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

Tag: Christmas Page 1 of 6

Medieval Christmas Thinking

I’ve been a lover of all things medieval from the first time I clapped eyes on an episode of Robin of Sherwood back in the 1980’s. Since then, I’ve had a fascination with the era- especially the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries- that has never waned. It was this interest that led me to write The Folville ChroniclesThe Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw, Edward’s Outlaw and – most recently – Outlaw Justice (which will be out soon.)

***

The Winter Outlaw, Edward’s Outlaw and Outlaw Justice are all set at Christmas time – so I got to thinking about how many of the festive traditions we have today hail from those medieval days.

Did you know…?

… that the practice of carol singers going from door to door was the result of carollers being banned from the churches.

During the medieval period the word “carol” didn’t refer to just a song, but to singing and dancing in a circle. This was frowned upon by the churchmen of the age as it detracted from the seriousness of the occasion. Carol singers were ordered out onto the streets, and often sang in market places, or in front of rows of houses.

Another church related tradition that had its origins in medieval times is the Christmas crib or Nativity scene. In medieval Italy, in1223, Saint Francis of Assisi used a crib as a teaching tool to explain the Christmas story to the local population. Historians believe that this was the first time animals, such as the sheep and the donkey, were added to the Christmas story, even though the Bible does not mention them.

What about Christmas food? Christmas puddings date from medieval England, although they were rather different than those we eat today. Made from a spicy porridge known as frumenty, with currants and dried fruit stirred into it, along with egg yolks, cinnamon and nutmeg, it was a considerably runnier pudding than the one we’re used to.

The majority of Christmas dinners in the UK this year will feature a roast turkey. However, turkeys didn’t reach Britain until the late fifteenth century. In medieval times the rich ate goose, while the poorer families would roast a woodcock if they could get one. Those lord’s who had royal permission to eat venison, would have deer for their Christmas meal. Traditionally, the heart, liver, tongue, feet, ears and brains of the deer (a concoction known as the umbles), would be mixed together and made into a pie to give to the poor. This treat became known as humble pie.

And how about some entertainment? Whereas today we might go to see our children in a nativity play at Christmas, in the Middle Ages people could look forward to seeing the Mummers. These travelling actors performed plays and dances in villages, manors, and castles. During the winter, mystery plays were traditionally based on the story of Christ’s birth. The part of King Herod within these plays was the first role that can be seen as being the equivalent of a ‘baddie’ in a modern day pantomime, with the crowd often booing when he came on stage.

I hope these few Christmas blasts from the past have made you smile!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Christmas at the Castle

This week sees the final instalment in the Opening Lines blogs for my Another Cup of…festive specials. Today, I’m sharing the first 500 words from Christmas at the Castle.

Kit is off to Scotland!

BLURB

When hotshot businesswoman Alice Warren is asked to organise a literary festival at beautiful Crathes Castle in Scotland, her ‘work mode’ persona means she can’t say no – even though the person asking is her ex, Cameron Hunter.

Alice broke Cameron’s heart and feels she owes him one – but her best friend Charlie isn’t going to like it. Charlie – aka famous author Erin Spence – is happy to help Alice with the festival…until she finds out that Cameron’s involved! Charlie suffered a bad case of unrequited love for Cameron, and she can’t bear the thought of seeing him again.

Caught between her own insecurities and loyalty to her friend, Charlie gets fellow author Kit Lambert to take her place. Agreeing to leave her London comfort zone – and her favourite corner in Pickwicks Café – Kit steps in. She quickly finds herself not just helping out, but hosting a major literary event, while also trying to play fairy godmother – a task which quickly gets very complicated indeed…

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘A wonderful short story to fill your heart with warmth and really put you in the mood for Christmas

‘A feel good festive read, with Jenny Kane’s trademark coffee, friendship and gentle humour’

‘This is the perfect book for curling up on the sofa with on a winter’s afternoon. Light-hearted and feel good fun’

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

Friday November 13th

Poking her head around the door of the Gift Shop Café, Charlie gave a sigh of relief. She’d managed to arrive before Alice for once.

Selecting their usual table by the window, Charlie smiled. Just for once it was nice not to have Alice, already comfortably settled and looking perfect, watching serenely as she battled her scarf, which always managed to knot itself clumsily, and her hair, blown every which way by the wind.

Hoping this was a good omen for the discussion to come, Charlie waved a greeting to the waitress, Mel.

‘Hi, Erin, Alice isn’t here yet.’ Mel put down a large coffee on Charlie’s table, ‘I’ll bring that weird latte concoction she likes over when she arrives.’

About half of the people in Banchory knew Charlie as Erin. Ever since she’d had her first book published under the name of Erin Spencer five years ago, the local papers had made a feature of her work, and Charlie lived happily with her dual personality.

