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

Category: Historical fiction Page 1 of 20

Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Nanny’s Secret

This week’s Opening Lines welcomes back the fabulous, Jan Baynham, with her brand new novel, Her Nanny’s Secret.

Over to you Jan…

‘Her Nanny’s Secret’ is my third novel. It has all the features which are becoming my trademark – a dual timeline, contrasting locations, family secrets and forbidden love. In this book, there is also the theme of social class and the role of women.

The inspiration for the story came to me through a conversation with my cousin after my aunt’s funeral which opened with the words, “You know you could have been a Thomas not an Evans, don’t you? I can tell you now mum’s gone…” Puzzled, I asked her to explain. Apparently, my grandfather was the illegitimate son of a female groom and a wealthy landowner who owned the stables where she worked. The ‘what-ifs’ started in my head. What if you fell for someone from a different social class? What if you had to keep it a secret from everyone close to you for fear of losing your home and your family’s livelihood? I set my story in 1941 when war was raging in Europe.

The novel takes place in two locations I know well. Rural mid-Wales where I was born and grew up was relatively untouched by the horrors of actual war action but for the families whose husbands, lovers and sons died in active service, the grief and sense of loss was very real. I tried to create images of what it would have been like living in a small rural village surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape during wartime and then again in 1963. In contrast, my character, Odile, lived in occupied Northern France, playing an important role in the French Résistance in 1943. When Annie and Clara visit the same area twenty years later in order to find answers, I was able to draw on what I’d experienced on annual family holidays to France and years of hosting children and adults from our twin-town to try to give authenticity. I hope I’ve done justice to the country I love, its people, culture and language.

***

BLURB

How far would you go to save the person you loved the most?
It’s 1941, and Annie Beynon has just become the first stable girl for the most powerful family in her Welsh village. Whilst her gift for working with horses is clear, there are some who are willing to make her life very difficult on the Pryce estate, simply for being a girl.
There are other – secret – ways Annie is defying conventions, too. As the war rages, and when Edmund, the heir to the Pryce fortune, leaves to join the RAF, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s secret is exposed. That is, until she makes a shocking decision.
It’s 1963 before Annie is able to face up to the secret she chose to keep over twenty years before. Justifying that decision takes her to Normandy in France, and an outcome she could never have expected …

FIRST 500 WORDS

June 1943, Normandy

At the end of the lane, the stone farmhouse appeared even greyer under the slate-coloured sky. The trees were laden with rain that had now stopped, and everywhere looked as bleak as Odile Lefèvre felt. It had been an exasperating morning. She’d collected the brochures as she’d been directed, but there’d been Germans everywhere. Men in grey uniforms on every corner of Ville de Roi, huddled together smoking their strong cigarettes, laughing and joking whilst her country men were starving and being murdered. When she’d caught the scent of the smoke from the Gauloises cigarettes, she’d shuddered in horror, remembering one particular German officer. Gustav. His name was imprinted in her innermost thoughts.

She’d crossed over to the other side of the street, carefully hiding her bundle of propaganda leaflets under her swagger coat with its hidden pockets and heard the crude comments she’d come to understand in their mother tongue. How she wished this war would end! People in the surrounding villages in this part of northern France were suffering hardship like other parts of the country, and Odile was determined to do her bit. The résistance movement was strong in her town, and the rural community she was a part of was a proud one. They would never give in or surrender. She told herself that every small gesture and undercover deed she could do for the cause was worth it. But no one knew how involved she was. There was one part of her résistance life she kept concealed, even from the movement’s members. Only Lucien, the leader of the local group, knew how she obtained the German soldiers’ secrets she reported to him …

Odile wheeled her bicycle into the large, covered barn at the side of the farmhouse. It was gloomy and shadowy at that time of the afternoon and Odile didn’t want to stay there any longer than she had to. She made her way to the wooden double doors to secure them for the night when she heard the rafters in the upstairs loft creaking. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end and her heart thumped. Several Nazis had been found hiding in neighbours’ barns. They’d been trying to find out who were resisting the occupation and were listening for evidence. She froze to the spot, hardly daring to breathe. Another creak. She wasn’t imagining it. What should she do? If she crept away, maybe she could warn her parents and they could get away… but where would they go? Horrific stories of what happened when local farmers had resisted the Germans had circulated around the villages from Sainte Marie-Hélène to Mont St Michel. Another sound in the floorboards above. Maybe it was just a rat. Odile was used to hearing and seeing vermin of all sizes living on the farm. Yes, that was it. She picked up a broom and crept up the stairs into the hayloft.

