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

Tag: ireland

Opening Lines with Ruadh Butler: The Earl Longbow

We’ve heading into 12th century Ireland for this week’s Opening Lines.

I’m delighted to welcome Ruadh Butler, and the first 500 words of The Earl Strongbow.

Denied his father’s earldom and banished from the royal court, Richard de Clare is a man whose name is greater than his fortune, his past greater than his future. But he is a man of ambition and will risk everything when journeys across the Irish Sea to claim the hand of a princess and place her father back on his provincial throne. Awaiting his master’s arrival is the redoubtable Raymond de Carew, fresh from his own victory but facing mutiny by his own warriors. The only person to stay loyal is his former mistress, Alice of Abergavenny, who has her own plans for Raymond. She knows more than any that upon the walls of Viking Waterford a king shall be made. And Alice has big plans for Raymond.


The king was dying.

All his doctors were in agreement. He would not survive the fever. For two weeks the sickness had raged through his lungs and ravaged his guts. Henry FitzEmpress was fading. The king was dying.

Royal messengers had already been despatched to his son and heir, crowned king alongside his father two months before. Prepare, they were instructed to tell the fifteen-year old. Prepare to become lord and master of an empire. Prepare to become the greatest king in all Christendom.

Secret letters telling the same tale also found their way south to the king’s wife, Eleanor, at Poitiers, and east to Paris where the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury plotted his return to England.

‘Where is Master Ralph?’ Henry raved and slugged from a wine goblet, spilling most down his chest and onto his bed. ‘Master Ralph will return me to health.’ The king’s light ginger hair clung to his damp, yellowed face and he swiped it away with his shivering hand.

‘You Grace, your physician was among those poor souls who perished during your crossing to England in the spring. Do you recall?’ The Bishop of Lisieux used the same voice that he employed to calm his hunting dogs. ‘Be assured, we have engaged new doctors to oversee your recovery.’ His eyes flicked up. One of the new physicians visibly wilted and refused to meet his eyes.

Henry suddenly shot forward from his sick bed and grabbed the bishop by his robes, hauling him close enough so that the bishop could smell the puke and wine upon his breath. The king’s eyes danced in his pink face.

‘Becket has done this to me,’ Henry whispered, ‘just as he summoned up that storm to try and drown me during my passage across the Channel. You must protect me from his magic.’ A moan of sadness hissed from the king’s throat and he meekly punched the bishop in the shoulder as he clung to his robes. ‘I extended my hand in friendship to Thomas, tried to make peace as you instructed, and he has conspired to murder me.’ The king’s head slumped onto the bishop’s chest, the grip on his chasuble lessening. ‘It’s too damn hot,’ Henry whimpered as his hands fell away and he flopped back onto his back in bed. ‘Why is it always so damn hot in Normandy? I cannot believe I am going to die in this shit-hole.’ The king began rolling around the bed, his arms and legs gripped to his torso.

A smear of sweat had been left on the bishop’s rich vestments. The bishop raised his hand to wipe Henry’s perspiration from his clothes but stopped himself from doing so in the company of so many great men. As he cast his glance around the room he realised that not one person cared at how he comported himself. All eyes were on Henry. Each was considering how the king’s impending death would affect his empire and their place in it…




A disgraced knight, an exiled king – together can they conquer a kingdom in Ireland?


The might of Viking Waterford marches against a hundred invading Normans. At the creek of Baginbun, Ireland will be lost or won.


Denied his father’s earldom and banished from the royal court, Richard de Clare will risk it all by invading Ireland to claim the hand of a princess and with it a crown…


Ruadh Butler is the author of Swordland, Lord of the Sea Castle, and The Earl Strongbow. The series tells the story of the 12th century invasion of Ireland by Norman knights from Wales. Catch up with Ruadh at, on Facebook, or find him on Twitter and Instagram.


Many thanks Ruadh. Great series!

