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

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Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Sister’s Secret

This week I’m delighted to welcome Jan Baynham back to my blog with the Opening Lines from her latest novel,

Her Sister’s Secret.

Over to you Jan…

Her Sister’s Secret, with its sub-heading of ‘the Summer of ‘66’, is my second novel of three I’ve been contracted to write for Ruby Fiction. All three novels involve secrets and forbidden love, explore mother and daughter relationships and are partly set in countries other than Britain. ‘Her Sister’s Secret’ was published on September 15th as an e-book. Much of it is set in beautiful rural mid-Wales and the rest in a fictional area of northern Sicily. The story opens in 1946 when a young Welsh woman, Rose Howells, begins work in the kitchens of a large country house. She has a tempestuous relationship with her father whom she suspects of dealing on the Black Market. When matters come to a head after a particularly serious argument, she leaves home and eventually makes a decision that will have repercussions for the whole family. Her name is never mentioned again and what she did becomes a deeply held family secret. In 1966, that secret is partly revealed and Jennifer Howells travels to Sicily to find out why she and Rose have been kept apart for over eighteen years. In the novel, I try to give a glimpse of what life was like in both eras and how society judged women living in both times. Jen’s search for her true identity takes her to a wonderful island so different from rural mid-Wales in terms of climate, the colours, foods and way of life. I hope the book encourages readers to think about the decisions Rose made and whether, under the circumstances, they were the right ones. The role Aunt Edie plays in both stories is a crucial one.

BLURB:

How far would you travel to find the truth?

It’s 1966 and Jennifer Howells is a young woman with the world at her feet, just on the cusp of leaving her Welsh village for an exciting life in the city.

Then the contents of an inconspicuous brown envelope turn Jennifer’s world upside down. The discovery leaves her spiralling, unsure who she is. Overnight, Miss Goody Two Shoes is replaced by a mini-skirted wild child who lives for parties and rock’n’roll.

But Jennifer’s experience with the excesses of sixties’ culture leaves her no closer to her true identity. She soon realises she’ll have to travel further – first to Cardiff, then across the ocean to Sicily – if she wants to find out who she really is …

***

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

24 August 1943

A loud knocking echoed along the passageway of the cottage. Joe Howells opened the front door to a solemn-faced young man in uniform.

‘Mr Joseph Howells? A telegram for you.’

The blood drained from Joe’s face. As he took the envelope, his hand shook. His pulse raced so fast, he steadied himself against the hall table. Please, God. Don’t let it be what I think it is.

Walking back into the scullery, he slid a finger under the flap of the envelope and unfolded the telegram with its Post Office logo heralding the message he didn’t want to read.

MR AND MRS J. HOWELLS, 1 PENRHOS, PONTCARREG.

I REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON, GUNNER BRIAN JOSEPH HOWELLS (ARMY NUMBER: 864499) OF THE 8TH ARMY, HAS BEEN KILLED IN ACTION NEAR MESSINA IN SICILY.

Joe couldn’t read any more. Transported back to the horror of the trenches in his war, he slumped to the floor and cradled his arms around his head. He tried to shut out the noise of shells exploding around him. He gagged on the stench of bloodied bodies, relived the pain of the gas blistering his skin under his damp uniform, tasted the burning bile in his throat and in his lungs as he tried to breathe. His hand traced the shape of the metal plate in his skull where they’d patched him up. Physically, at least.

The back door opened.

‘Joe. Whatever’s wrong?’ Violet put down the washing basket and rushed to her husband.

It was then she saw the telegram discarded on the flagstone floor beside him.

‘Oh, noo-oo!’ she wailed. ‘Not our beautiful boy.’

 

Chapter One

Rose

1946

‘What do you mean you know what I’m up to, you little madam?’

Joe Howells’s voice rose to a bellow. He went to strike his daughter, but Rose backed away and he caught the back of his hand on the door post instead. He swore and Rose ran upstairs. She slammed the bedroom door behind her and, with tears pricking her eyes, fumbled to turn the key. She clenched her hands so tightly that her nails dug deep into her palms, flung herself on the bed and pictured her father pacing the floor in the kitchen below.

She heard him shouting angrily. ‘The girl’s gone too far this time. She needs to be taught a lesson.’

Her mother’s voice was softer. ‘Why do you two always have to annoy each other? You’re both as bad as each other.’

