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

Category: Opening Lines Blog Page 1 of 12

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

Opening Lines with J.A. Corrigan : The Nurse

This week’s Opening Lines come from The Nurse, a fabulous new thriller from the pen of J.A. Corrigan.

Over to you Julie…

I began writing this novel back in 2018 after Rose, the main character, knocked heavily on my door. It’s the book that found me an agent, and then subsequently a publisher too.

I loved using my medical background in the story, and also loved setting parts of the story in geographical locations with which I’m familiar.

Theo’s character took a little longer to develop, although once he introduced himself my fingertips spun across my keyboard! I do like reading dual timeline stories, and with Rose’s tale I knew instinctively that this had to be a story of past and present, interweaved and interspersed, and with both Rose and Theo as the viewpoint characters.

***

Blurb:

When you hear her story, will you believe her?

Rose Marlowe is a hard-working nurse, a loving wife, and a merciless killer. Or so she says. Despite her confession, it is hard to believe that this beautiful, kind woman could have killed her vulnerable patient in cold blood.

Down-on-his luck author and ex-journalist, Theo Hazel, is convinced that there’s more to what happened than Rose is telling, and so decides to visit her behind bars to write her story. His first surprise comes when Rose reveals that the victim was not a stranger to her.

As time goes on, it seems that Rose is letting Theo see behind her perfect mask. With each new visit, he learns terrible new things about her heart-breaking past. With each new visit, he becomes more and more convinced that she can’t be a killer. But is he trying to free an innocent woman, or falling prey to a calculating murderer?

A gripping and unputdownable thriller that will keep you guessing into the early hours of the morning. Perfect for fans of The Silent Patient, Shari Lapena and JP Delaney.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

Queen’s Hospital, Derbyshire, May 2015

This new space is too quiet. No music, no background chatter, nothing. The young man tries to move his lips to ask if someone can put the radio on, but the muscles in his face won’t obey his command. He can breathe, obviously, and hear, but he can’t move, or speak. Can’t seem to open his eyes either. A male voice, he thinks his doctor, told him that he’s been brought out of an induced coma and moved from intensive care. He’s now in the hospital’s high dependency unit. As well as silence, a dense humidity envelops him in this new room. He wishes a nurse would take off the sheet.

He attempts to remember something about his life, anything, but the fog inside his brain is making it difficult. He tries to move again, but his limbs are utterly unresponsive. Then a familiar aroma enters the unfamiliar room. It’s the nurse, he thinks. She smells of cinnamon and she’s the one who talks to him. He likes that. The other members of staff never talk; they perform their duties and leave.

She’s moving around his bed, but she hasn’t spoken. His mother smelt of cinnamon a long time ago, and it’s as if his senses and subconscious are working to create another plane of time. A fragmented memory stabs. His mother has been here to see him – before, when he was in intensive care – and told him something she thought he couldn’t hear. She didn’t think he’d pull through.

He listens hard. He won’t know for certain who’s in the room until they speak.

What did his mother tell him? Her words are somewhere inside his mind. He will remember. Soon.

He gives up attempting to think and instead allows himself to give in to sleep, and to his relief, a curtain begins to close across his consciousness. It is only the smell of cinnamon that stops him from drawing the other in the matching pair. Then a voice speaks.

‘I’m so sorry.’

He’s uncertain of its timbre, unsure if it’s a man or a woman, doubtful of the smell, and panic begins to press inside him. Something is very wrong.

All the moments of his existence come together in a kaleidoscope of images, and he sees his wife, her already burgeoning belly taut, the dark skin of her face translucent with happiness, and as his life ebbs away, he acknowledges that his efforts to find the truth have all been in vain.

The curtains close, with no gap remaining for the light to enter.

He has gone.

Chapter 1

Rose

8 December 2015

My eyes sweep the courtroom and settle on my husband, and I accept my life is over. Despite his love, and perhaps because of it.

I look at the woman who will soon deliver my sentence. She is petite, pretty, and too young to be a judge, surely. A mixture of expressions have passed over her features during the course of my hearing: well-veiled disgust …

***

You can buy    from all good retailers, including:

Amazon UK:  https://amzn.to/2QbhPQN

Amazon US:  https://amzn.to/3tDeHe3

Kobo:  https://bit.ly/3tF0OMD

Apple Books: https://apple.co/3w17c2o

Google Play: https://bit.ly/33z6k91

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/3bl4Sv8

Foyles:  https://bit.ly/3hgtl8N

WH Smiths: https://bit.ly/3vZ8eM9

Bio:

Julie-Ann Corrigan was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. She studied in London, completing a BA (Hons) Humanities degree, majoring in Modern History and English Literature. Travelling in Europe for several years she taught in both Greece and Spain – countries and cultures she found fascinating. On return to the UK she trained and then worked as a Chartered Physiotherapist, before finally succumbing to the writing bug. Currently, she writes full-time and lives in Berkshire with her family.

