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Tag: Jan Ellis

Opening Lines: An Unexpected Affair by Jan Ellis

Here we are again. Thursday has dawned, and there are some wonderful new opening lines to read.

This week Jan Ellis, friend, fellow RNA member and contemporary fiction author, is with me to share the very beginning of her novel, An Unexpected Affair.

Over to you Jan…

The 500 words I’ve chosen for you come from An Unexpected Affair, which began life as an e-novella back in 2013. When it came out, I was intrigued by the reactions I got from friends: these ranged from jaws dropping in disbelief to barely suppressed hilarity. This is not because I can’t write – I write and edit other stuff for a living – it was more the thought of a cynical old bag like me writing romcom that set them off.

I never intended to write fiction (you can find out more here but once I sat down and thought about the settings and the basic plot, I was amazed by how quickly ideas flowed. As soon as my bookselling heroine Eleanor Mace appeared, the personalities of her mother Connie, sister Jenna and other family and friends followed on quite naturally.

Later I wrote A Summer of Surprise because I wanted to know what had happened to Eleanor and the other characters in the seaside town of Combemouth. The e-books no longer exist, but you can read both stories in one lovely paperback. I hope you enjoy the extract and decide to read on…

First 500 words…

SHE CAREFULLY SLIPPED THE BLADE of the knife under the tape and cut. Peeling back the flaps, she lowered her face to the contents and inhaled deeply. Erika, her assistant, smiled conspiratorially.

“You’ve gone over to the dark side. You’re definitely one of us now.”

“You’re right,” said Eleanor as she lifted the pile of paperbacks from the box, sniffed them and set them on the counter. “My name is Eleanor Mace and I am addicted to books.”

It was three years since Eleanor had bought the bookshop. Three years since she’d left her boring office job and caused her friends’ collective jaws to drop by announcing that she was leaving London and moving to Devon. She might as well have said she’d got a new career as a yak herder for the consternation this had caused. They clearly thought she was deranged, though only her sister Jenna had told her so to her face.

“Just because you’re divorced from Alan doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself away from the world.”

“Jen, I’m moving to the English countryside, not entering a convent.”

“I can see it now,” said Jenna, ignoring her. “In six months’ time you’ll have stopped shaving your legs, embraced tweed and discovered jam-making.”

“Now you’re being silly,” said Eleanor, thinking that it had already been some time since her pins had seen a Gillette disposable. “It’s not the end of the earth, Jen. There’s a train station and you and Keith can come and stay any time you wish.”

“I’d rather come on my own,” said Jenna, wrinkling her nose as she tipped the last of the Chardonnay into Eleanor’s glass. “You finish it. They probably don’t run to white wine where you’re heading. And what on earth will you do down there?”

That had been easy to answer: with the money from her divorce Eleanor could afford to buy a slightly crumbly bookshop with an adjoining cottage in a small, unfashionable seaside town. It had been a huge leap and scary at times, but running the shop made her happy, and her enthusiasm for what she sold and her knowledge about the books and their authors was undoubtedly behind the small success she had managed to build for herself. She’d made sure the shop was a welcoming place with comfy sofas to sit on and coffee and homemade biscuits on offer. With help from her son Joe, she had built a kind of den at the back of the shop where children could read, and there was always an eclectic selection of new and second-hand books to browse through.

“Don’t forget you’ve got that house clearance to go to this afternoon,” said Erika, bearing coffee and biscuits.

“Nope, it’s in the diary,” said Eleanor, eyeing up a chocolate cookie. “Do you think you can control the rampaging hordes for an hour or two while I’m over there?” she asked, looking at her watch.

“Oh, I think we’ll cope, won’t we Bella?” said Erika, addressing the…


Those 500 words were taken from A Summer of Surprises and An Unexpected Affair, available from all good bookshops as well as online via


An Unexpected Affair

After her divorce, Eleanor Mace decides to begin a new life running a quirky bookshop in a quiet corner of Devon. She adores her seaside home in Combemouth and her bookshop is a hit and yet … Eleanor is still unsettled. So when she rediscovers an old flame online, she sets off for the South of France in search a man she last saw in her twenties. But will she find happiness on the Continent or does it lie in rural England?

A Summer of Surprises

In this enjoyable and eventful sequel to An Unexpected Affair, Eleanor Mace is finding life sweet and rosy in her Devon bookshop, but unexpected clouds on the horizon in the form of an ex-wife and a town-planning monstrosity are about to bring our charismatic bookseller a summer of surprises.

Author bio:

Jan Ellis began writing fiction by accident in 2013. Until then, she had led a blameless life as a publisher, editor and historian of early modern Spain. In 2017, her four e-novellas were published in paperback by Waverley Books who also commissioned a brand-new title, The Bookshop Detective.

Jan describes her books as romcom/mystery with the emphasis firmly on family, friendship and humour. She specialises in small-town settings, with realistic characters who range in age from young teens to 80-somethings.

As well as being an author, Jan continues to work at the heart of the book trade. Jan Ellis is a nom-de-plume.


Follow Jan on Facebook and Twitter @JanEllis_writer

Jan’s Amazon page:

Instagram (even if I don’t know how it works…) 


Many thanks Jan,

Great opening lines.

