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Archive for the category “Book Extracts”

Blog Tour – ‘The Brave Daughters’ by Mary Wood ~ @panmacmillan @Authormary

‘The Brave Daughters’ by Mary Wood is the fourth book in The Girls Who Went to War series.  It was published in paperback, as an eBook and Audiobook on the 14th May 2020 by Pan.

I would like to thank the publisher for inviting me to participate in this tour.  I am running my post a few days later than my original date as I am hosting an extract and it was better that they were kept in order so as not to confuse readers.

Before the extract lets take a look at the book blurb.

 

Book Blurb

A moving and emotional family drama set between France and Britain from bestselling author, Mary Wood.

They would fight for their country, at all costs . . .

When Sibbie and Marjie arrive at RAF Digby, they are about to take on roles of national importance. It’s a cause of great excitement for everyone around them. Perhaps they will become code-breakers, spies even? Soon the pair embark on a rigorous training regime, but nothing can prepare them for what they’re about to face . . .

Amid the vineyards of rural France, Flora and Ella can’t bear the thought of another war. But as the thunderclouds grow darker, hanging over Europe, a sense of deep foreboding sets in, not just for their safety but for the fate of their families . . . With danger looming, as the threat of war becomes real, Flora and Ella are forced to leave their idyllic home and flee. Can they make it to safety, or will the war have further horrors in store for them?

 

Extract

CHAPTER TWO

Laurens, Hérault, France Ella and Flors

Flors smiled bravely as she stood on her doorstep and waved and waved until her husband Cyrus’s car, carrying their sons, Freddy and Randolph, was out of sight. The agony that she and Cyrus had been through, since the conscription papers had arrived, had almost defeated her. Now the pain set in, as the reality of what Freddy and Randie would face if war broke out took root.

Ella stood by her side. ‘Come on, Flors, let’s do as the British do and put the kettle on.’

‘Oh, Ella, to think of them having gone is unbearable.’

Ella clutched Flors’s hand even tighter and whispered, ‘Hug?’

Painful memories of the past and fears for the uncertain future vied for prominence in Flors’s heart as they hugged tightly. She knew that dear Ella would be feeling these same emotions, too.

As they emerged from the hug, they linked arms and went into the kitchen. A snore made them both jump, and nervous giggles consumed them. Rowena could sleep through any – thing when she was in her favourite rocking chair by the side of the stove. Even on a hot day like today, she professed that she felt the cold in her old bones. Rowena had known Flors since her childhood in Stepney, and now lived with her.

Flors felt glad of the light-hearted moment. She’d been on the brink of crying, but hadn’t wanted to; she’d save her tears for her own bed at night, when she was snuggled into the arms of her beloved Cyrus. Sighing, she told Ella, ‘It’s as if my nest is emptying all at once.’

‘I know. My darling Arnie is even saying that he will volunteer, if Britain ever comes under threat. And Paulo talks of going too, if necessary. It doesn’t bear thinking about.’

‘Oh no. Oh, Ella, everything we know and have built up, since the terrible things we went through in the last war, is under threat.’

‘They say we should be safe here in the South of France, and it’s the north-east that will bear the brunt, if an invasion does happen. But Hitler is threatening Poland at the moment, and I’m so worried about my sister, Calek.’

‘I don’t know what to say, Ella. We can only pray that the Germans don’t succeed in their quest to invade Poland, or that a miracle happens and they heed Chamberlain’s ultimatum.’

‘They have to. Oh, Flors, it’s Calek’s and Abram’s only chance; I fear they are in grave danger. Look at how Germany is treating its Jewish community, if the rumours of their cruel treatment are to be believed . . . Oh God, I can’t think about it. My dear nephew Zabrim is only fourteen.’

‘And there’s no answer to your last letter yet? Surely they will take up your offer to come here?’

‘I am praying for that, but I haven’t heard from them. At least if they sent Zabrim to me, that would ease my mind a little. I’m thinking of going to Poland to find out how they are. I checked and all the trains are still running. Maybe if I do, I can persuade them to come back with me.’

‘No, Ella, no! It’s too dangerous. Please think again, Ella, please. What does Arnie say about it?’

‘I haven’t discussed it with him.’

‘You haven’t discussed what, darling?’

‘Oh, Arnie, I didn’t see you. I – I . . . well, nothing – nothing really. I’ll tell you later.’

‘There’s no time like now. If you can share whatever it is with Flors, then you can share it with your husband, can’t you? Come on, old thing, what is it?’

As Ella poured out her thoughts, Arnie surprised Flors with his response. ‘I think that unless you do this, you will have an agonizing few years ahead of you, Ella – and I don’t want that. But I also think that you should wait to see if Hitler decides to take heed of Britain and France’s ultimatum – which I don’t think he will. If he doesn’t and invades Poland, it will be too dangerous for you to even think of going.’

Flors couldn’t believe the enormity of what Ella had proposed, and even less so that Arnie was partially agreeing that she should go to Poland. After all, she had the feeling that Hitler would find a way of doing as he had in Czechoslovakia and fully invade Poland. And what if that happened when Ella was there? ‘

I know what you’re thinking, Flors, but I understand Ella better than she does herself. Now that she has her family back in her life, it will kill her to think of the unspeakable things that might happen to them under a German regime.

 

‘The Brave Daughters’ is available to purchase from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brave-Daughters-Girls-Who-Went/dp/1509892613/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1589732367&sr=8-1

 

About Mary Wood

Born in Maidstone, Kent, in 1945, the thirteenth child of fifteen children, Mary’s family settled in Leicestershire after the war ended.

Mary married young and now, after 54 years of happy marriage, four children, 12 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, Mary and her husband live in Blackpool during the summer and Spain during the winter – a place that Mary calls, ‘her writing retreat’.

After many jobs from cleaning to catering, all chosen to fit in with bringing up her family, and boost the family money-pot, Mary ended her 9 – 5 working days as a Probation Service Officer, a job that showed her another side to life, and which influences her writing, bringing a realism and grittiness to her novels

Mary first put pen to paper, in 1989, but it wasn’t until 2010 that she finally found some success by self-publishing on kindle.

Being spotted by an editor at Pan Macmillan in 2013, finally saw Mary reach her publishing dream.

When not writing, Mary enjoys family time, reading, eating out, and gardening. One of her favourite pastimes is interacting with her readers on her Facebook page.

Mary welcomes all contact with her readers and feedback on her work.

 

Links

Website – https://www.authormarywood.com/

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/HistoricalNovels

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Authormary

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Inheritance’ by Anne Allen ~ #LoveBooksTours @lovebooksgroup @AnneAllen21

I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour along with a number of fellow book bloggers and would like to thank Kelly Lacey of Love Books Tours for inviting me to participate.

 

‘The Inheritance’ by Anne Allen is a year old. To celebrate all seven books in The Guernsey Novel series will only be £1.99 on Kindle for a limited time. Each of the books can be read as a standalone too.

I have an extract from ‘The Inheritance’.

 

Extract

 

Chapter five

Eugénie’s Diary – Guernsey March 1862

 

‘Ah! La pauvre petite! And how are feeling today? You have some colour in your cheeks, which is good.’ M’sieur Hugo strode into the drawing room and came straight to the chaise longue where I waited, nervously twisting my fingers. Lifting up a hand, he kissed it, accompanied by a slight bow. I lowered my head in acknowledgment.

‘I am much improved, m’sieur, thank you. Madame Drouet has been a wonderful nurse.’

He sat in a chair opposite me while she took a seat on the chaise. He looked like a genial grandfather, his thick white hair and beard in need of a trim while his oddly black moustache virtually erased his mouth. Two small, dark eyes studied me and I dropped my gaze.

‘Yes, she has indeed.’ He leaned forward and patted her hand. Turning to me he went on, ‘I owe you an apology for my reaction when we met the other day. The shock of seeing a young woman the very image of my deceased daughter affected my brain for a moment. Do you believe in spirits, the afterlife?’ He sat, his hands placed on his splayed legs, looking very much the great thinker and writer.

‘I…I don’t know, m’sieur. Although I was raised as a Catholic, I am not particularly religious and not in awe of a God who allows so much death and misery to be endured on this earth.’

His eyes sparkled.

‘Well said! I am of a similar turn of mind and it has been many years since I entered a church, except for burials. But spirits cannot be so readily dismissed. Why, my own house is haunted and I regularly have conversations with ghosts who seem to frequent my bedroom. Which is why I thought, for a moment, you were the spirit of my dear Léopoldine, come to be reunited with me.’ He sighed and his eyes clouded with sadness.

 

 

The Inheritance – Book 7 – https://amzn.to/352abv5

How close were Victor Hugo and his copyist?

1862 Young widow Eugénie faces an uncertain future in Guernsey. A further tragedy brings her to the attention of Monsieur Victor Hugo, living in exile on the island only yards away from Eugénie’s home. Their meeting changes her life and she becomes his copyist, forming a strong friendship with both Hugo and his mistress, Juliette Drouet.

2012 Dr Tess Le Prevost, Guernsey-born but living in England, is shocked to inherit her Great-Aunt’s house on the island. As a child, she was entranced by Doris’s tales of their ancestor, Eugénie, whose house this once was, and her close relationship with Hugo. Was he the real father of her child? Returning to the island gives Tess a fresh start and a chance to unlock family secrets.

Will she discover the truth about Eugénie and Hugo? A surprise find may hold the answer as Tess embraces new challenges which test her strength – and her heart.

 

The Betrayal –  Book Six – https://amzn.to/2yCvCqE

Book Six of The Guernsey Novels is another dual-time story set during the German Occupation and present-day Guernsey and is likely to appeal particularly to fans of the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Treachery and theft lead to death – and love

1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…

1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return.

1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.

2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona, buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth

Searching for the rightful owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother’s ghost to rest?

Who betrayed Leo?

Who knew about the stolen Renoir?

And are they prepared to kill – again?

 

Echoes of Time – Book Five – https://amzn.to/2wZgeE5

The fifth of The Guernsey Novels, Echoes of Time is a dual-time story set in the German Occupation and present-day Guernsey and is likely to appeal to fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Betrayal, injustice and revenge echo down the years…

1940. Olive marries farmer Bill Falla. The Germans occupy Guernsey.

All too soon Olive realises she has made a mistake. Her life changes when she meets Wolfgang, a German officer-however there’s a price to pay. . .

2010. Natalie Ogier returns to Guernsey to escape an abusive relationship – only to be plagued by odd happenings in her beautiful cottage on the site of a derelict and secluded farm. Disturbing dreams, disembodied voices and uncanny visions from the past. She becomes increasingly ill at ease as someone else’s past catches up with her own…

Her only immediate neighbour, Stuart, is the grandson of the original owners, Bill and Olive.

Thrown together in a bid to find out what happened to Olive, can they each survive the repercussions of the past and move on?

 

The Family Divided – Book Four – https://amzn.to/34TXLWd

The fourth of The Guernsey Novels, covering both contemporary Guernsey and the time of the Occupation. Likely to appeal to fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

One family, divided by death – and money

Andy Batiste, at loggerheads with his degenerate cousin, seeks to discover the truth of his family history. Why was his pregnant grandmother forced to flee to France? What really happened to her husband during the German Occupation, sixty years ago? Who accused Edmund, the elder son and Batiste heir, of being an informer? Was he really a traitor – and who murdered him?

With Edmund’s brother Harold now head of the family, enjoying the wealth which ought to have come to Andy’s father, the family is forever divided. Andy yearns to clear Edmund’s name and restore his father to his rightful inheritance.

Andy is introduced to Charlotte Townsend, newly divorced, lonely and struggling with writer’s block and the consuming threat of impending loss. They meet when she returns for healing at Guernsey’s natural health centre, La Folie, and Charlotte becomes involved in Andy’s family history.

Together they embark on a hunt for the truth…

 

Guernsey Retreat – Book Three – https://amzn.to/2VswgzT

The third in The Guernsey Novels series, likely to appeal to fans of the best-selling book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Two violent deaths. Separated by time, but with a fatal connection…

A man loses his father. A young woman loses her mother. Both in tragic circumstances that lead, when they meet, to surprising revelations from the past.

Louisa needs to find the father she has never known, to warn him of possible danger – for them both. Her search takes her from England to Guernsey. Malcolm’s journey is more complicated: conceived in Guernsey, his bereaved mother emigrates with him to Canada. Many years later he arrives in India, and from here he is led back to Guernsey to open a health centre at La Folie. This was his father’s home and where he was killed at the start of the Second World War.

At the heart of the two deaths lie stolen jewels. Valuable enough to kill for. Twice.

Finding her father brings Louisa more than she bargains for, and her life is transformed, while Malcolm learns that life is, after all, for sharing

 

Finding Mother – Book Two – https://amzn.to/2VrLl4u

Three women. Three generations. Sacrifices for love…

Who is she really? Nicole is about to find out as she searches for her real mother; the woman who gave her away at birth. With her marriage in tatters, she sets out from England: travelling to Spain, Jersey and Guernsey before the extraordinary story of her real family is finally revealed.

Nicole becomes an unwitting catalyst for change in that family. Two women are forced to reveal long-buried secrets. One going back as far as the Second World War. Lives are transformed as choices have to be made and the past laid to rest…

 

Dangerous Waters – Book One – https://amzn.to/34TE4O2

Dangerous Waters is the first of The Guernsey Novels, linked but standalone stories, which will appeal to fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Tragedy seems to follow Jeanne Le Page around . . .

Can she really go through it again and survive?

She is lucky to be alive … at sixteen Jeanne was almost killed in a boating accident which brought heart-breaking family tragedy. Now, fifteen years later, Jeanne returns reluctantly to the island of Guernsey following the death of her beloved grandmother. Struggling for breath as the ferry nears the island; she is overwhelmed by a dark foreboding as hazy memories of that terrible day resurface…

Only returning to sell her inheritance – her grandmother’s old cottage – Jeanne has no intention of picking up her old life. But the cottage holds a secret, dating back to World War II and the German Occupation, and Jeanne becomes drawn into discovering more. Then, soon after her arrival, a chance meeting with an old teenage crush leads her to thoughts of love.

Jeanne is forced to face her demons, reliving the tragedy as her lost memory returns.

When the truth is finally revealed, her life is endangered for the second time…

 

About Anne Allen

Anne was born in Rugby to a Welsh father and an English mother. As a result, she spent many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learned to love the sea. Now she is based in Devon to be near her daughter and two small grandchildren. Her restless spirit has meant many moves, the longest stay being in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns. Her younger son is based in London – ideal for city breaks

By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist who long had a desire to write and Dangerous Waters, her first novel, was published in 2012. It was awarded Silver(Adult Fiction) in TheWishingShelfAwards 2012. Since then she has published six more books in The Guernsey Novels series; Finding Mother, Guernsey Retreat, The Family Divided, Echoes of Time- winner of The Diamond Book Award 2017, a finalist in Readersfavorite awards and granted a ChillWithABookAward, The Betrayal, and The Inheritance, published April 2019.

 

Links

Website – http://www.anneallen.co.uk/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/AnneAllen21

Competition – ‘Death of a Painter’ by Matthew Ross ~ @RedDogTweets @mattwross

Hi Everyone.  I hope you are all well and are staying safe during these strange and worrying times.

I have something very special for you today.  The publisher, Red Dog Press, are giving away a hardback copy of ‘Death of a Painter’ by Matthew Ross, the first book in the Mark Poynter series.  The link is towards the bottom of the page.

To give you a taster of ‘Death of a Painter’ here is the book blurb followed by an extract.

 

Book Blurb

IN THE BUILDING GAME TIME IS MONEY AND MONEY IS EVERYTHING. UNFORTUNATELY FOR MARK POYNTER, HE’S RUN OUT OF MONEY AND HE’S FAST RUNNING OUT OF TIME.

When Mark Poynter discovers a murder on his worksite all of his financial problems suddenly seem a lot closer to home: was this a warning his debts are overdue?

Suspected of being the killer and worried at being the intended victim, the murder only makes Mark’s money problems worse, leading him to turn to the local villain, Hamlet, who has his own unique repayment plan in mind for Mark.

When two more deaths plunge him even further into debt, Mark finds himself faced with a choice – help the police and clear his name or help the villain and clear his debt.

Set in the Medway Towns on the grey margins of criminality, where no job’s too big, no dodge’s too small …

Death Of A Painter is the first in a new series of darkly comic crime fiction novels featuring the beleaguered builder Mark Poynter, aided and hindered in equal measure by his trusted crew of slackers, idlers and gossips, and the lengths they go to just to earn a living.

 

Extract

-1-

SOME SAY BEING in the building trade isn’t a job, they say it’s a way of life. What they never tell you about is the problems – every day of every week of every year – nothing but problems.

Everyone you work with wants money off you, everyone you work for wants to keep money from you, and everyone – and I mean everyone – wants it done by yesterday. It’s problem after problem after bloody problem.

And right now, I seem to have more than anyone. I’ve got a hysterical woman screaming down the house, a dead man on her kitchen floor, and I’ve got absolutely no idea what’s going on. All I do know… there’s no way now this job’s going to be finished by Friday.

 

MRS WILKES SQUEEZED my hand and sobbed. I looked at the mess that was once Tommy and couldn’t help wondering – had he been having a bit of a dabble with Mrs Wilkes? It wouldn’t be the first time he’d entertained the client, and it would explain the overly dramatic wailing that quite frankly was starting to give me the hump.

I figured he probably had been. He definitely had a magic touch with married stay-at-home mums harbouring secret fantasies for no-strings with a rascal – and he was that alright, all smiles and laughs and a little bit of teasing to make them blush – it was as though he’d walked straight out of a crappy 70s sex comedy, only now it wasn’t so funny – Carry On Dying.

There is a Mr Wilkes. We’d greet him every morning as he headed off in his smart suit and sense of self-importance. It was no wonder the wife treated herself to a bit of fun with a cheeky painter when she was married to such a miserable belligerent arse. He does something in the City and thinks he’s very busy and important; maybe he is, I don’t care. Mrs Wilkes was alright, but he’d been a nuisance since the job began, in fact since before the job began – he’d insisted on having a proper contract between us.

So far, he’d tried and failed to knock our money for genuine variations, and tried (and failed) to refuse us an extension of time after his wife’s changes of mind added a fortnight to the job. His contract wasn’t really working in his favour and it only seemed to add to his general state of ill-temper. However, we’d run out of smart excuses. We had to finish by Friday, and Mr Wilkes was exactly the sort who’d want his penalty payments out of principle. I could picture him willing us to fail just so he can feel like he’s won something. But I don’t know where the contract stands on when the work’s delayed by the site becoming a crime scene – is that force majeure? It was certainly a force of something, looking at the damage done to poor Tommy.

This wasn’t a fall or an accident on site, this was violence, this was brutal. Just below his ear, his head yawned open wide, smashed white bones and grey jelly. His face had been rinsed red by the steady flow of blood, now pooled and tacky like spilled paint on the granite tiles beneath him.

He was the best decorator I’ve ever worked with; morally questionable, but he’d do a lovely job, which is why, as soon as I saw his brushes on the side, I knew something was up. They hadn’t been washed out, he’d still been working, must have been interrupted and put them down for a moment. If he’d intended leaving them for a while, he’d have wrapped them in clingfilm to keep the bristles soft. That’s what he always did. I knew his brushes would stiffen and become brittle, like the bloody wound in the side of his head that was turning black around the edges. Thankfully I was pulled out of these dark thoughts by a voice beside me.

‘I said, what are we going to do?’ asked Mrs Wilkes.

‘Police… I suppose,’ was my rather feeble response.

No doubt Mr Wilkes and his swaggering pomposity would have thrived in such a moment, issuing commandments left right and centre, but my immediate reaction – and it probably doesn’t show me in any great light to admit it – was Thank God she found him first, as I could just imagine how the police’s questions would go if she hadn’t, although it didn’t seem to matter because, twenty minutes later:

‘He worked for you for how long, roughly, would you say?’ the uniformed copper asked me. He looked so familiar, I’m sure I’d seen him before, maybe from one of the Sunday league teams that drink at the Golden Lamb post-match; he looked the football sort – tall, slim, bit of a swagger. ‘And were there any disagreements? Disputes about money?’

There it is, that’s the one I’d been waiting for – the sub-contractor’s dead, must’ve been an argument over payment, must’ve been me; brilliant, well done Medway’s finest for jumping to the bleeding obvious!

A man entered the room, a small man with a face like a fox – all dark eyes, pointy nose and teeth, with white hair. He was very smartly dressed and obviously took a great deal of pride in his appearance judging by his shiny shoes and even shinier cufflinks. The uniform stopped his somewhat insulting questions, looked at the dapper little fellow, gave a respectful nod and moved away.

Mr Cufflinks approached me, reaching into the inside pocket of his tailored suit jacket. ‘I have been appointed investigating officer here,’ he informed me in a monotone voice, pulling out a warrant card and holding it six inches from my face. I tried to read his name, unusual, never seen it before but I decided to give it my best shot.

‘Inspector Senior, I’m—’

‘Sen Ya’ he interrupted ‘Senia, it’s pronounced Senia, Detective Chief Inspector Senia. It’s Italian.’ His patronising tone was already beginning to annoy me.

‘So, you’re Italian?’ I still don’t know why I asked that, ease the tension I suppose.

‘Do I fucking look Italian?’

Well, that threw me, no-one’s ever asked me that before; what does an Italian look like? I could only think of Pavarotti and he didn’t look anything like him. I must have pondered for too long as he barked his next question at me.

‘You’re the one that called it in? Mark Poynter?’

I confirmed I was both of those, and then started explaining that Tommy worked for me and the job we were doing. He didn’t seem to understand.

‘But you’re an electrician?’

‘Yes.’

‘And the deceased was a painter?’

‘Yes.’

‘So why does an electrician need a painter?’

‘Err, to paint.’

‘I know a painter does the bloody painting, don’t get smart with me. Why is an electrician employing a painter?’

‘Because I’ve been fitting the new kitchen here, and I had him decorating.’

‘Fitting a kitchen? Isn’t that a carpenter’s job?’

‘Yes, but the carpenter’s finished, the plumber’s finished, the plasterer’s finished so now it’s just the decorator to finish.’

‘But you’re an electrician!’

I thought carefully about my next words, he was starting to wind me up, but the last thing I wanted was to annoy the Law when they were looking for someone to blame a murder on.

‘Yes, I’m an electrician. Most of my work is electrical. But on occasion people have asked me to take on bigger projects because they know I know all the right trades and it’s easier having me manage the thing start to finish.’

‘Like a main contractor?’

‘Yes, like a main contractor.’

‘Well, why didn’t you say that to begin with instead of farting about saying you’re an electrician?’

I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I didn’t.

‘So, you two were friends, good friends?’

I felt a bit guilty – to Tommy not to this foxy-faced fuckwit – to find myself denying we’d been friends for, must be, fifteen years now. Instead I gabbled around the edges staying nondescript, I told him we’d done a lot of work together – he’d get jobs and recommend me, I’d get jobs and recommend him – and that’s how things tend to go in this industry.

‘Can you think of anyone that’d want to harm him, or bore a grudge?’ asked Senia.

I immediately thought of Tommy’s tendency to dabble, and wondered whether Mr Wilkes had found out he’d been dipping more than his brushes whilst he was at work. But I didn’t say anything, firstly because Mr Wilkes may have been a petulant nobhead but I knew he was nothing more than bluster and bullshit, also it didn’t make sense to accuse him of murder when he still owed me a month’s money. I’ve got the bill for his granite worktops due this week, they’re the price of a new car alone, the last thing I wanted was to risk him knocking my payment, so I told Senia no.