Website: http://jacorrigan.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/juliannwriter

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/corriganjulieann/?hl=en 

Many thanks for your wonderful Opening Lines, Julie.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Colette McCormick: Things I Should Have Said And Done

This week’s Opening Lines welcomes Colette McCormick, and features the first 500 words from her novel,

Things I Should Have Said and Done.

BLURB

‘It is only after death that life can be fully understood.’

Ellen’s life is over in an instant when a drunk driver comes out of nowhere and hits the car that she is driving.

She never knew what hit her.

But Ellen in only young, she isn’t ready to die and there are loose ends to tie up before she can move ‘beyond the light.’ Luckily she isn’t alone, she has George to look after her. He’s new to the job and his methods aren’t exactly orthodox but together they set about dealing with Ellen’s issues.

There is Marc, the man that Ellen still loves. She watches him struggle with life as a single parent as she herself struggles with the realisation that Marc needs to move on without her. There is Naomi, the child that Ellen left behind, the child that becomes Ellen’s link to those that still live. And there is her mother whose life is falling apart.

Ellen looks for ways to help and with George constantly at her side she learns that even though she is dead, she is not helpless. There are things that she can so from beyond the grave to influence what happened in the world that she left behind.

No-one ever said that being dead was easy.

FIRST 500 WORDS

One minute I was fine and the next … well, I’m not sure what I’d call it exactly, but I’d never felt it before. I was shaking and I could hardly breathe and all I could think was, Oh my God! What’s going on? To be honest, there might have been the odd expletive as well but, oh my God! What’s going on? was the gist of it.

Surrounding me was can only say was an incredible light. It was like when there’s been heavy snow and your eyes struggle to adjust to the sun shining off it. You know, like when your eyes can’t really focus on anything because everything is so white. It was just like that, except whiter. My eyes instinctively screwed up to protect themselves like they would do on a really sunny day but this light wasn’t like a sunny day, not even a very sunny day. This light physically hurt my eyes.

I tried to open them a couple of times but it hurt so much I was forced to keep them closed. I was in complete panic.

I was breathing in short bursts which I took in and let out in stages. I didn’t know what was going on but I knew I was panicking. I’d never had a panic attack before and I couldn’t understand why I was having one now.

What on earth was that light? I asked the question over and over in my head. What is that light? What is that light? What is that light?

I also asked myself why it was so noisy. There were loud noises all around, like when I’m watching TV at my granddad’s and he hasn’t got his hearing aid in. People were shouting, and someone even screamed. I wanted to scream myself but couldn’t. It was taking everything I had to breathe.

Oh my God, what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I breathe properly? Why were my teeth chattering?

The answer to all three had to be the same – I was scared. No, I was more than scared; I was petrified.

I tried to think.

Somehow I knew that no matter how much it hurt, I would have to open my eyes. I thought rubbing my eyes might help but it only made things worse. So now, as well as the light, there were circles flickering under my eyelids as if I had a migraine coming on. Ah, I thought, that’s it; I’ve got a migraine forming. It would be worse than any other I’d had before, but that was the only explanation. Oh great, not only would I have a blinding headache soon but I’d have the vomiting later. Yippee!

That would have to wait. Right now, I had other things to worry about. Slowly, a millimetre at a time, I forced my eyes open and blinked rapidly in a desperate attempt to adjust to the light. They hurt like hell, but I’d managed to get them this far …

You can  buy Things I Should Have Said and Done on Amazon

 

BIO

Colette was born and raised in Sheffield but now lives in North East England. She has had a wide range of jobs from ledger clerk to school dinner lady and lots of things in between but in 2001 she found her calling in the world of charity retail. After working for CR UK for 10 years she now works for Barnardo’s and while it’s a job that she loves, writing is her real passion. When she is not working or writing there is a good chance you will find Colette, baking, gardening or walking the dog in the beautiful countryside that Co Durham has to offer. She has been married almost forty years and has two grown up sons.

Blog

Facebook Author Page

Twitter

Many thanks Colette, for sharing your opening lines with us today,

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Alison Knight: The Legacy

This week’s Opening Lines come from friend, and fellow author,

Alison Knight. 

Pop your feet up for five minutes, and have a read…

Hi Jenny,

Thanks so much for inviting me to share the first 500 words of my new book, The Legacy. It starts with a Prologue which is a scene from my previous book, Mine.

Blurb:

An unexpected inheritance. A web of deceit. A desperate escape. 

London, 1969.

James has his dreams of an easy life shattered when his aunt disinherits him, leaving her fortune to her god-daughter, Charlotte. He turns to his friend, Percy, to help him reclaim his inheritance – and to pay off his creditors. But when their plans backfire, James becomes the pawn of Percy and his criminal associates.

Charlotte is stunned when she is told of her windfall. After an attempt at cheating her out of her inheritance fails, James tries to intimidate her. But she is stronger than he thinks, having secrets of her own to guard, and sends him away with a bloody nose and no choice but to retreat for now.