Happy reading everyone,




Guest Blog from Lorna Peel: Life in Ireland during World War Two

I’m delighted to welcome Lorna Peel to my blog today, as part of the blog tour for her brand new book, Into the Unknown.

Over to you Lorna…


The Irish Free State remained neutral during ‘The Emergency’, as the Second World War was called in Ireland – the only member of the British Commonwealth to do so. An estimated seventy thousand men and women served in the British armed forces, including almost five thousand members of the Irish Defence Forces who deserted to fight.

Kate’s father, mother and grandmother lived in Co Galway on the west coast of Ireland. Kate’s father was a solicitor and despite having a good job, they couldn’t afford to be extravagant. He had a car but with petrol priced one shilling and sixpence per gallon and rationed, the car was only used to get him to and from work. By 1942, petrol was so scarce that most private cars were off the road.

During The Emergency, every person was issued with a ration book. Goods rationed included tobacco, butter, tea, sugar, flour, soap and clothing. Inside each ration book were several pages of instructions in both Irish and English followed by pages of numbered squares, either marked by the product name (Flour, Tea, etc.) or containing a letter to be used for different purchases. Space was also provided for keeping details of when, where and what was bought.

Kate’s mother had approximately four pounds per weeks for housekeeping. She cooked on a rather antiquated solid fuel range which was powered by a turf (peat) as coal was no longer available for domestic use. Overall, the Sheridans did not fare too badly as, unlike in the United Kingdom, eggs and meat were not rationed as most people had their own animals to provide these necessities. Mrs Sheridan kept chickens to produce eggs and for eating and any surplus eggs would be bartered for other commodities at the local shop, where she also bought flour for baking in eight-stone bags. In January 1941, the tea ration was two ounces per person per week, but by April it was reduced to once ounce. Like in the United Kingdom, rationing continued long after the end of the war.

Censorship of the press was rigid. Critical commentary was not allowed and no weather reports were printed so, apart from letters which were read and censored, the Sheridans would have known relatively little about the war and Kate’s part in it.



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“You don’t know much about my family, do you?” She frowned. “I’ll tell you, seeing as we’re stuck here for the time being. My father is a solicitor in Galway but he met Mummy at a wedding here in London. They live a few miles outside Galway now, beside the sea. Granny Barbara can’t stand him and makes no secret of the fact that she thinks Mummy married beneath her. Daddy and Granny Norah are Catholic but Mummy is Church of England, and when Mummy announced she wanted to marry Daddy there was uproar. Granny Barbara and Granddad Thomas were completely against it, but Mummy and Daddy were completely for it.”

“So what happened?” Charlie asked.

“Granddad Thomas and Daddy came to an arrangement. Mummy could marry Daddy, but any children they had who were born in Ireland would be brought up Church of England, not Catholic. It’s always amazed me that Daddy agreed, but Granddad Thomas was quite frightening, from what very little I remember of him. He died when I was five, a few months after Mummy, Daddy and I were here on a visit.”

“He was,” Charlie smiled, “very Victorian in his outlook. He used to frighten the life out of me. He caught me smoking in the garden once. I was about fifteen and I can remember him bellowing at me, ‘Are you smoking a cigarette, boy? A gentleman smokes a cigar.’ He gave me a cigar and the thing almost gave me bronchitis, so I stayed with cigarettes.” He laughed. “So were you brought up Church of England?”

“I was baptised Church of Ireland, which is Anglican, too. Apparently, Daddy stood outside the church and refused to go in.” She sighed. “They really needn’t have bothered because I’ve no time for religion. Poor Mummy, she tries so hard. She’s on every committee there is, but means well, even if the locals do still call her the ‘blow-in’ after twenty-two years.”


