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Category: Opening Lines Blog Page 1 of 13

Opening Lines with Alison Knight: The Hidden

I’m delighted to welcome friend, fellow co-runner of Imagine and author, Alison Knight, to my place today.

Why not take five minutes, grab a cuppa, and enjoy the Opening Lines from Alison’s latest novel, The Hidden?

Thank you, Jenny, for inviting me back to your blog to talk about my latest book, The Hidden. This is my third novel published by Darkstroke in just ten months and it completes a trilogy of standalone but linked stories. The first book, Mine, is based on real events in London in the 1960s. The second, The Legacy, is a story inspired by a scene in Mine, so there are some cameo appearances by characters from the first book. The Hidden is set in the early 1970s and follows what has happened to one of the characters in The Legacy. I hope you enjoy the opening lines of The Hidden.

BLURB for THE HIDDEN

Secrets, nightmares, and a big black dog…

Montana, 1973.

Faye has found sanctuary in a simple cabin in the wilds of the Crazy Mountains in Montana with a dog called Bear. She’s a long way from her old life in England. But she knows that one day her peaceful life could be invaded by her enemies, and she keeps her guard up at all times.

Jeff returns home from Vietnam, a wounded, damaged hero, just weeks after his father’s sudden death. He finds hostile, secretive Faye living in his cabin and refusing to leave. The reading of his father’s will adds another layer of mystery to this woman’s presence.

The tension between them grows as Jeff tries to overcome his nightmares and expose Faye’s scars and secrets. The more he learns about her, the more enigmatic she seems.

When her enemies come calling, she needs Jeff to protect her. Can they learn to trust each other? And will Faye ever be safe?

FIRST 500 WORDS

As she left the witness box there was a flash of blinding light and the courtroom filled with smoke. She froze, terror holding her trapped, unable to escape. Around her, court officials called for order, women screamed and there were thuds and crashes as furniture was overturned.

            “Get out!” she heard her brother shout.

            She looked around in a daze. “Percy?” It couldn’t be him. He was dead. That’s why she was here, why she’d spilled their secrets.

            For a moment the smoke cleared, and she saw a figure in a balaclava running towards her. He was clad all in black. His eyes were filled with hatred. She knew why he was there. It was her time to die. He raised his arm and she saw the glint of steel in his hand. She closed her eyes as the knife descended and slashed the side of her face.

At last her survival instinct freed her from her terrified paralysis. She turned, desperate to get away, but she felt the blade pierce her body. She wanted to crawl away from the stinging slashes, but she was trapped, unable to move. She felt moisture on her skin – her blood or her tears?

“It’s all right,” she heard Percy whisper. “It’s not your time yet. You’ve won, Sis. Don’t give up now.”

“Percy!” she screamed, reaching out for him …

Montana, USA, 1973

Her hand touched fur. Fur? She opened her eyes, blinking as she registered the soft whining of the dog on the bed next to her. The vivid images of the London courtroom faded away as she took in her surroundings – the moonlight flooding through the window where she’d forgotten to close the curtains again; the patchwork quilt on the big wooden bed; the large pine chest and smaller matching bedside cabinet.

She sat up, bringing up her knees and leaning her elbows on them as she rubbed her face. The dog nuzzled her cheek, trying to lick up her salty tears. She pushed him away.

“It’s all right, Bear,” she said, scratching behind his ear. “It was just a dream.”

The same dream. Every. Bloody. Night. It’s been three years now. Will it ever go away?

            Knowing she wouldn’t get back to sleep, no matter how tired she felt, she got up and padded barefoot to the window. It was a clear night. She could see the dark silhouette of the mountains that stood guard above the fertile valley. Above them were millions of stars. It never ceased to soothe her, looking out at the moon and the endless sky above her. It reminded her of how huge the universe was, and how small and insignificant she was in comparison.

