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

Category: history Page 3 of 5

Coming Soon: The Folville Chronicles Box Set

I’m thrilled to announce that the first three novels in The Folville Chronicles will soon be available as

an eBook Box Set!

The perfect way to binge read the series so far while I’m writing Book 4!

The Outlaw’s Ransom

When potter’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers as punishment for her father’s debts, she must prove her worth in order to win her freedom. With her life in the hands of the most infamous men in England, 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…

The Winter Outlaw

1329: It is the dead of winter and the notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside. Could this man be Adam Calvin, who is being pursued for a crime he did not commit?
Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story. But 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.

Edward’s Outlaw

1330: King Edward III’s England is awash with the corruption and criminal activity that his mother, Queen Isabella had turned a blind eye to- providing it was to her advantage.
Now, having claimed the Crown for his own, Edward is determined to clean up England. Encouraged by his new wife, Philippa of Hainault and her special advisor- a man who knows the noble felons of the countries Midland region very well- King Edward sends a messenger to Roger Wennesley of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire with orders to work with the county sheriff to arrest five of the 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, when a maid is found murdered in the castle’s beautiful guest suite, the Fire Room. The dead girl looks a lot like Mathilda. Was she the target, or is Mathilda de Folville’s life in danger?
Asked to investigate by the sheriff in exchange for him deliberately taking his time in the hunt for her husband, Mathilda soon uncovers far more than murder…a web of carefully laid deception which trails from London, to Derbyshire, and beyond…

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The Box Set pre-order link will be coming soon!

Information about Book 4 is just around the corner…

Happy reading,

Jennifer

Opening Lines with Ruadh Butler: The Earl Longbow

We’ve heading into 12th century Ireland for this week’s Opening Lines.

I’m delighted to welcome Ruadh Butler, and the first 500 words of The Earl Strongbow.

Denied his father’s earldom and banished from the royal court, Richard de Clare is a man whose name is greater than his fortune, his past greater than his future. But he is a man of ambition and will risk everything when journeys across the Irish Sea to claim the hand of a princess and place her father back on his provincial throne. Awaiting his master’s arrival is the redoubtable Raymond de Carew, fresh from his own victory but facing mutiny by his own warriors. The only person to stay loyal is his former mistress, Alice of Abergavenny, who has her own plans for Raymond. She knows more than any that upon the walls of Viking Waterford a king shall be made. And Alice has big plans for Raymond.

THE EARL STRONGBOW

The king was dying.

All his doctors were in agreement. He would not survive the fever. For two weeks the sickness had raged through his lungs and ravaged his guts. Henry FitzEmpress was fading. The king was dying.

Royal messengers had already been despatched to his son and heir, crowned king alongside his father two months before. Prepare, they were instructed to tell the fifteen-year old. Prepare to become lord and master of an empire. Prepare to become the greatest king in all Christendom.

Secret letters telling the same tale also found their way south to the king’s wife, Eleanor, at Poitiers, and east to Paris where the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury plotted his return to England.

‘Where is Master Ralph?’ Henry raved and slugged from a wine goblet, spilling most down his chest and onto his bed. ‘Master Ralph will return me to health.’ The king’s light ginger hair clung to his damp, yellowed face and he swiped it away with his shivering hand.

‘You Grace, your physician was among those poor souls who perished during your crossing to England in the spring. Do you recall?’ The Bishop of Lisieux used the same voice that he employed to calm his hunting dogs. ‘Be assured, we have engaged new doctors to oversee your recovery.’ His eyes flicked up. One of the new physicians visibly wilted and refused to meet his eyes.

Henry suddenly shot forward from his sick bed and grabbed the bishop by his robes, hauling him close enough so that the bishop could smell the puke and wine upon his breath. The king’s eyes danced in his pink face.

‘Becket has done this to me,’ Henry whispered, ‘just as he summoned up that storm to try and drown me during my passage across the Channel. You must protect me from his magic.’ A moan of sadness hissed from the king’s throat and he meekly punched the bishop in the shoulder as he clung to his robes. ‘I extended my hand in friendship to Thomas, tried to make peace as you instructed, and he has conspired to murder me.’ The king’s head slumped onto the bishop’s chest, the grip on his chasuble lessening. ‘It’s too damn hot,’ Henry whimpered as his hands fell away and he flopped back onto his back in bed. ‘Why is it always so damn hot in Normandy? I cannot believe I am going to die in this shit-hole.’ The king began rolling around the bed, his arms and legs gripped to his torso.

A smear of sweat had been left on the bishop’s rich vestments. The bishop raised his hand to wipe Henry’s perspiration from his clothes but stopped himself from doing so in the company of so many great men. As he cast his glance around the room he realised that not one person cared at how he comported himself. All eyes were on Henry. Each was considering how the king’s impending death would affect his empire and their place in it…

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BUY LINKS

SWORDLAND

A disgraced knight, an exiled king – together can they conquer a kingdom in Ireland?

mybook.to/SWRDLND

LORD OF THE SEA CASTLE

The might of Viking Waterford marches against a hundred invading Normans. At the creek of Baginbun, Ireland will be lost or won.

mybook.to/LordSeaCastle

THE EARL STRONGBOW

Denied his father’s earldom and banished from the royal court, Richard de Clare will risk it all by invading Ireland to claim the hand of a princess and with it a crown…

mybook.to/EarlStrongbow

BIO

Ruadh Butler is the author of Swordland, Lord of the Sea Castle, and The Earl Strongbow. The series tells the story of the 12th century invasion of Ireland by Norman knights from Wales. Catch up with Ruadh at www.ruadhbutler.com, on Facebook, or find him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Many thanks Ruadh. Great series!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

 

 

End of the Month Blog: Day 151…

Hang on a minute- wasn’t it February just now? 

I’m delighted to welcome Nell Peters back with her regular (now bi-monthly) blog round up of the last 31 days.

