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

Category: history Page 1 of 6

The Reluctant Investigator: Edward’s Outlaw

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

Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

Extract

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Edwards’ Outlaw can be read as a standalone book, or as part of The Folville Chronicles.

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

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading,

Jennifer xx

Focus on: The Winter Outlaw

Let’s focus on…

The Winter Outlaw,

Book Two of The Folville Chronicles

Blurb

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

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

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

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

The Winter Outlaw can be read as a standalone novel or as the sequel to The Outlaw’s Ransom.

Available from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

Here’s a few of the lovely things my readers have aid about The Winter Outlaw,

“Drew me right in and I couldn’t put it down. I was surprised how much bigger this book was compared to the previous one, big bonus. A captivating story that kept me on my toes until the very end.” Amazon

“So good. I await the third book.” Amazon 

‘Great read, looking forward to reading the sequel :-)’ Amazon

“Best work of historical fiction I’ve ever read” Goodreads

Focus on: The Outlaw’s Ransom

Let’s focus on: The Outlaw’s Ransom.

The first in an exciting historical crime series, set in fourteenth century England.

Book One of The Folville Chronicles

When potter’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life. Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for using crime to rule their lands—and for using any means necessary to deliver their distinctive brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so, she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the betrothed of Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will send her to Bakewell in Derbyshire, and the home of Nicholas Coterel, one of the most infamous men in England.

With her life in the hands of more than one dangerous brigand, Mathilda must win the trust of the Folville’s housekeeper, Sarah, and Robert Folville himself if she has any chance of survival.

Never have the teachings gleaned from the tales of Robyn Hode been so useful…

Available as an ebook or paperback from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

Here are just a few of the lovely reviews for Mathilda’s first story…

“Bought it last night and finished at 2am in the morning! I had already read “Romancing Robin Hood” and liked Mathilda, so I was curious what this book would be like. Many aspects of the story were already in the other book but this is a beautiful standalone and I didn’t mind rereading parts of the story. I’m glad this is a series by the looks of it and hope the next one will be out soon. I particularly like that the women are confident but still believable characters within the medieval background. No “Kardashians in costumes” but convincing dialogues and scene descriptions. Well done!” Amazon

“I first read this story when it appeared in a lesser form as a ‘story within a story’. (Romancing Robin Hood)
I have really enjoyed reading the expanded version – complete with historical references.
Mathilda is kidnapped by local highborn landowners/outlaws as a way of ensuring her family repay a loan. Too clever for her own good she soon realises that they wish to use her to pass messages to another family – who would ever think to question a young lady, but is very quickly embroiled in the murder of a local business man….A very cleverly written medieval who dunnit.” Goodreads

“An enjoyable read with credible characters and a pacey plot. Good scene setting, I felt like I was back in medieval times. Looking forward to the next book in the series.” Amazon

“What a lovely way to spend Easter Sunday, curled up under my blanket and being whisked back in time. Mathilda is a woman who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and reveals a truth about a mystery, knowing it may cost her dearly. I truly felt as though I was at the market with her and also felt the soreness from being on a horse. A really good tale with a happy ending. Historic books are ones I love to read and I was so glad I picked this up!” Amazon 

“I raced through The Outlaws Ransom in just a couple of sittings, it was so satisfyingly fast-paced that I found with each chapter it was a case of ‘just one more’. Mathilda is a fabulous protagonist and seemed to me to be a fitting heroine for the times. The historical accuracy and details peppered throughout the book helped the story come alive in a most enjoyable way. The Folville family is fascinating, both dastardly and multi-layered, the interaction between the brothers engaging and very human. I am greatly looking forward to the next instalment in this series.” Amazon

“An enjoyable read with credible characters and a pacey plot. Good scene setting, I felt like I was back in medieval times. Looking forward to the next book in the series.” Amazon

Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England: Aphrodisiacs

I don’t often often feature nonfiction on my blog, but today I make a worthy exception.

This book –  Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England – by fellow novelist and historian, Carol McGrath, promises to be something special. So, if you have a fascination with the Tudor period, this is a must read.

This blog is the first on a blog tour.

Over to you Carol..

There has long been an appetite by readers and film viewers for the Tudor period as portrayed in novels, sumptuous costume dramas and documentary film. Have you ever been curious about the Tudors’ view of sex and sexuality? My recently published book Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England reveals myths and truths about how our Tudor antecedents conducted their sexual relationships romantic affairs, and marriages. Amongst many interesting titbits I discovered whilst researching this book aphrodisiacs as used or thought about in Tudor times intrigued me.

An aphrodisiac is a food, drink or drug that increases libido and enhances sexual pleasure and performance. These aids to sexual performance have been recorded throughout history. One of the earliest treatments for impotence appears in an ancient Hindu text known as Sushruta Samhita c.600 BC. It suggests powders of sesame and sali rice should be mixed with saindhara salt and a quantity of the juice of sugar cane mixed with hog’s lard and cooked with clarified butter. Medieval and Tudor people believed the food they consumed could influence their sex lives; it was all part of the humoral notion. They thought, according to medical theory, that food and drink was one of the things on which health should depend. A poor diet could cause illness but a patient could be restored to health by changes in diet. This sounds rather familiar.

