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 17

Opening Lines with Tim Walker: Arthur Rex Brittonum

I’m delighted to welcome Tim Walker back to my blog today, with the Opening Lines from the latest novel in his A Light in the Dark Ages series, Arthur Rex Brittonum.

Blurb

From the decay of post-Roman Britain, Arthur seeks to unite a troubled land

Arthur Rex Brittonum (‘King of the Britons’) is an action-packed telling of the King Arthur story rooted in historical accounts that predate the familiar Camelot legend.

Britain in the early sixth century has reverted to tribal lands, where chiefs settle old scores with neighbours whilst eyeing with trepidation the invaders who menace the shore in search of plunder and settlement.

Arthur, only son of the late King Uther, has been crowned King of the Britons by the northern chiefs and must now persuade their counterparts in the south and west to embrace him. Will his bid to lead their combined army against the Saxon threat succeed? He arrives in Powys buoyed by popular acclaim at home, a king, husband and father – but can he sustain his efforts in unfamiliar territory? It is a treacherous and winding road that ultimately leads him to a winner-takes-all clash at the citadel of Mount Badon.

Tim Walker’s Arthur Rex Brittonum picks up the thread from the earlier life of Arthur in 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, but it can be read as a standalone novel.

Fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Mathew Harffy will enjoy Walker’s A Light in the Dark Ages series and its newest addition – Arthur Rex Brittonum.

First 500 words

“Pull harder you wretches!” bellowed the captain, turning his warty head away from the pursuing ships to urge his crew to greater effort, gnarled hands gripping the tiller so firmly his knuckles shone white in the gloom. Low grey clouds scudded overhead, driven on by strong westerly gusts that blew into the lone sail intermittently, like puffs of air from bellows feeding a fire. Soft rain slanted across the faces of the desperate crew and passengers on the deck of the thirty-foot merchant rig, its eight oarsmen dashing their oars into the choppy green of the Hibernian Sea as angry whitecaps pointed the way to the green and grey shorelines rising before them.

“Row for your lives, the western savages are gaining on us!” Random words were snatched away by the fitful rage of Manannan, the dread god of sailors, who inhabited the narrow sea between Britannia’s western coast and the land of Hibernia. It was across these waters that wild tribesmen habitually raided the comparatively wealthy and orderly Britannia, now left unguarded following Rome’s withdrawal.

A cluster of six passengers huddled beside the burly captain at the stern, holding onto ropes or the side rail as their ship rolled in the waves that carried them to shore. Those who had voided their guts on deck or over the side turned pale faces to see the three black sails gaining on them through the gathering storm.

Barinthus clasped the charm around his neck and muttered a prayer to Fortuna. “I shall sacrifice the finest kid I can find in your temple at Deva, should you see fit to deliver us there in safety.”

The well-fed Armorican had chartered the ship in the port of Dinan on the northwest coast of what had once been Roman Gaul and was transporting his cargo of fine wines, jars of olive oil, rolls of silk and linen, and some live quails in crates to sell to the nobles of western Britannia. He pulled the fox fur collar of his cloak tighter against the rain and looked down at his sodden calf leather boots, then to the crates of squawking birds that slid from side to side across the deck of the lurching vessel, noting their clucks of displeasure at every roll and shower of sea spray.

“I fear they will soon be upon us!” he yelled at the captain, who fixed him with a filthy look that spoke of regret at accepting the charter. “I have outrun many Frankish pirates around the rocky bays of Armorica where I know the reefs, but these waters are unknown to me. Let us hope we make beach before the rocks rip out our keel.”

They were now in surf that sent rows of churning white-capped waves, like advancing lines of ghostly shield men, towards a shore that revealed itself as a shingle beach before towering pock-marked cliffs. The shrill cries of gulls seemed to foretell their impending doom as the roar of waves breaking on the beach…

You can buy Arthur Rex Brittonum from all good retailers, including-

Kindle: http://mybook.to/ArthurRex

i-book; Kobo; Nook; other: https://books2read.com/ArthurRexBrittonum

Paperback: http://mybook.to/ArthurRexPaperback

 

Bio

Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. He grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. He then studied for and attained a degree in Communication studies and moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business.