As she watched the world go by through the window, Charlie’s usual habit of filtering future plotlines through the back of her mind was replaced with wondering how to persuade Alice that they needed more people to help organise Crathes Castle’s first ever literary festival. So far it was just the two of them, and they were drowning in the number of tasks involved with making it a success rather than an embarrassing flop.

Charlie hadn’t finished rehearsing her pleas for more helpers in her head, when Alice arrived.

Waving to Mel that she needed a drink fast (the concoction that Charlie always thought of as pseudo-coffee, which consisted of a decaf coffee, soya milk, and low-sugar caramel latte syrup), Alice sat down regally and swung her long, slim, tight black denim-covered legs elegantly under the table, before pushing her designer glasses off her eyes and up into her hair, neatly pinning it away from her face. If Charlie had tried to do that without the aid of a mirror she knew there would have been tufts of her long bouncy red ringlets sticking out at all angles.

A businesswoman through and through, Alice got straight to the point. ‘Charlie, sweetie, I know you don’t like working with other people much, but if we don’t get some more help soon this festival is going to be the biggest disaster of my career.’ Without giving her stunned friend time to comment, Alice went on, ‘It’s November 13th already. Our Christmas in the Castle Literary Festival is in exactly three weeks and we need another person to help us.’

Charlie was taken aback. Even when they’d been at university together Alice had been an expert at eliciting assistance from people without them even realising that she was getting them to do what she wanted. Never before had Charlie heard her admit she needed help. Studying her friend more carefully, Charlie noticed that there were dark shadows under Alice’s eyes, hinting that…

If you’d like to see what happens next, then you can buy Christmas at the Castle from all good e-retailers or you can find it in the Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection paperback on Amazon.

mybook.to/ChristmasinCastle

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny xx

 

Opening Lines: Christmas in the Cotswolds

This week I’m continuing my Opening Lines series with with a peep at the first pages of Christmas in the Cotswolds – the second festive special in the Another Cup of… series.

Blurb

Izzie Spencer-Harris, owner of the Cotswold Art and Craft Centre, is due to host the prestigious Cotswold Choir’s annual Christmas carol concert in her beautiful converted church. Or at least she was, until a storm smashed a hole right through the chancel roof!

Days from Christmas, Izzie suddenly finds herself up to her neck in DIY, with her last dodgy workman having walked off the job. She does the only thing she can… calls in her best friend Megan to help.

Leaving Peggy and Scott to run Pickwicks Café in her absence, Megan heads to the Cotswolds for Christmas. Within minutes of her arrival, she finds herself hunting down anyone willing to take on extra work so close to Christmas. It seems the only person available to help is Joseph Parker – a carpenter who, while admittedly gorgeous, seems to have ulterior motives for everything he does…

With Izzie’s bossy mother, Lady Spencer-Harris, causing her problems at every turn, an accident at work causing yet more delays, and the date for the concert drawing ever nearer, it’s going to take a lot more than Mrs Vickers’ powerful mulled wine to make sure everything is all right on the night…

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘This is a delightful short story with that lovely Christmas feel good feeling

‘An easy festive read that will make you smile

‘Very festive short story with lovely characters. . . Cosy, ideal reading for Christmas time’

‘Perfect for the Christmas season. Heartwarming, emotional and so true for today’s hectic, manic life. One to have, keep, and enjoy!!

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

December 12th

Izzie closed her eyes and counted to ten as the door of the Cotswold Arts Centre slammed shut.

There was no point in panicking. She simply didn’t have time for such luxuries if her converted church was going to be ready to host a Christmas carol concert by the renowned Cotswold Choir in nine days’ time.

Bored of being propositioned by men who weren’t remotely interested in her until they discovered she was a daughter of the gentry, Izzie had ejected the carpenter through her front door before he’d quite had time to work out just how insulting her rejection of his latest lurid suggestion was.

Now, her hasty tongue having deprived her of a desperately needed pair of tradesman’s hands, Izzie sat with a heavy thump onto the nearest pew. She knew she had to find fresh help, and fast. A task that wouldn’t be easy so close to Christmas.

‘Although,’ Izzie addressed the image of Noah, who smiled benevolently at her from his stained-glass window, as if grateful he hadn’t been smashed to pieces by the tree branch that had come through the top of the chancel and caused so much seasonal inconvenience, ‘I’m damn sure I’m not asking my mother to help out ever again!’

Reaching for the offending package of invitations that had arrived by courier first thing that morning, Izzie emptied it onto the table. The invitations were supposed to have been posted by now. As soon as she’d seen them, Izzie understood why her mother had left them to the last minute.

Unfussy, cost-effective, and with a medieval Christmas flavour in keeping with the spirit of the converted fourteenth-century church where the concert was to be held. That’s what she’d asked for. What she’d got was decadent Victorian-style gold-edged invitations which weighed so much, Izzie was sure that posting them alone would break the bank. And if that wasn’t bad enough, her mother had done the one thing that she had expressively forbidden. She’d put Izzie’s full name on the invitations.