She felt her heart quicken as she neared…

BUYING LINKS

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Nannys-Secret-compelling-self-discovery-ebook/dp/B09BNP3S1P/

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/search?query=Her+Nanny%27s+Secret+Jan+baynham

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-nannys-secret-jan-baynham/1139955323?ean=2940162201946

BIO

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction.  From then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and shortlisted in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published.  Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full-length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in further depth and delve into their stories.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. She values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of her local RNA Chapter, Cariad, and a member of the Society of Authors.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Twitter – @JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit

Blog – Jan’s Journey into Writing https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/

Many thanks Jan, great opening lines.

Happy reading everyone, 

Jenny x

 

 

Seventeen years…and counting

This week sees the 17th anniversary of the first time I wrote a story since I was at school – a story that was (miraculously) published three months after it was written. That story was a work of erotica! A fact that, in itself, seems impossible to me – a shy, self-conscious, paranoiac woman who has never quite got used to the fact that people actually want to by her books!

I still maintain that- if that very first story hadn’t been published- I’d never have picked a pen up for fiction creation ever again.

As with any anniversary, I have found myself reflecting on all that has happened to me ‘writing wise’ over the past decade and a half. (A reflection that is echoed in this same blog over on my Kay page – which is strictly for over 18’s only.)

What a roller coaster ride the last 17 years have been. Or perhaps it’s been more of a carousel, a long roundabout of constant ups and downs, but where, ultimately you always end up back where started, and yet you can’t quite stop the ride to get off…?

My first piece of erotica was a written on a paper serviette in a café in Aberdeenshire. I swear the idea came to be from nowhere. I don’t know why I was suddenly thinking about a cross dressing male who liked to have his arse spanked- but that is exactly what happened.

It took some time for me to be brave enough to do anything with the story. It was a couple of weeks before it made it onto a proper piece of paper, and several more before it was typed onto my computer and edited into shape. The amount of courage it took me to look up erotica publishers on the Internet- and the covert way I went about it- seems laughable now.

I sent off my story- which I rather unimaginatively had called Jen and Tim to Cleis Press- never expecting to hear anything again, and in the meantime, I’d written a rather kinky poem called Regrets, which I sent to the much missed Oysters and Chocolate web site. Then, I told myself to leave it alone, to look after my children and take up knitting or something. I never expected to hear back from either publisher. I certainly never expected to get both pieces taken- and I truly never expected the buzz the feeling of acceptance gave me- that was it- I was hooked- an addict to the acceptance of a publisher for the rest of my life!

It took 40 short story and poetry publications before I was brave enough to write something longer, and when I did, I cheated.

The Collector is both an anthology and a short novel- a set of different erotic stories- one for every genre within the discipline. I learnt a great deal from writing that book- and I still hold it in great affection.

Now, 17 years later, with over 150 erotic short stories to my name, plus a great many novellas and novels, I am still addicted, still hungry for the ‘yes’ of a publisher. Having a back record to your name never guarantees a story will be taken, and nor should it. Each new tale I write has to be worth publication on its own merits; it shouldn’t be published just because KJB or Jenny Kane or Jennifer Ash wrote it.

Over the past 7 years, I’ve had less time to write erotica as I have been fortunate to have some success with my romantic fiction, my medieval crime and my audio scripts. Plus, a few years ago now, I set up a creative writing tutoring business called Imagine, (with my friend and colleague, Alison Knight)  – and am now in the fabulous position of seeing some of my #novelinayear students having their own works published.

With the #MillGrange series about to come to an end – with the publication of Winter Fires at Mill Grange in November – and a brand new series of romcoms already in production, it’s looking as if the next two years will be as busy as the last.

I also have several exciting ‘irons in the fire’ that I can’ tell you about yet. Believe me though- when I can, you’ll definitely hear the shouts of delight coming from my little corner of Devon.

I’m also busy with my Robin of Sherwood work. I’m SO excited about the annual coming out this November. I honestly never dreamt I’d have a story in an annual! This is the 1987 annual that was never written at the time – well, it has been now! You can order your copy here.

Here’s to the next year and beyond!

And a HUGE thank you to all of you for supporting me. Without readers there are no writers.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

 

The importance of book reviews

Over recent years I’ve been blessed with some lovely reviews for my novels. I’ve also had some stinkers – but you can’t please everyone. (Although, I try very hard to do just that.)

