It’s time for another ‘Meet the Characters’ post and this week Merryn Allingham is interviewing her character Nancy Tremayne from Venetian Vendetta, the latest book in the Tremayne Mystery series,
Let’s find out a bit about the book.
A terrible accident—or the murder of someone keeping dangerous secrets?
The music soars. The opera reaches its finale. And a woman falls to her death.
Newlywed Nancy Tremayne is a shocked witness to the tragedy at La Fenice. How could it have happened and what could lie behind such a terrible death?
Nancy is accompanying her new husband, art professor Leo, on a work trip to Venice, a celebration, too, of their whirlwind romance. Leo is adamant the death is an accident. The police suspect suicide. But Nancy has spoken to the dead woman only hours before her death and feels increasingly compelled to uncover the mystery surrounding the fall.
As she explores the beauty of Venice, helped reluctantly by Leo’s assistant, Archie, she finds herself caught in a thrilling roller coaster of suspense, plunging more and more deeply into the city’s secrets. Together, they discover a Venice as sinister as it is beautiful.
Determined to reveal the evil she suspects, Nancy walks ever closer to danger. Until she realises she may be forced to make a choice – the truth or her life?
This is an intriguing historical mystery, and the protagonist is so complex and interesting, and the mystery so well done that you’ll find yourself trapped between the pages.
A breath of fresh air. And it isn’t only because the author describes Venice really well. Yes, there is that, but we also have here a wonderfully strong heroine who continues to be true to herself even through setbacks… I’d strongly recommend this book.
A brilliant gripping story which captures the reader from the very first page.
Not only does the city of Venice present romance and intrigue, it proves to be the perfect backdrop for the mystery, what with its long canals of water, the danger of flooding, the isolated islands, and the fog that comes with being by the sea… A delightful mystery.
Another beautifully written book by this author – the characters were great and the story so well thought out.
Now let’s move onto Merryn’s interview with Nancy Tremayne.
Merryn: It’s good to be talking at last, Nancy. I’ve been hoping to meet you face-to-face for a long time—I’ve been so impressed by your determination and sheer guts. Until I met you on the page, I confess I thought of most 1950s women as secretaries waiting to get married or housewives desperate to escape their home. But you proved me wrong!
Nancy: Neither was for me. I wanted a life I’d chosen—one free of petty rules and where I could follow my love of art. I had to fight to get it, though.
Merryn: The battle involved you moving to London at a very young age, I know. I imagine that caused some raised eyebrows in your Hampshire village.
Nancy: More than raised eybrows—an awful lot of gossip and some very bad arguments with my parents. Girls in the 1950s just didn’t live away from home and to go to London, a sinful place, if ever there was! Then to find my own accommodation, even though it was a poky one room bedsitter, and begin a career…that was revolutionary.
Merryn: None of it came easily, I imagine.
Nancy: I loved the job I landed, but it was soon made plain that I wouldn’t be climbing too far up the ladder. In an art auctioneers at the time, unless you’d been privately educated and had an Oxbridge degree, you weren’t likely to make it further than the lowest rungs, particularly if you were female. But Abingers was where I wanted to be, and I’d made a good life for myself until…
Merryn: Until you met the love of your life, I take it?
Nancy: At least, that’s what I thought, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It didn’t take long before I realised I was powerless against a man determined to destroy me and I was plunged into a deadly fight. In an odd way, the experience was positive. It made me passionate about fighting for others who were as powerless as me.
Merryn: The desire to bring criminals to book explains the adventures you fell into around the world—Venice, the Caribbean, Cornwall, Rio—all of it, after your marriage. Which turned out to be an adventure in itself, didn’t it?
Nancy: And not one I should ever have ventured into—falling in love with Archie, my husband’s assistant, hours after I married—wasn’t the smartest thing I could have done—but at the time becoming Leo Tremayne’s wife seemed the only way I could survive. We did some good things together, Archie and I, unearthing the guilty when the police lacked interest, ensuring victims gained a justice they would otherwise be denied. And, of course, falling more deeply in love all the time.
Merryn: You’ve certainly had an exciting few years, but what of the future?
Nancy: I may give the adventures a rest, though I still have one left—the real love of my life is out there waiting for me and, this time, I’m ready!
Merryn Allingham was born into an army family and spent her childhood moving around the UK and abroad. Unsurprisingly it gave her itchy feet and in her twenties she escaped from an unloved secretarial career to work as cabin crew and see the world.
She still loves to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage, children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England, where she’s lived ever since. It also gave her the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually teach at university.
She has written in a variety of genres: Regency romances, several timeslips plus a number of historical novels set in the early 20th century, sometimes in exotic locations and often against a background of stirring events, such as the two world wars. Her most recent books are the Tremayne Mysteries series featuring crime and mystery/suspense with a dash of romance.
It’s time for another ‘Meet the Characters’ blog and today we are meeting Ava Warren one of the central characters from Shadows on the Water by Jo Lambert.
After the tragic death of her fiancé, Ava Warren is slowly rebuilding her life. She has a supportive family, great friends and a job she loves, managing holiday letting company Estuary Escapes in her hometown of Kingswater. Another relationship is the last thing she wants or needs. Until one evening she meets Alex Penhaligon.
Alex’s father Sam owns Heron’s Gate Vineyard and Alex has recently returned from California, where he has been working for the past five years. A case of mistaken identity gets them off to a bad start. But discovering his error, Alex is anxious to make amends and soon persuades Ava that he’s not quite as arrogant as she thinks he is. As their friendship begins to turn into something much deeper, Ava wonders whether she can at last put the past behind her and make a new future with Alex.
But someone is watching. A man who not only thinks Ava should be his but also holds a long-term grudge against Alex. And he’s determined to get his own way irrespective of the lengths he has to go to or who gets hurt in the process.
Set in Cornwall Shadows on the Water is a story of family ties, lost love and tangled loyalties.
I have to say I adore Jo Lambert’s male leads, who are always just flawed enough to make them human. She brings to life real people with distinct voices and strong narrative and her books are always set against beautifully painted and well researched backdrops. Amazon Reader 5* review
This novel is full of suspense and tension and is a must read for anyone who enjoyed the thrill of a gripping romantic suspense novel. Amazon Reader 4* review
Jo Lambert’s strengths are in creating strong, realistic characters with a strong sense of place and we have both in oodles here. She also excels in creating unlikeable characters with flaws as well as an antihero who we eventually come to love. Amazon Reader 5* review
Hi Ava, lovely to meet you. Have you lived in this lovely part of the country all your life?
Yes, actually I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be. Kingswater has a wonderfully friendly community on both sides of the estuary. Many families, like mine, have lived here for several generations.
I understand your family is heavily involved in food.
Yes, Dad’s family have been bakers in Kingswater for several hundred years. As well as having his own shops, he supplies a string of local supermarkets. My mother runs a catering company – Strawberry Fields – and my sister has a business designing and baking celebratory cakes. I can recommend her, she’s really good.
But no foodie inclinations as far as you are concerned?
Absolutely not. I hate to admit it, but I have no culinary talents at all. I do occasionally help Mum out at weekend functions though.
So for you it was all about houses?
Yes. My future father-in-law Sam Penhaligon has a beautiful Georgian mansion – Heron’s Gate – and vineyard upriver. Our families are close friends and when I was about fifteen, we were invited there to look at the restoration work he was doing. I totally fell in love with the house and when it came schoolwork experience, I chose to spend some time with a local estate agent. By then I was completely bitten by the house bug. From there I took a degree in real estate. After graduating I worked for a while in Oxford then returned home. For a few years I managed a local holiday letting company but now I work for Sam.