There had been a time when she hadn’t bothered to look around and to enjoy the beauty and majesty of her surroundings. Instead, she’d focused only on herself – her wants, her opinions, her pleasures. No one else had mattered. And look where that got me, she reminded herself. Today, she …

***

BUY LINK: https://mybook.to/thehidden

BIO

Alison Knight 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. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

Alison currently has a trio of novels published by Darkstroke. The first, Mine, is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

The Legacy, a drama set in London in 1969, was inspired by a scene in Mine, and explores how an unexpected legacy can be both a blessing and a curse. The Legacy looks at themes of greed and expectations, and the lengths people will go to when they are desperate.

The Hidden, available from 23rd September 2021, is a romantic suspense that picks up the story of one of the characters in The Legacy. Set in Montana in 1973, two wounded, damaged people are forced together, each guarding their secrets. Can they learn to trust each other? And will their nightmares ever end?

Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops with her friend and fellow author, Jenny Kane (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk). She also works 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 for sharing your Opening Lines today, Alison.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Lizzie Fry: The Coven

I’m delighted to welcome friend, and fellow author, Lizzie Fry to my place today, with the Opening Lines from her debut thriller, The Coven.

BLURB

An electrifying dystopia that imagines a world where a populist demagogue outlaws peaceful witchcraft, The Coven is a page-turning thriller with profound things to say about contemporary global society.

Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Green light was leaking under the bedroom door.

The sight of it made Li stop in her tracks and back up, dropping the washing basket she’d been holding. Her brain attempted to push the realisation away in sluggish disbelief. She had prayed to the triple goddesses she would never have to deal with this. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears as anxiety crashed through her body.

The day Li had been putting off had finally arrived.

Until that moment, it had been a completely ordinary Friday in March. Li had been stripping the beds, her usual end-of-the- week routine, when Chloe had returned from college around midday, her lectures finished for the weekend. As usual, Li had asked her daughter how her day had been; as usual, Chloe had rebuffed her with that sneering way of hers. Li tried to not let it bother her. Since puberty had struck around the age of four- teen, Chloe had made it clear she had no time for her parents. At nineteen, almost twenty, she should have grown out of such juvenile power-plays, but Li understood it wasn’t entirely her only child’s fault.

Seeing the green light now, pooling on the floor like liquid, Li knew it was all hers.

Fear gripped her, guilt rushing up behind it. As if in a nightmare, her bones felt as heavy as concrete. She hesitated, unable to raise her arm to push the door and go inside. Blinking back the tears pricking her eyelids, she took her phone from her jeans pocket and pulled up her call log; DANIEL was first on the list.

Bar the odd errand in town, Li saw only two people most days: Daniel and Chloe. Apart from a dozen Facebook and Twitter followers she spoke with online regularly, she had few real-life friends and worked from home. Her love of travel and a degree from a British university twenty years ago had led her to make a life for herself on the other side of the world. Too late, she realised she was isolated and alone when it really counted.

Li finally managed to press the button to call her husband. ‘Hi.’ Daniel’s gravelly voice filtered down the line.
‘You need to—’
The voicemail kicked in. He hadn’t really answered at all.

Keying off, Li swore in Mandarin, the sound of her native tongue discordant in her own ears. Her hands were shaking so much she almost dropped the phone. She redialled again with difficulty, irritation and fear clashing together. Daniel had to pick up this time. Had to. She couldn’t deal with this alone. Not any more.

She would tell him everything…

BIO

Lizzie Fry is a debut author of high concept thriller The Coven (published by Sphere books), but you might know her better as LV Hay. LV’s books previous books were crime fiction: The Other Twin, Do No Harm (Orenda Books) and Never Have I Ever (Hodder). The Other Twin is currently being adapted for the screen by Agatha Raisin producers Free@Last TV.

LINKS

Universal link >> http://myBook.to/covenwitch

Signed copies from Liznojan Books >> http://www.liznojanbooks.co.uk 

***

Many thanks for joining us today, Lizzie,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Kelly Mason: The Medium of Branden Bay

This week I’m delighted to welcome debut novelist, Kelly Mason, to my Opening Lines feature.