But her mother didn’t know what was really going on, did she? Her father’s voice was closer now. He was at the foot of the stairs.

‘Come down here at once, Rose, or I’ll break the door down to make you!’

‘No. Go away! I’m not coming out.’

Rose pulled the bed clothes closer to her chest and buried her head in the silky eiderdown to shut out her father’s rage.

He hammered on the door with his fists.

Her throat tightened…

***

‘Her Sister’s Secret’ is available on:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Sisters-Secret-Summer-66-ebook/dp/B08F5H7YQF/

https://www.amazon.com/Her-Sisters-Secret-Summer-66-ebook/dp/B08F5H7YQF/

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/search?query=her+sisters+secret+jan+baynham

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-sisters-secret-jan-baynham/1137428123?ean=2940162698852

You may find out more about Jan here:

Twitter – @JanBaynham https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook – Jan Baynham Writer https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit

Blog – Jan’s Journey into Writing https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/

BIO

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction.  From then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and shortlisted in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published.  Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full-length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in further depth and delve into their stories.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. Having joined the Romantic Novelists Association in 2016, she values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of her local RNA Chapter, Cariad, and a member of the Society of Authors.

Many thanks for sharing your fabulous Opening Lines today, Jan,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Mill Grange SALE!!

FOR A SHORT TIME ONLY!!!

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

IS FREE ON AMAZON KINDLE!!

AND

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange 

IS ONLY 99p!!

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

Blurb

A warm-hearted, feel-good romance from Jenny Kane, a Kindle #1 bestselling author.

Thea Thomas needs to get away from her old life… and the interfering ex who won’t leave her alone. When she lands a job heading up the restoration of Mill Grange, a stunning Victorian manor in Somerset, it feels like the perfect opportunity to start afresh.

What Thea didn’t anticipate was how hostile the volunteer team, led by the formidable Mabel Hastings, would be about accepting new leadership. And with the deadline looming before the grand opening, Thea is in desperate need of more volunteers.

A broadcast appeal on the local news attracts the interest of arrogant but undeniably attractive celebrity historian Shaun Cowlson, who wants to make a TV programme about the restoration. It’s hard enough adding one more big personality to the mix – but then her ex turns up as one of the volunteers! What seemed like a dream come true is fast becoming a total disaster! Can Thea find a way to save the manor?

If you’d like to read Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange it is now FREE in eBook form

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com 

Meanwhile, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange is ONLY 99p!

Blurb

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

You can pick up your 99p copy of Autuum Leaves here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08HSH1FJ1/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Meet The Winter Outlaw

As I’m up to my eyes in words at the moment, I thought I’d leave you a little something to read from The Folville Chronicles – Book Two – while I crack on!

The Winter Outlaw .

Blurb

1329:  It is the dead of winter. The notorious Folville brothers are on edge. There are rumours of an unknown outlaw terrorising the Leicestershire countryside—a man who has designs on the Folville family’s criminal connections.

Determined to stop this usurper in his tracks, Robert Folville unearths a man hiding in one of Ashby-Folville’s sheep shelters. A steward from far-off West Markham in Nottinghamshire, the cold, hungry Adam Calvin claims he knows nothing of any threat to the Folville family. He has troubles of his own, for he is being pursued by vengeful sheriff, Edmund de Cressy, for a crime he did not commit.

Mathilda of Twyford, newly betrothed to Robert de Folville, believes Adam’s story, but with rumours about a vendetta against the family growing, the Folville brothers are suspicious of every stranger.

***

Here’s the prologue to whet your appetite…

Prologue: Winter 1329

Adam Calvin’s vision blurred as his eyes streamed in the cold. His breath came in wheezing puffs. He needed to rest, but he daren’t. Not yet.

It was only as the vague outline of a cluster of homes and workshops came into view in the distance that he realised where his legs had been taking him. Slowing his pace, but not stopping, Adam risked a glance over his shoulder. He’d expected to see dogs, horses and men chasing him, but there was nothing. No one.

Scanning the scene ahead, making sure he wasn’t running into trouble as well as away from it, Adam exhaled heavily and aimed for a building he hoped was still standing.

The last time he’d visited the tiny village of Walesby there had been an old grain store on its outskirts. Built too close to the point where the frequently flooding Rivers Maun and Meden merged, the grain store had paid the price of a poor location. Long since abandoned in favour of a superior bake house, it was a perfect temporary hiding place for a man on the run.

Adam had no breath left with which to sigh for relief when he saw the neglected grain store. Uttering a prayer of thanks to Our Lady for the fact the building hadn’t been pulled down, he lifted the worn latch. He eased his way into the damp space, which was stuffed with rotting sacks containing all manner of rubbish.

Scrabbling awkwardly over the first few rows of musty sacks, Adam made himself a man-sized gap at the back of the room. Sinking down as far as he could, hoping both the sacks and the dark would shield him long enough for his cramped limbs to rest, he did his best to ignore the putrid stench and allowed his mind to catch up on events.

Only a few hours ago everything in Adam’s life had been as it should be.

He’d been fast asleep in his cot in the small private room his status as steward to Lord John de Markham gave him.

Had given him.

Adam wasn’t sure what time it had been when he’d been shaken to his senses from sleep by Ulric, the kitchen boy. He suspected it hadn’t been much more than an hour after he’d bedded down for the night.

Ulric, who’d frantically reported that a hue and cry had been called to capture Adam, had urged his master to move quickly. The sheriff had unexpectedly arrived and there had been a brief meeting between him, the Lord Markham and one other unknown man. An anxious Ulric had said that rumours were flying around like snowflakes in the wind.

Some of the household staff were saying Adam had stolen something, some that there had been a death; a murder.

Either way, for his own safety, Steward Calvin had to leave. Fast.

Confused, scared and angry that his good name was being questioned; without having time to find out what was going on or defend himself, Adam had grabbed his scrip. Pulling on his boots and cloak, with Ulric’s help he’d headed through the manor via the servants’ walkways.

The only item Adam hadn’t been able to find to take with him was his knife. Contenting himself with lifting one from Cook’s precious supplies as he ran through the kitchen, he’d left the manor that had been his home for the past twenty years.

With a fleeting nod of gratitude to his young helper, Adam had fled into the frosty night. Only minutes later he’d heard the calls of the hue and cry; echoes of the posse’s footfalls thudding against the hard, icy earth.

Now, wiping tears of exhaustion away with the back of his hand, Adam strained his ears through the winter air. All he could hear was the busy work of the mice or rats who were taking as much advantage of the building as he was.

Glad of the water pouch Ulric had stuffed in his scrip, Adam took a tiny sip. He didn’t know how long it would have to last him. Closing his eyes, he rested his head against the sacks that boxed him in and tried to think.

Had he outstripped the hue and cry? If they were nearby, taking the chance to rest while waiting for him to run again, then Adam was sure he’d have heard something ‑ but there were no muttered voices, no horses panting and no hounds barking at his scent.

Adam managed to get his breathing under control. He’d been part of the hue and cry on occasions himself, and he knew such groups didn’t tend to chase their quarry far, or for long. Especially not on a cold winter’s night, when they could be tucked up in bed before the demands of the next working day.

With growing confidence that he’d chosen his bolthole well, Adam allowed himself to relax a fraction. Few people lived in Walesby since the most recent of many destructive floods, and its location meant he was only a few steps from the edge of Sherwood Forest. A desperate man could easily disappear into the woodland’s depths.

As the hours ticked on, Adam became convinced that the pursuit had stopped. However, he knew that by the morning the hue and cry would be replaced with soldiers if the sheriff barked the order. His bolthole wouldn’t stay safe for long.

Yet that wasn’t what concerned Adam the most. He wanted to know what he was supposed to have done that warranted his midnight flight. How could he even begin to go about clearing his name if he didn’t know what he was accused of?

In the meantime, where was he going to go?

***

Ever since I did my PhD (on medieval crime and its portrayal in the ballad literature of the fourteenth century), I have wanted to use what I learnt to tell a series of stories. Although I’ve written all sorts of things between 1999, when my PhD finished, and now – I still wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  Yet, here I am! The first three novels – one short – two long – are out in the world – and book four (Outlaw Justice), is in the final stages of edits.

You can buy The Winter Outlaw from Amazon and all good book retailers-

UK: http://ow.ly/RsKq30j0jev 
US: http://ow.ly/EvyF30j0jfk  

Happy reading,

Jen xx

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

16 years… and counting…

This week marks the start of my 16th year as a published author!