Reviews are vital to an author – the more you have (especially 4 and 5 star reviews) the better your chances are of being asked to write another book. So, if you have enjoyed a book by an author, write a review- that way, there is a higher chance of that person being asked to write another one.

If a book has over 100 reviews on Amazon, it is automatically given some promotion on their targeted email advertising.  As most authors can’t afford to pay for advertising – this is a big deal.

Not only that, reviews are the only way an author can tell if he or she is ‘hitting the spot’ or not. Obviously high book sales can tell you if your book is successful – but sale figures can do no more than reflect how good your marketing is. It is feedback from your readership that tells you if your stories are actually working.

If you wrote a thriller- did it thrill?

If you wrote a romance- did it melt the heart?

If you wrote a horror- did it give your reader nightmares?

Obviously this is a simplistic set of questions, but the point is- authors need to know – and the way to tell them is via reviews.

Good reviews improve our standing and our professional reputations. They improve our ratings on Amazon and equivalent book selling platforms. The more good reviews an author has, the better their overall sales will become.

I’m not saying that you should only give good reviews. If a book has disappointed, let you down and so on, then some constructive criticism can help an author- even though it might be difficult to swallow sometimes!

But you should not give a poor review because…

… of damaged delivery packaging. (That is nothing to do with the author)

…the book isn’t the one you meant to purchase.

…the book was a gift, and wasn’t something you wanted to read, etc etc….

My favourite 1 star review was for Another Cup of Coffee – it was complaining about all the sex in it.  This really confused me as, although there is a suggestion that sex might happen on two occasions within that 97,000 word book, there is no actual sex.  I dread to think what might have happened if that reviewer had accidentally purchased one of my Kay Jaybee books!!!

So – in short – if you enjoy a book – PLEASE review it.

It takes up to a year of hard work to write a book that you’ll read in a matter of days. Any positive feedback you can give helps us author types a great deal.

Whether you leave a review on the Amazon, WHSmith, Waterstones, Goodreads – or any other retailer/book promotion platform – every single one helps.

Every single one.

 

And with that…I have reviews to write for some books I’ve recently enjoyed!

THANK YOU

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

 

Holiday Read: Romancing Robin Hood

I’m off on my holidays for a week, and so I thought I’d leave you a little something to read while I was taking my annual laptop and pen break.

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance is based on the life of Dr Grace Harper, a medieval history lecturer with a major Robin Hood obsession. So much so, that instead of writing a textbook on medieval life, Grace is secretly writing a novella about a fourteenth century girl called Mathilda, who gets mixed up with a real outlaw family of the day, the Folvilles. (Which you can also read about within this same novel)

The problem is that Grace is so embroiled in her work and passion for outlaws, that real life is passing her by. A fact that the unexpected wedding announcement of her best friend Daisy, has thrown into sharp focus…

 

Extract from Romancing Robin Hood

…Daisy hadn’t grown up picturing herself floating down the aisle in an over-sequinned ivory frock, nor as a doting parent, looking after triplets and walking a black Labrador. So when, on an out-of-hours trip to the local vet’s surgery she’d met Marcus and discovered that love at first sight wasn’t a myth, it had knocked her for six.

She’d been on a late-night emergency dash to the surgery with an owl a neighbour had found injured in the road. Its wing had required a splint, and it was too big a job for only one pair of hands. Daisy had been more than a bit surprised when the locum vet had stirred some long-suppressed feeling of interest in her, and even more amazed when that feeling had been reciprocated.

It was all luck, sheer luck. Daisy had always believed that anyone meeting anybody was down to two people meeting at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, while both feeling precisely the right amount of chemistry. The fact that any couples existed at all seemed to Daisy to be one of the greatest miracles of humanity.

She pictured Grace, tucked away in her mad little office only living in the twenty-first century on a part-time basis. Daisy had long since got used to the fact that her closest friend’s mind was more often than not placed firmly in the 1300s. Daisy wished Grace would finish her book. It had become such a part of her. Such an exclusive aim that nothing else seemed to matter very much. Even the job she used to love seemed to be a burden to her now, and Daisy sensed that Grace was beginning to resent the hours it took her away from her life’s work. Maybe if she could get her book over with – get it out of her system – then Grace would stop living in the wrong timeframe.

