In two days time, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange, will be published!
To help celebrate, I thought I’d have an extra Opening Lines blog this week to give you a taste of the novel to come.
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 help but adore.
First 500 words
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.
‘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…
COMING 10TH SEPTEMBER
If you’d like to join in my launch day celebrations, I will be on Facebook and Twitter all day, chatting about my favourite season, archaeology and Time Team – plus, I’ll be doing a live reading from the book.
Happy reading everyone,