A former #Imagine, #novelinayear student, Kelly has many literary irons in the fire – including the writing of the cosy mystery, The Medium of Brandon Bay

Thanks, Jenny for inviting me to your blog.

The Medium of Branden Bay is the first book in a series of six cosy mysteries, which will be released over the next year.

Blurb:

The psychic medium who is petrified of ghosts!

Becky moves to Branden Bay, leaving a fast-paced life in London behind her.

She’s soon disturbed by shadows which lurk in her house. She’s inherited more than her grandma’s house and a sassy cat. She’s been given the so-called gift for seeing the dead.

But the only gift Becky wants is one that comes with fancy wrapping and a bow.

To rid herself of the ghosts that haunt her, she must unravel a cold case mystery.

Is she able to overcome her fears to find the truth?

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter 1

I’m Becky James, I was a city slicking millennial living and working in the financial district of London, until I inherited a huge Victorian house from my glamorous grandma, Constance.  The house is set right on the front of Branden Bay, a traditional seaside resort in the south west of England.  The bay consists of a yellow horseshoe of sand, sporting a posh hotel at one end and a traditional funfair at the other, with a pier jutting out to the sea. A wooded hill backs the town with a castle overlooking the popular tourist spot.

When Grandma died, I put the house up for sale, having no intention of moving as I had been living with Marcus, my boyfriend, in his Thameside apartment for the past three years. However, our relationship came to an abrupt end and as we worked for the same company, I decided it was time for a complete change. So I took Grandma’s house off the market and moved to the other side of the country to start a new life.

Whilst I loved my new home by the sea, it was more than a tad spooky living there alone. I kept turning my head, thinking I saw a shadow moving around the rooms. I blamed tiredness; however, deep down, I was worried that I’d inherited more than just Grandma’s house. Then one night, it got a whole lot worse.

I was having yet another restless night. It had taken me ages to drift off to sleep. Every time I relaxed for more than a few seconds, a jolt of static sped up my back. I snapped open my eyes as electricity fuzzed along my arms and pooled into my hands as pins and needles. I slowly lifted my head and squinted.  Is this for real? A large dark figure sat on my bed wearing some sort of brimmed hat. I couldn’t make out any features as it was a silhouette but my instinct told me it was a man. I felt my arms tremble. I knew he wasn’t flesh and blood – for starters, he kept flickering on an off like a projection and at times I could see straight through him to the fireplace beyond.

Go away. You’re not real – there’s no such thing as ghosts, I said in my head. I didn’t want to say it out loud, in case he answered back. This was more than something lurking in the corner of my vision, this was a full-on ghost invading my bedroom.

But even though I could see him clearly, I was not ready to entertain the idea that he was any sort of real.  I crept across the large wooden bed on all fours. My knees dipped into the soft duvet. With teeth clenched and my hand in a fist, I thrust my arm into his chest. Pins and needles filled my fingers until with the third swipe the see-through figure disappeared. Gone. See? Not real. I brushed my hands together…

Available at Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited

BIO

As a child, Kelly was obsessed with Scooby-Doo, she progressed to reading Edit Blyton, with her favourite series being, The Famous Five. As an adult, her absolute favourite author is M C Beaton and her Agatha Raisin series. Her writing is inspired by the seaside town she lives in, situated on the South West coast of England, a few ghostly dreams and her three sassy cats – all of which were strays before she made the mistake of naming them and letting them in the back door!

 

Bookbub:   https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kelly-mason

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

 

Huge thanks to Kelly for coming by today. Great opening lines.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Rachel Brimble: A Widow’s Vow

This week I am delighted to welcome my friend, and fellow author, Rachel Brimble, to my blog.

Here are the first 500 words from A Widow’s Vow – a brand new novel which I am very much looking forward to reading. 

Over to you Rachel…

Hi, Jenny!