Lady Perdita Spencer-Harris had been unable to comprehend why her daughter didn’t want to use the family name to help sales. She simply didn’t understand that Izzie wanted people to come to hear the choir for its own sake, or because they wanted to see what she’d done in her art centre; not because she was a young and single female member of the landed gentry.

Miss Isadora Spencer-Harris

cordially invites you to a magical festive evening at

The Cotswold Arts Centre, Chipping Swinton

to hear the renowned Cotswold Choir’s Christmas Carol Concert

Saturday 21st December

7 p.m. for 7.30 p.m. start

£25 per ticket

Refreshments provided

RSVP by 18th December to Harris Park

Wrapping her stripy woollen scarf more tightly around her neck, Izzie breathed warm air over her cold fingers. Deciding it wasn’t cost effective to heat the church this late at night just for her, she gathered up the invitations, and with one last check that the…

If you’d like to find out what happens next, then Christmas in the Cotswolds is available from all good e-retailers as well as in the Jenny Kane Christmas Collection paperback on Amazon.

mybook.to/ChristmasinCotswolds

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

Many thanks for popping by today,

See you next time for 500 words from Christmas at the Castle.

Happy reading, 

Jenny xx

Opening Lines: Another Cup of Christmas

For the next three weeks, I’ll be featuring my ‘Another Cup of….’ festive novellas on the ‘Opening Lines’ blog spot.

Today, I’m starting with the first 500 words from Another Cup of Christmas.

Blurb

Five years ago the staff of Pickwicks Cafe in Richmond were thrown into turmoil when their cook and part-owner, Scott, had a terrible accident. With help from his friends, his wife Peggy, and the staff at the local hospital, he made an amazing recovery. Now Pickwicks is preparing to host a special Christmas fundraiser for the hospital department that looked after Scott.

Pickwicks’ waitress Megan has been liaising with the ward’s administrator, Nick, as all the staff who helped Scott’s recovery are invited. As the problems of organising the fundraiser take up more and more of their busy lives, Megan and Nick contact each other more frequently, and their emails and phone calls start to develop from the practical into the flirty.

But can you actually fall for someone you’ve never met?

As the fundraiser draws closer, Megan is beginning to think that she had imagined all the virtual flirting between herself and Nick – he promised to arrange to meet her for real, but he hasn’t done so. Now he’s bringing someone with him to the fundraiser, and they’re just bound to be everything Megan feels she isn’t …

Join the characters of Jenny Kane’s wonderful debut Another Cup of Coffee once again for a heart-warming festive read!

Readers love Jenny Kane:
‘A lovely heart-warming tale set at Christmas and a perfect short read for in front of a blazing fire and a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate!)’

‘A great read in the run up to Christmas, highly recommended

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

December 4th 2012

Having politely escaped her third ‘So what are you doing for Christmas?’ conversation of the day, Megan Johnson was retreating back to the counter when she spotted Pickwicks’ most regular customer sit up from her work and brush a stray red hair from her eyes.

    Knowing it had been at least half an hour since Kit’s caffeine addiction had been attended to, the waitress swiped up the percolator jug and headed in her direction.

    Without bothering to ask if it was required, Megan poured the steaming liquid with practised care, before taking advantage of the lull in Christmas shopping trade, and sitting down opposite her friend. ‘Going OK?’

    Swivelling the laptop round to face Megan, Kit rubbed the back of her neck, ‘I’m sure I’ve missed something. What do you think?’

Pickwicks Festive Fundraiser!

Spoil Yourself With An Afternoon of Pickwicks’ Finest Festive Fare.

In Aid of the Royal Free Hospital’s Spinal Ward.

Saturday 22nd December from 2pm.

Deluxe Buffet And Festive Fundraising Fun!

Tickets are ONLY £25 per person

Don’t miss out!

Book your place at Pickwicks Coffee Shop, Richmond – NOW!!

    Megan scanned the poster. ‘Oh, that’s fabulous! I thought you were writing your latest novel.’

    ‘To tell you the truth, that’s exactly what I should be doing, but Peggy asked me to do some publicity for the fundraiser and I thought I’d better get on with it. Time seems to be dissolving. It’ll be the 22nd before we know it.’

    ‘I know what you mean.’ Megan started to collect the dishes left by a couple who’d just vacated a nearby table.          ‘The next three weeks are going to fly by.’

    ‘Two and a half weeks!’

    ‘Oh, hell! Really?’

    ‘That’s why I want to get these done; otherwise everyone will be too booked up with their own celebrations to have time to come.’ Gesturing towards the kitchen, Kit asked, ‘How’s Scott doing out there, or shouldn’t I ask?’

    Megan’s permanent smile widened further across her lightly freckled face. ‘He’s amazing. I have no idea how he does it. The temperature in that kitchen is tropical, and yet Scott’s still beaming that massive toothy grin of his. I’m seriously beginning to think he is physically unable to stop cooking! Surely he must have pre-prepared as much as he can for the fundraiser by now?’