His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst undergoing and recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, following a visit to the near-by site of a former Roman town. The aim of the series is to connect the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.

His new book, published in June 2020, is Arthur, Rex Brittonum, a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur (book five in the series). It follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, the story of young Arthur (book four in the series), that received recognition from two sources in 2019 – One Stop Fiction Book of the Month in April, and an honourable mention in the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year (Historical Fiction) Awards. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018). Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker. Tim is self-published under his brand name, timwalkerwrites.

Tim has also written two books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (2015), and Postcards from London (2017); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); Perverse (verse and short fiction, 2020); and two children’s books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy – The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017) and Charly & The Superheroes (2018) with a third in the pipeline – Charly in Space.

Find out more about the author at – http://www.timwalkerwrites.co.uk

Author Website: http://timwalkerwrites.co.uk

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/timwalker1666

Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/TimWalkerWrites

Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/TimWalkerWrites

Twitter: http://twitter.com/timwalker1666 

Many thanks Tim.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Jennifer Macaire: A Crown in Time

This week’s Opening Lines come from the pen of Jennifer Macaire.

Why not sit back and enjoy the first 500 words from her timeslip novel, A Crown in Time?

Over to you Jennifer…

In my last series, which started with The Road to Alexander, I wrote about a modern woman kidnapped by Alexander the Great and forced to spend the rest of her life in ancient times. The series ended, and instead of resting on my laurels and taking up something more relaxing like hang-gliding off cliffs or deep sea exploration, I started a new book. This time I was heading to the Crusades, and since I love time slip books, my heroine was sent back on a mission to set time back on track after a serious mistake put the future in jeopardy.

A Crown in Time: She must rewrite history, or be erased from Time forever…

(The Tempus U Time Travel series)

Since it was perfected in 2900, time travel has been reserved for an elite, highly trained few. However, on certain occasions, a Corrector is needed to rectify a mistake in the past.

Do your job well, and you’ll go down in history. Fail, and you will be erased from Time . . .

In the far future, a convicted criminal is given a chance at redemption. The Corrector Program at Tempus University is sending Isobel back in time, to the year 1270, to rewrite history.

Her mission? To save the crown of France.

If she follows the Corrector’s Handbook everything should run smoothly. But soon, Isobel finds herself accompanying a hot-headed young noble on his way to fight the infidel in Tunis: a battle Isobel knows is fated to be lost.

Isobel must fulfil her duty, knowing she can never return to her time, knowing one wrong move can doom the future, or doom her to be burned as a witch.

***

First 500 words:

Pax in nomine Domini

Peace in the name of the Lord

The nurse in charge of freezing my molecules inserted a glowing needle into my arm and had me count backwards from ten. I got to zero and stared at her, perplexed. ‘Now what?’

‘Again.’

I obeyed without question. Years of prison had left their mark. Then a cold wave washed through me. I felt my blood freeze. No one had told me it would be so painful. My teeth chattered and the place where the needle was inserted into my arm ached and ached. The pain grew. Frost bloomed in silver flowers on my hands and face. The pain was so intense I passed out. My last thought before I fainted was that despite all the work and planning, the program would now lose its Corrector. I was dying.

I didn’t die. I woke up lying on my back in the middle of a large mud puddle. Rain pelted my face, and my body convulsed with painful tremors. Groaning, I rolled over and propped myself up on my forearms. I retched and gagged, waves of nausea rolling through me. I tried to stand, but my legs wouldn’t hold me. I crawled off the road and collapsed on the verge. I had no idea why I’d been beamed into the middle of a road. I could have been killed.