However, they also believed that food and drink could solve sexual problems including impotence and infertility. Medieval medical texts contained references to foods and sexual advice for the late medieval man. Constantine the African was a translator of Arabic medieval texts into Latin. He lived in Salerno, Italy’s medical centre during the medieval era. His text on human fertility, De Coitu, has a section on foods and herbs which provoke desire. These were foods that were likely to generate semen and incite a man to intercourse. He also suggested foods to dry up and diminish semen so that men could eat according to whichever condition they suffered- whether too much desire or too little of it. Medieval doctors believed semen was a processed form of blood and therefore derived from food.

Three types of food were conducive to the production of semen and were grouped as nourishing foods, foods especially windy and foods that are warm and moist. Chickpeas contain all three and were considered an aphrodisiac. Other foods they thought drew out and produced semen were fresh meat, pepper, wine, brains, and egg yolks. However, cold foods such as fish, cucumber and lettuce might repress, impede or thicken semen and therefore destroy lust.

Aphrodisiac recipes were included in handbooks and regimes to help Tudor men with their sexual problems. Cloves in milk and blueberry juice, the brains of small sparrows, grease surrounding the kidneys of a freshly killed billy goat, all these might treat impotence. On the other hand, rue, powdered and added to a potion, could be drunk to dry out sperm, and the juice of water lilies taken for forty days might take care of the over-sexed problem.

The oyster is the most well-known and enduring of aphrodisiacs. During the sixteenth century oysters came into their own as a libidoenhancing culinary food. In 1566 Alain Chartier suggested oysters ‘doe provoke lecherie.’ Pickled oysters were sold in brothels in 1646. It is likely they were also sold in brothels during the previous century as a sex-inducing food. This no doubt stems from the fact that an oyster has a resemblance to the vulva with soft folds of pink, salty flesh with nestling pearls. It was slang for vulva during the sixteenth century and later the figure of an oyster girl selling them on the streets became associated with sex workers. There has been no scientific evidence that oysters are an aphrodisiac although they are a healthy food. Shellfish, though, are associated with Aphrodite-Venus who was allegedly born from the sea and appears in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

DID YOU KNOW ?

An anophrodisiac, the opposite of an aphrodisiac, was intended to supress libido and impair sexual function. Anophrodisiacs fell into three categories: starving the body, cooling the body and sedating the body. Sedating might be achieved through fasting and rigorous exercise. Early Christian saints regularly fasted to purify the body and monks would starve for long periods to control their sexual hunger and desire for food.

Regimen Studies by Maino de Maineri suggests the man who wished to avoid the production of semen and repress lust should make use of cold foods such as lentil water cooled with cauliflower seeds, water lily and lettuce seeds, lettuce water made slightly vinegary, or seeds of purslane. Camphor was considered useful to dry out lustful parts and if rubbed on the penis might keep the member flaccid. Spicy hot food could inflame the senses but cucumbers were cool and bland and even though phallic in shape were considered an effective anophrodisiac.

In the sixteenth century Francis Rabelais suggested, in addition to the benefits of water lily seeds, willow twigs, hemp stalks, woodbine, honeysuckle, tamarisk, mandrake, and the dried out skin of a hippo. In a way, Rabelais was sending up medieval quackery.

I am not sure I would want to put much store in any of the remedies above. This information carries a health warning. Don’t try it at home!

You can buy Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England here https://tinyurl.com/2p9ayfca

Bio

Following a first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing from The Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast, followed by an MPhil in English from University of London. The Handfasted Wife, first in a trilogy about the royal women of 1066 was shortlisted for the RoNAS in 2014. The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister complete this highly acclaimed trilogy. Mistress Cromwell, a best-selling historical novel about Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of Henry VIII’s statesman, Thomas Cromwell, published by Headline in 2020. The Silken Rose, first in a Medieval She-Wolf Queens Trilogy, featuring Ailenor of Provence, was published on 2nd April 2020. This was followed by The Damask Rose. The Stone Rose will be published April 2022 completing the Trilogy. Carol is writing Historical non-fiction as well as fiction. Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England was published in January 2022.

***

Many thanks for visiting today Carol, good luck with your new book and your blog tour.

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Rachel Brimble: A Very Modern Marriage

Opening Lines time is with us once again, and this week I’m delighted to welcome my friend and fellow author, Rachel Brimble, to share the first 500 words from her latest historical romance/saga,

A Very Modern Marriage.

Over to you, Rachel…

Hi Jenny!

Thank you for having me back on your blog and giving me the chance to share the Opening Lines of my latest release A Very Modern Marriage.

This is the final instalment in the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy (all the books can be read stand alone) and tells Octavia’s story. She is one of the three women who live and work together in a brothel situated in the backstreets of the Victorian city of Bath.

In books 1 & 2 (A Widow’s Vow & Trouble For The Leading Lady), we saw Louisa and Nancy struggling to find their true life purpose while facing the world with an unshakeable determination to survive. The same is now true of Octavia.

As her friends’ lives change, Octavia realises hers must too and decides that drastic action is necessary…whatever that might mean!

