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

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Criminal Inspiration: Folville Thinking

Although it cannot be categorically stated that the compilers of the Robin Hood ballads were influenced by the actual criminal gangs of the day, it is highly likely. Why wouldn’t the writers of the past be influenced by the political and local economic situation around them, just as we are today? If you study the literature and the criminal records of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries- as I did for five years- many similarities can be noted between the actions of gangs like the Folvilles, and those detailed in the ballads and political songs.

The earliest mention found (to date) of the name Robin Hood in literature appears in the poem The Vision of Piers Plowman, which was written by William Langland in c.1377. This was a protest poem complaining about the harsh conditions endured by the poor in the Fourteen Century. Not only did it mention Robin Hood, but it also makes reference to a real outlaw gang, the Folvilles.

“And some ryde and to recovere that unrightfully was wonne:

He wised hem wynne it ayein wightnesses of handes,

And fecchen it from false men with Folvyles lawes.”

In 1310, John de Folville, Lord of Ashby Folville, died, leaving his widow Alice and seven sons. The eldest son, also John, inherited the Ashby-Folville manor. Historical records show that John lived largely within the bounds of the law. However, his brothers, Eustace, Laurence, Richard, Robert, Thomas and Walter formed a criminal gang which became notorious. Between the mid 1320’s and 1330’s, the Folville brothers ran the town of Ashby Folville and its surrounds as a base for criminal activity.

The first crime that brought the Folvilles to the notice of the authorities was the murder of the Baron of the Exchequer, Roger Belers. Over the following decade, the Folville brothers’ travelled the countryside assaulting those they considered deserving of such treatment, and holding people and places to ransom. They hired themselves out as mercenaries, willing to commit crimes for the right price. In fact, if you look closely enough at the criminal activities of the Folville family and the Robin Hood ballads, you’ll see a great number of similarities. So many in fact, that I began to wonder if the ballad writers had been influenced by the actions of Folvilles – or if Folvilles had been influenced by the popularity of the ballads.

It was this latter theory that forms the inspiration behind The Folville Chronicles (The Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw, Edward’s Outlaw and Outlaw Justice).

These medieval murder mysteries show Robert de Folville and his brothers using the ballads of Robin and his outlaws as a code of behaviour. Be warned however- this isn’t the code of behaviour we associate with Robin Hood today. There’s no robbing the rich to give to the poor in the fourteenth century. The original ballads were all about punishing the greedy, lazy and the cruel. There was never any question of any money gained from such punishments being given away.

Perhaps it was inevitable that my doctoral research, combined with my love for the stories of Robin Hood, would eventually inspire my novels.

Writers, filmmakers and poets ever since the tales were first spoken, have all adapted the outlaw figure to fit their imagination, and to appeal to the audience of the age. The Robin Hood needed by the fourteenth century listener isn’t going to be the same one demanded of the Tudor population, and that version of the hero has been reinvented again and again ever since. From the wonderfully thigh slapping Errol Flynn, the mystical Robin’s portrayed by Michael Praed and Jason Connery in the 1980’s, to the pantomime figure presented in the late 90’s by Kevin Costner, and the PVC nightmare of the most recent incantation by Taron Egerton…perhaps each generation gets the Robin Hood it deserves?

In 1332 the Folville gang committed their most serious crime. They kidnapped the Justice of the Peace, Sir Richard Willoughby, on the road between Melton Mowbray and Grantham, near Waltham-on-the-Wolds. A ransom of 1,300 marks was demanded for his safe return. While the Folvilles’ waited for the ransom to be paid, they stole over a hundred pounds of goods from Willoughby, while they dragged him from wood to wood.

The implications of Willoughby’s kidnap were fair reaching. However, to go into them here would be to ruin the aforementioned fourth novel. I will say however, that the kidnap and ransom of nobles passing through their land, the targeting of corrupt officials, and the general gang activity employed by the Folvilles, echo similar incidents within the Robin Hood ballads, from The Lytell Geste to the later tales, such as Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne.

Rather than tell the story of the Folville brothers through their eyes, I introduced an outsider; a fictional protagonist to see their world with fresh eyes. Enter Mathilda of Twyford.

