lovers – enriching herself by blackmailing them and adding to her ‘retirement fund.’

If any play rough, well, she can play rough too…

Before she is about to go on stage with the nightclub’s resident band she has a visit to pay and we meet her as she breaks into the offices of one of her ‘marks,’ before rushing back to prepare for her performance.

I’ve used Hollywood for this story because it ties into some research I had to undertake a while back when writing another Hollywood-based story about the apparent suicide of an up-and-coming young starlet. It’s called Cue Murder, and features in an anthology I contributed towards – Cons, Dames and G-Men published by Stab in the Dark Crime Writers.

Elisabeth Risdon

I used my husband’s late, great aunt, movie actress Elizabeth Risdon, for my research into the era of the silver screen in the late 1930s and I was able to go back to this research for Sweet Sable. Elizabeth’s career was long and successful. She began on stage in England and then Broadway, moving with ease into the Silent Movie era and later starred with many screen greats such as John Wayne and Cary Grant in over 100 movies during the Golden Age of Hollywood, until her death in the mid-1950s.

Lupe Velez

It was her roles with Lupe Velez – The Mexican Spitfire – which inspired Cue Murder and subsequently Sweet SableThe Red Siren.

Elizabeth Risdon: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisabeth_Risdon

Lupe Velez: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupe_V%C3%A9lez

FIRST 500 WORDS from the Opening Chapter:

Sweet Sable – The Red Siren

Closing the safe door quietly and with an expert spin of the dial the black-clad woman straightened up, slinging the grip with her haul over her shoulder. She stood listening intently before moving towards the office door. Again she waited, her ears straining, before gently prising the door open and stepping silently into the corridor of darkened offices; she eased the door closed calculating she had barely two minutes before the night-watchman made his rounds, trying the doors and checking the building was secure.

The woman headed for the fire escape where she’d made her entrance to the three storey building some ten minutes earlier. Gently raising the window she climbed out on to the metal staircase with the athletic grace of a ballet dancer, giving the dark alley below a quick once-over to ensure no-one was around she hastily made her way down the rusting stairs. Her tar- toned unremarkable and unmemorable automobile was parked across the street, hidden in the gloom of another narrow alleyway. Glancing at her wrist-watch – an expensive pay-off from a married lover – she knew she’d better step on the gas. She’d less than fifteen minutes to get back to the night-club, park her car at the darkest end of the outside lot, and leg it back to her dressing-room with enough time to change into her gown for her last set of the evening.

The red-head chuckled to herself as she repaired her lipstick pouting seductively at herself in the mirror, waiting for the stagehand to knock on her door with her final call. She was buzzing. She’d done it again, she’d pulled it off. It was better than any sex she’d ever had, and that was saying something. She chuckled, puckered her ample lips and blew herself a huge wet kiss.

*****

As the spotlight found its mark the band-leader nodded to the scarlet-clad shapely figure who took up position in front of the microphone. Her hips swayed in time to the jazz trumpet and she took her cue.  Her sultry sable-clad tones sucked her audience into her lair.

The figures outlined in the flickering candle-light adorning circular tables dotted around the smoke-hazed, expectant venue, stopped talking and turned their heads towards the elevated stage where Desi Garcia’s Syncopators went into full swing behind Sweet Sable, also known as the Red Siren – neither was her real name but no-one cared. When her song ended there was a moment’s silence before they pounded their tables shouting, ‘more, more.’

Sweet Sable wiggled her slender but shapely hips, leaned over the stage giving more than an eye-full of her full bosom on display in her tight-fitting strapless gown and blew huge smackers into the air, aimed at no-one in particular but the full-blooded men in the audience got the message and so did their partners who silently seethed.

Her set over for the evening Sweet Sable made her way back to her dressing room, accepting compliments and congratulations on her ‘wonderful performance,’ smiling, blowing kisses…

***

Undercover: Crime Shorts is available from Waterstones in Paperback: ISBN 9780359397839

And from most digital platforms including Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc for Kindle, Phone and Tablet and from Lulu in Paperback too.