Daisy knew Grace appreciated that she never advised her to find a bloke, settle down, and live ‘happily ever after,’ and she was equally grateful Grace had never once suggested anything similar to her. Now she had Marcus, however, Daisy had begun to want the same contentment for her friend, and had to bite her tongue whenever they spoke on the phone; something that happened less and less these days.

Grace’s emails were getting shorter too. The long paragraphs detailing the woes of teaching students with an ever-decreasing intelligence had blunted down to, ‘You ok? I’m good. Writing sparse. See you soon. Bye G x’

The book. That in itself was a problem. Grace’s publishers and colleagues, Daisy knew, were expecting an academic tome. A textbook for future medievalists to ponder over in the university libraries of the world. And, in time, that was exactly what they were going to get, but not yet, for Grace had confided to Daisy that this wasn’t the only thing she was working on, and her textbook was coming a poor third place to work and the other book she couldn’t seem to stop herself from writing.

 

‘Why,’ Grace had forcefully expounded on their last meeting, ‘should I slog my guts out writing a book only a handful of bored students and obsessive freaks like myself will ever pick up, let alone read?’

As a result, Grace was writing a novel, ‘A semi-factual novel,’ she’d said, ‘a story which will tell any student what they need to know about the Folville family and their criminal activities – which bear a tremendous resemblance to the stories of a certain famous literary outlaw! – and hopefully promote interest in the subject for those who aren’t that into history without boring them to death.’

It sounded like a good idea to Daisy, but she also knew, as Grace did, that it was precisely the sort of book academics frowned upon, and she was worried about Grace’s determination to finish it. Daisy thought it would be more sensible to concentrate on one manuscript at a time, and get the dry epic that everyone was expecting out of the way first. Perhaps it would have been completed by now if Grace could focus on one project at a time, rather than it currently being a year in the preparation without a final result in sight. Daisy suspected Grace’s boss had no idea what she was really up to. After all, she was using the same lifetime of research for both manuscripts. She also had an underlying suspicion that subconsciously Grace didn’t want to finish either the textbook or the novel; that her friend was afraid to finish them. After all, what would she fill her hours with once they were done?

Daisy’s mobile began to play a tinny version of Nellie the Elephant. She hastily plopped a small black guinea pig, which she’d temporarily called Charcoal, into a run with his numerous friends, and fished her phone from her dungarees pocket.

‘Hi, Marcus.’

‘Hi honey, you OK?’

‘Just delivering the tribe to their outside quarters, then I’m off to face the horror that is dress shopping.’

Her future husband laughed, ‘You’ll be fine. You’re just a bit rusty, that’s all.’

‘Rusty! I haven’t owned a dress since I went to parties as a small child. Thirty-odd years ago!’

‘I don’t understand why you don’t go with Grace at the weekend. It would be easier together wouldn’t it?’

Daisy sighed, ‘I’d love to go with her, but I’ll never get her away from her work more than once this month, and I’ve yet to arrange a date for her to buy a bridesmaid outfit.’

‘Well, good luck, babe. I’m off to rob some bulls of their manhood.’

Daisy giggled, ‘Have fun. Oh, why did you call by the way?’

‘Just wanted to hear your voice, nothing else.’

‘Oh cute – ta.’

‘Idiot! Enjoy shopping.’

As she clicked her battered blue mobile shut and slid it back into her working clothes, Daisy thought of Grace again. Perhaps she should accidentally invite loads of single men to the wedding to tempt her friend with. The trouble was, unless they wore Lincoln Green, and carried a bow and quiver of arrows, Daisy very much doubted whether Grace would even notice they were there…

RH- RoS 2

Blurb

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.

But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…

Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…

Buy Links Romancing Robin Hood is available from all good paperback and e-retailers.

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

Will there ever be outlaw justice?

Continuing the story of potter’s daughter, Mathilda of Twyford, Outlaw Justice, opens in winter 1331 – and a storm is coming in the shape of Sir Richard de Willoughby.

Outlaw Justice

Blurb

England, 1331: Corrupt official, Sir Richard de Willoughby, has been appointed Justice of the Peace, with powers to hunt – and kill – those who oppose him. First on his list? The notorious Coterel brothers and their associates – the Folvilles…

The Folvilles must decide whether to flee into outlawry or take the law into their own hands – but is killing de Willoughby really the answer?

Robert de Folville is keen to dispose of the justice, but Robert’s ingenious wife, Mathilda, has a plan… one that could potentially rid them of Willoughby and yet see them escape the hangman’s noose. But these are tumultuous times and Mathilda must first put herself at great personal risk. Could the tale of a missing noblewoman, overheard by chance, be the key to solving a problem of life or death?