We first meet Mathilda in Book One of the Chronicles, The Outlaw’s Ransom.  A nineteen year old unmarried woman, Mathilda’s life revolves around looking after her father and brothers, running the home and the family pottery business since the death of her mother. Her life changes abruptly when she is forced to get to know the notorious Folville family rather better than she would have liked – and Mathilda finds herself surrounded by criminals and under a very frightening type of suspicion…

Blurb- 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 villainous 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…

Extract from The Outlaw’s Ransom

…The Folville didn’t say anything else, but satisfied himself with watching Mathilda as she stood, half bowed, before him. She wasn’t shaking now. He’d noticed how hard she had fought within herself to still her external reactions to his news of her change in circumstance and had admired her self-control. It was almost as if she had an offended dignity about her rather than terror; an unusual reaction from a prisoner in the presence of a Folville.

He wondered if she’d been taught her letters. Most families didn’t waste their time teaching their womenfolk such things, but Mathilda of Twyford was clearly sharp and capable. With her mother gone, she’d run the household, and he imagined she did that job well. He saw that his family’s plan for this girl might work, but only if she kept that nerve. Otherwise… well, she wouldn’t be the first to die during his family’s quest to maintain their position.

Breaking the silence that had stretched out between them he said, ‘I recall you have questions for me. I can see your head jarring with them.’

‘If I may, my Lord?’

‘You may, although I should caution you, I may not choose to offer a reply.’

Mathilda licked her lips and ran her clammy palms down her grubby belted surcoat, which largely hid her brother’s leather hose, and flexed her numb bare toes.

‘Please, my Lord, who are you?’

This produced a bark of laughter, ‘You are well-mannered despite the indignity of being thrust, if only for a short while, into our cell. I am Robert de Folville, one of seven brothers of this manor.’

Mathilda curtsied, more out of natural impulse than any feelings of reverence towards this man, whom she knew for certain, had been party to at least one murder. ‘You are kin to my Lord Eustace, my Lord?’

‘Yes, girl, I am.’ He cocked his head to one side. ‘That worries you?’

‘He is a man I have been taught to fear, forgive my impudence, my Lord.’

He snorted. ‘I would rather have honest impudence than bluff and lies. So, you have been instructed by your father to be wary of us?’

‘Not only my father, sir.’ Abruptly worried that her boldness might place her family in more danger, Mathilda clamped her mouth shut. Seeing, however, that the Folville wasn’t cross, but had an expression of acceptance on his face, Mathilda braved a further question.

‘Where is my father, my Lord, and Matthew and Oswin, my brothers?’

Robert de Folville paused and, after a moment’s consideration, gestured for the servant boy to bring her a chair. Mathilda was glad to be allowed to sit down, but was puzzled at the equal status she was being afforded after her earlier abuse, as Folville sat next to her, leaning uncomfortably close to her slight, tense frame….

***

I never dreamt, back when I was a medieval history student at the University of Leicester, that I’d be a writer one day. Nor did I think I’d use all the research I did back then to create fictional adventures based on historical events.

I honestly can’t believe my luck.

BUY LINKS

The Outlaw’s Ransom – The Folville Chronicles Book One

The Winter’s Outlaw – The Folville Chronicles Book Two

Edward’s Outlaw – The Folville Chronicles Book Three

Outlaw Justice – The Folville Chronicles Book Four

The first three novel are also available as an e-boxsethttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Folville-Chronicles-Box-Set-Books-ebook/dp/B07V387V3K/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Folville+Chronicles+Box+set&qid=1572970631&sr=8-1

You can also find the Robin of Sherwood audio scripts I’ve written here – www.spitefulpuppet.com

Happy reading,

Jen x

OUT TODAY: Outlaw Justice #TheFolvilleChronicles Book Four

The fourth novel in #TheFolvilleChronicles,

Outlaw Justice,

is OUT NOW!!

Outlaw Justice

Following on from The Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw and Edward’s Outlaw, the latest adventure for Mathilda of Twyford and the Folville brothers – Outlaw Justice – focuses on another ‘historical happening’ from the Folville brother’s rather chequered lives.

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.

You can order either an ebook or a paperback from – Amazon UK and Amazon.com

***

As with the other Folville novels, Robert de Folville and Mathilda draw on the influence of the popular Robin Hood ballads to guide them on their way.

This time – within Outlaw Justice– I have dropped in two nods to my writing hero – Richard Carpenter – and his fabulous television series Robin of Sherwood. If you are a fellow fan, and spot them- do let me know!!

If you missed last week’s Opening Line’s blog– check it out and read the first 500 words from Outlaw Justice.

Happy reading everyone.

Jennifer

Opening Lines: Outlaw Justice

With the launch of the fourth- and final- novel in The Folville Chronicles fast approaching. I thought I’d shamelessly steel this week’s Opening Lines blog for my own promotional purposes, and share the first 500 words from

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.

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

First 500 words

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.