Thank you so much for having me back on your blog to share the opening 500 words of the first book in my latest Victorian trilogy, The Ladies of Carson Street.

In the first novel, A Widow’s Vow, we meet heroine Louisa Hill, a former prostitute who has married a merchant client of hers and now lives a good and comfortable life. However, when her husband is found hanged in a Bath hotel room, leaving no note of explanation and only the keys to a house Louisa never knew existed, she knows her life is about to take a different path once again…

The trilogy revolves around three women who come to live and work together at Carson Street. Each is searching for meaning and purpose in their lives as well as holding onto the belief that their struggles in the underbelly of Bath will not last forever – maybe finding love is possible for them, too…

BLURB

From grieving widow…

  1. After her merchant husband saved her from a life of prostitution, Louisa Hill was briefly happy as a housewife in Bristol. But then a constable arrives at her door. Her husband has been found hanged in a Bath hotel room, a note and a key to a property in Bath the only things she has left of him. And now the debt collectors will come calling.

To a new life as a madam.

Forced to leave everything she knows behind, Louisa finds more painful betrayals waiting for her in the house in Bath. Left with no means of income, Louisa knows she has nothing to turn to but her old way of life. But this time, she’ll do it on her own terms – by turning her home into a brothel for upper class gentleman. And she’s determined to spare the girls she saves from the street the horrors she endured in the past.

Enlisting the help of Jacob Jackson, a quiet but feared boxer, to watch over the house, Louisa is about to embark on a life she never envisaged. Can she find the courage to forge this new path?

A Widow’s Vow is the first in a gripping and gritty new Victorian saga series from Rachel Brimble. You won’t be able to put it down!

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

Louisa Hill collapsed onto the chintz sofa in the dockside house she shared with her husband and her loyal friend, Nancy. ‘Well, the windows are clean and the silver polished. We have, indeed, managed a good day’s work. What do you say to a trip to the tea shop?’

‘I’d say it’s a miracle you’re allowing yourself a treat.’ Nancy raised her eyebrows as she puffed up a cushion, her auburn curls falling around her temples. ‘You seem to be trying a little too hard to prove yourself to that husband of yours these days, Lou. You do believe he loves you, don’t you?’

‘Of course.’ Louisa stood and smoothed her hands over her apron, uncomfortable with how Nancy’s question poked so unerringly at her insecurities. ‘I just owe him so much. The least I can do in return is keep a nice house for him.’

‘Hmm, and an exciting bed whenever he deems to come home.’

Irritated, Louisa walked to the parlour door and tightly clenched the handle. ‘I’ll never forget what Anthony did when he rescued me and neither should you considering he agreed to take you in, too.’

‘I agree, but how long do you intend paying him back? He gets more than enough for what he gives you.’

Louisa swallowed as guilt that she’d secretly been feeling the same way over the last few weeks pressed down on her. ‘How can you say that?’

Nancy planted her hands on her hips, her grey eyes blazing with annoyance. ‘Because he’s constantly taking advantage of you, that’s why. It’s one thing to gift you money and give you a roof over your head, but respect should come with that, too.’

‘He does respect me.’ She fought against the doubt that hovered around her heart. ‘He treats me just as any man would treat his wife.’

‘That’s because you are his wife.’ Nancy glared. ‘Why can’t you remember that? You’re not his whore anymore.’

Locking gazes with her friend, Louisa had no doubt the fiery, streetwise rebelliousness in Nancy’s eyes was mirrored in her own. No matter how much they battled to maintain the carefully tended, middle-class veneer they each adopted whenever out and about on the pretty squares and streets of Bristol, who she and Nancy had once been never shifted far from their minds.

Louisa marched into the hallway, her gaze darting over the high-polished side tables, the sparkling mirror and porcelain trinkets lining a high shelf. Every painting was dusted, every square of the runner beaten and brushed until the pile was plush, every tile mopped and buffed until it shone.