BLURB:

He needs a wife…
Manchester industrialist William Rose was a poor lad from the slums who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, but in order to achieve his greatest ambitions he must become the epitome of Victorian respectability: a family man.

She has a plan…
But the only woman who’s caught his eye is sophisticated beauty Octavia Marshall, one of the notorious ladies of Carson Street. Though she was once born to great wealth and privilege, she’s hardly respectable, but she’s determined to invest her hard-earned fortune in Mr Rose’s mills and forge a new life as an entirely proper businesswoman.

They strike a deal that promises them both what they desire the most, but William’s a fool if he thinks Octavia will be a conventional married woman, and she’s very much mistaken if she thinks the lives they once led won’t follow them wherever they go.

In the third instalment of Rachel Brimble’s exciting Victorian saga series, The Ladies of Carson Street will open the doors on a thoroughly modern marriage – and William is about to get a lot more than he bargained for…

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter 1

Octavia Marshall blinked back tears as her newly married best friend stood alongside her husband outside the green arched door of Bath’s town hall. As Nancy and Francis were showered in rose petals, Octavia’s lips trembled under the strain of her forced smile, anxiety for her uncertain future tightening her chest.

She despised her selfishness. Nothing but her friends’ happiness should be at the forefront of her mind today, but she could not stop fretting about what this wedding meant for the brothel on Carson Street – for her – now that Nancy, who had worked alongside her for so long, was respectably married.

The house meant everything to Octavia. Since her harsh separation from her father several years before, she had gone from being a privileged young girl living in a beautiful home, to homeless and hawking herself on the streets. Then Louisa Hill, the owner of the Carson Street house, had found her – saved her – and their home and workplace became Octavia’s haven, her sanctuary – the people living with her there, her saving grace.

Now she feared if the brothel collapsed, she would too.

Why had she allowed herself to believe it would be her, Nancy and Louisa, side by side against the world for as long as they could work? Louisa had fallen in love with Jacob, their doorman and all-round protector, over a year before. And now Nancy was wed. Yet, the loss of Louisa’s heart to Jacob had not affected Octavia as much as Nancy’s falling in love with Francis. After all, as madam and owner of the house, it was inevitable Louisa would come to distance herself from the practicalities of the brothel in time.

But with Nancy’s wedding came her permanent departure from the house and a ticking clock in Octavia’s mind. It was only a matter of time before Louisa wanted to start a family and then the Carson Street house would close for good.

Taking a deep breath, Octavia tried her best to shake off her melancholy and walked closer to her friends. She pressed a firm kiss to Nancy’s cheek. ‘You look beautiful, darling. Absolutely beautiful.’

‘Thank you.’ Nancy’s cheeks flushed with happiness and her auburn hair, speckled with white flower buds, gleamed beneath her ivory veil. ‘I can’t quite believe a good-time girl like me is actually married.’

‘Married and expecting,’ Octavia said, as she nodded towards Nancy’s slightly curved stomach. ‘All too soon there will be a tiny Nancy or Francis running around and then where will you be?’

Nancy laughed. ‘As happy as a pig in sh—’

‘Um, darling…’ Francis raised his eyebrows. ‘Shall we head to the White Hart before your happiness bursts forth in a barrage of unfettered expletives?’

‘It’s too late to start looking down your nose at me now, Francis Carlyle,’ Nancy sniffed, her gaze soft with love even as she feigned a scowl at her new husband. ‘Like it or lump it, I’m yours for the rest of our lives. Unfettered expletives and…’

***

You can buy your copy of A Very Modern Marriage here: https://geni.us/xa9ln5

BIO:

Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 25 published novels including the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin). In January 2022, she signed a contract with the Wild Rose Press for the first book in a brand new series set in past British Royal courts.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click here: https://bit.ly/3zyH7dt

Website: https://bit.ly/3wH7HQs

Twitter: https://bit.ly/3AQvK0A

Facebook: https://bit.ly/3i49GZ3

Instagram: https://bit.ly/3lTQZbF

Many thanks for your wonderful Opening Lines, Rachel,

Happy Reading,

Jenny x

The Genesis of World War When by Elliot Thorpe

This week I’m delighted to be welcoming Elliot Thorpe to my place to tell us about his latest story, World War When.

Over to you Elliot…

I was involved in a book project back in the distant past of 2016, an anthology of stories and verse to commemorate the (then-upcoming) centenary of the end of the First World War. While the project went in other directions, the work I had put into my contributions I didn’t want wasted. Any writer will tell you that an author never throws away an idea! I’d toyed with any number of scenarios and plotlines and saw mileage in expanding beyond the short story remit to a full-length novel.

I’d always found both World Wars to be fascinating, extremely dark chapters in recent history that have hopefully taught us lessons. I’d never written anything directly linking to modern warfare before, although I did delve into the skirmishes between the Ottoman Turks and the Wallachians in a horror novel in 2013. That previous novel, currently out of print, took a hugely fantastical liberty with the source material – something that seemed permissible bearing in mind that the protagonists and antagonists lived in a world wholly unlike our own some 500 years ago.