Over to you Anne…

By ‘eck! Time flies, doesn’t it? Here we are at the end of May already – the one hundred and fifty-first day of the year, no less. That means there’s just another two hundred and fourteen to go until the end of 2019.

Irish actor, Colin James Farrell, was born in Castleknock, Dublin forty-three years ago today. His father, Eamon, ran a health food shop and played footie for the delightfully named, Shamrock Rovers FC – as did his uncle, Tommy. While he was still at senior school – Gormanston College in County Meath – Colin unsuccessfully auditioned for the group, Boyzone, after which he enrolled in Drama College, inspired by Henry Thomas’ performance as Elliot in the movie ET.

When #4 son was born on Christmas Eve, 1992, we hadn’t decided upon a name for either girl or boy, but we had a short list for both, including Elliot for a boy (obviously!) On Christmas morning, I declined the invitation to venture downstairs to take part in the traditional TV broadcast of carols from Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, London, as I eagerly awaited our carriage – or beaten up BMW, if I remember correctly – to whisk us to Twickenham, where everyone and their dog was gathered at my parents’ house. Nothing to do with the new baby just the normal extended family Christmas bash.

One of the questions everyone asks when checking out a new arrival is what they are to be called – and lo, the after-dinner entertainment that year became I Can Name That Child in Eighty-Five Ghastly Suggestions. Fortunately, the more seasonal offerings like Gabriel (with apologies to any Gabriel/Gabrielles who may be lurking hereabouts), found little favour amongst those gathered – and when someone said that the baby’s wrinkly neck looked like ET’s, I mentioned that Elliot was on our list, which immediately got the thumbs up all round. So, we called #4 John – just kidding!

Where was I? Oh yes, Colin Farrell was studying drama – he didn’t stay the course, however, as he was offered the part of Danny Byrne in the BBC series, Ballykissangel in 1996, aged nineteen.

He was pretty lucky to have the opportunity, after being arrested for attempted murder in Sydney, Australia the previous year. The police sketch of their suspect looked uncannily like him and he had admitted to remembering nothing of the evening in question – but fortunately for him, his friend had kept a journal which crucially described the two of them partying across town that night, taking MDMA (Ecstasy). Who remembers enough to keep a journal of when they are high as a kite?

Despite an impressive award-winning career, not everything has run smoothly for the poor chap. In December 2005, Farrell checked into rehab for addiction to recreational drugs and painkillers. He later described the effects of the drugs thus; ‘An energy that was created, a character that was created, that no doubt benefited me. And then there was a stage where it all began to crumble around me.’ He also picked up a stalker along the way and an ex-girlfriend threatened to publicise a sex tape unless he paid her $5M. Yikes. Let’s hope his birthday passes without incident.

Since I was last here, there has been a lot of family stuff going on, starting 2nd April, which would have been my dad’s ninety-fourth birthday. He shared his date of birth (1925) with George MacDonald Fraser, British poet, author (Flashman) and scriptwriter (Octopussy, The Four Musketeers), who was born in Carlisle, UK, as well as Hard Boiled Haggerty (whose rather more boring real name was Don Stansauk), American professional wrestler and actor (The Incredible Hulk), who filled his first diaper in Los Angeles, California.

They died in 2008 and 2004 respectively, while my dad made it to 2017 and can therefore claim the prize for longevity. 2nd April 1925 was also the day upon which lawyer and future Nazi war criminal/Hitler’s personal legal advisor, Hans Frank, aged twenty-four, married secretary, Brigitte Herbst, aged twenty-nine, in Munich, Germany. In 2019, it was the day of my ex-husband’s funeral – he dropped dead from cardiac arrest in March, a few days after his sixtieth birthday.

Nipping forward, there were the Easter hols and the traditional Easter Egg Hunt for the Grands in our garden. A little different to most years, however, as the loot had to be placed in shaded areas so that chocolate didn’t melt in the heat – and the children were running around in their swimming cosies, diving in the pool to cool off. Bizarre, but brilliant.

We don’t like to give the children too much chocolate, and so the hunt typically includes toys and craft stuff plus this time, named dinosaur t-shirts for the younger ones. At eleven, I didn’t think the oldest GD would appreciate a dinosaur splashed across her chest and so got her an apron, as worn by sleb contestants on the Stand up to Cancer Bake Off programme – I’ve never seen it but she’s a big fan and loves to cook, especially cakes. She so doesn’t take after me! The (pretty hideous) pinny was designed by Ted Baker (who else?)

It was a lot cooler just one week later, when our middle GD celebrated her 6th birthday with a ten pin bowling party – an action replay of last year – joined by a host of school friends, including one little boy who wasn’t even invited! Being terribly British, none of the adults said a word, or even batted an eyelid. Everything was well organised by the venue staff, who supervised the little dears, did the catering and even cut up the cake provided by the parents.

Then it was back to our house for present opening and a Harry Potter-themed dinner, overseen by a huge unicorn balloon, which had nearly launched me into outer space the previous (very windy) day when I was carrying it through town. GD cannot decide between unicorns and Harry P, so we hedged our bets.

On the day she was born (26 April 2013), thirty people were killed when a bus crashed following a Taliban attack in southern Afghanistan. Over in the good ol’ US of A, country musician, George Jones aged eighty-one, (Golden Rings, Oh Lonesome Me), died from hypoxic respiratory failure. That’s when the usual exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs fails and as a result, not enough oxygen can reach the heart, brain, etc. Curtains. Sharing his date of death aged eighty-two, was film, stage and TV actress, Jacqueline Brookes. Amongst many other roles, she played Beatrice Gordon in US TV soap, Another World – although not for the entirety of its thirty-five year run.

This was also the day upon which my friend, Simon – fellow uni student when I read for my last degree – finally made an honest woman of his beautiful, long-suffering partner, Lydia. She got a smattering of revenge by leaving him waiting at the altar for almost an hour (it was a Friday, so presumably not too many happy couples lining up to tie the knot), during which time he was ‘bricking it’, to use his quaint expression.