But it didn’t matter how much she scrubbed and cleaned, or how often she argued with Nancy, Louisa never felt she could completely wash away her previous life as a whore. Yet, if Anthony had dismissed Louisa’s previous occupation, shouldn’t she, too? She and Nancy both deserved to shed the skin that had enveloped them through misfortune and circumstances beyond their control.

Nancy’s footsteps came…

You can buy A Widow’s Vow from all good book sellers, including– mybook.to/widowsvow

BIO

Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 25 published novels including the Ladies of Carson Street series, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

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

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

Website: https://rachelbrimble.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelBrimble

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

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

Many thanks for your opening lines, Rachel.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

 

Opening Lines: A Cornish Wedding

This week, I thought I’d share some on my own Opening Lines.

Here’s the beginning of A Cornish Wedding (previously published as Abi’ Neighbour)

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

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?

FIRST 500 WORDS

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.

The untidy, clipboard-wielding woman started talking as soon as she climbed out of her Mini….

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 P.J. Reed: Bluebell

We are venturing into the world of children’s fiction in Opening Lines today. So, grab a cuppa, sit back, and channel your inner eight year old with P.J.Reed.

The Fairies of Therwen Wood is about Bluebell; the loveable, flawed but dynamic fairy, who fights evil, and grants wishes. Most of the time, she helps children with their problems like changing schools, problems with friends, being different etc without even using her magic. The Fairies of Therwen Wood is a modern fantasy adventure with a slice of steampunk.

I wrote the book as a first step into the world of fantasy for children on their fantasy journey towards J. K. Rowling and J. R. R. Tolkien. I attend many fantasy comic conventions as an adult fantasy author. They are huge family occasions, and I had many parents come and ask me if my books were suitable for children. Unfortunately, the language in my adult high fantasy books is too complicated for most children. Therefore, I decided to write a children’s fantasy series, give them a book full of excitement that makes them want to read more and to take them into a magical land away from the stresses of their everyday life.

The Fairies of Therwen Wood stars Bluebell, who was my daughter’s tooth fairy. As well as giving a pound per tooth, Bluebell also used to write my daughter a letter about her exciting adventures and her battles against the evil imps, who wanted to steal their magic dust. My daughter loved these tales and still remembers them today, so I decided to use Bluebell as my inspiration when writing my children’s books.

FIRST 500 WORDS –

Bluebell woke up and smiled. She was now one of the wish fairies of Therwen Wood.

Her job was to grant wishes to boys and girls. She hoped to be asked to grant some really good wishes, like visiting a chocolate factory, or meeting pirates in the Caribbean.

Bluebell frowned and crossed her fingers, as she wished her new job would go well. She did not want to get in trouble again.

Once in training, she had been sent to grant a wish for a little boy called Peter.

He had been a very good boy helping his mother look after his new baby sister, and it was his fifth birthday, so the Office of Wishes had decided to grant Peter a wish. Peter had wished for a dragon. So, Bluebell had made a green Irish dragon appear in his bedroom.

Unfortunately, the wish had not gone well. Peter had really wanted a pet lizard and not an actual, living dragon.

The dragon had roared once and then his green cheeks and tummy had turned fiery red.

The boy had screamed and dived underneath his bed.

Bluebell had screamed and hidden behind the plastic dinosaur on his window ledge, as a stream of fire came out of the surprised dragon’s mouth. A large black hole appeared in Peter’s brand new dinosaur curtains. He had cried and Bluebell had felt very bad.

Madame Primrose, Bluebell’s wish teacher had appeared in Peter’s bedroom, wearing a fluffy pink dress and a pair of fluffy pink slippers. Madame Primrose had sent the dragon back to its cave. Then, she had cast a memory spell on the little boy, so that he would forget all about the dragon.

Madame Primrose had shouted at Bluebell for being a silly fairy and granting bad wishes. Then she had vanished in a puff of pink smoke.

Bluebell shivered. Madame Primrose was a rather angry fairy teacher. The tip of her nose went bright red when she shouted, and it had gone even redder, when Bluebell had told her about it.