I’m not at all sure how I got this far. It’s a constant source of surprise to me that so many people want to read my books – whether of an erotic, romantic or historical lilt.

The publishing world – and the world in general – has changed so much since my first kinky short story, was taken up by Cleis Press (under the pen name Kay Jaybee). I had no idea sixteen years ago, that that initial publication would lead to anymore. I did know however, once I’d had that first story acceptance, that I wanted to try for another one. The feeling I get when a book, short story or script is accepted by a publisher is a hit like no other – not even extra strong coffee with a side order of chocolate, can touch it!

So- here I am, 200+ short stories, 6 scripts and 29 novels/novellas later, with a brand new novel at the starting gates!

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange will be published this week!!

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

‘I am a big fan of Jenny Kane’ Katie Fforde.

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t  help but adore.

Available from Nook, Kobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US

I’d like to say THANK YOU to everyone who has supported my writing journey – whether you’ve bought a book, left a nice review, or simply given me support, encouragement, or made me smile – it all helps – and it is always appreciated.

I’m so lucky to be able to write for a living – and while the hours are long and the pay is bad, to be able to spend my days in fiction of my own creation, or helping my Imagine students to develop their own fiction, is a joy and a privilege.

Happy reading everyone – and thank you.

Jenny xx

Two weeks to go: Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

While 2020 has been a right-off in many respects, when it comes to book releases, it has been non-stop over in my café corner! This is very much NOT a complaint.

Hot on the heels of Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, two weeks from today, the second novel in my Mill Grange series will be available to download onto the reading device of your choice!

As the first conkers begin to fall and blackberries adorn the hedgerows, it is the perfect time to welcome Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange into the world!

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t  help but adore.

‘Mill Grange’

Although Autumn Leaves is the second book in the Mill Grange series, it works well as a standalone adventure. With a respectful nod to the fabulous archaeology show, Time Team, Autumn Leaves takes the reader, not just to Exmoor, but on to Bodmin Moor in Cornwall as well.

Available for pre-order from Nook, Kobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US.

COMING 10TH SEPTEMBER

Here are some of the fabulous pre- release reviews

“I absolutely loved this story about two archaeological sites, both country house based and two couples and being a huge Time Team fan enjoyed the filming element and subsequent tensions associated with this in the story. Shaun is presenting archaeological shows for filming and is close friends with Sam who has bought a country house which he hopes to use for recovering ex army traumatised people where they can relax, participate and join in the archaeological discovery of a Roman site, unusual for Cornwall. There is jeopardy all round – the young Sophie whose crush on him threatens Shaun’s relationship with Thea. There’s Sam who has a huge phobia about entering buildings and sleeps in a tent outside. Tina whose story I very much enjoyed is working on her relationship with Sam. The story follows many twists and turns as there is a race against time and a competitive film company pitching to film at Mill Grange. Even so all is not what it seems. Will Sam overcome his phobia,; will Sophie see sense; can Thea untangle mysterious occurrences ; will the filming happen at Mill Grange. As in Shakespeare there’s a long way to go before all falls into harmony and the read to find out what happens is compulsive. I highly recommend this start to a new series from Jenny Kane. The plotting and characterisation is flawless.”  Netgalley 

“Thoroughly enjoyed reading this second book and catching up with the characters again.” Netgalley

“A great follow up in the series at Mill Grange. It was lovely to be in the Exmoor countryside again, and to visit the Culmstock Beacon, an added bonus. This second in the series at Mill Grange was a wonderful re-introduction to some of the larger than life characters – I especially like Bert and Mabel. Looking forward to the next adventures at Mill Grange.” Netgalley 

***

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Robin Hood and The Outlaw’s Ransom

With Outlaws Justice – the fourth book in The Folville Chronicles – in the final stages of editing, I thought it would be the perfect time to look back at the beginning of my historical crime/adventure/romance series.

The Outlaw’s Ransom was my very first title under the name of Jennifer Ash.

Blurb

The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash.

When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life.  Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…

The Outlaw’s Ransom (which originally saw life as part of my contemporary fiction/medieval mystery timeslip novel, Romancing Robin Hood), is a book that’s very close to my heart.  Anyone who follows this blog will know that it is my love of all things Robin Hood which led to me researching the real life criminal gang, the Folville brothers, and considering how they might have been influenced by the outlaw ballads that would have been circulating at the time.

It was interesting to be able to give, what I imagine, the Folville family’s perspective on the Robin Hood stories might be.

rh-and-the-monk

Extract

…Eustace de Folville continued, ‘You know something of us, Mathilda, from living in these parts. And, I have no doubt, my dear brother has explained to you our beliefs on maintaining our lands and beyond, keeping a weather eye on the dealings of all men in this hundred.’

Mathilda bit her tongue in an effort to remain demurely mute, trying to concentrate on what Eustace was saying and not on the unknown fate of her younger brother.

‘He has also, I believe, told you of his fascination with stories,’ Eustace gave Robert a blunt stare; leaving Mathilda to wonder whether it was his brother’s passion for the minstrels’ tales, or the fact he’d shared that belief and interest with a mere chattel, that Eustace disapproved of.

‘The balladeers have become obsessed of late with the injustices of this land. Often rightly so. Naturally the fabled Robyn Hode has become a hero. An ordinary man who breaks the law, and yet somehow remains good and faithful in the eyes of the Church, is bound to be favoured. In years past such a character’s popularity would have been unthinkable, but these days, well …’

Eustace began to pace in front of the fire, reminding Mathilda of how his brother had moved earlier, ‘Now we are empowered by the young King, the Earl of Huntingdon, and Sheriff Ingram, to keep these lands safe and well run, and by God and Our Lady we’ll do it, even if we have to sweep some capricious damned souls to an earlier hell than they were expecting along the way.’

Eustace was shouting now, but not at her. His voice had adopted a hectoring passion, and Mathilda resolved that she would never willingly disappoint this man; it would be too dangerous.

‘Many of the complaints of crimes and infringements that reach my family’s ears are not accurate. Far more felonies are alleged out of spite or personal grievance than are ever actually committed. We require more eyes and ears, girl. Accurate, unbiased eyes and ears.

‘The sheriff of this county is not a bad man. No worse than the rest anyway; but Ingram is sorely stretched. He has not only this shire, but Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire within his writ. The man cannot be everywhere at once. No man can.

‘We are believed to have a band of criminals under our control, Mathilda. This is not true. I’m no Hode, although I am lucky to have the respect of the immediate population, and although I know that respect is because they go in fear of me, I’d rather have that than no respect at all. Hode’s principles I embrace, as I do other outlaw heroes’ who have flouted a law more corrupt than they are. Those such as Gamelyn can give a man a good example to follow. What was it he declared, Robert, to the Justice at his false trial?’

Moving into the light of the table, Robert thought for a second before reeling off a verse he’d probably known by heart since childhood, ‘Come from the seat of justice: all too oft Hast thou polluted law’s clear stream with wrong; Too oft hast taken reward against the poor; Too oft hast lent thine aid to villainy, And given judgment ’gainst the innocent. Come down and meet thine own meed at the bar, While I, in thy place, give more rightful doom And see that justice dwells in law for once.’

Eustace nodded to his brother, who’d already shrunk back into the shadows of the nearest wall, ‘I do not have such a band at my beck and call, Mathilda. When I need help I have to pay for it.’

***

The values that – in my mind at least- the Folville brothers see in the stories of Robin Hood form an important undying theme to this tale- and to Mathilda of Twyford they will make the difference between life and death.

lytell-geste

If you’d like to read my first medieval mystery, then The Outlaw’s Ransom is available in the UK for your Kindle here –

https://jennykane.co.uk/historical-fiction/the-outlaws-ransom/ 

Happy reading everyone,

Jennifer (aka Jenny!!) xx

 

Blackstone Towers: Blog Tour

Today I’m delighted to welcome the rather brilliant Dr Ashley Lister to my place. as part of his Blackstone Towers #blogtour.

Over to you Ash…

First, I’d like to thank @JennyKaneAuthor for allowing me to bring my blog tour here today. This is day five of the blog tour and I’m very excited because I’ve written a really fun horror novel and I want to tell you all about it.