Returning to the other side of the pond, Canadian actor and musician, Cory Monteith (Glee), emerged from a drug rehabilitation facility on that day, no doubt full of hope for the future. Tragically, he died of an overdose just weeks later in Vancouver on 13th July – the day upon which both Jenny and I get to blow out our birthday candles.

A dear friend was sixty at the beginning of May and her husband/family arranged a surprise party for her. On the day she was born – 1st May 1959 – West Germany introduced a five day working week and Floyd Patterson scored an eleventh round KO of Englishman Brian London in Indianapolis. This was the fourth time Floyd had successfully defended his World Heavyweight Boxing title.

Back to the party – the birthday girl had been told she was going to someone else’s party and so was somewhat surprised to see the OH and I scrape through the door of the venue just ahead of them (our taxi was late), as we don’t know that other person. It was a fab night and lovely to catch up with some people we hadn’t seen for far too long. Of course, a party meant I had to smarten up from my usual tramp gear of skinny jeans and hoodie – it was from the very shallow pocket of a jacket that my phone plunged into the loo, after we got home. Pre-use of the facilities, I hasten to add.

#2 son was staying and immediately tried resuscitation via the rice trick, but after a good few hours it became obvious that the situation was terminal. Damn; it was but a few months old. I am obviously a slow learner, as this was the same jacket I wore to my dad’s funeral, when another phone tried to swim. We were about to leave the house and so I was closing windows, including the upstairs loo – reached over the bowl … join own dots. #3 son was drying it with a hairdryer, as everyone else piled into cars on the drive. On that occasion, the phone lived to ring another day.

The day my new phone arrived, so did #3 from Bangkok – he hadn’t been back for five months. He spent a day sorting out his Thai work visa and then six of us flew to Dublin for a couple of nights to celebrate his thirtieth birthday, a few days early.

#4 son and his OH had never been to Dublin – or indeed anywhere in Ireland – and so we did the touristy things like boarding an open-topped bus to be blown to bits and buying a drink in the Temple Bar pub in Temple Bar, for which you need to take out a second mortgage. I also scoured the many souvenir shops for sparkly shamrock head boppers, as seen being worn by several hen parties about town.

Mission not accomplished, I gave up and decided to order from Amazon when home. While the rest of us returned to the humdrum of everyday routine, #3 flew off to Antigua for ten days to spend his birthday proper in style, lucky thing. I can’t actually remember what I did for my thirtieth, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t compare too favourably with his jolly.

OK, this is 31st May, so let me stop rambling and we’ll have a look at what has happened historically on this day. The Battle of Jutland in 1916 was the last major battle fought mainly by battleships and the most important naval battle of World War I, with the British navy blockading the German fleet in the North Sea off Denmark. Over the course of the battle, thousands of lives and many ships were lost, but despite British losses far outnumbering those of the Germans, their commander, Reinhard Scheer realised their fleet had been contained. Drat. The Germans never put to sea in ships again during WWI and turned instead to submarine warfare – one of the primary reasons that the United States entered the war in April 1917.

So, what do we think of the name given to their son by the D&D of Sussex? Unlike when #4 was born, I suspect they didn’t have all their relatives and friends sitting around making dodgy suggestions. My lips are sealed, except to mention that on this day in 1943, the comic strip, Archie, was first broadcast on radio in the US.

The character Archibald ‘Archie’ Andrews was originally created as a syndicated comic strip in 1941 by publisher John L Goldwater and artist Bob Montana, in collaboration with writer Vic Bloom. He was the main character featured in the Archie Comics franchise, which evolved to include the long-running radio series.

Finally, who remembers what substance Colin Farrell and his mate were taking in Sydney? A sticky bun for anyone who answered MDMA, or to give it its proper handle, Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (no wonder it’s known as Ecstasy for short!) On this day in 1985 the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency) declared an emergency ban on MDMA, placing it on the list of Schedule I drugs – substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. MDMA has remained a Schedule I substance since then, with the exception of a brief period between 1987 and 1988. Bad Colin.

Now I’m out of here. Thanks to Jenny for having me over and to anyone else who has taken the time to read this – appreciated.

Toodles.

NP

***

Huge thanks to Nell as ever for another fabulous blog!

See you in July, Nell!

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

Happy Easter: A Few Easter Facts

Just zipping by to wish you a very Happy Easter!!

 

Did you know…

Although Easter is a Christian festival celebrating Christ’s rising, the holiday has far older pagan origins which concentrate on the arrival of Spring and rebirth.

The ancient Egyptians, Persians, Phoenicians, and Hindus all believed the world began with an enormous egg.

The word Easter itself, comes to us from the Norsemen Eostur, Eastar, Ostara, and Ostar, and the pagan goddess Eostre. All of which were associated with the season of the growing sun and new beginnings.

By medieval times, eggs were an established part of the Spring celebrations. A notation in the 1307 household accounts of Edward I of England showed an expenditure of “18 pence for 459 eggs to be boiled and dyed or covered with gold leaf and distributed to the royal household.”

A North African Christian tribe has had a custom of colouring eggs at Easter for many hundreds of years; possibly even proceeding the first time the term “Easter Eggs” was written down, approximately five hundred years ago.

 

The first chocolate Easter Eggs were developed in France and Germany in the early 19th century.

In 1842, John Cadbury made his first solid chocolate eggs in England.

Fry’s of Bristol made their first hollow chocolate egg in 1873.

In 1875, the first hollow Cadbury’s Easter egg was created.

In 2013 90 millions chocolate Easter eggs being sold in the UK alone.

The world’s most popular egg-shaped chocolate is the Cadbury’s Creme Egg, with1.5 million of them being made every single day!

Cadburys eggs

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I hope you have a very relaxing weekend, and have the chance to nibble some Easter Egg, put your feet up, and read a good book!!