Ah where is that? In the winery?
No, I manage his new holiday complex. Some time ago planning permission was granted for a development of traditionally designed lodges. They are situated in groups of four within the woods on the estate. Forest Gate is a luxury rental company committed to giving our clients a five-star experience.
I understand you’re engaged to Sam’s eldest son Alex. Was that love at first sight?
Hardly (she laughs). My first meeting with Alex? Well, let’s say I thought he was one of the rudest men I had ever met. Arrogant too. But at the time I had no idea the pressure he was under looking after his younger, rather rebellious brother Scott while his father was away.
So he eventually won you round?
Oh yes, he was keen to prove he wasn’t quite the ogre I thought he was. I have to admit to being slightly suspicious at first, but he soon convinced me he really was one of the good guys.
A well-deserved happy ending for you both after sucha traumatic time.
What happened with my boss, Guy French you mean? Yes, none of us had any idea. He was always a loner, but no one realised how damaged he really was. Well thank you for coming along to chat today Ava, and all good wishes to you and Alex for your forthcoming wedding.
Jo Lambert lives on the eastern edge of the city of Bath. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. She has been writing since 2008. Her first five books, a set of linked romantic sagas following the lives of several families in rural West Somerset, were followed in 2015 by Summer Moved On, a contemporary romance set in South Devon. A sequel, Watercolours in the Rain was published 2017,
In June 2019 Jo published A Cornish Affair with Choc Lit. Later that year, a cancer scare saw her writing put on hold for a while, but in the summer of 2020, the first of a new series of romantic suspense novels was published. Shadows on the Water, set on the south coast of Cornwall, became the first of three stories set in the fictitious town of Kingswater (a place based on a mix of Dartmouth and Fowey).
Her latest novel A Kingswater Summer, due to be published in July 2021 is the second in the series. Both books can be read as standalone stories.
When she isn’t writing she reads and reviews. She also has an active blog. Jo loves travel, red wine and music from the sixties and beyond. And sometimes she takes the odd photograph…
It’s time for another ‘Meet the Characters’ post and today we’re going to meet Rafael from the sensual romance His Woman by Arabella Sheen.
Lesley York, a divorced mother of two with a PhD in Fine Art, finds herself falling hard for the charm and charisma of Rafael Capello.
And love? Well, love has nothing to do with it. She’s making no plans for a future with Rafe. And besides, she’s ten years too old for him. What she needs from Rafe is physical fulfilment … in other words, sex, but without the romance or strings attached.
But Rafe wants more from Lesley than a fleeting romance. He thinks she’s sophisticated and stylish, and he’s developed an unexpected passion for one sexy mature lady in particular…
As the University goes into lockdown, can Rafe and Lesley find love amid the crisis of a pandemic?
Now it’s time for the interview … and given what we already know about Rafe, who wouldn’t want to get to know him better ???
Arabella: We – that is Karen and I, have a treat in store for you. One of the main characters featured in my latest release – HIS WOMAN– is about to be interviewed.
Pull up a chair, grab your desired beverage, be it an eleven o’clock coffee or a pre-dinner glass of chilled prosecco, and let’s meet sexy, athletic charmer, Rafael Capello.
Arabella: Hi Rafe, it’s great to have a chance to meet outside the covers of HIS WOMAN where your romance with Lesley unfolds. I don’t want to get too personal, and I’m probably stating the obvious, but you’re an extremely good looking guy… How do you manage to stay fit and keep in shape?
Rafe: Thank you for the compliment, and not wanting to sound arrogant, which I’m often accused of being, most men of Italian decent are thought to be … bello. But if honest, I believe a person’s worth comes from their inner character and goodness rather than their outward appearance – no matter how handsome ‘we’ are … or not.
Take Lesley for example. Physically, she beautiful, stunning, and sexy. But as a mother of two teenagers, she’s so self-conscious of her mature, fully ripened body that she thinks all men, especially me, ought to find skinny, young women more desirable. Let me tell you, it’s quite the opposite. The moment I first saw Lesley, even though I’m ten years younger, I wanted to kiss her, devour her, and get to know her. Not as a one-nightstand, but on a deeper, more intimate, personal level. She’s a woman with an air of refinement and sophistication. The way she looks and speaks suggests an upper-class background, and by comparison, we’re total opposites. I come from the other side of the tracks.
Arabella: What do you mean … you come from the other side of the tracks?
Rafe: I worked my way through college and as luck would have it, I was found by a football talent scout. Once recruited for a premier league football team, I made big bucks, until a knee injury took me off the field. My football career ended, and it was then that I went into teaching. As for fitness … I swim and teach sports for a living … so I have to be fit.
Arabella: You mentioned Lesley, who I assume is your girlfriend. You said she has two children. How is your relationship with them? Do you get along with the kids and do they accept you in their mother’s life?
Rafe: Yes, Lesley is my ‘girlfriend’ and I’m still getting to know the kids. At times it can be a bit complicated. Lesley and her children … well … we’re still building a relationship and growing as a family. I don’t want to push the children into accepting me in their lives. At the moment, they see me as their mother’s live-in boyfriend, and besides, they already have a father, Stephen, and he looks out for them.
I’m there for Lesley, and of course I’ll be there for the children if they need me, but it’s important they know that I don’t want to take over Stephen’s role.
Arabella: What do you like to do? What keeps you busy?
Rafe: You mean apart from making love to Lesley and working the nine-to-five as a sports lecturer at the University? Well, as I mentioned before, there was a time when large amounts of money came my way and I invested my earnings into a business. It’s a restaurant ― Vino’s ― and that keeps me on my toes. There was a bit of trouble when the pandemic first took hold. We … that is all of us in the world of hospitality, had no idea how our businesses would survive, but we’ve managed to keep our head above water. Now it’s a question of moving forward with life and living, and ensuring the safety and survival of any future generations.
Arabella: You mentioned the future. What’s on the horizon for you?
Rafe: If I answer this question, you will need a plot spoiler alert. Let’s just say if you read HIS WOMAN, you’ll get to know what’s on the horizon for Lesley, me, and… (wink, wink, say no more!).
Thanks so much for dropping by to tell us about your book, Arabella. Wishing you many sales!
Meet Arabella Sheen
Arabella Sheen is a British author of sensual, romantic love stories.
She likes nothing more than the challenge of a blank page, starting a new novel and seeing where the story takes her.
One of the many things Arabella loves to do is to read, and when she’s not reading or writing romance, she is either on her allotment sowing and planting with the seasons, or she is sat on the sofa pandering to the demands of her attention-seeking cat.
Having worked and lived in the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands for nearly twenty years as a theatre nurse, she now lives in the South West of England with her family.
This week we’re going to meet Camilla, the star of Annette Hannah’s gorgeous romance, The Cosy Little Cupcake Van. Let’s find out a bit about the book first.
Camilla’s delicious cakes are the talk of her little village. If you need a perfectly iced mouthful of joy, Camilla ‘Cupcake’ is your woman. But after losing her mother, she finds her home and her business in jeopardy. She needs a little helping hand…
Thankfully her friends are always there for her, and when she is given an old ice cream van, Camilla’s dream of a cupcake delivery service is born. Now she can bring happiness – and buttercream frosting – to the whole town.
But when her ex Blake appears back on her doorstep, Camilla must decide if she can trust him again or if her heart might belong to someone else…
Bursting with romance and sprinkled with humour, this is a deliciously feel-good story about one woman putting her life back together, one cupcake at a time. Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Ali McNamara and Rebecca Raisin!
