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

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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

Opening Lines: Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange

Drumroll please!!

Book three in the #MillGrange series is OUT TODAY!!

Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange.

Excited? Me? YES!!

Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange

BLURB

Helen Rogers has been lying to herself over her feelings for Tom since the moment they met. And for good reason; not only are they colleagues, working together with the archaeology groups at Mill Grange, but her sabbatical is almost over and she’ll soon have to return to Bath.

Tom Harris knows he’s falling in love with Helen. How could he not? She’s smart, kind and great with his son Dylan. But with his ex-wife suddenly offering him a chance to spend more time with Dylan, and the staff of Mill Grange about to host a wedding, everything else has to be put to one side. Even his feelings for a certain archaeologist.

As Helen’s time at Mill Grange runs short, the two are forced to consider what matters most…

Set in the beautiful Exmoor countryside, on the border of Devon and Somerset, Spring Blossoms, continues the story of Thea, Shaun, Sam, Tina, Mable and Bert – as well as Helen and Tom, who were newcomers to the house in Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

Helen cradled the stone in her palm. The size of a cookie, grey in colour, it was jagged on one side and smooth on the other. Once upon a time it had been part of the bedrock; a tiny fragment of the geology that had formed the basis of the village of Upwich and its surrounds. Now, however, it felt like the most precious possession she’d ever owned.

She hadn’t had the heart to tell Dylan that it wasn’t an exciting find from the Roman fortlet they were excavating in Mill Grange’s garden. The five-year-old had been so thrilled to be able to help his dad, Tom, when they’d peeled the tarpaulin off the archaeological site after a frosty winter, that when he’d picked up the stone and run to her, his face wide with pleasure, she’d held it with a reverence normally reserved for the crown jewels.

The boy’s eyes had got wider and wider as she’d told him about the land beneath Exmoor, how it had formed, and how the stone he’d found was part of that.

Helen had been conscious of Tom’s eyes on her as his son had sat on her knee and listened with rapt attention to every word she said.

Laying the stone back on her desk, tucked neatly in the corner of the store room, Helen sighed. She had come to Mill Grange to take a break from the pressures of her management job. She had not come to fall in love – especially not with Tom – a man with a horrendous track record with woman – and a son.

Chapter One

Monday March 16th

‘Do you honestly think I’ll need eighteen pairs of knickers? It’s the Cotswolds, not the Kalahari.’

Thea scooped the entire contents of her underwear drawer onto the bed as Shaun flung open a suitcase.

‘No, I think you’ll need thirty pairs or more, but as you only have eighteen, then pack them.’

‘Seriously?’ Thea eyed some of her older undies with suspicion. The greying fabric had been consigned to the back of the drawer to be used in emergencies only, although now she thought about it, she wasn’t sure what that emergency might be. An archaeological excavation in the middle of nowhere, perhaps?

‘You know what it’s like on a dig. Laundry facilities only happen to other people. A flushing toilet can be a luxury sometimes.’

‘Won’t the local village have a launderette?’

‘It’s the Cotswolds, Thea. The people who can afford to live there don’t need launderettes.’ Shaun winked. ‘I tend to wring out my smalls in the nearest public toilet sink or a bucket of cold water.’

Thea laughed. ‘I used to do that when I was a student on excavation.’ Stuffing every pair of socks she owned into the suitcase, she added, ‘Age has softened me!’

‘You’ve got used to manor house living, that’s what it is.’ As Shaun threw a pile of t-shirts onto the bed, he caught a glimpse of anxiety crossing Thea’s face. ‘I was…

***

You don’t have to have read Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange or Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange, to enjoy Spring Blossoms, although you’d probably get more from the story if you have.

If you’d like to hear me read ‘live’ from Spring Blossoms you can do so by clicking this link at 11am this morning- Coffee Time Story Sessions with the Exeter Authors Association | Facebook 

Then at 2pm today I’ll be live on my Facebook page, chatting about the Mill Grange series. Jenny Kane | Facebook

If you would like to buy an e-copy of Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, you can purchase a copy from all good retailers, including…

The paperback version of Spring Blossoms will be out on 10th June!

Many thanks for dropping by today,

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Return to Mill Grange : Autumn Leaves

In two days time, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, will be published!

