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

Category: Contemporary fiction Page 1 of 43

Musically Mixed Up: Another Cup of Coffee 

Every novel needs an initial pivot point – something that happens near the beginning of the story that catapults the characters into a certain direction or situation.

In Another Cup of Coffee that pivot point is an old-school music mixed tape.

Blurb-

Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.

Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.

It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself was shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…

With her mantra, ‘New life, New job, New home’, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another bucket-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest…

Jack, the male led within Another Cup of Coffee is, as so many of us are, rather hopeless when it comes to expressing how he feels about other people. So, rather than try and explain himself, and mess it up- which he often does- he falls back on song lyrics to help him out. This was a habit Jack first picked up when he was dating Amy, and she told him all about the blank tape (see blurb!), that her brother had given her to record all her musical memories when she was a student…Since that time, so many years ago, Jack has used the lyrics of others to explain himself over and over again…and not always successfully….

Extract

The power shower thundered, sending a searing-hot cascade of water down onto Jack’s head. Squeezing far too much shampoo into his hands, he began to viciously scrub his short hair. What the hell had he been thinking? Well, actually, he hadn’t been thinking, had he? He never looked beyond himself. The moment. The day. He was so stupid. So angry with himself.

Why the fuck had he posted that tape? And more immediately, where was he? And how soon was he going to able to get away from whoever it was he’d spent the night with? Jack could feel the familiar sensation of suffocation closing in on him as he abandoned his hair and began to furiously soap his torso.

He was a shit.

But then you have to be good at something.

And now Amy was coming here. It hadn’t crossed his mind that she’d even visit, let alone move her entire life back south. And not just south, but bloody London. Being back in touch, and hopefully forgiven, was one thing when she was safely tucked away in Scotland. But here. Face to face. Jack hadn’t banked on that at all.

He really didn’t want to see Rob today. It was his fault this had happened. Rob had come into work one day, back in the summer, going on about how worried he and Paul were for Amy. How she seemed to have placed herself completely off the emotional scale. The combination of bright sunshine, happy reminiscences, and the weight of a conversation he and Amy had never had, had brought his buried guilt racing to the surface.

Then, a few days later, Paul had visited Jack and Rob’s bookshop, passing through on one of his rare visits between his archaeological digs. He’d been sorting out some of his university mementos, and had come across a load of photographs.

They were all there, at university, more years ago than was acceptable if Jack was still going to pass himself off as thirty at the clubs he frequented. Amy, Rob and Paul huddled together in a muddy ditch, laughing. Rob, Paul and him, pints of Tiger lager in hand, outside their favourite pub. Paul, Amy and him, all cuddled together on Rob’s battered and suspiciously stained brown sofa. Amy and him. Amy and him together. Smiling. Together.

That had been the killer. That was the photo that had made him think. Her eyes had shone at the camera. If Jack was honest, so had his. So, in a state of happy but unrealistic nostalgia, he’d gone home, dragged a box of assorted junk out from under his bed, and pulled out the tape.

He had weighed the clear plastic box in his hand. It was time to explain. If Amy was half the girl he used to know then she’d forgive him. And suddenly, from nowhere, Jack had found that he really, really needed to be forgiven.

That was why he’d put Unfinished Sympathy on Amy’s tape. He wanted her to understand that he knew he’d hurt her. That he, himself, had been hurt by having to leave her. But for reasons he hadn’t totally understood at the time, he’d felt he had no choice. A fact which had led him to the record the unbearably twee, but wholly accurate, I Will Always Love You. It seemed to say how sorry he was. It said everything he’d wanted to say then, but couldn’t. He was sorry, really he was. But for Amy to turn up here! Bloody hell.

Stepping out of the shower, Jack began to dry himself with a suitably punishing rough brown towel. Now he was going to have to tell Rob he’d returned the tape, and have another go at talking to Kit.

He hadn’t deliberately failed to tell Kit about Amy. Specific conversations about individual exes had never come up. Jack was pretty sure that Rob hadn’t mentioned Amy to Kit either. Amy had been part of their old life, and Kit was part of their current one. Simple.

Jack knew he had to see Kit soon, before someone else filled her in. He wasn’t sure why he’d walked out on her now he came to think about it. At least she’d understand. Kit always understood. After all, they’d remained friends. Great friends. They had moved on smoothly.

‘Talk about my past catching me up,’ he muttered to his sleep-deprived reflection as he dragged a borrowed razor over his chin. ‘It’s pretty much tripped me up, into a pile of shit, and it’s entirely my fault. Bloody sentimental tape. Fuck!’

Music has always played an important part in my writing life. I have different playlists to listen to depending on what style of writing I am creating. When I am ‘being’ Kay Jaybee and creating erotica, I listen to Depeche Mode (just as Kit, the erotica writer within Another Cup of Coffee does).

When I was writing Another Cup of Coffee, I listened to non-stop 80’s and 90’s music- just as I did when I was a student back in the 1990’s. And it is that very music (Alice Cooper, The Euyrthmics, The Clash…) that inspired Jack’s lyrical feelings- and his myriad of excuses…

If you want to find out how Jack manages to mess up even the simplest conversations with his overuse of lyrics, and discover if Amy sorts her life out, you can buy Another Cup of Coffee as an eBook or a paperback from all good retailers including – Amazon

***

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Spring Romance

Spring is the perfect time to read a feel good romance.

My latest novel, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, has been selected as one of six spring time novels to feature in Aria’s ‘Spring Romance’ collection – all of which are on sale this month!!

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…

OUT NOW AS AN EBOOK

OUT ON 10TH JUNE AS A PAPERBACK

Here’s a  mini taster from Spring Blossoms to whet your appetite…

… As Shaun’s car drove away, Thea waving madly through the passenger window, Tina threaded her arm through Sam’s.

‘I know it’s only for a couple of months, but it’s going to feel strange without Thea here.’

‘It will.’ Sam kissed the top of his fiancée’s head. ‘And even though Shaun’s only here on and off, I’ve got used to him being around too.’ He smiled at Helen and Tom, who were propped against the side of the manor. ‘You guys up for a quick staff meeting? I’ve got a couple of things I’d like to discuss before today’s guests arrive.’

‘I’ll go and put the kettle on.’ Helen pulled herself away from the wall. ‘Where do you want to meet?’

‘The walled garden.’ Sam grinned mischievously as he turned to Tom. ‘Would you mind helping me carry a couple of trestle tables over?’

‘No problem.’

Tina tilted her head to one side. ‘What are you up to, Samuel Philips?’

‘You’ll see.’ He winked. ‘Fancy bringing one of your delicious lemon cakes? Oh, and some apple slices for the chickens? Gertrude and Mavis would never forgive us if we entered their domain without treats.’…

BUY LINKS

I hope you enjoy a spring read – or 6 – this month,
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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