Buy links:

https://books2read.com/b/4jD0wo

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/under-cover-crime-shorts-jane-risdon/1130007355

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07RFRVL4P

http://www.lulu.com/…/under…/paperback/product-24082039.html

Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2/

https://janerisdon.com

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Risdon/e/B00I3GJ2Y8

https://accentpressbooks.com/collections/jane-risdon

https://twitter.com/Jane_Risdon

https://www.instagram.com/janerisdonwriter/

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/janerisdon2/

mewe.com/i/janerisdon

Author Interview on The Authors Show.com:

https://www.wnbnetworkwest.com/ 

Many thanks for visiting today Jane,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


Opening Lines by Janet Few: Barefoot on the Cobbles

This week’s opening lines comes from fellow Devon based author, Janet Few.

Pop your feet up for five minutes, and take a read of the first 500 words of Barefoot on the Cobbles

Barefoot on the Cobbles – a Devon tragedy by Janet Few

In the euphoria of the armistice a young woman lay dying. Daisy had grown up, barefoot on the cobbles, in a village on the rugged North Devon coast; she was mindful of the perils of the uncertain sea. Her family had also been exposed to the dangers of disease and the First World War but for Daisy, it was her own mother who posed the greatest threat of all. What burdens did that mother, an ordinary fisherman’s wife, carry? What past traumas had led, inexorably, to this appalling outcome?

Vividly recreating life at the dawning of the twentieth century, Barefoot on the Cobbles is based on a real tragedy that lay hidden for nearly a hundred years. Rooted in its unique and beautiful geographical setting, here is the unfolding of a past that reverberates unhappily through the decades and of raw emotions that are surprisingly modern in character.

More details about the novel, including information about how to obtain a copy, can be found at http://bit.do/bfotc; alternatively, visit the publisher’s website https://bluepoppypublishing.co.uk.Opening Lines

The magistrate was saying something. Polly, with throat tightening and heat rising, struggled to focus. He repeated his question but she was transfixed, unable to answer. Images and incidents from the past kaleidoscoped before her eyes. She saw her childhood home in the secluded Devon valley, her courtship with Alb, her firstborn being put into her arms. Her daughter, Daisy, skipping barefoot down the Clovelly cobblestones, living, loving, laughing. Daisy, bone thin and dying. Daisy, whose passing had somehow, in a way that Polly couldn’t comprehend, led to her being here in this crowded, claustrophobic courtroom, with every eye upon her. She must compose herself, pay attention, escape from this nightmare. All she wanted to do was dream of the past, both good and bad times but somehow more certain, safer, predictable. Times before everything began to spiral terrifyingly out of control.

Mr Lefroy, the solicitor, had assured her that she wouldn’t hang; this was a manslaughter charge not murder. Nonetheless, phantom gallows haunted Polly’s restless nights. Even when she calmed and the hangman’s noose receded, there was still prison. Prison meant Holloway. Polly’s hazy and fragmented impression of Holloway was gleaned from the terror-ridden stories of suffragettes’ force-feeding, that the pre-war newspapers had revelled in. Or would they say she was mad? Echoes of insanity had touched her in the past. There were barely acknowledged tales of people she knew who had been locked away. When compared to the prospect of prison, the asylum at Exminster was somehow more familiar but no less formidable.

Polly knew she must concentrate, breathe slowly, think about what she should say. Mr Lefroy had explained that all she needed to do was to keep calm and tell the truth, so difficult in this alien environment with all these well-to-do folk looking on. Faces. Faces whirled and blurred in front of her. There was Alb, shuffling in his chair and running his finger round the restrictive collar that she had helped him to fasten only this morning. He looked lost and bewildered, barely recognisable without his beloved trilby hat. Faces of the villagers, reproachful and remote. Mr Collins, her accuser, cold and self-possessed. Mrs Stanbury, gossiping neighbour, once a friend maybe but now here as a witness for the prosecution. Then, overlaying all of these, the vision of Daisy. Daisy looking like a young lady in her new hat, proudly setting off for her first job beyond the security of the village. Daisy fighting, screaming, twisting her head away from the spoon that held the broth that might save her. Daisy dying.

Was it really her fault, as they were saying? Polly wondered. Could she have done any more? She was a mother; mothers should protect their children. She had tried, she really had, struggled in vain to shield them all from harm. The enormity of her many failures consumed her. There was Bertie, not quite the full shilling, Violet and her troubles, the worry over Leonard while he’d been away at sea during…

***

You can find Janet at https://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/

Many thanks for sharing your first 500 words today Janet,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x


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