‘I must remember not to grant any bad wishes today,’ said Bluebell, as she lay in her conker shell bed. It was so warm and soft that she did not want to get up.

The sun shone through the windows of her little red and white spotted toadstool house. The flowers in the pots that lined her bedroom window opened their yellow petals, yawned, and danced in the sunlight. It was a lovely, hot, summery day.

Bluebell groaned and dragged herself out of bed. She could not be late. It was her first day as an official Therwen Wood wish fairy.

Bluebell went to her bathroom and touched the little white cloud which hung above the door. The cloud grew bigger and sparkled. Then the cloud started to rain. It was a lovely, warm, magical rain. Bluebell jumped under the cloud and the water ran over her.

On a shelf, under the bathroom window, was a row of…

BUY LINK – https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Bluebell-Fairies-Therwen-P-J-Reed

BIO

P.J. Reed

Writer of Warlocks. Destroyer of Worlds.

She is an award-winning, multi-genre author with books ranging from high fantasy, horror, to haiku. She writes the Richard Radcliffe Paranormal Investigations series and the Bad Decisions series. Reed is also the editor and chief paranormal investigator for the Exmoor Noir newsletter.

Finally, she has written a series of seasonal haiku collections – Haiku Yellow, Haiku Gold, Haiku Summer, and Haiku Ice as well as Flicker one sizzling senryu collection.

Reed lives in Devon, England with her two daughters, one rescue dog, and one feral cat called Sammy.

For more information about Reed visit one of her websites below but choose wisely!

The Dark Worlds  – https://pjreedwriting.wixsite.com/darkworlds

Poetry – https://pjreedwriting.wixsite.com/poetry

Fantasy – https://pjreedwriting.wixsite.com/fantasy

Twitter – https://twitter.com/PJReed_author

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/P.J.ReedWriting

***

Many thanks for sharing the beginning of Bluebell’s adventure with us today, Pam.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Happy Birthday: A Cornish Wedding

It’s a year this week since A Cornish Wedding (previously published as Abi’s Neighbour), was published by Headline!

Introducing 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 – life in Sennon Cove is about to take on a whole new set of challenges.

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 Kate Lord Brown: A Summer at the Castle

This week, I’m delighted to welcome friend and fellow novelist, Kate Lord Brown to my Opening Lines feature. Kate’s latest novel, A Summer at the Castle is out now. This feature is part of her ongoing blog tour.

BLURB

‘Baking, romance and thrills – what more could anyone ask for?’ My Weekly

Scandal, secrets and strawberries.
A recipe for disaster…

Every summer, Diana Hughes organises a famous baking competition at her beautiful castle in the south west of Ireland, to raise funds for its upkeep. But this year, amongst the bunting and scrumptious cakes, everything is turning out a little differently than planned!

First, her daughter Darcy arrives on the doorstep unexpectedly, after running away to the sunny hills of California with a broken heart a year ago. Then a mysterious stranger tries to sabotage the competition. Diana and Darcy soon find out that the past is quickly catching up with them – and it’s about to turn their lives upside down!

FIRST 500 WORDS OF A SUMMER AT THE CASTLE

STRAWBERRIES FOR BREAKFAST

‘Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.’

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Chapter 1

Kenmare, Ireland

Present Day

The place where her mother had been found sprawled beneath the apple tree could not be seen from the road. The spot was shielded by dense foliage, glimmering in the August morning light, fresh from the rain. So many greens, Darcy thought, leaning her head against the cool glass of the bus window, craning her neck to see the last of the orchard. All she saw was a blur of leaves beyond the stone walls, and a double rainbow leading her home to Kenmare Bay. The boughs of the apple trees were laden still, speckled with deep red fruit. No wonder it took so long to find her. Darcy shook the last strawberry from the brown paper bag into her tanned hand, bit into it. The bus wove along the silver ribbon of the coast road, overtaken from time to time by Porsches and gleaming four-by-fours speeding towards Castle Dromquinna to sample the famous lunchtime tasting menu.