‘A charming, heart-warming romance with a serious feel-good factor’ Helen J Rolfe
‘Brimming with friendship and romance, this lovely book will charm your heart’ Milly Johnson on Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe
‘A wonderfully uplifting story where friendship and the idea that new beginnings are possible is the overriding message throughout’ Brook Cottage Books
‘Essentially, this is the warm hug we all need right now! A gorgeous, uplifting story that leaves you feeling you can do whatever you want to!’ Bookish Lara
‘The Cosy Little Cupcake Van is a wonderfully uplifting and comforting read, written by a very talented author’ My Reading Corner
‘Soothing, comforting and oh so enjoyable. I loved it and think some of those well-established, award-winning romantic fiction novelists need to look out. Annette Hannah is after their crowns’ Linda’s Book Bag
‘Uplifting, positive and absolutely charming… the literary equivalent of comfort food’ The Curious Ginger Cat
Now let’s move onto Annette’s interview withCamilla from The CosyLittle Cupcake Van
Auntie Edie is quite a character who says it like it is, what does she mean to you?
Quite simply she is my rock. They say that friends are the family we choose for ourselves, and she certainly fits into that category. She helped my mum out a lot when we first moved into the house over the road from her when I was small, and she quickly moved up the ranks from neighbour to friend and Auntie. After losing my mum I felt like I’d lost everything, but my Auntie Edie was my one constant, and I don’t know what I’d do without her.
You seem to get on really well despite the huge age difference, why do you think that is?
I don’t think there is an age limit on friendships, older people have such a lot of wonderful experience to pass on and when Auntie Edie and I get together we know we can cry on each other’s shoulders or have a belly laugh or even fancy the same man. She’s hilarious and such wonderful company but she also doesn’t let me wallow and feel sorry for myself. We are great for each other because I knew her late husband and she knew my late mum and together we can keep their memories alive.
How did it feel when you saw the old ice cream van for the first time?
I can’t explain the feeling I got when I saw it in the car graveyard, I was drawn to it as if by magic and it made my heart sing. To some people it looked like a rusty old ice cream van but to me I saw hope and a chance for me to start again after losing my mum, my home and my car. I desperately needed transport and I’d always wanted a cupcake van and Cora (as I called her) was the perfect solution. She was hard work to do up but so satisfying and I had lots of fabulous help from my friends.
Tell us about your friends.
My friends have been amazing, Lucy and her Grandad had renovated an old railway signal box and when I was down on my luck, she gave me a job there to get me back on my feet. She was also so patient with me when I let her down over making wedding cakes, my confidence was at an all-time low. Gracie and Carrie and lovely Ron who owned the car showroom where I got Cora from have all played a huge part in getting me started again.
Are there any love interests for you in the book?
(Blushes) Well I meet a lovely guy named Ged who shows me what it’s really like to be homeless for people who don’t have friends like mine to give them a helping hand. He’s a gorgeous Irish man who didn’t have the easiest start in life but he’s now got himself sorted. He’s not into commitment but I imagine he’d be lots of fun to hang out with for a while. Then there’s Blake, a very sexy Canadian, he was the love of my life, but he left me ten years earlier under tragic circumstances. I just don’t know if I could ever trust him again, but it doesn’t look like I need to worry about that as he’s wearing a wedding ring.
You have made some amazing cakes, which ones stand out the most?
I made a replica of one of the quaintest little shops I’ve ever seen. It’s right in Market square and is called ‘Odds and Sods’ which is a funny name but whatever you’re looking for you can guarantee that the owners Mr and Mrs Ives will find it for you. It’s gorgeous with black oak beams and olde worlde, toy shop style windows. That’s probably the most intricate one I’ve ever made, and I also made one for their daughter Rosie. She owns a café boat called Serendipity on the water and she makes the best scones in the world, they’re amazing and she was delighted with her replica cake. The funniest cupcakes I made would have to be the erotic ones I made for a hen party, Lucy and I had a good old giggle over them.
Where is your happy place?
I actually have two happy places, the first is Auntie Edie’s house, because I no longer have my mum’s house, hers is the place I can remember my mum the most. We used to have afternoon tea with Auntie Edie and I would play with her ornaments which were in the shape of animals and her pet parrots, the Liver birds would land on my head. The other place is Cupcake Cottage, it has a thatched roof with a little chimney on the top and from the outside it actually looks like a cupcake. It’s where I became independent and restarted my business with fresh hope and a fresh outlook on life.
Annette Hannah is a Liver Bird who relocated to leafy Hertfordshire in the 80’s and now lives near a river with her husband, two of their three grown up children and a crazy black cocker spaniel. She writes Romantic comedies in settings inspired by the beautiful countryside around her and always with a nod to her hometown.
She worked in Marketing for many years as a qualified Marketeer which she loved as it tapped into her creative side.
As an avid reader, she began to review the books she read, became a book blogger and eventually plucked up the courage to fulfil her life long dream of writing a book.
For four years she was a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s new writers’ scheme, during which time she wrote a book a year.
After signing a two book deal with Orion Dash in 2020 she graduated to full member of the organisation and is also their Press Officer.
She loves long walks along the river, travelling to far flung places and spending time with her friends and family.
Welcome to my monthly blog where I feature an Indie Author. My guest today is popular author Jane Risdon. So grab a cup of coffee – or a glass of wine! – and let’s get chatting to Jane. 😊
Welcome to my blog, Jane. Lovely to talk to you. I’d like to start with asking if you have ever been traditionally published?
Yes, I am traditionally published. I have a co-authored novel with Christina Jones, Only One Woman, with a traditional publisher, one of the top five, and I am included in two anthologies with the same publisher.
I am what I believe is called a hybrid, in that I have also published through an indie publishing company as well. My collection of short crime stories, Undercover: Crime Shorts, is published by an independent company in New Zealand.
Over the last ten years I have also had short stories published in several anthologies with the same indie publisher and with a couple of others, often in aid of various charities. I try to write for a charity every couple of years.
Can you tell us what you think are the main differences between being traditionally and indie published?
On the surface, extraordinarily little I’d say, but that is simplistic. Being traditionally published means that you are given an editor who works closely with you and is a great asset in that they will guide, offer advice, suggest changes, point out errors in timelines and inconsistencies within one’s story which may have been missed by the author. We all get word blind.
The traditional publisher formats and prints the finished book and has means of distribution —possibly globally via licensing agreements — so, in theory your reach as an author is greater. At one time the traditional publisher would handle the publicity and promotion of the author and book and arrange personal appearances. Their name has clout and gives the author credibility, supposedly.
However, my experience has been that I am supposed as a traditionally publisher author, to do all the PR and publicity myself. My publisher for Only One Woman did a little PR when the book came out, every now and again they would post Tweets, put something out on Instagram and Facebook, but that was about it. That ended quickly and now I do it all – in-fact I have done all the publicity for Only One Woman to date following publication.
I’ve arranged online guest author posts, internet radio interviews, press, etc., for the novel and I am still doing it.
Only One Woman is sold via Waterstones, Blackwells, Foyles, WH Smith etc on a Print on Demand basis and is not stocked in the stores. Readers need to order the book from these stores in person or online. This was a huge surprise to me. Successful authors have their books stocked by stores but it never occurred to me that our novel would not. But at least having a traditional publisher opened the door to being sold in actual brick stores and not just on-line which affords some kudos apparently.
The anthologies in which I am a contributor via my traditional publisher — Shiver and Wishing on a Star — are sold in the same way, via stores and online.