I looked closer at the road and sighed. If anything was going to come down it, it would probably be an ox plodding before a heavy farm cart. The farmer would have been able to stop in time. Unlike me. I hadn’t been able to stop my car in time. I’d killed a child, and I’d been punished with life in a reproduction prison. For four years, I lay on a metal table once a month and donated an ovule, and in between, I worked at the prison library, copying ancient books and disks onto gel matrix for safekeeping. Then one day, I’d been given a choice. Go back in time and change a mistake, or continue to live in solitude, where my only jobs had been to produce eggs and reproduce books.

I’d been twenty years old when I went to prison. Twenty-four when I entered the Corrector Program at Tempus University, and now I was twenty-five, though I knew nothing of life. I felt both ancient and absurdly young. I’d barely had time to start living my own life when it ended. Now, I had the chance at a new beginning.

If only I could remember what that was. My mission now lay before me. I closed my eyes and tried to remember exactly what I had to do. Unfortunately, there seemed to be an empty space in my brain where that information was supposed to be. I couldn’t remember the first thing about it. I shivered with panic and cold. If my mission failed, the Time Correctors Facility from Tempus U would erase this portion of time, and I’d be erased along with it. I would never have existed past the day I entered the Tempus University TimeCorrector Program. In the far future, it would be as if I stepped inside the doors of that building  –  and simply vanished…

***

You can buy from all good retailers, including…

getbook.at/Crown (paperback)

mybook.to/CrownInTime (kindle)

Bio

Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She spent nearly the entire quarantine sitting on her balcony & reading, and she thinks healthcare workers are amazing super-heroes.

Many thanks Jennifer,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

The Power of Three: New and Exclusive Robin of Sherwood story

There are many questions an author gets asked on a regular basis.

The top three are-

  1. Where do you get your ideas from?
  2. Have you done everything you write about? (Usually reserved for my erotica books – and no, of course I haven’t!)
  3. How do you actually write a book?

I can add one other question to this list- and I would say it would rank at number 2 on my ‘most asked questions’ list.

When are you going to write another Robin of Sherwood story?

Answer – just done one!

I’m delighted to announce that the lovely folk at Spiteful Puppet (with permission from Chinbeard Books and the Richard Carpenter estate), have commissioned me to write the very first Robin of Sherwood story, that isn’t based on a television episode or an audio recording.

Yep- it’s the very first standalone novel.

Blurb

Why had Herne called Marion to his cavern and not Robin? And why was she afraid to tell him what the Lord of the Trees had shown her?

Forced to face his personal nightmares and his darkest secret, the Hooded Man needs his friends more than ever, but the outlaws are afraid… and no one knows who to trust.

To make matters worse, an old enemy is stalking Sherwood – but which one?

***

It will be available from 22nd May.

You can pre-order from…

The Power of Three (Paperback)

Hope you like it!

Happy reading,

Jen x

Opening Lines: Tales from Deepest Darkest Devon

This week’s Opening Lines blog features a brand new anthology of stories  – put together by the Exeter Author’s Association – of which I am a tiny part.

The anthology, Tales from Deepest, Darkest Devon, features 19 different stories from 13 authors, all living in and around the county; from Brixham, to Tiverton, Ottery St Mary to Bampton, and many places in between. The stories cover a wide range of genres, and offers a story for every literary taste.

Part of the sales from this book will go to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust

Blurb

Devon; a land of beauty, of moors, villages and coasts. A place of stories, told by the people who live there.

Take a look beneath the surface of Devon with the Exeter Authors, nineteen tales from thirteen of the county’s finest writers.

Contains some adult (18+) material.

Bobbing. Discover why revenge is a dish best served with cider,

Make a wish. Devon is the place to spend the rest of your life.

The Dartmoor Dragon. Discover the magic on the moor.

Cutty Dyer. Quiet villages can hold deadly secrets

Winter Snow.  The old ways are the best

The Padding Horror. On the moors, an ancient evil is stalking its latest prey.