Senia stared patiently at me, for ages, unblinking, like a crocodile. ‘Did he work for you as a direct employee?’

I explained, again, he was a sub-contractor; this was beginning to feel like hard work.

‘Well why in that case,’ the frustration in his voice matching mine, ‘are you both wearing the same shirt?’

He was right. We were both wearing a purple sweatshirt with my silver ‘MP Electrical’ logo. I tried explaining the concept of corporate branding: ‘my job, my firm, my rules’, meaning Tommy would wear my shirt when on my project.

‘So, if you can’t think of anyone that may have wanted to harm him,’ said Senia, ‘what about you? Your job, your firm – your shirt. Could it be mistaken identity and it was, in fact, you they were after? Has anyone threatened you, anyone bear a grudge against you?’

‘No,’ I lied, but by the way those dark eyes stared back I don’t think he believed me.

 

About Matthew Ross

Matthew Ross was born and raised in the Medway Towns, England. He still lives in Kent with his Kiwi wife, his children and a very old cat.

He was immersed in the building industry from a very early age helping out on his father’s sites during school holidays before launching into his own career at 17. He’s worked on projects ranging from the smallest domestic repair to £billion+ infrastructure, and probably everything in between.

A lifelong comedy nerd, he ticked off a bucket-list ambition and tried his hand at stand-up comedy. Whilst being an experience probably best forgotten (for both him and audiences alike) it ignited a love for writing, leading to various commissions including for material broadcast on BBC Radio 4 comedy shows.

Matthew moved into the longer format of novel writing after graduating from the Faber Academy in London in 2017.

Death Of A Painter’ is his first novel and the first in a planned series of stories featuring Mark Poynter and his associates.

Matthew enjoys reading all manner of books – especially crime and mystery; 80s music; and travelling and can’t wait for the next trip to New Zealand to spend time with family and friends.

 

Links

Publisher

Website – https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/RedDogTweets

Author

Website – https://mattwross.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/mattwross

 

Competition

So, as mentioned earlier, Red Dog Press are giving away a hardback copy of ‘Death of a Painter’.  This competition is open worldwide from now until 4:00 p.m. on the 10th May 2020.  The winner will be chosen by the publisher.  Click on the link below to enter:-

Rafflecopter Giveaway.

 

 

If you are not the lucky winner but like the sound of the book, you can buy it from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Painter-Mark-Poynter-Matthew/dp/1913331431/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=death+of+a+painter&qid=1588345687&sr=8-1

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Death-Painter-Mark-Poynter-Book-ebook/dp/B086P6Q8ZH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=death+of+a+painter&qid=1588347186&sr=8-1

 

There is also a blog tour taking place which you might want to check out.

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Gossips’ Choice’ by Sara Read ~ #LoveBooksTours @LoveBooksGroup @Wildpressed @saralread

It is a real pleasure to be taking part in this blog tour today along with two other book bloggers.  ‘The Gossips’ Choice’ was published in paperback on the 1st April 2020 by Wild Pressed Books and is also available as an eBook.

I would like to thank Kelly Lacey of Love Books Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour.

I have an excerpt from ‘The Gossips’ Choice’ for you all to read.  First though let’s take a look at the book blurb.

 

Book Blurb

“Call The Midwife for the 17th Century”

Lucie Smith is a respected midwife who is married to Jacob, the town apothecary. They live happily together at the shop with the sign of the Three Doves. But sixteen-sixty-five proves a troublesome year for the couple. Lucie is called to a birth at the local Manor House and Jacob objects to her involvement with their former opponents in the English Civil Wars. Their only-surviving son Simon flees plague-ridden London for his country hometown, only to argue with his father. Lucie also has to manage her husband’s fury at the news of their loyal housemaid’s unplanned pregnancy and its repercussions.

The year draws to a close with the first ever accusation of malpractice against Lucie, which could see her lose her midwifery licence, or even face excommunication.

 

Book Excerpt

Excerpt 3 The Gossips’ Choice – Sara Read

The atmosphere in the Three Doves was strained all evening. As Martha hadn’t returned, Lucie had served supper, and afterwards Jasper had read from the Bible and asked them to answer theological questions. Ned remained surly all evening and became even more so when Jasper informed him of his decision that the apprentice’s truckle bed was to be moved to his and Lucie’s chamber until further notice.

The next announcement was a shock for Lucie, as Jasper declared that he had been praying and reflecting on the money the King had sent during the summer. The two bright guineas had been in the locked metal chest in his chamber since they arrived; Lucie had given Martha and Ned their share from her own money. Jasper told them that God had helped him reach the decision that this money should go into the parish funds for poor relief. The Stuart court’s profligacy and loose morals, not to mention rumours of its attachment to popery, were everything Jasper opposed, and while he was proud that his wife’s efforts had been recognised, he felt they were unable to accept the money.

‘This decision has been a long time making, husband,’ Lucie said. ‘I took it for granted that you were reconciled to my reward, since you had not mentioned it since the day it arrived.’

‘That’s true, but the extravagant fee Lady Calstone sent lately troubled me anew. We both work hard and take a fair fee for our labour. All we asked from the Manor was that they should settle their fee and not that they should give us large sums, presumably to assure our discretion in the other matter.’

Lucie noticed Ned’s ears pricking up and wondered what he was thinking. Given his recent rioting in the alehouse, she was seeing the lad in a fresh and not very positive light.

‘Furthermore,’ Jasper continued, ‘I was disposed to pray on the matter, and the answer revealed to me was that we should accept your customary fee – with something more for your additional troubles – and the later treatments we dispatched, and then the rest should also go to the parish poor funds. It will make provision for the winter months, when the parish is called on most for relief.’

‘As you wish,’ said Lucie demurely, but with regret. She might be unchallengeable in the birthing chamber, but accepted without question that Jasper was master of his own household. That included her earnings. It was fortunate that the painter she had retained was no longer coming. She did have some pin money saved from her household allowance but having the Calstone and royal money to keep would have been a significant addition to her personal fortune.

 

‘The Gossips’ Choice’ is available to purchase from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gossips-Choice-Sara-Read-ebook/dp/B087C9NFZ4/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=the+gossip%27s+choice+by+sara+read&qid=1587491587&sr=8-4

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Gossips-Choice-Sara-Read-ebook/dp/B087C9NFZ4/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+gossips+choice+by+sara+read&qid=1587536441&sr=8-1

 

About Sara Read

Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her research is in the cultural representations of women, bodies and health in the early modern era.

She has published widely in this area with her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England being published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.

She is a member of the organising committee of the Women’s Studies Group, 1558-1837 and recently co-edited a special collection produced to celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary.

She is also the co-editor of the popular Early Modern Medicine blog. With founding editor Dr Jennifer Evans, Sara wrote a book about health and disease in this era Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017).

Sara regularly writes for history magazines such as Discover Your Ancestors and History Today. In 2017 she published an article ‘My Ancestor was a Midwife’ tracing the history of the midwifery profession for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2017. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Freethinking programme and is often to be heard on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio WM.

 

Links

Website – http://www.sararead.co.uk/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/saralread

 

Blog Tour – ‘Act 3: The Art of Growing Older’ by Judy Reith and Adrian Reith ~ #RandomThingsTours @annecater @unbounders @Act3Life

‘Act 3: The Art of Growing Older’ by Judy Reith and Adrian Reith was published in paperback and as an eBook on the 2nd April 2020 by Unbound.  I am pleased to be taking part in this blog tour and would like to thank Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate.  I think this is a very important book and I hope it is of help to lots of people.

I have an excerpt from ‘Act 3: The Art of Growing Older’ for all of you to read.  First though here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

At last, the life you want . . . post 50.

We’re living longer, in better health, with higher expectations than any generation in human history. With an extra adult chapter to look forward to, what will you do? Who else could you be? How will you evolve the best plan for your life between 50 and 80?

Judy and Adrian Reith have decades of experience in helping people see hidden possibilities, clarify their goals and achieve life-changing results. In Act 3 they suggest practical steps to make your life more fulfilling as you age. From the ground up this book will help you identify and strengthen the four roots you ll need for a happy and successful third act. It illustrates how your attitude, purpose, relationships and values are keystones to a life without regret.

Act 3 gives tools and tips to help you focus on what matters, with chapters on Work, Home, Money, Health, Play, the World and Friends. You ll be inspired by original stories of those who have changed their lives after 50 and be able to re-imagine your future, and so get the life you want . . . at last.

 

Excerpt

How This Book Works

Mental Pipes Unblocked

As authors, we take a ‘coaching’ approach to Act3. As coaches we know the best answers to our client’s questions are found inside them. We believe the same will be true for you. Coaching principles and mind sets are well known in the world of sport, but they bring excellence and satisfaction in other areas of life too. We’ll show you how.

‘Starting in 1971 on the tennis court I found myself asking a question I’d never been asked or told to ask, “I wonder what’s going on inside the head of a person while the ball is approaching them?” And that opened the door to The Inner Game. The answer was obvious. Much too much. Championship athletes said when they were at their best their mind was quiet, focussed, not full of shoulds and shouldn’ts.’ — Tim Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

We All Have An Outer Game And An Inner Game.

Tim Gallwey – one of the fathers of modern coaching – was one of the first to address the internal narrative of shoulds and shouldn’ts, to help sports people, or business people perform not only to reach their potential, but to far exceed it. His work has been emulated worldwide and way beyond sport and business.

Dealing With Shoulds and Shouldn’ts

As coaches in business and life we listen, reflect back, ask questions, support and challenge the client to dig below the surface, to get clear on what they really want their life to be about. Then we work with them to create practical steps to achieve those goals.

We’ll do the same in the book: Act3 – How To Live A Better Life After 50: You’ll ‘say hello’ to the unhelpful voices in your head, acknowledging their power. You’ll recognise your limiting beliefs about yourself, you’ll find ways to break out from these restrictions.

You Cannot Be What You Cannot See

If the voice in your head drowns out your ability to hear or imagine anything better, or stops you creating change – you have a problem.

“My dad always said I wasn’t musical. I wasted fifty years believing him, until a friend took me along to sing in a community choir and finally I gave myself permission to believe that my dad was wrong.”

To be something different, you first have to see something different in your mind’s eye. You need to see a destination, a goal, a better outcome. You need to think differently. As a clever guy once said:

‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ — Albert Einstein

 

‘Act3: The Art of Growing Older’ is available to purchase from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Act-3-Art-Growing-Older/dp/1783526998/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1586195072&sr=8-1

 

About Judy and Adrian Reith

Judy and Adrian Reith are professional coaches and writers, covering life, parenting and executive coaching.

They facilitate Act3 events and coach individuals to prepare for a life well lived.

Together they have 3 adult children who have left home. Returned. Left home. Returned…

Australian born Judy has been a parenting expert for nearly 20 years. Her publications include 7 Secrets of Raising Girls Every Parent Must Know, Be a Great Mum and Transform Living with Teenagers.

She draws on her professional training in child development, counselling and parent education to help thousands of parents, some of whom are also entering Act3. At 57, she loves nothing more than having friends and family round with plenty of good food and drink. She runs it off with the dog while she still can.

Since 2006 Adrian has specialised in executive and leadership coaching and facilitation. He qualified as a coach after an award-winning first career as a writer / director in advertising – a world where youth is idolised.

He is a published author, has recently built an eco-house, survived cycling Land’s End to John o’Groats… holds a Senior Railcard and is 62.

 

Links

Website – https://act3life.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Act3Life

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Year Without Summer’ by Guinevere Glasfurd ~ @annecater @TwoRoadsBooks @GuinGlasfurd

‘The Year Without Summer’ by Guinevere Glasfurd was published in hardback and as an eBook on the 6th February 2020 by Two Roads Books.  It is also available in Audiobook.  Today it is my turn on the blog tour for this book and I would like to thank Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate.

I have an extract from ‘The Year Without Summer’ for you all to read.  First though here’s the book blurb.

 

Book Blurb

1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia
Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands. Sent to investigate, ship surgeon Henry Hogg can barely believe his eyes. Once a paradise, the island is now solid ash, the surrounding sea turned to stone. But worse is yet to come: as the ash cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.

1816
In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration. Confined inside by the unseasonable weather, thousands of famine refugees stream past her door. In Vermont, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and their livestock starve.

In Suffolk, the ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. In the Fens, farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from the Napoleonic wars, finds his family home demolished and a fence gone up in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of revolutionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost. As desperation sets in, Britain becomes beset by riots – rebellion is in the air.

The Year Without Summer is the story of the books written, the art made; of the journeys taken, of the love longed for and the lives lost during that fateful year. Six separate lives, connected only by an event many thousands of miles away. Few had heard of Tambora – but none could escape its effects.

 

Extract

Henry

 

11 April our year of the Lord, 1815

Dearest Emmalina,

I write in haste as I have been called to the seas south of Makassar once more to investigate rumours of a disturbing nature. Very distinct reports, like cannons, were heard last week in Ternate, five hundred miles east of us and not easily reached. Pirates were suspected, but none found. Then, one night ago, more explosions, this time sufficient to shake our ship and the houses around the harbour, even though we were moored and Makassar peaceful. Yet more talk of pirates, who must be close at hand, if so.

I have had Susilo sharpen my short sword should I need it. I am as prepared as I might be in these parts. But I ask you please to pray for my return with my sword still safely sheathed beside me.

Pirates notwithstanding, I shall be happy to be at sea again. The air here is at its oppressive heaviest, some days it is as if mercury has been poured over us; I have never known it so stifling hot. Even the birds seem afflicted and have lost the will to sing. An eerie stillness hangs over the town and makes the most relaxed man uneasy. Perhaps one of their gods has taken a good breath in and is about to blow us off our feet.

You are a sweet sensible thing to stay in England.

So wish me a fair wind and a safe return, my darling. We sail when it is light.

Your ever loving husband,
Henry

Surgeon aboard the Benares

 

 

12 April our year of the Lord, 1815

Dearest Emmalina,

I am writing this by candlelight though it is not yet midday. A little after 8 a.m. this morning it was apparent we had sailed into what I can only describe as an extraordinary occurrence. To the west and south of us, the sky had assumed the most dismal prospect; the sunrise seemed smothered: a deep red glow that refused to brighten. By ten in the morning, I was certain night had been returned to us. I could scarcely make out the shore, and our ship was but one mile from it. I felt something brush against my skin, with the softness of snow. Snow? Imagine my confusion! What snow could survive this hostile clime? I touched my finger to it, incredulous, until I saw that it smudged. Ash. One question had been answered, but many more took its place. Within an hour, the sky, from horizon to the heavens, was filled with it. It fell in heavy showers with a soft patter, coating the deck then forming a thick layer. And now we have reached a truly awful and alarming state: a darkness as total as at new moon.

The ash is still falling as I write. We are working in shifts to sweep it away, such is its weight. And now the captain is calling me to help rig an awning, presumably to keep it off the deck. I do not know how we will rig anything when one cannot see one’s hand in front of one’s face. Darkness or not, I must go.

I shall write again later. Until then, I am
Your loving husband,
Henry

Surgeon aboard the Benares

 

 

13 April our year of the Lord, 1815

Dearest Emmalina,

I know not if this is night or day, though by the hours that have passed it must be morning once more. The captain’s awning was a dismal failure and we have all been put to the broom in an attempt to keep the ash from reaching perilous levels. We are now sweeping it overboard else it will add many tons in weight to the ship. Wherever one sweeps you can be certain that behind you the ash will have heaped up readily to depths of a foot or more. The further south we sail, the grittier it becomes. The air is foul with it; every breath is a half breath and all on board are wheezing. The queue of the poorly lengthens to my door.

Forgive me, I am unable to write more. Exhaustion has felled me and my hands are blistered.

Your loving husband,
Henry

Surgeon aboard the Benares

 

18 April our year of the Lord, 1815

Dearest, dearest Emmalina,

Forgive my silence, but I have been unwell, a consequence, I think, of ash having found its way into our drinking water. My blisters, I am relieved to say, are improved.

My darling, I wish I had never seen this day for I am struggling to find the words that can adequately express it. Daylight is returned but, oh, for the darkness we had five days ago in favour of what I can now see.

We have arrived off Bima on Sumbawa, which we believe almost certainly is the source of the ‘cannons’ that disturbed our peace in Makassar. This island, once a green gem, is now a hellish scene, to rival any produced by Breughel. The mountain Tomboro, sometimes called Tambora, is gone. Gone! But where? If I had not climbed it last year, when I was the guest of the Rajah here, I would scarce believe it were possible. I knew of the volcano beneath it, but had no reason to suspect an eruption. I am yet to find the Rajah among the few survivors we have met. I hope he lives. I will venture out tomorrow to find him.

But I am ahead of myself. Let me tell you first of our awful approach. We sighted Sumbawa yesterday. Then, still some distance off, the sea became sluggish, thickened with ash in a grey soup. I was below deck, assessing our water supply to determine what portion was spoiled, when I heard a cry go up from above.

I popped my head through the hatch, but it was impossible to make out what was being said. A sailor held out his arm, and pointed, then flapped up and down in a most peculiar manner. Already, he had a small crowd around him and they were similarly vexed. I heaved myself up through the hatch and elbowed my way through the commotion. I took the spyglass from one of them and looked.

That wasn’t water ahead, but stone: a sea, made entirely of stone! But stone that undulated gently.

Bump, bump, bump went several pieces as they knocked into the hull. The bosun, hearing it, took a net and scooped up a small amount. He turned what he had out on deck and we stared as though at strange, dead specimens from the deep. I poked at one with my foot then reached down to pick it up. Stone, now cinder, and pocked like a sponge. The stone had no weight – so that was why it floated. The bosun ventured it was pumice.

Pumice? Of course. I went to the port side and looked over. Pumice in every direction, the sea thick with it and as far as I could see. Although we had a good wind behind us, the ship had slowed and struggled to make way. It must have been many feet thick to slow us like that.

And that, my dearest, is how the sea becomes a mountain and the mountain becomes a sea. There are riddles everywhere, it seems . . .

 

‘The Year Without Summer’ is available to purchase from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Year-Without-Summer-novel-author/dp/1473672295/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1581358936&sr=8-1

 

 

About Guinevere Glasfurd

Guinevere Glasfurd was born in Lancaster and lives near Cambridge with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, The Words in My Hand, was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa First Novel Award and Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was longlisted in France for the Prix du Roman FNAC.  Her writing has also appeared in the Scotsman, Mslexia and The National Galleries of Scotland.

 

Links

Website – http://www.guinevereglasfurd.com

Twitter – https://twitter.com/GuinGlasfurd

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/GuinevereGlasfurdBooks/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14055595.Guinevere_Glasfurd

 

Blog Tour – ‘A Wash of Black’ by Chris McDonald ~ @RedDogTweets @cmacwritescrime

‘A Wash of Black’ is Chris McDonald’s debut novel.  The first book in the DI Erika Piper series, it was published in paperback yesterday the 4th February 2020 by Red Dog Press and is also available as an eBook.

I would like to thank Red Dog Press for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.  I have been hearing so many great things about this book so it is a real pleasure to be taking part.

I have an extract from ‘A Wash of Black’ for you all.  There is also a giveaway at the bottom of the page which is being run by the publisher.  First though here’s the blurb.

 

Book Blurb

IT’S NOT LIFE THAT IMITATES ART. IT’S DEATH.

Anna Symons. Famous. Talented. Dead.

The body of a famous actress is found mutilated on an ice rink in Manchester, recreating a scene from a blockbuster film she starred in years ago.

DI Erika Piper, having only recently returned to work after suffering a near-fatal attack herself, finds she must once again prove her worth as the hunt for the media-dubbed ‘Blood Ice Killer’ intensifies.

But when another body is found and, this time, the killer issues a personal threat, Erika must do more than put aside her demons to crack the case, or suffer the deadly consequences.

If you like Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Cara Hunter, you will love this

 

Extract

PROLOGUE

HE WIPES HIS BROW and takes a moment to admire his handiwork – this is how it should have been done the first time around, he thinks to himself. It takes all the willpower in the world to step away from the body, the intoxicating aroma of the blood attempting to entice him back, but he knows that he must make sure it has been done properly.

He unfolds the page containing the words he has read countless times; words he could recite in his sleep, but he knows that now is not the time to become careless. He pores over the torn-out page from his favourite book, glancing up every now and then at the scene in front of him. When he is fully happy that nothing has been overlooked, he slips the page back into the plastic wallet and hides it away before making his way carefully off the ice and onto terra firma.

Before he slips out the side door and onto the deserted street, his eyes drink in the bloodbath he is leaving behind. In his head, this isn’t murder; it’s art.

 

1

THE FLASHING BLUE LIGHT disturbs the stillness of the morning, dancing over the nearby buildings. There are already three patrol cars and a fleet of vans belonging to the forensic team assembled in the car park. It must be bad, I think.

Exiting my own car, I pull my hood as far over my face as I can, to shelter from the howling wind and the unrelenting rain; not out of place on this dismal December morning.

Uniformed police officers scurry about, securing the crime scene with blue and white tape as a few early morning passers-by look on. I duck under and enter the erected blue tent, signing the log book. Looking up, I spot Liam at the door to the ice rink; he’s waiting for me, already dressed in a protective suit. I slip into my own suit and pull on a pair of gloves.

‘Morning, Erika,’ Liam calls, checking his watch, ‘Good of you to make it.’

Detective Liam Sutton has been my partner for two years now, three if you count my enforced year of absence. Liam and I gelled quickly and became a hell of a force.

He’s tall and lean with clear blue eyes. His hair is shaved tight to his scalp, through choice, not necessity, his dark stubble the same length. He has a penchant for fashion, his fitted shirts always accessorised with a well-chosen tie. If he could get away with a trilby, he’d try.

‘Nice to be back,’ I say. ‘What have we got?’

‘Let’s find John, I don’t want to spoil his fun, he’d never forgive me,’ Liam says, attempting a hug but seemingly thinking better of it mid-way through his approach. It turns into an oafish tap on the shoulder instead and I smile at his awkwardness.

We push the tent flaps aside and enter the lobby of the ice rink. It has a disused look about it, the remnants of popcorn machines and dusty hot dog ovens creating a forlorn scene, like we’ve stepped into a dystopian future.

Scene-of-crime officers are already studiously going about their job, prowling the area with cameras hanging around their necks.

Liam and I cross the foyer and push open the double doors into the ice rink, a frigid blast of ice biting at the small amount of skin foolish enough to be left exposed.

We walk towards the rink, perch on the barrier between solid floor and ice and survey the scene. A shudder courses through my body which has nothing to do with the cold. I’m used to seeing what the worst of humanity is capable of, but sometimes the sheer brutality of it all takes me by surprise. I realise my hand has subconsciously covered my stomach.

In the middle of the ice lie the remains of a woman. She may have been beautiful once, but no longer in death. Serrated blades hold her long limbs tight to the ice. Her head is angled, as if searching for an impossible escape. A gaping black-hole swirls where her neck once was.

On the other side of the rink, a broken door leading to the street is at the mercy of the wind. Police tape has been rolled across it at waist height, and a uniformed officer has been handed the short straw, tasked with keeping vigil just outside in the pouring rain.

John Kirrane is the forensic pathologist present at the scene; the best the city of Manchester has to offer. He is perhaps the thinnest man I have ever seen, as if his appetite is limited by the grisly nature of his job. Understandable really.

