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: Another Cup of Coffee

This week I thought I’d share some of my own ‘Opening Lines.’

How about Another Cup of Coffee ?

Another Cup of Coffee Blurb

Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.

Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.

It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself was shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…

With her mantra, New life, New job, New home, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another bucket-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest…

 

Here are the first 500 words…

Taking refuge in the kitchen, Amy placed her palms firmly onto the cool, tiled work surface, and took a couple of deep yet shaky breaths. Forcing her brain to slip back into action, she retrieved a bottle of white wine from the fridge, poured a large glassful and, squaring her shoulders, carried it through to the living room.

Perching on the edge of her sofa, her throat dry, Amy stared suspiciously at the tape for a second, before daring to pick it up and click open its stiff plastic box. Two minutes later, her hands still shaking, she closed it again with a sharp bang, and drank some wine. It took a further five minutes to gather the courage to re-open the case and place the tape into the dusty cassette compartment of her ancient stereo system. It must have been years since she’d seen a cassette, she thought, let alone listened to one. She wasn’t even sure the stereo still worked …

Swallowing another great gulp of alcohol, Amy closed her eyes and pressed Play, not at all sure she wanted to take this trip back in time …

The hectic bustle of the place had hit Amy instantly. Being brought up by parents with a serious café habit, the energy buzzing around the student coffee shop had felt both newly exhilarating and yet comfortably familiar. She’d instantly enjoyed walking anonymously through the crowds with her plastic mug and a soggy salad roll.

Sitting in the coffee shop one day, during the second week of her first term as a student archaeologist, Amy noticed two lads, whom she’d seen in her Prehistory lecture only ten minutes before, struggling to find seats. Surprising herself by inviting them to share her wobbly plastic table, Amy recalled how she’d been even more surprised when they’d accepted her offer.

With that one uncharacteristically impulsive gesture, Amy had met Paul and Rob. Those cups of strong black coffee in the overcrowded student café were only the first of many coffee stops they shared over the next three years …

The first track, which Amy remembered recording herself, was only halfway through, but her wine glass was already empty. With closed eyes Amy thought of them now. Rob was married with three small children. Paul was travelling the world, his archaeological trowel still in hand. Both were miles away. Their friendships remained, but were rather neglected on her side, she thought sadly. The sigh which escaped Amy’s lips was a resigned one, as the sound of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’ continued to fill the room.

Amy sighed again, but couldn’t help the hint of a smile as she remembered how the student coffee shop had only appeared to own one CD, which it had played on a continuous loop. It had quickly become traditional for Amy, Paul, and Rob to time their departure to the sound of Adams belting out the last lines of his song.

As track one of her tape died away…

***

Another Cup of Coffee is available from all good book retailers, including-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Cup-Coffee-ebook/dp/B07ZJLKXV7/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Another+Cup+of+Coffee+Jenny+KAne&qid=1575632954&sr=8-1

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with John Hartless: Full Throttle

For this week’s Opening Lines I’m delighted to welcome Jon Hartless, with the first 500 words from book one in the Poppy Orpington Chronicles: Full Throttle.

Welcome to the relaunch of the Poppy Orpington Chronicles, beginning with Full Throttle.

It was sometime back in 2013 (or thereabouts) I had the idea for a Steampunk motor racing adventure, featuring a heroine by the name of Poppy Orpington, who would drive a huge, fast car called Thunderbus on the racetracks of Britain and Europe.

Inspired by the era of the Bentley Boys – famous racing drivers of the 1920s – I set to it and started writing. And immediately changed my mind and tried to do the story in a completely way. It took some time to realise this was, in fact, a very silly thing to do, and I eventually went back to the original idea and wrote out the entire novel which flowed very nicely, almost as though Poppy was keen to get out and start her career.

Unfortunately, the writing, rewriting, further rewriting and final rewriting, (followed by several more rewrites thereafter), was the easy part. Finding a publisher willing to take on the project was far more difficult, though eventually the novel appeared with Accent Press in 2017. This was followed by the sequel in 2019, and this was followed by Accent being bought out by Headline, which dithered for months before announcing they weren’t actually interested in continuing the Poppy Orpington series.

And so we arrive at 2020, some 7 years later, and Poppy is being reborn via Kindle and self-publishing. It’s been something of a torturous road, (forgive the pun), but we’re finally shifting through the gears and gaining speed and as long as there’s no oil on the road the way ahead is clear and I’ll stop with the awful jokes now.

Anyway, I hope you may want to check the book out, and if so, I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks all.

Jon

Blurb:

As expensive steam-powered automobiles speed across the land, Poppy Orpington is trapped and going nowhere – until her father reveals he has perfected a petrol-fuelled car, ready for the racetrack. The vast prize money promises them a better life, but will Poppy and her father be allowed to compete? Racing is the preserve of the wealthy elite and few will welcome the working-classes onto their hallowed ground.

Can Poppy overcome social prejudice and conformity, or will her only chance of a better life be crushed before it can even begin? Join editor James Birkin as he looks back on the life of a near-forgotten, much maligned champion of the racetrack.

Full Throttle; book one of a Steampunk motor racing adventure set in a world of division, intolerance and inequality which modern readers may find disturbingly familiar…

FIRST 500 WORDS

Today, Poppy Orpington is hardly remembered at all.

Some do know she was a famous racing driver, though only a minority of these are aware her first car was called Thunderbus, not Thunderbolt, a mistake arising from her later company of that name.