Chapter One

2nd December 1331

Eustace de Folville shook the parchment in his fist. ‘The king has made him Justice to the Court of the King’s Bench! As if his arrogant head wasn’t swollen enough with power. We need to act. Now!’

Not one of his brothers argued.

Glaring at the crumpled missive, Eustace slammed a palm against the oak table which took centre stage in Ashby Folville manor’s hall. ‘We can delay no longer. Our removal of that leech, Roger Belers, was a bold step towards curbing the corruption that plagues this land. But that particular Baron of the Exchequer was nothing compared to this scourge on society. This… Justice!

‘He steals lands and chattels, using the law to cover his tracks; doing anything to improve his estate’s assets. An estate everyone knows only exists because both he and his father married well; although I pity any woman who has to share his marriage bed and ‑’

‘Justice!’ Walter de Folville spat into the fire, sending angry orange sparks dancing. ‘The fact Willoughby has the right ‑ not to mention the cheek ‑ to call himself a justice…’

Robert de Folville cut across his kin’s escalating outrage, pushing two flagons of ale in their direction. ‘Perhaps you could tell us what the missive actually says, brother?’

Grunting, Eustace glared at the parchment as if it was responsible for the coming storm. ‘It’s from Nicholas Coterel. Word has reached his family in Bakewell that, as of yesterday, the first of December…

If you’d like to find out what happens next, Outlaw Justice will be released as both an ebook and paperback on Monday 14th December. 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

Outlaw Justice: Out on 14th December

I’m delighted to announce that the fourth novel in #TheFolvilleChronicles,

Outlaw Justice

will be out on 14th December.

Continuing the story of potter’s daughter, Mathilda of Twyford and the Folville family – Outlaw Justice takes you into crime fuelled world of Fourteenth Century England.

Outlaw Justice

Book Four of The Folville Chronicles

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.

Mathilda has come a long way since she first met the notorious Folville Chronicles in The Outlaw’s Ransom.  She was just 19 years old in Book one of The Folville Chronicles – and life- which was hard anyway- was about to get very complicated indeed.

Women in the fourteenth century had to be strong-willed, as well as physically strong, or they’d never have survived. Even putting aside the obvious pressures and problems of childbirth, they ran family businesses alongside their men folk, kept the house, dealt with all the food, and raised the children. In fact, it all sounds fairly familiar!

I’ve never been keen on the idea of writing weak characters; be they male or female. Such characters frequently fail to hold the interest of a reader, often frustrating you into wishing they’d just grasp the metaphorical nettle and get on with it- whatever, ‘it’ is!

In the case of The Outlaw’s Ransom, it was particularly important for me to have a determined, capable and intelligent female in the driving seat. I wanted Mathilda to not just survive within her enforced hostile environment, but to hold her own, and show the Folville brothers that they were dealing with a feisty, clever, woman who could give as good as she got!

Now – as we reach the end of the series – Mathilda has been through so much – and life is about to get even more complicated.

OUT ON 14th DECEMBER – You can pre-order the ebook now via – Amazon UK and Amazon.com

You can read Outlaw Justice as a standalone novel, but if you’d like to follow Mathilda’s adventure from the beginning, you can find The Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw and Edward’s Outlaw on Amazon and all good paperback and ebook retailer.

Happy reading,

Jennifer xx

Remedy in Time: Jennifer Macaire

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Macaire, with some information about her latest adventure/timeslip novel- A Remedy in Time- and a sabretooth tiger…

Over to you Jennifer…

Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog! I’m here to talk about my newest time travel book, ‘A Remedy in Time’, and what inspired me to write it.

I’ve had a passion for time travel ever since I found out about dinosaurs. I admit, I’ve watched the Jurassic Park series about a hundred times. The dinosaurs never get boring for me. When I was in kindergarten, I stood at the blackboard and drew huge dinos. A t-rex chased a triceratops, a stegosaurus lumbered across a swamp, while a huge brontosaurus (now known as apatosaurus, which is a pity, given that brontosaurus meant “thunder lizard”) grazed on high tree tops. One of my teachers discovered my obsession, and she would take me from class to class so I could draw and give a talk about dinosaurs.

Then one day I happened on a Reader’s Digest that featured sabretooth tigers. In the illustration, the tigers are attacking a mammoth that has somehow gotten entrapped in a tar-pit. I stared at that illustration for hours, trying to imagine how the sabretooth tigers could hunt and eat their prey with such massive canines.