Under the Hunters Moon. You’re never truly alone on the moor

The Fairmile Green Man. Has Swampy and his protest been forgotten? A green man carving brings a much older story back to life.

Guardians. A peaceful little village hides a dark secret.

And many more.

Contributors: Jenifer Braund, Richard Dee, Maura Beckett, Chip Tolson, Brian Willis, Janet Few, John Hall, K. Y. Eden, Richard Lappas, Tracey Norman, Mark Norman, P.J. Reed and Jenny Kane.

Part of the sale price goes to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust.

Here are the opening lines from my own story, Bobbing.

Feeling like a malevolent Eve slithering through the Garden of Eden, Libby did a slow twirl in the centre of the old cider barn.

The gauze dress was thin. It caressed her skin with a teasing arousal.

She was fertility herself.

If Robert hadn’t wanted her before, he’d definitely want her now. But then, if she was honest, that had never been a problem. Robert always wanted her. He always wanted everyone. And her boss usually got what he wanted.

The scrumpy’s pungent presence accosted Libby’s nostrils as she ascended the ladder propped against the eight foot high cider barrel. Empting two boxes worth of apples into the liquid, she watched as the fruit bobbed across the foamy alcoholic surface.

Smiling into the vat depths, Libby counted the apples, making sure there were enough for all the guests to have a go at capturing one with their teeth. Then, balancing carefully, she reached up to the ceiling. A stick was hanging horizontally from ropes above the barrel. Tying a beeswax candle to one end and an apple on string to the other, Libby gave the stick a gentle push. She watched with satisfaction as it swung back and forth over the barrel of bobbing cider.

Returning to the ground, Libby checked the collection of silk ties next to the steps. Each one waited patiently to fasten hands behind their backs of potential bobbers; thus eliminating their temptation to cheat.

Libby experienced an unexpected flash of power as she heard Robert’s distinctive footsteps approaching. It was difficult not to grin too widely when she remembered how pleased he’d been when she’d suggested he had the honour of being the first to attempt the ancient apple catching ritual.

Fingering her pentagram shaped pendent, Libby’s mind filled with images of ancient Pagan fertility rites she’d seen in history books.

‘You wanted a traditional Pagan celebration boss, and this is it. There’s alcohol soaked bread to be offered to the trees in the orchard, cider ready to be poured onto the roots to toast the crops health, apple bobbing, and of course, the apple stick.’

Allowing Robert to slip his arms around her waist, Libby wasn’t surprised when he shuffled close enough for her to feel his crotch against her butt.  Rather than examine the beauty of the Celtic scene she’d created, Libby knew Robert would be checking to make sure no one else was in the barn.

He glided his hands from her waist to her tits. She let him. As the moment to execute her plan grew ever closer, Libby’s body had been on the cusp of an increasing impatient sexual high.

As Robert pushed her back against the barrel, he peered up at the hanging stick. ‘It looks impossible! And dangerous.’

Easing away from his grasp, Libby climbed the ladder and lit the end of the swinging candle. Her eyes flared with the fizz of the wick as it caught…

***

You can buy Tales from Deepest Darkest Devon in paperback or as an eBook from Amazon via…

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Romancing Robin Hood: A tasty taster

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 read within this same novel)

Grace is so embroiled in her work and her 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…

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, including…

***

Happy reading,

Jenx

Opening Lines with Carol McGrath: The Silken Rose

Today I’m delighted to welcome Carol McGrath to my blog, as she goes on tour with her brand new historical novel, The Silken Rose.

Why not sit and relax for five minutes, while you enjoy a little background to this, the first of The She Wolf Trilogy – as well as the first 500 words.