Others wrongly dismiss her as the first of the modern celebrities, working the media for fame and money, while a few will scornfully recall near-libellous newspaper reports of harlotry in a Parisian bawdy house whenever her name is mentioned.

Most, however, are familiar only with her tragic fate and stained reputation from the Great War – a reputation, I maintain, that is thoroughly undeserved. However, I must not get ahead of myself. I shall explore everything in the right order and put Poppy in the context of her era. Her exoneration, should you wish to grant it, must be given at the right time and with a full understanding of Poppy’s character.

This, then, is the beginning of the testimony, taken from diaries, letters and personal contemporaneous interviews. Some may think my shaping of this material into a narrative rather than an academic account diminishes the authenticity of the work; I contest that Poppy’s biography is so dramatic in tone, and so rich in style, that it pulled itself naturally into this shape.

Nonetheless, a few disclaimers should be noted. Memory is fragile, and it is unsurprising to see the manner in which events can be transposed, altered and generally misunderstood. Please be assured I have researched all areas as closely as possible and everything in this book did take place, though not necessarily in the order given.

Also, the spoken language at that time was rather more formal than today, especially amongst the upper classes and the well-educated, and this has driven me to lightly edit certain conversations between Poppy, Simeon, Helena and their contemporaries. Please be assured I have always endeavoured to keep the pith of each exchange, sacrificing the semi-archaic speech patterns only for the sake of lucidity.

The reader may ask just why I have devoted so much time to the Orpington archive of diaries, letters and more. Does it really matter what happened to an almost forgotten woman well over a century ago?

Unfortunately, the answer is undoubtedly yes. We can find many parallels between Poppy’s era and our own culture, especially in the treatment of the marginalised and the vulnerable. As such, I have interposed a series of editor’s notes on those aspects of Poppy’s life I feel are still relevant to the way we are today. I shall endeavour to keep these interjections to a minimum, however, as they serve to illuminate rather than to distract.

Join me, then, as we travel back to when motor sport was still open to amateurs – albeit only wealthy amateurs – who could race their own cars side-by-side with the professionals of the day. Back when the sport still boasted heroic individuality rather than corporate wrangling over fuel consumption and weight limits…

Buy Link-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08CTN344R/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2

 

Bio:

Jon Hartless was born in the 1970s and has spent much of his life in the Midlands and Worcestershire. His latest novels, steampunk motor racing adventures examining the gulf between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the dispossessed, started with Full Throttle in August 2017 and continued with Rise of the Petrol Queen in 2019 – now to be reissued before the release of the third on the series, Fall of the Petrol Queen, schedule for September 2020.

https://en-gb.facebook.com/jonhartlessauthor/

Twitter: @OrpingtonPoppy

 

Many thanks Jon,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Gilli Allan: Buried Treasure

I’m delighted to welcome Gilli Allan back to my blog today to share her Opening Lines from Buried Treasure- as well as giving us a peep at the novel’s gorgeous new cover.

Here’s the Blurb

“I found Buried Treasure a compelling read. It was so many things: a love story, a hunt for clues to lost secrets, and a fascinating look at how our past experiences shape us, and how we can heal even after damage. The characters were wonderfully well drawn. ”

Jane thinks he sees her as shallow and ill-educated. Theo thinks she sees him as a snob, stuffy and out of touch.
Within the ancient precincts of the university the first encounter between the conference planner and the academic is accidental and unpromising. Just as well there’s no reason for them ever to meet again. But behind the armour they’ve each constructed from old scars, they’ve more in common than divides them. Both have an archaeological puzzle they are driven to solve. As their stories intertwine, their quest to uncover the past unearths more than expected.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

 Why did everyone laugh at her? Even her sister. It was true, and Rachel knew it.  Their great Uncle Alf Sydney HAD found treasure on his farm. And Uncle Bill – who should have been at school that day but was on the tractor with him – agreed how they’d dug it up, cleaned it as best they could, and kept it in the room they called the parlour.

These days the nearest thing they had to treasure was laid out on the table.  Called ‘the Sydney Collection’, the stones, coins and broken bits of pottery were all a bit dull and boring, to be honest. More exciting were the weird and wonderful things Uncle Bill had brought back from far flung places, when he was soldiering.

But back when Bill was still a boy, the treasure they’d dug out of a muddy field, was kept on the sideboard. Jane imagined it piled up high, lighting up the dark room with beams of glittery light. So much money and necklaces, bracelets and brooches, and long strings of pearls, it would have spilled onto the floor!  She was sure there’d have been crowns too, and gold caskets studded with rubies and emeralds. And even that piece of jewellery that gave her the shivers just to think about it – a diamond tiara like the one Cinderella wore to the ball. That was until the police came and snatched it all away.  

It just wasn’t fair, Jane told the girls in her class. But they shook their heads as if they knew she was pretending. No matter how often she said – “Honest, it’s true! It’s in a museum in London now” – they still wouldn’t believe her. If she’d been able to honestly say she’d seen it herself, would that have made a difference?  But London was a long way away, and expensive to visit. “One day….” she’d been promised.

Everyone was already paired up or in gangs when she arrived at the new school, so to be made to feel stupid, boastful and a fibber, when all she wanted was to make friends…! She kept her mouth shut from then on, and kept to herself old Uncle Alf’s mysterious wink, and the tap to the side of his nose, whenever he talked about the treasure.