That was that for the dinosaurs. Suddenly I was fascinated by a time when woolly mammoths, huge cave bears, and even sloths the size of small houses, roamed the frigid plains of the ice-age tundra. The sabretooth tiger, with its out-sized canines became my spirit animal – I read everything I could about them, and spent my time drawing pictures of extinct mammals. Needless to say, the sabretooth tiger was the beast that really caught my interest.

Years and years later, I stumbled on a blogsite that featured fossils, and it amused me to try and guess the mystery photos the author posted. And then one day, lo and behold, there was a sabretooth tiger! I recognized it right away. In the blog post, the author admitted that scientists still argued about how the animal hunted its prey. I started imagining a trip to the past to film a documentary about sabretooth tigers.

Of course, the trip would start at Tempus U, where my time travel books all start from. And the heroine this time would be a single-minded young woman who not only specialized in paleolithic animals but infectious diseases as well, because when I started writing the book, there had been a breakout of an especially virulent form of typhus in California. And so I wove a story about corporate greed, vaccines, man-made diseases, and a trip to the far, far past. A Remedy in Time is available for preorder, and will be published January 7th, 2021!

And here is the fabulous cover my publisher, Headline Accent, made for it!

To save the future, she must turn to the past . . .

San Francisco, Year 3377. A deadly virus has taken the world by storm. Scientists are desperately working to develop a vaccine. And Robin Johnson – genius, high-functioning, and perhaps a little bit single-minded – is delighted. Because, to cure the disease, she’s given the chance to travel back in time.

But when Robin arrives at the last Ice Age hoping to stop the virus at its source, she finds more there than she bargained for. And just as her own chilly exterior is beginning to thaw, she realises it’s not only sabre-toothed tigers that are in danger of extinction . . .

Preorder from:

Amazon.com  ; Amazon.co.uk ; Amazon.com.au :  Hachhette UK

Excerpt:

I lay with my face in the grass. I hadn’t vomited, but that’s only because I couldn’t take a full breath. I knew that as soon as my diaphram started working again I’d spill my guts. It didn’t take long. “Why, oh why, did I agree to this,” I said, between bouts of retching and paralyzing pain. Finally, I managed to get to my knees. “What if a sabre tooth tiger had been here? We’d already be eaten, or worse.”

He shook his head. “See how the air around us is faintly blue? We’re protected by the tractor beam for a good hour. Nothing can get in.”

I reached out my hand and touched the blue-tinged air. It was a little like being surrounded by a very faint fog. I poked. My finger tingled and stung. “Wo cao!” I said. As I watched, the blue shivered and began to fade. “It’s almost gone. Let’s go. We should send some vidcams out and see if there are any spots that look like a good campsite.”

Donnell looked at his comlink.

“What time is it?” I asked. “Is time here different, I wonder? It was nearly noon when we left the, um, future.” I glanced at my own comlink. “It’s one minute to one. Amazing. We go back ten thousand years in little more than an hour. A-fucking-mazing. Look at this place!” Mouth open in amazement, I gazed around. We were on the side of a grassy hill, and we had a good view of the surrounding area. I forgot about my pain, I was in the past! I was here! I staggered to my feet and looked around. “Wa cao! We’re really here! There is a ta me da giant armadillo down there. Putain, a glyptodon! This is amazing. Look at that! It looks like a walking igloo except it’s brown, not white. Donnell, look!

Donnell didn’t look at the scenery. He looked at me, and said, “Robin, I just wanted to say I’m sorry. I’m really very sorry. I didn’t have a choice in the matter.” He looked truly upset.

I hastened to reassure him. “No need to apologise. Look, I know you didn’t want to have me as a partner. I overheard you talking to the dean. It doesn’t matter. Let’s just make this trip a success. We have many lives depending on us.”

He made a strange noise. Then his face turned ashen, and he gagged like he was about to be sick. I thought he was still feeling the effects of the trip. I bent to help him to his feet, but he gagged again, then screamed.

“What is it? Donnell? What is happening?” I didn’t understand what I was seeing. His leg, his leg was shrinking. He shrieked, grabbed his leg, and his hands sank into his, well, where his thigh should have been, and then he sort of slid and slumped to the ground, convulsing, his body moving as if waves were tossing it, as if he were made of liquid, and his clothes became wet, and the strongest, strangest smell assaulted my nose.

I think I started to scream then too. Then my breath ran out and all I could do was squeak, squeak, squeak, as I tried to drag air into my lungs.

He must have been in dreadful pain. He screamed until the end. Until all that was left was his chest and his head, then those too sank into themselves and all that was left were clothes and boots, and a pink, foamy gel.

I spun around and flailed at the air, at the faint wisp of blue that still lingered. I found my voice. “Help!” I screamed, “Help, help, help!”