Over to you Carol…

The Silken Rose is the first novel in The She Wolf Trilogy, three standalone novels about three medieval queens set during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Ailenor of Provence, Eleanor of Castile and Isabella of France were considered she wolves by later writers but they were reviled by many barons during their reigns because of the influence the exercised over their husbands. Ailenor was guilty of nepotism, Eleanor grabbed lands and built up a property empire and, as for Isabella, say no more, she simply deposed her husband and set up her son Edward III as king in his stead. Their thrilling and intriguing stories are intersected with those of three ordinary women, ordinary in rank but independent and from the merchant class. The first appears in The Silken Rose. She is an embroiderer and Rosalind’s story intersects with that of Queen Ailenor.  Enjoy the short blub and extract. The book is published on 2nd April as an e book and as a paperback on 23rd July. The audio is currently available too.

It is 1236

Ailenor of Provence, cultured and intelligent, is thirteen when she marries Henry III. She is aware of the importance of providing heirs to secure the throne. She will protect England’s throne from those who would snatch it away. She is ruthless in her dealings with Henry’s barons.

Beautiful Ailenor’s shrewd and clever Savoyard uncles can support her, until her power is threatened when Henry’s half-siblings also arrive at court.

Henry and Ailenor become embroiled in an unpopular, expensive war to protect the last English territories in France, sparking conflict with warrior knight, Simon de Montfort, the King’s seneschal. It is the final straw.

Caught in a web of treachery and deceit, ‘she-wolf’ Ailenor’s courage is tested to the limit. Can she control her destiny and protect her family?

First 500 words…

Canterbury, January 1236

The road from Dover to Canterbury was mired with mud so progress was slow. Ailenor, Princess of Provence, had never seen such weather. She tugged back the oiled canvas and peered from her long, box-like carriage into the January landscape. A collection of gaunt faces stared back; figures huddled in heavy cloaks, watching the golden lions of Savoy and Provence pass through Canterbury’s gate into the cramped lanes of the city.

Domina Willelma’s rhythmic snores competed with the splashing of hooves moving laboriously through the gateway, the roll of wheels belonging to sumpter carts, the cracking of whips and the protesting snorts of an escort of three hundred horsemen. All the way from Dover, thirteen year-old Ailenor had listened to rain rattling on the curved roof of the carriage. With a hiss, it dripped through a minute crack onto the box of hot charcoal that warmed her feet.

She let the curtain drop and withdrew into her furs. It’s so different to my golden Provençal fields on which sun shines winter and summer.

A tear slid down her cheek. She instinctively drew her mantle closer. This was not what she imagined after Richard of Cornwall, King Henry’s brother, had visited their castle of Les Baux last year and she had listened to his thrilling tales of romance. England was not the magical land she visualised when she wrote her best poem ever, set in Cornwall, verse Prince Richard admired. Nor was it the green country filled with wild flowers she dreamed of when Henry, King of England, sent for her to become his bride.

She shivered in her damp gown. She had not wanted woollen gowns and underskirts. Rather, she desired velvets, silks and satins, and the finest linen for under-garments. But after two days’ travel over the Narrow Sea and on waterlogged roads she understood the need for warmth. She was now to dwell in a land where winter never ended and summer was but a distant prayer.

The carriage jolted to a halt. Uncle William, the Bishop, thrust his head through the heavy hanging.

‘We are approaching the palace. Prepare to descend.’ He almost fell off his horse as he pushed his neck further into the carriage to waggle a long finger at Ailenor’s senior lady. ‘Waken that woman at once. Order her to tidy your dress.’ With a grunt, he withdrew before Ailenor could reply.

‘Domina Willelma, wake up.’ Ailenor gently shook her lady’s shoulder. ‘Uncle William says ‑’

‘By our sainted Lady, my child, forgive me. Why have you permitted me to sleep?’ Lady Willelma sat straight up, her dark eyes wide awake.

‘Because, dear Willelma, you have hardly slept since we left Vienne and that was three weeks ago.’

‘I’m neglecting my duty to your mother.’ Willelma opened the tassels of a velvet bag. My mother, Ailenor thought. If only she were here. She would make jests and have me laugh at it all. How can I face this awful land alone?