Resigned, James and his spoilt, pampered girlfriend, Fliss, Percy’s sister, travel across France on a mission that promises to free James from the criminals for good. But James isn’t convinced he can trust Fliss, so he makes his own plans to start a new life.

Will James be able to get away, or will his past catch up with him? Will Charlotte’s secrets turn the legacy into a curse?

FIRST 500 WORDS FROM THE LEGACY…

APRIL 1969

A nursing home in Essex

The matron showed them into a private room where Miss Jarvis reclined in bed, propped up by half a dozen pillows. It was obvious that the old woman was very ill, but her eyes were clear, and she smiled when she saw them. Someone had tidied her snowy-white hair, and she wore a pink bed jacket over her nightie.

The man, solicitor Leonard Warwick introduced his companion, Lily Wickham, and she stepped forward and took the old lady’s proffered hand. She was shocked by the frailty of this tiny woman, because her gaze was direct and her voice strong when she spoke.

“I’m delighted to meet you. I understand Mr Irwin is too important these days to visit an old woman.” She sniffed. “I remember that boy when he was in short trousers.”

Lily blinked, and Leonard raised his eyebrows.

Miss Jarvis smiled. “I take it he didn’t mention that I went to school with his mother? No, I thought not. He always was a tricky one, full of his own importance. I’m surprised he wasn’t worried I’d reveal his secrets.” She looked them up and down. “However, I assume he felt he could rely upon your professionalism and my discretion, so I’ll excuse him this time.”

Leonard smiled and opened his briefcase. “He sends his apologies, Miss Jarvis, but he simply couldn’t get away today, I’m afraid. But he didn’t want to let you down, so here we are in his stead. I have your new will here, together with a copy for you to keep. Mrs Wickham and I will be your witnesses.”

They sat in chairs on either side of the bed while Leonard went through the will, clause by clause, making sure Miss Jarvis understood everything. She nodded and waved him on occasionally, saying, “Yes, yes, that hasn’t changed. Go on, go on.”

Eventually Leonard finished. “So, to make absolutely sure, Miss Jarvis, this new will leaves the sum of five thousand pounds to your nephew, and the residue of your estate to your god-daughter.”

“Correct.”

“And this is to supersede your previous will which left five thousand pounds to your god-daughter and the residue to your nephew.”

“That is also correct.”

Leonard hesitated.

“You have a question, Mr Warwick?”

“Forgive me,” he said. “I’m simply wondering if there is a particular reason why you’ve chosen to effectively disinherit your only blood relative.” He raised a hand when she would have replied. “Of course, you are entitled to make whatever provision you wish. I’m simply trying to establish that your nephew won’t have any recourse to a claim against your estate, Miss Jarvis. Such cases can seriously deplete the value of an inheritance for all concerned.”

The old lady leaned forward, pinning Leonard with a steely gaze. “I have also read Bleak House, Mr Warwick. I can assure you, I am in full command of my faculties, and this decision has not been taken lightly.”

She turned to Lily…

***

So there you have it, the first 500 words of The Legacy. This first scene was a minor incident in Mine, but I kept wondering what would happen to Miss Jarvis’s heirs after her death. It was a joy to write and some of the characters from Mine make cameo appearances in The Legacy. I seem to be on a roll now because my next book will follow what happens to James’s girlfriend, Fliss, a few years after the end of The Legacy. Watch this space!

BUY LINK – The Legacy by Alison Knight is published by Darkstroke Books and is available from: https://mybook.to/legacy

Bio

Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. She signed her first three-book publishing contract a year after she completed her master’s degree.

The Legacy is her fifth novel and the second book published by Darkstroke Books. It is a drama set in 1960s London and France, exploring how we don’t always get what we want and how we shouldn’t count our chickens before they’re hatched. Her previous Darkstroke book, Mine, is a drama also set in 1960s London, based on real events in her family, exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics. Some of the characters from Mine also appear in The Legacy, although this is a standalone story.

Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk) as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS 

www.facebook.com/alison.knight.942

www.alisonroseknight.com

@Alison_Knight59 on Twitter

www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk

www.darkstroke.com/dark-stroke/alison-knight/

Many thanks Alison,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

Opening Lines with Karen King: One Summer in Cornwall

This week I’m pleased to be welcoming Karen King back to my blog, with the first 500 words of her lovely, feel good, romance,

One Summer in Cornwall.

Blurb

Escape to Cornwall this summer…

A gorgeous feel-good read, perfect for fans of CATHY BRAMLEY and PHILLIPA ASHLEY.

When Hattie is made redundant and evicted from her flat in one horrible week, she needs time to rethink. Her Uncle Albert left her and her father each half of Fisherman’s Rest, his home in the Cornish town of Port Medden, so this seems the perfect place to escape to until she can figure things out.