No one came. Below me, in the valley, the glyptodon lifted its head and seemed to look in my direction.

I couldn’t stop shaking, and I couldn’t seem to be able to breathe. Black spots danced in front of my vision and I knelt down, bent over, and hit my head on the ground. “No. No. No! That didn’t just happen. It’s a hallucination. You’re still unconscious. You’ll wake up in a minute. Wake up, Robin. Wake the feck up.” I dug my fingers into the dirt and screamed again.

Bio

Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She loves reading, writing, and sultry summer nights. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St. Peter and Paul high school in St. Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite. She met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

Follow Jennifer on twitter & Facebook 

 

Many thanks for dropping by today Jennifer.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Sin as Red as Scarlet by Janet Few

This week I’m delighted to welcome fellow historian, and fellow Exeter Author’s Association member, Dr Janet Few to my blog, to share the Opening Lines from her brand new novel: Sin as Read as Scarlet.

Blurb

Sins as Red as Scarlet – the true story of a Devon town in turmoil by Janet Few

It is 1682. Across the land, the Age of Reason has begun; scientific thought is ousting superstitious belief. The menacing days of the witchfinder have all but gone. Nevertheless, in Devon’s county town, three impoverished women from Byddeforde are condemned to death for the crime of witchcraft. In Byddeforde we find the rich merchants, the flourishing tobacco warehouses and the bustle of ships setting sail for the Newfoundland cod-banks. Yet, barely hidden, are layers of intolerance and antagonism that have built up over decades. Sins as Red as Scarlet is the unfolding of the lives of those whose prejudices and fears were shaped by the turmoil of plague, of war and of religious dissent.

In an alternative 2020, sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.

First 500 words…

Prologue Bess’ Story

25 August 1682

I watch them die, these three. Their bodies twisting and gyrating in a parody of dance, as their bladders and bowels betray them. For those around me it is but a jaunt, a spectacle that will be on their lips for a space and then forgotten. For me though, for me, it cuts to the heart. I stand close, close enough to hear their last words. She speaks of sin, she does, she who is tied to me by invisible cords. She who is the first to swing. Sins as red as scarlet and yes, I know. I know sin stains many souls.

***

We’d arrived early, whilst the dew-scent still sullied the grass. The children became restive as we waited; young Nathaniel grew heavy in my arms. A sickly child, I dared not let him run free with his brothers. Had I kin to whom I could have entrusted my precious babe, I would not have brought him on such a journey. There was no one.  My brothers, long since gone for sailors; narry a word I’ve had from them for many a year. Most like they’ve minded to settle in the New World, as my father-in-law has done. We might have joined them, my good master and I but we are content to bide in Byddeforde and we prosper in some small way. He is a good man my Richard. Folk whispered when he took me to wife, murmured that I was not of his rank, prated that my sisters were whores and that my blood carried a papist stain. Yet he looked to ignore them Richard did and now I am Mistress Gard, respectable matron. I have given him five sons and we bear the sadness that two lie within the churchyard’s shade. ’Tis rare now that folk remember that I am sister to Kathryn and to Unis, who both brought forth babes afore they were wed. Few call to mind that I am my mother’s daughter and on a day such as this, ’tis a blessing.

The whispers of mist burned away as the sun climbed above the shimmering horizon; another day of heat and gathering storms. Undeterred, the bystanders gathered. Restless we stood, nameless within the crush of the crowd. They came to gawp, to exclaim, they came to tremble in anticipation. For them, the frisson of voyeurism. For them the comfortable relief that those who were to die were naught to them but mere players in a show put on for their gratification. The time drew nigh. They were all there, the accusers, the arresters, those who had come for the pleasure of it and in amongst them stood I, feigning indifference. The press of people on Magdalen Street parted as the women were led forward; women who knew that they would never see another sunrise. My eyes were drawn to the first. She looked slatternly, diminished. When did she become so very old? When did her vigour leave…

For more information and buy links visit

https://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/historical-novels/sins-as-red-as-scarlet-the-story-of-a-devon-town-in-turmoil/, or the publisher’s website https://bluepoppypublishing.co.uk.

***

 

Many thanks for your great opening lines, Janet.

Happy reading everyone

Jenny x

Robin Hood and The Outlaw’s Ransom

With Outlaws Justice – the fourth book in The Folville Chronicles – in the final stages of editing, I thought it would be the perfect time to look back at the beginning of my historical crime/adventure/romance series.

The Outlaw’s Ransom was my very first title under the name of Jennifer Ash.

Blurb

The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash.