By way of introduction, I should begin by saying my name is Ashley Lister; I write horror fiction and some of the crudest poetry known to mankind; and I’m here talking about a horror novel I’ve written which will be published on August 22nd. It’s called Blackstone Towers and this is what the story is about:

The talismans of the magi control seven realms of the mortal world. One can grant the bearer immortality; another gives its owner unfathomable wealth; a third gives the holder unerring foresight. There is a talisman to control reality, success, the deliberate and the accidental, and a talisman that governs the balance between love and hate.

The planets are now aligning, and one worldly resident of Blackstone Towers knows the talismans urgently need collecting and destroying before they fall into the wrong hands.

The only problem is establishing whose hands are the wrong ones.

One of the commonest questions writers get asked is, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I know we all have different ways of responding to this question but, for some bizarre reason, I seem able to remember where inspiration for my horror stories comes from.

I never had such thoughts about my previous genre fiction but, if you were to ask me where I got the idea for Raven and Skull, my horror novel set in a hellish office, I’d tell you it happened one night when I was giving my mother a lift home. She told me she was worried about something. I asked her what was the matter, and she explained that she’d been doing some knitting and was worried it was causing deaths.

I must admit, my first thought was that she needed stronger meds. I asked her to explain the relationship between her knitting and all the deaths, and she said she’d made hats and scarves for a couple of people and they were now no longer with us.

Now, whilst it was sad to think she was displaying symptoms of a mental decline, I was excited because she’d given me a great idea for a story. It was filed in my head under the working title ‘the knitting needles of death’ and it went on to become Raven and Skull.

It’s the same with Blackstone Towers. I remember exactly where I was when the idea came to me. I had been visiting London. We were staying in a lovely hotel near the tower bridge. And we’d got into the lift to go from our room to see a show (I can’t remember if it was Wicked or The Book of Mormon, but I do know we had a great time).

In the elevator there was an old woman. She stared at me for our entire descent to the lobby. She had ghost-white hair, she was dressed in remarkably old-fashioned clothes and, because I was a little unsettled by the intensity of her stare, I wondered if she might be a ghost.

Elevator etiquette is a peculiar thing. We travel shoulder to shoulder with strangers. Eye contact is usually forbidden. Talking is kept to the bare minimum. As I brooded on these ideas, I realised that I could have travelled alongside thousands of ghosts in the many elevator journeys I’ve taken during my life, and I had simply ignored those ghosts because this is how we’re expected to treat people in elevators. The idea was disconcerting and I realised I needed to find a hook for the rest of the story so that my elevator ghost could be seen as truly terrifying.

Blackstone Towers is the result.

This YouTube clip of a wickedly inventive elevator prank (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bE_HMqzm9Ws) also helped me to organise my thoughts. The results of what I think happens when you meet a ghost in a lift can be seen in the opening chapter of Blackstone Towers.

All of which leads me to the question: if you were a ghost, where would you want to haunt? Haunting an elevator struck me as a fun idea because there would be a relatively captive audience. Haunting a castle would seem classy. Haunting a library would give me all the time I needed to hang around with books. There must be hundreds of inventive places to haunt and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Answer below, if that’s easiest for you.  I’ll be checking back throughout the day.  Answer on Twitter if you prefer, using the hashtag #BlackstoneTowers. If you don’t use Twitter, and don’t like the comments box, please feel free to email me at me@ashleylister.co.uk. I’ll be collecting all the answers and, on the day of publication, I’ll chose my favourite response and send one lucky winner a free copy of one of my novels.

This is day 5 of a 9 day blog tour and, each day up to the launch, I’ll be on a different blog, as detailed below. Each day I’ll be asking a different question. Please feel free to follow me, answer as many questions as you like, and if you’ve got any questions about the book or anything else, I’ll be happy to answer.

Also, if you fancy coming to the online launch, where I’ll be reading from Blackstone Towers and sharing some of my ribald poetry, drop me an email and I’ll send you an invite.

Thank you again to @JennyKaneAuthor and, to all you readers, I look forward to seeing where you would haunt if you were a ghost.

If you want to pre-order a copy of Blackstone Towers, this link should take you through to the Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08F2T2K5M/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1596278235&refinements=p_27%3AAshley+Lister&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&text=Ashley+Lister 

Many thanks for popping by today Ashley.

Happy reading everyone – and don’t forget to let Ashley know your haunting thoughts!

Jenny x

Coming Soon: Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

Exciting times in my writing corner!

As I busily finish off writing the third novel in the #MillGrange series (Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange), I can announce that the second book – Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange – which comes out on 10th September – is now available for pre-order!