“She sounds exactly like Helen and Granny Barbara—that very posh English accent—and it rubs some people up the wrong way because they think she’s putting it on. Poor Mummy; she’ll never fit in, no matter how hard she tries. Daddy’s only brother, Michael, fought in the Irish War of Independence against the British. He got shot shortly before the Truce in 1921 but didn’t die for a long, long time. Daddy paid for him to be looked after in a nursing home. I was about four when he died. That’s why Daddy is a bit, you know, about Britain. There’s no reasoning with him. Everything is all Britain’s fault, according to him, but he’s not involved in anything. I know you were wondering, Charlie,” she finished softly.



London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan, newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle, and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?


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Author Bio and Links

Lorna Peel is an author of contemporary and historical romantic fiction. She has had work published in three Irish magazines – historical articles on The Stone of Scone in ‘Ireland’s Own’, on The Irish Potato Famine in the ‘Leitrim Guardian’ – and Lucy’s Lesson, a contemporary short story in ‘Woman’s Way’.

Her first novel, Only You, a contemporary romance, was published in 2014. Into The Unknown, an historical novel set during WWII, will be published on 5 May 2015.

Lorna was born in England and lived in North Wales until her family moved to Ireland to become farmers, which is a book in itself! She lives in rural Ireland, where she write, researches her family history, and grows fruit and vegetables. She also keeps chickens (and a Guinea Hen who now thinks she’s a chicken!).

Thank you for hosting me, Jenny!


Many thanks for dropping by today Lorna,

Good luck on your blog tour,

Jenny xx



I Write Real People: Guest Post by Kemberlee Shortland (@kemberlee)

WMS_blogtourI’m delighted to welcome Kemberlee Shortland to my site today as part of her latest blog tour.

Over to you Kemberlee…

Looking for a royal prince, a rich tycoon, or a Fortune 500 exec? You won’t find anyone like that in the books I write.

I’m not saying the prince, the tycoon, and the exec aren’t real people, but they don’t circulate in normal circles and they don’t struggle like most people . . . you know, the 99%. The people who have crap jobs with crap hours, who struggle with the rent or a mortgage, who can’t afford to get the car fixed (let alone being able to afford to own a car), or who have kids with problems of their own or even emotional or physical challenges. And those people who, no matter how hard they try reaching for the gold ring, usually always fall on their face . . . metaphorically speaking . . . through no fault of their own.

Let’s look at my Irish Pride series —

Rhythm of My Heart is the story of a woman who’s suffered sexual discrimination and physical abuse to the point of giving up her dreams of singing. He’s a down-on-his-luck musician who’s been trying to catch up financially so he can put his energy into his music and get noticed. She’s managed to work her way up in another avenue in the music business to help struggling performers like herself, and help them avoid that ‘casting couch’. He’s not just a struggling musician, but as much father and brother to his only sister, so he has responsibility to her, especially when she needs help. Real people.

A Piece of My Heart is the story a palliative care nurse who gave up working to care for her dying neighbors. He’s a guy working as a cataloger in a museum. She’s not a doctor, and has no God complex about saving lives. She’s probably the last face a dying person sees before closing their eyes for the last time. He’s not a famous archaeologist, and has no ego to feed by finding the first or rarest ‘whatever’ in the ground. He’s essentially a paper-pusher. Real people.

Shape of My Heart is the story of a woman who’s skated along since her teen years, ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’ and taking whatever job she could to pay the rent. He’s a police detective who’s worked hard to get where he is, working his way up the ranks and giving up what he had to in order to earn his stripes on the job, often working those crap hours and taking the worst cases going. She’s trying to get her life together, learning to make responsible decisions so she can better her life and prove she can make something of herself, but it doesn’t work out the way she plans. He’s gone undercover to solve a crime, one that could get him killed, including the woman he loves.  Real people. Okay, a little more real-real for the detective, but still, these are real jobs that normal people work.

What makes my ordinary characters extraordinary, and what makes readers want to read these stories, is how each character meets and deals with each challenge as it comes. We are who we are though our actions, not the figure on our bank statement, or the size of the house we live in, or the speed at which our car goes . . . or what the car looks like. A person in the real world is just as rich, or richer, by their actions.