‘What were you thinking? Climbing trees at your age,’ Darcy had said, when her mother’s call woke her a couple of days before. She remembered making camps in the orchard as a child, white sheets draped over low branches glowing gold with lantern light at sunset, the smell of sausages cooking over a wood fire.

‘I’m only sixty-five, plenty of tree-climbing years left in me yet,’ Diana said, the transatlantic line crackling. ‘I was reaching for an apple, that was all. Such an apple. The most luscious, shiny red apple, just out of reach. I slipped and fell, simple as that.’

‘And what if no one had found you? I heard, you know. You were half dead they said, stretched out under the tree like a corpse.’

‘Well they did find me, didn’t they, thanks to Conor’s three-legged hound.’ Diana had broken off to shout instructions to someone in the kitchen. ‘It’s a grand crop this year. Come home, Darcy,’ she said. ‘Please, I need you.’

‘In the kitchen?’

‘Not exactly. Conor’s back now. I’ll explain once you get here.’

Darcy reached across and rang the bell as the entrance to Castle Dromquinna’s driveway appeared on the road ahead. ‘Would you stop here for me? Thank you,’ she said, dragging a large cerise suitcase along the gangway. She swung the case out and jumped down to the verge, her silver Converse splashing in a puddle iridescent with oil. The bus pulled away and she stood for a moment with her back to the Castle, letting the silence seep into her, remembering. She lowered her white Ray-Ban Wayfarers from her dark hair and waited. It smelt like she remembered, yet everything seemed changed. Or is it me that’s changed? A breeze toyed with the hem of her white sundress, and she felt the hairs at the nape of her neck rise. She lifted the collar of her denim jacket and glanced …

BUY LINKS

Bookshop.org https://uk.bookshop.org/books/a-summer-at-the-castle/9781398704343

Waterstones https://www.waterstones.com/book/a-summer-at-the-castle/kate-lord-brown/9781398704343

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Summer-Castle-Kate-Lord-Brown/dp/1398704342/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

BIO

Kate grew up in a wild and beautiful part of Devon, and was first published while at school. After reading Philosophy at Durham University, and Art History at the Courtauld Institute, she worked as an international art consultant, curating collections for palaces and embassies, and she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2000 Kate and her husband left their careers and home in London behind to follow the dreams of a lifetime – they travelled round the world and relocated to Valencia, Spain; there he learnt to fly, retraining as a pilot and Kate began to write full time.

Kate was a finalist in ITV’s The People’s Author competition, and won the regional BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition. She has a MA in Creative Writing, and ‘The Perfume Garden’, her US debut, was inspired by the years she lived in Spain. It was shortlisted for Romantic Novel of the Year by the RNA and last year Kate was awarded a Highly Commended in their Elizabeth Goudge Trophy contest.

Kate gained a MA in creative writing from the Manchester Writing School. Her novels have been translated into many languages, and have been top ten bestsellers in the US/Canada, UK, Germany, Norway and Spain. Kate wrote the first book club column in the Middle East for two years, and has published journalism for the Daily Telegraph, Good Housekeeping and Conde Nast Traveller on everything from writing and expat life, to Arab horses, perfume and Japanese festivals.

After many years living overseas, Kate has recently returned to the south-west where she lives on Exmoor with her family and a menagerie of animals rescued in the Middle East.

Find out more at www.katelordbrown.com

Follow @katelordbrown on Insta and Twitter

Many thanks to Kate for sharing her opening lines today.

Happy reading, 

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Deborah Swift: The Poison Keeper

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

The Poison Keeper.

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

Naples 1633

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIRST 500 WORDS

PROLOGUE

Palermo, Sicily. June 1633

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

She cocked her head. No answer, again.

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

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

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

 

5 Interesting facts about Giulia Tofana:

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

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

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

BIO

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading,

Jenny x

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

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