***

Buy Link https://tinyurl.com/ssdrk28 

Make sure you don’t miss a single stop on this amazing blog tour!

Bio

Following her first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing at The Seamus Heaney Centre, Belfast, followed by an MPhil from University of London.  Her fifth historical novel, The Silken Rose, first in The Rose Trilogy, published by the Headline Group, is set during the High Middle Ages. It features Ailenor of Provence and will be published on April 2nd 2020. Carol was the co-ordinator of the Historical Novels’ Society Conference, Oxford in September 2016.  Visit her website:

Carol’s links are all on her website: www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk

***

You can join in with Carol’s ‘virtual’ book launch tomorrow, on Twitter, from 3pm!

Many thanks fro visiting today Carol.

Good luck with your new novel and the rest of your blog tour.

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Lines with Jules Hayes: The Walls We Build

I’m delighted to welcome Jules Hayes to this week’s Opening Lines, with her new novel, The Walls We Build.

Over to you Jules…

Thank you for having my new book, and me, over on your blog, Jenny.

The Walls We Build is my debut historical novel and written under my pseudonym, Jules Hayes. I also write contemporary thrillers as JA Corrigan.

The Walls We Build, part love story, part thriller, and part mystery, is a sweeping generational dual timeline tale and set in the period between 1928 and 2004. The narrative boldly draws on the figure of Winston Churchill, who takes a small but important cameo role in this labyrinthine story of three childhood friends.

I was inspired to write the story after seeing a photograph of Winston Churchill – Britain’s pugnacious but passionate wartime Prime Minister – addressing battle-weary troops in Libya, North Africa, and only days after the Allied victory in the desert war campaign.

This powerful image compelled me to write a story about one of the men listening to Mr Churchill’s victory speech that day in April 1943. The idea took root, and once I began to write the story became so very clear, as did the characters, settings, and the themes. I wanted to write a mystery, I wanted to write a love story, I wanted to write about relationships, and I wanted Winston Churchill in a cameo role, mirroring my main male protagonist – Frank: An ordinary man and an extraordinary man. How do their paths continue cross over the years?

Blurb

Set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s country home, and reverberating through three generations comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption.

Three Friends

Two Secrets

One Hidden Life

Growing up around Churchill’s estate, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable, but as WW2 casts its menacing shadow their friendships become more complex and strained. Following Frank’s death in 2002, Florence writes to his grandson, Richard, hinting at a dark past.

On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light that have not only haunted his grandfather’s life but will now impact on Richard’s too. When a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill is revealed and a mystery relative in a psychiatric hospital discovered, just how much more does Florence dare disclose, and is Richard ready to hear?

For readers who enjoy the work of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore, Lucinda Riley, Katherine Webb and Juliet West.

***

First 500 words…

~ Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge

1.

Frank

February 2002

Frank lifted his head a fraction and listened to his wife shuffling around in the bedroom above. She was keeping out of his way, just as she’d been doing for more years than he wanted to admit. He slumped further into the armchair that she’d placed strategically so he could look outside, and not bother her. With his chin resting on his chest, he scrutinised his useless body, knowing he’d never achieve the miraculous recovery his old employer had managed fifty years before.

Finally, Frank turned, his line of vision settling on the glass panels of the patio doors, and through those, towards the silver birch that stood as an arboreal chandelier in the harsh morning frost. He clocked the untidiness of the garden; bushes not pruned, last summer’s bedding plants long dead, and the grass was a bloody mess. He hated to think what was happening down at his allotment, although Richard would happily sort it, the garden too. Frank would love to see more of his favourite grandson, but instead, here he was, confined to this one room, hearing the familiar creak of footsteps on the stairs as Hilda made her way down. He could gauge every one of her movements around the house, always knowing exactly where she was. Now, she’d be loitering on the other side of the sitting room door. Waiting for him to die.