To help celebrate, yesterday I shared a little about Thea Thomas, who we first met in book one of the series, Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange. Today, I’m sharing an extract from the second book in the series,

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange.

Blurb

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t but adore.

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

Extract

Prologue

September 1st

Rolling onto his side, Sam unfolded the letter he’d hidden inside his pillowcase. It was the third time he’d woken that night, and the third time he’d reached for the pale blue Basildon Bond envelope. He held it against his nose. The scent of his mother’s White Satin perfume was beginning to fade.

This was the fourth letter to arrive from Malvern House in the last month. One a week.

He had no idea how his mother had found out where he was living, nor why she wanted to see him after so long.

The letters, almost identical each time, said very little. Just that she and his father would love him to visit if he felt up to it. Sam groaned. ‘If he felt up to it’ was his mother’s way of asking if the debilitating claustrophobia he’d developed while serving in the forces had magically gone away.

As he slid the letter into its envelope, Sam’s gaze dropped from the tent’s canvas roof to Tina’s sleeping body.

The past was the past. He had a future now. He had no intention of looking back.

Chapter One

September 1st

‘Take pity on an old man, lass.’

Bert fluttered his grey eyelashes as he helped Tina carry a large cardboard box full of tea, coffee, milk and biscuits from her car into Mill Grange’s kitchen. ‘I love Mabel to pieces, but she is driving me mad.’

Tina laughed. ‘But it’s only been two months since the restoration project came to an end. Doesn’t Mabel have heaps of committee work to do? She runs every social club this side of Exmoor.’

As he placed the box on the oak table that dominated the manor’s kitchen, Bert’s eyes lost their usual optimistic shine. ‘Since Mill Grange was sold Mabel’s been so aimless. She led the volunteer restorers here for over five years and now that’s over…’

‘Mabel doesn’t mind Sam owning this place, does she?’

‘Not for a minute. For a little while it was all she could talk about. She’s that proud of your young man for buying the very thing that frightens him. For taking his fear of being inside by the scruff of the neck and buying a house to be enjoyed by other people.’

Tina put her box of groceries on the side and laid a hand on Bert’s shoulder. ‘I’ll talk to Sam. There must be something Mabel could do around here.’ She played with her pigtails as she thought. ‘I’m not sure we can afford to pay her yet though.’

‘You wouldn’t have to. Making her feel part of the team again is all I’m asking for.’ Bert’s smile returned to his eyes. ‘How’s it going here anyway? Sam getting into the house at all, or is he still overseeing things from that screen thing outside?’

‘He hasn’t been inside the manor since he bought it.’ Tina focused her attention on emptying the boxes of biscuits ready for Mill Grange’s first visitors, hiding her face from Bert so she wouldn’t see her concern….

Available from NookKobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US.

On Thursday, Spring Blossoms comes out!

If you’d like to join in my launch day celebrations, I will be on Facebook and Twitter all day, chatting about what I love about springtime – plus, I’ll be doing a live reading from the book at 11a.m.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Ashley Lister: Cursed (Blog Tour: Day Four)

This week, I’m delighted to welcome back the brilliant Ashley Lister, with the opening lines to his brand new release,

Cursed.

This blog forms part of Ashley’s blog tour for the book – so make sure you check out all the other stops.

Over to you Ashley…

Below are the opening lines to Cursed, the third in my series of dark tales from Innsmouth.

To give a little background, these stories started with the novella Fearless. This was a story that started in Innsmouth University, a fictional world roughly based on the writings of HP Lovecraft. Fearless was followed by Unearthed which remained in the same disquieting location.

This opening scene introduces us to two members of the Explorers Club, an urbex group who break into abandoned locations and share stories of the supernatural.

BLURB

Innsmouth University’s Explorers Club meet once a month to share stories of the supernatural. They meet in empty houses, abandoned buildings and derelict churches. They meet in the dead of night. They tell stories of the impossible, the unbelievable and the most terrible. And now, it appears, their meetings have been cursed.

FIRST 500 WORDS

A fragrance of neglect hung in the air. It was the odour of second-hand clothes in charity shops; the subtle stink of long-forgotten corridors in derelict buildings; and the smell of uninhabited houses.