When craftsman’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 disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their 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 paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…

The Outlaw’s Ransom (which originally saw life as part of my contemporary fiction/medieval mystery timeslip novel, Romancing Robin Hood), is a book that’s very close to my heart.  Anyone who follows this blog will know that it is my love of all things Robin Hood which led to me researching the real life criminal gang, the Folville brothers, and considering how they might have been influenced by the outlaw ballads that would have been circulating at the time.

It was interesting to be able to give, what I imagine, the Folville family’s perspective on the Robin Hood stories might be.

rh-and-the-monk

Extract

…Eustace de Folville continued, ‘You know something of us, Mathilda, from living in these parts. And, I have no doubt, my dear brother has explained to you our beliefs on maintaining our lands and beyond, keeping a weather eye on the dealings of all men in this hundred.’

Mathilda bit her tongue in an effort to remain demurely mute, trying to concentrate on what Eustace was saying and not on the unknown fate of her younger brother.

‘He has also, I believe, told you of his fascination with stories,’ Eustace gave Robert a blunt stare; leaving Mathilda to wonder whether it was his brother’s passion for the minstrels’ tales, or the fact he’d shared that belief and interest with a mere chattel, that Eustace disapproved of.

‘The balladeers have become obsessed of late with the injustices of this land. Often rightly so. Naturally the fabled Robyn Hode has become a hero. An ordinary man who breaks the law, and yet somehow remains good and faithful in the eyes of the Church, is bound to be favoured. In years past such a character’s popularity would have been unthinkable, but these days, well …’

Eustace began to pace in front of the fire, reminding Mathilda of how his brother had moved earlier, ‘Now we are empowered by the young King, the Earl of Huntingdon, and Sheriff Ingram, to keep these lands safe and well run, and by God and Our Lady we’ll do it, even if we have to sweep some capricious damned souls to an earlier hell than they were expecting along the way.’

Eustace was shouting now, but not at her. His voice had adopted a hectoring passion, and Mathilda resolved that she would never willingly disappoint this man; it would be too dangerous.

‘Many of the complaints of crimes and infringements that reach my family’s ears are not accurate. Far more felonies are alleged out of spite or personal grievance than are ever actually committed. We require more eyes and ears, girl. Accurate, unbiased eyes and ears.

‘The sheriff of this county is not a bad man. No worse than the rest anyway; but Ingram is sorely stretched. He has not only this shire, but Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire within his writ. The man cannot be everywhere at once. No man can.

‘We are believed to have a band of criminals under our control, Mathilda. This is not true. I’m no Hode, although I am lucky to have the respect of the immediate population, and although I know that respect is because they go in fear of me, I’d rather have that than no respect at all. Hode’s principles I embrace, as I do other outlaw heroes’ who have flouted a law more corrupt than they are. Those such as Gamelyn can give a man a good example to follow. What was it he declared, Robert, to the Justice at his false trial?’

Moving into the light of the table, Robert thought for a second before reeling off a verse he’d probably known by heart since childhood, ‘Come from the seat of justice: all too oft Hast thou polluted law’s clear stream with wrong; Too oft hast taken reward against the poor; Too oft hast lent thine aid to villainy, And given judgment ’gainst the innocent. Come down and meet thine own meed at the bar, While I, in thy place, give more rightful doom And see that justice dwells in law for once.’

Eustace nodded to his brother, who’d already shrunk back into the shadows of the nearest wall, ‘I do not have such a band at my beck and call, Mathilda. When I need help I have to pay for it.’

***

The values that – in my mind at least- the Folville brothers see in the stories of Robin Hood form an important undying theme to this tale- and to Mathilda of Twyford they will make the difference between life and death.

lytell-geste

If you’d like to read my first medieval mystery, then The Outlaw’s Ransom is available in the UK for your Kindle here –

https://jennykane.co.uk/historical-fiction/the-outlaws-ransom/ 

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer (aka Jenny!!) xx

 

From Raisins to Jigsaw Island: Lynne McVernon

I’m delighted to welcome fellow author and friend, Lynne McVernon to my place today, to give us an insight into her life and her two novels, Terrible with Raisins and Jigsaw Island.

Grab a cuppa, put your feet up, and have a read.

Over to you Lynne…

One of my husband, Martyn’s, fondest claims is that he’s slept with a woman who hugged a man who slept with Marilyn Monroe. Quite a glamorous three degrees of separation but not strictly true. Reassuringly, the woman he refers to sleeping with is me. The other man is playwright Arthur Miller. And Arthur Miller, as you may know, was Miss Monroe’s third husband. But I didn’t so much hug him as run smack into him while lost in the backstage corridors at the National Theatre. He was a very tall man, I remember, and quite laid back about the collision.