     Kit nodded. ‘He probably has, but Peggy is getting paranoid there won’t be enough food.’ Glancing around, checking that Megan wasn’t needed by a customer for a moment, Kit pointed to a fresh pile of abandoned cups. ‘If I clear those, will you have a proper read of the poster? I’m sure I’ve missed something obvious but I can’t put my finger on it?’

    Kit was already standing up and taking a tray from Megan’s hands before the waitress said, ‘On one condition.’

    ‘Which is?’

    ‘I can check my emails? I’m supposed to be liaising with the hospital about this for Peggy, but we’ve been so busy over the last few days I…’

If you’d like to read on, Another Cup of Christmas, is available from all good e-book retailers, and as part of the Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection, paperback from Amazon.

mybook.to/AnotherCupofChristmas

mybook.to/JKChrisCollection

(You don’t need to have read Another Cup of Coffee to enjoy my festive stories.)

You can her me read a little from Another Cup of Christmas here- https://www.facebook.com/coffeetimesessions/videos/381433993174274

Come back next week, for the first 500 words from Christmas in the Cotswolds,

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Cosy with coffee at Christmas

With Christmas getting frighteningly close, it’s time to blow the dust off my three ‘Another Cup of…’ Christmas specials.

Another Cup of Christmas, Christmas in the Cotswolds and Christmas in the Castle.

These stories (along with the full length novels, Another Cup of Coffee and Another Glass of Champagne), have been taken on by Headline (the same folk that have A Cornish Escape and A Cornish Wedding) – and, as a result, the Christmas novellas now have fabulous new covers!

I love them!

Another Cup of Christmas – Blurb

Perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley and Jenny Colgan, this delightful festive short story is sure to warm your heart.

Five years ago the staff of Pickwicks Cafe in Richmond were thrown into turmoil when their cook and part-owner, Scott, had a terrible accident. With help from his friends, his wife Peggy, and the staff at the local hospital, he made an amazing recovery. Now Pickwicks is preparing to host a special Christmas fundraiser for the hospital department that looked after Scott.

Pickwicks’ waitress Megan has been liaising with the ward’s administrator, Nick, as all the staff who helped Scott’s recovery are invited. As the problems of organising the fundraiser take up more and more of their busy lives, Megan and Nick contact each other more frequently, and their emails and phone calls start to develop from the practical into the flirty.

But can you actually fall for someone you’ve never met?

As the fundraiser draws closer, Megan is beginning to think that she had imagined all the virtual flirting between herself and Nick – he promised to arrange to meet her for real, but he hasn’t done so. Now he’s bringing someone with him to the fundraiser, and they’re just bound to be everything Megan feels she isn’t …

Buy Link – mybook.to/AnotherCupofChristmas 

Christmas in the Cotswolds – Blurb

Fans of Holly Martin and Phillipa Ashley will love this festive short story, featuring much-loved characters from Jenny Kane’s bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee.

Izzie Spencer-Harris, owner of the Cotswold Art and Craft Centre, is due to host the prestigious Cotswold Choir’s annual Christmas carol concert in her beautiful converted church. Or at least she was, until a storm smashed a hole right through the chancel roof!

Days from Christmas, Izzie suddenly finds herself up to her neck in DIY, with her last dodgy workman having walked off the job. She does the only thing she can… calls in her best friend Megan to help.

Leaving Peggy and Scott to run Pickwicks Café in her absence, Megan heads to the Cotswolds for Christmas. Within minutes of her arrival, she finds herself hunting down anyone willing to take on extra work so close to Christmas. It seems the only person available to help is Joseph Parker – a carpenter who, while admittedly gorgeous, seems to have ulterior motives for everything he does…

With Izzie’s bossy mother, Lady Spencer-Harris, causing her problems at every turn, an accident at work causing yet more delays, and the date for the concert drawing ever nearer, it’s going to take a lot more than Mrs Vickers’ powerful mulled wine to make sure everything is all right on the night…

Buy Link – mybook.to/ChristmasinCotswolds

Christmas at the Castle – Blurb

Fans of Holly Martin and Phillipa Ashley will love this festive short story, featuring much-loved characters from Jenny Kane’s bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee.

When hotshot businesswoman Alice Warren is asked to organise a literary festival at beautiful Crathes Castle in Scotland, her ‘work mode’ persona means she can’t say no – even though the person asking is her ex, Cameron Hunter.

Alice broke Cameron’s heart and feels she owes him one – but her best friend Charlie isn’t going to like it. Charlie – aka famous author Erin Spence – is happy to help Alice with the festival…until she finds out that Cameron’s involved! Charlie suffered a bad case of unrequited love for Cameron, and she can’t bear the thought of seeing him again.