The stereotypical rich executive is usually written as a glamorous and much-coveted mate, and the stereotypical down-on-his-luck guy with revenge in his mind is usually hunted by police. These characters fill the pages of a lot of genres, but how would we react to that same rich executive if we knew he tortured puppies in his spare time? Or how would we feel knowing that down-on-his-luck guy with revenge on his mind worked in his spare time at the local shelter, and is finding a way to save the puppies from the sadist executive?

A man is just as much a hero, if not more, if he works in a gas station, drives a Gremlin, and can just barely afford to pay his rent, as long as his actions speak for his character.

Certainly, a rich person can afford to do good things and thus bolster his/her character, but sometimes (well, most of the time, I find) the best things in life come from real struggle. A man or woman who struggles to achieve anything appreciates it more than if they can just go out and buy it. And at the end of the day, it’s those people on the ground we rely on every day but who mostly go unnoticed. It’s my hope that my stories give those people a high five and make them the heroes and heroines they deserve.

Kemberlee ShortlandAUTHOR BIO

Kemberlee Shortland was born and raised in Northern California in an area known as America’s Salad Bowl. It was home to many authors, including John Steinbeck, and for a while Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson. In 1997, Kemberlee had the opportunity to live in Ireland for six months where she ended up meeting a man who convinced her to stay. Kemberlee is now celebrating her seventeeth year in Ireland and has been lucky to travel the country extensively, picking up a cupla focal along the way—a few Irish words.

Kemberlee was an early-reader and has been writing since a very young age, and over the years she has published many travel articles and book reviews, as well as worked some notable authors who’ve set their books in Ireland.

After publishing travel articles since 1997, Kemberlee saw her first short stories published, and now has eight published books to her name and half a dozen others languishing in a drawer.

Away from the computer, Kemberlee enjoys knitting and other needlecrafts, playing with her Border Collies, castle hunting, travel, reading, gardening, and cookery. One day she hopes to have time to learn to play guitar properly.

Time suck! Not on there. But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time
Amazon Author Page:
Tirgearr Publishing:




Irish Pride series, book one

Kemberlee Shortland



Artist Representative, Eilis Kennedy, gave up a singing career so that other women could have a fair chance at having their music heard. Having suffered rejection from callous men in the industry, she thought she would get away from ‘casting couch’ mentality. But when she finds herself in the office of Fergus Manley, all bets are off. Disgusted by his continual come-ons and lewd invitations, Eilis is looking for ‘the one’ who will take her career to the next level, getting out from under Fergus’s controlling thumb.

Aspiring blues guitarist, Kieran Vaughan, is looking for his big break. But after suffering near bankruptcy at the hands of an unscrupulous business partner, Kieran is left picking up the pieces. He’s unsure if the debts will ever be paid or if he’ll ever have a chance to do something with his music. At his whit’s end, he’s about ready to throw in the towel and find a full-time job with real hours.

When Eilis discovers Kieran playing in a seedy pub in Dublin’s Northside, she knows he’s the one rare talent she’s been searching for. With her know-how and his talent, Eilis will finally get everything she’s been waiting for. Neither of them count on the powerful attraction from first meeting. Eilis is so rocked by Keiran’s forthright words that it sends her running. Kieran risks being arrested as he chases Eilis across Ireland.

Seeing what’s happening between Eilis and Kieran, anger wells inside Fergus and he steps up his pursuit of Eilis. Refusing to let Kieran get in his way, Fergus vows to add Eilis’s notch to his bedpost, whatever it takes.

Will Kieran be able to protect her?



Dublin’s Northside looked far different by day than it did at night. Last night’s storm had been one of the season’s worst. Huge puddles hampered traffic, and trash had collected in the corners of doorways and blocked the gutters. The lingering breeze was still crisp and signaled the imminent winter. Wisps of dark clouds streaked the pale blue sky but remained reminiscent of last night’s tempest.