“This feels wrong,” Stuart whispered. “This is tantamount to burglary.”

“It’s not burglary,” David Middleton assured him. “We’re not stealing anything.”

“I didn’t say it was burglary,” Stuart said. His voice was low and soft, but not so quiet that it hid a note of testiness. “I said it was tantamount to burglary. Tantamount.”

“Did you know,” David began, “here in the UK, only 14 arrests are made for every 100 burglaries?”

Stuart eyed David sceptically. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

David shrugged. “I only mention it because, even though what we’re doing isn’t technically burglary, I thought you might be reassured by the fact that so few burglaries result in prosecution.”

They stood in the majestic hallway of the abandoned Porter house. Dark blue shadows swathed them like a shroud. David knew better than to turn on any lights. That was a sure way to draw attention to the fact that the property now hosted illicit visitors. His eyes were used to the lack of light and he could make out the stripe of the regency wallpaper, the flow of the stairs up to the galleried landing and the hanging presence of an unlit chandelier above.

“Why is this place empty?” Stuart asked, peering myopically into the gloom around them.

“It’s a mystery,” David admitted. “The place was owned by a husband and wife: Mr and Mrs Porter. He went missing one night whilst he was out walking the dog.”

“What? Was he murdered or did he do a runner or something?”

David shook his head. “No. Just went missing.”

“Bloody hell,” Stuart muttered.

“Two days later his wife disappeared.”

Stuart sucked an exclamatory breath of surprise. “That’s terrible.”

“It really is,” David agreed. “The executors have put this place on the market at an inflated price, trying to cash in on a lucrative sale, but that’s not going to happen.” He smiled sadly, an expression that couldn’t be seen in the darkness, as he added, “They’re trying to sell an overpriced property in the middle of a very picky buyers’ market.” Glancing around the dark shadows he said, “This property is going to stay empty for a long time.”

Stuart considered him suspiciously. “You seem to know a lot about it.”

David shrugged. “The property is being managed by Murdoch’s, the estate agent where I work.” He lightly jangled a set of keys and added, “That’s how we were able to get in here so easily.” He could have added that it was because he had gained access using his employer’s keys that their presence on the property wasn’t technically burglary or breaking and entering, but he figured there was no sense reminding Stuart about the source of his earlier unease.

Stuart was looking around, his night-blind gaze trying to scour the…

BUY LINKS

Cursed

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cursed-dark-tale-Innsmouth-Tales-ebook/dp/B08RXJYQLD/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=cursed+ashley+lister&qid=1613210277&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Unearthed

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unearthed-Dark-Tale-Innsmouth-Tales-ebook/dp/B08LZJ8JDZ/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=9CF5VEG9T1EEWE66737E

Fearless

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fearless-dark-tale-Innsmouth-Tales-ebook/dp/B08JVKJKCZ/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=9CF5VEG9T1EEWE66737E

BIO

Ashley Lister is a prolific author of fiction, having written more than fifty full length novels and over a hundred short stories. Aside from regularly blogging about poetry and writing in general, Ashley also teaches creative writing, language and literature in Lancashire, England.

 

Many thanks Ashley,

Happy Reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Victoria Dowd: Body on the Island

I’m delighted to welcome author, and fellow member of the Exeter |Author’s Association, Victoria Dowd, to my site today, to share the Opening Lines from her forthcoming novel, Body on the Island.

Blurb

An uninhabited island.
Ten stranded strangers.
No way to escape.

Ursula Smart (not her real name), realising therapy alone cannot teach her how to survive this life, is determined to make some changes. She signs herself up for a survival course — along with her mother, aunts Charlotte and Mirabelle and Bridget.
But the promised gentle weekend of foraging and camping in the Outer Hebrides swiftly turns into a desperate battle for survival.
Their boat capsizes. Washed up on an uninhabited island, the Smart women face starvation, freezing conditions and — worse — no Wi-Fi.
Then the murders begin.
Someone is killing them off one by one. Will the Smarts escape or will they be next?

A DARKLY COMIC GOLDEN AGE MURDER MYSTERY
Victoria Dowd’s brilliant whodunnit is perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, Anthony Horowitz, Faith Martin and Stuart Turton.