He should call Richard. Do it now. There were secrets he needed to share with his grandson. Where was his mobile? On the table in the hall? Frank pushed himself into standing, but his knees collapsed as a sharp pain ricocheted throughout the front of his skull. Excruciating. Just like the last time, although this was worse. Much. He couldn’t see his wife but sensed she’d crossed the threshold into the room; he tried to call out. No sound came from his lips and in the lull that came before the real tornado he managed to move his head. There she stood, red hair now white and wispy, her face expressionless. He tried again, tried to say the words, Richard and phone. She turned away.

Frank didn’t want this to be the last thing he saw. The back of a woman he’d once loved so much but whom he’d come to despise. Instead, he found what he wanted to see, the full and vibrant image of a life half shared and of a woman so different to his wife, in every conceivable way.

2

Florence

Westerham, Kent

May Day 1928

With her legs splayed out and her back leant against the biggest oak in the village, which was conveniently situated at the rear of the church and away from prying eyes, Florence finished the last puff of her cigarette. She placed it on the parched ground and used the scuffed heel of her boot to extinguish it properly. The countryside’s like a tinderbox, her dad had told her; the last thing she wanted was to start a fire …

***

Buy Links:

Amazon: getbook.at/TheWallsWeBuild

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-walls-we-build/jules-hayes/9781916338005

Biography

Jules Hayes lives in Berkshire with her husband, daughter and a dog. She has a degree in modern history and holds a particular interest in events and characters from the early 20th century. As a former physiotherapist and trainer – old habits die hard – when not writing Jules likes to run. She also loves to watch films, read good novels and is a voracious consumer of non-fiction too, particularly biographies.

Jules Hayes’ second historical novel, which is due for publication in late 2020 is another dual timeline story.

Jules also writes contemporary thrillers as JA Corrigan.

***

Website: http://www.jules-hayes.com

Social Media:

Twitter: @JulesHayes6

http://www.twitter.com/JulesHayes6

Facebook Author Page: JulesHayesAuthor

http://www.facebook.com/JulesHayesAuthor

Instagram: JulesHayes6

http://www.instagram.com/juleshayes6

Writing thrillers as JA Corrigan.

Website: http://www.jacorrigan.com

Twitter: @juliannwriter

http://www.twitter.com/juliannwriter

Facebook Author Page: JACorrigan

http://www.facebook.com/jacorrigan

Instagram: corriganjulieann

http://www.instagram.com/corriganjulieann

***

Many thanks Jules,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: The Outlaw’s Ransom

This week I thought I’d indulge in sharing some of my own ‘Opening Lines.’

Here some the opening lines from, The Outlaw’s Ransom– The Folville Chronicles.

Mathilda thought she was used to the dark, but the night-time gloom of the small room she shared with her brothers at home was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness enveloped her, physically gliding over her clammy skin. It made her breathless, as if it was trying to squeeze the life from her.

As moisture oozed between her naked toes, she presumed that the suspiciously soft surface she crouched on was moss, which had grown to form a damp 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 her arms out to either side, 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, secured in rusted irons, abandoned and rotting. She battled the voice down. Thinking like that would do her no good at all. Her father had always congratulated his only daughter on her level-headedness, and now it was being so thoroughly put to the test, she was determined not to let him down.

Stretching her fingers into the blackness, Mathilda placed the tips of her fingers against the wall behind her. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor.

Continuing to trace the outline of the rough stone wall, Mathilda kept her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingertips came to a corner, and by twisting at the waist, she quickly managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other. The dungeon could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six feet 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 Mathilda’s determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering she had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her…

Here’s the blurb to The Outlaw’s Ransom-

When potter’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life. Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for using crime to rule their lands—and for using any means necessary to deliver their distinctive brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so, she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the betrothed of Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will send her to Bakewell in Derbyshire, and the home of Nicholas Coterel, one of the most infamous men in England.

With her life in the hands of more than one dangerous brigand, Mathilda must win the trust of the Folville’s housekeeper, Sarah, and Robert Folville himself if she has any chance of survival.