A gripping tale of real-life Robin Hoods, Outlaw Justice is the latest in the critically acclaimed ‘The Folville Chronicles’ series by Jennifer Ash.

Outlaw Justice

Ever since she first came to the attention of the Folville family – as a kidnap victim – Mathilda of Twyford – has been learning that justice for the people of England comes at a high price. Often, it is those who purport to uphold the law, that break it the most…

Prologue

30th November 1331

‘Lady Isabel is safe, my Lord?’

‘I’ve seen her escorted to her mother in Lincolnshire by trusted friends. Her ravings these past few months have become intolerable. It’s not good for the children. I increasingly fear for her sanity.’

Keeping his countenance neutral, Bennett removed his master’s cloak. ‘May I be of assistance, my Lord? A drink after your journey perhaps?’

‘You may be of assistance by saying nothing of this to anyone. If King Edward were to hear of my wife’s shameful state, he might deem me unworthy of the office he so recently bestowed upon me.’

Bennett dipped his head respectfully and withdrew into the kitchen. He’d worked for Sir Richard de Willoughby long enough to know when to keep his mouth shut.

Damping down the kitchen fire for the night, absorbed in thought, the steward headed towards Lady Willoughby’s chamber. He’d seen no signs of mental instability. He’d heard no ravings. He had, however, heard a row between her and her husband earlier that day. The one and only time in her whole miserable marriage she’d stood up to her lord.

Pushing his mistress’s door open, Bennett surveyed the scene. Lady Isabel’s travelling cloak hung over the back of a chair by the window. Her hairbrush sat on her side table, and her riding boots waited patiently by the door.

A furrow formed on the steward’s forehead as he closed the chamber door, locking it securely behind him.

If you’d like to find out what happens next, Outlaw Justice it is available as both an ebook and paperback. It can be read as a standalone novel, or as part of #TheFolvilleChronicles

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer x

Meet The Winter Outlaw

As I’m up to my eyes in words at the moment, I thought I’d leave you a little something to read from The Folville Chronicles – Book Two – while I crack on!

The Winter Outlaw .

Blurb

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

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

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

***

Here’s the prologue to whet your appetite…

Prologue: Winter 1329

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Had given him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, where was he going to go?

***

Ever since I did my PhD (on medieval crime and its portrayal in the ballad literature of the fourteenth century), I have wanted to use what I learnt to tell a series of stories. Although I’ve written all sorts of things between 1999, when my PhD finished, and now – I still wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  Yet, here I am, with the complete series of The Folville Chronicles available for you to enjoy. The were so much fun to write,

 

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

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

Happy reading,

Jen xx

Romancing Robin Hood: Medieval Murder and Modern Love

The last thing I expected I’d be doing during the drafting of a romance novel was plotting my first murder (on paper that is!), and yet, that is exactly what happened when I wrote Romancing Robin Hood.

Perhaps, with a legendary outlaw in the title, it isn’t so surprising that I have found myself sorting out the finer points of a murder mystery- and yet I didn’t see it coming. Whenever I begin a new novel, I have plenty of ideas, sketch out a plotline, and cobble together a synopsis, but at the same time I very much like my characters to take hold of the story themselves. I enjoy travelling with them, and being as surprised (hopefully) as my readers will be when they read my finished work.

Romancing Robin Hood – Blurb.

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.

But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…

Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance about history lecturer Dr Grace Harper, who is passionate about Robin Hood and the historical outlaws that may have inspired him. Not only does this novel tell the story of Grace’s fight to find time for romance in her busy work filled life, it also contains a secondary story about the fourteenth century criminal gang Grace is researching- the Folvilles. This family, based in Ashby-Folville in Leicestershire, were a group I researched in-depth as a student many moons ago.

In the novella she is writing, Grace’s fourteenth century protagonist Mathilda is getting to know the Folville family rather better than she would have liked. As well as living with them, she suddenly finds herself under a very frightening type of suspicion.

I must confess I’m rather enjoyed weaving this sub plot around the main romance of the modern part of Romancing Robin Hood.

I had no idea killing someone off could be so much fun!! It was rather like doing a jigsaw from in the inside out, while having no idea where the corners are! I loved it so much, that it led to me writing all four of the #FolvilleChronicle novels.

