Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

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

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Opening Lines with Carol McGrath: The 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 with Charlie Laidlaw

This week’s Opening Lines blog shares the first 500 words of Charlie Laidlaw’s dark comedy, The Space Between Time.

Why not sit back for five minutes, and enjoy the very start of the story?

Blurb

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

First 500 words…

Density parameter of the universe

I have decided, somewhat reluctantly, but after careful consideration and under the influence of strong medication, to begin here:

Yippee! Mummy is taking me to the cinema and has told me that it’s a surprise. This doesn’t really make sense, because if taking me to the cinema is a surprise, why has she told me?

But this is typical Mum; opening her mouth and saying something, then realising that she shouldn’t have said it and wishing that she could un-say it. Even in my short life, I know she’s confused a lot of people – and offended many others. Nothing nasty, but if someone at the shops says what a nice day it is, Mum will often disagree, and I’m old enough to know that you’re not supposed to disagree about the weather.

Even if it’s been pouring with rain for hours, you’re supposed to agree that it’s just a passing shower. It’s not intentional, she simply doesn’t think, then realises she may have been rude, and sometimes goes back into the shop to apologise, or doesn’t go back and then frets that she should have done. Mum spends a lot of time worrying, usually about things that aren’t worth worrying about.

My Mum’s called Caitlin, by the way, although most grown-ups call her Cat. It’s a better name than Dog or Mouse, I suppose, and Mum does look a bit feline with her big eyes and unblinking gaze.

But it is a surprise to be going to the cinema because we almost never go to the cinema, and then only to see cartoons about dogs and cats – and big cats like lions. I keep telling her that I don’t like cartoons but – another Mum habit – she’s rarely listening or, if she is, then the information just wafts around her brain like smoke and quickly gets blown out her ears.

She told me recently that her brain is a bit of a butterfly, as if that neatly explained things, which it didn’t. I’d been telling her something really interesting about frogspawn and she’d been nodding and smiling in – mostly – the right places when the phone rang. It was Dad, who Mum spends most of the time worrying about, and who’s rarely here, but does try to phone from London or New York, or wherever he says he is.

When Dad phones, one of Mum’s feet taps on the floor, faster and faster. We have wooden floors, so it’s like living with a large woodpecker. For some reason, Mum rarely believes that he’s where he says he is.

Mum put down the phone and stared at it with narrowed eyes, as if it had done something naughty, then said bastard very loudly. ‘It’s a term of endearment,’ she told me, ignoring my sceptical expression. ‘Now, what were you telling me about toads?’

That’s also when she told me about the butterfly inside her head, which I also didn’t believe, because butterflies are only colourful insects and…

***

You can find out what happens next by buying The Space Between Time from all good retailers, including…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=the+space+between+time&ref=nb_sb_noss_2 

***

Bio

I’m the author of three novels, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and The Space Between Time and Love Potions and Other Calamities.

I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.
I was brought up in the west of Scotland (quite near Paisley, but thankfully not too close) and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.
I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.
I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember.
Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.
Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.
I am married with two grown-up children and live in East Lothian.  And that’s about it.

You can find Charlie at…

www.charlielaidlawauthor.com

F: charlielaidlawauthor

T: @claidlawauthor

***

Many thanks Charlie,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

A sip of champagne

 

I’ve been so busy lately, that I’ve been neglecting my blog. I promise the neglect has been for good reasons- which will result in 4 new novels over the next 12 months.  (Yes- I am insane).

Talking of neglect – one of my novels often gets forgotten about when I’m waving my marketing flag – and that’s Another Glass of Champagne. Which is a shame- because I loved every second of writing it. As the last in a series of books (the Another Cup of… range), I frequently forget to shout about it, even though it stands up as a book in its own right, without you having to read the rest of the series first.While Another Cup of Coffee very much involved the figure of bad-boy Jack, in Another Glass of Champagne  he takes the staring role.

 

The novel opens with, after an absence of a few years from his friend’s lives, Jack is heading back to London, with new opportunities, a new skill set, a determination to avoid romance at all costs, and fresh adventures well within his grasp- all of which could be celebrated with a glass of champagne.

The trouble is, knowing Jack, he might well mess it all up…

Blurb

A warm-hearted, contemporary tale about a group of friends living in a small corner of busy London, by bestselling author Jenny Kane.

Fortysomething Amy is shocked and delighted to discover she s expecting a baby not to mention terrified! Amy wants best friend Jack to be godfather, but he hasn’t been heard from in months. When Jack finally reappears, he s full of good intentions but his new business plan could spell disaster for the beloved Pickwicks Coffee Shop, and ruin a number of old friendships…

Meanwhile his love life is as complicated as ever and yet when he swears off men for good, Jack meets someone who makes him rethink his priorities…but is it too late for a fresh start?

 Author Kit has problems of her own: just when her career has started to take off, she finds herself unable to write and there s a deadline looming, plus two headstrong kids to see through their difficult teenage years…will she be able to cope?

Extract

Staring out of the train window, Jack exhaled a long, slow breath. Was this how Amy had felt when she had first come to Richmond after her years of self-imposed exile in Scotland? Sort of excited, but absolutely terrified at the same time? 

Jack wondered if, once he’d worked up the courage to go and see her, Amy would notice the parallels between their situations. A smile crossed his face. However she reacted, she would forgive him for not being in touch over the past few years. Amy always forgave him. For everything.

In his mind, he’d left Richmond for a good reason. Although he knew Amy accepted he’d needed to leave, he was less sure she understood why – which was why he’d decided to break off even phone and email contact with her. It was also why he hadn’t told any of his friends where he was; just to see if that helped.

It wasn’t that Jack wasn’t happy for Amy and Paul to be living the fairytale, but the fact that they were together, while he was still alone, was sometimes hard to take – especially when he knew Amy’s love could have been his if only he’d been prepared to risk it all those years ago. This nagging thought – one he accepted was utterly ridiculous, as he knew that he’d never have been able to ignore his sexuality, even for Amy – made him a rather less kind human being than he would have liked. He knew that until he could get past feeling he was missing out on something that all his friends took for granted, they were better off without him and the chip on his shoulder. Amy would understand, he was sure. Kit, on the other hand, might not be as understanding…

Jack’s smile disappeared. Years ago, back when they were dating, Kit would have forgiven him anything – but since Amy had come back into his life, and both women had become good friends in their own right, Kit had become much stronger. Jack had learnt that Kit had always hated how he could make her doubt her strength and resilience. These days she was so much more equipped to deal with him and his bullshit – and he knew it.

Perhaps he shouldn’t be coming back. After all, he knew he was as emotionally messed-up as ever – but he had to go somewhere, and anyway, whether he wanted to admit it or not, he’d been getting homesick.  Plus he’d had to get away from Kent…

Opening his eyes, Jack sighed as the train’s sudden slowing announced that they were arriving at St Pancras. Here he was again. Back in London, fleeing from yet another cock-up in his love life, and with nowhere to call home. He wished he hadn’t so rashly sold his place in Mortlake – he’d got far less than it was worth, too, in his haste to make a clean break.  

There were several Tube connections to Richmond Jack could have chosen to see his old friends straight away, but as he stood in the bustling station, he found himself unable to move a step further.  It wasn’t like him to be assailed by doubt, but this time it was different. Whatever he did, he always managed to upset people. He never meant to; usually he never even saw his offences coming.

On this occasion however, he knew that if he was going to go ahead with his latest plan and really make it work, he was going to cause trouble for some of his friends…

***

If you’d like to find out if Jack finally finds the person of his dreams, and how his latest escapade impacts on the lives of the Pickwicks crew, then you can buy Another Glass of Champagne from all good bookshops and from online retailers including-

Happy reading,

Jenny x

PS- Please note that the paperback and ebook covers are different- the inside is the same!

Opening Lines with Marie Laval: A Paris Fairy Tale

On this week’s Opening Lines I’m delighted to welcome Marie Laval, with the first 500 words of her romance, A Paris Fairy Tale.

Over to you Marie…

It takes me so long to write a novel that I can’t always recall what gave me the original idea for the story. I can however remember exactly where and when A Paris Fairy Tale was born in my imagination. I was with my daughter Clémence at the beautiful John Ryland’s Library in Manchester city centre. If you are in Manchester, this wonderful building is well worth a visit, by the way…

After looking at the various collections on display, I sat in front of a computer and played around with an interactive programme describing the world of illuminated manuscripts in Paris in the Middle Ages. From that moment on, I was hooked… It took me two years to write the story and to get it published. I can honestly say that had it not rained that day, and had I not popped into John Ryland’s Library and had my daughter not been so patient whilst I took frantic notes and muttered to myself like a mad woman, A PARIS FAIRY TALE wouldn’t have existed.

Blurb

Is Paris the city of happily ever afters?
Workaholic art historian Aurora Black doesn’t have time for fairy tales or Prince Charmings, even in the most romantic city in the world. She has recently been hired by a Parisian auction house for a job that could make or break her career. Unfortunately, daredevil journalist Cédric Castel seems intent on disrupting Aurora’s routine.
As Aurora and Cédric embark on a journey across France, they get more than they bargained for as they find themselves battling rogue antiques dealers and personal demons, not to mention a growing attraction to each other.
But with the help of a fairy godmother or two, could they both find their happily ever afters?

A PARIS FAIRY TALE is available as an ebook and audiobook on Amazon and various other platforms.

***

First 500 words…

I love Paris when it’s sunny and I love Paris when it rains… No, that wasn’t right. Aurora sighed as she pulled a tissue out of her handbag to wipe the lenses of her glasses. She had hummed the song ever since landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Why could she not remember the lyrics? She should know them by heart. Paris was one of her most favourite places, even if all she had seen of the French capital city that day were thundering grey skies, student protests and wicked motorists who derived great pleasure from driving into puddles as she limped by in her uncomfortable new shoes.

She glanced at her reflection in the mirror and dabbed the soggy tissue under her eyes where the mascara had run. Her mad dash from the metro station in the torrential rain had left her looking like a drowned racoon. What would Florent Maupas think? Not only was she late to his party, but she hardly looked like a respectable historian… or a stylish one, for that matter. Her cocktail dress was, like the rest of her clothes, plain and serviceable, and so rarely worn it smelled of mothballs no matter how much perfume she sprayed on it. Her only concession to fashion was the silly new heels she couldn’t wait to take off.

She slipped her glasses back on, and pushed the tissue back into her bag. Never mind what she looked like. Florent Maupas had hired her for her brain, not her physique or dress sense.

‘Here you are at last, ma chère.I was getting worried.’

There was the man himself. Florent Maupas – handsome, grey-haired millionaire playboy and owner of one of Paris’ most prestigious auction houses.

‘I am sorry to be late, monsieur,’ she said with an apologetic smile. ‘I got lost on my way from the metro.’

‘Why didn’t you phone? My chauffeur would have picked you up from the hotel. The weather is appalling tonight. Poor you…you are drenched.’

She tucked a wet lock of hair behind her ear and smiled. ‘ I’ll be fine. I don’t mind the rain.’

‘That’s because you’re English!’ His bewildered tone suggested that she might as well be from Mars.

Stepping closer, he added in a low voice. ‘Now, my dear, I must remind you not to breathe a word about the manuscript to anyone. It is vital nobody finds out about your real job here until your valuation is complete.’

She frowned. ‘Of course, monsieur.’ Who did he take her for? She was a professional, and as such knew that discretion was of the utmost importance.

He nodded. ‘Good. Now, let’s join our guests.’

She did her best not to limp as she followed him, even if pain clawed at her left foot so fiercely that she bit back a gasp of pain and dug her nails into her palm. Why didn’t she stick to her usual no-nonsense pumps? Whatever the shop assistant had said, glamorous high heels weren’t for…

Bio

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire with her family. She works full-time as a modern languages teacher and in her spare time she loves writing romance and dreaming about romantic heroes. She writes both historical and contemporary romance and her best-selling Little Pink Taxi was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit. It was followed by A PARIS FAIRY TALE and BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC. Marie belongs to Authors on the Edge and writes short stories for the best selling Miss Moonshine’s anthologies. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. Her native France, as well as her passion for history and research, very much influences her writing, and all her novels have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’!

***

Many thanks Marie.

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

Inspired by…

On a recent break from my editing mountain, I decided to clear up the documents on my laptop – of which there are thousands. As I was deleting old blogs, I came across an interview I did several years ago, when I talked about the influence my Nan had on my work.

The inspiration of certain people in our lives can never be underestimated.

Here’s what I had to say about my incredible grandparent…

Although many people have inspired my writing over the years, it was my Nan, (my mum’s mother), who had the biggest impact on my work- or rather, on my desire to write.

A stalwart of the local WI; a poet, script writer and all round word lover, my Nan had a creative talent I could only dream of. Unfortunately, her own parents were of the mind that she should not put herself forward. That she wasn’t clever enough to go to university (she was) and that she should not put herself forward, but should stay at home and help with the family business.

Of course, as she was born in 1926, this was not a new, surprising, or even resented attitude. It is just how it was. My Nan was not confident in her abilities, and never really appreciated just how much people enjoyed her comedy shows or her dramas- but I loved them. I remember sitting, when I was ten years old, watching one of her shows, thinking how wonderful it would be to make people laugh like she did; just with the clever use of words.

I didn’t notice that I was following in her writing footsteps until I was in my thirties. That was when I accidentally wrote a short story (it came from now where and simply had to be written), which miraculously got published. That short story became the first of forty short stories, and now, twenty-one novels later, I’m still going.

One day I might be as good as Nan was. I just hope she’d approve of my books!

I wrote both Abi’s House and Abi’s Neighbour in her memory.  Set in Cornwall, they feature Sennen Cove and Penzance, where my Nan and Grandad had their honeymoon (and, coincidentally, where my other grandparents lived). There is a character called Dora in Abi’s Neighbour – and that is my Nan. She wasn’t called Dora- but if she’d been allowed to be who she had the intelligence to be- that would have been her. No question.

If Nan was still here, I’d thank her every day. She was an amazing woman, who did an awful lot for me as I grew up.

Passing on her love of words to me was a gift beyond price.

Happy reading evryone,

Jenny xx

 

 

Opening Lines with Richard Gould: Mid Life Follies

After a break in January, Opening Lines is back!

Kicking off the first blog of the series for 2020 is Richard Gould, with his brand new novel, Mid Life Follies.

Over to you Richard…

Thank you, Jenny, for inviting me onto your blog.

Although I didn’t set out to be categorised as a Romantic Fiction novelist, that’s what I am. In case people haven’t noticed, there aren’t that many blokes writing (nor for that matter, reading) this genre, despite the fact that around 50% of those in relationships are likely to be men. I think the lack of male authors is a pity because a male take on romance can provide fresh insights into the ups and downs of starting, sustaining and ending relationships. I focus on second chance ones, using humour to describe tragi-heroic journeys in pursuit of love, while struggling to cope with cartloads of baggage.

Mid-life follies is well and truly about second chances. Following the early retirement of Hugh, the male protagonist, panic sets in for his wife, Liz. All the old clichés come to the fore – feeling trapped, needing space, fearing ageing – and she takes flight from the comfort of the family home.

My first thoughts about how to cover this theme were centred on the humour as the couple compete for who can have the most embarrassing mid-life crisis. Once I started writing, I recognised that there was considerable poignancy and home truths to add to the humour.

 Blurb

‘When you look in the mirror, do you see someone young and vibrant like you used to be,’ Liz asks her husband, ‘or old and decrepit like you’re going to be?’

This question is the trigger for Liz’s decision to leave the comfortable family home in Cambridge after twenty-three years of contented marriage. A brisk walk to clear her head of the feeling of being trapped doesn’t work. On a brief escape to the seaside, a wholly out of character one-night fling makes things worse.

A baffled Hugh is left to figure out why his wife has abandoned him. Is she suffering a mid-life crisis? Is he experiencing the same affliction?

A succession of twists and turns prevents a restoration to the normality that the couple increasingly crave as their children, parents and friends discover that immaturity is not solely the preserve of the young.

“This tale of self-doubt, adultery and forgiveness is shot through with humour and compassion. A most enjoyable read.” 

David Lister, The Independent 

***

First 500 words…

Soon after my fifty-ninth birthday, a lifelong interest in reading obituaries took a perverse turn for the worse. I began to ignore the parts about inspirational achievements and headed straight for statements about age of death. A vague insecurity arose if someone had passed away around the sixty mark. I would scrutinise the photo to assess whether, compared to me, they had been overweight, balding, wrinkled or showing any other sign that they hadn’t aged well. That all important sentence citing cause of death was of particular interest. I was content if a sixty-year-old had been hit by a bus or murdered by a jealous ex-lover. A long-standing debilitating disease was reasonable too, but what I didn’t want to see was reference to those sudden things that imperil older people, like a heart attack or a stroke. Because that could be my fate next year, next week or even tomorrow.

I was neither ill nor a hypochondriac, in fact a recent annual check-up had revealed that I was remarkably healthy for a fifty-nine year old. Instead, the cause of my anxiety was that a mid-life crisis had been activated. I use the word “activated” because I’m convinced I would never have suffered one had it not been for Liz’s conduct. Men can suffer them at a significantly younger age than my own, but quite simply I’d never seen the need because I’d been more than happy with life – my family, my job, my health, my friendships.

I know the exact date when it all started: 21st July.

The eighteenth of July had been the last day of the academic year and my farewell to teaching at Legends Academy – I was taking early retirement. I’d worked there for almost thirty years, just two since the daft new name had been selected by the governors following a poll to parents that had produced thirty-eight voters out of a school population of over a thousand. “Where Legends are Nurtured” became the school motto.

It would take a brave or even foolhardy person to challenge my opinion that the school had never nurtured a legend and was unlikely to ever do so. Our most successful ex-pupils achieved their fame through notoriety. Des Robins was the City trader who didn’t quite manage to bring down the bank where he worked, but it was a jolly close thing. Dino Stringer made his fortune drug dealing, his fleet of cars and lavish mansion the envy of many in the locality. It all came to an end with a car chase around the M25 and he’s still inside five years after the trial. Hazel Broad, aka Flightchick, had some success as a singer, but being smashed on stage diminished her popularity with promoters despite raising it for her audience. Those in the staff room with some interest in her well-being indicated that now she was spending her time opening supermarkets. I’d had high hopes for one of our lads, a promising footballer, but alas, Shane Hughes got no further…

Buy link

e-book             http://myBook.to/midlifefollies

Paperback     https://www.feedaread.com/books/Mid-life-follies-9781839451874.aspx

Bio

R J Gould is published by Endeavour Media and Headline Accent and is the author of four novels:  A Street Café Named Desire, The Engagement Party, Jack & Jill Went Downhill and Mid-life follies. He is a (rare male) member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Having been selected for the organisation’s New Writers Programme, his first novel was short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award. Ahead of writing full time, R J Gould led a national educational charity. He has published in a wide range of educational journals, national newspapers and magazines and is the co-author of a major work on educating able young people, all rewarding, but his passion is writing fiction. He lives in Cambridge, England.

Social Media

Website:          http://www.rjgould.info

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/RJGould_author

Email:              rjgould.author@gmail.com

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/richard.gould.14418 

Many thanks Richard.

Wishing you much success with your new novel.

Jenny x

Recipe for writing success: Scones anyone?

Some of you will have heard the story about how my writing life came about- if you haven’t heard it- then basically, it was all down to a Mars Bar scone.

This week I was lucky enough to be speaking at the Weston Writer’s – ‘How to Be a Writer’ event – and the subject of Mars Bar scones came up.

I rashly promised to share the recipe…so….

Ingredients

8 oz self raising flour

2 oz butter

1 oz caster sugar

Half a teaspoon of baking powder

Quarter pint of milk (semi or full fat)

2 large or 6 mini Mars Bars (chopped into small pieces)

Method

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl

Rub in the butter

Sprinkle in the diced Mars Bar

Make a well in the centre of the dry mixture

Pour in almost all the milk and stir slowly with a knife, gradually blending in the mixture to form a dough

Sprinkle some flour onto a dry hard surface

Roll out with a rolling pin until the dough is approx half an inch thick.

Use a cutter to cut into scone shaped rounds. (You will have approx 6 scones)

Paint the top with the remaining milk

Cook at Gas mark 8 or 230 degrees for 7-10 mins.

Eat hot with lots of butter! (This is not the time to think about your diet!!)

ENJOY!!

Happy munching

Jenny x

PS- If you don’t know the Mars Bar scone story…I’ll tell it again very soon!

 

 

End of the month blog: end of an era

It’s that time again – for the very last time!

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Nell Peters for writing so many of these fabulous blogs over the years. You’ll be missed hun!

Sit back, relax, and enjoy this final summary of the month, with a decidedly Nell take on life!

Good morning, everyone, on this last day of January. So, how has 2020 been for you so far? Whatever your answer, grab a drinkie poo and come with me now to while away a mo looking back upon what has happened on this day in years gone by – plus whatever else takes my fancy.

Over a hundred years ago during WWI (even I can’t remember this), Germany initiated large-scale use of poisonous gas during the Battle of Bolimów against Russia (1915). Exactly two years later, Germany announced that its U-boats would resume submarine warfare after a two-year hiatus – and following a series of collisions during a foggy night in Scotland in 1918, two Royal Navy submarines were lost with over a hundred fatalities, while another five British warships sustained substantial damage.

Fast forward to the Second World War and in 1945, US Army private Edward Donald (Eddie) Slovik was executed for desertion following a court-martial, the first such execution of an American soldier since the Civil War (1861-5). This was on the same day that approximately three thousand inmates of the Stutthof concentration camp were forcibly marched into the Baltic Sea at Palmnicken (now Yantarny, Russia) and executed.

On a less depressing note, two days before my mother was born in 1927, Mrs Pransky gave birth to a son, Norman Zachary, in Boston, Mass. He grew up to be Norm Prescott, co-founder (with Lou Sheimer) of Filmation Associates, an animation studio. Amongst their prolific output were Star Trek, The US of Archie, The New Adventures of Gilligan, The Original Ghostbusters, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle and Ark II – all during the mid to late seventies. Norm died in California aged seventy-eight and was survived by his business partner, wife and two sons.

Comedian and TV/radio presenter, Patrick Kielty celebrates with forty-nine candles today. Born in County Down, N Ireland, he is one of three sons born to businessman John (Jack) Kielty, who was shot dead on 25 January 1988 (six days before Patrick’s seventeenth birthday) by the Ulster Freedom Fighters, allegedly to stop him appearing as a key witness in Central Television’s defence of a libel action brought by Jim Craig.

Craig was suing the television company over a broadcast which suggested he was a racketeer and he is said to have ordered the assassination. Almost twenty years later, Patrick was invited to conduct a joint in-depth TV interview at 10 Downing Street with then UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach (I have no idea how you’d pronounce that!) Bertie Ahearn, to discuss the Northern Ireland peace process. Since 2012, he has been married to fellow presenter Cat Deeley.

 

Also in 2012, on this day, the Toyota Corolla was announced as the best-selling car of all time, having sold over 37.5 million. When I had #1 son in Montreal, I got rid of my Pontiac Firebird (sniff) and opted for a Corolla as a rather more sensible vehicle for maternal to-ing and fro-ing – and regretted the decision for every second that I drove the thing. Even though the model was bigger than those produced for the European market and hefty snow tyres are de rigueur for everywhere in the east, it really couldn’t handle winter driving – no chance whatsoever of making it through a six-foot snow drift, which would present no problem at all for the average American gas guzzler.

I knew for sure we had to part company when I’d had it for about a year and I was driving the boy to a paediatric appointment – it was coming to the end of snow season and there were huge filthy, icy puddles everywhere. Driving through one such half-frozen mess, there was a resounding bang and the inside of the car – plus the child in his car seat – were covered in dirty globs of ice and muddy water. Not a good look. When I could pull over, as well as taking some very deep breaths to try to regulate my heartbeat – the son finding it all highly amusing – I found that most of the rear floor had rusted away and the upward force of the water I’d driven through had sent the mats in the footwells flying, providing a complimentary shower in the process. Cars are old and rusted at five or six years maximum there, because of the amount of salt and grit they have to spread to keep roads anywhere near passable – but wrecked at a little over a year old was beyond a joke. Having learned my lesson, I opted for a very substantial Oldsmobile tank next.

31/01/12 was the day that (His Eminence, if you’re that way inclined) American RC Cardinal, Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, died aged eighty-eight in Pennsylvania, after suffering from cancer and dementia. He was joined at the Pearly Gates, or the other place, by American artist Dorothea Tanning aged one hundred and one; Tristram Coffin aged eighty-nine, an American folklorist, seen off by a bout of pneumonia and Mike Kelley, also an American artist, who committed suicide aged fifty-seven. After Kelley’s death, art critic of The New York Times, Holland Cotter, described him as ‘one of the most influential American artists of the past quarter century and a pungent commentator on American class, popular culture and youthful rebellion.’ Pungent, eh?

Who remembers the US TV drama series, Ally McBeal (1998-2002)? The part of young lawyer, Nelle Porter, was played by Australian/American actress Portia de Rossi, who was born as the not-quite-so-exotic-sounding Amanda Lee Rogers, on 31st January 1973. No prizes for guessing she’s hitting the ripe old age of forty-seven today. Aged fifteen, Amanda decided to reinvent herself, so pinched the name of a character from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and added a random Italian last name. Like Prince Charles, she was educated at Geelong Grammar School (other alumni include media mogul Rupert Murdoch; John Gorton – Australian PM 1968–1971; Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu – King of Malaysia 2006–2011; Tim Macartney-Snape – mountaineer and author; billionaire businessman, Kerry Packer; and singer-songwriter Missy Higgins) and went on to study law at Melbourne University. How appropriate. Portia’s second marriage was to comedian, actress, and TV chat show host, Ellen DeGeneres, in 2008. So, does that make her Portia de Rossi DeGeneres? We won’t go there.

Since we last spoke, we’ve had a General Election, Christmas and New Year, to name but a few. We voted on the same day as middle GD’s school year Christmas assembly, when they performed the story of Kris Kringle (which they called Christingle) in a huge, freezing cold church in town. Because of the setting, in theory anyone could attend, and I was indeed honoured to have a local vagrant come and sit next to me halfway through. If he was hoping to warm his bones, he picked the wrong place. Meanwhile, each child climbed up the several steep steps of the pulpit to speak their lines – and as they are only six or seven years old, some could hardly see around the lectern, let alone over it! But they all did brilliantly, encouraged to do their best by very supportive teachers. It’s a lovely little school and we’re hoping that little sis will also get a place there from September.

A few days before the big event, I stayed over in Twickenham, meeting #2 son for dinner and #3 when he flew in from Mumbai the next morning. As is becoming our usual routine, we ‘did’ the three family graves at the cemetery (this time in rather inclement torrential rain and freezing, howling winds) and then went to visit my mother in her care home. After as much random, repetitive and off-the-wall conversation we could cope with, we sped back to Norfolk for early dinner with #4 and his family – the OH was noticeable by his absence from the gathering, as he was off to watch the Rod Stewart gig at the O2, a work/client thing. Phew. I’m definitely getting way too old for all this! The next morning, #3 and #4 flew to Amsterdam for a few days, returning on Christmas Eve, #4’s birthday.

The OH also returned on 24/12, after a visit to his elderly mother in Dorset, so I spent our anniversary on 23rd alone, apart from a sparkly tree, a bulging fridge and a couple of glasses of wine. Hic.

We had a great family Christmas – #3 hasn’t been home to celebrate the 25th with us for a few years, globe trotting as he does, so it was an especially happy break. No time for dust to settle and we were all back down to London for a few days over NY, including our annual trip to the panto in Richmond. This year it was Snow White – intriguingly, the dwarfs were not vertically challenged, but of average size and crawled along with the front of their costumes depicting short legs. Does that make any sense? Comedian Jo Brand played the Wicked Queen, but appeared bored out of her skull by the whole thing and should probably stick to stand-up and appearances on Have I Got News for You etc. Nevertheless, everyone enjoyed it – and the dinner we had afterwards at Zizi’s, before those old enough (or indeed young enough!) to stay up, saw in 2020.

Just before he was due to fly back to Bangkok, #3 needed to get his iPad looked at, as something was malfunctioning – that meant a trip to the Apple store in either Norwich or Cambridge, both approx. an hour’s drive for us. He set off early for Norwich, but was back after thirty minutes or so. The person who has a really responsible job running operations throughout India, Thailand and Hong Kong (I’ve heard him on business calls and can see why he earns the big bucks) had forgotten to take his iPad. You couldn’t make it up. He also very nearly left his passport behind, as he was heading out the door for Heathrow at the end of his visit.

Multi-married film star, Elizabeth Taylor, got hitched to #2 groom, British actor Michael Wilding in February 1952. He was twenty years her senior and while Taylor found their age gap appealing because she wanted the ‘calm and quiet and security of friendship’ from their relationship, he hoped that the marriage would aid his flagging career in Hollywood. They had two sons together, but while Taylor was away filming, Wilding was allegedly entertaining strippers at their house – classy. Taylor said ‘I do’ for the third time on 2nd Feb 1957 (my mum’s thirtieth birthday), two whole days after her divorce from Wilding was finalised on 31st January.

Talking about divorce, unless anything major occurs between me writing this (in advance, as always) and Brexit on 31/01, the UK will leave the EU today. Decision made, let’s hope Boris pulls – if not a rabbit – at least a hamster out of the hat. Meanwhile, we have the shenanigans of the royal family to keep us amused on darker days. I imagine Arrogant Andrew is rubbing his podgy little entitled hands together, not quite able to believe his luck after others also blotted their copybooks quite spectacularly, taking public attention away from him. At least long enough for him to nip down to Woking for a pizza. Off with their heads!

Finally, I am also doing a bunk. This is my last guest blog for Jenny, at least for the foreseeable. I really need to devote more time to salvaging what little remains – if anything – of my writing career!

So, I’ll bid you all a final ‘Toodles!’, with huge thanks to readers for coming along for the ride, and to Jenny for putting up with me for so long.

Take care.

NP x

Once again, many thanks Nell. Wonderful stuff. Wishing you much success with your writing.

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

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