As Hattie stays in the cottage, clearing it out, tidying it up and getting it ready to sell, she starts to find her feet in Port Medden and making a new home here begins to feel right. If only her dad didn’t need a quick sale and things weren’t complicated by her unwelcoming neighbour Marcus . . .

FIRST 500 WORDS

Bloody hell! Who is it?’ Hattie Rowland froze at the voice, her finger poised on the light switch that she had been about to flick on. Someone was already in the cottage! Who could it be? A squatter? A burglar? For a moment she panicked, her breathing quick and shallow as she backed against the wall, wondering whether to run out again. Then she pulled herself together. She had every right to be here – whoever it was, they were trespassing, and she wasn’t going to be intimidated by them. She took a deep, steadying breath and grabbed hold of her motorbike helmet, which she had tucked under her arm, ready to use as a weapon if necessary. The intruder would soon realise that she didn’t scare easily. She pressed down the switch, gripping the helmet tightly, ready to spring into action. As the room lit up, there was a loud screech.

‘Turn it off! Turn it off!’

Buddy! Hattie burst out laughing as she spotted the green parrot, perched on a thick branch running across a huge cage tucked into the corner of the living area, just before the open ‘archway into the kitchen. The parrot’s head was turned towards the door, his beady eyes fixed on her as he squawked crossly. Uncle Albert’s beloved parrot. She hadn’t even realised that Buddy was still alive. As the big bird glared at her from his perch, his green feathers ruffled, the yellow ring around his neck clearly visible, she was transported back to her childhood. Hattie remembered stepping into the cottage with her parents to be greeted by Buddy screeching, ‘Bloody hell! Who is it?’ and her mother immediately trying to cover her ears. Uncle Albert, a fisherman, was her father’s much-older brother. He had never married and Buddy was his sole companion. Albert had worshipped the bird – and loved his little cottage by the sea. When he died a couple of months ago, Hattie had been surprised and touched to hear that he had left Fisherman’s Rest jointly to Hattie’s father, Owen, and Hattie. She had fond memories of summer holidays spent here in Port Medden with Uncle Albert when she was younger, and her parents were still together.

‘Hello, Buddy. It’s only me, Hattie. You probably don’t remember me. It’s been years since I last came down here,’ she said softly. She felt guilty about that, but her parents had finally divorced, after years of acrimony, when she was twelve, and then she had barely seen her dad, who had immediately moved to France with his new girlfriend, now wife, Raina and remained there. Obviously, her mum, who now lived in Portugal with her partner Howard, hadn’t wanted to spend summers with her ex-husband’s brother in Cornwall, so Hattie had lost touch with Uncle Albert. She dropped her saddlebags down onto the old brown sofa; she was sure it was the same one that had been there when she’d last visited – was it sixteen or seventeen years ago?…

If you would like to read on, you can buy One Summer in Cornwall from all good retailers, including-

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08N47LDQT/ 

Bio

Karen King is a multi-published author of both adult and children’s books. She has had eight romantic novels published, one psychological thriller with another one out later this year, 120 children’s books, two young adult novels, and several short stories for women’s magazines. Her romantic novel The Cornish Hotel by the Sea became an international bestseller, reaching the top one hundred in the Kindle charts in both the UK and Australia. Karen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. Karen now lives in Spain where she loves to spend her non-writing time exploring the quaint local towns with her husband, Dave, when she isn’t sunbathing or swimming in the pool, that is.

Contact links

Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Twitter

Bookbub 

Many thanks, Karen.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Carol McGrath: The Damask Rose

This week’s Opening Lines come from Carol McGrath’s brand new historical novel, The Damask Rose. It forms part of her ongoing #blogtour.

Published today – The Damask Rose is a must for all fans of medieval fiction. 

Sit back and enjoy the first 500 words.

Over to you Carol…

The Damask Rose. Today, 15th April, is Publication Day, so it is really special. Here is the burb for The Damask Rose and a few comments made by other writers who enjoyed it. I hope you will enjoy the blurb and extract that follows:

Blurb

In 1266 Eleanor of Castile, adored wife of the Crown Prince of England, is still only a princess when she is held hostage during the brutal Barons’ Rebellion, and her baby daughter dies. Scarred by privation, a bitter Eleanor swears revenge on those who would harm her family- and vows never to let herself be vulnerable again.

As she rises to become Queen, Eleanor keeps Olwen – a trusted herbalist- who tried to save her daughter-by her side.  But it is dangerous to be friendless in a royal household, and as the court sets out on crusade, Olwen and Eleanor discover then that the true battle for England may not be a matter of swords and lances but one fanned by whispers and spies.