Here’s an extract from – starting with some of the medieval tale Grace is writing…

Mathilda thought she was used to darkness, but the dim candlelight of the comfortable small room she shared at home with her brothers was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness seemed to envelop her, physically gliding over Mathilda’s clammy goose-pimpled skin. This was an extreme blackness that coated her, making her breathless, as if it was stealthfully compressing her lungs and squeezing the life from her.

Unable to see the floor, Mathilda presumed, as she pressed her naked foot against it and damp oozed between her toes, that the suspiciously soft surface she was sat on was moss, which in a room neglected for years had been allowed it to form a cushion on the stone floor. It was a theory backed up by the smell of mould and general filthiness which hung in the air.

Trying not to think about how long she was going to be left in this windowless cell, Mathilda stretched out her arms and bravely felt for the extent of the walls, hoping she wasn’t about to touch something other than cold stone. The child’s voice that lingered at the back of her mind, even though she was a woman of nineteen, was telling her – screaming at her – that there might be bodies in here, still clapped in irons, abandoned and rotting. Mathilda battled the voice down; knowing it that would do her no good at all. Her father had always congratulated Mathilda on her level headedness, and now it was being put to the test. She was determined not to let him down now.

Placing the very tips of her fingers against the wall behind her, she felt her way around. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor. Mathilda traced the outline of the rough stone wall, keeping her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingers came to a corner, and twisting at the waist, she managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other, without doing more than extending the span of her arms.

Mathilda decided the room could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six foot tall. Her own five-foot frame had stumbled down a step when she’d been pushed into the cell, and her head was at least a foot clear of the ceiling. The bleak eerie silence was eating away at her determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering Mathilda had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her small slim body.

Wrapping her thin arms around her chest, she pulled up her hood, hugged her grey woollen surcoat tighter about her shoulders, and sent an unspoken prayer of thanks up to Our Lady for the fact that her legs were covered.

She’d been helping her two brothers, Matthew and Oswin, to catch fish in the deeper water beyond the second of Twyford’s fords when the men had come. Mathilda had been wearing an old pair of Matthew’s hose, although no stockings or shoes. She thought of her warm footwear, discarded earlier with such merry abandon. A forgotten, neglected pile on the river bank; thrown haphazardly beneath a tree in her eagerness to get them off and join the boys in their work. It was one of the only tasks their father gave them that could have been considered fun.

Mathilda closed her eyes, angry as the tears she’d forbidden herself to shed defied her stubborn will and came anyway. With them came weariness. It consumed her, forcing her to sink onto the rotten floor. Water dripped into her long, lank red hair. The tussle of capture had loosened its neatly woven plait, and now it hung awkwardly, half in and half out of its bindings, like a badly strapped sheaf of strawberry corn.

She tried not to start blaming her father, but it was difficult not to. Why hadn’t he told her he’d borrowed money from the Folvilles? It was an insane thing to do. Only the most desperate … Mathilda stopped her thoughts in their tracks. They were disloyal and pointless…

 

…Does Mathilda seem miserable and scared enough? Grace wasn’t sure she’d laid the horror of the situation on thick enough. On the other hand, she didn’t want to drown her potential readers in suffering-related adjectives.

No, on reflection it was fine; certainly good enough to leave and come back to on the next read through. She glanced at the clock at the corner of the computer screen. How the hell had it got to eight thirty already? Grace’s stomach rumbled, making her think of poor Mathilda in her solitary prison.

Switching off her computer, Grace crammed all her notes into her bag so she could read over them at home, and headed out of her office. Walking down the Queen’s Road, which led from the university to her small home in Leicester’s Clarendon Park region, Grace decided it was way too hot, even at this time of the evening, to stand in the kitchen and attempt, and probably fail, to cook something edible, so she’d grab a takeaway.

Grateful it wasn’t term time, so she didn’t have to endure the banter of the students who were also waiting for associated plastic boxes of Chinese food, Grace speedily walked home, and without bothering to transfer her chicken chow mein to another dish, grabbed a fork, kicked off her shoes, and settled herself down with her manuscript…

If you’d like to buy Romancing Robin Hood, or any of The Folville Chronicles, you can find them here –

Romancing Robin Hood – mybook.to/RomancingRH

The Folville Chronicles

The Outlaw’s Ransom – mybook.to/theoutlawsransom

The Winter Outlaw- mybook.to/thewinteroutlaw

Edward’s Outlaw – mybook.to/EdwardsOutlaw

Outlaw Justice – mybook.to/OutlawJustice

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

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

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