The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


Currently Browsing: crime

Romancing Robin Hood: A tasty taster

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance is based on the life of Dr Grace Harper, a medieval history lecturer with a major Robin Hood obsession. So much so, that instead of writing a textbook on medieval life, Grace is secretly writing a novella about a fourteenth century girl called Mathilda, who gets mixed up with a real outlaw family of the day, the Folvilles. (Which you can also read about within this same novel)

The problem is that Grace is so embroiled in her work and passion for outlaws, that real life is passing her by. A fact that the unexpected wedding announcement of her best friend Daisy, has thrown into sharp focus…

 

Extract from Romancing Robin Hood

…Daisy hadn’t grown up picturing herself floating down the aisle in an over-sequinned ivory frock, nor as a doting parent, looking after triplets and walking a black Labrador. So when, on an out-of-hours trip to the local vet’s surgery she’d met Marcus and discovered that love at first sight wasn’t a myth, it had knocked her for six.

She’d been on a late-night emergency dash to the surgery with an owl a neighbour had found injured in the road. Its wing had required a splint, and it was too big a job for only one pair of hands. Daisy had been more than a bit surprised when the locum vet had stirred some long-suppressed feeling of interest in her, and even more amazed when that feeling had been reciprocated.

It was all luck, sheer luck. Daisy had always believed that anyone meeting anybody was down to two people meeting at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, while both feeling precisely the right amount of chemistry. The fact that any couples existed at all seemed to Daisy to be one of the greatest miracles of humanity.

She pictured Grace, tucked away in her mad little office only living in the twenty-first century on a part-time basis. Daisy had long since got used to the fact that her closest friend’s mind was more often than not placed firmly in the 1300s. Daisy wished Grace would finish her book. It had become such a part of her. Such an exclusive aim that nothing else seemed to matter very much. Even the job she used to love seemed to be a burden to her now, and Daisy sensed that Grace was beginning to resent the hours it took her away from her life’s work. Maybe if she could get her book over with – get it out of her system – then Grace would stop living in the wrong timeframe.

Daisy knew Grace appreciated that she never advised her to find a bloke, settle down, and live ‘happily ever after,’ and she was equally grateful Grace had never once suggested anything similar to her. Now she had Marcus, however, Daisy had begun to want the same contentment for her friend, and had to bite her tongue whenever they spoke on the phone; something that happened less and less these days.

Grace’s emails were getting shorter too. The long paragraphs detailing the woes of teaching students with an ever-decreasing intelligence had blunted down to, ‘You ok? I’m good. Writing sparse. See you soon. Bye G x’

The book. That in itself was a problem. Grace’s publishers and colleagues, Daisy knew, were expecting an academic tome. A textbook for future medievalists to ponder over in the university libraries of the world. And, in time, that was exactly what they were going to get, but not yet, for Grace had confided to Daisy that this wasn’t the only thing she was working on, and her textbook was coming a poor third place to work and the other book she couldn’t seem to stop herself from writing.

‘Why,’ Grace had forcefully expounded on their last meeting, ‘should I slog my guts out writing a book only a handful of bored students and obsessive freaks like myself will ever pick up, let alone read?’

As a result, Grace was writing a novel, ‘A semi-factual novel,’ she’d said, ‘a story which will tell any student what they need to know about the Folville family and their criminal activities – which bear a tremendous resemblance to the stories of a certain famous literary outlaw! – and hopefully promote interest in the subject for those who aren’t that into history without boring them to death.’

It sounded like a good idea to Daisy, but she also knew, as Grace did, that it was precisely the sort of book academics frowned upon, and she was worried about Grace’s determination to finish it. Daisy thought it would be more sensible to concentrate on one manuscript at a time, and get the dry epic that everyone was expecting out of the way first. Perhaps it would have been completed by now if Grace could focus on one project at a time, rather than it currently being a year in the preparation without a final result in sight. Daisy suspected Grace’s boss had no idea what she was really up to. After all, she was using the same lifetime of research for both manuscripts. She also had an underlying suspicion that subconsciously Grace didn’t want to finish either the textbook or the novel; that her friend was afraid to finish them. After all, what would she fill her hours with once they were done?

Daisy’s mobile began to play a tinny version of Nellie the Elephant. She hastily plopped a small black guinea pig, which she’d temporarily called Charcoal, into a run with his numerous friends, and fished her phone from her dungarees pocket.

‘Hi, Marcus.’

‘Hi honey, you OK?’

‘Just delivering the tribe to their outside quarters, then I’m off to face the horror that is dress shopping.’