 

Fascinating . . . Brings to life one of the most determined and remarkable queens of the medieval world’ K. J. MAITLAND, author of The Drowned City

* ‘Completely engrossed me from the start . . . A wonderful read‘ NICOLA CORNICK, author of The Forgotten Sister

* ‘Excels at sweeping the reader away on an engrossing journey . . . Great storytelling and superb research‘ JANE JOHNSON, author of Court of Lions

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter 1

Windsor Castle

June 21st 1264

On the feast of St John, Lady Eleanor, Lord Edward’s wife, watched the forest from the castle’s lower battlements. Smoke from rebel camp fires twisted above the tree-line. The rebels had plundered her park, hunted stags in her forest, lit fires and cooked her venison. Occasionally a whiff drifted her way reminding her that soon the castle would run out of food. She sighed knowing she would have to consult with Master Thomas, her steward, as to how long they could survive without surrender, before they starved.  Earl Simon’s deputy, Hugh Bigod of Norfolk, had positioned his troops everywhere. They were hidden by willows hanging over the river banks; they were concealed in meadows within corn stalks; they camped amongst beech trees in the king’s deer park.

She saw movement on the edge of the forest. A moment later a rider emerged, galloping along the track towards the castle moat.  She shaded her brow. There had been many messengers demanding she gave up the castle but she always sent them away. She edged along the battlements until she reached a point directly above the gatehouse. There was something familiar about this horseman. Another horseman, a squire she imagined, broke from the trees holding aloft a fluttering pennant. She drew breath. Rather than displaying Montfort’s fork-tailed lion this long curling flag displayed the King’s leopards, gold and silver embroidery glinting in the sun. Her heart began to beat faster, pumping at her chest. It could be a messenger from her husband.

Time stilled as if the scene below was painted into a psalter. Her mantle billowed out and her short veil was nearly blown from her head by a sudden breeze. The castle rooks roosted in trees making loud mewing sounds like babies crying. Bells rang for Vespers. Directly below, her ladies trailed into the chapel, miniature figures with bowed heads and clasped hands. She should attend Vespers since it was the feast of St John, but she remained where she was, watching the rider horse clip clopping along the path competing with the rooks’ unsettling caws.

The knight slowed as he approached the moat and gatehouse, halted, dismounted and removed his helmet. Her eyes fixed on his shock of red hair. The Earl of Gloucester! She knew him well from the days before the barons’ rebellion. If Earl Simon was the devil, Gilbert of Gloucester was Satan’s helper. Tears of disappointment welled up behind her eyes.

Earl Gilbert tugged a scroll from his mantle and with one hand still holding his reins he held it up to the gatehouse guards. Ribbons dangled from a seal. Anger replaced disappointment. If this was a trick, she would have Simon de Montfort’s son, her prisoner, hung from the battlements.

She looked up at the highest range of battlements. ‘Raise your bows,’ she ordered archers positioned above her. ‘Bring Earl Simon’s son out.’ She pointed to the knight below. ‘Gloucester is not to be trusted. Others may…

You can find out what happens next by buyingThe Damask Rose. It is available from all good retailers, including Amazon – tinyurl.com/dk2att32

Queen Eleanor’s Garden, Winchester

Carol McGrath Bio

Following a first degree in English, History and Russian Studies, 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 was shortlisted for the Romantic novel of the Year. The Woman in the Shadows, a best-selling historical novel about Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of Henry VIII’s statesman Thomas Cromwell, was republished by Headline in 2020.  The She-Wolf Queen Trilogy features Ailenor of Provence, Eleanor of Castile and Isabella of France. Carol writes Historical non-fiction for Pen & Sword and Historical fiction for Headline Accent.  Find Carol on her web-site www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk. Links to Twitter, Facebook and my monthly newsletter are all there.

Thank you, Jenny, for hosting my publication day post.

Happy publication day, Carol.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Morwenna Blackwood: Glasshouse

This week I am delighted to be welcoming former Imagine ‘Novel in a Year’ student, friend and fellow author, Morwenna Blackwood, to my blog to share the ‘Opening Lines’ from 

Glasshouse.

Over to you Morwenna…

Thanks for having me again, Jenny!

Glasshouse is my second thriller. It stands alone as a story, but is part of the series that began with my debut novel, The (D)Evolution of Us. I have seven books in the series planned, and they run alongside, rather than follow on from, each other. I wanted to capture a point in time, and explore its events through the eyes of interconnected people.

BLURB

From the Hippocratic Oath (translated By WHS Jones):

Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I break it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me.

Psychiatrists, Drs Whittle and Grosvenor, have dedicated their lives to helping their patients, but their approach, and the complications it reveals, lead them into relationships that harm not only themselves.

As their lives entangle, both men find that doing “no harm” is not as cut-and-dried as they perceived.

Can the patients in their care really trust them? Or are more sinister motives at work?

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

Spring 1999

Julia

I hit the brakes. There’s a couple crying on the pelican crossing outside the hospital. I miss them by inches. The man holds the woman back when she starts screaming at me; maybe he’s seen the state of my face. Once he’s pulled her clear of the road, I stamp on the accelerator, and abandon the car in the ambulance bay.