The idea then of taking a slice of history that is well-known, deeply researched, intimately documented and only a handful of years falling out of living memory I have to confess gave me moments of internal conflict. I didn’t want to make light of the events between 1914 and 1918. I didn’t want to flippantly create characters that existed as unflappable heroes. Nor did I want to step on the experiences those who served had been through. But that’s the art of storytelling, to weave a fiction that is believable, to conjure up heroes who aren’t two-dimensional, to place a tale in front of a backdrop that both thrills and chills.

I did my research. I would have been daft not to – because historians at all levels would find something that I got wrong in my prose. I created a past that was recognisable, a close as I could make it to reality following said research, with healthy influences thrown in for good measure: anything from Buchan to Elton to Faulks to Meredeth to Moffatt to Mukherjee to Sapper. I wanted a world of action, intrigue, drama and romance, of excitement, danger, love and loss. Then I went off-piste: the story mutated into how the Allies had lost the Great War and what happened after.

This alternative history, as I saw it, hadn’t been truly explored before in fiction. We have countless ‘what if Hitler had won’ tales, but no one had seemed to have asked what if the Kaiser had won in 1918?

And so World War When was born: a new, exciting reinvention of the end of 1914-1918 conflict.

But then I realised I had re-ignited my own conflicts: by telling a story of how the Central Powers had stormed across Europe to raise the Kaiser’s flag atop Buckingham Palace, I was erasing all the pain and suffering that our great grandparents had gone through. Perhaps I was looking too deeply into this. My solution? I made my characters, my protagonists, question the world they were living in. Could it be better? Could it be changed? Was the Great War fought for nought? Was all the pain and suffering they had gone through prior to 1918 a waste? When one of the characters answered ‘yes’, I knew I had my novel’s hook.

World War When poses the question: What if the Allies has lost the Great War?

Find out the answer when the novel, published by AG Books, is released 22 January 2022 in paperback, hardback and on Kindle. You can buy it from Amazon and all good bookstores.

Keep reading for an exclusive extract…

The war began with two shots and it would end with one.

At least that was what Daniel Restarick hoped, waiting in the bombed-out shell of what had been a shop, judging by the strewn cans of food.

The US Army had withdrawn some hours ago, successful in pushing the German offensive back towards Metz. The air was thick with death and rain. Spirals of smoke drifted on the air of the autumn afternoon; devastated buildings forlornly lined either side of the main street. At one end, a Renault FT tank was upended in a crater, having been shelled by enemy artillery. Even at this distance, Restarick could smell the petrol settling in a pool at the bottom of the jagged hole.

He was across the street from the church—one of the few fully standing structures, as if some providence had kept it free from the conceit of humanity. He was tired but focused, the rum from his weekly ration having been spilt during the night. Patience, too, was a prerequisite of a man like him.

At twenty-nine, Restarick was considered a veteran, having seen conflict almost from the moment war broke out. Formerly of the Essex Regiment, he had been hand-picked, during the summer of 1916, by Naval Intelligence—to work in the field for the Factory or, more formally, Room 40, the predominant section in the British Admiralty that handled cryptoanalysis. Covert operations had led him here, with the knowledge that vital information and thus advantage was going to be passed to the Central Powers,. His mission was simple: prevent this by any means necessary.

If the war ended on this one shot, the euphoria and relief across the world would be his doing. It was a heady thought.

It began to rain again, thunderstorms having relented only yesterday evening, almost concurrently with the exchange of fire. Restarick hated the feeling of the cold water against his back, hated the sight of his rifle becoming obscured, hated the stinging in his eyes. Further, he wore no gloves, so the damp had a habit of making his grip more precarious on the lengthy barrel.

He wanted a cigarette but the smoke would give away his position. It would have to wait.

Wiping the sight, he scanned the rubble-strewn street before him, waiting for his quarry and thinking of his return to England, to Surrey and to what he had already lost.

He and Lita had only been married for five months when she died and they had spent very little time together as a couple, stolen moments while he was on leave. There had been no honeymoon. They’d written, of course, as much as the Army Postal Service allowed, but it was a poor replacement.  Still, she had not given any indication of unhappiness or discontent. Although, perhaps that was the role of those left behind. Just as those on the battlefield had to callously dismiss them from their minds.  Lita had worked at the Silvertown munitions factory. The previous year, she had survived an accident that had killed over seventy and injured in excess of four hundred more. Survived to perish later, in a fire in their home in Surrey; she’d been trapped as the ceiling above her collapsed, bringing the bedroom down around her. The ARP wardens and the fire brigade had been unable to save her.

Her funeral had been a small affair. She’d left Spain as a young teenager and found her own way in life. Most of the mourners had been from Restarick’s side of the family, and a handful of officers with whom he’d served. The memory of the day itself was now obscured by the rage that had consumed him. He and Lita, however, had shared a passion for freedom, that fragile bloom, and this pushed him on, to fight against those who would crush it underfoot.

Her portrait, folded away in his pocket, served as his constant reminder.

The land surrounding the town was forest with the occasional patterns of farmland, not easily traversable by vehicle. The target, he had to assume, would arrive in the town on foot and, with both the Rue des Chanoines and Eglise Saint-Etienne mentioned in intercepted messages, the church was the most logical choice for the information exchange to take place.