Her future husband laughed, ‘You’ll be fine. You’re just a bit rusty, that’s all.’

‘Rusty! I haven’t owned a dress since I went to parties as a small child. Thirty-odd years ago!’

‘I don’t understand why you don’t go with Grace at the weekend. It would be easier together wouldn’t it?’

Daisy sighed, ‘I’d love to go with her, but I’ll never get her away from her work more than once this month, and I’ve yet to arrange a date for her to buy a bridesmaid outfit.’

‘Well, good luck, babe. I’m off to rob some bulls of their manhood.’

Daisy giggled, ‘Have fun. Oh, why did you call by the way?’

‘Just wanted to hear your voice, nothing else.’

‘Oh cute – ta.’

‘Idiot! Enjoy shopping.’

As she clicked her battered blue mobile shut and slid it back into her working clothes, Daisy thought of Grace again. Perhaps she should accidentally invite loads of single men to the wedding to tempt her friend with. The trouble was, unless they wore Lincoln Green, and carried a bow and quiver of arrows, Daisy very much doubted whether Grace would even notice they were there…

 

Blurb

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.

But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…

Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…

 

Buy Links Romancing Robin Hood is available from all good paperback and e-retailers.

***

Happy reading,

Jenx


A little peep at: The Winter Outlaw

Let’s take a peep inside The Folville Chronicles – Book Two: The Winter Outlaw .

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.

***

Here’s the prologue to whet your appetite…

Prologue: Winter 1329

Adam Calvin’s vision blurred as his eyes streamed in the cold. His breath came in wheezing puffs. He needed to rest, but he daren’t. Not yet.

It was only as the vague outline of a cluster of homes and workshops came into view in the distance that he realised where his legs had been taking him. Slowing his pace, but not stopping, Adam risked a glance over his shoulder. He’d expected to see dogs, horses and men chasing him, but there was nothing. No one.

Scanning the scene ahead, making sure he wasn’t running into trouble as well as away from it, Adam exhaled heavily and aimed for a building he hoped was still standing.

The last time he’d visited the tiny village of Walesby there had been an old grain store on its outskirts. Built too close to the point where the frequently flooding Rivers Maun and Meden merged, the grain store had paid the price of a poor location. Long since abandoned in favour of a superior bake house, it was a perfect temporary hiding place for a man on the run.

Adam had no breath left with which to sigh for relief when he saw the neglected grain store. Uttering a prayer of thanks to Our Lady for the fact the building hadn’t been pulled down, he lifted the worn latch. He eased his way into the damp space, which was stuffed with rotting sacks containing all manner of rubbish.

Scrabbling awkwardly over the first few rows of musty sacks, Adam made himself a man-sized gap at the back of the room. Sinking down as far as he could, hoping both the sacks and the dark would shield him long enough for his cramped limbs to rest, he did his best to ignore the putrid stench and allowed his mind to catch up on events.

Only a few hours ago everything in Adam’s life had been as it should be.

He’d been fast asleep in his cot in the small private room his status as steward to Lord John de Markham gave him.

Had given him.

Adam wasn’t sure what time it had been when he’d been shaken to his senses from sleep by Ulric, the kitchen boy. He suspected it hadn’t been much more than an hour after he’d bedded down for the night.

Ulric, who’d frantically reported that a hue and cry had been called to capture Adam, had urged his master to move quickly. The sheriff had unexpectedly arrived and there had been a brief meeting between him, the Lord Markham and one other unknown man. An anxious Ulric had said that rumours were flying around like snowflakes in the wind.

Some of the household staff were saying Adam had stolen something, some that there had been a death; a murder.

Either way, for his own safety, Steward Calvin had to leave. Fast.

Confused, scared and angry that his good name was being questioned; without having time to find out what was going on or defend himself, Adam had grabbed his scrip. Pulling on his boots and cloak, with Ulric’s help he’d headed through the manor via the servants’ walkways.

The only item Adam hadn’t been able to find to take with him was his knife. Contenting himself with lifting one from Cook’s precious supplies as he ran through the kitchen, he’d left the manor that had been his home for the past twenty years.

With a fleeting nod of gratitude to his young helper, Adam had fled into the frosty night. Only minutes later he’d heard the calls of the hue and cry; echoes of the posse’s footfalls thudding against the hard, icy earth.

Now, wiping tears of exhaustion away with the back of his hand, Adam strained his ears through the winter air. All he could hear was the busy work of the mice or rats who were taking as much advantage of the building as he was.