The Indie author goes it alone. They are responsible for getting their work edited, the formatting and artwork arranged and done, printing arranged via one of the online platforms such as Amazon, Lulu etc. I decided not to self-publish as such, but get an Indie involved to edit, format, use the artwork I submitted, and to put it up on the necessary platforms.
I was able to arrange for Undercover: Crime Shorts to be sold, Print on Demand, through Waterstones, Blackwells, Foyles, etc since I already have a profile with these stores and have my own Author Pages with them. I think it helped having a traditional publisher already, and with my Crime Collection listing a publisher, albeit an Indie company, on the cover I feel this helped.
I still do all the PR, promotion, and arrange my own interviews on blogs, and on online internet radio myself. I am doing all this for my traditionally published work as well, so in this respect there is little difference between the two.
I get to keep all the royalties being Indie published, I must share my royalties being traditionally published.
The anthologies in which I’ve contributed stories other than via my traditional and my Indie publisher have all been subject to different arrangements, but ultimately I do my share of PR and promotion to push these books.
And what made you decide to become an Indie author?
I don’t think of myself as an Indie author as such, although I made a conscious decision to publish Undercover: Crime Shorts with another company, which is Indie, because I did not want to wait to publish it. At the time, my traditional publisher had just been sold and the new company was not planning on publishing anything by the authors they’d inherited, for about two years. I did not want to wait two years, so I got permission to publish the book elsewhere. I didn’t want to waste time seeking another traditional publisher and so I engaged an Indie with whom I’d published short stories prior to my traditional deal some years ago.
I haven’t any plans to Indie publish again unless my latest books are not taken up with a traditional publisher and I get tired of waiting. My agent is submitting on my behalf.
What is the inspiration for your latest book?
I have written a series called, Ms. Birdsong Investigates, which is about an MI5 Intelligence Officer who is unexpectedly given the option to take voluntary retirement or face the sack and loss of her pension due to a joint operation with MI6 going terribly wrong. She ‘retires,’ to a village in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire, to lick her wounds and plot her return to MI5 come hell or high water.
It is hard to pinpoint a moment when the inspiration for her arrived inside my head. I have wanted to write a security services/organised crime novel for a long time. Before I was involved in the international music business, I worked for several British government departments. In Germany I worked for the Ministry of Defence on a huge army base. I went on to work in London and elsewhere for the government. These positions have given me a huge amount of material to use in my writing and what I experienced and learned whilst working for them intrigued and fascinated me, and I filed it all away for the time when I could write.
I especially had a fabulous time at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London during the late 1960s at the height of the Cold War and the IRA ‘troubles,’ when I lived at a Civil Service hostel on the Bayswater Road. I shared a dorm with 4 other girls. We all worked for various government departments: one worked in Customs and Excise and used to bring drug samples home so she could familiarise herself with what they looked and tasted like, another worked at the Home Office so you can imagine what interesting things we used to talk about.
Work was exciting, we were always evacuating our building on the Victoria Embankment — the former premises of Old Scotland Yard and recently, once again, the new premises of New Scotland Yard — due to bomb threats from the IRA. I worked with our ambassadors and staff of the various British embassies and consulates around the world and when our Ambassador to Montevideo, in Uruguay, was kidnapped by Tupamaros Guerrillas and held for ransom, we worked around the clock trying to secure his release. It took 9 months.
When the Soviet Union was found to have been spying on the UK from its Embassy in London we expelled almost 100 diplomats and in retaliation the Russians expelled our Moscow Embassy staff. It was exciting and great material for a future author to store inside their imagination.
I met with Special Branch regularly for interview by a Commander who was responsible for keeping my P. V status (positive vetting) up to date. Everyone wanting to join the FCO had to be vetted to ensure there weren’t any areas in their private life which could lead to blackmail by a foreign power, to keep it from becoming public. I was vetted when I was in Germany before I was employed by the FCO. We handled sensitive materials, working with what was known back then as ‘the funny buggers,’ aka as spies, and so anyone working for the FCO had to be beyond reproach, which is funny when you think of what has gone on over the years.
The commander with whom I met regularly was instrumental in the surveillance upon, and eventual arrest, of the husband-and-wife spies, The Krogers, who were part of the infamous Portland Spy Ring which had been exposed and prosecuted in the early 1960s. My chats with him fuelled my appetite for anything espionage related. And I also realised that there was a lot of Organised Crime involved with the security of our country.
I am not sure if Ms. Birdsong was lurking in the back of my mind then but over the years as I worked in various departments, including the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, Oxfordshire, my imagination worked over-time and I learned so much that would or could be used for material when I eventually had time to write.
Dame Stella Rimington was the first woman Director General of MI5 and she later became a best-selling author of a series about an MI5 officer, and I think it was she who inspired me to consider writing about a female intelligence officer.
I wanted Ms. B to be a strong independent woman with a vast wealth of experience within the security services. Her name popped into my head out of the blue one day and I started to write.
That all sounds fascinating, Jane. How do you go about your research?
I’ve already mentioned that my inspiration for my crime/mystery writing comes from my experiences although I must stress I have never been a criminal or a murderer, and from reading similar books. I love crime/espionage fiction and true crime. When I write about music in my crime stories, I call upon my experience in the music business. Write what you know they tell us. The music business is well known for its criminal connections.
To enable my writing to be more authentic and accurate I decided some years ago to take 7 university courses online with several universities, and with tutors who are world renowned in their fields. I studied some courses in Forensic Science under Dame Sue Black at Dundee University, for example. I also studied other Forensic Science courses, Criminal Justice, and basic Archaeology. I don’t write police procedurals, but I felt I needed to have a basic and comprehensive understanding of how forensics and criminal justice works so that when I am writing about the discovery of a body or how a murderer is tracked and convicted, I don’t open myself up for ridicule and condemnation by my readers for having got the very basics wrong.
I research as I write. I am not one for planning so when I get to a part in my story where something is about to happen or has happened which requires forensic or criminal justice being involved, if I don’t know or cannot recall what I have learned, I will go online and research. I also have access to a couple of former homicide detectives and a counter-terrorism officer I can consult who are also authors and are most helpful. I enjoy the research aspect of writing.
Have youever been to any ofthe countries in your books?
Yes I have. Only One Woman is set in the late 1960s in England, Germany, Jersey (Channel Islands), Wales and Scotland, and it is also set in France, and I have been to these places or have lived there. In the story countries where cruise ships called into are mentioned. I have not been on a cruise, but my musician husband and his band played all over the world and have been on several Mediterranean cruises visiting many exotic places, so he has been invaluable supplying details for me when writing about these locations. They played on the cruises when they were waiting for a European tour and a record to be released. They needed the money!
I have lived and worked in Europe, America, and SE Asia and quite often I will add these locations into my stories or set stories there. I find it makes interesting reading. I love reading stories set in locations other than Britain.
What are your hobbies when not writing?
I love writing so I do spend a great deal of my time at my desk writing stories, articles, and blog posts, and when I am not doing that, if time and lockdown allows, I can be found out and about with my camera or camera phone. I enjoy taking photos and walking in our lovely countryside or in the great gardens we have in England.
As well as the countryside and nature, I love photographing old churches, cathedrals, ancient buildings, and villages. Brick walls, chimney stacks, gates, doors — you name it. My camera is aimed the moment I spot anything.
For over 40 years I have been researching family history and have reunited long lost family members from around the world. I was going to write a book about it but none of my family or my husband’s is in the least bit interested in what I discovered, so that is on the backburner for now. Possibly one day.