Never have the teachings gleaned from the tales of Robyn Hode been so useful…

You can buy The Outlaw’s Ransom for your Kindle or as a paperback from-

Kindle-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07B3TNRYN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519759895&sr=8-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B3TNRYN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519760741&sr=8-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

Paperback-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outlaws-Ransom-Folville-Chronicles/dp/1999855264/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520007697&sr=1-2&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

https://www.amazon.com/Outlaws-Ransom-Folville-Chronicles/dp/1999855264/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520007771&sr=1-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

(Please note that if you have read Romancing Robin Hood by Jenny Kane and Jennifer Ash- then you will already be familiar with the story with The Outlaw’s Ransom)

Happy reading,

Jen xx

A VERY HAPPY COFFEE AND CAKE FILLED CHRISTMAS

I would like to wish you each and every one of you…

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

blue-christmas-2015-lights-missouri

Many many thanks for all your support over the last year.

I hope you are all having a truly peaceful and huggled Christmas, with extra coffee and a mince pie or three.  Jenny xx

 

 

 

Opening Lines: The Outlaw’s Ransom

For the last Opening Lines of 2019, I thought I’d share the first 500 words of my winter-time medieval crime story, The Outlaw’s Ransom

The first story in The Folville Chronicles, The Outlaw’s Ransom , introduces us to Mathilda of Twyford- a 19 year old potter’s daughter, from fourteenth century Leicestershire.

 

Mathilda thought she was used to the dark, but the night-time gloom of the small room she shared with her brothers at home was nothing like this. The sheer density of this darkness enveloped her, physically gliding over her clammy skin. It made her breathless, as if it was trying to squeeze the life from her.

As moisture oozed between her naked toes, she presumed that the suspiciously soft surface she crouched on was moss, which had grown to form a damp 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 her arms out to either side, 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, secured in rusted irons, abandoned and rotting. She battled the voice down. Thinking like that would do her no good at all. Her father had always congratulated his only daughter on her level-headedness, and now it was being so thoroughly put to the test, she was determined not to let him down.

Stretching her fingers into the blackness, Mathilda placed the tips of her fingers against the wall behind her. It was wet. Trickles of water had found a way in from somewhere, giving the walls the same slimy covering as the floor.

Continuing to trace the outline of the rough stone wall, Mathilda kept her feet exactly where they were. In seconds her fingertips came to a corner, and by twisting at the waist, she quickly managed to plot her prison from one side of the heavy wooden door to the other. The dungeon could be no more than five feet square, although it must be about six feet 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 Mathilda’s determination to be brave, and the cold brought her suppressed fear to the fore. Suddenly the shivering she had stoically ignored overtook her, and there was nothing she could do but let it invade her…

Here’s the blurb to The Outlaw’s Ransom-

When potter’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life. Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for using crime to rule their lands—and for using any means necessary to deliver their distinctive brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so, she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the betrothed of Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will send her to Bakewell in Derbyshire, and the home of Nicholas Coterel, one of the most infamous men in England.

With her life in the hands of more than one dangerous brigand, Mathilda must win the trust of the Folville’s housekeeper, Sarah, and Robert Folville himself if she has any chance of survival.

Never have the teachings gleaned from the tales of Robyn Hode been so useful…

You can buy The Outlaw’s Ransom for your Kindle or as a paperback from-

Kindle-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07B3TNRYN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519759895&sr=8-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B3TNRYN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519760741&sr=8-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

Paperback-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outlaws-Ransom-Folville-Chronicles/dp/1999855264/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520007697&sr=1-2&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

https://www.amazon.com/Outlaws-Ransom-Folville-Chronicles/dp/1999855264/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520007771&sr=1-1&keywords=the+outlaw%27s+ransom

(Please note that if you have read Romancing Robin Hood by Jenny Kane and Jennifer Ash- then you will already be familiar with the story with The Outlaw’s Ransom)

Happy reading,

Jen xx

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