Caught between her own insecurities and loyalty to her friend, Charlie gets fellow author Kit Lambert to take her place. Agreeing to leave her London comfort zone – and her favourite corner in Pickwicks Café – Kit steps in. She quickly finds herself not just helping out, but hosting a major literary event, while also trying to play fairy godmother – a task which quickly gets very complicated indeed…

 Buy Link – mybook.to/ChristmasinCastle 

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If those tales tickle your taste buds- but you’d rather grab all three at once- you can do just that, by buying my Christmas Collection.

 Buy Link – mybook.to/JKChrisCollection 

These Christmas stories can all be read as standalone reads, or they can be read in order, following on from Another Cup of Coffee- and leading on to Another Glass of Champagne.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Opening Lines: A Perfect Paris Christmas by Mandy Baggot

This week I’m extremely excited to welcome the brilliant Mandy Baggott to my place as part of the #blogtour, for her latest release, A Perfect Paris Christmas.

Over to you Mandy…

Thank you so much to Jenny for having me on the blog today! I am so proud to introduce my latest festive read, A Perfect Paris Christmas.

This story brings together some of my very favourite things, so let me quickly introduce them:-

  • Keeley Andrews – A sweet, caring heroine who feels like a friend
  • Ethan Bouchard – A super-hot French hero
  • Paris – The French capital at Christmas time with its delicious food, uber-cool shopping and, of course, the magical Eiffel Tower
  • Pepe – an unexpected feathered friend
  • Romance – A love story I hope will tug at your heartstrings but also give you all the feel-good!

Enjoy!   Mandy xx

Blurb

United in grief. Pushed apart by tragedy.

Keeley Andrews knows more than anyone that you only live once. So when she receives an invitation to spend two weeks in Paris, all expenses paid, she jumps at the chance.

Ethan Bouchard has had the worst eighteen months of his life. He’s ready to give up on everything, including his hotel chain. So when he meets Keeley, it simply isn’t the right time.

As Keeley and Ethan continue to bump into each other on the romantic Parisian streets, they can’t help but wonder whether this is fate telling them to let go of the past and leap into the future…

Head to Paris this Christmas and fall in love under the lights of the Eiffel Tower with best-selling author, Mandy Baggot.

First 500 words…

Chapter One

Kensington, London

November

‘Duncan, not that awful disco ball of your mother’s again! Please, I beg of you. Last year it gave Lydia Mumford some sort of aura migraine before I’d even served the Waitrose arancini,’ Lizzie Andrews said, raising her eyes and glaring at her husband who was stood precariously at the top of a stepladder. He was about to fix the large revolving silver sphere to a hook above the kitchen island where, on the hob, something containing cranberries was simmering.

Twenty-six-year-old Keeley hid her face in her mug of super-hot, extra-strong coffee and tried to stop a laugh from escaping her lips. Her parents’ conversation over her long-since-passed-away gran’s festive regalia had been treading the same path since the decorations had been left to them in the will. Her mum had always insisted it was because the old lady never liked her.

Joan loathed me. Loathed me, Duncan. Right from the get-go. Ever since the first time I came to your house with peonies for her and she shoved them in an empty tin of Heinz beans as a vase. That was when the die was cast.

But Keeley liked the decorations. None of them matched together – there were vibrant purples and emerald-greens alongside 1980s-style robots swinging on bunting and Chinese paper lanterns that probably should have caught alight long ago. At first glance, they might not seem to correlate, but somehow they worked. Her sister, Bea, had loved them too. Bea would always be fighting their dad for use of the ladder, having somehow actually worked out complicated things about balance, or the optimum angle to enable the globe to spin in a completely symmetrical way that would please Lizzie’s need for order. Bea had always plunged into things with full-on gusto but never without the knowhow to back it up.

Thoughts of her little sister made Keeley’s heart squeeze and she took another sip of the coffee before the toaster popped with the crumpet she was cooking.

Lizzie shook her brown curly hair and sniffed, nose in the air like a prized perfumier. She dropped the pinecones she was painting to the newspaper-covered work surface. ‘What’s that smell?’

‘Is that one of those giant crumpets I bought yesterday?’ Duncan asked, grinning down from the ladder, both hands still holding the whole giant reflective world in his hands.

‘Yes, it is,’ Keeley replied, trying to wiggle the large crumpet out of the sleeve of the toaster. She had got it in without too much effort, but now it seemed it was impossible to remove.

‘Keeley!’ Lizzie exclaimed in horror. ‘A giant crumpet!’

‘Would you like one, Mum?’ Keeley asked. The crumpet still wasn’t moving and with every pull she was shaving the outer crust away from the body of it. It wasn’t going to stay ‘giant’ for long if it kept this up.

‘What you putting on it, Keeley?’ Duncan asked, tongue sticking out of his mouth, eyes concentrating hard on the hook on the…

***

Pre-order links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MpVrh4

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3072QtL

Google Play: https://bit.ly/3gOPHvv

iBooks: https://apple.co/2D35zuK

Bio

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Follow Mandy:   

Facebook: @mandybaggotauthor

Twitter: @mandybaggot

Follow Aria

Website: www.ariafiction.com

Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

***

Many thanks for visiting today Mandy. Wishing you good luck with your new novel.