I have a passion for general knowledge, so I really enjoy quizzes, but not quiz game shows. I have been an avid reader since I was old enough to read. I read mostly crime, espionage, or thrillers.
Astronomy and anything to do with space and the planets, star systems, galaxies, and the cosmos captivates me. Professor Brian Cox is a star, and the late Carl Sagan and Sir Patrick Moore have been my idols, if that is the right word, since I first watched anything to do with Astronomy when I was little. The Sky at Night was and still is one of my favourite TV programmes. I love science.
Music. I cannot l forget music. It has been my life since I first heard Nat King Cole and Doris Day as a child at home, and having married a musician, later working with musicians for most of my adult working years, it is the second most important part of my life. Home is filled with music. Listening to it or having my husband song-writing and playing his guitar as I write. Music is forever with me.
Jane Risdon is the co-author of ‘Only One Woman,’ with Christina Jones (Headline Accent) and ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts,’ (Plaisted Publishing), as well as having many short stories published in numerous anthologies. She has written for several online and print magazines such as Writing Magazine and has a regular series in The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine.
Undercover: Crime Shorts was the February Free Book of the Month on the virtual library and festival site, MYVLF.com, and her live video interview features in their theatre. She is a regular guest on international internet radio shows such as theauthorsshow.com, chatandspinradio.com, and The Brian Hammer Jackson Radio Show.
Before turning her hand to writing Jane worked in the International Music Business alongside her musician husband, working with musicians, singer/songwriters, and record producers. They also facilitated the placement of music in movies and television series. Earlier in her life she worked for various government departments in Germany and the UK.
This week we’re meeting Robin Vail, the protagonist from emotional novel, The Missing Pieces of Us, by Eva Glyn. First, let’s take a look at the gorgeous cover and find out more about the book.
There are three versions of the past – hers, his, and the truth
When Robin Vail walks back into widow Isobel O’Briain’s life decades after he abruptly left it, the dark days since her husband’s unexpected passing finally know light. Robin has fallen on hard times but Izzie and her teenage daughter Claire quickly remind him what it’s like to have family… and hope.
But Robin and Izzie are no longer those twenty-something lovers, and as they grow closer once more the missing pieces of their past weigh heavy. Now, to stop history repeating, Izzie and Robin must face facts and right wrongs… no matter how painful.
The Missing Pieces of Us will be published by One More Chapter as an ebook on 21st July and in paperback on 14th October.
I meet Robin at the end of January 2007, about six weeks after he first sees Izzie again. He’s an exceptionally tall man with a tidy beard flecked with grey, and the warmest, most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen.
So what happened to make you leave Izzie all those years ago?
My mother died. Simple as that. Except it wasn’t simple… it was the day Izzie first said she cared for me, and I was so happy, just for a blissful hour or so, but the moment I walked into the house I found her. To be honest, it’s hard to talk about even twenty-odd years later.
But if Izzie cared for you, why didn’t she support you?
I didn’t tell her. She was going on holiday the next day and I was in such a mess. After the funeral I packed my rucksack and took myself off to hike along the coastal path in Dorset to get my head straight. The thing was, I kept on going all winter. I never went back.
You were on the road all winter?
Yes. By spring I was in Cornwall and somehow… the change in the weather gave me a foothold. And I was really lucky; I found somewhere to live, work, people who were kind to me. But then the hurricane of ’87 happened and I had to go back.
To check on your house?
No. That was long gone. We lived in a council house, you see. No. I came back because of the faerie tree. Izzie and I… we’d made wishes around it. It sort of… drew me back. And it was right, because I met Jennifer again and my whole life changed.
So there’s been another woman in your life all this time?
Not another Izzie, no, but another mother. Or as close to it as you can ever get. Jennifer was extraordinary; she recognised the hurt in me, took me in. But she was lonely too. Her daughter had totally cut her off after… well, I won’t go into that now. It’s not relevant. But she gave me peace, stability and love. For all those years.
So how did you end up back on the streets?
Let’s just say I don’t cope with death very well. But there was a silver lining, because if all that hadn’t happened I might never have seen Izzie again. I bumped into her – literally – or rather, she bumped into me. And I was so damned ashamed. I must have stunk to high heaven. I prayed she hadn’t recognised me, but all the same I followed her and Claire and watched them in the coffee shop. It was only when she brought me a hot drink as she left I knew she knew, but she just put the cup down and walked away.
But that wasn’t the end of it, was it?
No. Thankfully it was just the beginning.
‘Full of mystery and magic’ best selling author Heidi Swain
‘Wow, just wow. Fans of Amanda Prowse will love this gripping emotional story’ Melanie, Netgalley
It sounds an intriguing read, doesn’t it? You can get a copy of the book here:
I’m delighted to welcome fellow Bookouture author, Jo Lovett who is going to talk to us today about her latest rom-com, The House Swap. Let’s take a look at the cover and find out a bit about the book.
Blurb Island house off coast of Maine, with private beach, sea views and the occasional farmyard animal, seeks super swanky Central London penthouse overlooking Holland Park, complete with concierge service and spurned ex-lovers…
When thirty-somethings Cassie and James find each other on a home swap website, it feels meant to be. City hotshot James needs a bolthole after a relationship goes sour and Cassie needs to leave the comfort of her little island to research her new book.
Soon, James is living in Cassie’s cute but ramshackle beachside cottage, and Cassie’s living in James’s luxurious London apartment. It’s the perfect solution.
Except James didn’t imagine he’d be sharing his home with eleven chickens and three alpacas, not to mention the unusually friendly neighbours, who seem to find any excuse to drop by. And Cassie is less than impressed when James’s ex-girlfriend turns up at his door, demanding to know where he’s gone.
The more Cassie and James talk, the more the tension between them mounts. But as the insults fly so do the sparks, and when the time finally comes to swap back, Cassie and James find they aren’t quite ready to give each other up.
But there’s more than just distance between them – and when Cassie makes a surprising discovery, the pair are forced to confront their feelings and decide what kind of life they really want.
An utterly heart-warming love story that will make you laugh and cry, fans of The Flatshare, The Hating Game and movies like The Holiday will fall head over heels for The House Swap.
‘I really loved this book. It’s funny, endearing, sweet, and just makes you feel good. It’s the kind of book you can read and smile… isn’t that what we all need right now? Something comforting and fun. I can’t wait to read more by Jo Lovett!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
‘I loved this book. I read it all in one sitting, I could not put it down… The characters are so relatable and lovable. I felt everything they were feeling… The writing was so amazing you really do feel everything. Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
‘This was a super cute book!… incredibly fun… kept me hooked the entire time!’ Brinns Books
It sounds a fun story, doesn’t it? Let’s find out more about Cassie. Over to you, Jo:
So Cassie, tell me a little about yourself
I’m thirty-seven, I write children’s books and I’m originally from Scotland (although half Jordanian) but now live on a beautiful island off the coat of Maine surrounded by lovely neighbours and my three alpacas and eleven chickens.
What made you choose to live on the island?
I wasn’t actually planning to move permanently away from Glasgow – it was just supposed to be a temporary break – but then I saw my extremely dilapidated house for sale for an extremely good price and it turned out that I had no willpower whatsoever and couldn’t help myself buying it, and four years on I’m still here and loving it…
So what made you choose to do the house swap?
If I’m honest, I really didn’t want to do it. I love the island in the summer, and I didn’t want to leave my friends and animals. But I needed to visit London for work purposes, plus I’d been thinking for a while about going for fertility treatment with a sperm donor and it felt like it’d be a lot easier to be down the road from the hospital rather than on an island several hours away from Boston (where I’d otherwise have gone for the treatment), so I decided to go for it. I wanted to rent my house out for financial and security reasons and my agent recommended the website SwapBnB and I was lucky enough to find James’s flat on there and be able to agree the swap with him.