In the distance, he heard the world rumble. Not thunder, that was too natural a sound. This was the result of mortar shells, ripping into bodies, into metal and into the earth some miles away. The shelling continued for a good hour or so, during which Restarick pushed his mind away from the devastation.

And there was his target, clear as day through his rifle sights. A trench coat, its large collar turned up, obscured any sign of expression or guise, a large grey woollen hat pulled low over the spy’s face. Over one shoulder, they held a khaki hold-all and it was this, Restarick knew, that held the papers he needed to intercept. On reaching the church door, the figure appeared to look around briefly, before ducking into the building.

Restarick cursed and shuffled forward on his belly, careful not to be seen. He couldn’t risk going into the church itself in case the spy wasn’t alone, though he suspected the spy would be making the exchange while out of sight. He would need to be damned fast to shoot down whoever came out of there.

He aimed for the bell tower, firing and quickly reloading. The bell tolled deeply and Restarick refocused his sights on the church door.

Then it was no longer the church door in the crosshairs. Now it was the traitor’s head.

This was it, the moment that would bring the war to an end.

Restarick quickly checked his watch and smiled to himself. 1700hrs. The Great War, 28 July 1914 to 13 September 1918.

He would be the bringer of peace.

He pulled the rifle into his shoulder, the weapon tight in his arms, and squeezed the trigger.

To be continued…

You can find all the buy links for World War When here – https://worldwarwhen.co.uk/shop/

BIO

Elliot Thorpe is a freelance writer, having previously worked for Starlog and written for the sites ‘Den of Geek’, ‘Shadowlocked’, ‘Doctor Who TV’, ‘Red Shirts Always Die’ and ‘TrekThis’, as well as for Encore, the magazine for the theatre professional.

He scripted the full cast audio drama Doctor Who – Cryptobiosis for Big Finish in 2005 and in 2013, his first novel Cold Runs the Blood was published.

He also has contributions in Seasons of War: Tales from a Time War (2015), Grave Matters (2015), Doctor Who – A Time Lord for Change (2016), The Librarian (2017), The Wretched Man (2020) and Sherlock Holmes and the Woman Who Wasn’t (2021).

For many years he enjoyed a working relationship with the West End production of The Definitive Rat Pack and in 2017 co-wrote Just Dino – A Recollection of Dean Martin with Bernard H Thorpe, which was expanded and re-released the following year as Dean Martin – Recollections. To date, three further volumes have followed: Dean Martin’s Movie Moments, Dean Martin – A Discography and For The Good Times: The Dean Martin Compendium. https://www.facebook.com/The-Dean-Martin-Association-110034111572241

He is a long-term regular columnist for the US-based magazine Search (searchmagazine.net), writes for thedoctorwhocompanion.com and co-hosts Sid & Terry’s Doctor Who Podcast on YouTube.

Please visit worldwarwhen.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/World-War-When-A-Novel-112564057994522

Author photo courtesy A E Abbottson

World War When © 2022 Elliot Thorpe

Thanks for visiting today, Elliot,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

Happy Birthday Outlaw Justice

Somehow, it is a whole year since the fourth novel in #TheFolvilleChronicles was published!

Continuing the story of potter’s daughter, Mathilda of Twyford, Outlaw Justice, opens in winter 1331 – and a storm is coming in the shape of Sir Richard de Willoughby.

Outlaw Justice

Blurb

England, 1331: Corrupt official, Sir Richard de Willoughby, has been appointed Justice of the Peace, with powers to hunt – and kill – those who oppose him. First on his list? The notorious Coterel brothers and their associates – the Folvilles…

The Folvilles must decide whether to flee into outlawry or take the law into their own hands – but is killing de Willoughby really the answer?

Robert de Folville is keen to dispose of the justice, but Robert’s ingenious wife, Mathilda, has a plan… one that could potentially rid them of Willoughby and yet see them escape the hangman’s noose. But these are tumultuous times and Mathilda must first put herself at great personal risk. Could the tale of a missing noblewoman, overheard by chance, be the key to solving a problem of life or death?

A gripping tale of real-life Robin Hoods, Outlaw Justice is the latest in the critically acclaimed ‘The Folville Chronicles’ series by Jennifer Ash.

Outlaw Justice

Ever since she first came to the attention of the Folville family – as a kidnap victim in The Outlaw’s Ransom- Mathilda of Twyford – has been learning that justice for the people of England comes at a high price. Often, it is those who purport to uphold the law, that break it the most…

Prologue

30th November 1331

‘Lady Isabel is safe, my Lord?’

‘I’ve seen her escorted to her mother in Lincolnshire by trusted friends. Her ravings these past few months have become intolerable. It’s not good for the children. I increasingly fear for her sanity.’

Keeping his countenance neutral, Bennett removed his master’s cloak. ‘May I be of assistance, my Lord? A drink after your journey perhaps?’

‘You may be of assistance by saying nothing of this to anyone. If King Edward were to hear of my wife’s shameful state, he might deem me unworthy of the office he so recently bestowed upon me.’

Bennett dipped his head respectfully and withdrew into the kitchen. He’d worked for Sir Richard de Willoughby long enough to know when to keep his mouth shut.

