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.
How do you solve a murder when you are one of the suspects?
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?
Four Ashes, Buckinghamshire, England
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:-
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.