Tell us about your neighbours – they sound very important to you?
I’m unbelievably lucky with my neighbours. They’re wonderful and I adore them. On one side I have Laura, who’s eighty and amazing at baking, dragging your life secrets out of you and poker. And on the other side I have my friend Dina, who’s my age, a serious player in the world of dolls house manufacture and far too open about sex, and likes a big night out.
And your alpacas and chickens
I’m lucky with them too! The alpacas are called Maisie, Donna and Fred and are loyal and cuddly and spit. And there are eleven chickens of different breeds and a couple of them lay blue eggs which genuinely do taste a bit different.
And… James? I hear that you didn’t immediately hit it off
To be fair to James, he did leave his flat in an immaculate state and he did also leave three very welcome and very fancy bottles of wine for me. But we had slightly different ideas about what we were expecting from a house swap. I thought he was ridiculously unfriendly (and gorgeous, which was just annoying) and I’m pretty sure that he thought I was ridiculously over-friendly to start off with… And we both thought the other was unreasonable… And that’s when the arguing started…
Would you do it all over again?
If you want to find out how Cassie and James get on, you can get a copy of the book here:
Author bio Jo Lovett lives in London with her family. She started writing romantic comedy when she realised that she was regularly begging her oldest son to let her do his English homework but she wasn’t actually that interested in haunted houses or Macbeth. Jo was runner-up in the Good Housekeeping/ Orion First Novel Competition 2018 and shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Award 2019. Her first novel, ‘The First Time We Met’, was published by Bookouture in November 2020 and her second, ‘The House Swap’, in April 2021. Jo’s third book will be published in October 2021. When she can escape her laundry mountain, she enjoys reading, tennis and wine.
Contact Twitter: @JoLovettWrites
Lovely to talk to you and Cassie, Jo. I hope your book flies!
Karen King – Writing about the light and dark of relationships.
This week author Leonie Mack is interviewing her character Lou Saunders from Italy Ever After. Isn’t the cover gorgeous?
TV journalist Lou feels battered and bruised after her divorce from Phil, the father of her daughter Edie. Her confidence and sense of fun have steadily been drained away, and she isn’t sure who she is any more.
When the opportunity arises to accompany Edie on a music camp in Italy for a month in the summer, Lou jumps at the chance for new adventures, new horizons and new friends. The hazy warmth of the summer sun, shining brightly over the stunning Lake Garda, slowly brings Lou back to life.
Nick Romano, Edie’s music teacher, loves being home in Italy, but coaching his students for their concert in Milan, is bringing back difficult memories. His blossoming friendship with Lou is the perfect distraction, although a summer fling would be easier to conduct without the scrutiny of his mother Greta, not to mention the interference of his extended Italian family.
As the summer passes, full of sunshine and breath-taking scenery, gelato and delicious feasts, Lou and Nick get ever closer. But as the time for farewell creeps up on them, will they be able to say goodbye and leave their memories behind in the Italian sun, or can a summer romance last a lifetime?
Review quotes (Netgalley):
‘How I loved this book, so much so that I devoured it in one sitting!’
‘Mack deftly serves you a gorgeous slice of Italy and woos you through Lou and Nick’s love story with an aplomb that will have you checking the flight schedules to go.’
‘The author definitely knows how to write chemistry between the characters.’
‘I loved this story so much, such a heartwarming, romantic summer read.’
What started your love affair with this beautiful country, Italy?
I fell in love with the place the first time I caught a glimpse of Lake Garda from the front seat of a minibus! I was at a low point in my life—it was a few months after my divorce came through. I had the opportunity to go with my daughter on a music camp and I was really inspired to make something of it—of myself—on the trip.
I had my daughter when I was young—too young—and, with the pressure of a failing marriage, I’d never stepped out and tried anything new. I decided I’d use my free time to learn new skills and embrace being somewhere different. I called it my search for a talent, but that was a bit of a crock. I had reacted badly to a comment my ex-husband made about me having no talent and I allowed it to get in my head.
I thought I’d go all Eat, Pray, Love, you know—without the love!—but it turned out all I needed was a bit of perspective and to trust my instincts. Luckily there’s a lot of perspective to be had from the top of a mountain!
What activities did you try and which was your favourite?
I took workshops in perfume making, photography, cheesemaking, leatherwork and glass beads, most of which were fun, but, now that I look back on it, they were never going to be life-changing, were they? Who has a lightbulb moment while stirring curds and whey? Actually I boiled my curds and whey and killed the cultures because I was preoccupied with my crappy love life—which is really looking up now, though. Oh dear, you’ve made me blush!
With the group of teenagers from the UK, we also did SUP (stand up paddle boarding), which I was terrible at, but it was kind of fun. I even went foraging for mushrooms. And I hiked up a mountain, which I’m really proud of.
What about the music camp? How did it go?
Camps are always intense. The kids pulled together well—partly because they had an amazing conductor leading the rehearsals (although I must admit I’m biased). We stayed in the most perfect spot behind Malcesine on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. It’s a former convent, tucked up against the mountain with an olive grove in front and the most amazing views.
When the kids went to bed to look at their phones, the three teachers and three parents—and sometimes the stand-in manager of the convent, who happened to be the conductor’s mother!—would sit out on the terrace and have a glass of wine.
The competition at the end was stressful, especially because Nick—I mean Mr Romano, the conductor, and my daughter’s music teacher for the past six years—had to go back to his old school in Milan, which had painful memories for him. But he coped better than he thought he would.
I’m sensing romance, here.
You worked it out more quickly than I did! It was all very embarrassing to realise I had a huge crush on the teacher, but we got to know each other properly and then, thankfully, realised it was something big for both of us—which was lucky because my daughter started secondary school right afterward and I would never have seen him again!
What advice do you have for people travelling to the Lake Garda region?
Just go! There’s always something to find when you go somewhere new with your eyes open. There’s something for everyone. The food is amazing, and I don’t usually like fish. I couldn’t believe how good fresh olive oil tastes and there’s nothing like walking along the lake with an ice cream in one hand—especially with your other hand tucked into a special someone’s! There are castles and forests—lots of things for crazy sporty people, but if you’re not that sporty, like me, there’s a cable car and they’ve opened a funicular railway, too.
Did you learn any Italian?
I thought I was terrible at languages and it turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy, you know. I joked about the meaning of the Italian words more than learning any, but when I go back for the olive harvest with Nick’s family, I’ll make more of an effort. Whenever I asked anyone, ‘Dove la stazione?’ (which is about the extent of my Italian and I’m sure it’s wrong, to boot), they’d reply in English. But, hey, I learned polenta and risotto and funghi! Most importantly, I learned ‘gelato’ and how to pronounce ‘stracciatella’, which is very important because ice cream with slivers of chocolate is my favourite.
Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great locations and big feelings. She loves a happy ending and shares that love in every book she writes!
Leonie is a journalism graduate, a language nut and loves to travel, particularly on foot, by bike and by train. After growing up in Australia and living most of her adult life in London, she now lives in Germany, among the vineyards on the river Main.
My guest today is women’s fiction author Liz Eeles. Liz is interviewing Lettie Starcross, the main character in her emotional family drama, A Letter To The Last House Before The Sea.
Isn’t the cover gorgeous?