A few of the smokers outside the main entrance scowl and shout things at me, but I barely register them and push my way through to the big plan of the hospital that takes up most of the wall in the reception area. I scan the list of wards for the one Sasha told me Elizabeth is in, locate it on the map, and run down the corridor.

I’m not worried that I’m causing a scene – I figure that people will think I’m a desperate relative trying to make it to a dying loved one in time – so I don’t stop running until I reach the ward. I stand in the crowd of people around the nurses’ station and look for her name on the board; I can’t believe my luck: she’s tucked away in the far corner, with the curtains closed around her bed. Hiding in plain sight, I rush down the ward to her bed, check there are no doctors in with her, and slip behind the curtain.

Elizabeth looks tiny in the bed, like a child. I note that her hair is dark. She is lying down, and I can’t see her face. There are tubes and wires attached to her, and a monitor is beeping steadily. My hands are clenched, and I’m suddenly aware that they’re sweating. I approach the head of the bed. Elizabeth’s eyes are closed, and she is breathing regularly. I presume 3she’s asleep – if she was in an induced coma, she’d be in a more secure ward, surely.

I stand there, running my fingers across my damp palms, looking at her. She’s pretty – that’s evident even under the oxygen mask. I consider pulling all the plugs out of the wall but check myself – the monitors will be alarmed. I try to remember all the episodes of Casualty I’ve seen. I sit down in the inevitable uncomfortably upright chair next to her bed, absentmindedly moving the spare cushion that was on the seat, onto the moving table thing that holds a dry plastic tumbler, and a jug of water. I sit like this for some minutes before the obvious occurs to me. This whole situation started with her. If Erazmus hadn’t met her, I would not have lost my baby. I stand, pick up the cushion, pull the mask from her face, try to commit her features to memory, and using both hands, I press the cushion into her face.

Autumn 1998

Lizzie

The patterns, the symbolism – it’s like a code that I’m beginning to decipher. I sketch the moments that seem important, in the hopes that one day…

***

Here are my buy-links…

mybook.to/devolution for The (D)Evolution of Us

mybook.to/glasshousenovel for Glasshouse

BIO

When Morwenna Blackwood was six years old, she got told off for filling a school exercise book with an endless story when she should have been listening to the teacher/eating her tea/colouring with her friends.  The story was about a frog.  It never did end; and Morwenna never looked back.

Born and raised in Devon, Morwenna suffered from severe OCD and depression, and spent her childhood and teens in libraries.  She travelled about for a decade before returning to Devon.  She now has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter, and lives with her husband, son and three cats in a cottage that Bilbo Baggins would be proud of.

Morwenna is the author of best-selling psychological thriller, The (D)Evolution of Us, and her second novel, Glasshouse, also published by darkstroke, is released today.

When she is not writing, Morwenna works for an animal rescue charity, or can be found down by the sea.

She often thinks about that frog.

Here are my social media links and website…

www.morwennablackwoodauthor.com

www.amazon.com/author/morwennablackwood

www.facebook.com/morwennablackwood

Instagram: morwennablackwood_

Twitter: MorwennaBlackw1

Many thanks for sharing your opening lines, Morwenna.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

There’s a new neighbour in town: A Cornish Wedding

A Cornish Wedding (previously published as Abi’s Neighbour), introduces a new character to the Abi, Max, Beth and Jacob mix.  A high flying Londoner called Cassandra – a woman who really doesn’t want to be this close to a beach…

Blurb

Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Heidi Swain and Milly Johnson, A Cornish Wedding is the best kind of summer escape.

Abi has what she’s always dreamed of: her perfect Cornish cottage, great friends and a gorgeous boyfriend. But her idyll is shattered when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Rude and obnoxious, Cassandra doesn’t make a good first impression on Abi. But with the unexpected wedding of one of Abi’s friends to prepare for, Abi has bigger things to worry about.

However, avoiding her new neighbour proves harder than expected and Abi and Cassandra soon realise they might have more in common than they first thought. . .

But with the wedding only weeks away, can they set aside their differences before the big day?

Extract

Cassandra stared at the ‘For Sale’ sign in the front garden. A fresh slogan had been pasted proudly across it, proclaiming Another House Sold!

She frowned. The estate agents must have made a mistake. Justin had talked about renting the cottage, this poky little two-bed terrace in some Cornish backwater, but he’d never once suggested buying it.

Sitting on the low stone wall that ran in front of the row of cottages, with her back to the sold sign, she let out a string of vehemently whispered expletives. Resisting the temptation to throw a pebble at the seagulls which were squawking their hearts out on the roof behind her, she steadied her breathing, like she did when faced with a particularly demanding client.

Shrugging off her suit jacket in deference to the early summer sunshine that poured from a cloud-free sky, Cassandra tried to focus, but doubts continued to assail her. She hadn’t misunderstood Justin, had she?

They’d been laughing over the breakfast table at one of the most exclusive hotels in London when the subject of Cornwall had first come up. Making plans for their future life together, they’d celebrated in grand style the fact that Justin had, after six years of secret trysts and stolen nights together, decided to leave his wife; the dreadful Jacinta.