It’s one of many theatrical anecdotes amassed over 25 years’ work encompassing a range of activities from sweeping the stage to directing. As the daughter of a playwright, writing and theatre were instilled in me from birth. So my career was one of director and writer, directing devised, co-written and self-penned material plus everything from Ayckbourn to Shakespeare in regional rep, the Young Vic and the National. I mounted a writers’ festival in Tayside, and founded a young people’s creative writing/performance company, Fable Productions, in Berkshire. With drama students, I devised/co-wrote a complex play, A Country Wedding, based on the life of Peter Breughel, which played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 1985. I also adapted three Dickens novels for Guildford School of Acting, possibly my favourite experiences.

So why am I not doing it these days? Why novels instead of plays? Theatre is a very demanding profession, with periods of unemployment, constantly changing conditions and steep challenges. To be honest, the 70s to 90s weren’t that welcoming to female directors. Very few survived. I’m glad to note women’s opportunities in the field have changed considerably. But for me, back then, it all became too much. Again, over that period, mental health was given comparatively short shrift. I struggled with bottomless bouts of despair for many years. Once, I took a rehearsal while convinced my head was changing shape. At least twice, I went down to a dress size 8 – and I’m 5’ 9”. All that, and a crumbled marriage, made me realise I couldn’t live with it any more.

Serial jobs supported me to write. Some, apart from teaching, which I love, could be fairly dispiriting as I felt like a ‘stranger in a strange land’. Publishing my first novel in 2013 was the first project I’d completed for years. A friend vanished for a long weekend on her fortieth birthday to ‘leave behind all the crap of the last forty years’ and start again. ‘Great idea’ I thought, and, being on the way to fifty myself, wrote about a woman who tries to escape her fiftieth birthday in Greece. Et voilá, Terrible With Raisins. It squeaked in just before I reached my sixtieth. It’s taken seven years to produce the second novel, ‘Jigsaw Island’.

I must be improving as a writer because I’ve had a couple of prizewinning short stories and may even publish an anthology. Still humming and hah-ing on that one. The next novel is probably halfway there. Three others are festering in drawers. Jenny Kane has been a great mentor and, as far as I’m concerned, friend. I am in awe of her output!

Martyn is a wonderful supporter of my writing, an exacting proofreader and has worked with me on the cover designs for the release of Jigsaw Island and the re-release of Terrible With Raisins.

Writing is my passion, a compulsion and a therapy. It’s also saved my life. I tend to have more good days than bad, but lockdown has been difficult for everyone and the gremlins surface. If you’ve been reticent about your depression or anxiety , or both – they’re fairly unpleasant companions – maybe it’s time to share. Do if you can. And if you’d like to talk to me – I’m here to listen – and I mean listen. lynne@lynnemcvernon.com

Website: https://lynnemcvernon.com/

Facebook: Lynne McVernon – Author Twitter: @lynnemcvernon

One anecdote before I go. I was once ‘on the book’ (prompt book) for a production of Macbeth in Worthing. One night, Lady Macbeth walked on for the sleepwalking scene, stopped, then shuffled off backwards, candle and all. My heart stopped. Almost immediately, she reappeared and the scene went ahead as chillingly as it should. Afterwards, the actress confessed that she’d gone three paces on, remembered she was wearing flip flops, thought ‘Lady Macbeth wouldn’t wear flip flops’ went back to the wings and kicked them off. She was my dear friend, the late Shirley Stelfox, whom you may, perhaps, remember as (many years later) Edna Birch in Emmerdale.

The novels: Paperbacks are available mid-July 2020.

BLURB – TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS – Growing up at last?

Clair knew what was coming, ‘…something pretty terrible…Not just plain terrible. This was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in i.t’. From ‘The Middle or Blue Period’, Dorothy Parker

There’s a big birthday looming. Clair tries hiding from it on the Aegean island of Symi, Greece. Inevitably it catches up with her. But so do a couple of possibilities, interesting, attractive ones…Encouraged, she departs the Greek idyll to face the reality of her demanding daughter, her hypercritical mother, and the special person in Scotland who keeps her sane. But there’s a secret she keeps from them all. In the coming year, she will swallow a lot of raisins, sweet and sour, in England, Scotland and Florida. She will discover plenty – forget a few things (it was a BIG birthday), and, reluctantly, reveal her secret. Mother, daughter, niece, lover, reluctant teacher and neglected artist – will the real Clair Harkin please grow up?