As the taxi drove through Dublin’s inner city, a blur of tacky euro shops, shoddy newsagents and off-licenses, all with shop fronts that had seen better days, flashed by.

Finglas wasn’t noted as one of Dublin’s prime locations. This was a large blue collar suburb in a rapidly expanding city. Lack in a pride of ownership was evident, as residents struggled to make ends meet, which gave the area a rough underbelly. The Little Man Pub was a perfect example of both.

Eilis wrapped her arms around her middle, instinctively protective. Was this the compromise she must face to get where she wanted?

When the taxi slowed at a junction, she pressed herself back in her seat. A group of out-of-work young men sipping something from a paper bag spun their heads and looked at her.

Just this once, just this once, she chanted to herself.

Just this one trip to find Kieran Vaughan and that would be it. She’d never have to come back to this place ever again. She could stay safely tucked away in her D2 house for the rest of her days. She’d worked hard for that house. She deserved it. She deserved it all the more now by putting herself through this.

Long ago, Eilis had vowed never to set foot in the Northside again. But if it took this one last visit to get what she needed, it would be worth it.

The taxi pulled around the corner and the now familiar entrance to The Little Man Pub came into view. Nicotine-stained curtains were pulled across windows, reflecting the unkempt street. The façade’s red and black paint was weather-faded to pink and gray. The ‘M’ on the sign hung askew and swung in the breeze, and the ‘P’ was missing altogether. Had she not been here last night she would have thought the place was shut.

She pulled some money from her purse to hand to the driver. “I’ll wait fer ye, luv,” he said, waving her money away. “Taxis can be hard to come by ‘round here.”

Eilis was suitably taken aback. “Thank you. I won’t be a moment.”

She swallowed hard, got out of the taxi then entered the pub.

Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dark room. The few men sitting around the bar turned their gazes in her direction. Understandably. A well-groomed businesswoman in the pub was surely a novelty. These men were long since retired, or long since employed. Their stubbled faces meant they hadn’t shaved in several days, or possibly weeks. The dim light hid the worst of their unkempt appearances, but nothing could disguise their unwashed clothes. A pong in the room wafted into her nostrils, causing her stomach to lurch again.

Shoulders back, she strode to the bar.

The same man from last night stood behind the counter. He was short and pudgy with missing front teeth. His disheveled appearance made him look like one of his patrons. Had he not been behind the counter she wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

His striped brown and white shirt had frayed cuffs and was open to mid-chest, showing a sweat-stained t-shirt underneath. His brown trousers had seen much better days and were held together not with a button or belt, but with a bit of twine looping between his belt loops, his round belly spilling over. The only thing holding up the trousers was his equally round bum. It seemed to push the waistband up in the back as his belly pushed it down in the front. The sight would have been funny if her stomach hadn’t been flip-flopping.

Her voice cracked when she first spoke, but it picked up strength in her determination to make something of this horrid trek. “A-are you the proprietor?”

A broad gap-toothed grin creased the man’s face and, loud enough for his patrons to hear, he said, “I’ll be who ever ye want me to be, luv.”

His friends burst into laughter. Eilis felt the flush rise in her cheeks. Not because she was embarrassed, but from frustration. She just wanted to get this meeting over with and she wasn’t in the mood to spar.

She stood her ground. “I’m looking for the man who played guitar here last night. Kieran Vaughan. We have business. Will you please tell me where I can find him?” She looked the man in the eye, much as she could, considering she stood a good half-foot taller than him, even without her heels.

“No, miss, I doubt you have any business with himself. ‘Speshly a fine lass such as yerself. Now, if ye were to come home with a real man like meself, well . . .” He left the rest unsaid, the insinuation hanging in the air.

Her gaze never wavered as she stared the little man in the eye.