Chapter 1

2016

“Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you….”  The old song evokes nostalgic memories of the farm, of family singsongs around the upright piano; Uncle Alf bashing out the tune, and Bill and Mary, egging him on. Why is it running through her head now, decades later, when both Alf and Bill are long dead, and the farm sold?  Deep down maybe she believes she’s on her way to achieving her own dream? But anyone who thinks that dreams really can come true is as delusional as the child who still believes in Santa – or Prince Charming.  A sick jolt runs down her spine. How…

Here are the buy links-

BURIED TREASURE

mybook.to/BURIEDTREASURE

Find Gilli’s other books TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL at

author.to/GILLIALLAN

Contact Gilli at

http://gilliallan.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/gilli.allan.1

https://twitter.com/gilliallan

Bio

Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real life supplanted the imaginary kind.

After a few false starts she worked longest and most happily as an illustrator in advertising and only began writing again when she became a mother.

Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.

All of her recent books TORN, LIFE CLASS, FLY or FALL and BURIED TREASURE have gained ‘Chill with a Book’ awards.

Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is now also a writer.

 

Wishing you every success with your novel, Gilli.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Launch Day Opening Lines: Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

Drum roll please! Fanfares all round!

Today sees the launch of my brand new, feel good romance,

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

This, the first in a trilogy, introduces you to Thea Thomas, Tina Martin, Shaun Cowlson, Sam Philips, and the unstoppable Mabel Hastings – and takes you into the beautiful Exmoor countryside, on the Somerset/Devon border.

To help celebrate launch day, I thought I’d share the Opening Lines.

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?

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange

FIRST 500 WORDS

Thea Thomas checked her mobile. EMERGENCY CALLS ONLY was written in bold type across the top of the screen.

She tried connecting to her Wi-Fi.

Nothing happened.

Relief made her shoulders sag, as a wide smile knocked away some of the nervousness she felt about starting a new job in an unfamiliar part of England.

Here, she could avoid the constant barrage of social media alerts and unwanted texts, calls and emails. Here, she could start over.

*

Positioned at the top of a high rise of land, not far from the southern border of Exmoor, the Victorian manor house called Mill Grange rose from the centre of a gravelled drive, taking command of the surrounding scenery. Three tiers of a once-loved terraced garden fell away from the house in tatty overgrown rows. At the foot of these gardens ran a semi-encircling band of encroaching woodland, which the Ordnance Survey map Thea was clutching declared to stretch down to the River Barle on one side and the meandering River Exe on the other.

Huddled beneath her thick jumper against the sharp March wind, Thea was enfolded in a sensation of freedom and peace. The very stillness of the air, the lack of any visible overhead wires or street lighting, made her feel as if she’d driven into a Victorian time capsule. A Roman historian and archaeologist to the bone, she felt daunted by the prospect of taking on the restoration of a manor centuries removed from her field of expertise. With its fourteen bedrooms, seven bathrooms, numerous associated rooms, outhouses, and the mill after which it was named, a quarter of a mile away on the edge of Upwich village, it was not a task for the faint-hearted. However, the early spring sunshine, which caused the house’s granite walls to glitter with welcoming promise, seemed to be telling her it was going to be alright.

Alongside her Roman studies at university, Thea had trained in industrial archaeology and museum management, and was well-qualified for the job in hand. But this challenge, to turn Mill Grange into a heritage centre, was vastly different from her last posting at the Roman Baths in Bath. She could feel herself prodding the outer edges of her comfort zone.

At least she wouldn’t have to face the unknown alone. Her best friend, Tina, had been associated with the project for some time. Then there was the team of volunteers who’d been working on restoring Mill Grange, on a casual basis, for the last five years. A tingle of anxiety dotted Thea’s palms as she wondered how they’d take to being guided in their endeavours after pleasing themselves for so long.

Flicking an unruly stray brown hair from her eyes, she circuited the outside of the manor house. Thea’s boots made satisfying crunching sounds against the gravel as she attempted to banish her nerves, peering through each window as she went. The eclectic mix of original Victorian and reproduction furniture and artwork she saw within took…

If you’d like to read on, then Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange is now available as an eBook from all good retailers, including…

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com 

Kobo 

Nook

I hope you enjoy your first trip to Mill Grange. If you do, it won’ t be long before you can travel back there again!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines with Jennifer Macaire: A Crown in Time

This week’s Opening Lines come from the pen of Jennifer Macaire.

Why not sit back and enjoy the first 500 words from her timeslip novel, A Crown in Time?

Over to you Jennifer…

In my last series, which started with The Road to Alexander, I wrote about a modern woman kidnapped by Alexander the Great and forced to spend the rest of her life in ancient times. The series ended, and instead of resting on my laurels and taking up something more relaxing like hang-gliding off cliffs or deep sea exploration, I started a new book. This time I was heading to the Crusades, and since I love time slip books, my heroine was sent back on a mission to set time back on track after a serious mistake put the future in jeopardy.

A Crown in Time: She must rewrite history, or be erased from Time forever…

(The Tempus U Time Travel series)

Since it was perfected in 2900, time travel has been reserved for an elite, highly trained few. However, on certain occasions, a Corrector is needed to rectify a mistake in the past.

Do your job well, and you’ll go down in history. Fail, and you will be erased from Time . . .

In the far future, a convicted criminal is given a chance at redemption. The Corrector Program at Tempus University is sending Isobel back in time, to the year 1270, to rewrite history.