Happy reading and munching,

Jenny xx

 

End of the Month: March to the past!

Here we are again then!

Another month has whizzed past at breakneck speed. I think we’ve all deserved a rest. Let’s hand over to the fabulous Nell Peters for a while to march through Marchs’ of the past.

Over to you Nell…

There you are – I was wondering when you’d show up!

If you fancy it (and why wouldn’t you?), grab a drink and a comfy chair and settle down with me for a few moments, while we see – intermingled with other random jottings – what has happened on 31st March in years gone by. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin – with one of those random jottings …

In 1924, two men – one American, the other British – were born, both of whom earned themselves catchy nicknames in adult life, courtesy the paths they followed. Felice Leonardo Buscaglia was born in Los Angeles, the youngest of four children of Italian immigrants. Though he spent his early childhood in Aosta, Italy, he returned to the US for his education, and graduated from high school before serving with the US Navy during World War II. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the GI Bill, was a law that offered opportunities as a thank you for the service of returning World War II veterans – more commonly called GIs. Taking advantage of the legislation, Buscaglia enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he read for three degrees; a BA (1950); MA (1954) and PhD (1963), before joining the faculty.

Buscaglia – by then known as Leo – was teaching in the Department of Special Education at the university in the late 1960s when one of his female students committed suicide. Deeply affected by this tragedy, he was inspired to hold a weekly non-credit class combining psychology and sociology, entitled Love 1A – about (unsurprisingly) love and the meaning of life. There were no grades, but the class led to more formal lectures, then TV exposure and eventually a book called Love was published, based on what was shared in his classes. He became known as Dr Love, or Dr Hug, because – possibly influenced by his emotionally demonstrative Italian background – he hugged every one of his students at the end of lectures.

Leo died of a heart attack in June 1998, at his home in Glenbrook, Nevada, aged seventy-four, but had he still been around, I wonder what he would have thought about the fate this month of the founder, director and former chief executive of clothing chain, Ted Baker. After a period of suspension, Ray Kelvin was forced to resign for ‘inappropriate behaviour’, including ‘enforced hugging’. Well there you go…

Sharing Dr Hug’s date of birth that long-ago Monday was Henry Edward Cubitt, 4th Lord Ashcombe, known latterly as Mad Harry. Eton educated, he served in the RAF during WWII and thereafter became chairman of Holland, Hannen and Cubitt, the family construction firm.

He was also the London-based Consul General for Monaco from 1961 to 1968 – I rather think I’d have insisted on being Monaco-based. Between wives after his first divorce, Harry nipped over to his Barbados estate and hosted a Caribbean house party for the summer – amongst the guests (including Jackie Onassis) was his niece/goddaughter, who was invited to bring a friend. She chose her lucky flat mate, the Hon Virginia Carrington, daughter of Peter Alexander Rupert Carrington, the sixth Lord Carrington and Tory MP who was Defence Secretary from 1970 to 1974, Foreign Secretary from 1979 to 1982, chairman of GEC from 1983 to 1984, and Secretary General of NATO from 1984 to 1988.

Harry was instantly smitten and aged forty-seven pursued twenty-five year old Virginia amongst the palm trees – they were married on New Year’s Day the following year, 1973, and it was for this folly that he became known as Mad Harry amongst family and friends. Upon her marriage, Virginia effectively became her flat mate’s step-aunt, at least while the marriage lasted (six years). You might recognise the name of said flat mate, Camilla Shand? She became Parker Bowles and is now the Duchess of Cornwall, married to Prince Charles. Mad Harry died childless aged eighty-nine in 2013, having given marriage one more unsuccessful try along the way.

Also on 31 March 1924, a strike called by London Transport personnel ended (plus ça change etc) – on the same day that Britain’s first national airline, Imperial Airways, began operations at Croydon Airport. Croydon was also known as the London Terminal Aerodrome or simply London Airport, and was emerging as the UK’s major international airport between the wars. Imperial Airways was the British Government’s cunning plan to develop connections for trade and personnel with the UK’s extensive commonwealth and overseas interests, and so it was from Croydon that in addition to European flights, long haul routes to India, Africa, the Middle and Far East, Asia, Africa and Australia (in conjunction with Qantas) were established. #3 son spends a very great deal of time on flights between Heathrow and Mumbai and Bangkok – he’s in the air for eight and thirteen hours respectively. Goodness knows how long those Imperial Airways flights would have taken – and there would be no getting it over with in one hit.

As I tap, I am also talking to aforementioned nomadic son online, while he is stuck in Kuala Lumpur airport en route for Hong Kong. Because this is a vacation and he is paying for his own flights, he opted for a cheaper non-direct route out of Bangkok – but sadly didn’t notice that the sim card in his phone wasn’t working and therefore hadn’t updated the time, a situation exacerbated by KL being a silent airport with no announcements. Ergo, he missed his connecting flight; a six hour lay-over turned into thirty and of course he had to buy another ticket – so much for economy – plus he’s lost a day of his holiday, silly Billy. In between wearing a hole in the lounge sofas, he’s eaten enough water melon to sink the Titanic, along with the iceberg, and taken five showers – for the last two he invested some Malaysian Ringgit in deodorant, as his was in his checked luggage. Rookie mistake for such a seasoned traveller, I should have thought? And I do hope it’s not an omen that last time he was in Hong Kong in September, he was stranded because of a typhoon …

March 31st 1855 was a sad day for Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls, when his wife, author Charlotte Brontë, and his unborn child died as a result of a traumatic pregnancy. And so, her father Patrick, also a clergyman, outlived his wife and all six of their children.

Charlotte’s most famous novel, initially titled Jane Eyre: An Autobiography and written under the pseudonym, Currer Bell, was immediately successful when published in 1847 – one critic described it as ‘the best novel of the season’ and people began to speculate who Currer Bell could be. However, some reviewers were more critical and described it as ‘coarse’, and even ‘anti-Christian’. It is, nonetheless, still on the shelves more than one hundred and seventy years later.