“Sir,” she smiled sweetly, honey dripping from her words. She leaned over the bar just enough to give him a glimpse of the swell of her breast through the opening of her blouse. “I doubt you have anything I would be interested in. Besides, you don’t really want me to find out why this place is called The Little Man, do you?”

This earned the publican long oohs and sniggers from the patrons, who were now on the edges of their seats waiting to hear the disagreeable little man’s response.

Obviously taken aback by such a brazen retort, the man stood gaping and red-faced at her for a moment before he got his wits about him. He winked at the men around the bar. “Oy does like me birds feisty!” That only encouraged more laughter.

Eilis could have enjoyed the banter if only the man wasn’t so repulsive. All she wanted to do was meet Kieran Vaughan and get out of Finglas as quickly as possible.

When the laughing stopped, Eilis’s gaze never wavered as she said, “Well?”

“Well what, loov?” he asked, wiping the tears from his eyes with a dirty bar towel.

“Are you going to tell me where to find Kieran Vaughan?” He was trying her patience, but she did her best to keep the frustration out of her voice.

Then she sensed someone step up behind her and straightened instantly. Somehow she knew it was Kieran. The feral scent of him permeated her senses and quickened her pulse. Butterflies replaced the strange ache in her stomach that had been there just moments before.

She slowly turned and looked up at the most handsome man she’d ever seen in her life. She found herself instantly speechless.

She’d seen him on stage the night before and knew he was handsome. But this close up . . . Never before had she seen such blue eyes. As she gazed into them, they changed from the light steel blue to the color of storm clouds heavily ringed with gunmetal. That he had dark brows and thick lashes only made his gaze seem more intense.

“Ye’ve found him, loov,” said the little man, taunting her. “Now what are ye goin’ ta do with him?”

The hammering of her heart and the pulsing blood in her temples blocked out the noise in the room as she looked into Kieran Vaughan’s eyes. To her dismay, her knees actually quivered.

Something in the pit of her belly ached. No, something else. It was like warm melting honey running through her marrow. In that moment she longed to touch him, to brush the unruly wave of his dark hair away from his face, to feel his lips against the pads of her fingers, to . . .

When he spoke she almost didn’t hear him.

“Like the man said, now that you’ve found me, what are you going to do with me?” His eyes sparkled with unabashed mischief.

“Anything you want me to.”



Irish Pride series, book two

Kemberlee Shortland



Mick and Kate thought they were falling in love. Kate hadn’t been just the girl next door. She’d been Mick’s life, and he hers. When an unforeseen force draws them apart they’re left with wounds that refuse to heal. Now, ten years on, Mick’s father’s will should have been straightforward, except his addendum was like ice water in Mick’s face.

It’s essential that Mick and Kate work together to save his family’s farm. Mick doesn’t count on his new manager being accused of murder, and Kate doesn’t expect a dangerously seductive woman from Dublin to claim Mick is the father of her child.

Kate thought she was falling in love with Mick all over again; however this newest revelation is too much for her. She is determined to finally say goodbye to her childhood sweetheart forever, but Mick has other plans for Kate’s future. And none of them involve goodbye.



Irish Pride series, book three

Kemberlee Shortland



Gráinne has moved back to Dublin to get her life straightened out. She dreams of college and a better life. She’s working for her brother, Kieran, in his newly reopened pub, The Blues Tavern, but the money isn’t enough to support herself and pay tuition. Moonlighting at The Klub! as an exotic dancer seems to be her answer fast money.

John ‘JD’ Desmond is a detective working undercover in the Blues Tavern. The Klub!, owned by Jimmy Malloy, is being used as a drug front, headed by the notorious Taylor Wade. JD had intended to get Gráinne to snitch for him, but when he falls in love with her, things get complicated.

When Gráinne witnesses Jimmy’s murder, she and JD are forced to go on the run until Wade can be apprehended. Wade lives up to his nickname, The Hunter, and JD and Gráinne quickly find themselves at the end of a gun and running for their lives.

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