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Opening Lines: The Vanished Bride of Northfield House

The first Opening Lines blog of 2019 belongs to Phyllis Newman. She is introducing us to the New Year in fine Gothic style. Over to you Phyills…

Thank you, Jenny, for the opportunity to participate in this series.

Have you ever re-read a favorite novel from your youth? As a teenager, I was entranced with the mystery, the romance, and the shocking climax of a certain gothic novel. It was a delicious read!

When a blogger I follow mentioned that it was her favorite book as well, I decided to re-read it. I went on Amazon and found a copy available at a Catholic church library in California for $1.67. What a deal! It cost more to mail it across the country.

I waited with great anticipation until it arrived.

That night, I propped myself up in bed with a cup of cocoa, a scented candle, and began reading. What a disappointment. It was over-written, pedestrian, and a little boring. I was startled by how much my tastes had changed.

But it also motivated me to hunt for an honest to goodness creepy, Gothic ghost story recreating the suspense and wonder that the book from my youth had originally elicited. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate one that really grabbed me (so to speak).

So, I decided to write one!

Enter The Vanished Bride of Northfield House. It is a creepy supernatural gothic tale with a spirited heroine, intriguing mystery, engaging romance, and an actual ghost (because there’s nothing like a good haunting!) The story is a mix of mystery and romance with touches of otherworldly spookiness. A gothic horror story that unfolds as all good gothic mysteries do … bit-by-bit … death-by-death …

Blurb:  

England, 1922. Times are hard. Anne Chatham is a clever, modest young woman with little money, no prospects for marriage, and a never-shared secret—she can see spirits.

Anne finds employment as a typist at Northfield House, the grand country manor of the Wellington family. Her employer, the wheelchair-bound Mr. Wellington, is kindly. His haughty wife is not. He has two handsome sons, the wry and dashing Thomas and the dark and somber Owen.

Anne feels sure her prayers have been heard. Until the terrifying night she stumbles upon a tortured spirit roaming the dark halls of Northfield, a spirit that only she can see. In a search for answers, she finds herself drawn to Owen as they unearth a tragic story from the Wellington family’s past—a beautiful young bride who vanished on her wedding day.

Then tragedy strikes again on the night of a glittering masquerade ball…

500 words:

CHAPTER 1

The ghost was my first memory of Northfield House.

After taking my coat, a servant ushered me into a small room overlooking the east lawn, where the hushed quiet and dim light narrowed the breach between the living and the dead.

In the far corner, a pale blue presence flickered like a flame.

I sat in a high-backed chair, planted my sturdy shoes on the floor, and repositioned my sensible hat. Accustomed to encountering spirits, I focused upon my surroundings—the broad polished desk, the high shelves of books, the clutter of papers, pens, and bottles of ink. The blue glow hovered in the periphery, as specters inhabit the edges of human vision. When looked at directly, they evaporate like mist in the morning sun.

Although such entities had made themselves known to me many times before, I was nonetheless unnerved. My heart thudded, and I felt the urge to flee. But it wasn’t fear that inspired this sting of anxiety, this damp, fevered spell of agitation.

Rather, I fought against the worry that I was something other than a young, modern British woman. I did not doubt my supernatural perception, but dreaded what it might reveal about me. Was I blessed or was I cursed? Would Father have said this was evidence of evil? Would Mother have called upon the angels to protect me?

After saying a little prayer, I swallowed with difficulty and wondered how long I’d been waiting. I consulted the watch pinned to my bodice. Thirteen minutes past three.

In my trembling hand, I grasped a Liverpool broadsheet, folded to reveal the advert regarding a professional position to which I’d responded weeks ago. It was the possibility of employment that brought me to this elegant estate in northwest England, many miles from home. On the same page was a report about next month’s 1922 Women’s Olympic Games in Paris and details about the German government’s failure to pay war reparations as required by the Treaty of Versailles. I began reading, which momentarily distracted me from the glimmering presence in the corner.

The door swung open without ceremony, making me jump, and admitted an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair.

The blue spirit curled like smoke and disappeared.

A chill danced down my spine despite the warmth of late July.

I stood.

“Good afternoon,” he said. “Forgive me for not rising.” His gruff voice did not convey apology. He wheeled himself behind the desk. “Please. Sit.”

He consulted a document on his desk, his gaze drifting over it. “You are Miss Chatham. Anne Chatham.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Might you be related to the Chathams of Birmingham? Railroads, I believe.”

“No, sir. I don’t think so.”

He didn’t introduce himself, but I gathered that I was in the company of the man I hoped would employ me—Henry Wellington. I tried to relax and accustom myself to his age and infirmity.

“How long have you been a typewriter, Miss Chatham?”

I moistened my dry mouth. “I’ve completed a full-year of…

***

Readers can find The Vanished Bride of Northfield House at Amazon.com/co.uk, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble

Buy links:

USA:   http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939403456

UK:  https://goo.gl/uU5QBC

Bio:

Phyllis M. Newman is a native southerner. Born in New Orleans, she spent formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and on a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a long career in finance and human resources at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. She published a noir mystery, “Kat’s Eye” in 2015, and “The Vanished Bride of Northfield House” in 2018. Today she lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghost watchers all.

You may contact/follow/like her at www.readphyllismnewman.com, or Facebook  https://facebook.com/ReadPhyllisMNewman/  or Twitter @phyllismnewman2

Readers can find The Vanished Bride of Northfield House at Amazon.com/co.uk, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble

Buy link:    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939403456

British buy link:  https://goo.gl/uU5QBC

***

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 


Opening Lines: Ward Zero by Linda Huber

The final opening lines of 2018 is being looked after by suspense writer, Linda Huber.

Over to you Linda…

Writing Ward Zero… the dead ward

I enjoyed writing this book – as an ex-physiotherapist, I loved the hospital setting, modelling Brockburn General on one of the hospitals I worked in, back in the day. I could almost smell that special hospital odour as Sarah visited foster-mum Mim in orthopaedics, and the fustiness of the cellar as she lay there later on, bound and helpless, was equally present in my nose. Ward Zero brought back a lot of happy memories.
The best bit of all, though, was deciding on the cover image. The designer produced a fabulous image of a body, swathed in a white sheet and lying on a trolley. Perfect – but was this Sarah? It looked a bit masculine to me… So we began a hilarious back and forth of cover images, the body having a different bust measurement in each. Eventually, the one the designer christened ‘version supermodel’ was voted winner, and the cover – and the book – went to print.

Here are my first five hundred words:

Prologue

Thursday, 20th July

He stared across the table in the crowded restaurant and his mouth went dry. Sarah. She was so lovely, smiling at him with shiny blonde hair just tipping her shoulders, and her blouse an exact match for the blue of her eyes. And now he would have to kill her too. It was too much to bear.

He reached for his glass, fighting to keep the ‘I’m having the greatest time ever’ expression fixed on his face. But her last remark had confirmed it – she knew way too much. And he, idiot that he was, had just made a monumental mistake. Sarah was busy with her fritters; she hadn’t realised the significance of what he’d said. But she would, and the first thing she’d do was tell that bloody policeman. It was a risk he couldn’t take. Time to switch his emotions off.

He took a deep breath, forcing himself to smile back. All he had to do was keep her busy thinking about other things, and after dessert he would suggest a quick coffee at home. His home. Once he had her safely locked up he could organise her death in peace and quiet. It shouldn’t be too difficult – he’d already had a practice run.

When Sarah was gone too, he’d be safe.

If only he’d never gone to the hospital. He hadn’t wanted things to end like this, not for one minute.

Chapter One

Two weeks earlier: Tuesday, 4th July

Sarah stepped into the arrivals hall at Manchester Airport. What a brilliant feeling – back on British soil for her first long break in two years. And she was ready for it. Teaching in Switzerland and travelling round Europe in the holidays had been exhausting, if exciting. And now – where was Mim?

A glance round the waiting crowd failed to locate her foster mother’s strawberry-blonde head, and Sarah stood still. She hadn’t spoken to Mim since last week, but they’d texted yesterday. At least… Sarah frowned. She had texted her new flight time and Mim had replied with a smiley, which, when you thought about it, wasn’t typical. Mim had the gift of the gab even when she was texting.

‘There you are! Sorry I’m late – I had to park at the back of beyond.’

Sarah spun round to see a short, very pregnant figure beaming up at her, dark curls damp on her brow. ‘Rita! You’re huge! Come here!’

A lump came into her throat as she hugged the other woman, feeling the hardness of Rita’s bump against her own body. Lucky Rita.

Rita hugged back. ‘That’s pregnancy for you. Come on, let’s get out of this rabble.’

Sarah grabbed her case and turned towards the exit. ‘You’re on. But where’s Mim?’

She couldn’t imagine what could have kept Mim away from the airport when the two of them were supposed to be setting off on their long-anticipated tour of Yorkshire that very afternoon.