Happy reading everyone,

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

Christmas at the Castle: Scottish romance and coffee

Christmas at the Castle is the third and final festive tale from my ‘Another Cup of…’ series.

This standalone story takes author Kit Lambert away from the comfort of Pickwicks Coffee Shop, into the beautiful Deeside region of Scotland…

Blurb – When hotshot businesswoman Alice Warren is asked to organise a literary festival at beautiful Crathes Castle in Scotland, her ‘work mode’ persona means she can’t say no – even though the person asking is her ex, Cameron Hunter.

Alice broke Cameron’s heart and feels she owes him one – but her best friend Charlie isn’t going to like it. Charlie – aka famous author Erin Spence – is happy to help Alice with the festival…until she finds out that Cameron’s involved! Charlie suffered a bad case of unrequited love for Cameron, and she can’t bear the thought of seeing him again. Caught between her own insecurities and loyalty to her friend, Charlie gets fellow author Kit Lambert to take her place. Agreeing to leave her London comfort zone – and her favourite corner in Pickwicks Café – Kit steps in. She quickly finds herself not just helping out, but hosting a major literary event, while also trying to play fairy godmother – a task which quickly gets very complicated indeed…

 

Here’s a tasty taster for you… Author Charlie, and her business woman friend Alice are in a café in Banchory, Scotland, discussing the literary festival they are trying to run. Charlie is convinced that Alice is holding out on her- but she doesn’t know why…

“…Charlie was convinced her friend was lying, but she wasn’t sure why. ‘Loads of Scottish towns have festivals. Come on, Alice, why did you choose here?’

‘It’s a beautiful place. More people should see it; although I grant you the festival is three miles away at the castle, so not everyone will come into the town itself.’

‘I can’t argue with the knock-out location argument,’ Charlie said, ‘but why really? Please don’t do the mysterious hot-shot businesswoman bit with me Alice..’

Not looking at her companion, Alice reached into her designer bag and pulled out a notebook and matching pen, and mumbled, ‘Cameron asked me to.’

Charlie’s cheeks instantly went red. ‘Cameron Hunter? He doesn’t live here anymore. I thought you guys were a thing of the past?’

‘We are. But I owe him. He asked me for help. He’s working up at Crathes Castle, running the estate management team. Tasked with bringing in new events to improve the out-of-season tourist figures.’

Speaking slowly, as if trying to get her head around a difficult sum, Charlie said, ‘Cameron Hunter is back? Cameron who treats me as though I’m invisible?’

Alice rolled her eyes. ‘He never thought you were invisible! Honestly, Charlie, I can’t believe you’re still going on about that. I thought you were paranoid at the time, but it was five years ago! And you wouldn’t want him now anyway, would you?’ She studied her friend more shrewdly. ‘Or would you?’

‘Not even if he was soaked in chocolate, but that is not the point.’ Charlie couldn’t believe Alice had put her in this position. ‘He made me feel small and worthless. I bet if you mentioned me by name to him he wouldn’t know who the hell you were talking about.’ Charlie closed her eyes for a second while she tried to calm the anger that was rapidly tightening in her chest. ‘We used to spend hours chatting while he waited around for you to beautify yourself, and yet the second you arrived he acted as though you two were the only people in the world.’

Alice raised her eyebrows. ‘Don’t be ridiculous, it was never like that. And it’s hardly his fault you got a crush on him.’ Shaking her head as if to dismiss a non-existent problem, like she would at work, Alice said, ‘The thing is, his job at Crathes is currently temporary. Cameron has to secure a profit-making event in the first four months of his job for it to become permanent.’

Crathes Castle

Charlie’s palms had gone as clammy as if it was the middle of summer. ‘But we’re holding the festival at the castle.’

‘That’s what I’m saying! Cameron couldn’t find anyone willing to run an event at such short notice so close to Christmas. Craft fairs have been done to death and it’s too cold for outdoor theatre. So he came to my company for ideas.’

‘The man whose heart you broke. The man you left without a word so you could go and be a big city success?’ Charlie couldn’t get her head straight. ‘Why didn’t you tell me he was here, or that it was his festival I was helping plan?’

Sensing that she might have pushed Charlie’s good nature too far, Alice said, ‘Because you’re my friend. You’re helping me, not Cameron. I need you, sweetie. My reputation is on the line. I promised I’d make this one hell of an event.’

Seeing the thunderous expression on the normally calm Charlie’s face, Alice realised she was close to losing the help of the person she’d been depending on most. ‘Please, Charlie! I’ve secured a top line-up of authors and no one wants to see them!’

Speaking through gritted teeth, Charlie said, ‘You mean I’ve secured you a top line-up of authors.’

‘Yes, well, same thing,’ Alice flipped open her notebook. ‘But despite that, this festival isn’t getting any local interest.’