In 1849, Brontë’s second novel, Shirley, featuring eponymous heiress, Shirley Keeldar, was released. Until then, the name Shirley was generally uncommon and almost exclusively a boy’s name – in the book, Mr and Mrs Keeldar had been hoping for a son and named their daughter accordingly. But after publication, the name Shirley started to gain in popularity for girls, helped many decades later by American child actor Shirley Temple.

I have had multiple dealings with a ‘lady’ called Shirley Sergeant over the last few months – she’s not the type who would appreciate any ‘evening all/allo, allo, allo’ jokes. Shirley worked in the stone masonry department of the funeral directors who handled my dad’s arrangements in August ’17. When the year for settling of the grave was up, #2 son and I did a tour of the cemetery and picked a design we liked, then went to see about ordering something similar. Shirley pounced – we had decided upon white marble, with grey inscription, but she had other ideas. While I know that marble is a porous stone and will therefore deteriorate over the years, I don’t have a problem with the passage of time being evident – in fact, I quite like the idea. But Our Shirl insisted we’d be better off with more robust white granite. The sample she showed us was a speckled white and quite shiny/sparkly and I hated it. Ms S was not about to give in gracefully. Anxious to escape her lair before it was my turn to climb into a coffin, I agreed that she should send quotes for both, plus a CAD illustration of what our design might look like. She was kind enough to point out that although marble is white, the CAD illustration would appear grey. Face-palm. Did she think I’m as silly as I look? Don’t answer that.

The quotes didn’t arrive in a few days as promised, but three weeks later, with another sample of granite – grey (speckled with black), as white granite was no longer available. Seriously? I emailed to say the (more expensive) grey was not to my liking and we’d go with white marble – oh, and where was the CAD illustration as promised? After another month, she replied – my email had disappeared into her junk folder, she said. And so it went on. Bottom line, Shirley has now retired (yay!) and someone else is handling our order – after more than seven frustrating months, my dad’s memorial should be in place for his birthday in April. This year, I hope. Just slightly concerned that their confirmatory email referred to him as Derek P Thompson, when his name was in fact Peter Derek …

On this day in 1770, Prussian/German philosopher Immanuel Kant was made Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Königsberg. He published works on ethics, religion, law, aesthetics, astronomy, and history and more – but since I had enough of him and his Enlightenment buddies when I had to study them, we’ll leave him there, being logical and metaphysical. I believe I’ve mentioned before that another philosopher – the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’, no less – Frenchman René Descartes, was born on the last day of March in 1596, so I won’t repeat myself. I think; therefore I am.

Hard to believe comedian, actor, writer and broadcaster, Ronald Balfour (Ronnie) Corbett died three years ago today, aged eighty-five. This was on the same day as German politician, Hans-Dietrich Gensher (born 1927); Iraqi-born English architect and academic, Zaha Hadid (born 1950); Hungarian author and Nobel Prize laureate,  Imre Kertész (born 1929) and Denise Robertson, British writer, television broadcaster and agony aunt (born 1932).

Enough now, it’s Mothering Sunday/Mother’s Day in the UK, so off you go and have a great day if you qualify. If you don’t, have a brilliant Sunday anyway and take care.

I hope to see you at the end of May, not April, as I am changing the frequency of my guest blogs for Jenny to bi-monthly, because I really need to get back to some serious writing – all the time-consuming family stuff I’ve been immersed in has meant I’ve not produced anything on the fiction front for well over two years, and I need to put that right, assuming I can still remember how!

Toodles all, and thanks Jen.

NP

***

Huge thanks once again Nell!

Looking forward to “seeing” you in May

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

Opening Lines by Janet Few: Barefoot on the Cobbles

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

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

Barefoot on the Cobbles – a Devon tragedy by Janet Few

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Many thanks for sharing your first 500 words today Janet,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Arthur Dux Bellorum

I’m delighted to welcome back historical novelist, Tim Walker, to my site today. Robin Hood is stepping aside for a moment to make way for King Arthur!

Over to you Tim…

Blurb

From the ruins of post-Roman Britain, a warrior arises to unite a troubled land 

Britain in the late Fifth Century is a troubled place – riven with tribal infighting and beset by invaders in search of plunder and settlement. King Uther is dead, and his daughter, Morgana, seizes the crown for her infant son, Mordred. Merlyn’s attempt to present Arthur as the true son and heir of Uther is scorned, and the bewildered teenager finds himself in prison. Here our story begins…

Arthur finds friends in unexpected quarters and together they flee. Travelling through a fractured landscape of tribal conflict and suspicion, they attempt to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, whilst keeping a wary eye on Saxon invaders menacing the shoreline. Arthur’s reputation as a fearsome warrior grows as he learns the harsh lessons needed to survive and acquire the skills of a dux bellorum, a lord of war.

Tim Walker’s Arthur Dux Bellorum is a fresh look at the Arthurian legend, combining myth, history and gripping battle scenes. Although in a series, it can be read as a standalone novel.

Fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Mathew Harffy will enjoy Walker’s A Light in the Dark Ages series and its newest addition – Arthur Dux Bellorum.

***

Extract from Arthur Dux Bellorum by Tim Walker

MERLYN LED HIS gang through the streets of sleeping Venta, beneath the glow of a pale moon. He glanced about for any signs of movement before rounding a corner, where he came face-to-face with a large, growling dog, its bared teeth and arched back indicating a readiness to strike. He held an arm up to indicate his followers should stop and dropped to eye level with the dog. He whispered in a soothing tone and slowly pulled a piece of roasted boar skin from inside his tunic and offered it. The dog approached, sniffing. Merlyn carefully patted its head and was relieved to see its tail wagging. “Come on,” he urged his followers, allowing the dog to tag along beside him.