Excitedly they’d plotted and planned over plates of eggs Benedict and smoked salmon, raising their glasses of Buck’s Fizz to Justin’s promotion to senior partner at the law firm. A promotion which meant that, providing they merged their finances, Justin could afford to get a divorce without being catapulted into penury.

There was only one snag.

The legal company Justin now worked for, Family Values, prided itself on its moral integrity. There was no way he could risk a scandal after securing the promotion he’d coveted for so long. It would be bad enough when he explained to his colleagues that he was getting a divorce – suddenly producing a long-term mistress would be too much for them to accept in one go.

So Justin had asked Cassandra to move away for a while. He’d suggested they use this short diplomatic period of separation to their advantage, and rent a property to later sublet – at a vast profit – to exhausted executives seeking a spot of relaxation. Cassandra, who could run her own business from anywhere via the Internet, would go and make sure the property was up to date, arrange any decorating that was required, and then rejoin Justin in London once things had died down.

Thinking back, Cassandra realised she should have asked a lot more questions about exactly how much research Justin had already done into this move. But under the influence of the early-morning alcohol, not to mention the triumph she felt at having finally succeeded in persuading Justin to leave his wife, she had suppressed all her instincts and agreed to everything he’d said.

 

 

Sequel to A Cornish Escape, this feel good romance returns you to the world of Abi, Max, Beth and Stan in sunny Sennen Cove.

 

If you’d like to read A Cornish Wedding, you can buy it as a paperback or ebook from all good retailers, including

Universal link – mybook.to/CornishWedding

Happy reading everyone.

Stay Safe.

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Christina Jones: Summer at Sandcastle Cottage

This week I’m delighted to welcome Christina Jones to my site. 

Showing casing the first 500 words of her brand new novel, Summer at Sandcastle Cottage, today’s Opening Lines forms part of Christina’s blog tour.

BLURB

After trials, tears and a torturous break-up, Kitty Appleby has finally found where she’s meant to be. Tumbledown Sandcastle Cottage, in the delightful seaside village of Firefly Common, is home, and Kitty’s eccentric band of friends and neighbours are enjoying a glorious summer.

There’s just one tiny little problem. Sandcastle Cottage doesn’t belong to them. And Mavis Mullholland, Kitty’s landlord, is on her way home from her round-the-world cruise . . .

Kitty can’t bear to lose the community that’s welcomed her in. But secretly, she can’t bear to leave Sandcastle Cottage without finding out more about the mysterious and enigmatic Vinny . . . Why can’t she stop thinking about him, when she’s faced with losing everything?

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

The thump of mail through Sandcastle Cottage’s letterbox made Kitty jump. Despite living on the rural south coast for six months, she’d never quite got used to the early morning arrival of the post. When she’d lived in the centre of Reading’s urban sprawl, letters had sometimes not been delivered until well into the after- noon. She blinked at her watch. Lordy – it wasn’t even seven o’clock. An insane time for posties – or fish-restaurant waitresses for that matter – to be awake, not to mention up, dressed, and al- ready getting on with the day.

Kitty yawned and stretched. No doubt the post would just be flyers and junk mail as usual. Nothing important. She’d deal with it once she’d had a good shot of caffeine.

Still yawning, Kitty reached for the coffee jar, lazily watching the sun-dancing dappled patterns through the kitchen window as she spooned granules into her mug. It was another glorious morning in Firefly Common, heralding another scorching June day. And as she still had plenty of time to enjoy it before she had to leave for work, Kitty decided she would kill two birds with one stone and take her coffee out on to the porch, picking up the mail on the way.

Pushing her tangle of auburn-ish hair out of the way behind her ears, Kitty poured hot water into her mug. Then, closing her eyes, she inhaled the aromatic steam.

Bliss. Absolute bliss.

Her shift at the Silver Fish Bar didn’t start until 11 a.m., but she loved the silence and solitude of these beautiful summer mornings and always made an effort to be first up. Much as she adored her housemates, Apollo and Jemini, they were both night owls by na- ture and both needed noise in the mornings to get going. So, before anyone else appeared and the radio bellowed rock ’n’ pop and Apollo and Jemini sang along – or Peppa Pig squawked from the television to entertain Jemini’s toddler daughter Teddy – Kitty made a point of savouring her first mug of coffee in blissful isolation.

Well, almost.

Hearing a familiar thud above her, then the thundering of eight massive paws on the stairs, followed by an excited scrabble of claws on the tiles, Kitty hastily put her mug down. She reached for the dogs’ food bowls, and managed to fill them and get them on the floor just as brindle Zorro and black Honey rattled to a halt in the doorway. Then, with tails going like rotor-blades, they slithered at breakneck speed into the kitchen. Giving her their best big Staffie smiles they fell on their breakfast with joyous and noisy enthusiasm.