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

Following on from Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, Autumn Leaves continues the story of Thea, Tina, Shaun and Sam – and of course – Mabel and Bert!

Blurb

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

“Mill Grange” (a.k.a Northmoor House)

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t  help but adore. 

Unlike book one, Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, which centres on the house and the village of Upwich alone, book two splits the action between – Mill Grange, on the Somerset/Devon border and Bodmin Moor in Cornwall

Bodmin Moor

As with Upwich (Dulverton in real life), Bodmin Moor is somewhere I know well, having spent so much of my childhood in Cornwall. It was great fun taking Shaun, and the Landscape Treasures team (including the lovely Ajay and Andy), to the wilds of Bodmin to carry out an excavation. I’ll say no more for now!

If you’d like to pre-order Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange , you can find it here-

Available from Nook, Kobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Download Today: Fitzwarren’s Well

A brand new Robin of Sherwood story is available to download from Spiteful Puppet!

Fitzwarren’s Well is a full cast (acted not narrated) audio story, staring Judi Trott as Marion.

Fancy a trailer care of the Radio Times? (Yes! The Radio Times!!!) Here you go –https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-07-01/robin-of-sherwood-classic-tv-series-returns-for-new-story-recorded-in-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR1AvsHxbXospBSUlL0WKsGLoJChdh_Jx4obcSkArUfNU2cXytGoxmlZD8g

Here’s the blurb-

Will Scarlet is regretting buying new boots as he walks home from Lichfield, desperate to get back to Sherwood. A worried Marion intercepts him with terrible news of a sickness that has laid low the rest of the outlaws.

A journey to the Lady of the Well is their one hope.

But the Lady will only help those she deems worthy… and someone is busy convincing her that they are not.

***

Richard Carpenter’s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD
‘FITZWARREN’S WELL’
By Jennifer Ash

Starring JUDI TROTT as Maid Marion

Featuring JON CULSHAW, SARAH GREENE and IAN OGILVY

With DANIEL ABINERI and BARNABY EATON-JONES

(Set during Series Three, between ‘Rutterkin’ and ‘The Time of the Wolf’)

Artwork: Anthony Lamb
Sound Design: Joseph Fox
Soundtrack: Arpeggio Creative
Produced & Directed by Barnaby Eaton-Jones

Television series Robin Of Sherwood © HTV/Goldcrest Films & Television 1983. Created by Richard Carpenter, with grateful thanks to his Estate.

Once upon a time a 14 year old girl fell in love with a story. The Robin Hood story.

Almost 34 years later, that same girl has – by some miracle – found herself writing for Spiteful Puppet – the power behind the new Robin of Sherwood audios and books – and adding, in a very small way, to that same story.

It is such a joy! Not only do I get to write lines for characters from my favourite television show – I also get to write for incredible guest stars.

The story of Fitzwarren’s Well evolved from an idea that Barnaby Eaton Jones – Spiteful Puppet’s producer, script editor, budget juggler, and actor – had not long after lockdown was imposed.

He wanted a tale that reflected – but did not copy – our current socially isolated situation.

The story was to involve two of Robin Hood’s outlaws (Marion and Will Scarlet), and two extra characters with whom they could interact – in this case Herne and a man called Fitzwarren. Obviously, we are in lockdown, so only actors with their own audio equipment could be involved in this production.

You will notice from the cast list above however, that rather than having a cast of four, we have a cast of six. This is because, when I was writing the story I accidentally invented the ‘Lady of the Well’ – and once I’d got her in my head, I couldn’t shift her.

Barnaby- being a forgiving sort- magically found the brilliant Sarah Greene (of Blue Peter fame) to provide the Lady of the Well’s voice. It has to be said, she plays the role to perfection.

At this point, I thought I’d finished writing the story – but then I received a phone call saying that the fantastic Mr Ian Ogilvy- on hearing that there was an opportunity to bring Lord Edgar of Huntingdon back for a cameo – offered his services. And so, there I was, suddenly writing lines for another of my acting heroes.

The result was Fitzwarren’s Well – of which I’ll say no more, for fear of spoiling the story.

You can buy your copy of Fitzwarren’s Well for download from Spiteful Puppet – here.

 

Happy listening,

Jennifer xx

 

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