From under his hairnet, tight rings of short ginger hair curl around the legs of his glasses, securing them steadfastly in place. His spindly fingers hold a recorder to his lips and he speaks into it at regular intervals, when he spots something of note. He glances towards us and raises a hand in recognition.

‘Erika! Give me two minutes and I’ll be with you,’ he shouts, his voice echoing around us.

We watch him go about his work before clicking off his recording device and walking over the metal stepping plates towards us.

‘Erika, it’s fantastic to see you. You’re back for good now?’

‘Yep, and fit as a fiddle,’ I nod.

‘I’m so glad,’ he beams, ‘horrible business.’ He shakes his head, clears the emotion away. ‘Martin has done all he can on the ice,’ he says, looking over my shoulder at the head Scene of Crime officer.

He puts his hand in the air to attract Martin’s attention. ‘I’ll just talk through the body and then she’s all yours,’ he calls. Martin nods his head and stoops down, unzips his bag and readies his tools. He’s a short, squat man with the eyes of an eagle.

‘Shall we?’ asks John.

Liam and I step carefully onto the metal plates and advance towards the body.

The scene is a mess; so much blood. The crimson liquid has pooled underneath her body where the knives were plunged into her arms and legs. It has seeped slowly across the slick, icy surface from those same wounds.

Unusually, the blood from her jagged throat laceration has all spilled in the same direction. Most of it has crept a little way from her neck, while some has spurted quite a distance across the ice.

The dead woman is wearing blue skinny jeans, a yellow halter neck top and black stiletto boots. A thin gold chain sits mournfully on her chest. On her left hand, she wears an engagement ring with a cluster of diamonds.

‘Undoubtedly a homicide,’ John states. ‘Won’t know for certain on cause of death until I get her on the slab, but I’d hedge my bets on exsanguination, blood loss from the throat.’

I lean in for a closer look at the throat.

‘You’ll notice that the blood from the throat has sprayed in one direction,’ he continues. ‘Usually, you’d expect to see the blood spatter in an arc.’ He moves his hand in a slow semi-circular motion to compound his point.

‘Has something stopped her head from moving?’ Liam interrupts.

‘Someone,’ replies John. ‘If you look here,’ he motions to the left side of her face, ‘you’ll see a faint soleprint,’ replies John.

I close my eyes and picture the scene. The killer pins this poor girl down with the steel blades, stands over her. He lifts his boot and presses it onto the side of her face, pushing it down onto the ice. He cuts her throat and keeps his weight on her cheek, ensuring the blood doesn’t spray his way.

John’s voice stirs me from my thoughts. ‘Her tongue has been cut out too.’

‘Could be somewhere in here,’ I suggest, looking around the room at the foldable plastic seats facing towards the ice.

‘Or, the sick fucker who did this has taken it as some sort of trophy,’ says Liam.

I nod. ‘John, tell Martin about the tongue. He’ll get his team to sweep every inch of this place.’ John nods, makes a note.

‘Time of death?’ asks Liam.

‘Hard to tell, the temperature has slowed livor mortis but considering blood lividity I’d say roughly between seven and eight hours ago,’ replies John.

‘So, we’re looking around two this morning,’ I mutter, checking my watch.

‘It’s not the first time she’s died like that,’ says Liam, suddenly.

John and I look at each other, confused, then back to Liam.

‘What do you mean?’ I ask.

‘You really do not appreciate popular culture, do you? Don’t you recognise her?’

‘I thought her face looked familiar, but I can’t place it. What do you mean about dying the same way twice?’

‘It’s Anna Symons, the actor. She was in a film where she was killed just like this – knives through the arms and legs, throat cut. Her tongue wasn’t removed as far as I can remember, though she was naked in the film, so my attention could’ve been elsewhere.’

‘First of all; you are gross.’ He sticks his tongue out at me. ‘Secondly, why didn’t you lead with this information?’ I ask, incredulously.

‘Well, John was on a roll and I didn’t want to interrupt.’

‘Fair play,’ I say. ‘What was the name of the film?’

‘No idea. It came out a few years ago.’

‘Odd. So the killer has recreated a scene from a film, but made changes?’ I say. ‘And if the film came out years ago, why now?’

‘Beats me,’ Liam declares.

I take out my notebook. I need to find out the name of that film.

‘I’ll have more details on the body in a few days,’ says John. ‘They’ll be on your desk as soon as I’m done. Erika, it really is lovely to see you back. Take care of yourself.’ He gives me a warm smile, before turning and signalling to Martin that the body is ready to be moved.

We carefully make our way off the ice and Martin and his team assume control of the crime scene once more.

‘Who found the body?’ I ask Liam.

‘A Mr. Farrier, he’s the manager. He’s waiting in his office for us.’

We walk back through the foyer and up the stairs. A uniformed officer is waiting at the top of the stairs, to prevent anyone from leaving or entering. We walk past him and enter the manager’s room.

It’s a small room with a window overlooking the ice rink, though the blinds have been pulled as far across as they can. Behind a flimsy desk sits a man with a trimmed goatee and short, cropped hair.

‘Mr Farrier,’ I say, extending my hand.

‘Please, call me Tony,’ he says, getting up from his seat and giving my hand a limp shake. He’s as white as a sheet. He motions to two empty chairs in front of him and we take him up on his unspoken offer.

‘Tony, I’m Detective Inspector Erika Piper. This is my partner, Detective Sergeant Liam Sutton. Please can you run us through what happened?’

‘Well, I got to work at seven this morning as normal. The ice rink doesn’t open until later, but there is so much to do; stocktaking, making sure the ice skates are clean, paired and ready to go and what have you.’

He waves his hand as if he knows his information is boring.

‘I usually come up here first but I was drawn to the rink, thought I could hear a banging. When I went in, the light was on which was unusual ‘cos I always turn them on last. I saw the door smashing against the frame. Broken into, I thought.’

He wipes sweat from his brow with his forearm. Smacks his dry lips together and takes a sip of water. As he sets it down, the plastic bottle springs back into shape with a crack that makes him jump.

‘Sorry, I’m a bit on edge.’ He barks an embarrassed laugh. ‘Anyway, as I walked towards the door I glanced at the ice and saw… it. Her. I ran up to the office as fast as I could and called the police.’

‘Was anyone else here?’ I ask.

‘No, just me,’ he replies.

‘Wouldn’t an alarm go off, if the door was kicked in?’ Liam enquires.

He grimaces. ‘A few years ago, yeah. But the people who own the rink stopped paying for that service. They don’t give a shit about this place, not anymore. No security, CCTV up the duff. It used to be amazing; multi-screen cinema, soft play for the little ones. Now the only part left open is the rink. Reckon it’s on the way out too, along with my job,’ he adds, glumly.

‘Worked here long?’ Liam asks.

‘I’ve given twenty years of my life to this fine establishment. It was state of the art when it opened. I started straight out of school, not got the brains to do much else. Though, I worked my way up to manager so I suppose that’s something.’

‘Has anything like this happened before?’

‘God no,’ he says, ‘we’ve had a few break-ins over the years, but nothing like this.’

I change tack.

‘Where were you last night?’

‘I was at my brother’s house. He had a bit of a party. I was sensible though ‘cos I knew I had to get up early this morning. Hate working with a hangover.’

‘And people could verify this?’

‘Absolutely, I was there with my wife. Loads of friends there too.’

‘Thank you, Tony, you’ve been very helpful. Obviously, this place will have to stay closed for the time being. If there is any other information you think of, please let us know.’

He takes my proffered card and we leave his room, walking down the stairs to the foyer again.

‘What do you reckon?’ I ask Liam.

‘Can’t see why he’d lie,’ offers Liam, ‘I’ll look into his story and make sure he was where he says he was.’

He scribbles in a notebook before replacing it in his pocket. The doors of the rink open and Martin walks out, holding an evidence bag.

‘Found a page from a book on the far side of the room,’ he says, holding the bag aloft for me to see the contents. ‘It seems to be from a crime book, detailing this murder.’

‘Good work, Martin. I’d like a copy of the page on my desk as soon as you can.’

‘Right-o’ he says, already marching towards the door.

‘Any sign of the tongue?’ Liam calls after him. He stops where he is and turns to face us again, the look on his face suggests he thinks we are wasting his precious time.

‘Don’t you think I would’ve mentioned that?’ he asks, sarcasm dripping from every syllable. ‘No, I think the tongue has gone with whoever has done this.’

He turns around once more and leaves the building.

’I think we’re done here,’ I say to Liam. ‘The SOCO’s will let us know if anything else turns up.’

Liam nods in agreement. ‘Aren’t you glad you picked today to come back to work?’

‘Delighted,’ I mumble.

 

‘A Wash of Black’ is available from:-

Amazon – mybook.to/AWOB

Red Dog Press – www.reddpgpress.co.uk/shop – paperback and hardback editions

Also available in all Libraries and Bookstores – Independent or otherwise!

 

About Chris McDonald

Originally hailing from the north coast of Northern Ireland and now residing in South Manchester, Chris McDonald has always been a reader. At primary school, The Hardy Boys inspired his love of adventure, before his reading world was opened up by Chuck Palahniuk and the gritty world of crime.

He’s a fan of 5-a-side football, has an eclectic taste in music ranging from Damien Rice to Slayer and loves dogs.

 

Links

Twitter handles:

https://twitter.com/RedDogTweets

https://twitter.com/cmacwritescrime

Instagram handles:

@red_dog_press

@macreviewsbooks

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/reddogassociates

 

Rafflecopter Giveaway

Details: The prize is a signed Hardback edition of A Wash of Black, along with a Go Away I’m Reading Tote Bag and a Luxury Bookmark.

The giveaway runs from 28th Jan to 11th Feb, and we (Red Dog Press) will announce the randomly chosen winner on the evening of the 11th Feb (GMT)

Routes to entry are all on the giveaway link, but basically, sign up to Red Dog Press Reader’s Club (which also gets you discounts in our store, a free eBook, and latest news from us), following us on twitter. Entrants who tweet our promo tweet get two bonus entries.

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/YjU5MzljNjFlYTUzNDc2MTg3MzU5ZGUxYTgwMDU2OjI=/?

 

Blog Tour – ‘46% Better Than Dave’ by Alastair Puddick ~ @LoveBooksGroup @HankShandy

I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in this blog tour today.  ‘46% Better Than Dave’ is Alastair Puddick’s new book.  It was published as an eBook on the 15th October 2019 by Raven Crest Books and is also available in paperback.

I would like to thank Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group for inviting me to participate in this tour.  I have an extract from ‘46% Better Than Dave’ for you all which you can read after you have found out what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

A novel of jealousy, muddy shoes and giant barbecues.

Dave Brookman’s new next-door neighbour is ruining his life. Because in a bizarre coincidence, he’s also called Dave Brookman, he’s the same age and he even grew up in the same town. There is one big difference, though. This new Dave is vastly more successful in every way.

As Dave starts questioning everything about himself, suddenly his perfect life seems a lot less than perfect. And what starts as friendly rivalry soon turns into obsessive jealousy and crazy behaviour that could see Dave lose it all. Can he get a grip before it’s too late?

 

Extract

46% Better Than Dave by Alastair Puddick

SAMPLE 1

 

[Sample taken from Chapter 1]

“WHAT ARE YOU up to, you sneaky old bat?”

I was stood at my living room window, half concealed by the curtain, as I watched Doris from No. 34 handing out a tray of drinks to the removal men. They took them gratefully, then smiled and nodded politely as she seemed to witter on endlessly at them. I knew what she was doing, the nosy old cow. Probing them with questions. Trying to find out what she could about the people moving into the house next door to mine. I shook my head with disapproval and cursed myself for not having beaten her to it.

It was 10 minutes since I’d heard the truck arrive. I’d been in the garden, making the most of a fresh, sunny day, when the peace was broken by the loud, growling rumble of a diesel engine.

Instantly, I knew what it was. New neighbours.

It was a few weeks since the previous owners had moved out, and the rumour mill of the street had already been spinning into overdrive as to who might replace them. They must finally be moving in.

I put down my trowel, abandoned my half-planted rose bush and walked through the back door to investigate. My planting would have to wait, and the bottle of Peroni I had chilling in the fridge would have to continue chilling for a while.

“Catherine?” I called out into the quiet recesses of the house. “I think that’s a removal truck. Catherine?”

I walked through the kitchen, into the living room. “Catherine?”

Still no reply. Of course not. She’d said something about going to yoga with her annoying sister and I’d tuned out when she’d mentioned the name Karen.

“Jack? Holly?” I shouted up the stairs. Again, no reply.

I walked into the living room, picking up dirty football socks from the sofa. Bloody kids. The cat looked up at me from the armchair, squinting and meowing in annoyance at being disturbed. I know cats can’t actually express anything more than a simple meow, but I’m sure she was telling me to fuck off.

The cat and I have a fairly simple relationship. I tolerate her and she hates me. We’ve never got along since we got her, and the first thing she did upon arriving in her new house was to take a shit in my shoe. I knew I couldn’t really blame her. She was only a kitten. But there was something in her eye that suggested she knew exactly what she was doing.

Since then, she’s taken every opportunity to undermine and upset me: sitting on top of the bookcase and swiping at my head when I walk past; leaping out from behind chairs and digging her claws into my bare feet; nipping the backs of my ankles; scratching chair legs and bannisters while looking me directly in the eye; and repeatedly shitting in my shoes. Nobody else’s; just mine.

I swore back at the cat, kicking the armchair to make her jump. Then I moved to the large bay window, pulling the curtain to hide myself, and peered out at the enormous removal truck parked outside the house. The rumbling, coughing engine halted. Tiny electric shocks of curiosity tingled across my scalp.

Who were the new people moving in next door? The people who, like it or not, were about to become an inextricable part of my life. Would they be kind, generous people who quickly turn into life-long friends? Or irritating loudmouths who ruin my sleep and bring out my feuding tendencies? Or, like too many streets, in too many towns, neighbours that completely fail to communicate, save for the odd uncomfortable smile or nod across the lawn.

What would they be like? A sudden rush of fear prickled my skin.

Oh God, I thought, please let them be all right. No noisy louts. Or drum kits. Or late-night partiers. Or 7 a.m. bloody lawnmowers. And please don’t give me another Nigel.

 

Doesn’t the extract just make you want to read on?  ‘46% Better Than Dave’ is available to purchase from Amazon UK:-

https://amzn.to/2ozTsi2

 

About Alastair Puddick

Alastair Puddick is a writer and editor who has spent the past 20 years writing for a variety of magazines and websites. His work has spanned many different paths, from jetting off to exciting cities across the world to writing about dating advice, data centres, facilities management and the exciting world of flooring. He also once wrote an agony advice column posing as Elvis Presley’s ghost.

Alastair still works as a copywriter and lives in Sussex with his wife, Laura, and cat, George. He has written three novels: The Unexpected Vacation of George Thring, Killing Dylan and his newest book, 46% Better Than Dave.

 

Links

Website – https://alastairpuddick.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/HankShandy

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/alastairpuddickauthor/

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Weekender’ by Fay Keenan ~ @BoldwoodBooks @faykeenan

Big congratulations to Fay Keenan whose new book, ‘The Weekender’ is out today in paperback, eBook and as an audiobook, published by Boldwood Books.  This is the first book in the Willowbury series.

I am absolutely delighted to be helping to kick off the blog tour with an extract from ‘The Weekender’ for you all.  First though here’s the book blurb.

 

Book Blurb

When Charlie Thorpe met Holly Renton, they were not a match made in heaven…

Holly lives and works in the beautiful town of Willowbury in Somerset. An incorrigible optimist, she is determined to change the world for the better.

Charlie Thorpe on the other hand, is the ultimate pragmatist. As Willowbury’s new member of parliament, he has to be. While he’s determined to prove himself to the town, as far as Holly’s concerned, he’s just another politician on the make.

But when their paths cross again, it’s clear they’ve got more in common than they think. Can Holly and Charlie overcome their differences and work together, or are they destined to be forever on opposite sides? And why does Holly have a funny feeling she has met Charlie before…

Let Fay Keenan whisk you away to a world of glorious country views, unforgettable characters and once-in-a-lifetime love. Perfect for all fans of Fern Britton, Veronica Henry and Erica James.

 

Extract

1

‘White sage is all very well,’ Holly Renton reflected, ‘but the ashes are a bugger to get out of the carpet.’ Earlier that morning, before the shop had opened, Holly had carried out a ritual called smudging, which was meant to purify the energy in a building, promote positivity and remove negative energies. Picking up the dustpan and brush, she emptied the pungent remains of the dried herb bundle she’d ignited and then wafted around the windows and doors of the shop into the bin.

‘I know you recommend this all the time for other people’s houses, but why are you so bloody obsessed with doing it in the shop?’ Rachel, Holly’s sister, glanced down at where Holly was still brushing the rug under the mullioned front window of ComIncense, the shop specialising in herbal remedies and well-being aids that Holly ran in the sleepy but nonetheless New Age small town of Willowbury and smiled. Just beyond the shop’s counter, the door that led to Holly’s small back yard was open and Harry, Rachel’s three-year-old son and Holly’s nephew, was playing happily with a set of wooden animal-shaped blocks in their own lorry, which had come from a box of assorted toys that Holly kept specifically for the younger customers. Holly didn’t believe, unlike some of her business-owning neighbours, that children should be banned from places like hers, and since the early-spring weather was warm and pleasant, Harry had trundled out into the sunlight to play.

‘You’ve got to refresh places from time to time,’ Holly replied. ‘Especially when there’s been a lot of negative energy about, and since all of the scandal with Hugo Fitzgerald, I really felt like this place needed a spiritual cleanse!’

‘You can say that again,’ Rachel reached under the wooden apothecary’s dresser that displayed countless jars and pots of dried herbs and flowers, all purporting to be of some spiritual or physical benefit, to retrieve one of the toy llamas that Harry had thrown under it. ‘What a way to go…’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Holly replied, still sweeping. ‘At least, having had a massive coronary, he wouldn’t have known much about it.’

‘But what a waste of a good plate of scones and jam!’ Rachel grinned. ‘Mum told me that his constituency agent found him face down in them at his desk.’

‘I wouldn’t have fancied digging him out of them,’ Holly said. ‘But from the size of him, the heart attack was an accident waiting to happen. And gossip has it, he had his finger in a lot of pies, not just the odd plate of scones.’

‘Oh, you know how the rumour mill goes into overdrive when something like this happens.’ Rachel, who had more of a tendency to see the good in people than her sister did, dismissed Holly’s comments with a wave of her hand. ‘I mean, I’m not saying he wasn’t a prat, but nothing was ever proven about his financial misdemeanours. Although, I have to admit, since he couldn’t have given a stuff about Harry’s condition, and getting access to these new drugs, I’m hoping the new guy will be more receptive to the cause.’

‘It’s still bloody unfair that he gets to swan in here and take the seat after only the quietest by-election,’ Holly grumbled as she replaced the dustpan and brush on the shelf behind the counter. ‘I mean, the guy’s only a year older than me and he’s been parachuted into one of the safest seats in the country. Even if we have a change of government, he’s unlikely ever to lose his seat. What if he’s just as crap as Fitzgerald and couldn’t care less about us here in his constituency? We’re stuck with him until he chooses to retire.’

‘Give him a chance,’ Rachel said reasonably. ‘He might be good for this place.’

‘Have you made an appointment to see him yet?’ Holly asked, glancing down to where Harry was now building a tower of exotic wooden animals that was getting more and more precarious the higher it got.

From the outside, Harry looked like any other energetic three-year-old, but on the inside, it was a different story. Weeks after he’d been born, Rachel had been launched into a perpetually revolving carousel of physiotherapy, medications and experimental trials in an attempt to alleviate the chronic condition, cystic fibrosis, that would, in all likelihood, limit Harry’s life. The latest medication, which might make a huge difference to Harry’s life expectancy, was currently being held up because the government was still negotiating with the pharmaceutical company involved over a reasonable price to supply it to the National Health Service. How it was possible to put a cost on a life such as Harry’s was a source of increasing frustration and heartbreak for Rachel and the family.

‘Not yet,’ Rachel sighed. ‘If Hugo Fitzgerald couldn’t be arsed to do anything other than toe the party line, then why should this new guy be any better? Especially if he is a total rookie. I doubt he’ll stick his neck out for Harry.’

Noticing Rachel was, unusually for her, close to tears, Holly hurried around from behind the counter and gave her sister a hug. ‘Don’t let it get you down,’ she murmured. ‘I’ll always be right there with you, campaigning to get this little munchkin the treatment he deserves.’

‘I know,’ Rachel replied, giving Holly a shaky smile. ‘I’m fine, really. It’s just when he has a bad day, it reminds me of the challenges he’s facing, which will only get worse as he gets older. And knowing that the new medications could potentially make those challenges so much easier to face…’

‘We’ll get there,’ Holly said. ‘I’ll be with you every step of the way, like I always have been. And I still think it’s worth a punt with this new guy, you never know.’

‘I’ll try and get in to see him over the summer,’ Rachel replied, breaking the embrace from her sister and grabbing the last of the wooden animals to add to Harry’s tower of jungle wildlife. ‘Can I make a drink?’

‘Of course,’ Holly said. ‘I’ve got some organic fair-trade matcha tea in the kitchen.’

‘Is that the super-energising stuff?’ Rachel asked. ‘After being up with Harry last night, I could certainly do with a lift.’

‘Honestly, it’ll keep you going until midnight!’ Holly said. ‘Go on… you know you want to.’

‘All right,’ Rachel replied. ‘But if I end up buzzing around Willowbury like a wasp for the rest of the day, I’m blaming you.’

‘Fair enough. And make me a cup, too,’ Holly called as Rachel disappeared up the stairs to Holly’s flat above the shop. Popping the dustpan and brush behind the counter again, she continued the conversation, since Rachel had left the door to the flat open. ‘Perhaps I should give this new guy the benefit of the doubt,’ she said, adjusting the labels on the jars of dried herbs and plants on the dresser so they all pointed uniformly outwards. ‘After all, new blood could be a good thing.’

‘Perhaps we should be fair and reserve judgement until he’s been in the job a few months,’ Rachel said over the bubble of the kettle. ‘You never know, he could be just the tonic this place needs, politically.’

‘You always try to look on the bright side, don’t you?’

‘The Weekender’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07X3ZCF57/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

 

 

About Fay Keenan

Fay Keenan was born in Surrey and raised in Hampshire, before finally settling in the West Country. When Fay is not chasing her children around or writing, she teaches English at a local secondary school. She lives with her husband, two daughters, a cat, two chickens and a Weimaraner called Bertie in a village in Somerset, a county which provides her with endless inspiration for her novels.

Fay’s new novel ‘The Weekender’, published by Boldwood Books, is released on 28th November and was inspired by an old photograph, a lifelong love of politics, the iconic town of Glastonbury and the campaign for cystic fibrosis drugs. When Holly meets Charlie, sparks will fly! Available in paperback, ebook and audio, this novel was a real passion project.

Fay’s bestselling ‘Little Somerby’ trilogy explores the lives and loves of the residents of an idyllic Somerset village. Sprinkled with a liberal dose of cider and sauce, these novels are perfect for curling up with! Published by Aria Fiction, they are available in paperback, audio and ebook.