In the time it took Kitty to pick up her mug again, the food bowls were empty.

‘Gannets,’ Kitty said fondly, looking down at Zorro and Honey who were snuffling hopefully under their bowls, chasing them with slobbery joy across the quarry-tiled floor. ‘No, you’re not getting a refill. You’re spoiled rotten as it is. We’re…

If you’d like to buy Summer at Sandcastle Cottage, you can order it herehttps://smarturl.it/SummeratSandcastle

BIO

Christina Jones has written all of her life (as well as having millions of Proper Jobs including factory worker, secretary, nightclub dancer, blood donor attendant, barmaid, waitress, civil servant and fruit picker) Christina first had a short story published when she was just 14 years old. She has written for teenage and women’s magazines – fiction and non-fiction – for a number of years, had her own humour column in The Oxford Times, and has contributed to national newspapers.

Many thanks to Christina for her opening lines. Don’t miss any of the stops on the Sandcastle Cottage blog tour.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Sam Binne: The Kindness Project

This week’s Opening Lines showcases a brand new novel from Sam Binnie.

The Kindness Project.

Sit down for five minutes, put your feet up, and dive on in…

BLURB

Step 1. Help the baker’s ex-wife

Step 2. Find the true calling of the village shop owner


Step 3. Call a truce on a decades-old feud


Step 4. Forgive me . . . ?

The locals of the Cornish village of Polperran are grieving the sudden loss of Bea Kimbrel, a cornerstone of their small community.

Now her reclusive, estranged daughter Alice has turned up, keen to tie up Bea’s affairs and move on.

But Alice receives a strange bequest from Bea – a collection of unfinished tasks to help out those in Polperran most in need.

As each little act brings her closer to understanding her mother, it also begins to offer Alice the courage to open her clamped-shut heart. Perhaps Bea’s project will finally unlock the powerful secrets both women have been keeping . . .

THE KINDNESS PROJECT will draw you deep into the lives of two compelling women who should never have missed their chance to say goodbye. It will break your heart – and piece it back together again . . .

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

She sits at the kitchen table, a table worn smooth with years of teacups and plates of biscuits, balls of wool, tears and paint and linseed oil and birthday cakes.

Her pen is poised over the note-paper, but she takes a moment to put the pen down and flex her fingers – writing for even this long has made her hands tired – before taking it up again and finishing her note.

She pauses for a moment, looking at what she has written, then signs off,

Forever, always, and above all,

Your mother x x x

She folds up the paper, slides it into an envelope, addresses it and adds it to the small pile. Small, but more there than she’ d dared hope, and she looks at them with a smile. It’s time now, she thinks.

Chapter One

The sky has got bigger on this journey, Alice thought to her- self with purposeful calm.

From the muddy skies of Cambridge in the last days of April, all cranes and yellow spires and corners of grey light, the train had carried her away from office blocks and read- ing schedules and into huge, blooming landscapes of hills and clouds.

‘Next stop, Polperran,’ called the guard at the end of the carriage. ‘Polperran, laaast stop.’

I didn’t even know they still had guards, she  thought again, in the same rigidly bright internal voice. Anything to keep herself distracted on the journey.

It was one Alice had taken every year through her child- hood and twenties, bagging up her books and clothes to travel down to Bea on her annual visit to the tiny fishing village. She had never consciously intended it to be only once a year; as a child, other friends spent summers in Cornwall with their parents and siblings, revelling in the sun and sea air, and as an adult Alice knew her colleagues would love the idea of a coastal bolt-hole, but of course that bolt-hole was owned by Alice’s mother, and between one thing and another through her thirties the trips had become further and further apart, more than a year, eighteen months,

the gap growing each time, and the phone calls had become more sporadic, shorter, with Alice always snipping short each call, massaging her temples and thinking afterwards, Next week, I’ ll speak to her properly next week. But next week never came, then it had been almost seven years since Alice had last visited Bea in Polperran.

Bea had been the most beautiful person little Alice had ever seen. She sported bright, wild clothes and occasional dashes of blue-green eyeliner, and sometimes when Alice brought a friend home Bea would have made a huge multi- coloured jelly just because it was a Tuesday. She let Alice wear whatever she wanted to birthday parties, offering her feathered hats and silk scarves and nail polishes and pixie boots with socks stuffed in the toes to fit her. Alice had always just worn her own clothes, though…

BUY LINKS

You can request #TheKindnessProject on Netgalley: http://netgal.ly/nVyapi  or buy it now via – https://smarturl.it/TheKindnessProject

BIO

Sam Binnie has written for the GuardianVice magazine, and Google’s Creative Lab, among others, and was the 2005 winner of the Harper’s/Orange Prize Short Story Competition. The Kindness Project is her fourth novel.

She swims year-round in her local river, and makes the best pink grapefruit cake you’ll ever eat.

Read more at www.sambinnie.com

Page 1 of 12

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén