Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

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

Tag: blog series Page 1 of 6

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

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 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

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

 

 

 

 

Opening Lines with Marie Laval: Bluebell’s Christmas Magic

Opening Lines is taking on a festive feel this week, with the help of the first 500 words from Marie Laval’s uplifting, Bluebell’s Christmas Magic.

Over to you Marie…

Thank you so much, Jenny, for your warm welcome on your blog. I am delighted to be here today and talk about my first ever Christmas romance, BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC, which was released on 19th November by Choc Lit UK.

I would like this story to be the first of a series of standalone romantic comedies set in the same Cumbrian village of Red Moss, and I am already working on the second novel. I had the idea for BLUEBELL during a family holiday in Coniston, which is one of my most favourite places in the UK. I am not very sporty, and not the best or the fastest at climbing mountains. Last time I was there I really struggled up – and down! – The Old Man of Coniston, but I was inspired by the glorious scenery, the beautiful villages, and of course the lake. Near our holiday cottage was a very old farmhouse with strange round chimneys, which gave me the idea for Belthorn Manor where the hero Stefan Lambert comes to stay to forget all about Christmas…

I hope I managed to put across my love for the area, and that my very corny Christmas jokes – some of which my children and friends supplied, but others I was very proud to have made up myself – won’t put the readers off!

So, without any further delay, here are the first 500 words of BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC!

‘There’s nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.’ Cassie repeated the words through gritted teeth as she drove up the lane, but it did nothing to quieten the thudding of her heart or loosen the knot squeezing her stomach into a tight fist. The keys that she had stuffed into the front pocket of her dungarees weighed cold and heavy against her chest, an unpleasant reminder of where she was heading. Belthorn Manor. The name alone was enough to make her shudder…

The jagged outline of the mountains disappeared in low clouds and mist descended on the patchwork of snow, dead bracken and pine forests covering the hills. Belthorn wasn’t even in sight and already the landscape filled her with gloom. She couldn’t feel any further from the cheerful fairy riding a feather duster that was painted on the side of her van, under the catchphrase‘Don’t let dust and grime get to you, call Bluebell to the rescue!’Today, Cassie was the one who needed rescuing…

The van skidded as she negotiated yet another bend in the road, narrowly avoiding bumping into the back of a Range Rover parked at a weird angle near the Sanctuary Stone. Another rambler who had ignored the ‘Private Road’ sign at the bottom of the hill, no doubt. She changed gears and the van lurched ahead.

Belthorn’s distinctive round chimneys soon poked out of the mist. Cassie drove past the rhododendron bushes and the pine trees that shielded the house from harsh winds, and scanned the grounds. No shadow crept across the vast expanse of lawn; no ghostly silhouette lurked in the ruined abbey nearby or shivered on Wolf Tarn’s pebbly shores.The only ominous shapes were the spiky branches of the monkeypuzzle tree reaching out to the sky like a giant stick insect.

The fist in her stomach loosened, and she felt her body relax for the first time that afternoon. Perhaps there really was nothing to worry about. She would open up the house, get the job done and go home. Two hours max, that’s all it would take to dust, vacuum and tidy the main rooms. Of course, she would have to come back when Belthorn’s new resident arrived in a week’s time, but she would worry about that later.

She took the bag with her cleaning gear out of the van and pulled the keys out of her pocket to examine them. She hadn’t been there for a while. Which was the right one?

She was about to insert the biggest key in the lock when the door was yanked open and a brute of a man stood in front of her, his broad shoulders filling the doorway.

In the blink of an eye she took in his strong, square jaw covered with stubble, the fine scars that ran across his cheeks and forehead, the misshapen nose which was bent to one side, as if it had been broken several times, and his slightly dishevelled brown hair that reached down to the ….

Blurb

A gorgeous new Christmas story from the author of bestselling novel Little Pink Taxi
A flick of a feather duster and a sprinkle of Christmas magic …
Cassie Bell is used to mess. Her cleaning business, Bluebell Cleaning, is well known in the Cumbrian village of Red Moss. However, now it’s almost Christmas and Cassie has a slightly messier situation to deal with than she’s used to.

She’s been hired to help Stefan Lambert, an injured army helicopter pilot who’s staying at the local Belthorn Manor whilst he recovers. Stefan resents Cassie’s interference and is definitely not looking for Christmas cheer. But Cassie prides herself on sparkling surfaces – so, can she bring some festive sparkle to Stefan’s life too?

You can buy BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC as an ebook and audio book here from Amazon UK

Author 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 best-selling Little Pink Taxi was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit.

She 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’!

Please feel free to contact Marie on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/marielavalauthor/) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/MarieLaval1).

***

Thanks Marie – great opening lines.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

End of the Month Blog: November ends

Unbelievably, we have reached the end of another month, and here to celebrate (commiserate??) is Nell Peters with her final round up of 2019!

Over to you Nell…

Well shiver me timbers – it’s the last day of November, and now that I’m writing the blog bi-monthly it means this is my last for 2019! How crazy is that? So, better make it a half-decent read, I suppose.

Quite a bit of family stuff suggests itself – excellent, as that involves absolutely no research, just some excavation of the memory bank. I’m so lazy!

Returning to the beginning of October (which seems an awfully long time ago now), we toddled off to the Corn Exchange in town to watch GDII perform in her first dance show – she’s been going to classes on Saturday mornings for about six months now and loves it. Apart from the routines, I was most impressed by the organisation of a large number of small children, including quite a few boys, by half a dozen teachers and chaperones – I had enough problems with four!

The nippers mostly performed according to age and we waited with bated breath for our little star to take to the stage with other six year-olds. She made her entrance in a turquoise tutu, with gossamer wings attached to her back – the latter being an emergency replacement pair after the first were delivered battered and bent into a very unfairly-like shape. GD remembered all her steps but added her own artistic interpretation, when she lifted her skirt to hitch up her tights – I’m afraid she gets her lack of poise and elegance gene from yours truly, other granny being far more refined. OH (no Fred Astaire himself) has suggested she might like to swap the dance lessons for instruction in Sumo wrestling, or similar.

On the work front, confusion reigns. The small, independent publisher I had two books with was taken over/merged with one of the big five – good news you might think? Maybe, but I’m not holding my breath – having been under-published by the original lot (that’s a euphemism for abandoned at launch) it’s not boding well so far as it seems (from the sparse info available) that they will be concentrating on books already in the publication pipeline. Absolutely fair enough as a priority, but they are not taking submissions of new work until 2021(!) – and no real word as yet re the already published books they have taken under their wing. I was not alone in not knowing I had been sold until an email was received out of the blue, welcoming me to the new company. That was the last communication I received. Mm… Watch this space, or not.

A little late, but I managed to finally get some dates out of the OH as to when he could take time out for a holiday – he could only spare a week, but I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth! We decided to return to a rather nice hotel in Majorca that we went to a couple of years ago – the week we booked was half term for most, but as it’s not a particularly child friendly place, we decided to risk it.

Before we left I needed to take a trip to Twickenham to see my mum, as I hadn’t visited for a while and guilt was beginning to bite. I was planning to do just a day trip, but #3 intervened and booked overnight accommodation for me at the Marriott Hotel, which forms part of Twickenham Rugby Ground. He stays in Marriotts for work in Jaipur, Mumbai and Bangkok and so collects a ridiculous number of loyalty points (he’s at the Jaipur hotel for an average of 150 nights a year, for example), some of which he generously donated to my stay. On checking in, I found I didn’t have any old room, but a suite – top floor, with a lounge, bedroom, two bathrooms and a whole array of luxurious touches, overlooking the pitch. How the other half live! Too bad I was on my own…

That evening, I met up with the lady who had been my parents’ primary career, plus #2 son who lives locally for drinks, and the next morning, #3 flew in from Jaipur. He arrived at the hotel (in shorts!) and ordered a pint of Guinness at eight o’clock in the morning, his excuse being he was still on Indian time and anyway, Guinness is not available there so he had some catching up to do. When #2 turned up, we had breakfast – the hotel staff are no doubt currently reconsidering the concept of an all-you-can-eat buffet. In case you were wondering, I had two small pieces of GF bread with strawberry jam, leaving the gannet impressions to the sons, especially #3, who obviously hadn’t eaten for a month or more.

We went to see my mum, armed with loads of flowers and bite-sized snack bits – her appetite for regular meals isn’t great, but she does love her junk food. The conversation was at best random, at worst completely and incomprehensibly off the wall, but frankly I don’t suppose we can hope for much better at this notch on the dementia spectrum. My sons have strict instructions to shoot me, if ever I am similarly afflicted. From the care home, we drove a few miles to the cemetery where my dad and other relatives are buried – I have an arrangement with my cousin, Keith, that whoever visits sorts out not only my dad’s stone, but also those of our grandparents and his parents who are there, only a few plots away. That day, the gorgeous cream roses we’d bought proved a bit of a challenge to arrange in strong, gusty winds – we did our best, but half of them had probably blown away before the car nosed out of the cemetery gates.

That being a Friday, it was all back to Norfolk for a family invasion weekend, so we had an early Halloween dinner and sparklers, as we thought that was the last time we’d all be together for a while (we have these gatherings every fortnight with varying numbers) – the OH had pronounced that he would be in Berlin for the next one, but had in fact got his dates wrong. I’m not saying a word!

#3 had come home to take GDI (aged eleven) to New York over half term, as a reward for doing well in the SATS exams she sat (see what I did there?) before she moved to senior school in September. They were initially keen on going to Hong Kong, but decided against it, as the riots worsened. How very lucky she is – I have three degrees and I don’t think anyone even took me out to dinner as a ‘well done you’ for passing any of them. Sniff. Grizzle. Pout.

They were away at the same time we were in Majorca, sending us copious numbers of pics of them posing at all the usual suspects, like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State, sitting in an off-Broadway theatre about to watch Chicago etc etc, while I reclined on my four-poster sun bed, trying not to appear too jealous. I did enter into the spirit of things to a small extent, when I sent a video of the most awesome thunder/lightning storm I’ve ever seen, taken from our second floor balcony on our first night. After that, the weather was brilliant. The only fly in the ointment/there goes the neighbourhood moment was when James Argent checked in with a couple of burly mates (this was just after he’d been banned from EasyJet for some ridiculous antic on the tarmac), as he was doing a gig in nearby Palma – he’s a singer, apparently. I was waiting for the OH in Reception when they arrived and I don’t think he could have announced his name any louder – sadly wasted on the guy behind the desk, who very obviously didn’t know him from Adam. Insistence on having the best rooms similarly fell on deaf ears. Can I just explain here that I have never seen TOWIE, but I sometimes read the Mail online (don’t judge me, it doesn’t have a pay wall!) and in their sidebars there are often snippets about Gemma Collins, who I understand is his on/off girlfriend. Nevertheless, the OH was truly horrified that I knew who this person was! JA looks pretty big in pics and he certainly is – in height as well as weight. I’m 5’9” and he dwarfed me.

The rugby semi-finals were shown on TV in the lounge of our hotel, and I took my maternal duties seriously, WhatsApping a running commentary to #3 while he tried to find the game on TV Stateside, where it was four o’clock in the morning. Having been raised in Twickenham, I’ve really had enough of rugby to last me a lifetime – rerouted bumper to bumper traffic jams on match days, no chance whatsoever of getting on any form of public transport, ditto entering a pub if you are that way inclined. The more enterprising locals set up fast food stalls in their gardens, or rent out their driveways for parking, while the majority simply grit their teeth and hibernate until it’s all over.

And all over it was for England’s hopes of lifting the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Males of the clan crammed themselves into the playroom (biggest TV) for the final, played on the next of our invasion weekends, with not everyone present knowing who to support. The OH was born in the UK, but spent his formative years in SA and #3 (enjoying the last couple of days of his holiday en famille) spent part of his gap year there, returning whenever he can. One of my sisters in law told me she has an even greater dilemma when watching international sporting fixtures – she cheers for 1) SA, 2) England and 3) Australia, where she now lives. How confusing!

 

In 1976 on this day, rugby union player Josh Lewsey was born. He shares his birthday with Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist and political pamphleteer, born in Dublin in 1667 (died 1745); Chrissy Teigen, American model, born in Delta, Utah in 1985; Chanel Iman, American supermodel, born in Atlanta in 1989 – on the same day as Margaret Nales Wilson, Filipino model. Obviously a good day for models – the latter two were born on the day that Deutsche Bank CEO and board member, Alfred Herrhausen was killed by a Red Army Faction terrorist bomb. Not such a good day for him.

I mentioned Marriott Hotels earlier – they are a multinational with many subsidiaries, including Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Ritz-Carlton, Autograph Collection, Gaylord Hotels and Le Méridien, plus a whole lot more, and 25% of shares are still owned by the Marriott family. Lucky them. Not so lucky for their client base on 30th November 2018 however, when 500 million accounts were jeopardised by a massive data breach during one of the world’s largest ever company hacks.

Think I’d be pretty hacked off too. So sorry!

On that dodgy note, I will leave you.

Merry Christmas (General Election permitting – it will be such a relief not to have others’ strident opinions shoved down my neck like I’m some sort of half-wit!) and a Happy New Year to y’all.

Toodles. NP

***

Huge thanks to Nell as ever.

Have a fabulous festive season!

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Lines with Rachel Brimble: Christmas at Pennington’s

This week, on Opening Lines, I’m delighted to welcome a fabulous writer, and good friend, to my site.

Why not settle down with a cuppa, and read the first 500 words of Rachel Brimble’s latest release, Christmas at Pennington’s?

Blurb

Gripping drama as Pennington’s department store prepares for a glittering Christmas in 1911, but a killer stalks the women of Bath.

Christmas sees Pennington’s at its most glorious, thronged with shoppers, its grand staircase and balcony adorned with holly, mistletoe, tinsel and lights. It should be the happiest time, but dramas are seething beneath the surface.

For Cornelia Culford, in charge of jewellery, a divorce hearing looms, where she could lose custody of her young sons to her overbearing and unfaithful husband.

For Stephen Gower, being head of security at Pennington’s is the perfect refuge from a tragic past at Scotland Yard. But soon the past will call him back, as Joseph Carter and Elizabeth Pennington beg him to help solve the murder of Joseph’s first wife, now that it seems as if the killer has struck again.

For Joseph and Elizabeth, their marriage depends on exorcising the past. But can it ever be laid to rest?

FIRST 500 WORDS…

London, November 1911

Stephen Gower clasped his hands behind his back and fought to keep his gaze steady on Inspector King’s. ‘I appreciate that, sir, but it’s for the best that I leave. I’ve explained—’

‘And your explanation does not sit well with me.’ The inspector leaned his considerable bulk back in the chair behind his desk and narrowed his grey eyes. ‘Those young women and Detective Constable Walker were murdered at someone else’s hand, not yours.’

Tension stiffened Stephen’s shoulders. ‘That maybe so, but it was me who chose to not immediately act on those women’s fears. I should never have sent Walker to investigate instead of going myself.’

‘And who’s to say your being there would have stopped what happened? It could just as easily have been you who was killed. The Board’s investigation into your accountability that night will be sorted out as quickly as possible. You acted accordingly and I’m confident the Board will echo my sentiments.’

Stephen shook his head. ‘Sir, I appreciate your support—’

‘But instead of biding your time, you come to me with the daft idea of working as a security watchman at Pennington’s department store. What on earth were you thinking by taking yourself off to be interviewed without waiting to hear what the Board have to say?’

‘I need to work, you know that. I can’t sit around doing nothing while I wait for the decision to be made of whether or not I can continue to work for the constabulary. My mind is filled with those murders constantly. I can’t eat or sleep. I need some time away from London. Some time to get my head around everything that happened.’

King rose to his feet, his cheeks mottled. ‘How will a detective of your calibre ever be happy wandering back and forth around a damn department store? You’ll be bored out of your mind within a week.’

Stephen stood a little straighter. He didn’t doubt the inspector’s summary was wholly accurate, but he had to get out of the Yard. Out of London. To stay in the capital, to continue working for the police, where memories and images haunted him, was impossible.

He held the inspector’s gaze. ‘I submitted my resignation over a month ago, sir. Today I leave. There’s nothing more to discuss.’

The clock on the office’s grey wall ticked away each second, and when the raucous cheer of his fellow officers rang in the distance, Stephen hardened his resolve. Undoubtedly, a criminal of some description had been apprehended. Most probably someone who’d avoided capture for a considerable time, judging by the continuing cheers and laughter.

Yet, the inspector did not as much as glance towards the door. Stephen kept himself still. He would not – could not – falter in his decision to leave. No matter what the inspector said or did next, for Stephen’s sanity, he had to go.

Today.

‘Fine.’ Inspector King raised his hands in surrender. ‘Go. But there is no chance I’ll…’

If you’d like to find out what happens next, you can buy Christmas at Pennington’s from all good retailers- including…

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-at-Penningtons-Rachel-Brimble-ebook/dp/B07RC9R3JK/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=christmas+at+penningtons&qid=1557909447&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-at-Penningtons-Rachel-Brimble-ebook/dp/B07RC9R3JK/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=christmas+at+penningtons&qid=1557909484&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/christmas-at-pennington-s

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RlKYDwAAQBAJ&dq=rachel+brimble+christmas+at+pennington%27s&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwipwODrpNDjAhVkqHEKHX-HB28Q6AEILDAA

Bio

Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 20 published novels including the Pennington’s department store series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

In July 2019, she signed a three-book deal with Aria Fiction for a Victorian trilogy set in a Bath brothel which will feature three heroines determined to change their lives and those of other women. The first book is due for release in Autumn 2020.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed exclusive giveaway every month!), click here:

https://us12.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=ab0dc0484a3855f2bc769984f&id=bd3173973a

Website: https://rachelbrimble.com/

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Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachelbrimbleauthor/?hl=en

***

Many thanks for visiting today Rachel.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Lynne Shelby: There She Goes

Opening Lines time is here!

This week Lynne Shelby is with me, sharing the first 500 words- exactly- of her latest romance, There She Goes.

Blurb

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can’t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who’d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship… 

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

FIRST 500 WORDS…

On shaking legs, I took one step and then another, until I was standing directly in front of the guy. His mouth lifted in a smile, and he put his arms around me, holding me close against his hard chest. My heart started beating so furiously that I felt sure he must be able to hear it. Telling myself firmly that I could do this, that it wasn’t as if it were the first time, I tilted up my face and looked directly into his eyes. He bent his head and kissed me on the mouth, softly at first, just a brush of his lips, but then more firmly, his hands moving smoothly down my back to settle on my hips. When we came up for air, he led me to the bed and drew me down beside him. We lay facing each other on the bare mattress, our bodies pressed together, and kissed for a long time. I tried, unsuccessfully, to remember his name.

I thought, there can be few professions apart from the obvious that require you to simulate desire for a stranger on a regular basis.

The director said, ‘Cut.’

The guy stopped kissing me, and we both sat up. While the director conferred with his assistant, who’d videoed our audition, I stole a glance at my fellow actor’s profile. He was a few years older than me, I thought, in his mid- to late-twenties, and extraordinarily good-looking, with his dark hair falling over his forehead and just the right amount of stubble on his tanned face. I wondered if he might be Italian, or maybe Spanish.

‘We’ve got all we need for today,’ the director said. ‘Thank you.’

The guy (what was his name?) got off the bed and said, ‘Thank you. Good to have met you.’

I swung my legs over the side of the mattress and stood up. I tried to think of

something, anything, to say that might persuade the director to cast me, but decided that throwing myself at his feet and begging (please, please, please, give me the job. I’m an out of work actress, and my rent’s due next week) would be unprofessional. The dark-haired actor was already heading towards the door of the studio, so I echoed his ‘thank you’, snatched up my bag and coat, and hurried after him.

We’d just stepped out into the corridor when the director’s voice drifted after us quite clearly: ‘Like watching paint dry. Absolutely no sexual chemistry between those two.’ Seriously? At nine a.m. in a cold studio, it hadn’t been easy to act like a girl and boy madly in love – or in lust, as the director had put it – but until that moment, I’d thought the dark-haired guy and I had done pretty well. Apparently, I was mistaken.

The guy shut the door and rolled his eyes. I followed him across the reception area, where a crowd of actors were still waiting to audition, and out into the car park…

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Buy link for There She Goes:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/There-She-Goes-Lynne-Shelby/dp/1786156555/ref=sr_1_1?crid=R9A40JQVD91D&keywords=there+she+goes+lynne+shelby&qid=1573928576&s=books&sprefix=There+She+Goes+lynn%2Cstripbooks%2C326&sr=1-1 

Bio

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, French Kissing, was published when it won a national writing competition. Her latest novel, There She Goes, is set in London’s Theatreland. She has worked at a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre, or exploring a foreign city –  Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Athens – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LynneShelbyWriter/

Twitter: @LynneB1

Instagram: lynneshelbywriter

Website and Blog: www.lynneshelby.com

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Many thanks for sharing your great opening lines today Lynne.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

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