Her mission? To save the crown of France.

If she follows the Corrector’s Handbook everything should run smoothly. But soon, Isobel finds herself accompanying a hot-headed young noble on his way to fight the infidel in Tunis: a battle Isobel knows is fated to be lost.

Isobel must fulfil her duty, knowing she can never return to her time, knowing one wrong move can doom the future, or doom her to be burned as a witch.

***

First 500 words:

Pax in nomine Domini

Peace in the name of the Lord

The nurse in charge of freezing my molecules inserted a glowing needle into my arm and had me count backwards from ten. I got to zero and stared at her, perplexed. ‘Now what?’

‘Again.’

I obeyed without question. Years of prison had left their mark. Then a cold wave washed through me. I felt my blood freeze. No one had told me it would be so painful. My teeth chattered and the place where the needle was inserted into my arm ached and ached. The pain grew. Frost bloomed in silver flowers on my hands and face. The pain was so intense I passed out. My last thought before I fainted was that despite all the work and planning, the program would now lose its Corrector. I was dying.

I didn’t die. I woke up lying on my back in the middle of a large mud puddle. Rain pelted my face, and my body convulsed with painful tremors. Groaning, I rolled over and propped myself up on my forearms. I retched and gagged, waves of nausea rolling through me. I tried to stand, but my legs wouldn’t hold me. I crawled off the road and collapsed on the verge. I had no idea why I’d been beamed into the middle of a road. I could have been killed.

I looked closer at the road and sighed. If anything was going to come down it, it would probably be an ox plodding before a heavy farm cart. The farmer would have been able to stop in time. Unlike me. I hadn’t been able to stop my car in time. I’d killed a child, and I’d been punished with life in a reproduction prison. For four years, I lay on a metal table once a month and donated an ovule, and in between, I worked at the prison library, copying ancient books and disks onto gel matrix for safekeeping. Then one day, I’d been given a choice. Go back in time and change a mistake, or continue to live in solitude, where my only jobs had been to produce eggs and reproduce books.

I’d been twenty years old when I went to prison. Twenty-four when I entered the Corrector Program at Tempus University, and now I was twenty-five, though I knew nothing of life. I felt both ancient and absurdly young. I’d barely had time to start living my own life when it ended. Now, I had the chance at a new beginning.

If only I could remember what that was. My mission now lay before me. I closed my eyes and tried to remember exactly what I had to do. Unfortunately, there seemed to be an empty space in my brain where that information was supposed to be. I couldn’t remember the first thing about it. I shivered with panic and cold. If my mission failed, the Time Correctors Facility from Tempus U would erase this portion of time, and I’d be erased along with it. I would never have existed past the day I entered the Tempus University TimeCorrector Program. In the far future, it would be as if I stepped inside the doors of that building  –  and simply vanished…

***

You can buy from all good retailers, including…

getbook.at/Crown (paperback)

mybook.to/CrownInTime (kindle)

Bio

Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She spent nearly the entire quarantine sitting on her balcony & reading, and she thinks healthcare workers are amazing super-heroes.

Many thanks Jennifer,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Karen King: The Year of Starting Over

This week, I’m delighted to welcome fellow author, Karen King, to my Opening Lines blog, to share the first 500 word from A Year of Starting Over.

Over to you Karen…

Hi Jenny,

Thanks so much for inviting me over to your blog. The opening lines I’m going to share are taken from my feelgood novel, The Year of Starting Over, published by Bookouture. The inspiration for this story came partly from my own ‘year of starting over’ when my husband Dave and I moved to Spain at the end of 2017. We live in Andalusia, the setting of the book, and some of the incidents actually happened to us.

Blurb

What if – to find yourself – you had to run away?

Last year was meant to be when Holly got her happy-ever-after. But stuck in a job that’s going nowhere, and a relationship that feels more like it’s going backwards… this year Holly has decided it’s time to change her life. She just has to:

– End the relationship with the commitment-phobic boyfriend
– Go on a proper adventure
– Learn to be herself again
– Definitely, categorically not fall in love.

Cramming her belongings into her little yellow Mini, Holly drives on to a ferry bound to Spain, to stay at a remote farmhouse near a beautiful village in the Andalusian hills.

But the day she arrives she nearly crashes her car into a gorgeous guy on a motorbike. He’s called Matias and their paths keep crossing, much to Holly’s irritation. Because as she learns to speak Spanish from the locals, finally starts laying out plans for her own design business, and sips sangria in the sunlit village square, Holly is beginning to remember who she is and what she wants.

So she won’t allow herself be distracted by Matias. Because this year – for Holly – there are more important things in life than love. And she won’t let yet another bad relationship ruin everything… will she?

A moving and uplifting romantic comedy about living each moment and learning to trust yourself again, for fans of Jenny Hale, Debbie Macomber, and Sophie Kinsella.

First 500 words.

 Crash!

Holly groaned as she looked at the illuminated red numbers on the bedside clock: two thirty. Scott was finally home. He’d obviously gone on to a club with his mates and was now drunk. Again. She’d asked him not to be late back as she was on the early shift at Sunshine Lodge tomorrow, but he’d protested that it was Friday night and he’d been working hard all week, adding, ‘I need to chill out, babe. It’s not my fault you have to work tomorrow.’ It was a fair point, which made her feel guilty – as it was meant to do. Scott worked long hours as assistant manager of a games shop and often had to work weekends himself so couldn’t always have a Friday night out.