Damping down the kitchen fire for the night, absorbed in thought, the steward headed towards Lady Willoughby’s chamber. He’d seen no signs of mental instability. He’d heard no ravings. He had, however, heard a row between her and her husband earlier that day. The one and only time in her whole miserable marriage she’d stood up to her lord.

Pushing his mistress’s door open, Bennett surveyed the scene. Lady Isabel’s travelling cloak hung over the back of a chair by the window. Her hairbrush sat on her side table, and her riding boots waited patiently by the door.

A furrow formed on the steward’s forehead as he closed the chamber door, locking it securely behind him.

If you’d like to find out what happens next, Outlaw Justice it is available as both an ebook and paperback. It can be read as a standalone novel, or as part of #TheFolvilleChronicles

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer x

Opening Lines with Deborah Swift: The Poison Keeper

I’m delighted to welcome, Deborah Swift, with the first 500 words from her fabulous historical novel,

The Poison Keeper.

About the Poison Keeper, a historical novel set in Renaissance Italy:

Naples 1633

Aqua Tofana – One drop to heal. Three drops to kill.

Giulia Tofana longs for more responsibility in her mother’s apothecary business, but Mamma has always been secretive and refuses to tell her the hidden keys to her success. But the day Mamma is arrested for the poisoning of the powerful Duke de Verdi, Giulia is shocked to uncover the darker side of her trade.

Giulia must run for her life, and escapes to Naples, under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, to the home of her Aunt Isabetta, a famous courtesan. But when Giulia hears that her mother has been executed, and the cruel manner of her death, she swears she will wreak revenge on the Duke de Verdi.

The trouble is, Naples is in the grip of Domenico, the Duke’s brother, who controls the city with the ‘Camorra’, the mafia. Worse, her Aunt Isabetta, under his thrall, insists that she should be consort to him.

Based on the legendary life of Giulia Tofana, this is a story of hidden family secrets, and how the darkest desires can be overcome by courage and love.

‘Her characters are so real they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf’ Historical Novel Society

FIRST 500 WORDS

PROLOGUE

Palermo, Sicily. June 1633

‘Did you see her?’ Duke Antonio de Verdi’s voice rose from the bed in a feeble croak.

His housekeeper, the ramrod-straight Signora Fattorini, nodded, lips pursed in satisfaction. ‘I waited as you suggested, in the guest chamber, and spied her through a crack in the door. She dropped something into your broth, Your Excellency.’

‘Dispose of it. And have Bruno and Alessandro fetch her in.’ A pause, in which he heaved himself up on the pillows and gathered enough saliva to speak again. ‘No word, hear me… no word to anyone beyond these walls. Just a stomach sickness, understand me?’

He saw in her eyes, and her servile curtsey, that she understood exactly. He didn’t want the court to know he had no control over his wife.

‘Your Excellency, the glovemaker is due to see the Lady Valentina at two o’clock. What shall I tell her?’

‘Send her away. My wife won’t be needing any more gloves.’

Chapter 1

A splash of noonday sun danced against the latticed window. Giulia paused, plate in hand, as a spider, escaping the sudden light, spooled slowly downwards on its silvery thread. If it put so much as a leg into the downstairs chamber, Mamma would kill it. Any stray crumb could pollute her work, she said. Any creature that fell into her carefully measured remedies could change the balance. Turn good to ill. Things were apt to turn into their opposite without careful attention, Mamma said, and Mamma was always right.

Fortune smiles on you today, little one, Giulia thought, Mamma is busy in the still room.

The spider completed its acrobatic descent and was gone, spindly legs scuttling away across the windowsill and into the blue-black shadow behind the cheese press. Giulia finished laying out the meal: yesterday’s bread, wedges from a round of hard salty cheese, pickled olives and figs from Tuscolo.

She called down the staircase, ‘It’s ready, Mamma.’

It was their servant Maria’s day off, so it was left to Giulia today to make Mamma eat. And today she was determined to make her listen.

She cocked her head. No answer, again.

Mamma often didn’t hear, or pretended not to, when she was involved in her work. Giulia tucked the stray wisps of hair back into her dark coiled braids, lifted her heavy skirts and hurried downstairs, heels clacking on the stone treads. The door was shut as usual. It seemed to her she’d been locked outside this door her entire life. Only when Mamma was ready would she open it.

She remembered the time when she was eight years old straying into the still room and lifting the end of a stopper to her nose to smell it. A stinging slap to the cheek. ‘Never, never do that,’ Mamma had shouted, whipping the stopper away with a gloved hand, with the stark warning; ‘You could die.’