Glad of the water pouch Ulric had stuffed in his scrip, Adam took a tiny sip. He didn’t know how long it would have to last him. Closing his eyes, he rested his head against the sacks that boxed him in and tried to think.

Had he outstripped the hue and cry? If they were nearby, taking the chance to rest while waiting for him to run again, then Adam was sure he’d have heard something ‑ but there were no muttered voices, no horses panting and no hounds barking at his scent.

Adam managed to get his breathing under control. He’d been part of the hue and cry on occasions himself, and he knew such groups didn’t tend to chase their quarry far, or for long. Especially not on a cold winter’s night, when they could be tucked up in bed before the demands of the next working day.

With growing confidence that he’d chosen his bolthole well, Adam allowed himself to relax a fraction. Few people lived in Walesby since the most recent of many destructive floods, and its location meant he was only a few steps from the edge of Sherwood Forest. A desperate man could easily disappear into the woodland’s depths.

As the hours ticked on, Adam became convinced that the pursuit had stopped. However, he knew that by the morning the hue and cry would be replaced with soldiers if the sheriff barked the order. His bolthole wouldn’t stay safe for long.

Yet that wasn’t what concerned Adam the most. He wanted to know what he was supposed to have done that warranted his midnight flight. How could he even begin to go about clearing his name if he didn’t know what he was accused of?

In the meantime, where was he going to go?

***

Ever since I did my PhD (on medieval crime and its portrayal in the ballad literature of the fourteenth century), I have wanted to use what I learnt to tell a series of stories. Although I’ve written all sorts of things between 1999, when my PhD finished, and now – I still wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  Yet, here I am! The first three novels – one short – two long – are out in the world – and book four is in the planning stages!

You can buy The Winter Outlaw from Amazon and all good book retailers-

UK: http://ow.ly/RsKq30j0jev 
US: http://ow.ly/EvyF30j0jfk  

Happy reading,

Jen xx


Opening Lines: Sophia’s Secret by Julie Ryan

It’s opening lines time again. This week, Julie Ryan is taking us on a Greek mystery…

Sophia’s Secret is the second book in the Greek island mystery series but can be read as a standalone. I never intended to write a series but having created the setting in Jenna’s journey, I was reluctant to leave it alone. My books, whilst always having romance at their core, deal with the dark side of Greece that tourists rarely see so be prepared for murder and suspense too!

Blurb for Sophia’s Secret

Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart. It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty-year-old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?

FIRST 500 WORDS

The boy knew he shouldn’t be out so late on his own but a dare was a dare! His best friend, Vasilli, had dared him to meet up at midnight in their den in the woods. He’d been so excited he could barely sleep. His mother had come to tuck him in—not that a boy of nearly eight needed tucking in he’d reminded her as they went through the usual nightly ritual.

“Night night.”

“Sleep tight, mind the bugs don’t bite.”

Then when she’d gone, he forced himself to stay awake until he heard his parents come back up the stairs to their room.  He waited for the light to go out and gave it a few more minutes to be on the safe side. The luminous watch that he’d asked for on last birthday was showing nearly 11.30. There would be plenty of time to get there. He peered out of his bedroom window. It was dark out. There were no streetlights in his village. It was lucky that he’d remembered to pack a torch. He crept silently down the stairs, careful not to wake either his parents or the sleeping twins, put a jacket on over his pyjamas, slipped his trainers on and spying the fruit bowl on the table, put a couple of apples in his pocket in case he got hungry.

The gang had built the den during the long summer holidays when they were allowed to play out until late provided that they told an adult where they were. This was different. The summer had given way to autumn and there was a chill in the night air. He wrapped his arms round himself for extra warmth or maybe just to give himself courage. He thought fleetingly of turning back but he knew he wouldn’t be able to stand Vasilli’s taunts of ‘chicken’ the next day. All he had to do, he reminded himself, was cut through the woods at the back of his house and meet his friend in the den. Just then, as if giving him a signal, the moon came out from behind the clouds illuminating the woodland path. He set off at a run, not wanting to be late. Once he reached the safety of the den, they’d have a good laugh about what a great game it had been.

An owl hooted in the branches above him almost scaring him silly. It felt so different at night. Every sound was magnified a thousand times, making him alert to every eerie sound. Little creatures scurrying around made the leaves underfoot rustle. Twice now he’d thought he heard someone following him but when he stopped there was no one. Only a few more metres to go and he’d be safe.