Keeping quiet her thought that things not going to plan for once could do Alice a lot of good, Charlie had to agree that even though the posters displayed all over town proclaimed a line-up of bestselling authors that would be the envy of many established festivals, the situation was far from rosy.

There were eight main events, but not one ticket had been sold. The website for the festival was up and running, but no one had visited it yet. The Facebook and Twitter pages were in full working order, but the number of followers was lacklustre to say the least. People obviously had more important things to spend their money on so near to Christmas.

Forgetting her determination not to let her hair do its unruly impression of a haystack, Charlie ran a hand through its curls and let out a strangled cry of frustration as she got to her feet.

‘You’re right, you do need help.’ Charlie grabbed her bag and scarf. ‘I’m glad you’ve finally worked out you can’t always be a one-woman band. In a small town, you need lots of volunteers to run something like this. You also need to learn how to ask nicely for that help, rather than assuming one flutter of your eyelashes will do the trick.

‘Obviously, I won’t be helping any more. You knew that I wouldn’t be able to once I learned Cameron was involved, which is presumable why you didn’t tell me before.’ Without pausing, Charlie leant across the table and whispered, ‘You let me watch while you took what you wanted from Cameron, knowing I liked him more than you did, and then, once he’d fallen for you hook, line, and sinker, you disappeared and dumped him by text. I made a total fool of myself trying to comfort him. The relief I felt when he left was huge, and yet, fool that I am, I still missed seeing him around. The only good thing I ever got from Cameron was the plot to The Love-Blind Boy!’

Catching her breath, gratified by the shocked expression on Alice’s face, Charlie added, ‘As it happens, I don’t want this festival to fail. Too many hardworking authors are travelling a long way to come here.’ She scribbled two names onto a paper napkin. ‘These people might help, if you’re nice to them.’

Slamming the napkin onto the table, Charlie gathered her coat into her arms and walked away, leaving a stunned Alice staring after her…

***

If that has whetted your appetite, you can find out what happens next, and if there is a literary festival left, by the time Kit Lambert leaves London for Scotland, you can buy Christmas at the Castle from-

Amazon UK

Or you can buy it as part of the Jenny Kane Christmas Collection (which also contains Another Cup of Christmas and Christmas in the Cotswolds)

This can be read as a standalone story or as a sequel to Another Cup of Coffee, Another Cup of Christmas and Christmas in the Cotswolds.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Christmas in the Cotswolds: Choirs, mulled wine and a carpenter

Our second dip into my festive story collection takes us to Christmas in the Cotswolds  – a festive novella featuring characters from the Pickwicks Café. (Previously featured in Another Cup of Coffee and Another Cup of Christmas)

Rather than being set in Richmond, this standalone festive tale takes Megan, Pickwicks’ regular waitress, away from her day job, on a mercy mission to the Cotswolds…

Blurb

Izzie Spencer-Harris, owner of the Cotswold Art and Craft Centre, is due to host the prestigious Cotswold Choir’s annual Christmas carol concert in her beautiful converted church. Or at least she was, until a storm smashed a hole right through the chancel roof. Days from Christmas, Izzie suddenly finds herself up to her neck in DIY, with her last dodgy workman having walked off the job. She does the only thing she can … calls in her best friend Megan to help.

Leaving Peggy and Scott to run Pickwicks Café in her absence, Megan heads to the Cotswolds for Christmas. Within minutes of her arrival, she finds herself hunting down anyone willing to take on extra work so close to Christmas. It seems the only person available to help is Joseph Parker – a carpenter who, while admittedly gorgeous, seems to have ulterior motives for everything he does … With Izzie’s bossy mother, Lady Spencer-Harris, causing her problems at every turn, an accident at work causing yet more delays, and the date for the concert drawing ever nearer, it’s going to take a lot more than Mrs Vickers’ powerful mulled wine to make sure everything is all right on the night …cotswold-in-snow

I’ve always loved the Cotswolds, and was lucky enough to grow up not too far from their villages filled with yellow stoned picturesque cottages and stunning churches. For me, once I’d decided to take Megan away from Pickwicks for a while, the Cotswolds was the obvious choice of location. It is precisely the type of area I can imagine Izzie setting up an arts and craft centre, which- were it real- I have no doubt would flourish! I’d go there for sure. It has a café after all!

***

If you’d like to have a read, you can buy my latest novella from all good e-retailers including-

Or you can buy it as part of the Jenny Kane Christmas Collection (which also contains Another Cup of Christmas and Christmas at the castle)

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Fancy Another Cup of Christmas?

Today I’m kicking off a three day ‘dip’ into the Christmas stories which make up Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection – Another Cup of Christmas, Christmas in the Cotswolds and Christmas at the Castle

Let’s start with the novella length sequel to my debut novel, Another Cup of CoffeeAnother Cup of Christmas!