Here’s a bit about the story:
High on the clifftops, Lettie takes a deep breath of salty air and opens the letter. There is no signature, and the old-fashioned handwriting is faint against the yellowed paper. The message, and the tiny gold key inside, will turn her life upside down…
Lettie Starcross makes her way along the cobbled streets of Heaven’s Cove, clutching a little key and searching for answers about her kind, twinkly-eyed Great Aunt Iris, whom she misses terribly. With no job back home, and no-one in her family understanding how adrift she feels, Lettie wonders if her aunt was lonely just like her – is that why she fled this pretty seaside village years ago and never returned?
Staying at Driftwood House where Iris lived, now a cosy B&B, Lettie can almost hear Iris’s laughter on the breeze. And when she locks eyes with brooding fisherman Corey as he’s singing a haunting sea shanty in the local tavern, the sparks that fly between them are a welcome distraction from her grief.
But everything changes when Lettie meets Corey’s grandmother. Hearing the name ‘Iris Starcross’, her wrinkled face turns pale. Then she tells Lettie a devastating secret: seventy years ago, a choice Iris made tore apart this tight-knit community.
Heartbroken, Lettie questions if she ever really understood her beloved aunt – and if Corey knew about this shocking rift all along. So when her sister calls begging her to come home, Lettie is torn. If she stays to find what the key unlocks, can she discover the truth about what Iris did – and fight for her own fresh start? Or will she be the next Starcross woman to run from Heaven’s Cove forever?
It’s getting some lovely reviews:
(5* ‘Wow!… worth every star and more. It’s a long while since I have enjoyed reading a book so much.’ Amazon reviewer
5*’An absolute dream of a read that is adorable from start to finish.’ Goodreads reviewer
Now let’s move onto Liz’s interview with Lottie
Tell us a little about yourself, Lettie.
I’m from London, 29 years old, and single which reflects badly on my mother’s matchmaking skills. She spends a lot of time introducing me to ‘suitable’ men who don’t seem very suitable at all.
You’re a long way from London at the moment, in the Devon coastal village of Heaven’s Cove. Why’s that?
I’m here, in this beautiful little village, in the hopes of unravelling a family mystery. Life is difficult right now because my beloved great-aunt Iris died a few weeks ago at the age of 99. She was brought up in Heaven’s Cove but was always very secretive about her time here. That was strange enough, but her final words to me were even more odd. She handed me the gold filigree key that she always wore around her neck and said: ‘Find out for me, darling girl.’
What did she want you to find out?
What the key unlocks, maybe? I’m not sure, and things have become even more mysterious since I found a cryptic old love letter hidden in the lining of her handbag. None of it makes sense, but I feel that the answers lie here in this village.
Have you had any luck so far in uncovering your great-aunt’s secrets?
Not so far. Florence, an elderly lady in the village, knew Iris when they were both young. But she couldn’t get away from me fast enough when she found out that Iris and I were related. Something happened here a long time ago – something that affected my great-aunt her whole life – but finding out exactly what isn’t going to be easy.
Is there anyone else who can help you?
Florence’s grandson, Corey, and I didn’t get off to the best of starts so I doubt he’ll want to help. There’s Claude, the local eccentric, who apparently has lots of old documents and photos of the village in his cottage. They might shed some light on Iris’s early life, but he’s rather scary so I’m plucking up the courage to knock on his door.
What about your family? Won’t they help?
Definitely not. My sister, Daisy, wants me to go back to London asap, so I can help out with her children – I do tend to feel more like Daisy’s au-pair than her sister. And Mum and Dad want me around to give them a hand. I’ve kind of slipped into the role of family carer and my life has been put on hold. That’s why it’s good to be away in Heaven’s Cove for a little while.
What do you think of Heaven’s Cove?
It’s a wonderful place, with its thatched cottages, cobbled lanes and beautiful beach. I’m staying at Driftwood House which is a guesthouse now but was once Iris’s family home. It stands on a cliff that overlooks the village and has magnificent views of the ocean and also of the countryside that rolls towards Dartmoor. I can’t imagine what happened to Iris to make her stay away from this amazing village for so long, but I’m determined to find out.
What a fascinating interview! If, like me, youwant to know what the key unlocks, you can buy the book here:
This is the second in Liz’s Heaven’s Cove series – the first is Secrets At The Last House Before The Sea – and it’s a standalone story so you don’t have to have read the first one, but you might want to! If so, you can get a copy here:
Liz writes heart-warming and uplifting women’s fiction about families and relationships, and romantic comedies full of love and laughs.
She worked as a journalist for years and brought up a family on the south coast of England, all the while writing fiction on the quiet. After being short-listed in a couple of national novel-writing competitions, her dream of being a published author came true when she was signed by Bookouture.
When not writing, Liz likes walking by the sea, catching up with friends and binge-watching box sets.
My Friday Read this week is Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange by prolific author, Jenny Kane, who is published in several genres. Jenny is going to share an extract from her novel, and tell us a little about herself. Welcome, Jenny!
Welcome back to Mill Grange in the latest uplifting romance in the bestselling Mill Grange series!
Helen Rogers has been lying to herself over her feelings for Tom since the moment they met. And for good reason; not only are they colleagues, working together with the archaeology groups at Mill Grange, but her sabbatical is almost over and she’ll soon have to return to Bath.
Tom Harris knows he’s falling in love with Helen. How could he not? She’s smart, kind and great with his son Dylan. But with his ex suddenly offering him a chance to spend more time with Dylan, and the staff of Mill Grange about to host a wedding, everything else has to be put to one side. Even his feelings for a certain archaeologist.
As Helen’s time at Mill Grange runs short, the two are forced to consider what matters most…
*Can be read as a standalone, but best as a part of the wider series: get your hands on Midsummer at Mill Grange to start from book one!*
Readers are loving Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange:
‘What a fantastic story this was, I loved it from start to finish. This is a well written, truly delightful read’ – Reader review
‘Don’t you just love a book that sweeps you away and transports to a sunnier, happy time. Well this book is the perfect escape. Curl up and enjoy this romantic comedy. I loved it’ – Reader review
‘Ah, Jenny has done it again … I am already champing at the bit for book 4! Being back with the gang at Mill Grange is like meeting up with long lost friends’ – Reader review
‘What a lovely feel-good story! It’s a fantastic mixture of romance and humour, filled with enough laughable and serious moments to balance it out’ – Reader review
‘Kane’s writing style, with its gorgeous and vivid descriptions, allows readers to visit places and follow the characters as if they’d been there themselves’ – Reader review
Here’s an extract to whet the appetite –
‘There is something rather delicious about sneaking off for morning coffee on a work day.’ Tina raised her coffee cup in salute to Thea and Helen as they waited for Sybil to deliver a round of her famous cheese scones.
‘I ought to be scraping a ton of mud off the shovels ready for the new guests this afternoon,’ Helen dropped a sugar cube into her mug, ‘but I can live with the guilt.’
Looking at her two friends across the Spode covered, table, Thea smiled. ‘I’m going to miss you two.’
‘You’re only going for eight weeks. Anyway, you’ll be far too busy being famous to miss the likes of us,’ Helen gave her a friendly nudge, ‘and too knackered from all the digging to notice the time passing.’
Thea laughed, ‘The famous bit I doubt, the knackered bit I can’t argue with. I ache enough after a day helping you and Tom on our fortlet, these days. A full eight week dig with television cameras watching my every move is going to kill me.’
‘Don’t be daft.’ Tina looked up as Sybil arrived at their table, ‘I swear your scones smell more delicious every time we come in here.’
Sybil rolled her eyes, ‘Praise indeed seeing as at least one of you – Thea – is here every other day testing the merchandise.’