But when he had to work weekends, she didn’t come crashing in and wake him up in the early hours of the morning, did she? She swatted down her irritation, reminding herself that was because she didn’t like going clubbing. She preferred to spend her days and evenings off work either making cushions and throws to brighten up their flat or creating designs for the mugs, clocks and phone covers she sold on Dandibug, an online arts and crafts marketplace, hoping that one day she could turn it into a full-time business. Anyway, if she did come in late, she doubted if Scott would notice: he slept like a log and snored like a mechanical saw.

Holly turned over and tried to go back to sleep. Her friend Susie was always telling her, ‘You’re too much of a pushover, Holly. You should stand up to Scott.’ Susie didn’t understand that Holly hated conflict of any kind. She didn’t want to argue. She wanted to live in a nice, peaceful home like Pops and Nanna had. She missed them so much. Holly’s parents had split up when she was a baby; she’d never known her dad, and her mum was out at work

Pops and Nanna had adored Holly, and each other, and their love had shone out like a beacon of happiness. They’d been together since they were fourteen, got married at twenty-one and lived happily ever after. Nanna died two years ago, and Pops had missed her so much that when he too had gone peacefully in his sleep a few weeks ago, the knowledge that he was now with Nanna helped Holly and her mother cope with the grief of losing him. Nanna and Pops had both lived until their early nineties so had a good few innings, as Pops would have said.

Ever since she was little, Holly had dreamt of being happily married, just like Nanna and Pops, but all the guys she’d dated seemed to want a good time with no long-term commitment. She was hoping Scott was different; she loved him so much and he said he loved her too, but they’d been living together for over a year now and he hadn’t shown any sign… 

Buy Links

Amazon: https://geni.us/B07KFGL5P2Social

Apple: http://ow.ly/Mfgd30nBig8

Kobo: http://ow.ly/edYm30nBijM

Googleplay: http://ow.ly/qTmS30nBi94

Author Bio

Karen King is a multi-published bestselling author of fiction for both adults and children. She has also written several short stories for women’s magazines.

Currently published by Bookouture and Headline. Karen has recently signed a two-book deal with Bookouture to write psychological thrillers. The first one will be out in November, and the second one in 2021. She is also contracted to write three romance novels for Headline, which will be out in 2021 and 2022.

Contact links

Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook 

Twitter

Bookbub

Many thanks Karen,

Happy reading everyone

Jenny x

Opening Lines with Anna Legat: A Conspiracy of Silence

Today I’m delighted to welcome Anna Legat to my blog. She is not just here to share her Opening Lines, but to reveal the cover for her latest DI Gillian Marsh, detective novel, A Conspiracy of Silence, which you can pre-order now!

Blurb:

When a body is found in the grounds of a prestigious Wiltshire private school, DI Gillian Marsh takes on the case. The young groundsman, Bradley Watson, has been shot dead, pierced through the heart with an arrow.

As the investigation gathers pace, DI Marsh is frustrated to find the Whalehurst staff and students united in silence. This scandal must not taint their reputation. But when Gillian discovers pictures of missing Whalehurst pupil, fifteen-year-old Rachel Snyder, on Bradley’s dead body – photos taken on the night she disappeared, and he was murdered – the link between the two is undeniable.

But what is Whalehurst refusing to reveal? And does Gillian have what it takes to bring about justice?

First 500 words 

Sarah Snyder was waiting in her car. She tapped her blue fingernails in close proximity to the horn, but she held back from sounding it. To kill time, she checked her lipstick in the rear view mirror and rubbed her front teeth to remove a red smudge. She turned on the radio only to hear the part of the news she wasn’t interested in: sport, followed by the weather. She was restless but she was pleased: Rachel was taking her sweet time.

Rachel was chatting to her friends ‑ Rhiannon and a couple of other girls. Only once did she steal a glance in the direction of her mother’s car – just to check Sarah was there, waiting. Reassured, she turned back to her chums and whispered something into Rhiannon’s ear. Whatever she said, it made Rhiannon laugh. Rachel laughed too.

It was an immeasurable relief to see her child happy, having a conversation with other people, and laughing. She was laughing! Sarah was so relieved she wanted to cry.

Only three days ago the picture had been very different. Head down, eyes boring a hole in the ground, Rachel would clutch her bag to her chest and run for the car as if the hounds of hell were after her. She would slump in her seat and mutter under her breath, Drive, Mum, just drive, and not speak for the rest of the day. She would lock herself in her room and brood.

Sarah winced at the memory and pushed it out of her mind. She waited and counted her blessings, of which there were many. She decided she would cancel the GP appointment. There was nothing wrong with Rachel, just the usual growing pains of puberty.

At last Rachel parted company with her friends, waved to someone hidden inside the school, and headed for the car. Her face, still beaming and full of bounce, appeared in the wound-down window.

‘Hi, Mum.’

‘I take it you had a good day?’ Sarah pulled her sunglasses to the tip of her nose and produced an expectant grin.

Rachel made a non-committal noise. She pecked her mother on the cheek and slid into the passenger seat. She was still smiling, addressing her smile to the windscreen and to the view of the tarmac in front of the car, but that was enough for her mother to flick her sunglasses up her nose and start the engine.

‘That good!’

The front right wheel stumbled over the kerb while the rear one rubbed against it as the car lurched sharply across the road to join the line of traffic leaving the school. Were it not a big and sturdy four-wheel-drive, it would have been written off a long time ago. Sarah did not treat it well. She used it more like a bulldozer than a means of transportation.

Accustomed to her mother’s driving antics, Rachel didn’t as much as blink. She bent forward in her seat and began tampering with the radio in search of a…

***

What readers are saying about Anna Legat:

‘Brilliant. I didn’t want to put it down!

‘It’s a rare author who can keep me guessing until the end – and the ending was a shocker

Plenty of twists and turns’

‘A brilliantly complex spaghetti of unrelated sub-plots to challenge any armchair sleuth

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, reading it cover to cover in a weekend’

‘I shall look out for more from Ms Legat’
***

Bio

Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She read law at the University of South Africa and Warsaw University, then gained teaching qualifications in New Zealand. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

To find out more: https://annalegatblog.wordpress.com/
Good luck with your new novel Anna.
Happy reading everyone
Jenny xx

Opening Lines : A Cornish Escape is OUT NOW!

I’m delighted to announce that A Cornish Escape, is OUT NOW!!

To celebrate, I’m sharing my own Opening Lines this week.

So, sit back and enjoy the first 500 words of my Cornish romance…

Blurb

Perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Phillipa Ashley and Cathy Bramley, this summer romance is sure to warm your heart.

Abi’s life is turned upside down when she is widowed before her thirtieth birthday. Determined to find something positive in the upheaval, Abi decides to make a fresh start somewhere new. With fond childhood memories of holidays in a Cornish cottage, could Cornwall be the place to start over?

With all her belongings in the boot of her car but no real plan, a chance meeting in a village pub brings new friends Beth and Max into her life. Max soon helps Abi track down the house of her dreams but things aren’t as simple as Abi hoped.

Can Abi leave her past behind and finally get her happy ending?

(Previously published as Abi’s House)

First 500 words

It was the muffins that had been the last straw. As Abi sat nursing a glass of wine, she thought back to the events of an hour earlier with an exasperated sigh.

Hurrying towards the church hall, Abi parked Luke’s unnecessarily large and ostentatious Porsche 4×4, and headed inside with a stack of Tupperware tubs in her arms. With her handbag slung over her shoulder and her key fob hanging from her teeth, Abi precariously balanced her load as she elbowed the hall door open.

Although she was twenty minutes early, Abi had still managed to be the last to arrive, earning her a silent ‘tut’ from some of the executive wives who were adding the finishing touches to the tables that surrounded three sides of the hall, and sympathetic grimaces from everyone else.

Acting as though she hadn’t noticed the air of disapproval, Abi made a beeline for the cake stall and plastered her best ‘this is for charity so be happy’ expression on her face. Polly Chester-Davies, an exquisitely dressed woman whom Abi always thought of as ‘Perfect Polly’, was adding doilies to plates, making the stall look as though it was stuck in a timewarp.

‘Ah, there you are, Mrs Carter, I’d given you up.’

Biting back the desire to tell Polly she’d been working, and was in fact early anyway, Abi began to unpack her wares, ‘Here you go, two dozen chocolate muffins without frosting, and two dozen with frosting, as requested.’

Polly said nothing, but her imperious stare moved rather pointedly from Abi’s face to the chocolate muffins already in position on the table, and back again.

Her disdainful expression made Abi mumble, ‘Are you expecting to sell lots of chocolate muffins today then?’

‘No, Mrs Carter, I am not. Which is precisely why you were instructed to make chococcino muffins.’

It had been that ‘instructed’ which did it. In that moment Abi felt an overwhelming hit of resentment for every one of the orders she had gracefully accepted from this Stepford harridan of the community.

For almost three years Abi had been doing what this woman asked of her, and never once had she said thank you, or commented on how nice Abi’s cooking was. Probably, Abi thought as she compared her own muffins with those provided by Perfect Polly herself, because mine don’t look like they could pull your fillings out. Nor had any reference ever been made to the fact that she would have to catch up on her own work in the evenings, after helping out with whichever good cause she’d been emotionally blackmailed into supporting this time. Not that Abi was against supporting a good cause, but this was different. These women didn’t raise funds for whichever charity was flavour of the month out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it because it was what they should be seen to be doing. It went hand in bespoke glove with being the wife of a successful man in the…

Available as a paperback or in eBook format, you can buy your copy of The Cornish Escape from all good book retailers, including

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com 

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

Opening Lines from Morwenna Blackwood: The (D)evolution of Us

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I bring you this week’s Opening Lines from Morwenna Blackwood.

Not only is this Morwenna’s debut novel – but it is also a novel written during my very first set of #novelinayear workshops. To say I’m proud of the work Morwenna has produced is an understatement.

So, put your feet up with a cuppa, and take a look at The (D)evolution of Us.

Over to you Morwenna…

Once upon a time, I heard about a writing workshop run by best-selling author, Jenny Kane.  It was held in my local café, and as ’twas a dark and stormy day and I’d just been given a pen in the shape of a cactus, I thought I’d go.  I loved it, and at the end, Jenny mentioned that she was thinking of running a Novel in a Year course as part of Imagine Creative Writing.  I signed up there and then (with my new pen).  Over the year, I wrote The (D)Evolution of Us, and with the support of Jenny, my local writers’ group and my brilliant husband, I submitted my manuscript to darkstroke, it was released on Star Wars Day, and we all lived happily ever after…?