Since then the door was locked until Mamma deigned to open it, and she had accepted it…

 

5 Interesting facts about Giulia Tofana:

  • The poison Giulia Tofana invented was called Aqua Tofana (Tofana Water) and it was often disguised as Manna of St Nicholas, an elixir that was supposed to drip from the saintly bones of the dead St Nicholas. It was widely used as a cure-all in Renaissance Naples.
  • Poison was one of the few weapons available to women in this patriarchal society. Fear of poisoning was so great that there were rumours Giulia Tofana wanted to poison the whole city of Rome by putting poison into the water system.
  • The arsenic Giulia Tofana used in her potion was supposedly supplied by a corrupt priest whose brother ran a pharmacy. His church was the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone in the centre of Rome. However, Giulia had begun her poisoning career in Palermo and seems to only have moved to Rome after her mother was executed. It is likely her mother began the whole business, and this family was actually three generations of female poisoners.
  • Giulia Tofana’s daughter Girolama took over the secret affair of supplying poison, and she was rumoured later to be the widow of a wealthy Florentine businessman. This enabled her to move in aristocratic circles. Though you have to wonder how she became a widow!
  • There is no hard evidence to show when Giulia Tofana herself It is believed she died of natural causes in her own bed in about 1651, after which her daughter took over the supply of Aqua Tofana to those women who wanted to hasten the deaths of their husbands.

You can buy The Poison Keeper here – mybook.to/PoisonKeeper

And you can pre-order the sequel: The Silkworm Keeper here – mybook.to/SilkwormKeeper

BIO

Deborah is the author of fourteen historical novels, including a trilogy set in WW2. Deborah used to work as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, and enjoys the research aspect of creating historical fiction, especially exploring archives, old houses and museums. She likes to write about extraordinary characters set against the background of real historical events.

Her home is in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District, an area made famous by the Romantic Poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. Deborah has an MA in Creative Writing and now mentors other writers via The History Quill, and teaches classes and courses in writing through the Adult Education service. She’s a member of the Historical Writers Association, The Historical Novel Society and the Romantic Novelists Association.

Find Deborah on her website www.deborahswift.com  or onTwitter @swiftstory  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authordeborahswift/

Many thanks for sharing your fabulous Opening Lines with us, Deborah.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Will there ever be outlaw justice?

Continuing the story of potter’s daughter, Mathilda of Twyford, Outlaw Justice, opens in winter 1331 – and a storm is coming in the shape of Sir Richard de Willoughby.

Outlaw Justice

Blurb

England, 1331: Corrupt official, Sir Richard de Willoughby, has been appointed Justice of the Peace, with powers to hunt – and kill – those who oppose him. First on his list? The notorious Coterel brothers and their associates – the Folvilles…

The Folvilles must decide whether to flee into outlawry or take the law into their own hands – but is killing de Willoughby really the answer?

Robert de Folville is keen to dispose of the justice, but Robert’s ingenious wife, Mathilda, has a plan… one that could potentially rid them of Willoughby and yet see them escape the hangman’s noose. But these are tumultuous times and Mathilda must first put herself at great personal risk. Could the tale of a missing noblewoman, overheard by chance, be the key to solving a problem of life or death?

A gripping tale of real-life Robin Hoods, Outlaw Justice is the latest in the critically acclaimed ‘The Folville Chronicles’ series by Jennifer Ash.

Outlaw Justice

Ever since she first came to the attention of the Folville family – as a kidnap victim – Mathilda of Twyford – has been learning that justice for the people of England comes at a high price. Often, it is those who purport to uphold the law, that break it the most…

Prologue

30th November 1331

‘Lady Isabel is safe, my Lord?’

‘I’ve seen her escorted to her mother in Lincolnshire by trusted friends. Her ravings these past few months have become intolerable. It’s not good for the children. I increasingly fear for her sanity.’

Keeping his countenance neutral, Bennett removed his master’s cloak. ‘May I be of assistance, my Lord? A drink after your journey perhaps?’

‘You may be of assistance by saying nothing of this to anyone. If King Edward were to hear of my wife’s shameful state, he might deem me unworthy of the office he so recently bestowed upon me.’

Bennett dipped his head respectfully and withdrew into the kitchen. He’d worked for Sir Richard de Willoughby long enough to know when to keep his mouth shut.

Damping down the kitchen fire for the night, absorbed in thought, the steward headed towards Lady Willoughby’s chamber. He’d seen no signs of mental instability. He’d heard no ravings. He had, however, heard a row between her and her husband earlier that day. The one and only time in her whole miserable marriage she’d stood up to her lord.

Pushing his mistress’s door open, Bennett surveyed the scene. Lady Isabel’s travelling cloak hung over the back of a chair by the window. Her hairbrush sat on her side table, and her riding boots waited patiently by the door.

A furrow formed on the steward’s forehead as he closed the chamber door, locking it securely behind him.

If you’d like to find out what happens next, Outlaw Justice it is available as both an ebook and paperback. It can be read as a standalone novel, or as part of #TheFolvilleChronicles

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer x

Romancing Robin Hood: Medieval Murder and Modern Love

The last thing I expected I’d be doing during the drafting of a romance novel was plotting my first murder (on paper that is!), and yet, that is exactly what happened when I wrote Romancing Robin Hood.

Perhaps, with a legendary outlaw in the title, it isn’t so surprising that I have found myself sorting out the finer points of a murder mystery- and yet I didn’t see it coming. Whenever I begin a new novel, I have plenty of ideas, sketch out a plotline, and cobble together a synopsis, but at the same time I very much like my characters to take hold of the story themselves. I enjoy travelling with them, and being as surprised (hopefully) as my readers will be when they read my finished work.

Romancing Robin Hood – 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…

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance about history lecturer Dr Grace Harper, who is passionate about Robin Hood and the historical outlaws that may have inspired him. Not only does this novel tell the story of Grace’s fight to find time for romance in her busy work filled life, it also contains a secondary story about the fourteenth century criminal gang Grace is researching- the Folvilles. This family, based in Ashby-Folville in Leicestershire, were a group I researched in-depth as a student many moons ago.

In the novella she is writing, Grace’s fourteenth century protagonist Mathilda is getting to know the Folville family rather better than she would have liked. As well as living with them, she suddenly finds herself under a very frightening type of suspicion.

I must confess I’m rather enjoyed weaving this sub plot around the main romance of the modern part of Romancing Robin Hood.

I had no idea killing someone off could be so much fun!! It was rather like doing a jigsaw from in the inside out, while having no idea where the corners are! I loved it so much, that it led to me writing all four of the #FolvilleChronicle novels.

Here’s an extract from – starting with some of the medieval tale Grace is writing…

Mathilda thought she was used to darkness, but the dim candlelight of the comfortable small room she shared at home with her brothers was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness seemed to envelop her, physically gliding over Mathilda’s clammy goose-pimpled skin. This was an extreme blackness that coated her, making her breathless, as if it was stealthfully compressing her lungs and squeezing the life from her.

Unable to see the floor, Mathilda presumed, as she pressed her naked foot against it and damp oozed between her toes, that the suspiciously soft surface she was sat on was moss, which in a room neglected for years had been allowed it to form a cushion on the stone floor. It was a theory backed up by the smell of mould and general filthiness which hung in the air.

Trying not to think about how long she was going to be left in this windowless cell, Mathilda stretched out her arms and bravely felt for the extent of the walls, hoping she wasn’t about to touch something other than cold stone. The child’s voice that lingered at the back of her mind, even though she was a woman of nineteen, was telling her – screaming at her – that there might be bodies in here, still clapped in irons, abandoned and rotting. Mathilda battled the voice down; knowing it that would do her no good at all. Her father had always congratulated Mathilda on her level headedness, and now it was being put to the test. She was determined not to let him down now.

Placing the very tips of her fingers against the wall behind her, she felt her way around. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor. Mathilda traced the outline of the rough stone wall, keeping her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingers came to a corner, and twisting at the waist, she managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other, without doing more than extending the span of her arms.

Mathilda decided the room could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six foot tall. Her own five-foot frame had stumbled down a step when she’d been pushed into the cell, and her head was at least a foot clear of the ceiling. The bleak eerie silence was eating away at her determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering Mathilda had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her small slim body.

Wrapping her thin arms around her chest, she pulled up her hood, hugged her grey woollen surcoat tighter about her shoulders, and sent an unspoken prayer of thanks up to Our Lady for the fact that her legs were covered.

She’d been helping her two brothers, Matthew and Oswin, to catch fish in the deeper water beyond the second of Twyford’s fords when the men had come. Mathilda had been wearing an old pair of Matthew’s hose, although no stockings or shoes. She thought of her warm footwear, discarded earlier with such merry abandon. A forgotten, neglected pile on the river bank; thrown haphazardly beneath a tree in her eagerness to get them off and join the boys in their work. It was one of the only tasks their father gave them that could have been considered fun.

Mathilda closed her eyes, angry as the tears she’d forbidden herself to shed defied her stubborn will and came anyway. With them came weariness. It consumed her, forcing her to sink onto the rotten floor. Water dripped into her long, lank red hair. The tussle of capture had loosened its neatly woven plait, and now it hung awkwardly, half in and half out of its bindings, like a badly strapped sheaf of strawberry corn.

She tried not to start blaming her father, but it was difficult not to. Why hadn’t he told her he’d borrowed money from the Folvilles? It was an insane thing to do. Only the most desperate … Mathilda stopped her thoughts in their tracks. They were disloyal and pointless…

 

…Does Mathilda seem miserable and scared enough? Grace wasn’t sure she’d laid the horror of the situation on thick enough. On the other hand, she didn’t want to drown her potential readers in suffering-related adjectives.

No, on reflection it was fine; certainly good enough to leave and come back to on the next read through. She glanced at the clock at the corner of the computer screen. How the hell had it got to eight thirty already? Grace’s stomach rumbled, making her think of poor Mathilda in her solitary prison.

Switching off her computer, Grace crammed all her notes into her bag so she could read over them at home, and headed out of her office. Walking down the Queen’s Road, which led from the university to her small home in Leicester’s Clarendon Park region, Grace decided it was way too hot, even at this time of the evening, to stand in the kitchen and attempt, and probably fail, to cook something edible, so she’d grab a takeaway.

Grateful it wasn’t term time, so she didn’t have to endure the banter of the students who were also waiting for associated plastic boxes of Chinese food, Grace speedily walked home, and without bothering to transfer her chicken chow mein to another dish, grabbed a fork, kicked off her shoes, and settled herself down with her manuscript…

If you’d like to buy Romancing Robin Hood, or any of The Folville Chronicles, you can find them here –

Romancing Robin Hood – mybook.to/RomancingRH

The Folville Chronicles

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

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