FIRST 500 WORDS

As I’m drowning, I see my Dad’s murdered eyes below me. They are wide in warning. I hear his voice below the waves. ‘Do not come over to this side. There is nothing good here, Ursula. Stay. Stay alive.’

‘Stay alive,’ I call back. ‘Stay alive.’

‘I’m trying!’ It’s not Dad who answers but Mother’s voice shouting back at me, her mouth filling with icy saltwater, before she is thrown out from me on another high wave.

‘Don’t die!’ I shout.

‘That had occurred to me.’ Her eyes are wide like Dad’s. She spins out from me as if she’s been carelessly thrown away.

‘Mother!’ I scream. ‘Hold my hand.’

She reaches and grabs me. We are so small among this broken sea. The freezing spray pits my skin.

‘Ursula,’ Mother shouts. ‘Stay with me!’ Always a command. She scans the mineral black waters quickly. ‘Charlotte?’ Her mouth is wide but the sound is washed away in another wave.

I see a hand rise up across the bow of the listing boat. Aunt Charlotte’s fist, strong and capable above the waves.

‘Mirabelle?’ Mother calls.

No response.

‘Mirabelle?’

There are heads floating all around, rising high on the waves before plunging down fast, rollercoastered against the wet shale sky. The water is bitter, and I’m pushed under again. The cold shocks my head as if I’m being baptized in ice water. I can’t feel or move my limbs, yet I’m moving so fast that my eyes, raw with burning salt, are unable to process the changing snapshots of sky and water. I catch a glimpse of Mother’s face again, her eyes are ripe with fear.

Somewhere in another great swell, I lose Mother’s hand.

‘Mother? Mother? Mother!’

I am that lost child in a crowd again, feeling her hand slip from mine.

I’m falling.

I hear screams and see the faces of my other travelling companions full of panic. They don’t seem to see me. I lock with two bewildered eyes for a moment. A woman’s, sea-green and two perfect mirrors of the water. Her head turns before I can make out the face. Then the hands grab her.

I’m thrown high again by another wave.

The hands are on Green Eyes’ shoulders, making their way spider-fast to the crown of her head. Her eyes are wide and pleading now. Fear, desperation reflect on their surface. Then the thin-boned hands push down on her delicate head and the green eyes disappear beneath a spume of white water. Her small hands reach up and twist with tiny dancer’s fingers.

Whoever reaches out and pushes the woman down again has their back to me.

She struggles free for a moment, her mouth gasping above the water, her head tilted back against the waves. The mouth lingers open as if caught on a word that is instantly drowned out. Her head is forced below once more.

In that moment, it’s as if I’m looking at them from the other side of a window. I…

***

If you would like to preorder your copy of Body on the Island, you can find it via all good book retailers including

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08W9F5ZKC

Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08W9F5ZKC

Bio

Victoria’s novel, Body on the Island, will be published on 23rd February. It’s the sequel to her debut novel, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder, which was published in 2020 by Joffe Books and was Classic Mystery’s Book of the Year. It is also a finalist in The People’s Book Prize.

She is an award-winning short story writer, winning the Gothic Fiction prize for short fiction in 2019 and was runner up in The New Writer’s writer of the year award. She has been short listed by Writers’ Forum and long-listed for The Willesden Herald International Short Story Competition. Her work has been published in various literary journals, including Aesthetica: A Review of Contemporary Artists; Between These Shores Literary and Arts Journal; Dream Catcher magazine; and Gold Dust.

She also writes the Adapting Agatha series on her blog which can be found at https://victoriadowd.com/ . She has spoken at various literary festivals about Agatha Christie.

Victoria is originally from Yorkshire and graduated in law from Cambridge University. She was a criminal defence barrister for many years until finally hanging up her wig for more fictional crimes.

Website https://victoriadowd.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/victoria_dowd

FB https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=625505478

Victoria Dowd | Facebook

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/dowdvictoria/

***

Many thanks for popping by with your fabulous opening lines, Victoria.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Judith Barrow: The Memory

This week, I’m delighted to welcome, Judith Barrow, to share the Opening Lines from her incredibly moving novel,

The Memory.

Over to you Judith…

Many people have asked me what was the inspiration for The Memory and my answer is always – memories: memories of being a carer for two of my aunts who lived with us, memories of losing a friend in my childhood; a friend who, although at the time I didn’t realise, was a Downs’ Syndrome child. But why I started to write the story; a story so different from my other four books, I can’t remember. Because it was something I’d begun years ago and was based around the journal I’d kept during that decade of looking after my relatives.

But what did begin to evolve when I settled down to writing The Memory was the realisation of why I’d been so reluctant to delve too far into my memories. The isolation, the loneliness, that Irene Hargreaves, the protagonist, endures; despite being married to Sam, her loving husband, dragged up my own feelings of being alone so much as a child. That awareness of always being on the outside; looking in on other families, relationships and friendships had followed me; had hidden deep inside my subconscious. And now, as a contented wife and mother, with steady enduring friendships, it unsettled me. Many people, and as a creative writing tutor I’m one, say that writing is cathartic. Working through Irene’s memories; especially that one memory that has ruled her life, made me acknowledge my own. And that’s fine. I always say to my students, if you don’t feel the emotions as you write, then neither will your reader. In The Memory I’m hoping the reader will sense the poignant, sad times with Irene, but will also rejoice with her in the happier memories.

BLURB

Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.

Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.

“…A book that is both powerful and moving, exquisitely penetrating. I am drawn in, empathising so intensely with Irene that I feel every twinge of her frustration, resentment, utter weariness and abiding love.” Thorne Moore

“Judith Barrow’s greatest strength is her understanding of her characters and the times in which they live; The Memory is a poignant tale of love and hate in which you will feel every emotion experienced by Irene.” Terry Tyler

The new novel from the bestselling author of the Howarth family saga.

FIRST 500 WORDS.

Chapter One 2001 – Irene 

There’s a chink of light from the streetlamp coming through the vertical blinds. It spreads across the duvet on my mother’s bed and onto the pillow next to her head. I reach up and pull the curtains closer together. The faint line of light is still there, but blurred around the edges.

Which is how I feel. Blurred around the edges. Except, for me, there is no light.

I move around the bed, straightening the corners, making the inner softness of the duvet match the shape of the outer material; trying to make the cover lie flat but of course I can’t. The small round lump in the middle is my mother. However heavily her head lies on the pillow, however precisely her arms are down by her sides, her feet are never still. The cover twitches until centimetre by centimetre it slides to one side towards the floor like the pink, satin eiderdown used to do on my bed as a child.

In the end I yank her feet up and tuck the duvet underneath. Tonight of all nights I want her to look tidy. I want everything to be right.

She doesn’t like that and opens her eyes, giving up the pretence of being asleep. Lying face upwards, the skin falling back on her cheekbones, her flesh is extraordinarily smooth, pale. Translucent almost. Her eyes are vague under the thick lines of white brows drawn together.

I ignore her; I’m bone weary. That was one of my father’s phrases; he’d come in from working in the bank in the village and say it.

‘I’m bone weary, Lil.’ He’d rub at the lines on his forehead. ‘We had to stay behind for half an hour all because that silly woman’s till didn’t add up.’ Or ‘… because old Watkins insisted I show the new lad twice how I leave my books at night; just so he knows, as though I might not go in tomorrow.’ Old Watkins was the manager, a job my father said he could do standing on his head but never got the chance.

And then, one day, he didn’t go into the bank. Or the day after that. Or ever again.

 

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

‘I can’t go on, Mum.’ I lift my arms from my side, let them drop; my hands too substantial, too solid to hold up. They’re strong – dependable, Sam, my husband, always says. I just think they’re like shovels and I’ve always been resentful that I didn’t inherit my mother’s slender fingers. After all I got her fat arse and thick thighs, why not the nice bits?

I’ve been awake for over a day. I glance at the clock with the extra-large numbers, bought when she could still tell the time. Now it’s just something else for her to stare at, to puzzle…

You can buy The Memory from all good retailers, including-

Honno Page: https://bit.ly/2XL0zCi

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2klIJzN

BIO

Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for over forty years.

She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.

LINKS

Website: https://judithbarrowblog.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3kMYXRU

LinkedIn: https://bit.ly/3oNJZxq

***

Many thanks for sharing your Opening Lines today, Judith.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

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