Read a chapter here  Buy eBook

BLURB JIGSAW ISLAND – Know who your friends are… (released 30 June 2020)

On a holiday escape to the Greek islands, Annie Buchanan discovers what – and then who – is missing from her life…

When single mother, Annie, and son Jude take a break away from Scotland to stay with her brother and friends on the Greek island of Symi, they find the warmth and support they need. As they ease into the relaxed rhythm of life there, old and new acquaintances change the course of their vacation. Whether it’s for better or worse, Annie will discover when she visits the island of Leros. There she may be able to put together some of the missing pieces in her life and learn who her friends really are. But she cannot be prepared for some uncomfortable truths about the past and the dramatic way in which they will change the present for her… and Jude.

Read a chapter here   Buy Ebook 

***

Many thanks Lynne.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Gilli Allan: Buried Treasure

I’m delighted to welcome Gilli Allan back to my blog today to share her Opening Lines from Buried Treasure- as well as giving us a peep at the novel’s gorgeous new cover.

Here’s the Blurb

“I found Buried Treasure a compelling read. It was so many things: a love story, a hunt for clues to lost secrets, and a fascinating look at how our past experiences shape us, and how we can heal even after damage. The characters were wonderfully well drawn. ”

Jane thinks he sees her as shallow and ill-educated. Theo thinks she sees him as a snob, stuffy and out of touch.
Within the ancient precincts of the university the first encounter between the conference planner and the academic is accidental and unpromising. Just as well there’s no reason for them ever to meet again. But behind the armour they’ve each constructed from old scars, they’ve more in common than divides them. Both have an archaeological puzzle they are driven to solve. As their stories intertwine, their quest to uncover the past unearths more than expected.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

 Why did everyone laugh at her? Even her sister. It was true, and Rachel knew it.  Their great Uncle Alf Sydney HAD found treasure on his farm. And Uncle Bill – who should have been at school that day but was on the tractor with him – agreed how they’d dug it up, cleaned it as best they could, and kept it in the room they called the parlour.

These days the nearest thing they had to treasure was laid out on the table.  Called ‘the Sydney Collection’, the stones, coins and broken bits of pottery were all a bit dull and boring, to be honest. More exciting were the weird and wonderful things Uncle Bill had brought back from far flung places, when he was soldiering.

But back when Bill was still a boy, the treasure they’d dug out of a muddy field, was kept on the sideboard. Jane imagined it piled up high, lighting up the dark room with beams of glittery light. So much money and necklaces, bracelets and brooches, and long strings of pearls, it would have spilled onto the floor!  She was sure there’d have been crowns too, and gold caskets studded with rubies and emeralds. And even that piece of jewellery that gave her the shivers just to think about it – a diamond tiara like the one Cinderella wore to the ball. That was until the police came and snatched it all away.  

It just wasn’t fair, Jane told the girls in her class. But they shook their heads as if they knew she was pretending. No matter how often she said – “Honest, it’s true! It’s in a museum in London now” – they still wouldn’t believe her. If she’d been able to honestly say she’d seen it herself, would that have made a difference?  But London was a long way away, and expensive to visit. “One day….” she’d been promised.

Everyone was already paired up or in gangs when she arrived at the new school, so to be made to feel stupid, boastful and a fibber, when all she wanted was to make friends…! She kept her mouth shut from then on, and kept to herself old Uncle Alf’s mysterious wink, and the tap to the side of his nose, whenever he talked about the treasure.

Chapter 1

2016

“Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you….”  The old song evokes nostalgic memories of the farm, of family singsongs around the upright piano; Uncle Alf bashing out the tune, and Bill and Mary, egging him on. Why is it running through her head now, decades later, when both Alf and Bill are long dead, and the farm sold?  Deep down maybe she believes she’s on her way to achieving her own dream? But anyone who thinks that dreams really can come true is as delusional as the child who still believes in Santa – or Prince Charming.  A sick jolt runs down her spine. How…

Here are the buy links-

BURIED TREASURE

mybook.to/BURIEDTREASURE

Find Gilli’s other books TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL at

author.to/GILLIALLAN

Contact Gilli at

http://gilliallan.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/gilli.allan.1

https://twitter.com/gilliallan

Bio

Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real life supplanted the imaginary kind.

After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as an illustrator in advertising and only began writing again when she became a mother.

Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.

All of her recent books TORN, LIFE CLASS, FLY or FALL and BURIED TREASURE have gained ‘Chill with a Book’ awards.

Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is now also a writer.

 

Wishing you every success with your novel, Gilli.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

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

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