***

I spent most of my childhood and teenage years hiding in libraries; now, I carry my own personal one around in my pocket wherever I go.  This doesn’t mean I don’t still stop and lose track of time in bookshops and bookstalls, though.  In fact, this morning, on my lockdown-permitted-exercise walk, some lovely person had left a storage container full of books at the end of their front garden, with a note on it inviting passers-by to pick one, or leave one for others who might be in need of a random lockdown read.  I couldn’t help myself – I paused for a look.

The thing I love most about reading second-hand books is finding bits of other stories inside them: forgotten bookmarks; ticket stubs; Biro-ed dedications; and best of all, notes scrawled in the margins.  In the books I own, I am a margin-scrawler.  My husband says this is defacing someone else’s work, but to me, it’s adding to it.  Stories are inextricably linked, and in any case, what one reader gets from a book will be different to the next, and that’s the beauty of it.  Perception is everything.

The (D)Evolution of Us is an exploration – or explanation – of those ideas.  The novel is a noir existential thriller, set in a small Devon town at the turn of the 21st century, and is told from the view points of the three protagonists, Richard, Kayleigh and Catherine.  The girls are best friends.  Catherine is dead.

Mental illness, personal history, personality and perception drive the actions of all three as they struggle to make sense of their lives and their agency; whilst living in a town where everyone appears to know everything about everyone else, and the days roll away in a work-pub-work-pub cycle.

This is my debut novel, and its origins lie in my own existential dread.  In the end, I decided to wholeheartedly pursue the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do – write – and if there’s ever a starting point to anything, the story of Richard, Kayleigh and Catherine is it for me.

If you come into possession of the paperback, feel free to write in the margins.

***

Blurb

… the water was red and translucent, like when you rinse a paint brush in a jam jar.  The deeper into the water, the darker the red got.  No, the thicker it got.  It wasn’t water, it was human.  It was Cath.

Cath is dead, but why and how isn’t clear cut to her best friend, Kayleigh.  As Kayleigh searches for answers, she is drawn deeper into Cath’s hidden world.  The (D)Evolution of Us questions where a story really begins, and whether the world in our heads is more real than reality.

First 500 words

Prologue

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Dr Farefield,

I reviewed Catherine at The Meadows today. She reported that her OCD was less ‘loud’ than when we last met in November, after the Crisis Team was called. This improvement has coincided with the resuming of clomipramine, which seems likely to have been helpful, as it has been in the past. Catherine agreed to the suggestion that this dose be increased to 200mg: 100mg morning and evening.

Catherine is coping well with life and states that her relationship with Richard is good. However she refuses to tell him about restarting the clomipramine, which is of concern to me. She has also resumed her writing.  I again offered Catherine a course of CBT, but she was resolute that she found it ‘useless’.

Catherine has now found employment in a health food shop but struggles with her OCD when closing down the tills and locking up at the end of the day, though she admits that she recognises that her rituals are entirely irrational.

Overall, in spite of her very significant persisting difficulties, I think that Catherine’s life has improved with the reintroduction of clomipramine.

Yours sinc,

Dr E Whittle

Consultant Psychiatrist

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Dr Farefield,

I met with Kayleigh at The Meadows this morning, where she revealed to me that she is in the first trimester of pregnancy. She had requested the appointment (we were not due to meet again for another six weeks), in order, primarily, to discuss her medication, with regards to her new condition.

I found the fact that she did this encouraging, as I did her general demeanour. She was casually, but neatly, dressed, maintained good eye-contact throughout our interview, and appeared to have a good understanding of her mental health, and how it could impact on her (unborn) child.

We decided together that it would be prudent for Kayleigh to remain taking her lithium for the duration of her pregnancy, with close monitoring from her midwife and the Perinatal Team.

In spite of Kayleigh’s reports of having been ‘stable’ for the last few months, I have suggested that we meet at The Meadows every six weeks for the foreseeable future. I have also asked her to make an appointment for bloods to check her lithium levels as soon as possible – it is critical that she maintains a therapeutic dose.

Yours sinc,

Dr E Whittle

Consultant Psychiatrist

Richard

I’m half-listening to the radio, running a bath for my girlfriend, Cath. She’s sitting on the toilet seat, staring at me. I’m standing in the doorway, staring at her. Then I start to laugh. They’re playing that song by Marillion – Kayleigh – the one her hippy twat of a best mate likes to say she was named for, even though she’s too bloody old. I say she’s a hippy twat – I’d still shag her. She needs a good seeing to – and a good slap. She dots her ‘i’s with hearts, for fuck’s sake! And then the phone rings. Bloody witches. I…

You can buy The (D)evolution of Us from all good retailers, including…

mybook.to/devolution

Bio – When Morwenna Blackwood was six years old, she got told off for filling a school exercise book with an endless story when she should have been listening to the teacher/eating her tea/colouring with her friends.  The story was about a frog.  It never did end; and Morwenna never looked back.

Born and raised in Devon, Morwenna suffered from severe OCD and depression, and spent her childhood and teens in libraries.  She travelled about for a decade before returning to Devon.  She now has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter, and lives with her husband, son and three cats in a cottage that Bilbo Baggins would be proud of.  When she is not writing, she works for an animal rescue charity, or can be found down by the sea.

She often thinks about that frog.