Don’t forget to come back next week to read what Roger Price has to offer.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Guest Blog by Jan Ellis: An Accidental Romantic Novelist

I’m delighted to welcome the multi-talented Jan Ellis to my blog today! Writer, historian, Nobel prize winner, and pole dancer – apparently…

Jan Ellis2 small


Hello Jenny and thanks for inviting me to share my deepest darkest secrets on your blog. Okay. Confession time: when I said I was an ex-pole dancer and a Nobel prize winner, that was actually a fib. However, when I said that I have a PhD in early modern history, that was true. Which sort of explains how I got into writing fiction:

1) I like making things up.

2) It’s easier and more fun than writing about history.

I guess you could say that I became a ‘romantic novelist’ by accident. I was approached by digital publishers Endeavour Press to write a history book, but we couldn’t agree on a topic. ‘No problem,’ they said. ‘Have a go at some chicklit instead.’ Because the first rule of being self-employed is to say ‘Yes’ to everything and figure out how to do whatever it is afterwards, I decided to give it a go. Fortunately for me (and the publishers), I was able to come up with quite a jolly story that people have actually paid money for.

We called it An Unexpected Affair. In it my heroine – Eleanor Mace – is a 40-something divorcee who leaves London, buys a lime-green camper van and escapes to Devon to run a bookshop. Life is ticking along quite nicely for Eleanor until things take an unexpected turn, sending her on a journey across France on the trail of an old flame.

An Unexpected Affair small

Here’s an extract:

“You look miles away, El,” said Jenna, pausing from examining an array of straw hats in the local market. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes, fine. I was just wondering how things were back at the shop.”

Jenna peered at her from over her sunglasses. “You always were an unconvincing liar.”

“Alright – I was thinking about Christophe. And about my life . . .”

“And what might have been if you hadn’t married Alan the Android?”

It was an open secret that Jenna had never really warmed to her brother-in-law and had not shed many tears when the marriage had eventually broken up. Eleanor opened her mouth to protest, but Jenna held up her hands in submission.

“Okay, okay. I know he was a good husband, a devoted father, blah, blah, but he was bloody boring El, you have to admit. All that running around squash courts with the lads and traipsing across golf courses . . . “

“Keith plays golf!”

“Kiff may play golf,” Jenna agreed, arranging a hat on her head, “but he doesn’t actually enjoy it.”

Eleanor couldn’t help laughing.

“Alan was always so earnest,” she added, handing over a handful of Euros to the stall holder. “Anyway, you are a free woman and your ex-husband is in a much better place.”

“You make it sound as though he’s died!”

“He’s in Canada with a dental hygienist, which I would say was much the same thing.”


French Kisses cover small

Flushed with success, I then wrote my second e-novella, French Kisses. In this story, my heroine Rachel has a happy life in rural France until her husband hits 40, discovers his inner love-rat and runs off with another woman. Determined to ignore her friends’ advice to up-sticks and move back to England, Rachel decides to turn their home into a bijou guest house. Romance comes in the form of local admirers and ex-husband Michael, who is never far away.

Like my first novella, the focus of the story is on family, fun and friendship. I don’t do soppy! Also, I am intrigued by the coincidences that run through all our lives, and I like to get these into my stories, so Rachel finds she has an unlikely connection to one of her guests, American academic Josh Perry.

Here’s an extract:

When she awoke the next morning she was naked apart from the pink fluffy bed socks. And she was not alone. She groaned inwardly as she looked at Josh and rolled over, hoping to creep out of bed before he woke. Too late.

“Well good morning, beautiful,” he said, turning around and wrapping himself around her. She felt him nuzzle into her neck and gently kiss the tops of her shoulders, his beard tickling her in a not unpleasant manner.

She turned back to face him, pushing him away when he tried to kiss her breasts. “No, we mustn’t.”

He pulled back and smiled at her. “I think you’ll find that we already have. Or was that just a particularly vivid dream I had there?”

Rachel wriggled away from him and hopped out of bed, grabbing her robe from the armchair by her bed.

“Nice socks.” Josh lay propped up on his arm, smiling at her. “Come back to bed Rachel,” he said, throwing back the covers and patting the place beside him. “It’s still early.”

“Damn, bugger, bollocks,” muttered Rachel, running around the room, collecting clothes and rejecting them again. “I’ve got to collect the kids at 9am and it’s already twenty-to.”

Josh sat up, attentive now. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Make me tea!”

“I’m on it,” he said, running towards the door.

Rachel looked back from the bathroom. “But maybe put your clothes on first?”

“Sure thing,” he said, coming over to kiss her. “God, last night was great Rachel.”

“Milk no sugar. Go!”


Autichamp small

At some time in the future I would like to bring Eleanor, Rachel, their families and assorted admirers together for one big party! Keep an eye on my website or follow me on Twitter to see how I get on.


Twitter: @JanEllis_writer

An Unexpected Affair  and French Kisses are available to download from Amazon:

French Kisses

An Unexpected Affair

Many thanks to Jan for taking time out from not really pole dancing, but definitely being a historian, to write a great blog, and serve up two such tasty extracts for us today.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

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