Here’s the Blurb-

Five years ago the staff of Pickwicks Cafe in Richmond were thrown into turmoil when their cook and part-owner, Scott, had a terrible accident. With help from his friends, his wife Peggy, and the staff at the local hospital, he made an amazing recovery. Now Pickwicks is preparing to host a special Christmas fundraiser for the hospital department that looked after Scott.

Pickwicks’ waitress Megan has been liaising with the ward’s administrator, Nick, as all the staff who helped Scott’s recovery are invited are invited. As the problems of organising the fundraiser take up more and more of their busy lives, Megan and Nick contact each other more frequently, and their emails and phone calls start to develop from the practical into the flirty.

But can you actually fall for someone you’ve never met?

As the fundraiser draws closer, Megan is beginning to think that she had imagined all the virtual flirting between herself and Nick – he promised to arrange to meet her for real, but he hasn’t done so. Now he’s bringing someone with him to the fundraiser, and they’re just bound to be everything Megan feels she isn’t …

mince-pies-1

Deliberately short, so that you can fit a peaceful moments reading into your busy Christmas preparation schedule, Another Cup of Christmas can be easily consumed in one delicious ginger and nutmeg flavoured mouthful!

As an extra treat to warm up a Monday. Here’s how Another Cup of Christmas begins…

Chapter One

December 4th 2012

Having politely escaped her third ‘So what are you doing for Christmas?’ conversation of the day, Megan Johnson was retreating back to the counter when she spotted Pickwicks’ most regular customer sit up from her work and brush a stray red hair from her eyes.

Knowing it had been at least half an hour since Kit’s caffeine addiction had been attended to, the waitress swiped up the percolator jug and headed in her direction.

Without bothering to ask if it was required, Megan poured the steaming liquid with practised care, before taking advantage of the lull in Christmas shopping trade, and sitting down opposite her friend. ‘Going OK?’

Swivelling the laptop round to face Megan, Kit rubbed the back of her neck, ‘I’m sure I’ve missed something. What do you think?’

Pickwicks Festive Fundraiser!

Spoil Yourself With An Afternoon of Pickwicks’ Finest Festive Fare.

 In Aid of the Royal Free Hospital’s Spinal Ward.

Saturday 22nd December from 2pm.

Deluxe Buffet And Festive Fundraising Fun!

Tickets are ONLY £25 per person

Don’t miss out!

Book your place at Pickwicks Coffee Shop, Richmond – NOW!!

Megan scanned the poster. ‘Oh, that’s fabulous! I thought you were writing your latest novel.’

‘To tell you the truth, that’s exactly what I should be doing, but Peggy asked me to do some publicity for the fundraiser and I thought I’d better get on with it. Time seems to be dissolving. It’ll be the 22nd before we know it.’

‘I know what you mean.’ Megan started to collect the dishes left by a couple who’d just vacated a nearby table. ‘The next three weeks are going to fly by.’

‘Two and a half weeks!’

‘Oh, hell! Really?’

‘That’s why I want to get these done; otherwise everyone will be too booked up with their own celebrations to have time to come.’ Gesturing towards the kitchen, Kit asked, ‘How’s Scott doing out there, or shouldn’t I ask?’

Megan’s permanent smile widened further across her lightly freckled face. ‘He’s amazing. I have no idea how he does it. The temperature in that kitchen is tropical, and yet Scott’s still beaming that massive toothy grin of his. I’m seriously beginning to think he is physically unable to stop cooking! Surely he must have pre-prepared as much as he can for the fundraiser by now?’

Kit nodded. ‘He probably has, but Peggy is getting paranoid there won’t be enough food.’ Glancing around, checking that Megan wasn’t needed by a customer for a moment, Kit pointed to a fresh pile of abandoned cups. ‘If I clear those, will you have a proper read of the poster? I’m sure I’ve missed something obvious but I can’t put my finger on it?’

Kit was already standing up and taking a tray from Megan’s hands before the waitress said, ‘On one condition.’

‘Which is?’

‘I can check my emails? I’m supposed to be liaising with the hospital about this for Peggy, but we’ve been so busy over the last few days I haven’t had time to see if Nick has got back to me about how many of the ward staff are coming.’

‘Nick?’

Megan silently cursed her inability to prevent the involuntary warm pink blush that hit her pale cheeks, ‘Yeah, he’s the admin guy for the ward that cared for Scott after his accident.’

‘Nice, is he?’ Kit gently teased the petite blonde waitress, wondering, not for the first time, why someone as kind and pretty as Megan hadn’t been snapped up years ago.

‘I’ve never met him, but he seems friendly. Well, he does via email and over the phone at least.’

‘You’ve spoken to him then?’

‘There are loads of things to sort out.’ Megan, knowing that the crush she’d developed on Nick’s Irish accent was utterly ridiculous, turned her full attention to the poster on the screen before her…

****

christmas-pud

If you’d like to buy Another Cup of Christmas, it is available as a standalone read from all good eBook suppliers including-

You can also buy it as part of Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection 

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

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