Amazon Author Central: amazon.com/author/morwennablackwood

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/morwennablackwood

Twitter: @MorwennaBlackw1

Instagram: morwennablackwood_

***

Many thanks Morwenna- wishing you huge success.

Happy reading Jenny

PS- She really did turn up with a cactus pen xx

Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Mother’s Secret

This week, I’m delighted to welcome Jan Baynham to Opening Lines, to talk about her debut novel, Her Mother’s Secret.

Over to you, Jan…

‘Her Mother’s Secret’, with its sub-heading of ‘the Summer of ‘69’, is my debut novel. It is the first 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 mainly or partly set in countries other than Britain. ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ was published on April 21st as an ebook and most of it is set on Péfka, a fictional island off the coast of southern Greece. The story opens in 1991when a young Welsh woman, Alexandra Davies, is grieving after the untimely death of her mother. Elin has left her diary to her daughter and on reading it, Alexandra discovers a part of Elin’s life she knew nothing about. She is shocked as the secrets from Elin’s past are revealed and realises she didn’t know her mother as well as she thought. I tried to put myself in Alexandra’s shoes. Having had a very close relationship with her mother, how must she have felt finding out that her mother had kept such secrets from her?

The diary takes us back to 1969. Elin Morgan leaves Wales after finishing art college to spend the summer months studying at a painting school in Greece.  She records everything about her summer on the island but, while there, something happens that causes her to never paint again.  The secrets of that summer remain with her until she dies twenty-two years later.

Alexandra makes her own journey to Greece, following in her mother’s footsteps. She arrives on the same beautiful island that made such an impression on her mother. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69 and why it was never mentioned again. Will she understand why her mother closed down that part of her life?

Why Greece? Having had several holidays there now, I first visited the country in the seventies when we stayed with my aunt and Greek uncle. I fell in love with the climate, the vibrancy of the colours of the sea and flowers and the warmth of its people. It seemed to be an ideal place for a young artist to spend her summer. I enjoyed getting to know my Greek characters, some named after or based on people I’ve met and observed on visits over the years. Dimitra, the host at the taverna where Elin stays, is named after a lovely waitress from the hotel we go to in Crete. On a trip to a Cretan village, I watched a woodturner working at his lathe on pieces of olive wood and he became the inspiration for Yiannis who figures largely in Alexandra’s story. Vassilis is named after an elderly Greek who led me onto a taverna dance floor. He tried to teach me traditional dancing and had the bruised toes to prove it! He appears in both Elin’s and Alexandra’s story. I hope I’ve done justice to the country and its people by giving the reader a glimpse of life on my fictional island.

***

BLURB:

A secret left behind in the summer of ’69 …

It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …

Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

1969, The Peloponnese, Southern Greece

Sofia Simonides let out a scream and tottered backwards. Her pulse struggled to force blood around her veins. The body was slumped against the gnarled trunk of an ancient olive tree, head hanging to one side and resting on the left shoulder.

The man had a blue-grey pallor, his skin a candle-wax translucency. Sofia bent over and touched his cheek. It was icy cold; she gasped, drawing back her hand. Blood from a gash on one wrist had seeped over his thigh and there was a deep red stain in the sand. A long-bladed knife caked in dried blood lay by his side. Sofia eased out the piece of paper he clutched in one fist, unfolded it and read the message.

Falling to her knees, she sobbed.

‘Andreas, no-o-o! No! What have you done?’

A piercing howl from deep inside her shattered the cool, still air of the dawn.

Chapter One

Alexandra

1991, A market town in the heart of rural mid-Wales
The sky was lead-grey, heavy with blue-black rain clouds threatening a downpour. The dreariness of the day reflected my mood as I turned the Mini into the cul-de-sac. A shiny red two-seater was parked in the drive behind my father’s Audi. I pulled up alongside the kerb, took a deep breath, trying to avoid a downpour of my own, and entered the house. There was laughter coming from the kitchen.

‘What’s she doing here?’

My father and his friend turned to face me. His mouth gaped open.

‘Alexandra. Apologise, straight away. Sally, I’m very sorry. She has no right to speak to you like that.’

‘It’s all right, Richard. Alexandra’s upset. I’ll go now. The food’s almost done, anyway. You just need to serve it straight from the oven once the timer rings. Shall I call Claire down on my way out?’

I glared at the woman who stood there taking off Mam’s apron. My heart quickened. Mam? My mind was playing tricks on me. It wasn’t Mam, was it? She should be the one standing there, greeting me, cooking dinner. Not her. I struggled to breathe. How dare she? How dare he?

My father accompanied Sally outside, and I heard the throaty roar of the sports car signal that she’d gone. I braced myself for the row that would ensue, but I wasn’t being unreasonable, was I?

Claire entered the kitchen first. She was four years younger than me, tall and slim with long auburn hair and sage-green eyes. She took after my father’s side of the family. He idolised her.

‘What was all that about and where’s Sally?’ she said.

By then, my father had joined us and they both stared at me. ‘Well?’

‘That woman’s here all the time, wheedling her way in. She’s even taken to wearing Mam’s things.’ I twisted the cotton apron into a ball in my hands and heard my voice rise.

Claire moved to switch off the timer and reached for the oven gloves…

***

 ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ is available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=her+mother+s+secret+jan+baynham&ref=nb_sb_noss

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 and a member of the Society of Authors.

You may find out more about Jan here:

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

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

Blog: www.janbaynham.blogspot.co.uk

***

Many thanks Jan,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny x

 

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