Not wanting to cut through the churchyard, he kept to the wall until he reached the woods. The moonlight showed him the den, just as he’d left it. He rushed inside, breathing heavily, surprised to see that Vasilli hadn’t arrived yet…

***

Buy links

JENNA’S JOURNEY

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jenna s-Journey-Island-Mystery-Myste ries-ebook/dp/B01GGOCKLK

SOPHIA’S SECRET

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sophi as-Secret-Greek-Island-Mystery -ebook/dp/B00LFJGCWA

PANDORA’S PROPHECY

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pando ras-Prophecy-Greek-Island- Mystery-ebook/dp/B00V6CWVBW

CALLIE’S CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN

https://www.amazon.co.uk/ Callies-Christmas-Countdown- Julie-Ryan-ebook/dp/B0188T7H2I

Bio

Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances, thrillers set in the Greek Isles.

Jenna’s Journey is the first novel in Julie Ryan’s Greek Islands Series, a series she did not set out to create but which took on its own life and grew, rich and fascinating. This is the first of three published so far and promises to delight readers looking for the hidden dark sides of dream vacations in the Greek Isles.

In a new venture, Julie’s latest book is a short rom-com called Callie’s Christmas Countdown.

A prolific and well-known book review blogger, Julie does her writing and reviewing from rural Gloucestershire, where she lives with her husband, son and dippy cat with half a tail.

You can find Julie on her websites:

Website/blog for book reviews

Blog

Twitter @julieryan18

***

Thanks for visiting today, Julie.

Come back next week to read some more opening lines.

Happy reading,

Jenny


Opening Lines: The Case of the Missing Bride

Today I’m delighted to welcome Carmen Radtke to my place, with the first 500 words from her novel, 

Over to you Carmen…

It started with a conversation in a museum, with an elderly immigrant talking about her voyage as an imported bride.

In an idle moment, I typed a few words into Google, and found a few lines in an old article about a bride transport from Australia to Canada in 1862 that hadn’t gone according to plan.  A story full of possibilities slowly unfolded in my mind. What mattered most to me though was that these girls really existed and deserved to be remembered.

They grew up in Victoria, in Australia, struggling with poverty in a country that was both incredibly modern and yet strictly clinging to the values of the British empire they simply called Home. The few well-to-do, like my heroine Alyssa’s family, had a lifestyle that could have come straight out of Jane Austen’s novels, with balls, country visits and parties. For the poor, and their numbers grew rapidly after the gold rush in 1851 had fizzled out, survival was a never-ending struggle. No wonder that my brides leaped at the chance of marrying well-off men, no matter how far away.

How lucky they must have felt when they boarded the ship, their few possessions stowed carefully in their wooden boxes.

They would spend months at sea and endure storms huddled under deck, or being thrown around like a sack, but they endured it together, and with visions of a good future ahead. Until they disappeared in San Francisco. A Canadian newspaper at the time blamed the Californians for having the brides seduced away with money. I wish I could believe that…

The Case of the Missing Bride is my attempt to honour these women and write a cracking yarn about them. The novel was a finalist in the Malice Domestic competition in a year without a winner and nominated for a CWA Historical Dagger.

Blurb:

When a girl goes missing on board of an ocean liner, only one person is convinced that the disappearance is no accident.

Alyssa has found herself with a group of impoverished girls who are embarking from Australia to Canada in the hope of marriage. As the daughter of a senior official, Alyssa doesn’t share this goal. She hopes to return to England via Canada.

But the girls all share one problem. Their presence on the ship is not known to many of its passengers but their worlds collide when one of the gentlemen discovers them. Then Emma, one of the intended brides, goes missing. Alyssa is convinced the disappearance is no accident and will risk her own life to search for the killer.

What happened to Emma? Is there a murderer on board the ship?

Alyssa is about to discover that there is more to her voyage than she bargained for.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Alyssa Chalmers shifted her weight from one foot to the other. How long could it take to read out 22 names, match them each to a face and tick them off a list? She watched Matron McKenzie’s slow progress. If she kept on at this pace they might all be here by nightfall.

Black sateen rustled as Matron came nearer. “Louisa Jane Sinclair?” A sparrow of a girl curtsied, her brows nearly disappearing into her fair bangs as her eyes grew wide. She shouldn’t be here, Alyssa thought with a pang, she is only a child.

“Where is your box? Nothing missing from the items on your list?” Louisa Jane’s eyes widened more, her pupils two dark disks in the paleness that was her face. She bent down to rummage in the patched cardboard case she carried instead of the regulation wooden box. “Yes, Ma’am,” she finally mumbled. Matron made a note on her list before she called out the next name. “Emma Sayce?”

By the time the pen scratched over the paper for the last time, the train station lay deserted, its outlines barely visible in the gas-lights that illuminated Port Phillip.

Matron clapped her plump hands to get everyone’s attention. “Now listen, girls. No dawdling or gossiping on the way. We shall proceed speedily and as quiet as mice.” She waved her right hand. “Off we go. I’ll be in front, and dear Father Pollock will bring up the rear until he sees us safely off.”

The girls obeyed, trudging in silence towards a new life.

The air smelt of salt, dead seaweed and sadness, Alyssa thought, with the gulls screeching like banshees in the all-enveloping darkness. The sea, so full of promise for a better life and a fresh start by daylight, was nothing but a miserable graveyard at night. She shivered. She must be coming down with something. Otherwise there was no explaining this feeling of doom in someone as sensible as she was.

The girls marched on until Matron came to an abrupt halt. “Ouch,” a girl cried out. “Can’t you watch what you’re doing, you daft cow?”

Matron turned around to confront the speaker. “Be quiet,” she hissed. “And watch your words, girl. I’ll have none of that language, thank you very much – Nellie, isn’t it?”

“What on earth is going on?” a long-suffering voice asked.

“Nothing, Father,” Matron said. “It seems we have arrived. There’s a man waving a lantern over there. Can you make out the name of the ship next to the small barge?”

Father Pollock peered through his spectacles. “I can’t be sure, but it does seem to be made up of two words. Surely you can read it? You’re much closer to it than I am.”

Alyssa suppressed a smile. Matron’s eyesight must be less keen than she might care to admit. The name “Artemis’ Delight” was written in large enough letters to be deciphered, with the gas-lights casting their glow onto the ship’s massive brown hull…

***

Buy the book: myBook.to/MissingBride

***

Bio

Carmen has spent most of her life with ink on her fingers. She has worked as a newspaper reporter in Germany and New Zealand, but now has swapped the newsroom for a cramped desk in her spare room in the UK She loves history, travel, animals and has convinced herself that day-dreaming is considered work. When she’s not writing, she can be found watching TV series and films (1930s to 1940s screwball comedies and film noir to blockbusters from the Marvel universe) and planning her next trip, although the cat prefers her to stay home.

She also writes historical fiction as Caron Albright.

Connect with her on twitter: @CarmenRadtke1 or Facebook: Carmen Radtke

***

Many thanks for your great opening lines, Carmen.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 


8 Reasons to go on an Imagine writing retreat

After the wonderful success of our trip to Northmoor House last October, Alison Knight and I are proud to open the booking for Imagine’s second writing retreat…

8 reasons to go on an Imagine Writing Retreat…

1. Writers need writers! No one understands writing and a writer’s life like another writer. Mutual support is the name of the game!

2. Located in the stunning Victorian manor, Northmoor House, Imagine’s retreat gives you the chance to stay in a home untouched by time (Don’t panic, there is Wi-Fi). You can even indulge in the waters of an original Victorian bathtub…don’t forget your bubble bath!

3. With so many of the manor’s period features still in place, Northmoor is the ideal location for sparking inspiration and dreaming up new plotlines.

4. On the edge of Exmoor, near the popular village of Dulverton, there are plenty of beautiful places to explore should you, or any non-writing friends or partners, wish to. There are miles of good walking land on hand. The pre-historic Tarr Steps are but minutes away, and the cafes in Dulverton are excellent. I can personally recommend the poached eggs on crumpets in The Copper Kettle.

Tarr Steps

5. However, you might not want to stray into the village for food because we have employed an excellent local caterer, who is providing a delicious menu that will cater for all dietary requirements. All food is locally sourced.

6. Come along for a confidence boost! At Imagine we pride ourselves on helping everyone to get their words onto the page. We are here for beginners and experts alike.

7. Meet celebrated novelist Kate Lord Brown! Kate will be our guest speaker on the Tuesday evening.

8. Let’s face it – Monday to Friday in a beautiful Victorian Manor, with time to write, all food provided, plus help on tap, a chance to meet Kate Lord Brown, and the opportunity to share writing ideas over a glass of wine (or two) – for only £550 (£50 less if you book before 28th February) is a BARGAIN.

***

Full details are available at https://www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk/writing-retreats 

If you have any queries please email Alison or myself at imaginecreativewritng@gmail.com

 

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT ENDS ON 28th FEB 2019

Happy writing everyone,

Jenny xx


« Previous Entries


The Romance Reviews
© 2018 Jenny Kane | Site Designed and Maintained by Writer Marketing Services