 

Links

Website – http://www.faykeenan.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/faykeenan

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/faykeenanauthor

Instagram – https://instagram.com/faykeenan

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Snow Killer’ by Ross Greenwood ~ @BoldwoodBooks @greenwoodross

Ross Greenwood is back with a brand new series and I for one am absolutely thrilled.  This author is sure going places and it is all very exciting.

‘The Snow Killer’, the first book in the DI Barton series, was published in paperback and as an eBook by Boldwood Books on the 12th November 2019.  For fans of audio it is available in both Audiobook and Audio CD formats.

I have an extract from ‘The Snow Killer’ for you all.  First though here’s the book blurb.

 

Book Blurb

‘Fear the north wind. Because no one will hear you scream…’

A family is gunned down in the snow but one of the children survives. Three years on, that child takes revenge and the Snow Killer is born. But then, nothing – no further crimes are committed, and the case goes cold.

Fifty years later, has the urge to kill been reawakened? As murder follows murder, the detective team tasked with solving the crimes struggle with the lack of leads. It’s a race against time and the weather – each time it snows another person dies.

As grizzled and exhausted DI Barton and his team scrabble around to put the pieces of the puzzle together, none of them stop long enough to realise the killer is hiding in plain sight. Meanwhile, the killings continue…

The first in a new series, Ross Greenwood has written a cracking, crackling crime story with a twist in its tale which will surprise even the most hardened thriller readers. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride.

 

Extract

WINTER

50 YEARS AGO

Chapter 1

 

I must have been ten years old when I first tidied up his drug paraphernalia. I didn’t want my sister crawling over it. We called her Special – a take on Michelle – because she was an enigma. Special was a term of endearment for us, funny how nowadays it could be considered an insult. She never spoke a single word and seemed more of a peaceful spirit than a physical entity. Give her a crayon or pencil and a piece of paper, though, and her smile filled the room.

I monitored my father’s habit through his mood swings or by how much time he spent in bed. The foil and needles increased rapidly just before we escaped London a few years back. I cried because both my parents left evidence of their addiction.

In many ways, my mother was as simple as Special. Swayed by my dominant father, she did everything he said, even though she had more common sense. Joining him in his heroin habit was inevitable.

Until the night we left, we took holidays and ate out in restaurants. I didn’t know where the money came from because I had no idea what my father did.

The evening we fled London, we packed our suitcases at ten at night and caught the last train to Peterborough, arriving at two in the morning. I recall beaming at my parents, especially when we checked into a huge hotel on the first night. My mum’s brother, Ronnie, lived nearby. When we eventually found him, he helped us move into a cottage in rural Lincolnshire, which was cheap for obvious reasons. The single storey building had five rooms and no internal doors. You could hear everything from any room – even the toilet.

Six months after we settled in our new home, I lay in the damp bed with my sister’s warm breath on my neck and heard my father casually say he’d shot the wrong man. The fact my mother wasn’t surprised shocked me more.

Life carried on. My parents continued to avoid reality. We ate a lot of sandwiches. Lincolnshire is only two hours north of London but it felt like the edge of the world after the hustle and bustle of the capital city. I walked the three miles to school. Special stayed at home where she painted and coloured. My mum sold Special’s pictures. She drew people and animals in a childish way, but they captivated people as the eyes in the pictures haunted the viewer.

One freezing night, my sister and I cuddled in bed and listened to another argument raging in the lounge. We had our own beds but only ever slept apart in the hot summer months. At six years old, she didn’t take up much room.

‘You did what?’ my mother shouted.

‘I saw an opportunity,’ my father replied.

‘What were you thinking?’

‘We’re broke. We needed the money.’

‘What you’ve done is put our family in danger. They’ll find us.’

‘They won’t think I took it.’

I might have been only fifteen years old, but I had eyes and ears. My parents constantly talked about money and drugs. By then, that was all they were interested in. That said, I don’t recall being unhappy, despite their problems. Normal life just wasn’t for them.

My mother’s voice became a loud, worried whisper. ‘What if they come for the money? The children are here.’

‘They won’t hurt them,’ my father said.

A hand slammed on the kitchen table. ‘We need to leave.’

‘It’s three in the morning and snowing. No one will look now. Besides, where would we go?’

‘We’re rich! We can stay where we like.’

Crazily, they laughed. I suppose that’s why they loved each other. They were both the same kind of mad.

That was the sixties and a different time. Not everyone spent their lives within earshot of a busy road. In fact, few people owned their own car. If you’ve ever lived deep in the countryside, you’ll know how quiet the long nights are. So it makes sense that I could hear the approaching vehicle for miles before it arrived. The put-put-put we gradually heard in unison that night sounded too regular for it to be my uncle’s ancient van. And anyway, good news doesn’t arrive in the middle of the night.

 

‘The Snow Killer’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Snow-Killer-start-explosive-Barton-ebook/dp/B07XLFWZ7D/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1574020017&sr=8-1-spons

 

About Ross Greenwood

Ross Greenwood, an author from Peterborough, has written six crime thrillers. He uses his experience of travelling and working all over the world to create layered believable characters that will capture your imagination. In 2011, Ross decided to take on a new challenge and became a prison officer. He writes murderers, rapists and thieves brilliantly because he worked with them every day for four years.

 

Links

Author Website: www.rossgreenwoodauthor.com

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/RossGreenwoodAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/greenwoodross

Amazon Author Page: Author.to/RossGreenwood

BookBub: www.bookbub.com/authors/ross-greenwood

Goodreads: bit.ly/RossGreenwood-GR

 

Blog Tour – ‘Stalker’ by Gemma Rogers ~ @BoldwoodBooks @GemmaRogers79

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for ‘Stalker’ by Gemma Rogers.  This book was published in paperback and as an eBook on the 10th September 2019 by Boldwood Books and is also available as an audiobook and Audio CD.  I would like to thank the publisher for inviting me to participate in this tour.

I have an extract from ‘Stalker’ for you all.  First though lets find out what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

‘My body reacted before I was even sure, the memory of him on my skin still fresh. I knew where he lived, where he hunted, and it wouldn’t be long before I knew his name.’

Eve Harding’s world implodes one Sunday morning when she is violently assaulted and raped walking to a South London train station.

As her attacker evades the Police and is left to roam the streets to stalk his next victim, Eve is forced to seek out her assailant before he strikes again.

With vengeance in mind, Eve is determined to find him in time and deliver justice on her own terms.

In a game of cat and mouse, who is stalking who?

A gritty crime thriller, asking how far would you go to seek justice. Perfect for fans of Caroline Kepnes’ You, Kimberley Chambers, Emma Tallon and Jessie Keane.

 

Extract

Chapter One

Saturday 27 January 2018

 

I’ve never been in trouble before. Not the sort of trouble that brought me here. Freshly painted, stark white walls surround me; their toxic scent lingers in the air. A fluorescent glow from strip lights so dazzling they must be there to desensitise the occupants. Everything is white or chrome, like I’m on the set of a futuristic movie. I swing my legs, which dangle over the edge of the bed, not quite reaching the floor. I do this for a minute to keep warm. Despite the blanket around my shoulders, I can’t help but shiver. It’s late and they didn’t bring my jacket. I guess it’s been taken away as evidence.

The woman in front of me is standing too close, hot breath on my arm. It makes me squirm and I fight the urge to yank my hand away from her grip. She’s holding it like I’m a china doll, fragile and easily broken. I dislike the invasion of my personal space. It’s something I’ve learnt to tolerate over the years. I was never a big fan of being touched, shrinking away if someone brushed past me or stood too close on public transport. I’m not a hugger either – no one was in the house where I grew up. After tonight, I can’t imagine I’ll let anyone touch me again.

Her name is Doctor Joyce Hargreaves, she told me as we entered the victim examination room. Her job, she said, was to collect evidence from me, which is why she was wearing a paper suit, so there wouldn’t be any cross-contamination. She hasn’t picked up on my anxiety, the tremor in my fingers; she’s too busy. Brows furrowed, eyes focused as she peels the plastic bag away from my bloodied hand to collect scrapings from my skin and beneath my fingernails. The tool she uses makes me nervous.

‘Is that a scalpel?’ my voice barely a whisper.

‘No, it’s a scraper. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt. This is just so I can make sure we collect any skin cells that may be buried underneath the tips of your nails. I’m afraid I’ll have to give them a trim in a minute too.’ She wields the scraper with care and it’s true, it doesn’t hurt. Physically I’m okay, except my throat is on fire and the ringing in my ears is deafening, timed perfectly with the throbbing of my face. I have a feeling I might feel worse once the adrenaline leaves my system.

When she finishes with my hands, she pulls the fallen blanket back over my shoulders and offers a kind smile as she pushes her glasses up her nose. I can see strands of greying hair trying to escape by her ear, exposed beneath the coverall hat. She wears no jewellery and her face is free of make-up. Was she on duty or has she been called out of her bed to attend to me? Would we recognise each other in different circumstances? Probably not, I must be one of many people that pass through this room every day.

Joyce delicately inserts each of the specimens into small tubes before labelling them to be sent for analysis. I don’t know why? I’ve told them what happened. Soon she’ll want to examine me thoroughly. Internally. Until there are no more swabs left to be taken.

She glances at me, knowing what is coming, what she must ask me to do. Her eyes are full of pity. I must look a mess. Dried blood on my face and chest is beginning to flake away, like charred skin falling into my lap. My cheek is puffy and the vision poor on my left side. I wish I could stop shivering. They said it’s shock and provided me with a mug of hot, sweet tea after the ambulance checked me over. They wanted to make sure the blood I am doused in isn’t mine. It isn’t.

 

‘Stalker’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://amzn.to/2lRuWaw

 

About Gemma Rogers

Gemma Rogers was inspired to write gritty thrillers by a traumatic event in her own life nearly twenty years ago. Stalker is her debut novel which Boldwood will publish in September 2019 and marks the beginning of a new writing career. Gemma lives in West Sussex with her husband, two daughters and bulldog Buster.

 

Links

Own website: www.gemmarogersauthor.co.uk

Profile on our website: https://www.boldwoodbooks.com/contributor/gemma-rogers/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/JessicaRedlandWriter/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GemmaRogersAuthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/GemmaRogers79

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Orphan Daughter’ by Sheila Riley ~ @BoldwoodBooks @1sheilariley

It is a real pleasure to be taking part in this blog tour today.  ‘The Orphan Daughter’, the first book in the Reckoner’s Row series, was published in paperback and as an eBook on the 5th September 2019 by Boldwood Books and is also available as an audiobook and audio CD.  I would like to thank the publisher for inviting me to participate in this tour.

I have an extract from ‘The Orphan Daughter’ for you all.  First though here is what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

Winter, Liverpool 1947.

Evie Kilgaren is a fighter. Abandoned by her mother and with her father long gone, she is left to raise her siblings in dockside Liverpool, as they battle against the coldest winter on record. But she is determined to make a life for herself and create a happy home for what’s left of her family.

Desperate for work, Evie takes a job at the Tram Tavern under the kindly watch of pub landlady, and pillar of the community, Connie Sharp. But Connie has problems of her own when her quiet life of spinsterhood is upturned with the arrival of a mysterious undercover detective from out of town.

When melting ice reveals a body in the canal, things take a turn for the worst for the residents of Reckoner’s Row. Who could be responsible for such a brutal attack? And can Evie keep her family safe before they strike again?

A gritty, historical family drama full of laughter and tears from the author of Annie Groves’ bestsellers including Child of the Mersey and Christmas on the Mersey. Perfect for fans of Lyn Andrews, Katie Flynn and Nadine Dorries.

 

Extract

CHAPTER 1

SUMMER 1946

Nineteen-year-old Evie Kilgaren gathered her mane of honey-coloured hair into a loop of knicker elastic before taking a vase of heavy-scented lilies and freesias into the kitchen. The flowers were barely faded when she rescued them from the churchyard bin that morning.

Placing them in the centre of the table, she hoped their heady scent would mask the smell of damp that riddled every dwelling in the row of terraced houses opposite the canal and add a bit of joy to the place.

‘Who’s dead?’ her mother, Rene, asked. Her scornful retort was proof she had already been at the gin and Evie’s heart sank. She had wanted today to be special. Surely her dead father’s birthday warranted a few flowers. Even if they were knockoffs from the church – at least she had made an effort, which was more than her mother had.

‘I got them for Dad’s…’ Evie was silenced by the warning flash in her mother’s dark eyes. A warning she had seen many times before. Rene gave a hefty sniff, her eyes squinting to focus, her brow wrinkled, and her olive skin flushed. Evie knew that when her mother had drunk enough ‘mother’s ruin’, she could be the life and soul of any party or, by contrast, one over could make her contrary and argumentative.

‘I thought they’d look nice on the table,’ Evie answered lightly, quickly changing her answer to try and keep the peace. She should have known better than to mention her father in front of Leo Darnel, who’d moved in as their lodger six months ago and taken no time at all getting his feet under her mother’s eiderdown. ‘I found a vase in…’ Her voice trailed off. Her mother wasn’t listening. As usual, she’d disappeared into the parlour to darken her finely shaped eyebrows with soot from the unlit grate – make-up was still on ration – dolling herself up for her shift behind the bar of the Tram Tavern. The tavern was barely a stone’s throw away on the other side of the narrow alleyway running alongside their house, so why her mother felt the need to dress to the nines was anybody’s guess.

Out of the corner of her eye, Evie noticed a sudden movement from their lodger, who was standing near the range, which she had black-leaded that morning. Leo Darnel didn’t like her and that was fine, because she didn’t like him either.

He was a jumped-up spiv who tried to pass himself off as a respectable businessman. Respectable? He didn’t know the meaning of the word, she thought, her eyes taking in the polished leather Chesterfield suite that cluttered the room and seemed out of place in a small backstreet terraced house.

‘None of your utility stuff,’ he’d said, pushing out his blubbery chest like a strutting pigeon. All the time he had a wonky eye on the bedroom door. He would do anything to keep her mother sweet and made it obvious every chance he got to show Evie she was in the way.

He’d been very quiet for the last few minutes, Evie realised. That wasn’t like Darnel . He was up to something, she could tell. He hadn’t interrupted with a sarcastic comment as he usually did when she and her mother were having a tit-for-tat. His self-satisfied smirk stretched mean across thin lips as he hunched inside a crisp white shirt and peered at her.

His beady eyes looked her up and down as he chewed a spent matchstick at the corner of his mouth before turning back to the grate. His piggy eyes were engrossed in the rising flames of something he had thrown onto the fire. Her attention darted to the blaze casting dancing flares of light across the room.

‘No!’ Evie heard the gasp of horror and disbelief coming from her own lips. How could he be so callous? How could he? As he stepped back with arms outstretched like he was showing off a new sofa, Evie could see exactly what he had done.

‘You burned them!’ Evie cried, hurrying over to the range, pushing Darnel out of her way and grabbing the brass fire tongs from the companion set on the hearth, desperate to save at least some of the valuable night-school work.

Two years of concentrated learning to prove she was just as good as all the rest – reduced to ashes in moments. Thrusting the tongs into the flames again and again was hopeless Her valuable notes disintegrated.

‘Mam, look! Look what he’s done!’ Her blue eyes blazed as hotly as the flames licking up the chimney.

‘You are not the only one who can crawl out of the gutter? Mr High-and-mighty!’ Evie was breathless when her burst of anger erupted, watching the flames envelope her books, turning the curling pages to ash. She balled her work-worn hands, roughly red through cleaning up after other people and pummelled his chest. Why? She caught his mocking eyes turn to flint before being dealt a quick backhander that made her head spin.

Her nostrils, which only moments before had been filled with the sweet fragrance of summer freesias and Mansion polish, were now congested with blood as traitorous tears rolled down her cheek. Evie dashed them away with the pad of her hand, ashamed and angry because he was privy to her vulnerability. Her pale blue eyes dashed from the range to her mother, who was now standing in the doorway shaking painted nails.

 

‘The Orphan Daughter’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Orphan-Daughter-Sheila-Riley/dp/1838893202/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

About Sheila Riley

Sheila Riley wrote four #1 bestselling novels under the pseudonym Annie Groves and is now writing a new saga trilogy under her own name. She has set it around the River Mersey and its docklands near to where she spent her early years.  She still lives in Liverpool.

 

Links

Sheila’s Own website: http://my-writing-ladder.blogspot.com/

Sheila’s Profile on our website – https://www.boldwoodbooks.com/contributor/sheila-riley/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/1sheilariley

 

Blog Blitz – ‘Hidden’ by Lisa Sell @Bloodhoundbook @LisaLisax31

‘Hidden’ by Lisa Sell was published as an eBook on the 27th August 2019 by Bloodhound Books and is also available in paperback.  I am delighted to be closing this blog blitz along with two fellow book bloggers.  I would like to thank Heather Fitt for inviting me to participate.

I have an extract for you all.  First though here’s what the book is all about.

 

 

Book Blurb

Jen Taylor has a secret.

In 1987 the body of fourteen-year-old Kelly was found on a railway track and Jen believes she was responsible for her death.

Now an adult, Jen is approached by Kelly’s mother, who asks her to help investigate her daughter’s murder.

But Jen is hiding more than anyone knows.

As the investigation is reopened by Jen, along with her former friend Claire, secrets from the past come to light and when another murder takes place, the case takes a sinister turn.

Did Jen really kill Kelly and can she ever right the wrongs of the past?

 

Extract

Chapter 4

14th September 1987

Not wanting to be around Kelly wasn’t about losing credibility. Jen didn’t care if others mocked her and she already knew the consequences of judgement. Troddington looked down upon the council estate that blighted the town’s reputation. She ignored the sneers when people discovered where she lived. They didn’t see the estate’s camaraderie and its ethos of belonging. For Jen, it housed some of the best individuals a girl could know. She had Claire Woods, also from Renoir Road, for female companionship. More than this, there was Johnny Rose, from Turner Road.

Going to school with Kelly would end walking with Johnny. He was her best friend and a crush she’d harboured for years, never to be declared. Their lives became entwined when their families moved to the estate, six years earlier.

Johnny wouldn’t object to Kelly’s company. For a member of the Rose family, criticism was a regular occurrence. The problem was he left earlier than Doreen stated Kelly must leave. Like Jen, Johnny parented within his household. Early every weekday he took his brother, Benny, to the childminder, even though their mum didn’t work. Johnny’s brothers, Anthony and Ian, were too lazy and selfish to help. Johnny didn’t mind spending time with Benny. He adored the child.

The arrangement for Jen to accompany Kelly was confusing. Patricia and Doreen didn’t move in the same social circles. Patricia often made snide comments about ‘that disgusting Pratt family’. She detested the estate and regularly phoned the council, demanding a new home. The Pratts were one of her many reasons for leaving. They were one of the poorest families on the Rembrandt Estate. Doreen and Kelly wore jumble sales’ offerings because of Graham’s tight hold upon his wallet. His girls made do so he could make happy in the pub.

The Pratts’ frugal world was far removed from Patricia’s. She focused on social climbing in a mission to swap the crassness of a council estate for a cul-de-sac idyll. In the interim, she maintained the appearance of helping those less fortunate and seeking their adoration. Jen walking to school with Kelly became part of her manifesto.

The rebellious sound of her shoes scuffing against the kerb invigorated Jen. Patricia wouldn’t abide an expensive pair of Clarks shoes being ruined. Wearing them was a trade-off for Jen’s choice of uniform trousers. For once, her dad mediated.

Jen decided to make the best of a bad situation. Kelly couldn’t help what she’d been born into, any more than Jen. Maybe Kelly also lay in bed at night, planning a future that involved leaving her parents behind. Jen was certain Kelly’s dreams didn’t include being Johnny’s wife. Her tummy somersaulted at the deliciousness of the idea. Thoughts of marrying Johnny at Gretna Green and riding off into the sunset on a Lambretta, consumed her. The daydream shattered as she crashed into a pillar of knitwear and costume jewellery.

Sally Ponting made a show of using a wall for balance. ‘Watch where you’re going, Jennifer.’

Sally brushed away the invisible taint from her 1950s style twinset. She had one for every occasion, in every imaginable colour. The sleeve lengths changed with the seasons. A coiffured helmet head of hairspray topped each outfit.

‘Sorry, Mrs Ponting.’ Jen played nice. It would make life easier after Sally reported the incident to Patricia. In her mind, Jen apologised to “Picky Ponting”, an estate nickname. In reality, being rude to one of Patricia’s catty crew wasn’t wise.

Sally looked towards the Pratts’ house. ‘I see Patricia has arranged for you to walk with Kelly. I assume that’s where you’re going?’

‘Yes.’ Jen always lost her words around Patricia’s cronies.

‘Kelly’s often bullied. I’m so glad your mother sorted this out. She’s such a wonderful giving woman.’

Jen gave a saccharine smile. Sally wouldn’t sing Patricia’s praises if she’d overheard her bitching the previous day about how Sally belonged with the other rough elements on Pollock Road.

Fluffing her hair, Sally moved along. Jen headed for the Pratts’ house. Although only around a corner, the leap from Renoir Road to Pollock Road was pronounced. Jen noted pristine pavements morphing into an obstacle course of neglect. Kicking a crumpled can of shandy channelled her anger at Patricia, who wouldn’t be seen dead there.

A realisation hit Jen. This was how she could turn it around and be a winner. She wasn’t a snob, like Patricia, and never would be.

She knocked on the Pratts’ door, deciding to walk to school with Kelly, willingly. They might even become friends. Stranger things had happened.

 

‘Hidden’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hidden-absolutely-gripping-crime-mystery-ebook/dp/B07WSMH7Y7/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1567055829&sr=8-1

 

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a thriller, crime, and mystery writer who also scribbles short stories. Throughout her writing career she’s blogged about the twists and turns on her site: www.lisasell.co.uk

To combat writer’s bum and keep mentally fit, Lisa is a runner. The consequence is she’s now a running bore but is proud of her achievements.

When she’s reading, Lisa practically hoovers up books. The to-be-read pile has become a tower, threatening to topple on her when she’s sleeping.

Music rocks Lisa’s world too, particularly a good eighties tune. If lost, you’ll find Lisa in a DeLorean, headed for her favourite decade.

Lisa’s cats, Feegle and Wullie, try to help her write but often fail. The furry pests demand attention and desk space. Lisa is currently applying for cat wrangling to be recognised as an Olympic sport.

Lisa is a happy pup to be part of the Bloodhound Books team. Just don’t tell the cats.

If you’d like to visit Lisa’s website/blog, click here: http://www.lisasell.co.uk or find out more by following her on social media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lisasellwriter

Twitter: @LisaLisax31

Instagram: www.instagram.com/lisasellwriter/

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Catherine Howard Conspiracy’ by Alexandra Walsh ~ @SapereBooks @purplemermaid25

‘The Catherine Howard Conspiracy’ is the first book in The Marquess House Trilogy.  It was published as an eBook on the 28th March 2019 by Sapere Books and is also available in paperback.  I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour together with a number of other book bloggers and would like to thank Caoimhe O’Brien for inviting me to participate.

I have an extract from the book for all of you.  First though, here’s what its about.

 

 

Book Blurb

A timeshift thriller that will have you completely gripped! Perfect for fans of Dan Brown, Philippa Gregory, Kate Mosse and Tom Harper.

What secrets were covered up at the court of Henry VIII …?

 

Whitehall Palace, England, 1539

When Catherine Howard arrives at the court of King Henry VIII to be a maid of honour in the household of the new queen, Anne of Cleves, she has no idea of the fate that awaits her.

Catching the king’s fancy, she finds herself caught up in her uncle’s ambition to get a Howard heir to the throne.

Terrified by the ageing king after the fate that befell her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Catherine begins to fear for her life…

Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2018

Dr Perdita Rivers receives news of the death of her estranged grandmother, renowned Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy.

Mary inexplicably cut all contact with Perdita and her twin sister, Piper, but she has left them Marquess House, her vast estate in Pembrokeshire.

Perdita sets out to unravel their grandmother’s motives for abandoning them, and is drawn into the mystery of an ancient document in the archives of Marquess House, a collection of letters and diaries claiming the records of Catherine Howard’s execution were falsified…

What truths are hiding in Marquess House? What really happened to Catherine Howard?

And how was Perdita’s grandmother connected to it all?

 

THE CATHERINE HOWARD CONSPIRACY is the first book in the Marquess House trilogy, a dual timeline conspiracy thriller with an ingenious twist on a well-known period of Tudor history.

 

Extract

“She’s not in the least bit ugly,” whispered Catherine to Isabel as they watched the Lady Anne of Cleves disembark from her coach. She looked a little tired, but after weeks on the road, and the terrible delays caused by harsh weather, this was unsurprising. Unconsciously, Catherine’s fingers went to the beautiful silver locket hanging around her neck. Isabel and Edward had given it to her for Christmas. A delicate pattern was engraved on the front and it was set with a perfect diamond at its centre. It was the first piece of jewellery Catherine had ever owned and she was delighted with it.

“Of course, she isn’t,” replied Isabel. “The king can often be unkind.”

“Careful, Issy,” hissed a low voice. “Bess Seymour’s over there. She hears everything.”

Catherine and Isabel glanced around. Sure enough, Lady Elizabeth Seymour, younger sister of the former queen, Jane Seymour, and aunt to the heir to the throne, had moved within earshot of the Howard women. She nodded her greeting and turned her attention back to the events playing out before her.

“Lady Cromwell looks as though there’s a bad smell under her nose,” whispered Lady Rochford, the person who had first hissed the warning to Catherine and Isabel.

“Wouldn’t you look like that if you were married to the grandson of a brewer?” replied Isabel tartly. The two women laughed derisively.

“I thought you said she was Lady Seymour,” whispered Catherine, confused. It was one of the things she had noticed at court; people with titles seemed to have so many different variations on their names that she lost track of who was who, let alone who was married to whom or who was secretly meeting in the dark of the grounds at night.

“She married Gregory Cromwell not long ago,” whispered Isabel.

“And who’s he?” asked Catherine, wanting to join in the joke but finding it hard to believe the aunt to Prince Edward, the future king, had married such a lowly man.

Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, took Catherine’s hand and nodded towards the group of men greeting the queen.

“See the tall one, quite young, good looking?” Catherine nodded; it was the man who had winked at her in the corridor on her first day at court. “That’s Gregory Cromwell, son of Sir Thomas Cromwell.”

“The Lord Privy Seal?” gasped Catherine.

Jane Boleyn nodded.

“Yes, the son of the man who was instrumental in having my beloved husband George beheaded, and our dear cousin accused of so many barbarous things before she, too, had her head chopped off by her insane husband.” Jane’s voice was low and bitter.

“Careful, Jane,” warned Isabel. “The Seymours and the Cromwells are a formidable power.”

Catherine stared at Lady Cromwell in wide-eyed wonder. The politics of court seemed so complex and here was a living embodiment of one of the worst times in the king’s reign. It had been the moment the people around him had realised Henry was no longer the romantic, chivalric prince who had inherited the throne from his father, but that he was slowly becoming a terrifying tyrant.

“What do you think of her dress?” asked Margaret Douglas, changing the subject.

“It’s — er — unusual,” said Jane, trying to be polite.

“The fabric is gorgeous,” sighed Catherine, “I’m sure we can help her with English styles, she’s obviously not aware of our fashions.”

“You’re a sweet thing, Kitten,” said Margaret, smiling at Catherine, who blushed. She turned back to look at the queen, wondering what it would be like to wear a dress made from sumptuous cloth of gold. Would it be heavy? After all, the cloth was made from real metal strands woven with silk. She tried to imagine how it would feel, then mentally shook herself. She was delighted to be wearing velvet and satin. What right did she have to yearn after cloth of gold? Her new wardrobe, supplied by her uncle, Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, and her sister and her husband, still thrilled her. Never before had she had so much choice and never had her clothes been so exquisitely made.

“Yes, Kitty, you’re right,” agreed Carey. “The fabric is beautiful but the style is extremely unflattering. We must try to persuade her into something more elegant.”

“I suppose it must be what they wear in Cleves,” said Jane.

“Yes, but she’s in England now,” said Margaret. “And looking like that, she’s never going to win the king round, especially after their disastrous first meeting.”

“What happened?” asked Jane. “No one seems to know, or if they do, no one’s talking.”

“The duchess of Suffolk told me,” said Margaret. She dropped her voice to a whisper and the Howard girls stepped closer to listen while still half-watching the gleaming parade and displays of welcome for the Lady Anne.

“You know how obsessed the king is with the idea of chivalry and King Arthur?” she began, the others nodded. “Well, he was so in love with the Lady Anne’s portrait, he decided he’d surprise her disguised as a servant, convinced true love would intercede and she would recognise him, so their first meeting would be one of love, honour and mystery.”

“What happened?” gasped Catherine.

“He stormed in dressed as a servant, carrying a gift for the queen,” continued Margaret. “Then, before she’d really grasped what was going on, he grabbed her and kissed her. She was horrified. She pushed him away and began shouting at him in German, ordering he be removed. He was furious. He stalked out of the room and returned in full royal purple, festooned with jewels. She was devastated and threw herself on her knees, but the damage was done. That’s why he’s being so rude about her — no one had told her we’re all supposed to pretend he’s still the handsome young prince who inherited the throne nearly thirty-one years ago.”

“Margaret, be careful, that’s treason,” whispered Isabel, conscious of the fact Elizabeth Seymour had edged even closer.

Margaret glanced over and smiled winningly at Lady Cromwell.

“Nosy old hag,” she murmured under her breath to the others. Catherine stifled a giggle.

“But what about the queen?” asked Catherine, who felt desperately sorry for the poor young woman.

“She doesn’t speak English, so she didn’t really understand what was going on,” whispered Margaret. “Although, today I heard one of the rumours about their meeting confirmed.”

“What?” asked Carey.

“Apparently, the king’s doing everything he can to wriggle out of the marriage.”

“No!” Catherine exclaimed, appalled. She had hoped this suggestion had merely been spiteful court gossip.

“He summoned Thomas Cromwell this morning, told him he had to make this good; find a way out for the king. Lady Cromwell might well be looking smug at the moment, but if her father-in-law can’t find a loophole in the paperwork, Uncle Henry is going to be very, very cross indeed.”

Catherine watched Anne as Henry, dressed in matching finery, led her from the elaborate throne where she had presided over the ceremonies. Her long, dark hair was covered in a blonde wig but underneath it was a sweet, oval face with dark eyes and delicate, pink-tinged skin. She wasn’t ugly, thought Catherine. She was pretty in a similar way to Jane Seymour, but her colouring was different. Although she was smiling, Catherine thought the new queen looked wary and guarded. She may not speak the language, but she was an educated woman and Catherine was sure she must have picked up on the undercurrents. Perhaps she, like the king, was merely playing along and hoping that someone would rescue her before it was too late.

Isabel exchanged a glance with Katherine Willoughby, the duchess of Suffolk, who was standing to one side, ready to lead the procession, then prodded Jane and Catherine in front of her.

“Come along, girls. It’s time for us to join the queen and be officially introduced,” she said and began organising them. Margaret Douglas, the king’s niece, led the way with Katherine Willoughby, the duchess of Suffolk. Catherine Howard moved back to stand with Lady Carey, while Jane and Isabel followed Margaret.

“We are but lowly maids,” sighed Carey as they waited for the great ladies of the new queen’s household to go ahead of them.

Catherine nodded, but in the midst of all the political crosscurrents, she was happy to be a lowly maid, invisible, insignificant and unimportant.

~~~~~

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  ‘The Catherine Howard Conspiracy’ is available to purchase from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Catherine-Howard-Conspiracy-gripping-conspiracy-ebook/dp/B07ML4LN96/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1557772309&sr=1-1-fkmrnull-spons

 

About Alexandra Walsh

From tales spun for her teddies when she was a child (usually about mermaids) to film scripts, plays and novels, Alexandra Walsh has always been a storyteller. Words are her world. For over 25 years, she has been a journalist writing for a wide range of publications including national newspapers and glossy magazines. She spent some years working in the British film industry, as well as in television and radio: researching, advising, occasionally presenting and always writing.

Books dominate Alexandra’s life. She reads endlessly and tends to become a bit panicky if her next three books are not lined up and waiting. Characters, places, imagery all stay with her and even now she finds it difficult to pass an old wardrobe without checking it for a door to Narnia. As for her magical letter when she was 11, she can only assume her cat caught the owl!

Alexandra’s other passion is history, particularly the untold tales of women. Whether they were queens or paupers, their voices resonate with their stories, not only about their own lives but about ours, too. The women of the Tudor court have inspired her novels. Researching and writing The Marquess House Trilogy (Book One: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy) has brought together her love of history, mysteries and story telling.

 

Links

Website: http://www.alexandrawalsh.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/purplemermaid25

Blog Tour – ‘An Abiding Fire’ by M. J. Logue ~ @SapereBooks @Hollie_Babbitt

I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for ‘An Abiding Fire’ by M. J. Logue, the first Thomazine and Major Russell Thrillers book, published in paperback and as an eBook by Sapere Books.  I would like to thank Caoimhe O’Brien for inviting me to take part.

I have an extract for you to read, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

 

Book Blurb

How do you solve a murder when you are one of the suspects?

1664, London

Life should be good for Major Thankful Russell and his new bride, Thomazine. Russell, middle-aged and battle-scarred, isn’t everyone’s idea of the perfect husband for an eligible young woman but the moment Thomazine set eyes on her childhood hero, she knew they were destined for one another.

But Russell, a former Roundhead, now working for the King’s intelligence service, was never going to have a simple life in Restoration London.

Unable to shake suspicions of his Parliamentarian past, someone seems hell-bent on ruining his reputation — and his life.

Whispers about his sister’s violent murder follow him and accusations of treason abound.

When more deaths occur Russell finds himself under suspicion.

He is ready to escape from the capital, but Thomazine is determined to find the truth and clear the name of the man she loves.

But who is the real killer and why are they so keen to frame Russell? More importantly, will they succeed?

And has Thomazine’s quest put them all in mortal danger?

 

Extract

Prologue

Four Ashes, Buckinghamshire, England

November 1663

She looked up as he entered the room, her eyes narrowing to see him in the gloom of a few meagre tapers. A paltry display for such a family, and on such a bitter midwinter night. It gave him enough light to see her clearly, though, and he was astonished at the change in her: but then it had been ten years and they had not been kind years for Fly-Fornication Coventry.

She had always been for the King, during the late wars, and it must have gone hard with her to have had a brother who was not only a most notorious rebel and subversive, but who had narrowly escaped being executed for his political beliefs with a pack of fellow Dissenters and horse-thieves calling themselves the Levellers. And he had not had the grace to slide into obscurity after his grudging pardon, but instead had gone on to serve quite conspicuously in the Army of General Monck after the King was restored.

It must have been bitter as wormwood for her to know that he was still out there in the world, that those sins of which she had spoken, at such length, with such contempt, had gone unpunished and that he was still unrepentant.

Bitterness had withered her. Her hair was hidden by the same stiff starched cap, untouched by fashion or flattery, but her eyebrows were as dark and uncompromising as ever. She was not an unattractive woman for a widow in her late fifties. She was as tall and slender as her brother and her shoulders were straight. He found himself quite admiring her, actually. Not as a woman, but as a fierce thing of beauty, like a falcon or a well-made sword.

“Well,” she said. And that was all.

He bowed with as much ostentation as he could because he had been on the peripheries of court these four years and more and he had learned the weapons of vicious courtesy. “I am glad to see you well, Mistress Coventry. After so long absent.”

“As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly. Should I say I am as glad to see you? Well, I won’t.” She smiled, which was unexpected. “I do not lie, sir. I am not in the least glad to see you. Prinked out in your degenerate finery — ‘For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness.’ Do you seek to impress me, you nasty, womanish thing?”

“Good lord, no,” he said mildly, and she lowered her head and glowered at him.

“Less of your blasphemy. This is a godly house. What do you want?”

She had not invited him to sit or offered him hospitality and he was glad of that. She still made him nervous, for all he had not set eyes on her in ten years, though she had no power over him because for all her malice she was no more than a woman, and a thin, bloodless, bitter one at that.

“I wanted to assure myself of your continued good health,” he said and dropped his eyes to hide that particular lie.

“Did you. Well. I wonder why, since you never did before when you were drinking and whoring all over the county, keeping your low company?”

“They say hereabouts that you are grown … odd, mistress. That you grow overly zealous, even more than you were previous, and that none of your servants will stay longer than a few weeks with you, for your harshness. That you can be cruel and whimsical in your ways.” He took a deep breath and went on, “That you are often alone in this house at night, for such staff as can bear your intolerance will not stay under the same roof. Is that true?”

Her dark eyes, ringed about with tender blue shadows, lifted to his face. “True? What concern is it of yours?”

He was still on his feet. It was easy to go and stand over her and set his hands on her shoulders. Such slight, narrow shoulders, for all their straightness. Her bodice, close to, was shabby: a little shrunken at the seams, unevenly faded, as if it had been remade from another garment and covered by an old-fashioned linen collar that had a darn at the fold. A fine darn, but a darn, nonetheless. “There is not the money here to pay a servant’s hire, is there, mistress?” he said gently. “You have lost all, since the wars. Have you not?”

She almost rose from her seat, an unlovely blush mottling her cheeks and her neck. “How dare you, sir —”

And he put his hands about her slight throat and snapped her neck, as simply as that. Like snapping a coney’s when it was snared, and with as little emotion.

She was not expecting it and she did not struggle, after that initial convulsion; she only hung between his two hands with her dark eyes blank and staring at him and her mouth slightly ajar.

He was not as frightened as he thought he would be. She was dead and it had been easy. He did not feel anything, apart from a slight repulsion as a sliver of saliva drooled from her lolling mouth.

Such little bones. So frail. Not like her brother, not at all like her brother, in the end. For Thankful Russell was still alive and Fly was distinctly dead.

~~~~~

‘An Abiding Fire’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

http://getbook.at/AnAbidingFire

 

About M. J. Logue

M. J. Logue (as in cataLOGUE and epiLOGUE and not, ever, loge, which is apparently a kind of private box in a theatre) wrote her first short novel on a manual typewriter aged seven. It wasn’t very good, being about talking horses, but she made her parents sit through endless readings of it anyway.

Thirty-something years later she is still writing, although horses only come into it occasionally these days. Born and brought up in Lancashire, she moved to Cornwall at the turn of the century (and has always wanted to write that) and now lives in a granite cottage with her husband, and son, five cats, and various itinerant wildlife.

After periods of employment as a tarot reader, complaints call handler, executive PA, copywriter and civil servant, she decided to start writing historical fiction about the period of British history that fascinates her – the 17th century.

Her first series, covering the less than stellar career of a disreputable troop of Parliamentarian cavalry during the civil wars, was acclaimed by reviewers as “historical fiction written with elegance, wit and black humour” – but so many readers wanted to know whether fierce young lieutenant Thankful Russell ever did get his Happy Ever After, that the upcoming series of romantic thrillers for Sapere Books began.

Get in touch with MJ

She can be found on Twitter @Hollie_Babbitt, lurking on the web at asweetdisorder.com, and posting photos of cake, cats and extreme embroidery on Instagram as asweetdisorder.

Blog Tour – ‘Sea Babies’ by Tracey Scott-Townsend ~ #LoveBooksGroupTours @LoveBooksGroup @authortrace @Wildpressed

It is a real pleasure to be taking part in this blog tour.  ‘Sea Babies’ was published as an eBook on the 21st February 2019 by Wild Pressed Books and will be available in paperback from the 1st May 2019.  I would like to thank Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group for inviting me to participate in this tour.

I have an extract from ‘Sea Babies’ for all of you.  First though, here’s what the book is about.

 


Book Blurb

Lauren Wilson is travelling by ferry to the Outer Hebrides, about to begin a new job as a social worker. When somebody sits opposite her at the cafeteria table, she refuses to look up, annoyed at having her privacy disturbed. But a hand is pushing a mug of tea towards her, and a livid scar on the back of the hand releases a flood of memories.                                                   

Some people believe in the existence of a parallel universe. Does Lauren have a retrospective choice about the outcome of a terrible recent accident, or is it the bearer of that much older scar who has the power to decide what happens to her now? 

 

Extract

I picture a slightly older Sheena with a toddler in her arms, the little girl’s skin the colour of toffee just like in the photos of Sheena before she messed up her face with piercings, and her neck with a foster-brother’s attempt at a home-made tattoo.

The ends of my fingers go numb from pressing so hard into Sheena’s handiwork.

I’ll lose myself in my book. I wish I could revisit my young self and give her some helpful advice like Henry in The Time Traveller’s Wife. He also visits his future wife when she’s only six years old, and gently eases her into the difficulties to come. If I could go back in time there are several things I’d put right. One would be rectifying the biggest regret of my life. Another would be to stick with Sheena – see her through her troubled adolescence. If I could only pay her a visit when she was six, take her away before things got too bad. In the end I gave Sheena five years, which is more than I gave the other special girl in my life.

The ferry lurches. My fingers tighten on the Kindle and I concentrate on breathing steadily in, out. It feels cold in my head. But I read doggedly on and before long I’ve re-immersed myself in the story of Henry and Claire. I’m at the part where Claire sees Henry in the present for the first time when she’s visiting the—

What the…?

Some bawheid is sliding into the seat opposite me. Plonking a couple of mugs of tea down, both of which overspill slightly when a galumphing foot nudges one of the metal poles that hold up the table. For God’s sake, it’s not as if there are no empty tables around. I deliberately came in late for this reason. I just wannae be alone. So I keep my head down to avoid acknowledging whoever’s squeezed himself (I catch a glimpse of a hairy hand) into the bench opposite me and is now, I notice from the corner of my eye, pushing one of the mugs towards me.

The cheek o’ it!

Despite my struggles to avoid looking, something about the hand nudges my consciousness.

The thing that’s familiar. A scar, running across the back of it from the bottom knuckle of the forefinger to just below the wrist bones.

It’s Neil’s scar, the one I gave him with the vegetable knife shortly before we split up.

~~~~~

‘Sea Babies’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://amzn.to/2S4gydb

 

About Tracey Scott-Townsend

Tracey is the author of The Last Time We Saw Marion, Of His Bones, The Eliza Doll and Another Rebecca. Her fifth novel, Sea Babies will be released on 1st May 2019 in paperback. Her poetry collection, So Fast was published in January 2018.

Tracey is also a visual artist. All her work is inspired by the emotions of her own experiences and perceptions.

Tracey is the mother of four grown-up children and now spends a lot of time travelling in a small camper van with husband Phil and their rescue dogs, Pixie and Luna, gathering her thoughts and writing them down.

 

Links

Author

Twitter – https://twitter.com/authortrace

Publisher

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Wildpressed

 

Blog Tour – ‘Sky’s the Limit’ by Janie Millman ~ @DomePress @ChezCastillon

‘Sky’s the Limit’ was published on the 2nd August 2018 in paperback by The Dome Press and is also available as an eBook.  I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour and would like to thank Emily Glenister for inviting me to participate.

I have an extract from the book for all of you.  First though, here’s what it is about.

 

Book Blurb

Sky is devastated when she finds that her husband is in love with someone else, even more that it is her oldest friend, Nick. She has lost the two most important men in her life and can’t ever trust either of them again.

To escape, she goes alone on a dream trip to Marrakesh and meets Gail, on a mission to meet the father of her child, a man she loved but thought did not want her.

In Marrakesh, Sky and Gail both find unexpected joys – and surprises. For Sky, these lead to France, to a beautiful Chateau and a family whose relationships seem as complicated as her own.

With a rich cast of characters, beautiful locations and an ending that will make you smile, this is the perfect summer read.

 

Extract

‘You’re going off with Nick, “the person who makes you feel complete”. While I’m left with my world crumbling around me.’ My breathing was ragged and I felt as if I was drowning. ‘You know what really hurts the most? The fact that you didn’t even talk to me about it.’

‘I had no idea what the hell was happening to me! One moment I was a happily married man and the next moment I was having feelings for your closest friend, the nearest thing you have to a brother, what the hell could I have said?’

‘I don’t know, but you could have tried. We always said we would try to be honest with each other.’

‘It wouldn’t have made a difference.’

‘You don’t know that, do you?’ I couldn’t bear his calm certainty. You don’t know that because you didn’t try, you were too bloody scared. You didn’t trust me. We could have tried to work things out.’

‘You’re right. I was scared.’ He threw up his hands in defeat. His left cheek was still bright red. ‘I was absolutely terrified and I still am.’

There was another silence. A deafening silence. We glared at each other, like boxers in a ring. I was waiting for the next punch.

‘What hurts most, Sky?’ he finally asked me. ‘The fact that I am leaving you, or the fact that I am leaving you for another man?’

‘I honestly don’t know.’ I really didn’t know, my head was spinning. ‘Maybe I should be grateful that you aren’t leaving me for a young blonde with big tits, but then again maybe I should have cut my hair short, left off the facial waxing and grown a moustache.’

‘Oh, Sky.’ Miles grinned ruefully.

‘What really hurts is that the two men I love most in the world have been suddenly taken away from me.’

‘We are still here for you. We both love you so very much.’

‘How can you be here for me?’ I was incensed by his insensitivity. ‘How can you possibly be here for me when you’re there for each other?’

‘Sky, please, we can work this out. Think of everything we’ve been through together, think of everything we’ve shared.’

‘And now you’re sharing with each other.’ I couldn’t face hearing another word. ‘I want you to go now.’

‘But…’ He reached out to touch me.

I couldn’t bear to look at him. I turned around and stood still. ‘Now, Miles.’

 

After the door had closed I sank to the ground. My legs simply couldn’t support me anymore. I couldn’t move a muscle. I stared at the floor tiles, willing the tears to come, but my eyes stayed resolutely dry. I have no idea how long I sat slumped and motionless on the floor. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours. I think I wanted to die then, I think if an angel had come offering me oblivion I would have accepted. But no angel appeared. Instead the telephone began to ring, bringing me slowly out of my trance. I heard the answering machine kick in. I knew exactly who it would be.

‘Sky, it’s me. I know you’re there.’ I heard the intake of breath as Nick inhaled his cigarette.

‘Skylark, I love you.’ I winced at the use of his pet name for me. ‘Jesus, I don’t know how the hell this happened, but it has and we’ve got to get through it. I’m not losing you, Sky. You mean too much to me.’ He paused. ‘We have to talk whether you want to or not…’

‘No, we don’t!’ I yelled. I staggered to my feet and the room swayed dangerously. I grabbed the phone. ‘I never ever want to speak to you ever again, never.’ Flinging the phone to the floor I ground it beneath my feet. ‘Never, never, ever again, never ever…’

I collapsed onto the floor as, from deep within, a keening noise erupted, a sound I didn’t recognise as being my own. And then the tears started. Oh boy, did they start. They seemed to flood from every orifice: they poured from my eyes, my nose was streaming, and bubbles were coming out of my mouth. I wondered briefly if it were possible to drown in your own tears.

 

Nick stared helplessly at the phone. It was, of course, the reaction he had expected. He could hardly blame her. It was al his fault. Christ, what a mess. What a bloody awful mess. He stubbed out his cigarette and immediately lit another.

He could picture her now, her lovely face white and bloodless, the freckles standing out on the bridge of her nose and her dark blue eyes wide with shock. She could be hugging her arms to her chest with her face turned to the wall as if to shut out the world. He wanted nothing more than to rush over, pull her into his arms and comfort her as he had so many times before.

They had met on their first day at primary school and he could remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday, this tiny young creature standing alone, shy and uncertain. He had thought she looked like a fairy. He had walked towards her, held out his hand and said, ‘Let’s go in together.’

She had placed her small hand trustingly in his and smiled, her whole face lighting up with joy.

And now he had hurt her, his precious Sky, his soul mate, his fairy queen. He put his hands to his head and screamed.

~~~~~

Hopefully the extract has left you needing to read this book now.  If that’s the case then you can purchase it from Amazon UK – https://amzn.to/2Mowep6

 

About Janie Millman

Janie Millman is an actress, writer and co-owner of Chez Castillon.

She met Mickey, her husband, playing romantic leads in a summer season of comedies at The Little Theatre, Sheringham, on the Norfolk coast. Both actors for more than twenty years, their roles have ranged from Ninja Turtles, to acting in Olivier Award-winning stage productions and working on-screen with Hollywood stars.

Although still acting, Janie is now concentrating on writing. Her debut novel, Life’s A Drag, was published first in July 2015 by Accent Press and went on to receive highly acclaimed reviews.

It was then rebranded by The Dome Press and republished in February 2017.

Janie’s next book with The Dome Press, Sky’s the Limit, will be published in August 2018.

 

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChezCastillon

Website: www.chez-castillon.com

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Afterlife of Walter Augustus’ by Hannah Lynn ~ @HMLynnauthor

‘The Afterlife of Walter Augustus’ was published as an eBook on the 11th July 2018 and is also available in paperback.  I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for this book and would like to thank Hannah Lynn for inviting me to participate.

Do I have a treat for all of you today or what.  There are some Questions and Answers from the author, an extract from her book and there is also a giveaway which is being run throughout the tour.  All that to come in a minute though.  First, here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

Walter Augustus is dead. His current state of existence has become a monotony of sweet tea and lonely strolls and after decades stuck in the Interim — a posthumous waiting room for those still remembered on Earth — he is ready to move on. Only when he is forgotten by every living person will he be able to pass over and join his family in the next stage of the afterlife. At last the end is tantalizingly close, but bad luck and a few rash decisions may see him trapped in the Interim for all eternity.

Letty Ferguson is not dead. Letty Ferguson is a middle-aged shoe saleswoman who leads a pleasant and wholly unextraordinary life, barring the secret fortune she seems unable to tell her husband about. However, when she takes possession of an unassuming poetry anthology, life takes on a rather more extraordinary dimension.

 

Hannah Lynn on her new novel The Afterlife of Walter Augustus

How did you get the idea for The Afterlife of Water Augustus?

I can actually remember exactly when the idea came to me as I was in a really bad mood at the time! It was the weekend of my birthday and we were meant to be going on holiday, but my husband was unwell so we had to cancel. We also had visitors over, so between checking on my husband, looking after them and working I felt completely run off my feet.

One of our guests was watching a TV programme about a psychic, and that got me thinking about the afterlife, and how there could be enough space for everyone. I was still mulling over the concept when the idea of Walter being trapped until he was forgotten sprung into mind and I honestly thought, this is it, this is the reason I didn’t go on holiday because if I had I would never have had the idea.

 

That sounds like you’re a believer in fate?

Hmm, the jury’s out. So much is beyond our control and I’ve had a couple of very peculiar instances, but then there are too many bad things happening to good people for me to be convinced.

 

What did you find yourself researching for this book?

I spent a surprising amount of time researching the ins and out of professions in the 1800s. In my first draft Walter started out as a doctor, so I spent time researching the different type of medical practitioners that were around back then. Afterwards, when I decided that wasn’t quite right, I got stuck into research about ironwork and being a farrier.

 

Who was your favourite character?

This book was tough. Quite often I have a clear favourite, but in this one I don’t. I have genuine affection for them all, even the ones who don’t appear that nice!

 

Why did you write about the afterlife?

It’s always been a source of intrigue to me and I think to many others.  I’ve tried before to write novels about it, but this is the first time all my ideas seemed to fall into place.

 

How long did it take you to write The Afterlife of Water Augustus?

Walter was the quickest first draft I have ever written — however it then took another 3 drafts to get something more concrete to work with. In total, it was a little over 2 years.

 

What was the hardest part to write?

Probably making all the time frames to work logistically, particularly with Walter popping in and out of the Afterlife

 

Who should read the Afterlife of Water Augustus?

Anyone who is not convinced they are going to live forever! Seriously though, it’s a book that I hope will be both amusing and comforting.

 

Extract

Chapter Two

The corridor in the interim was by no means your standard corridor. In fact, it would not, by the average lay-person’s standard, qualify as a corridor at all. A sea of free-standing doors stretched out endlessly into an infinite landscape which — like the doors themselves — would change and transform almost daily. It was easy to see how people found pleasure in the unexpectedness and beauty that rose from this magnificent panoramic backdrop which was so central to the interim afterlife.  Although Walter was not one of those people.

Today, the doors were a heavily stained cedar, from which rose an earthy and damp perfume that blended perfectly with the cut grass and linen aroma. The floor, by contrast, was an infinite expanse of powdery sand that shimmered and glinted in the soft light, and from somewhere far off came a light-fingered mastery of the mandolin. The destination of these doors was, to Walter, as elusive as the manner in which they were constructed.

Perhaps, it was his age or the cynicism that had grown from being alone for so long, but to Walter, the interim no longer possessed the irrefutable prestige it once had. There had always been the odd rancid egg — those that had difficulty letting go or found pleasure in the obscure — and, of course, those whose memory lived on for the most abhorrent reasons — but it was the vast quantity of them still hanging around that was worrying. Men, calling themselves actors, gathered in droves, discussing the time they had a walk-on part as a half-eaten zombie or laughed about their pet cat on ice going viral, whatever that meant. Wives of ex-cons gossiped and whinged about the good old days over frozen margaritas and manicures, not in some secluded doorway, but out in the open, for everyone to see. Gamblers, addicts, and musicians: once their time here had been brief, but now, they never seemed to leave. Yes, in Walter’s opinion, the prestige of the interim had most definitely deteriorated.

Walter kept his head down as he hurried through the corridor. He had visited Betty often since she had moved into the home and barely needed to lift his eyes to find the way. After a few minutes and having successfully avoided the gaze of every person on his route, Walter found the door he was looking for. He twisted the handle and stepped through.

Elizabeth Mabel Green was the last person on Earth who knew who Walter Augustus was. She had read Seas, Swallows and all but Sorrows — the only remaining copy — in the early sixties, and while some parts of her memory had given way over time, she had remembered his name as clearly as she remembered her own. She remembered how she chewed on a crumpet whilst her father read the poems over breakfast and how the melted butter dripped down her chin as she listened. She remembered the coarse woollen blanket that covered her knees while she fought off the cold and re-read her favourites in the first home she had ever owned. She did not remember every word of every poem, but she remembered the way they made her feel.

When Pemberton finally departed the interim, Walter had assumed he would not be far behind. But Betty continued to cling to his name and his poems. Even now, in her last days, Walter could feel the tugs as he flitted through his memory. After all, Walter was family.

Betty Green’s hospital room was adorned with several bunches of flowers. It sported a small white cabinet and plug-in air fresheners at every available socket, although they did little to camouflage the scent of Dettol and urine that rose from the carpets and bed sheets. Betty lay beneath a powder blue blanket that, at a casual glance, appeared motionless, although Walter— and any person who cared to sit and study it long enough — could see there was still life in the old girl yet. Walter watched the faint rise and fall. He could hear a gentle hiss as the air was drawn in and then expelled from his great-great-great-great-granddaughter’s lungs and the weak double thud of her fading heartbeat.

‘Are your kitchen tiles a nightmare to clean?’

Walter jumped back from the bed.

Behind him, a small black box was affixed to the wall, inside which a tiny woman was on her hands and knees scrubbing a floor. She looked out at Walter, opened her mouth and spoke. Beads of sweat began to bubble on his forehead.

‘You need to try Fleazy Klean.’

The woman’s voice, rather than coming from her mouth, came from another little black box, two feet to the right. Walter shuddered. A television. Even avoiding the present day as he did, Walter had not managed to evade this unnatural source of wizardry. One glimpse of the shiny black glass was enough to send his post-organic frame rigid with tension and his surplus-to-requirement pulse into overdrive. He side-stepped away — keeping half an eye on the mini-man who was now on screen, apparently trying to sell him some kind of dental apothecary — and focused his attention on Betty.

Walter knew there must be pain; there always was at that stage, but for now, she seemed at peace.

‘Don’t worry,’ he said, leaning over and whispering. ‘It’s not the end. Everyone’s waiting for you.’ Betty mumbled softly. Walter reached down and stroked her forehead. ‘Take all the time you need,’ he said. He waited another minute, offered a final uneasy glower to the man with too many teeth on the television, then opened the door and stepped back into the corridor, a spritely spring in his step as he walked.

***

Low slung clouds shrouded the sky as Letty strolled up the high street.  The evening was cool, and a light breeze carried on it an aroma of oak trees, honeysuckle, and the slight hint of motorbike fuel. Donald would be glad of rain, Letty thought. The humidity of the last month had played havoc with his joints too. A little way up the high street, she stopped. Resting her arm against the yellowish Bradstone wall, she kneaded the base of her spine with her knuckles. In one of the stores across the road, the back-to-school sales signs were already being pulled down and replaced with pumpkin banners ready for Halloween. Letty’s stomach churned. If the thirty-first of October marked everyone else’s Halloween, Letty’s personal day of nightmares came a few weeks earlier each year.

Despite living less than five miles away, Letty and her sister Victoria saw each other an average of three times a year, Christmas, the twins’ birthday, and once in July to remember their mother’s birthday. Occasionally, they would place a meeting somewhere between January and July to bridge the sixth month gap, but that was not always the case. As it was, Victoria had cancelled the July meet-up this year, as the twins had a last-minute gymkhana competition they simply couldn’t afford to miss.

There were various reasons that meetings with Victoria tended to be tense, one of the overwhelming factors being money. While Letty suffered from an affliction of saving money, the same could not be said for her sister.

‘It will just be a short-term loan,’ Victoria said the last time. ‘And the interest we’ll give you will be far better than any you’d get at the bank.’

‘But what about Mum’s inheritance?’ Letty said. ‘That was over twenty thousand pounds.’

‘My thoughts exactly. And I’m guessing it’s just sitting in your account earning you nothing. If you look at it that way, we’re actually doing you a favour. Think of it as an investment opportunity.’

Letty had mumbled something unintelligible as she shifted uncomfortably.

‘Great,’ Victoria said. ‘Do you want me to set up a bank transfer before I go?’

‘What’s she doing with all their money?’ Donald said when Letty told him of the conversation a couple of days later. ‘And what happened to her share?’

‘I didn’t want to ask.’

Donald huffed. ‘Well, you know how much you’ve got left of that money. If you think we can lend her a couple of grand, then it’s up to you. But don’t go leaving yourself short.’

That had been over a year ago, and Letty had neither seen or heard anything of her investment opportunity since.

The other point of tension came from the children. As anyone who had witnessed Letty at work could testify, she had an uncanny affinity for small children. Be it screaming toddlers, or sulky teenagers, somehow Letty could bring the best out of them all. All children, it seemed, apart from her nephew and niece.

Whilst some may have seen fit to liken the pair to characters from a Stephen King novel, Letty would have considered this unfair, given the possible moral redeemability of the bloodsucking clowns and monsters Mr. King portrayed. Likewise, adjectives such as spirited and boisterous seemed far more suited to rescue puppies than to the double delinquents with whom she somehow shared DNA. Born after years and years of trying, Victoria viewed her children as nothing short of miracles. Throw in the added guilt she felt at being an older parent and a father who was barely home, and it was clear how Victoria and Felix had raised nothing short of monsters.

Every visit included a fight. Sometimes, these involved weapons, such as a plastic Buzz Lightyear or a conveniently placed lamp. Other times, it was simply teeth and nails.

‘They’re energetic,’ Victoria said. ‘Lots of intelligent children are like this.’

Letty wasn’t so sure. The twins’ birthday, the singular time of year when Letty truly considered giving up baking for good.

The cake thing had become somewhat of a venture lately. Twelve months ago, she had been doing one order, maybe two a month. Now it was more like that a week. And gone were the days of simple round cakes with a little bit of pipe work. In the last month alone, she had created one Peppa Pig cake, two M&M piñata cakes, a Louis Vuitton handbag, three cupcake wedding towers, and a hen-do cake that even now turned her cheeks scarlet at the memory. Of course, the area manager had dropped by for a chat on the morning she had taken that one into work. The meeting had been tortuous. Letty sat nodding, her mouth bone dry, beads of sweat trickling down her forehead as the box sat perched above his head resting on top of the size 12 men’s brogues.

‘There’s really no need to look so worried,’ the manager had said. ‘Everyone’s numbers are down on this time last year. You should see Stroud’s numbers.’

Letty nodded mutely.

When he finally left, she had told Joyce she was taking an early break, at which point she collapsed onto a box of lime green flip-flops, red-faced and trembling. No more hen party cakes, she decided after that one. Not unless they were picked up from home.

‘You should be charging proper money for these,’ Donald said, almost every night as she stood in the kitchen rolling out fondant and mixing up buttercream.

‘I’m not doing it for the money.’

‘Well, maybe you should be. You’re wasted at that shop. And we can’t rely on my wage forever. I’m getting old.’

Despite Donald’s concerns, Letty was savvy enough not to be out of pocket. She charged enough to cover the ingredients and a little bit more so that people felt they were getting quality. In her opinion, people always became suspicious if they thought things were too cheap.

The sky twisted with soft greys and lilacs as Letty ambled towards the crossroads. Somewhere, a bonfire was burning, and the tang of pine drifted the air.  She glanced down at her watch. Five thirty-two. Friday night meant Donald would be out for drinks with the other men from the water board. A homemade pie was defrosting in the larder, and a large apple crumble awaited them for dessert. She had a little time to spare. With one last glance at her watch, she changed her course and crossed the road. Thirty seconds later, she was standing inside the bank.

Letty preferred these bank machines, as unlike the others on the high street, they were tucked away inside a building. Whenever she used the outside ones, it felt as though someone was there, peering over her shoulder, trying to steal her PIN code or tutting if she took too long. That afternoon, only one of the machines was in working order, and when a young man with a toddler in tow stepped through the automatic door only a moment after she did, she waved him in front.

‘Honestly, you go,’ she said.

‘Are you sure?’

‘Of course, of course. It’s no problem.’

Letty stood what she considered a suitable distance behind, while the man did his business. After he finished, she offered him a polite smile and watched as he exited the room. Only after the automatic doors had closed and she felt certain that no one else would be entering for at least a minute, Letty moved to the cash machine, inserted her card, and tapped the screen.

Entering her PIN was a reflex response. After all, she had had the same PIN for every card that she had ever owned and had no intention of changing it anytime soon. A series of options, including Cash or On-Screen Balance, appeared in front of her. She selected balance.

As she waited for the number to appear, she withdrew a small notebook and pen from her handbag pocket and wrote the date at the top. A moment later, a number appeared. Sixty-seven thousand, six hundred and sixty-eight pounds and twenty-four pence. Letty wrote it down in her notebook. After confirming with the machine that she did not require any more services, she withdrew her card, placed it back in her tattered old wallet, and selected another.

This second account gave a similar reading to the first, as did the third and fourth she checked. The fifth came in slightly lower, at only twelve thousand, two hundred and nine pounds and thirty-three pence. She was about to check her sixth when a cough behind her caused her to jump.

‘Sorry,’ Letty gasped. She pulled out her card and hurriedly backed away from the machine. ‘I’m all done now.’

Even two minutes later, when she was back on the street, her pulse was still pounding. Her money situation, she reasoned, had lost control. Letty sighed, causing a small flock of pigeons on the pavement beside her to take flight. She was going to have to tell Donald sooner or later. She just had to find the right way to word it.

***

Deciding to make the most of what was possibly his last day in the interim, Walter gathered a loaf of bread and small bottle of ale from his miraculously stocked larder and placed them into his satchel. He was dressed in his usual attire of a twill woven shirt and breeches, but had abandoned his apron for the day. With a light-hearted jaunt, he stepped out through his back door and strolled to the end of the garden.

A narrow path lined with daisies and buttercups materialised and meandered down to the bottom of the cliff. His feet crunched on the fresh grass. He would miss this scent, he decided, but then perhaps, it was the same wherever he was going next; after all, it seemed too good a choice to meddle with. Walter closed his eyes and breathed in the warm, salty air. He couldn’t have asked for a better day.

A little way away from the shingled coast, Walter was stopped. He stared and blinked and felt his pulse hasten in his veins. Dampness built on the palms of his hand, and a noose-like sensation tightened around his throat. He gaped at the figure on the shore. This was his beach. Why would anyone come here? Who even knew about it? Walter’s pulse cranked up another notch as he scanned the area. It was definitely his beach, his place alone, his private corner of the interim. Perhaps it was a mistake, he thought and, with silent steps, trod forward. The grass gave way to sand dunes and then to shingle, all the while his eyes locked on the shadowy figure. He was less than six feet away before the air was knocked from his lungs.

‘No,’ Walter gasped.

The face turned around to look at him. It was a long face, so long it was difficult to see where his nose ended and chin began. His cheeks were hollowed, as if sucking on a sweet, and the smell of pear drops that emanated from his breath appeared to confirm this. In one fluid movement, the body went from sitting to standing and then peering straight down his nose to Walter.

‘Well, Augustus,’ he said his voice patronisingly slow. ‘What have you done this time?’

 

~~~~~

Wow!  This extract has certainly left me intrigued.

‘The Afterlife of Walter Augustus’ can be purchased from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Afterlife-Walter-Augustus-Hannah-Lynn-ebook/dp/B07CLL98QC/ref=pd_sbs_351_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=BMK2ZGD0YFDY3D39PP2N

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Afterlife-Walter-Augustus-Hannah-Lynn-ebook/dp/B07CLL98QC/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Giveaway

To coincide with this blog tour, Hannah Lynn is running a competition.  These are the  prizes:-

Kindle Paperwhite E-reader, plus an eBook copy of ‘The Afterlife of Walter Augustus’.

1 of 5 x paperback copies of ‘The Afterlife of Walter Augustus’, signed by Hannah Lynn.

To enter, click on this link – Rafflecopter Giveaway.

 

About Hannah Lynn

Hannah Lynn was born in 1984 and grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction. Her first novel, Amendments, was published in 2015, her latest novel, The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, is out July 2018. Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

 

Links

Twitter – https://twitter.com/HMLynnauthor

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/HannahLynnAuthor

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13830772.Hannah_M_Lynn

 

Other Books

‘Amendments’ can be purchased from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amendments-H-M-Lynn-ebook/dp/B00W1X95S2

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Amendments-H-M-Lynn-ebook/dp/B00W1X95S2/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Blog Tour – ‘A Summer Scandal’ by Kat French ~ @AvonBooksUK @KFrenchBooks

‘A Summer Scandal’ was published in paperback and as an eBook on the 28th June 2018 by Avon Books.  I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in this blog tour and would like to thank Sabah Khan for inviting me to participate.

I have an extract from the book for you which will hopefully leave you wanting to read more.  First though, here’s what it’s about.

 

Book Blurb

A Summer Scandal

A feel-good summer romance guaranteed to make you laugh out loud!

Summer has never been so scandalous…

When Violet moves to Swallow Beach, she inherits a small Victorian pier with an empty arcade perched on the end of it, and falls in love immediately. She wants nothing more than to rejuvenate it and make it grand again – but how?

When she meets hunky Calvin, inspiration strikes. What if she turned the arcade into an adult-themed arcade full of artisan shops?

Not everyone in the town is happy with the idea, but Violet loves her arcade and business begins to boom. But as tensions worsen and the heat between her and Calvin begins to grow, life at Swallow Beach becomes tricky. Is it worth staying to ride out the storm? And can Violet find her own happy ending before the swallows fly south for the winter?

Sexy, sassy and full of heart, Kat French is back in a new summer sizzler.

 

Extract

After an afternoon spent arranging her temporary workspace and a rather unglamorous dinner of cheese on toast, Violet decided to call it quits and have an early night. She’d called her mum, replied to a text from Simon and tomorrow she planned to get stuck into her next work order. Her whole world seemed to have flipped on its axis since she’d received the letter from her grandpa; she found the idea of getting her teeth into work familiar and soothing.

Turning out the lights, she headed for the bathroom to brush her teeth, and then paused, surprised by the sight of a note pushed underneath her door.

Being neighbourly. Here’s my mobile number in case you hear anything go bump in the night. Or run out of milk. Or you’re lonely. C x

He’d scrawled his number underneath in the same confident script as his words. Violet couldn’t help but smile as she read it twice over, then put it down beside the old telephone. Cal seemed to live his life with his finger permanently on the humour button; given that everything else around her seemed deep and confusing, he was a tonic. She’d heard him go out earlier in the evening, and found the top floor a lonelier place without him across the hall. He wasn’t the quietest of neighbours. In fact earlier he’d been making quite a racket at times, hammering and sanding by the sound of it. Perhaps he was a DIY fan.

After a moment’s hesitation, she went back into the living room and ripped a page out of her notepad, scrawling on it before opening her front door and making a PJ-clad dash across to Cal’s apartment. Her heart hammered in case he came back while she was out there, but all was quiet.

She paused as she passed the huge landing window looking down over the bay. It was gorgeous by night, creamy street lamps dotted along the seafront, the darkness of the sea glinting beneath the clear moon. She could just about make out the shadow of the pier, a spindled outline. Her feelings for it were already strengthening, especially since finding her name painted there out over the waves. How special. How wondrous, really, as if the past was reaching out and welcoming her to Swallow Beach, asking her to safeguard Monica’s memories. She would. Vi didn’t yet know exactly what she was going to do with the pier, or even if she’d stay here for more than a summer, but she wasn’t leaving until the pier was open again. The intention settled on her shoulders as she stood with her palm flat against the window.

‘I’m here now,’ she whispered. ‘I’m here and I’ll take care of you.’

There would be no compulsory purchase order on Violet’s watch. The people of Swallow Beach may well have felt that the pier belonged to them, but the truth was that it belonged to Violet now, and to Monica before her. She really hoped that the townspeople would be glad of her presence in the bay, but if they weren’t … Vi wasn’t a girl accustomed to trouble, but looking out over the pier in that quiet, reflective moment, she resolved that she wasn’t going to be pushed around. It was too important.

~~~~~

‘A Summer Scandal’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Summer-Scandal-Kat-French-ebook/dp/B078B1Q1LG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1531646110&sr=1-1&keywords=a+summer+scandal+by+kat+french

 

About Kat French

Kat writes romantic comedy for HarperCollins. She lives in England with her husband, two little boys and two crazy cats. She loves all things romance – reading it, watching it, and most of all, writing it. Mildly addicted to wine and fairy lights.

 

Links

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Kat-French-472044706183507/?ref=br_rs

Twitter – https://twitter.com/KFrenchBooks

 

Lynne Milford’s (aka LM Milford’s) Monthly Guest Post – June 2018 ~ @LMMilford

I really hope you have been enjoying Lynne Milford’s monthly guest posts.  Lynne won my Twitter competition last year to feature on my blog for a year and so far things seem to be going well.

This month Lynne has decided to do something different.  Having talked about her debut novel, ‘A Deadly Rejection’, she thought it would be nice for you to be able to read an extract from it.  I think it’s a brilliant idea myself.  She is also giving away 1 of 5 x signed paperback copies of her book.  How nice is that!  I really hope you enjoy the extract.

 

Extract

Chapter 1

 It was the smell that drew the spaniel to the clearing. She loved anything dirty and smelly; the smellier the better, in fact. She didn’t even mind being hosed down by her owner when they got home, as long as it wasn’t too cold. It was worth it.

The long grass and brambles crunched under her paws as she leapt through the undergrowth. Coppin Woods was her favourite place for a walk. She paused a moment, sensitive nose twitching as she sniffed the air. Yes, it was definitely getting stronger. She wasn’t entirely sure what it was but that wasn’t important.

She could hear her owner calling her name, but she carried on running.

When she found the clearing, she stopped stock-still and began to bark; a warning bark rather than the joy of spotting a rabbit. By the time her owner caught up to her, she’d circled the car with the engine running and the hosepipe running from the exhaust into the car through an open and duct-taped window. She’d scampered back to the edge of the clearing whimpering. This wasn’t what she’d been expecting.

The smell of car fumes was drifting all around the clearing. She watched as her owner rushed forward and tugged at the door handle of the car. She barked a warning and ran to his side, but he pushed her away. The door wouldn’t open and, finding a rock on the ground, her owner smashed the car window. Coughing, he leaned inside and switched off the engine. Flicking open the door lock, he dragged the driver from the car and laid him on the ground.

‘Can’t tell if he’s breathing,’ he muttered, pulling out his mobile phone. The skin on the driver’s face was burned and blackened, as were his hands.

Soon an ambulance, fire engine and police car were pulling up at the end of the track that led to the clearing. The paramedics ran to the clearing, carrying their heavy equipment, but after a short examination, they were shaking their heads.

‘Gone, never stood a chance,’ said one.

‘I’ll never understand why they do it,’ replied the other.

‘Peaceful, I suppose,’ remarked the police sergeant who had just joined them.

The spaniel was twitching and pulling at her lead while her owner spoke to the police officer. She no longer thought that smell was interesting. She wanted to go home.

 

Competition

If you liked A Deadly Rejection so far, there are five copies up for grabs. Just comment in the box below by 6th July 2018 and I’ll pick five names at random.  Good Luck!  Please note this competition is open to UK residents only.

 

~~~~~

A Deadly Rejection is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon. UK address is https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0768WP1SB

Catch up with me on Twitter @lmmilford or visit my website www.lmmilford.wordpress.com

 

Previous Guest Posts

First guest post (January 2018) – My writing journey

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2018/01/31/lynne-milfords-monthly-guest-post/

Second guest post (February 2018) – Where did A Deadly Rejection come from?

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/lynne-milfords-aka-lm-milfords-monthly-guest-post/

Third guest post (March 2018) – Creating the perfect cast for A Deadly Rejection

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/lynne-milfords-aka-lm-milfords-monthly-guest-post-march-2018/

Fourth guest post (April 2018) – Why you should write a series

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/lynne-milfords-aka-lm-milfords-monthly-guest-post-april-2018/

Fifth guest post (May 2018)  What I do when I’m not writing

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/lynne-milfords-aka-lm-milfords-monthly-guest-post-may-2018/

 

Blog Tour – ‘Girlfriend, Interrupted’ by Patricia Caliskan ~ @SapereBooks @Caliskaniverse_

‘Girlfriend, Interrupted’ is being published as an eBook and in paperback on the 28th June 2018 by Sapere Books.  I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour and would like to thank the lovely Caoimhe O’Brien for inviting me to take part.  This sounds like such a fun book.

I have something very special for all of you today.  First off an extract and, wait for it, a chance to win 1 of 3 x copies of this book.  Before all that though here’s what ‘Girlfriend, Interrupted’ is about.

 

Book Blurb

Brown-eyed, brunette, 25.

Enjoys walking barefoot across shards of broken home. Likes loaded silences, resentment and insomnia. Dislikes romantic weekends, lie-ins and any chance of future happiness.

Former GSOH. Developing PTSD.

Ella Shawe was undomesticated, unattached and uninhibited.

Until she met Dan. Sexy, charming and funny, Dan ticked all the right boxes and Ella threw herself head-first into the whirlwind romance.

But now she’s moved into his family home, complete with two demanding children and a hyperactive dog.

Throw in Dan’s impossibly perfect ex-wife, Ella’s interfering sex therapist mother and the snooty and dismissive mother-in-law from Hell, and Ella is almost ready to throw in the towel.

But, ready or not, Ella is part of the family now, and getting it right for Dan’s kids means getting it right for everyone. She just needs to figure out how to include herself in the mix…

Girlfriend, Interrupted will have you laughing-out-loud, gasping in embarrassment and rooting for Ella all the way.

 

Extract

Chapter One: Capital Punishment

It hadn’t occurred to me that the love of my life would turn out to be somebody else’s dad. If I’d thought about it long enough I’d have realized, the best thing that happened to me ended up being the worst thing that happened to Dan’s kids. Well, at least since the divorce anyway. And, if it was any consolation to them, I got a second-hand romance. It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing you’d look out for in a dating profile:

 

Brown-eyed, brunette, 26.

Enjoys walking barefoot across shards of broken home.

Likes loaded silences, festering resentment and insomnia.

Dislikes romantic weekends, sexy lie-ins and any chance of future happiness.

Former GSOH. Developing PTSD.

 

But, as with all great love affairs, it hadn’t started out that way. Those two, very separate worlds had slowly collided. We never really talked about what that meant. I mean, how could a man love you if his children didn’t even like you? You’ve probably already guessed, but that was exactly the question I’d been trying to avoid lately as I made my way into the office Friday morning. Only a few hours ahead of being utterly useless around the children for yet another weekend. Although, I thought, glancing over at reception, it was a far better option than falling in love with somebody else’s husband…

‘I am going to leave her, Karen!’ Harry Collins, Head of Digital, was leaning over the reception desk. ‘I promise I will, but it’s not that easy. I’ve got three children to think —’ He flinched at my footsteps. ‘So, those er … those staples? We’ll need at least another two boxes up there…’

Suddenly scrutinizing her to-do list, Karen-From-Reception, all blow-dry and diamante earrings, rearranged her cardigan. Scribbling everything down with a professionalism bordering on the provocative.

‘And those A5 notebooks, please, like we said.’ He pretended he’d only just noticed me. ‘Not the A4.’ He raised a hand. ‘Ah, morning Ella!’

‘Morning, Karen. Harry…’

The three of us exchanged polite smiles as I carried on towards the stairs, avoiding the lift in case I ended up stuck in there with him.

Steen & Heard Communications was located on the second floor of a listed building on Hanover Street. Sunlight streaked through the blinds as I fixed my jacket onto my chair and opened my first email of the day:

 

URGENT!

FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION.

ACCOUNT DATA FOR PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS!!!

 

This was a typical greeting from Heather Constantine, Public Relations Manager extraordinaire. I’d found the best way to deal with her emails was to pretend they were computer-generated by a machine too primitive to know any better. Although, the ‘Read Receipt’ she included on every message was particularly annoying. Especially when she sat close enough to accept my offer of a Smint without leaving her seat.

I glanced over at her, peering behind her bifocals. Her short, sharp, red hair, hinting at her short, sharp disposition. She scrutinised her screen, searching out juicy worms of commission fit for the taking. First thing in the morning, her lack of hello, eye contact, please or thank you, had the same effect as having a jug of iced water poured over your head. In fact, I’d have chosen the ice bucket challenge every time.

Heather Constantine was the reason I dreamt about being sacked the way other people dreamt about winning the lottery.

Initially, I had worked for James Steen (who was really posh and semi-retired, which is what really posh people aged around sixty seemed to do), and his partner, Audrey Heard, as a copywriter. I was initially hired to write press releases, manage website copy, oversee editorial pieces for our clients, that kind of thing. But within weeks, Heather made me into her unofficial personal assistant and psychological punch bag. Nowadays, I took care of her admin, weekly diary and, on one occasion, a furious outbreak of cystitis, rather than becoming some kind of capable business protégé to her wise mentor-figure, the way Audrey seemed to think it worked.

‘Morning, Ella!’

Leah, Office Support, walked in behind Harry. Her neon-painted grin brightened the shadow of Heather, looming permanently over the rest of our day.

‘Morning, Heather…’

The typing continued.

Leah hung up her coat and straightened her skirt.

‘Would you like a cup of tea, Heather?’

Heather glanced at her watch.

‘Ten minutes ago. I trust you’ll be deducting the time from your lunch hour?’

I gave Leah a sympathetic look. Heather classed five-past-nine as unforgivably late. The only time she’d left the office for anything other than a meeting was when she gave birth to her son.

‘Would you like a coffee, Ella?’

‘I’d love one, please.’ I was deliberately perky. I hoped Heather might pick up on more pleasant ways to interact with other human beings. ‘Thanks for asking. Hey, Leah — we made it! No matter what happens, they’ll never take Friday away from us…’

‘Make sure you use my almond milk.’ Heather’s fingernails clawed at high-speed across her keyboard.

Almond milk? I’d never heard of it. I wondered if they made it especially for people like Heather, who must have problems with turning the regular stuff sour.

‘Will do.’ Leah smiled, not wasting another minute. She paused briefly at Harry’s desk to take his order as he fired up multiple screens on the digital bank.

Harry headed up a team of three almost identical lads. They all wore beards, checked shirts and sprayed-on jeans. As far as I knew none of them had any interest in harvesting trees, but you’d’ve sworn they’d just trekked back from an Alaskan Lumberjack convention. Either that or been knitted as a matching set by someone’s well-meaning grandma. I’d tried striking up conversation with them in the past, but they only communicated in instant messages. And, while the rest of us lived on the stuff, none of them drank tea or coffee, even though it was the lingua franca of our offices. Maybe there’d been some sort of technological advancement, I thought. Apple had launched the iRefreshment while the rest of us still stood around, boiling the kettle.

‘Is almond milk good for you?’

Heather caught my eye, standing to unlock her filing cabinet.

‘Well, obviously.’ She inhaled a laugh, combing through an assortment of colour-coded files. ‘I wouldn’t be drinking it if it were bad for me, now would I?’

I wasn’t sure if she was trying to make a joke or not.

I’d never learned to speak fluent Dictator.

‘It’s vegan friendly. Cholesterol and lactose-free. Those things are bad for you,’ she explained as if talking to a three-year-old. ‘So, yes. It is.’

She shut the metal drawer with a thunk!

Heather was vegan? I was surprised. You’d have imagined most vegans being quite nice to the people they worked with, considering they were so kind to animals.

‘Good morning!’

All heads turned as Audrey Steen, lady boss and agency owner, walked in, looking chic as ever. All curled lashes and nude lip gloss. Wearing my favourite outfit of hers, the grey trilby and pastel pink trench combo.

Audrey was utterly fabulous. One of those gorgeous, older ladies who crystal and diamonds cried out for, rustling up timeless glamour every morning.

‘How’s everything going, Heather?’ She cast a brief smile of hello my way. ‘Apollo doing well?’

If we hadn’t already worked out Heather had a messiah complex, she’d humbly named her first-born after a Greek god.

‘He’s doing brilliantly.’

‘Good to hear it. Did I tell you Peter’s wife’s expecting in the next few weeks?’

‘You must be thrilled.’ Heather still managed to look glacial despite the baby talk.

I’d tried mentioning Dan’s kids, Grace and Ethan, to Heather once. She’d looked at me as if I’d been clipping my toenails at my desk. I’d decided to drop the topic indefinitely.

‘We are. We are.’ Audrey smiled. ‘Listen, we really must have that catch-up. I’ve been meaning to put some time aside, see where we’re up to.’

‘Everything’s back on track.’ Heather squinted at Audrey with what I think was meant to be a smile, unless the sun was in her eyes. ‘I’d like to schedule in a meeting with you today if that’s convenient, Audrey? Four o’clock?’

‘Right-o!’ Audrey said. ‘Well, nothing pressing springs to mind…’

‘Ella?’ Heather rearranged her desk. ‘Could you update my diary?’

‘Of course, Heather.’ I wished I could schedule her in for a routine personality transplant while I was at it.

‘And, by the way.’ Audrey took off her hat, running her fingers through her perfect hair. ‘It’s great to have you back, Heather. Oh.’ She glanced at Leah’s desk then looked my way. ‘Have I missed the first brew of the morning?’

‘Coffee?’

‘Please. Do you mind? I’m always in need of a complete transfusion by the end of the week.’

I noticed a faint sneer from Heather as I walked past her desk, possibly because I wasn’t taking IMMEDIATE ACTION on compiling her account data. Instead, I made my way into the staff kitchen and found Leah standing against the counter, mobile in hand.

‘What’s the matter?’

‘I’m fine.’ She put her phone inside her pocket and took a teaspoon from the drawer. Then stopped, eyes flooding. ‘I split up with my boyfriend.’

‘Oh. That’s not good.’

‘But then we got back together.’

‘And that’s bad?’

‘He’s just messaged saying he thinks we should leave it tonight. And.’ She checked her reflection in the mirror. ‘I just can’t handle Heather today. Urgh.’ She wiped inkblots of mascara from the corners of her eyes. ‘I missed the early train, doing my makeup. Now it’s ruined and I’m not even seeing him…’

‘Here.’ I grabbed another cup for Audrey. ‘You go and get yourself fixed up. I’ll finish the drinks.’

‘You sure?’

The kettle clicked to a halt as I busied myself at the counter.

‘Thanks, Ella. Oh.’ She paused on her way to the door. ‘Make sure you use her special milk, whatever you do. Heather’s almond milk’s in there. Bottom shelf. She’s labelled it.’

Of course she has, I thought. Even though everyone else in the office shared the same two-litre carton, it obviously wasn’t good enough for the Constantine constitution. Almond milk. I stared at the weird, peachy liquid. It didn’t look all that bad, but it definitely smelled a bit funny. Sod it. If Heather was going to stress us all out, the least she could do was lower our Cholesterol. I gave us all a free sample.

Back at my desk I found another email lying in wait to sabotage my happiness:

 

URGENT: FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION.

Re: SUBJECT HEADING.

Re: Previous email: Account data for previous 12 months!!!

 

I couldn’t help but look over again.

Not a flicker.

Working with Heather was like catching a virus. You started slightly off-colour and ended up wanting to crawl under the covers, slayed by a highly contagious case of her utter misery. I found the files on the system and opened a new document. It was so bad that the thought of meeting mum for lunch formed an emergency raft in my mind that saw me safely through to half-past twelve.

 

Competition

I really hope you enjoyed the extract.  Now for the competition.

Sapere Books are kindly giving away 1 of 3 x eBook copies of ‘Girlfriend, Interrupted’.  To enter just leave a comment telling me what you thought of the extract and why you want to read this book.

 

Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd July 2018.

The winners will be chosen at random within 7 days of the closing date and their details will be passed on to Caoimhe O’Brien of Sapere Books.

 

About Patricia Caliskan

Following a childhood spent writing her first books, most notably, Our Book about Jesus – a self-help guide for fellow young Catholics, and, The Sleepover – a compelling tale of a midnight feast, shockingly intercepted by fictitious parents with badly drawn hands, Patricia Caliskan always liked to play with words.

Patricia first saw her name misspelt in print aged 17, interviewing hungover rock stars and illegible actors for an Arts and Entertainment magazine. After graduating from the University of Liverpool, Patricia joined Trinity Mirror Newsgroup, working as editor across a portfolio of lifestyle magazine titles.

Patricia likes a good pair of boots, wearing perfume with her pyjamas, and laughter. Lots of laughter. Because without it life feels far too grown up for her liking. Told with mischievous humour, Patricia’s stories explore family dynamics, office politics, and the divergent roles of women throughout their lives.

Girlfriend, Interrupted is Patricia’s second novel: her first, Awful by Comparison, will be reissued by Sapere Books this summer.

 

Links

The eBook of ‘Girlfriend, Interrupted’ can be pre-ordered from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZVC2YF?tag=geolinker-21

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Girlfriend-Interrupted-twenty-something-mother-two-ebook/dp/B07BZVC2YF/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530001026&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=girlfriend%2C+interrupted&psc=1

 

Patricia Caliskan can be contacted via:-

Website – https://patriciacaliskanauthor.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Caliskaniverse_

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/patriciacaliskanauthor/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15574926.Patricia_Caliskan

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Street Orphans’ by Mary Wood

Having totally loved Mary Wood’s previous novel, I am over the moon to be taking part in this blog tour.  ‘The Street Orphans’ was published yesterday the 17th May 2018 in paperback and as an eBook by Pan Books.  I am so looking forward to reading this book.

I have something very special for all of you today.  Yes, you can exclusively read the first chapter of ‘The Street Orphans’.  First though, here’s what its about.

 

Book Blurb

The Street Orphans is an emotional story set in 1850s Lancashire, from Mary Wood, the author of In Their Mother’s Footsteps and Brighter Days Ahead.

Born with a club foot in a remote village in the Pennines, Ruth is feared and ridiculed by her superstitious neighbours who see her affliction as a sign of witchcraft. When her father is killed in an accident and her family evicted from their cottage, she hopes to leave her old life behind, to start afresh in the Blackburn cotton mills. But tragedy strikes once again, setting in motion a chain of events that will unravel her family’s lives.

Their fate is in the hands of the Earl of Harrogate, and his betrothed, Lady Katrina. But more sinister is the scheming Marcia, Lady Katrina’s jealous sister. Impossible dreams beset Ruth from the moment she meets the Earl. Dreams that lead her to hope that he will save her from the terrible fate that awaits those accused of witchcraft. Dreams that one day her destiny and the Earl’s will be entwined.

 

Extract

1

Ruth Dovecote

 

A Shattered Family

‘Eeh, Ruth, will you hurry yourself ? It’s nigh on nightfall and we’ve to find shelter.’

‘Ma, I can’t. You go on. I’ll rest awhile and catch up later. Leave a message at the inn when you find somewhere  to bed down, so that I know where to find you.’ Shouting her answer to her ma sapped more of her strength than Ruth could spare, as she battled against the strong, bitter January wind that whistled around the mountainous hills of Bowland.

Ruth’s one good leg wobbled. Thinking she was going to topple over, she leaned heavily on her crutch. Her underarm burned as the crutch rasped against her armpit. Despair threatened  to  engulf  her.  The  weight  of  her  club  foot seemed to become heavier with every mile they walked – and they had trundled many miles these last days.

Turned out of their tied cottage on a remote farm within days of their da taking his last breath, Ruth, her ma and her four siblings had now reached the narrow high-peak road of Lythe Fell on their way to Blackburn.

It had been an accident that had taken their da. A strong man, he’d been to market in the nearby small town of Pradley, which lay topside of Slaidburn, north of the Forest of Bowland. He’d stopped at an old well on the edge of the town to haul up a bucket of water for the old horse pulling his cart. The sides of the well had collapsed, taking him thirty feet into the ground. He’d been in freezing-cold water up to his neck for two days before the rescue workers brought him to the surface. With many bones broken and pneumonia setting in, he’d stood little chance.

Their da’s boss, a rich landowner, hadn’t considered the grief that her ma and Ruth and her siblings were suffering, or the plight the family would now be in. Within an hour of Da dying, the agent for the estate had served notice on them to quit their cottage and had ordered them to leave within twenty-four hours of the funeral. They had no money and had been left with just the clothes they stood up in, plus an old pram. The undertaker had taken everything they owned, in payment for their da’s burial.

Ma had a cousin in Blackburn who she thought might help them. When she’d last heard from him, two years since, he’d told her how the town was flourishing with the rise of the cotton-mill industry. This held the hope that Ma and the lads and Amy could get taken on at one of the mills. Ruth’s task would be to care for them all and look after Elsie. It all sounded good, if very different from the life they had led so far, and Ruth wasn’t without her worries as to how it would all work out. But she knew they would never be able to find the kind of work on the land that they were used to. Farm work paid little to the menfolk, and nothing for the labour of women and young ’uns, who were expected to work as part of the deal to gain a cottage with the job.

They had taken few rests as they walked during the day-light hours in the unforgiving weather conditions, and had had to keep to the highway, because of Ruth’s difficulties. The road was little more than a track, and it stretched their journey by many more miles than going over the top would have done. At night they had huddled together and bedded down amongst the bracken.

By nightfall this day they hoped to reach Clitheroe, as Ma thought it was within ten miles now. There, they planned to beg some shelter and food, as the last of the bread and preserves  that Ma had packed  for their trip had run out the night before. Hunger and cold slowed their progress – Ruth’s more than that of the others, as her affliction, already a hindrance to her, worsened with the effort of walking such a long distance.

Looking up, she saw that her ma was three hundred yards ahead of her. Behind her ma trailed her sister, Amy, her curly hair frizzed even more than usual by the way the wind had played with it. Amy hated it and thought Ruth lucky to have long, dark hair. Amy’s wouldn’t grow long; it became too tangled and Ma had to cut it. It reminded Ruth of a bowl of soapsuds all bubbled up, and though Amy wouldn’t have it, it set off her pretty face and huge dark eyes. At fifteen years of age, Amy was younger than Ruth by three years. No one would take her and Amy for sisters, if they didn’t know them to be. There was nothing about them that resembled the other.

Amy held the hand of four-year-old Elsie, a delicate child, who was slow to learn new skills. Seth, fourteen and a bit, and ten months younger than Amy, and George, just nine months younger than Seth, were up in front. Seth pushed the pram that had carried them all as bairns, and which was still needed for Elsie as she tired easily.

Two handsome lads, Seth and George looked very much alike and had the same appearance as Ruth, with their dark complexions, black hair and shining blue eyes. They were different in character, though. Seth had a gentle nature and preferred to reason problems out rather than argue his point. He tended to be shy and rarely put himself forward. George, though quick to lose his temper with people, had a wonder- ful way with animals; in contrast to his short fuse, he also had a good sense of humour and at times was so funny with his antics that he’d have you wetting yourself.

The  five  of  them  were  the  only  survivors  of  the  ten children Ma had birthed; one of these children, and two miscarriages, accounted for the gap in age between Ruth and her first three siblings. Twin boys and another two girls had died between George’s birth and Elsie’s. Ruth had helped at the delivery of all of them, from Amy down, and still felt the pain of their loss.

‘By, lass, I can’t go on without you. I—’ The howl of the wind took away Ma’s words as she stepped  off the grass verge to walk back towards Ruth.

Ruth opened her mouth to urge her ma to go on once more, but fear changed  what she was about to say. ‘Ma! Look out, Ma!’

The coach had come from nowhere. The horses reared. Ma cowered. Her body fell to the ground. The hooves of the startled animals  pounded down on her.  The screams of terrified children and the whinnying of the stallions filled the space around Ruth. Her own scream strangled in her throat. Horror held her as if she’d been turned to stone, but then desperation moved her body and urged her forward.

‘Ma . . . Naw, Ma!’

All around her went into slow motion, and it seemed she had to claw her way through invisible barriers as she tried to hasten. When at last she neared them, the horses swayed. Their hooves lost their grip on the muddied road and the carriage went onto its left wheel, before banging down onto its right. The violent motion catapulted the driver from his seat and over the cliff. His holler held the knowledge of his own imminent death. The carriage didn’t right itself, and the crashing and splintering of its wooden structure drowned out the sound of the desperate driver.

A face appeared at the window of what was left of the carriage: a lad, his hair curled tightly to his head, his eyes holding a look of terror. Mud splattered Ruth as one of the horses tried to keep its grip, but the animal lost the battle and slid over the edge, pulling the coach almost upside down. The face disappeared. The three horses remaining on sturdy ground reared against the weight of the one dangling below. Steam rushed from their nostrils. The whites of their eyes glared their own terror and compounded Ruth’s horror. Finding her voice, she shouted orders. ‘Amy, come and help me. Seth, George, get Ma away.’

Leaning her weight onto her crutch, Ruth stretched her body to enable her to reach the handle of the door.  It resisted her pulling it open. ‘Amy, climb up. See if anyone is alive.’

‘But, our ma? Eeh, Ruth, Ma’s—’

‘Leave Ma to the lads. They’ll take care of her. We must help those in the carriage afore it goes over the edge. Hurry, lass.’ Ruth’s heart didn’t encourage her to take these actions – it wanted her to go to her ma – but something in her knew it was already too late and, if she didn’t help the occupants of the carriage, it would be so for them, too.

‘Get up, Amy, lass, go on. That’s reet. Can you see if anyone’s alive?’

‘Aye,  there  is, Ruth.  A young  man,  but  I’m  not  sure about the lady. She looks dead. She – she’s bleeding from a cut on her head.’

‘Tell the lad to climb out. Tell him!’ Turning, Ruth saw Seth and George standing over the tangled, unmoving body of  their ma.  Her heart clamoured with despair at what she knew to be the truth, but she had to save the lad in the carriage.  She couldn’t  let him die. ‘Seth, George  – here, quick! Amy, come down and let me lean on you. Seth, take me crutch, and you and George climb up with it to the window. Get the young man to take hold of the crutch, then pull him out. Go on, me lads, let sommat good come out of today.’

It didn’t take long to get the young man out, but he’d not let them think they couldn’t save his mother.

‘Please try. Mama is breathing. She is alive!’

‘We can’t. I’m sorry – there’s nowt we can do, as she ain’t able to help us. She’s unconscious.  We wouldn’t manage. It’s impossible.’

‘Do it, or I’ll have you all up for murder, you scum! What were you doing on the highway anyway? You caused this. You should keep yourselves to the bridle paths.’

Ruth felt her anger rising, but common sense stopped her from giving full rein to her temper. What she’d thought of as a lad, because of how small he was, she could now see was a man of around twenty-five years of age. He was in shock and was reacting as all toffs would. Though she needed to take heed of what he said, as he could have them all sent down if he wished – hanged even.

But how could she get the woman out of the swaying cab, with the horses still pulling in all directions, and the whole lot likely to go over the edge of the cliff at any moment?

‘I’ll unleash the horses, Ruth. I knows how to do it. I learned that time when our da’s boss made me work with his stablehand for a while.’

‘But they’ll kick you to death, Seth.’

‘I’ll help.’ George chipping in with this comment offered Ruth some relief from her fear for Seth.  George  would be able to calm the animals. His confidence helped, as he instructed, ‘Come on, Seth, get between the back of the horses and the carriage. I’ll try to soothe them.’

Before the lads could act, the toff spoke. ‘Unleash the one hanging over the side first. It cannot be saved, and its weight is a danger.’

‘Aye, Sir, that is me plan.’ Seth touched the brim of his cap in a mock-salute.

‘“My Lord” – not “Sir”! You are addressing the Earl of Harrogate.’

Ruth clenched her fist. The ungrateful devil! And them with their ma lying dead, not ten feet away. He showed no compassion. Her glance over to her ma’s body showed her the pitiful scene of Amy sobbing and Elsie looking bewil- dered and afraid, her wide eyes staring at the raging horses. Their plight undid Ruth. Hatred for this man, and all he stood for, trembled through her and spat from her before she could stop it: ‘You’re nowt to us. Us “scum” don’t recognize the likes of you toffs. We should have left you to rot in hell!’

His hand sliced her face. His foot kicked her crutch away from her. The mud, though wet and squelchy, didn’t cushion her fall, but slapped hard against her,  knocking the breath from her.

‘You’ll  pay for that, cripple.  You’ll  pay  dearly.’  Rage puffed his face, making  him appear ugly and evil. As he turned from her, his hand went inside his jacket. Ruth’s fear intensified at the sight of the pistol that he now brandished towards her brothers, as they made as if to charge at him. The click of the gun as he cocked it, ready to fire, resounded around Ruth. The Earl’s voice shook with anger and fear.

‘Get back! Get those horses under control – now.’

Ruth knew the threat from the Earl was real. Though she hadn’t seen him load his pistol, he could have done so before starting his journey, as these toffs were always afraid of coming across robbers.  Terrified of what the impetuous George might do, and of the consequences for him, she drew in a painful breath. ‘Naw! George, leave it. Go with Seth, see to the horses.’

George did as she bade him, and within moments his uncanny knack with animals showed in the way they became calm.

Seth freed the dangling horse, but despite the shouted commands of the young man, he didn’t unleash the others; instead he listened to George, who was telling him to leave them, as he wanted to try and drive them forward, to pull the remains of the carriage gradually from the edge and out of danger. Ruth closed her eyes, praying that he would suc- ceed.

The scraping noise told her something was happening. When she dared to look, she saw with relief that George had accomplished what he’d set out to do. But her relief was short-lived, as the searing tragedy of her ma’s plight came to her. Dragging herself along the ground, Ruth reached the grass verge where her ma lay and looked into the unseeing, once-beautiful eyes. ‘Oh, Ma . . . Ma!’

Elsie’s wails penetrated Ruth’s grief. Reaching for her and Amy, she held them close, but the Earl’s voice brought her attention back to what was happening behind her.

‘You there, get over here and help my mother!’

Picking up her crutch, the Earl threw it towards her. Ruth crouched over her sisters, afraid the hurtling crutch would hit them, but it sailed right over them. Gathering her wits, she spoke as calmly as she could. ‘Amy, lass, pass me crutch to me and help me up. Don’t be afraid. We’ve to do as he bids. We’ll see to Ma later.’

‘Is – is she . . . ?’

‘Aye, lass. Ma’s gone.’ She said this as though she were talking about something else, as neither her ma’s death, nor the crying of her sisters, touched her in the way it should have done. It was as if she’d been taken out of her own body and put inside one that shielded her from all that could hurt her. But then it had to be so. Somehow she had to be strong for them all.

With Amy’s help, Ruth managed to get up and hobble over to where the Earl’s mother lay on a rug on the ground. It surprised Ruth to see that the lady wasn’t as old as she’d first assumed, and she realized that she must have been very young when she birthed the Earl.

‘Do something!’

Ruth stared down the barrel of the gun, saw the Earl’s finger on the trigger. Sweat dripped off his face.

‘Ruth!’

‘Stay back, George, lad, it’s all right.’

On  George’s  movement  towards  her,  the  Earl  turned swiftly and aimed his gun. ‘Do as she says, urchin.’

Ruth held her breath. George froze. The Earl turned, his gun once more pointing  at Ruth. ‘I’ve heard it said that cripples like you have powers. Well, use them now. The likes of you were hanged for being witches in the past, and still should be, in my opinion.’

‘I’m naw witch, M’Lord.’

‘Oh?  And  you’ll  be telling  me next  that  your  brother there is not a sorcerer, when only such a one could have calmed those horses. I would be within my rights to shoot you all, and have a mind to do so.’ The weak sun, which gave no warmth, reflected on the barrel of the Earl’s gun as he trained it on George. ‘And us within spitting distance of Pendle Hill, where they hanged a whole bunch of your kind a couple of centuries ago.’

His words filled Ruth with the fear of the time when people in Pradley  had whispered about her having evil powers, and that she should be sent away. It had been after one lad had been teasing  her.  Losing her temper, she’d turned on him, telling him no good would come to him. The lad had fallen ill just afterwards and, in his delirium, had screamed her name in terror. The atmosphere had darkened from that day, as many gave her a wide berth. Some even spat in her path. What this man had just said about Pendle Hill deepened her fear. Please, God, save us; save me brothers and our Amy and me little Elsie. Don’t let this devil of a man kill them.

‘Get on with it or they will all die.’

Ruth’s fear turned to terror, as she saw the gun was now pointed at Elsie. The child had no concept of the danger she was in, as she ran over to Seth. The movement spooked the Earl. A crack resounded through the valley, echoing off the hills.

Amy screamed. Ruth’s heart banged against her ribs. But then relief flooded through her as she saw that no one was hurt.

The Earl smiled as he reloaded his gun. ‘Just to show you that I mean what I say.’

Bending over as best she could, Ruth touched the lady’s forehead. She stirred.

‘See! It is as I said – you are a witch! You only had to touch her and—’

Pushing back her hair, which had come loose from the ribbon Ma had tied in it, Ruth looked up at him and saw him properly  for  the  first  time.  ‘Puny’ was  how  she’d label him. His bones jutted from hollow cheeks, his lips were feminine in their fullness, and she could see that his hair hung  in  false  curls  held  with  pins, some of which had escaped and now looked hideous. The depths of his black eyes held terror for her and, in that moment, she knew she was damned if his mother lived, and yet damned if she didn’t.

The thought came to her that this would be the fate of her sisters and brothers as well. With this, her anger – fuelled by fear for herself and her siblings – caused her to grab her crutch and swing it with all her might. Catching the back of the Earl’s knees, her blow floored him. Lunging  towards him on all fours, Ruth scrambled across him, holding his body down with her weight. Her eyes glimpsed his pistol, now loosened from his grip. Grabbing it, she mustered all her strength and smashed it across his head.

The gaping, bloodied gash on his forehead shocked her back to reality. Gasping for breath, she stared in horror as the Earl’s head rolled to one side, as if independent of his neck. His breath gasped from him in a rasping, gurgling sound. He didn’t draw it back in. Oh God! No. No . . . I’ve killed him!

‘Ruth! God, Ruth, lass, what have you don

‘I didn’t mean to kill him, Seth. I didn’t. I just wanted to knock him out, so we could get away.’

A moan caught their attention. The lady moved her head, but didn’t open her eyes.

‘What’re we going to do?’ Seth’s whisper held tears. His fear spurred Ruth into action. Pulling her crutch towards her and grabbing the piece of ribbon she’d lost from her hair – a precious memento now, as her ma had won it when the fair had visited – she put her hand out to Seth, who helped her up.

A flash of memory  came to her, as she held onto the ribbon – her ma’s words: ‘I’m choosing you over Amy or Elsie for the ribbon, lass, as it will help to keep you cool, to have your hair tied back. Never cut your hair, our lass. It is your crowning glory. Look at it: it reaches your waist. It suits your beautiful oval face and complements  your blue eyes. You need it to distract people from your affliction, and to let folk see as you’re a bonny lass, despite that foot of yours.’

Shaking the tear-jerking recollection from her, Ruth brought her attention back to their current situation. ‘Seth, you and George get the Earl’s body back into the coach. Hurry, afore his ma comes round proper. Put him in a pos- ition that he would likely be in if he’d been killed in the accident. Go on, me lads.’

Hobbling over to the lady, Ruth placed herself between her and the carriage, because although the lady had sunk back into deep unconsciousness once more, Ruth felt afraid that she might still open her eyes and see what they were doing.

‘Amy, lass, bring Elsie to me, and then get sommat to disturb the mud to hide the trail of the lads dragging the body. A stick or something will do.’

‘But, our Ruth, anyone’ll know as he were out of the carriage afore he died. He’ll be covered in mud, and there’s mud on his boots.’

Fear of the truth of what Amy said stopped Ruth in her tracks for a moment. When a solution came to her, she knew George wouldn’t be in favour of it, but their situation was desperate – hers above all, as now the noose would be her certain fate.

‘We have to attach the horses again and drive them over the cliff to take the—’

‘Naw!’

George’s  horrified  gasp  showed  Ruth  the  enormity  of what she’d proposed, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to achieve it.

‘We have to do sommat to cover up what really happened, George. We have to.’

‘I think I knaw what we could do, our Ruth.’

Ruth didn’t dismiss Amy. The lass had a clever brain. She could even read and write, and she’d only had the miller’s lad to teach her what he’d learned in school.

‘We could just push the seating area of the carriage over the edge, with the Earl inside. Then, when he’s found, the state of him will give no clue to him having left the carriage before he died. And it won’t be too heavy for us to shift, now that it is detached from where the trunks are stored. We could say as we’d managed to get the lady out, but then had to unleash the horses as they were in danger of shoving the rest over the cliff. But just as we did so, the lightest part of the carriage went over, with the unconscious man still in it.’

‘Yes, that could have happened. You’re reet, lass. By, Ma allus said as you were the brains of the family, our Amy. Reet, me lads, that’s what we’ll do – just as Amy says – and I can help, if I get me back against it.’

‘Naw, you shield the lady’s view, Ruth, just in case. And mind our Elsie an’ all. Me and the lads’ll manage. We’re strong.’

Ruth did as Amy suggested. She knew her own strength was limited and would more than likely be a hindrance. It wasn’t just her foot that was crippled, as the bottom of her spine also had a curve in it. Though it wasn’t much of one and it didn’t bend her over, unless she was tired, like now, the curvature did cause her pain almost beyond endurance at times. She held Elsie to her, and the crashing sound of the carriage against the rocks undid her. Her body trembled. The dry sockets of her eyes filled with tears as the full impact of their plight hit her. She looked in fear at the lady, but she hadn’t moved. The thought came to her: God, what now? What now?

There was no doubt in Ruth’s mind that they had to take the lady down to Clitheroe and get help for her, but what trouble would that bring down upon them? The fear this caused increased the shaking in her body.

 

~~~~~

Did you enjoy this extract?  If so, ‘The Street Orphans’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Street-Orphans-Mary-Wood-ebook/dp/B0796YKFT6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1526581100&sr=1-1

 

About Mary Wood

Born in Maidstone, Kent, in 1945, the thirteenth child of fifteen children, Mary’s family settled in Leicestershire after the war ended.

Mary married young and now, after 54 years of happy marriage, four children, 12 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, Mary and her husband live in Blackpool during the summer and Spain during the winter – a place that Mary calls, ‘her writing retreat’.

After many jobs from cleaning to catering, all chosen to fit in with bringing up her family, and boost the family money-pot, Mary ended her 9 – 5 working days as a Probation Service Officer, a job that showed her another side to life, and which influences her writing, bringing a realism and grittiness to her novels

Mary first put pen to paper, in 1989, but it wasn’t until 2010 that she finally found some success by self-publishing on kindle.

Being spotted by an editor at Pan Macmillan in 2013, finally saw Mary reach her publishing dream.

When not writing, Mary enjoys family time, reading, eating out, and gardening. One of her favourite pastimes is interacting with her readers.

 

Links

Website – https://www.authormarywood.com/

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/HistoricalNovels

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Authormary

 

Blog Tour – ‘Rose Gold’ by David Barker

‘Rose Gold’ was published in paperback and as an eBook on the 10th May 2018 by Urbane Publications.  The second book in the Gaia Trilogy, it can be read as a standalone novel.  I would like to thank David Barker for inviting me to take part in his blog tour.  This book is getting such good reviews.

I have an exclusive extract from ‘Rose Gold’ for all of you, but first here’s what its about.

 

Book Blurb

Rose Gold is a thriller set in the near future, in the aftermath of a world war for water. Geopolitical tensions remain high and terrorism is a daily fact of life. But a mining base on the moon offers a rare example of international co-operation and a possible solution to the world’s energy problems. Yet not everyone on Earth is keen for this endeavour to succeed…

Rose Gold is the sequel to Blue Gold, but can be read as a stand-alone novel. It draws on influences as diverse as Arthur C Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust, the film Moon and Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries.

 

Extract

Click on the link to read Chapters 1, 2 and 3.

Extract from ‘Rose Gold’

~~~~

Like the sound of ‘Rose Gold’?  Well, it’s available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rose-Gold-thriller-thats-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B07CF4NS8Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1526224951&sr=1-3&keywords=david+barker

 

About David Barker

David was born in Cheshire but now lives in Berkshire. He is married to an author of children’s picture books, with a daughter who loves stories. His working life has been spent in the City, first for the Bank of England and now as Chief Economist for an international fund. So his job entails trying to predict the future all the time. David’s writing ambitions received a major boost after he attended the Faber Academy six-month course in 2014 and he still meets up with his inspirational fellow students. He loves reading, especially adventure stories, sci-fi and military history. Outside of family life, his other interests include tennis, golf and surfing. Rose Gold, sequel to Blue Gold, publishes spring 2018.

 

Links

Website – http://davidbarkerauthor.co.uk/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/bluegold201

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Dark Web’ by Christopher Lowery

‘The Dark Web’ is the final book in the African Diamonds trilogy.  It was published as an eBook on the 16th April 2018 by Urbane Publications and is also available in paperback.  Having heard so many good things about Christopher Lowery’s books, I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour.  I would like to thank Love Books Group for inviting me to participate.

I have an exclusive extract for you, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

The tentacles of the Dark Web are tightening their grip around the world. From Moscow to Shanghai, Washington, UK, the Middle East and Europe, nowhere is beyond their reach.

When a computer scientist dies mysteriously in Dubai, Jenny Bishop’s nephew, Leo Stewart, is hired to replace him. Leo’s life is soon in danger, but he is the only person who can find the key to prevent an impending global cyber-attack. With the help of Jenny and old and new friends, he must neutralise the threat before the world’s vital services are brought to a halt in a flagrant attempt to once again redraw the borders of Europe and Asia. Can the deadly conspiracy be exposed before the world is thrust into a new Cold War?

Christopher Lowery delivers a gripping final chapter in the bestselling African Diamonds trilogy, with a thriller that is powerfully resonant of today’s global dangers, hidden behind the ever-changing technological landscape.

The perfect read for fans of Gerald Seymour, Wilbur Smith and Frederick Forsyth.

 

Extract

TWO

Dubai, United Arab Emirates
March, 2017

“Hi, Guys. You’re in early.” Daniel Oberhart and Sharif were on their second coffee when the Welshman joined them in the canteen at seven the next morning. They were deep in conversation, talking quietly with their heads close together.

Sharif looked up with a start, “Oh, hi, Scotty. We’ve got a full programme of tests today, just making sure Daniel can fit it all in.” He shifted nervously on his chair and checked the time on his mobile, “I’d better get up there and make sure everything’s ready. I’ll catch you later. Don’t forget our revenge match tonight.” He walked quickly past him and out the door.

The Swiss man said, “I was up at five o’clock, it’s too hot to sleep. In Zurich in March, you still need a duvet. That’s what I call normal.”

Scotty wasn’t very keen on Oberhart, he seemed to find something to complain about in everything concerning Dubai and XPC. “You won’t be bitching when you go to the beach at the weekend. Sitting on the sand and swimming in the warm sea in March, you can’t do that in Zurich.”

“I never go to public beaches,” he replied. See you later.” He got up and left Scotty sitting alone with his coffee.

What the hell was that all about? He asked himself. Are the Swiss Germans really so hard to get along with?

 

Sharif won their game that evening hands down. Scotty was still a little preoccupied by the incident with the flash drive, but was waiting until his CEO returned on Sunday.

“What’s on the menu tonight?” He asked.

“It’s a lot cooler and I need my curry. We’re going to the Karachi House. OK?”

~~~~~

Hopefully by now you’ll be dying to read ‘The Dark Web’ in full.  If so, it is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://amzn.to/2uNAlDg

 

About Christopher Lowery

Christopher is a Geordie, born in the northeast of England, who graduated in finance and economics after reluctantly giving up career choices in professional golf and rock & roll. He is a real estate and telecoms entrepreneur and has created several successful companies around the world. Chris was inspired to write his debut novel, the Angolan Clan, after the Revolution of the Carnations forced him to flee Portugal in 1975 with his family. He and his wife live between Geneva and Marbella.

To find out about the other books in the African Diamond trilogy click on the link below:-

https://urbanepublications.com/authors/christopher-lowery/

 

Blog Tour – ‘Friends and Traitors’ by John Lawton

‘Friends and Traitors’, the latest book in the Inspector Troy series, was published on the 5th April 2018 by Grove Press and is available in hardback, paperback and as an eBook.  I was invited to take part in this blog tour by Ayo Onatade.  I have an extract for all of you, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

It is 1958. Chief Superintendent Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard, newly promoted after good service during Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Britain, is not looking forward to a Continental trip with his older brother, Rod. Rod was too vain to celebrate being fifty so instead takes his entire family on ‘the Grand Tour’ for his fifty-first birthday: Paris, Siena, Florence, Vienna, Amsterdam. Restaurants, galleries and concert halls. But Frederick Troy never gets to Amsterdam.

After a concert in Vienna he is approached by an old friend whom he has not seen for years – Guy Burgess, a spy for the Soviets, who says something extraordinary: ‘I want to come home.’ Troy dumps the problem on MI5 who send an agent to debrief Burgess – but when the man is gunned down only yards from the embassy, the whole plan unravels with alarming speed and Troy finds himself a suspect.

As he fights to prove his innocence, Troy discovers that Burgess is not the only ghost who has returned to haunt him…

 

Extract

It was past midnight when Burgess staggered to the door.

“What say we meet over Christmas?”

“Fraid not, Guy.  I’m leaving for Berlin as soon as I can get a flight.  The air corridor is rather crowded at the moment as you may imagine.”

“Berlin?  What’s in Berlin?”

Troy was never going to answer that.

Burgess stood in the doorway looking up at a clear, cold winter sky.

“No raid tonight.  Makes a change.”

“The war’s been over three years, Guy.”

He twitched.  Shook his head as through trying to dislodge an insect from his hair.

“Eh?  What?  Bloody hell, so it has.  Must be more pissed than I thought.  Who’d ever have thought we’d end up missing the war?  Hot war …cold war …that’s a joke …this isn’t a cold war …it’s a lukewarm egg custard of a war.”

Burgess trundled off down the yard towards St. Martin’s Lane, to the corner where Ruby the Prostitute had stood until a matter of weeks ago–unsteady on his feet, happy as a newt.

If there really had been a raid on, Troy would have left him on the sofa under an eiderdown rather than booting him out on a cold December night.  But there wasn’t.  There might never be again, and Troy saw no reason to take him in.

As Burgess turned the corner Troy wondered if, this time, he might actually have seen the last of him.

~~~~~

Has this extract left you wanting to read more?  ‘Friends and Traitors’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Friends-Traitors-Inspector-Troy-Lawton-ebook/dp/B0777X752S/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1523382631&sr=1-1

 

About John Lawton

John Lawton is the director of over forty television programs, author of a dozen screenplays, several children’s books, seven Inspector Troy novels and two standalones. Lawton’s work has earned him comparisons to John le Carré and Alan Furst. Lawton lives in a remote hilltop village in Derbyshire.

 

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