They avoided a watchman’s tower at the corner of the wooden stockage that housed the royal buildings, and lined up in the shadow of a warehouse opposite the doorway to the kitchen. Merlyn checked both ways and studied the parapet above the wooden barrier across the street before running across to the door. He rapped the code and waited for a response. Sure enough, he heard bolts being withdrawn and he stood back, gripping his staff in both hands, ready to strike.

Morgaise’s face peered out from under a hood and he smiled with relief. “Come quickly,” she whispered. “The guards are drunk and sleeping.”

Merlyn waved for his men to follow and then entered the compound. Once all eight were inside, Varden, their leader, detailed one man to watch the doorway and two others to scout the yard and be in readiness to cover their escape.

Merlyn turned to Morgaise and asked, “Do you know where the sword of Ambrosius is?”

“The one Artorius pulled from the stone? Yes, it hangs on the wall in the Great Hall, behind the throne and under Mordred’s banner.”

When Varden returned to his side, Merlyn conveyed this information in a whisper. With a nod from Merlyn, Morgaise led them into the kitchen and out into a passageway that connected the hall to the sleeping quarters. She met Anne halfway along the narrow hallway, who indicated they should take a left turn. At the top of a circular stairwell Anne whispered to Merlyn, “At the bottom you will find the jailor sleeping on a wooden bed, but the night watchman is awake. He has the keys to the cells.”

Merlyn nodded. “Anne shall lead us down and Morgaise shall remain here to keep a look out and wait for our return. Varden will go to the hall and get the sword.”

“No,” Morgaise whispered, “the hunting hounds sleep in there by the hearth. They will attack him.”

Varden and Merlyn were confounded by this information. “Barking and snarling hounds would wake the guards,” Merlyn said, deep in thought.

“I sometimes feed the hounds,” Morgaise hissed. “They know me. Let me go there with a plate of meat from the larder and pick the sword on my way out.”

“Will they attack you in the dark?” Varden asked.

“Not if they smell the meats on offer,” she replied.

“Then let us try it,” Merlyn said, not wishing to delay further. “Varden will stand by the door with two men, ready to come to your aid if the hounds are restless,” Merlyn added.

Morgaise led Varden back to the kitchen to raid the larder for joints, whilst Merlyn and the rest of the men descended the stairs behind Anne. At the foot of the stairwell was a chamber lit by a solitary torch glowing from a bracket on the stone wall. To their right was a wooden bed on which slept the large form of Ahern, the gaoler, snoring on his back. Anne crept forward towards the row of cells and bumped into a startled watchman, holding a lantern in which the candle had died.

“Oy, what are you doing here?” he growled. Merlyn and his companions shrunk back into the shadows, leaving Anne to answer him.

“I… followed my cat down the steps. Have you seen him?”

“No, I have not…” was all he managed in reply as Merlyn stepped forward and banged his head with the ball at the end of his wooden staff. The young gaoler fell to the floor, unconscious, and they checked whether the sleeping man had been disturbed by the clatter of the lamp on the floor. Ahern grunted and rolled over, facing the wall. Anne picked up the keys from the stricken man and passed them to Merlyn. They moved cautiously down a flight of a dozen steps to a tunnel lined with locked doors. A burning torch fixed to the wall lighted their way. Anne plucked it from its sconce…

***

Tim Walker is an independent author based in Windsor, UK. His background is in marketing, journalism, editing and publications management. He began writing an historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages (set in Fifth Century Britain), in 2015, starting with Abandoned, set at the time the Romans left Britain. This was extensively revised and re-launched as a second edition in 2018.

Book two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, was published in 2017 and the third installment, Uther’s Destiny, was published in March 2018 (winner of One Stop Fiction book of the month award, April 2018). The adventure continues from March 2019 in the fourth book, Arthur, Dux Bellorum.

His creative writing journey began in July 2015 with the publication of a book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales. In September 2017 he published a second collection of short stories – Postcards from London. These stories combine his love of history with his experiences of living in London and various Thames Valley towns.

In 2016 he published his first novel, a dystopian political thriller, Devil Gate Dawn, following exposure through the Amazon Scout programme. In 2017 he published his first children’s book, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, co-written with his 12-year-old daughter, Cathy, followed In 2018 by a second adventure, Charly & The Superheroes.

Author Website: http://timwalkerwrites.co.uk

Newsletter sign-up: http://eepurl.com/diqexz

Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/TimWalkerWrites

Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/TimWalkerWrites

Twitter: http://twitter.com/timwalker1666

 

End of the Month: From Harry Corbett to MASH via David Nivan

I’m never sure why, seeing as it’s only two or three days shorter than the other months of the year, but February goes to fast. It always feels at least a week shorter than all the other months.

The plus side of this, is that Nell Peters is back already with her latest End of the Month blog.

Over to you Nell…

Hello, and top of the morning to y’all. Come on in out of the cold and grab a hot beverage to warm your cockles, so to speak.

The actor, Harry Corbett was born in Burma on this day in 1925, the youngest of seven children. His father, George, was serving with the British army as part of the Colonial defence forces, but the boy was sent back to England aged just eighteen months to be brought up by his aunt, after his mother died of dysentery. As an adult, Corbett enlisted in the Royal Marines during World War II, serving on the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire. Is there such a thing as a light cruiser, I wonder? In 1945, he was posted to the Far East, and reportedly killed two Japanese soldiers while engaged in hand-to-hand fighting. Yikes.

Back in Blighty, after a spot of desertion, he trained as a radiographer before moving into acting, initially in repertory – it was then he added the middle initial H to his name, to avoid confusion with the guy who found fame with his hand stuck up Sooty’s bottom. If asked, he would claim that the H stood for ‘hennyfink’. What a wag. Although acknowledged as an accomplished Shakespearean actor, Corbett was best known for his role as Harold Steptoe, a rag and bone man who lived with his irascible father, Albert (played by Wilfrid Brambell, who was actually only thirteen years older than Harry) in a dilapidated house, attached to their junkyard and stabling for the cart horse, Hercules. The series ran from 1962 until the Christmas special in 1974.

Must have been interesting on set, as Corbett smoked sixty fags a day (until his first heart attack in 1979, when he cut down to twenty), and Brambell was an alcoholic and gay – at a time when homosexual acts were against the law (decriminalised 1967). It was a second heart attack that killed Harry H in March 1982, aged fifty-seven – he was survived by his second wife, a son and daughter, Susannah, who played Ellie, Peter Pascoe’s wife in Dalziel and Pascoe. Outliving Corbett by almost three years, Brambell died of cancer aged seventy-two, in January 1985.

Over in the Soviet Union, it was on 28th February 1953 that Joseph Stalin had a pow-wow with Beria, Bulganin, Khrushchev & Malenkov – it must have been quite a knees-up because the very next day Stalin suffered a massive stroke, which killed him four days later. Perhaps they were celebrating the births of American wrestler Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, (real name Richard Blood); Ingo Hoffmann, Brazilian racing driver; and Paul Krugman, American economist and New York Times columnist, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008?

Mention deoxyribonucleic acid – the molecule that contains the genetic blueprint for cell reproduction – more commonly known as DNA, and most of us could excavate the names Watson and Crick from the memory bank. Officially, it was on this day in Cambridge, also in 1953, that the two scientists were credited with the discovery of the chemical structure of DNA. However, it was at King’s College London, that Rosalind Franklin obtained an image of DNA using X-ray crystallography (the science of determining the arrangement of atoms in crystalline solids), an idea first broached by Maurice Wilkins.

Franklin’s image, known as Photograph 51, was taken by Raymond Gosling in May 1952, when he was working as a PhD student under her supervision. It provided critical evidence in identifying the structure of DNA and was thus a vital contribution to James Watson and Francis Crick’s creation of their famous two-strand, or double-helix, model. There is some doubt that Franklin gave her permission for the image to be used. Of the four main players – Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Rosalind herself, she was the only one with a background in chemistry, and the only one who did not share the Nobel Prize (Physiology/Medicine) in 1962. She died far too young of ovarian cancer on 16th April 1958 – my sister’s first birthday.

Raymond Massey

Had he not died in 1995, Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE would be loading his birthday cake with a whopping one hundred and ten candles today. He was an English poet, novelist, critic and essayist who highlighted themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work, which came to prominence during the 1930s. He was big pals with WH Auden and Cecil Day-Lewis – they met as Oxford undergraduates, even though Auden and Spender had both been pupils at Gresham’s School in Norfolk – and along with Christopher Isherwood and Louis MacNeice, they were sometimes referred to as the Oxford Poets. Right now, I am getting nowhere fast with this and I can relate to a line in one of Spender’s poems: As I sit staring out of my window…

Who can remember the coronation ceremony of Liu Bang as Emperor Gaozu of Han on the last day of Feb 202BC, which initiated four centuries of the Han Dynasty’s rule over China? No takers? OK, what about the first boat load of gold rush prospectors arriving in San Francisco from the east coast in 1849 – the very same day that jockey Tom Cunningham won the eleventh Grand National riding a horse called Peter Simple? Still no? I’ll make it easy-peasy then – we all know that when he was sworn in, in 1952 (Charles) Vincent Massey became the first Canadian-born person to serve as Canada’s Governor General since the Canadian Confederation, eight days after his sixty-fifth birthday. We do, don’t we? He was the eighteenth GG, by the way.

Vincent’s younger brother, Raymond Hart Massey, also briefly dabbled on the sidelines of politics when he appeared in a 1964 television advertisement in support of Republican presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater. Massey denounced incumbent US President Lyndon B Johnson’s strategies during the Vietnam War, suggesting that Goldwater had the nous to win the war quickly. Johnson won a landslide victory and the war trundled on until 30th April 1975, when Saigon fell. Taking the hint, perhaps, Raymond went into acting, becoming a US citizen along the way. His film appearances were many and varied and he was no stranger to the TV screen during the 1950s and 60s, most notably playing Dr Gillespie to Richard Chamberlain’s eponymous role as Dr Kildare.

Massey married three times. His high-profile estrangement and divorce from second wife, actress Adrianne Allen, was the inspiration for Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin’s script for the film Adam’s Rib (1949), starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. In a You Couldn’t Make It Up scenario, Massey went on to marry the lawyer who represented him in court, Dorothy Whitney, while his by then former wife, Allen, married the opposing lawyer, William Dwight Whitney. But before they fell out, Massey and Allen produced two children, actors Anna and Daniel Massey.

Like his father, Daniel married three times – first, actress Adrienne Corri (only slightly spooky to pick someone almost sharing his mother’s name); second, actress Penelope Wilton (Calendar Girls (2003), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Pride & Prejudice (2005), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), The BFG (2016) and all six series of Downton Abbey – to name but a few); and third wife, Linda Wilton, who is one of Penelope’s two sisters. I’m not saying a word.

Incidentally, Raymond Massey died of pneumonia in Los Angeles, California on July 29th 1983, just shy of his eighty-seventh birthday and on the same day as David Niven, with whom he had co-starred in The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946). Niven would have been one hundred and nine years old tomorrow.

On the home front, the sale of the family house completed on time – never thought #2 and I would manage it, but it was handed over duly stripped of all furniture etc and decades of accumulated ‘stuff’. There was so much paperwork to go through, I had to ship quite a lot back to Norfolk, as it was far too time consuming to do it all on site with the deadline looming. Luckily, we have a few spare bedrooms here and I have been able to stash it out of sight for the time being – can’t put it off forever, though.

However, sorting out utility bills and cancelling the many, many insurances – any eventuality/act of God was covered, sometimes in duplicate or triplicate I suspect – had to take precedence. As usual, a Power of Attorney complicates matters and there are extra hoops to jump through before anyone will actually deign to talk to you, but I think I can see the teeniest chink of light at the end of the very long tunnel now. The biggest relief was waking up on the Monday morning following completion, and realising I didn’t have to whiz off to the station to embark upon the four hour journey to Twickenham, where I would stay until Friday.

On 28th February 1983, the final (2.5 hour, 256th) episode of M*A*S*H aired in the US. It was entitled, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen – I think I’ll borrow that and add a cheeky Toodles.

Thanks, Jenny – maybe see you in March?

NP

***

Huge thanks Nell. Another corking blog.

See you next time!

Jenny xx

 

Opening Lines: Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne

This week’s ‘Opening Lines’ come from the pen of Anna Franklin Osborne, who is sharing the beginning of her wartime novel,

Walking Wounded.

I have always worked in health care, and more recently in education, and like so many other parents, hit a tiny crisis a few years ago when I felt that my purpose in life had narrowed to not an awful lot more than dashing between my two jobs and being a mummy taxi.

I managed to find time to begin singing with a choir, and that helped me feel that I might have a more creative side to myself. One evening, my husband was out and, quite suddenly, I decided to Start Writing. I immediately hit the first obstacles of terrible handwriting and a broken laptop, so my writing career began that night in bed, typing into the note section of my smart phone, with no clear idea of what I wanted to say but resulting in a severe case of RSI and several short stories over the next few nights.

My husband was delighted that I had suddenly found this passion and kept encouraging me to write a novel, which I really felt I did NOT have in me. Later that summer, however, we were walking along a D-Day beach for no other grander reason than our ferry home from France being late, and I began telling our kids about my three great-uncles who were part of that day, and my grandmother who sewed parachutes for the paratroopers jumping over Normandy. Neil looked at me and smiled and said, ‘you do actually have a story there, you know….’

Walking Wounded was written over a period of a year, on a tiny tablet which I bought specifically because it fitted into my handbag – as I said, ‘if it’s not with me at all times, this just won’t happen.’ I wrote every day in 10 minute bursts while I sat in the school car-park waiting for my daughter to emerge from school, I wrote parked outside ballet lessons and maths lessons, I wrote early in the mornings  while everyone was asleep.

Walking Wounded is a war story and family saga, focusing on those left behind whilst their men folk went to war, how they survived and how their relationships evolved through periods of violence, loss and reunion. The main story is about May, a young woman struggling to find her own identity as the youngest in a large family, forced into a stormy marriage through a mistake she is too proud to admit, and explores the web of loyalty, guilt and duty that shaped the decisions of the women awaiting the return of their men-folk as WW2 draws to a close. Spanning the period from the Armistice of the Great War to the exodus of the Ten Pound Poms to Australia in the 1950s, its internal violence is mirrored by the world stage upon which it is set.

So many of you can find this history in our relatives, but not, sadly, for very much longer. But if you look at your own upbringing, your family’s catch phrases, your own family folk-lore – it doesn’t take much insight to recognise that we have all been shaped, for better or for worse, by these seismic world crises.

First 500 words

1918, Mons, Belgium, 5 a.m.

He awoke with a shock as an icy rivulet of water finally penetrated

the gap between his collar and his neck and trickled

down inside his sodden greatcoat.

With a sigh, Sergeant Edward Peters leant back against the

boards, squinting up with resignation into the rain dripping endlessly

into the deep trench. The rain had woken him from a fitful

sleep, punctuated by the sound of snores from his fellow soldiers,

the occasional muffled curse. He shifted his long frame uncomfortably,

and shuddered with disgust as he felt a rat scuttle across

his legs and drop into the stinking mud next to him. No matter

how many trenches he dug, how many wounds he patched up,

how much blood he saw, he reflected grimly, he would never get

used to the rats. He vowed to himself silently that he would never

tolerate one in the house again when he got back home to London,

that he would fill the house with cats and wage his own tiny

and very personal war against the rodents which had plagued his

life for the past four years.

He smiled as he thought how much Edie would love that. She

loved animals but couldn’t have any in the crowded house she

lived in in Muswell Hill, but, one day, he thought firmly, one day,

they would start afresh and fill their own home with pets and

children. He fumbled in the pocket of his greatcoat then, trying to

extricate something with his clumsy fingers, numbed with cold.

Finally, his fingers alighted on the little photo, and he sat drinking

in the sight of his girl, smiling shyly at him all those miles away but

so close he could feel her.

His eyes filled with tears suddenly, and he had to catch his

breath in that bitter November morning to steady himself.

Then the captain stirred and stumbled out of his shack at the

end of the trench.

‘Time to be up, lads,’ he said quietly passing along the line of

men still sleeping in the bottom of the trench, just inches from the

foul mud, ‘time to get ready.’

Edward gazed one last time at the picture in his hand, then

stuffed it carefully back into his pocket. He blew on his hands and

caught the captain’s eye, nodded grimly at what he saw there.

At 6 a.m. he blew the whistle.

 

1918 London 11 a.m.

Florence Johnson stood stiffly to attention, clutching the hand

of her eldest daughter, Edie, as she listened to the bells pealing

out the Armistice on that cold, wintry morning.

As the sound of the last chime died away, it seemed that all of

London erupted at last into cheers, the sounds of laughter and

joy mingling with the echoes of the great bells. Feeling disorientated

and utterly disconnected with the crowd surging around

them, Florence half-turned towards Edie, immediately saw the

tears running down her cheeks and pulled her close, hugging her

tightly.

***

Buying links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Walking-Wounded-Anna-Franklin-Osborne/dp/0993569005/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1520597578&sr=1-3

http://www.goosewingpublications.com/buy

Website:

http://www.goosewingpublications.com/

Social media:

Facebook: @GooseWingPublications

Twitter: @HomeOsborne

Many thanks Anna.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

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

 

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