Rita took her free elbow. ‘Ah. Now don’t shoot the…

***

I’m sure you can guess the 501st word!

***

Ward Zero blurb:

Horror swept through her. Had she been buried alive?
On Sarah’s first visit to see her foster mother, Mim, in Brockburn General Hospital, she is sucked into a world that isn’t what it should be.
Someone is lying, someone is stealing. And someone is killing – but who? With a grieving child to take care of, as well as Mim, Sarah has to put family first. She doesn’t see where danger lies – until it’s too late.

If you think you’re safe in a hospital, think again.

Bio:
Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years being a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog.

Linda’s writing career began in the nineties, and since then she’s had over fifty short stories and articles published, as well as seven psychological suspense novels. Her books are set in places she knows well – Cornwall (childhood holidays), The Isle of Arran (teenage summers), Yorkshire (visiting family), as well as Bedford and Manchester (visiting friends) and her home town, Glasgow. Her latest project is a series of feel-good novellas written under her pen name, Melinda Huber.

After spending large chunks of the current decade moving house, she has now settled in a beautiful flat on the banks of Lake Constance in north-east Switzerland, where she’s working on another suspense novel.

Linda Huber’s website:  www.lindahuber.net
Universal Amazon link: getBook.at/WardZero

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaHuber19
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlindahuber/

***

Many thanks to Linda for seeing us out of 2018 in style!

See you next year!

Jenny x


From modern romance to medieval crime

Moving from writing modern contemporary women’s fiction and romantic comedies to creating medieval murder mysteries isn’t necessarily the most obvious career move for a writer to make. For me however, it felt like a natural progression.

I love writing my stories of Cornish romance and coffee shop based friendship dramas as Jenny Kane. In fact, it was when I was writing my modern chick flick romance, Romancing Robin Hood, that I found I was accidentally writing a medieval mystery at the same time.

Within Romancing Robin Hood, the lead character, Grace Harper, is writing a medieval adventure. It hadn’t been my intention to tell the story Grace was writing alongside her own adventure- but that’s what ended up happening. So, when you read Romancing Robin Hood, not only do you read, Robin Hood lover, Grace’s, modern tale, but you read the murder mystery she is writing as well. It just goes to prove that writers have very little control over their characters. Grace told me to write her novel for her- and so I did!

That novel (which is within Romancing Robin Hood) was separately published as The Outlaw’s Ransom, the story of Mathilda of Twyford and her encounter with a criminal gang in Fourteenth century Leicestershire. Even more surprising to me than the fact I was suddenly writing medieval crime fiction, was that Mathilda wasn’t going to be content with just one story of her own. She wanted a whole series all to herself! So, The Folville Chronicles was born.

The Outlaw’s Ransom, which is only a short novel, was followed by the rather longer novel, The Winter Outlaw– and that in turn has now been succeeded by Edward’s Outlaw– where I got seriously involved in the writing and simply couldn’t stop! Mathilda was so busy solving the given crime, that I hadn’t noticed just how long this story was going to be! So far, every new Folville Chronicle has been almost double the size of the one before!

Edward's Outlaw

While The Folville Chronicles are medieval murder mysteries- with plenty of other crime going on in the background- I haven’t strayed too far from my romantic fiction roots. Mathilda and Robert de Folville don’t have the most straight forward of starts on their life together…and they aren’t the only ones destined to end up together….

***

If you’d like to read any of the stories mentioned above, the links to my books, romance and otherwise, are available via the menu links at the top of the page, or by clicking on the titles of each mentioned book within this post.

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer- or should that be Jenny?

xx

 

 


Publication Day: Edward’s Outlaw

It’s time to raise a glass- or a large mug of black coffee in my case.

The third book in The Folville Chronicles launches today!

Edward’s Outlaw follows hot on the heels of The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw.

Edward's Outlaw

Available in both ebook and paperback formats, you can buy your copy today!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KP9LTD9/ref=sr_1_1…Jennifer Ash

***

Here’s the blurb

January 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…

***

(Although Edward’s Outlaw can easily be read as a standalone novel, you’ll get a little more out of the story if you’ve read books one and two)

You can find out lots of information about Edwards’ Outlaw, from how it was written to what inspired it, and read an extract or two, by following the launch blog tour which begins today!

Happy reading (and blog hopping)

Jennifer x

 

 


A little peep at: The Winter Outlaw

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

Blurb

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

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

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

***

Here’s the prologue to whet your appetite…

Prologue: Winter 1329

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had given him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, where was he going to go?

***

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

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

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

Happy reading,

Jen xx


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