Thea stuck out her tongue. ‘Well, the chicken’s eggs need delivering. It would be rude to walk all this way and not sample the goods.’
‘It’s a twenty-minute walk! You make it sound like you need Kendal Mint Cake and crampons!’
‘I’m going to miss your cooking almost as much as I’ll miss you, Sybil.’
Picking up a large paper bag from where she’d placed it on the next table, the café owner passed it to Thea. ‘Well, these should keep you going for a while at least.’
Having peeped inside the top of the bag, Thea got up and gave Sybil a hug. ‘Thank you.’
‘I didn’t want Shaun to go without my scones either.’
‘Shaun?’ Thea laughed. ‘If you think a bag of your scones will last long enough to share with him, you are under a serious misconception!’
Watching Sybil skip off to her next customer, Thea was suddenly emotional. She was only going away to work for a while, and she was going with the man she loved, yet it felt as if she was leaving Mill Grange for good.
Cradling the warm paper bag, Thea realised with a start that it had been almost a year since she’d first arrived at the manor house where she, Tina, Sam, Helen, Tom and Shaun – when he wasn’t away filming – lived. Along with their friends, Mabel and Bert, they ran the manor as a retreat for former military personnel recovering from various injuries and debilitating experiences. Part of that recovery therapy included working on uncovering a Roman Fortlet that she and Shaun had found in the manor’s garden.
The excavation, a rare find for Exmoor, an area of Britain which the Romans had hardly touched, was a popular choice of work for Mill Grange’s visitors. In fact, it was so much in demand that, now the digging of the site was almost complete, they’d set up a fake dig so that their visitors could still learn archaeological techniques during their stay.
Having worked for years as an archaeologist and historian at the Roman Baths in Bath alongside Helen, Thea was finding the dual challenges of running a manor house, being host to guests, and co-managing a dig, immensely rewarding. So why am I going to the Cotswolds to be a TV presenter?
If you’d like to buy Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, you can find it from all good paperback and ebook retailers, including-
Writing was something that came into my life without any warning. I had no childhood dreams to write. I disliked English at school and had serious issues with spelling and grammar as I have dyslexia. (Undiagnosed at the time). All I ever wanted was to learn all there is to know about Robin Hood and become an archaeologist.
I did become an archaeologist, and my knowledge of the Robin Hood legend is pretty solid, yet – at the age of 33 – life decided it had other plans for me. From nowhere, while sat alone in a café in Aberdeen, an idea for a short story came into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote it down.
Miraculously, that short story was published – and in that moment, I was addicted. I’ve never looked back.
What do you like writing most?
I’m fortunate to write across several genres. I began as an erotica writer (Kay Jaybee), and now write romcoms and romances as Jenny Kane and historical crime novels and scripts as Jennifer Ash.
It would be impossible to say I like writing one above the others – each brings its own challenges and rewards.
The romcoms are a delight because the characters – especially those in my Mill Grange series – quickly become close friends. They are all quirky and fun, and (if honest), based on people I’ve met!
The historical fiction is more demanding to write, due to the research involved and- as they are usually murder mysteries- the amount of extra suspense needed to keep the reader guessing ‘who did it’ until the very end. Having said that, I loved weaving The Folville Chronicles together. Set in the fourteenth century, they combine my passion for the tales of Robin Hood with the real-life exploits of a criminal family- the Folvilles- who controlled large parts of Leicestershire in the 1320’s. (I wrote a PhD on the family many moons ago!)
My latest escapade is audio script writing. This is a very different discipline to novel writing. Everything has to be portrayed via dialogue and background noise – not always easy. Avoiding exposition is a constant battle – but it’s so much fun! I’ve been lucky enough to write five audio dramas for the 1980’s ITV series, Robin of Sherwood (via www.spitefulpuppet.com , and am currently working on a new project which is top secret.
Do you have a special place for writing?
In normal circumstances – yes. I write in the corner of my local café. I’m there so often, that there is a plaque on the wall saying Jenny Kane’s Corner!
Since lockdown, I’ve been dividing my time between a desk my husband popped into our garden shed and the office above the café.
Now lockdown has been relaxed, I’m working in my corner until the café gets busy – then I disappear back to the office upstairs!
There’s no doubt about it – I work best in my café corner. I love a bit of background noise.
Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?
I have to confess to stealing shamelessly from my own real life experiences. Many of my romcoms begin with me considering aspects of my life and asking, ‘How would life have turned out if I had done this – or not done – that?’
Another Cup of Coffee was based on my own life. When I was at university I was faced with a decision – did I run away to Scotland after my heart was broken- or did I stay to face life as it came?
I stayed – but what If I hadn’t? Another Cup of Coffee answers that question.
Two of the lead characters in that romcom – Amy and Kit – are both me. Amy is me as Jenny Kane and Kit is me as Kay Jaybee (my erotica writer persona). It was so much fun making two of my pen name personalities into characters in a book.
The Cornish Escape and The Cornish Wedding don’t feature experiences form my life – but they are fixed firmly in the locations of my childhood. My father is from Penzance in Cornwall, so I got to know the Sennen Cove, Penzance, Lands End landscape very well as I grew up. I wanted to write some books that featured the environment my dad and grandparents called home.
My latest series of novels, Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange and Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange feature archaeologist Thea Thomas. I was an archaeologist before I became a writer, and I’ve drawn heavily on my own experiences when writing the archaeology scenes within the novels.
Mill Grange, the Victorian manor house that forms the heart of this series, is based on Northmoor House on Exmoor. This stunning place is the location of the Imagine writing retreat I run (with Alison Knight) twice a year.
What are you writing at the moment?
Yesterday (10th June), the paperback version of my latest novel, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange came out, so I’ve been very busy marketing that. It’s so exciting being able to hold a copy of the novel in my hands after a few months of it just being available as an ebook.
From the comfort of her cafe corner in Mid Devon, award winning author, Jenny Kane, wrote the contemporary women’s fiction and romance novels, Spring Blossoms at Mill Grange, (Aria 2021), Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange, (Aria, 2020), Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange (Aria, 2020), A Cornish Escape (2nd edition, HeadlineAccent, 2020), A Cornish Wedding (2nd edition, HeadlineAccent, 2020), Romancing Robin Hood (2nd edition, Littwitz Press, 2018), Another Glass of Champagne (Accent Press, 2016),and Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013).
(Winter Fires at Mill Grange will be published by Aria in December 2021)
Jenny has also written 3 novella length sequels to her Another Cup of…..books: Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014), and Christmas at the Castle (Accent, 2016). These three seasonal specials are now available in one boxed set entitled Jenny Kane’s Christmas Collection (Accent, 2016)
Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015)
Under the pen name, Jennifer Ash, Jenny has also written The Folville Chronicles (The Outlaw’s Ransom, The Winter Outlaw, Edward’s Outlaw, Outlaw Justice – published by Littwitz Press, 2016-2020), The Power of Three (Spiteful Puppet, 2020) and The Meeting Place (Spiteful Puppet, 2019). She has also created five audio scripts for ITV’s popular 1980’s television show, Robin of Sherwood.
The Waterford Boy, Mathilda’s Legacy,The Baron’s Daughter, The Meeting Place and Fitzwarren’s Well were released by Spiteful Puppet in 2017/2018/2019/2020.
Jenny Kane is the writer in residence for Tiverton Costa in Devon. She also co-runs the creative writing business, Imagine. Jenny teaches a wide range of creative writing workshops including her popular ‘Novel in a Year’ course. (www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk)