Tuesday 25 September 2012

Review by David Russell: 'A Court Lady' by Clova Leighton

A Court Lady by Clova Leighton

Published by Rebecca J. Vickery

I am happy to award 'A Court Lady' a resounding 5 stars.

Firstly, I am a fairly avid history reader, and was highly impressed by the in-depth knowledge of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. It was very astute of you to relate the action to the escalation of the Peninsula War, and the relationship of a small German state to Napoleon's Europe.

The action takes places against the backdrop of the Revolution, with its liberating changes, and the turning back of the clock under the Directory and the Imperial Regime. The personal struggles and ambitions of the characters are intimately related to the greater political situation - including direct contact with the Emperor himself, his impending divorce and his need for an heir. Striving for material/marital security is a matter of politics.

The novel explores with great subtlety all the aspects of love and marriage - the conflict between solid, reliable domestic virtue and courtesan/'society woman' extravagance. In the relationship between Corisande and Sebastian, it makes a perceptive comparison between a marital relationship and an affair.The intensity of their reiterated love scenes certainly savours of the latter. It is doubly interesting because Sebastian gives the initial impression of lacking in badinage repartee, and being somewhat frigid. He certainly proves the reverse in their intimate encounters, sensually understated, as is definitely my preference. His gesture of wanting to postpone their consummation until a suitable moment, and to allow Corisande an opportunity for a 'null and void' escape, shows a really high level of sensitivity. Sharp psychological insight into Corisande's retroactive jealousy when she elicits the details of Sebastian's past attachment to an English governess, more of a sensitive spot than his admitted, and admittedly unsatisfactory, dalliances with society ladies.

The full spectrum of society is depicted in the rescue of the fugitive maid Lucienne, who was forced into prostitution. A great bit of blood and thunder where Corisande fires off a pistol to deter a knife attack from Lucienne's pimp. Good handling of the conflict between love and honour theme: Sebastian is a true and dedicated soldier, and should prove himself in the next campaign; Corisande, purely naturally, would like to travel with him and/or get him an administrative job nearer home. Sebastian's devotion to Napoleon is purely voluntary; he could always return to his home state.

David Russell

Friday 21 September 2012

Tangled Love

 Tangled Love is the story of two great estates. The throne has been usurped by James II’s daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. In 1693, loyal to his oath of allegiance, ten year old Richelda’s father must follow James to France.

Before her father leaves, he gives her a ruby ring she will treasure and wear on a chain round her neck. In return Richelda swears an oath to try o regain their ancestral home, Field House.

By the age of eighteen, Richelda’s beloved parents are dead. She believes her privileged life is over. At home in dilapidated Belmont House, her only companions are her mother’s old nurse and her devoted dog, puck. Clad in old clothes she dreams of elegant gowns and trusts her childhood friend, a poor parson’s son, who promised to marry her.

Richelda’s wealthy aunt takes her to London and arranges her marriage to Viscount Chesney, the new owner of Field House, where it is rumoured there is treasure. If she finds it Richelda hopes to ease their lives. However, while trying to find it her life is in danger.

* * * *

Available from https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/ amazon kindle and elsewhere.


Tuesday 18 September 2012

Final Prelude to War between England and France 1790 - 1793

Novels set during the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and The Regency are very popular, so I am sharing my research with this group.

Those Englishmen, who considered the French Revolution was a disaster, regarded the massacres in September not only as a vindication of their predictions but as a prelude to war. However, the Prime Minister, William Pitt, dreaded war and preferred the path of appeasement.
The influx of thousands of penniless refugees, each with a tragic tale about the cruelty of the French Revolution, touched the hearts of kind-natured English men and women. The horror of events in France brought to mind the massacre of St. Bartholomew and the persecution of French Huguenots. Almost hereditary hatred of the French swept the country.
Pitt remained calm in spite of war mongers, and refused to deport representatives of a government which sanctioned the massacre at the Tuileries.
In England, after the wettest summer anyone could remember the harvest failed. Hunger spread throughout the land and peopled rioted in the north. Those in support of the revolution across the English Channel were blind to the facts. They envisaged the prospect of the happy, free life that French politicians promised. Pitt faced confrontation from those in favour of revolution who threatened stability at home. He was afraid of hungry men angered by a rise in the price of bread who believed French propaganda.
At this crucial period in English history news that General Custine had captured Mainz, had terrorised the Rhineland and then marched to Frankfurt arrived. Four days later Dumouriez, with a horde of skirmishers and ragged fanatics chanting ‘the Marseillaise’ swept the Austrians from their northern fortresses, and then marched on to Brussels.
The French politicians were delighted. They issued edicts which gave permission for their generals to follow the fleeing foe into neutral territory, and to flout the international agreements not to invade the Scheldt estuary in Holland. Soon, French gunboats sailed along the river to attack Antwerp.   
Britain, the main guarantor of the Scheldt treaties, could only agree to the Dutch Ambassador’s request for Britain to honour the pledge if France invaded Holland. Pitt, who knew European peace was dependent on respect of international agreements, consented. Nevertheless, he hoped for the chance to settle the differences between European nations, thus concluding the war and leaving France to sort out her internal affairs. This became almost impossible because, after Antwerp fell, the French demanded free passage for their troops through the frontier fort of Maestricht, and the Dutch requested a British squadron to assist them.
It was essential for British trade to retain control of the Dutch coastline and the anchorages in the Scheldt. The Dutch alliance was one of the keystones of Pitt’s foreign policy which he could not risk. In a friendly conversation with Maret, a French diplomat on a private visit to England, Pitt warned him that an attack on Holland would lead to war.
The revolutionary leaders in France wanted conquest, an instrument of the revolution. They also wanted Holland’s international banks and gold reserves.
French criticism of Britain and her institutions, which the British were proud of, had turned the public opinion against France. English men united to preserve their rights and liberties and were determined to:-

‘Stand by the Church and the King and Laws;
The old Lion still has his teeth and claws.
Let Britain still rule in the midst of her waves,
And chastise all those foes who dare call her sons slaves.”

Sure that Britain would intervene Dumouriez was ordered not to invade Holland. In the British parliament Whigs and Tories united and sanctioned recruiting 17,000 more soldiers and 9,000 sailors. 
Pitt’s pursuit of peace failed, but the French were forced to reconsider although they believed Britain’s strength depended on trade, and that if they could cut it off Britain would collapse. In their opinion, the British people would then revolt and welcome a French invasion, which would “regulate the destiny of nations and found the liberty of the world.”
On January 10th, 1793, the French Executive Council sanctioned the invasion of the United Netherlands. Immediately the British government issued orders to ban grain, which might be used by the invasion.
War was inevitable. After five years on half-pay, Captain Horatio Nelson rejoiced when offered a ship. He wrote: “everything indicates war, one of our ships looking into Brest has been fired into.” On the 20th of January, Britain negotiated with Austria and Prussia to act against France. When news of the French king’s execution reached London the response was hysterical fury. On the 1st of February the Republic of France declared war on Holland and Britain.
In Parliament Pitt declared: “Unless we wish to stand by, and to suffer State after State to be subverted under the power of France, we must now declare our firm resolution effectually to oppose those principles of ambition and aggrandisement which have for their object the destruction of England, of Europe and the world….whatever may be our wishes for peace, the final issue must be war.”
One can only imagine the Prime Minister’s despair after his strenuous efforts to maintain peace at home and abroad.

Available from museituppublighing.com/bookstore2
Tangled Love
Sunday's Child
New release in October False Pretnces


Saturday 15 September 2012

Far After Gold by Jen Black

Blurb: Bought as a bed slave from the slave market in Dublin, Emer hasn't a clue what to expect from her new master. She doesn't know if she will survive the night, but she isn't about to give in with a struggle....

Far After Gold


Emer looked round. All he said was true. Thick, square pillars of golden wood rose up to meet the rafters, and the roof sloped down to meet the walls at the height of a tall man. Unbleached linen hid the lower portion of walls free of sleeping platforms, and someone’s clever needle had sketched mythical animals around it in coloured wool.

“It is a fair hall,” she agreed. “But it is not home.”

Flane sat on the bed, grasped her shoulders and pulled her back to lie on the mattress beside him. He laughed into her wide, shocked eyes. His lips dived to the skin beneath her jaw and nuzzled towards the neckline split in her chemise while his fingers untied the knot that held the strings closed. He parted the fabric and his mouth slid down towards the newly revealed curve of her breast. His bristles rasped against her skin and Emer fended him off with both hands.

“Don’t! Don’t!”

He braced one hand to either side of her shoulders and loomed over her. “What’s wrong?”

Emer gulped. “It isn’t right,” she muttered, unable to meet his steady gaze. She looked across the hall, where children ran about, getting in the way of their elders, and a dog barked as it leapt crazily about his newly returned master. The rest of the world seemed to be going on as normal, and here she was fighting for her virtue. No one cared.

No one had even noticed.

Flane chuckled, and she faced him suspiciously. “I can’t think of anything better,” he said. “What’s not right?”

At his tone, some of her anxiety dispersed. She focussed on his leather jerkin and a part of her brain registered that someone had dressed the leather very well indeed, and threaded small tassels through the shoulder seam. She admired the pale shade, which so nearly matched his hair.

“Be brave,” he said. “Tell me.”

He taunted her now. Emer saw the mischief in his eyes, and caution vanished. “I cannot be happy in a place where we are on public view.” She opened her eyes wide and words, unheeded, shot out of her mouth. “And we should be married before you bed me!” Her breath came and went as if she’d been running and warm blood rushed beneath the skin of her throat and face.

“Really?” His voice betrayed nothing, but his silver brows drew down in a frown. “And how would marriage change anything?”

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008COC94Q will take you to the Review/Buy page.

Jen Black.

http://jenblackauthor.blogspot.com, @speckledbirds

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Return to Mystery - 'An Older Evil' by Lindsay Townsend

When I first started writing for publication, I wrote in one of my favourite genres, historical romance. Since then I have also written both romantic suspense and historical mystery, and the three genres have the following in common for me:

High stakes
A ticking clock
A heroine under pressure who responds
A protective hero
A setting that has an impact on the characters.

With my most recent novel, I have returned to the Middle Ages and to Historical Mystery. An Older Evil - published now - is the first of a series of stories featuring the heroine Alyson Weaver. Alyson is older than my romance heroines and experienced in life and love, a widow of Bath who loves life and who hates injustice. In the times when she lived there was no formal police force, so when a stranger is murdered close to her home, Alyson feels compelled to investigate, especially when her family and household come under threat.

Alyson is also happy to play Cupid whenever she can and there is a romantic subplot in this novel... an unusual romantic subplot.

MuseItUp Publishing, September  7, 2012

Buy the ebook now:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
All Romance Ebooks

Here is  an excerpt:

 April 25th, 1386.

Sweeping into her airy workshop, Alyson had no inkling of the murder she would witness outside Bath that morning. Head busy with accounts, forearms aching from her weaving, she ducked from her sunny, tidy buttery into the whitewashed old hall, bearing a huge red-glazed pitcher and cups. Slipping past her weaving frame under the big square window and the trestle loaded with carding boards and piles of freshly washed wool, she handed each of the maids who spun for her today a foaming beaker of ale.

Dropping their spindles onto the rush matting, all three set off for the open door. Clustered in the threshold, giggling and pointing with their tankards, Emily, Kate and Bela had time for nothing but the man working in the nearby meadow. “He’s an angel!” cried Bela, smacking her lips.

Laughing, Alyson filled two more cups and joined them at the back door. “That’ll be the new woodman Felise mentioned. Let’s welcome him, shall we? No, Bela.” She caught the youngest girl back. “I’d best go first. I need to warn your angel to keep to the path whilst he tends the abbey’s trees.” Threading between Kate and Emily, Alyson stepped down into the yard. “I’ll find out his name for you. You can take him bread and ale at noon. Just be sensible.”

Impossible advice. Aware of the excited whispering behind her, she struck out across the beaten earth yard, past the shadow of her new timbered hall, to where her plump laundress was doubled over a cauldron of hot water, scouring linen with a scrubbing board. After leaving the sweating Willelma her ale, Alyson dipped through the yard gate and trod amongst the damp meadow primroses, daisies, and fresh grass. Clambering the steep chalk track toward Beacon Hill, the spring sun warm on her strong, high-coloured face, she had a splendid view of the young man working in the ash copse at the far side of her small hillside meadow, his back to her as he sawed fallen branches.

Alyson stopped dead, her free hand making the sign of the cross. By the rood, he was like Jankin! Those crisp blond curls and long shapely legs made the woodman a mirror of her fifth and youngest husband. Jankin’s luminous eyes and teasing mouth had charmed her more than spiced wine, music, or dance. But Jankin was two years dead, murdered in a tavern brawl.

Suddenly, Alyson felt the weight of her forty-five years. She trembled, her breathing quickening, though not from the climb. Ahead, the woodman sawed on, the bite of metal on wood louder than the raucous twitter of nesting birds and the bawling of street vendors down below in nearby Bath. Waiting for her grief to subside, Alyson looked back, thinking of her home, lonely at the edge of meadows. She had fragile memories of running as a tiny child through that rectangular block of cramped kitchen, old hall, and little buttery, then up an outside stair to a small private chamber—Mother’s sun-room, called a solar.

Alyson sighed, conscious of a dropping chill in her belly although the day was bright. The old house fronted the road, its main windows and doors facing down into Bath. Her fourth husband, Peter, had demanded more privacy, and a second crook-gabled dwelling had been built on at right angles to the first, so now the house was an L-shaped block. Peter had approved the handsome brown and white cross-beamed timbered long hall. He had chosen the three lancet windows in the new hall with their top quatrefoils done in expensive glass—showy but cold. It had been Peter, too, who had determined where the hall dais should go and the hearth. Inside the house, there were many pieces of furniture and plate to be polished, for Peter had aspired to be a country worthy as well as a wool merchant.

Alyson was a city child. After the great pestilence of 1349 had carried off her parents from this country suburb, Alyson had been brought up inside Bath at her brother Adam’s house. Her daughter, Margery, and grandchild, Benedict, still lived within its lively streets. Her keen sight took in the small city, snug in its setting of limestone cliffs and wooded hills, the pale bulk of the abbey church and its grounds filling most of the city walls and dominating the narrow streets with their thatched houses and thermal baths, famous for cures throughout Christendom. Lucky Mag and Ben, to dwell so close to so much company and gossip! Yet Bath was where Peter’s long-term mistress lived, and Alyson would have walked farther than Jerusalem to avoid Isabel.

Catching a scent of cowslips on the breeze stirring the tips of her veil, she shaded her eyes. Beyond her field ran the London road, threading to the left past her church of St. Michael and into the north gate of the city. Where that road narrowed and became lined with tall, timber-framed houses, Felise Brewster lived, baker of the best date slices in Bath. She called in most days. Felise was sickly now and could no longer gad about. Recalling her friend’s listless limbs and stricken face, Alyson turned again, eager to be on her way.

The stranger must have heard the rustle of her skirts. Fast as a cleric’s angel dancing on a pinhead, he spun about, the saw raised like a club. Or a sword, ready to slash at an enemy, thought Alyson, hoisting her flagon. “Forgive me if I startled you. I’m your neighbour, Mistress Weaver. You’re working in my field.” Alyson blazed her engaging gap-toothed smile and held out the ale. “For you.”

The saw lowered, and a white hand removed the wooden beaker from her fingers. Crisp gold curls rolled forward as the young man nodded thanks, his dark eyes swarming over her shapely figure. He grinned, but Alyson was uneasy. Something was wrong here. “You’re here from the north?” she asked in Midlands speech.

No recognition. Alyson tried Cornish, Yorkshire, and Canterbury dialects, but the young man drank on with no more understanding than an ape. Pretty manners, though: when he’d finished he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, not his sleeve. Such a patched, honest sleeve, thought Alyson. Tight round his arm, but with clothes being so often passed on in families, that wasn’t to be wondered at. His smooth new hose were a different matter.

“Your stockings are very fine,” she murmured in Latin.

The woodman glanced down the front of his short homespun tunic, and she seized the chance to walk on, leaving the flagon behind. Whatever was going on here, Felise was more important than this mystery.

* * * *

Trapped in her friend’s stifling back parlour before a spitting birch wood fire and nursing a goblet of mead, Alyson squirmed on the high-backed bench. Excessive heat always made her queasy, but Felise needed the warmth. “You are well today?” she asked, concerned.

“Not bad.” Felise stirred into her posset a spoonful of the herbs Alyson had brought. She tapped her goblet. “Thanks for these.”

Alyson dragged the vermilion veil off her head and raked hot fingers along one of her darkening blonde plaits. “It’s nothing.”

“You know that’s not true. Your mixtures always help, especially after the apothecary.”

Alyson scowled. “I trust you didn’t let him bleed you.” Felise, who was around the same age as her, was not strong and lost too much blood already through abnormal monthly courses.

“I told him no this time.”

Alyson looked up and saw the blush on her friend’s delicate oval face, the glint of fire in the wide black eyes. Delighted, she whistled at a pet finch chirruping in its wicker cage in one corner of the cosy room and squeezed the small hand lying on the bench next to hers. “Good!”

Starting to her feet, Alyson leaned round the yellow and blue striped wall hanging to peer through the half-opened shutters of the lancet window. “Your Gilbert must be pleased. Where is he this morning?”

Felise shrugged narrow shoulders. “Off somewhere as usual. Alyson, this strange young man you mentioned earlier—how did you guess it wasn’t the new woodman?”

“Because his clothes were wrong. The tunic he was wearing had been made for a shorter, leaner man, and it wasn’t a hand-me-down. Not with those fancy hose. And the abbey wouldn’t hire a forester round Bath who understood Latin but not a word of our dialect.” Alyson tutted. “This was a quick deception, for what reason I’ve no notion. The man’s a squire, still training in arms, or a clerk.” She nodded, long blonde and hazel plaits bobbing against her hips. “He didn’t come at me with that saw. Probably a clerk.”

“Like Jankin. Or your son, William, as he might have been,” Felise added.

“As you say.” Alyson slowly resumed her place on the wooden bench. Her eyes had begun to smart, maybe from the curling wisps of wood smoke.

The pet finch fell silent. In the small pause that followed, Alyson heard someone scream in the kitchen. A shower of crockery hit stone flags on the floor below theirs, and a pair of heels pounded off in the direction of the scullery. She started to her feet again, her tall figure protectively in front of Felise. “What’s happening?”

There were sounds of a scuffle, then a yell and a rush of savoury smells as the kitchen door slammed open and shut. A tumult of kitchen steam and bickering drifted up the steep staircase outside the parlour.

“What is it?” Alison asked.

“Oliver, raiding off the spits again.” Tiny Felise slumped on the bench, clutching a cushion. “Alyson, he’s dreadful! He was sent back to us last night. Gilbert had to pay the potter a fortune for his wicked damage.”

Alyson said nothing. Oliver would never have lasted as an apprentice potter. The boy was too full of energy to be penned indoors.

“What am I going to do with him?” Felise weakly pummelled her cushion. “He wrecks everything he touches! Gilbert complains he does nothing but stuff himself with food.”

“Ten-years-old is a starving time. I remember eating a whole loaf at the same age and being beaten for it.” Alyson set her empty goblet down into the hearth. “He’ll grow out of it.”

“Last night he set fire to his bedding!”

This was new, and worse, even for Oliver. Forcing an easy tone, Alyson remarked, “How many broken apprenticeships is it? Tailor, goldsmith, lantern-maker? He’s a bright child. Could you ask him what he wants to do?”

“We’re his parents. We know what’s best for our son.”

Glad to escape the fireside again, Alyson stepped over the sheepskin hearthrug and stalked to the casement, squinting through the shutters for the sight of a squat, barrel-chested, flame-haired boy, the youngest of Felise’s brood of nine and the quickest in legs and wit. She felt pity and sadness for her friend and sympathy for Oliver, having been a tearaway herself.

“Why not send the young scamp to me? I’ll make him my page. He can sweat over sheep shearing, use up some of that fire.” Gilbert might condemn her as a bad influence, but at Alyson’s house, Oliver would be settled close to his mother’s, and Alyson would allow him to visit home often.

Poor, blind Gilbert, for not seeing how his youngest cared! Nor noticing how Oliver blamed himself for his mother’s shattered health, being clever enough to know how much Felise had been worn down by childbirth.

Smarting at life’s injustice, Alyson banged open a shutter and hollered down at the seemingly deserted herb garden, “I see you, Oliver, lounging by the lavender. You come out of there before you trample everything!”

A stifled sigh from the bench had her turning swiftly to kneel by her friend. “Sorry, Felise, that was ill-mannered! I forget myself. It’s the influence of Mars: it makes me too impetuous.”

Felise clasped the pleading hands. “Alyson, dear, I would not have you different. As for my boy—” Her fine black eyes swelled with tears.

Alyson leaned closer. “What is it? Not Oliver; you know he’s a good lad.”

The dry hands tightened their grip. “Alyson…has Gilbert a mistress?”

“Never! He dotes on you.”

“He’s going on pilgrimage. To the new shrine of the Virgin at Walsingham. He’s never wanted to go before, and I’m too feeble to accompany him.”

“So you assume he’s taking along a substitute wife? On a holy journey?”

“I know what happens between men and women on pilgrimages. You told me!” Felise released her friend and took up the posset again. “Alyson, could you go along? You love to travel, and you’ve never been to Walsingham. You could keep an eye on Gilbert for me.” She coughed dryly, clutching her chest, but smiling all the same. “You might even find yourself another husband!”

Alyson could still not believe it. “Tell me why you believe Gilbert’s unfaithful. Spare me no details!” The mystery of the false woodman she dismissed completely from her mind.

* * * *

The angelus was ringing all over Bath when Alyson left the smoky thatched house in Walcot Street. Nothing had been settled; not Oliver’s present place, nor Gilbert’s possible infidelity. Felise had certain pointers. Gilbert bathing regularly in the healing spring of the King’s Bath while not complaining of being ill. Gilbert bringing home a mirror one day and keeping it for his own use. Yet he showed no lessening in affection to his wife, so Alyson smiled comfortingly and said Felise must be mistaken.

But Felise had begged again for Alyson to go to Walsingham. A group of pilgrims were due to set out from Bath in five days’ time, Gilbert included, and Alyson promised to consider joining them.

Relieved to be out of doors after the baking heat of an invalid’s chamber, she strode out, swinging her aching arms, head up as she attacked the steeply rising path through the meadow. She wanted to be home before St. Michael’s noon bell sounded, and Bela hustled her more timid companions up the hill with the stranger’s food. A man in disguise might not be a threat to her girls, but it was best she be wary.

Ahead of her the squire-forester sawed slowly, clearly unused to the work. Puzzling again as to why he was doing it, Alyson called out, “Good morning!”

He stopped sawing, turned, and stared through her, not at her. He shouted something, words drowned by the noon bell, and Alyson jerked her head round, wondering what he had seen.

There was nothing below her but the nodding yellow cowslips of the meadow, the gate into Felise’s garden, and beyond that, the ochre dust of the London road and shimmer of distant houses. Disappointed, Alyson turned again, wondering what might have startled the youth into breaking his silence.

She saw him stagger and fall, try to crawl toward her, then slump face down into the grass. Alyson shouted and ran to him, but she was already too late. The sleek young body, curled over as though in sleep, was still and breathless, the golden curls dimmed by dust and blood. The stone that had shattered his skull had smashed open his right eye; he was beautiful no longer. He was dead.


Tuesday 4 September 2012

The Strangest Inspiration by Lucy Felthouse

As a writer, I find inspiration in all kinds of places, conversations and people. Just lately I've found the most unusual things providing inspiration, things I wouldn't normally expect.

For example, I've visited the exclusive West London department store Harrods on more than one occasion. Usually to go and look at the puppies they have in their Pet Kingdom. But, just for a laugh, I've wandered all the departments to giggle at the ludicrous prices and fantasise about what I'd buy if I had lots of money.

But I never thought I'd write about the place. That was, until Xcite Books put a call for submissions out looking for stories about cougars and jackals; that is, older women and younger men, and vice versa. Almost immediately, I decided I wanted to write about a jackal, and somehow from the depths of my imagination I pulled out a story about a young woman working in the furniture department of aforementioned department store. A new customer walks in, who happens to be a super hot older man, who has plenty of cash. But he's a nice guy, too. I'm not going to tell you any more because it'll ruin the story, but let's just say there's a very sexy ending, and I'd like to write about those characters some more in the future. :)

There's more information on the other stories in the Cougars and Jackals anthology, as well as an excerpt from my story, and some buy links here: http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk/published-works/cougars-and-jackals/

Saturday 1 September 2012

Hazel Osmond: 'The First Time I Saw Your Face'

Jennifer had it all. But a terrible accident has taken almost everything.

Moving back home, her future isn't looking too bright. Until she meets Mack.

Sexy, dishevelled and just a little clumsy, he starts to make her believe that she can move on from the past and embrace life all over again. But he has a secret he'd do anything to protect and he'll have to betray her to keep it...

Buy from Amazon UK


Jennifer works in the local library and is having a difficult time with a particularly demanding member of the public.

Jennifer tried to concentrate on what Mr Armstrong was saying and filter out the muffled laughter coming from the poetry section. Luckily Mr Armstrong was fairly deaf and would not realise that it pinpointed exactly where two other members of the library staff were hiding to enjoy another classic Armstrong performance.
‘Also, pet,’ he said, leaning against the counter and wetting his forefinger, ‘as well as the bad language, there are some scenes of a sexual nature on page thirty-four.’ He turned the pages of the book with the specially wetted finger until he reached the offending passage and began to read in a wavering voice: ‘Pulling her to his chest, he placed her hand on his iron-hard member thrusting against the confines of his rough, calico breeches and suddenly the two hard nubs of –‘
‘Yup, that’s definitely sex,’ Jennifer cut in, and looked towards the poetry section, where Auden through to Coleridge was actually shaking.
‘Aye,’ Mr Armstrong said eventually, ‘shocking.’
He glanced down at the piece of paper in his hand covered with faint, spindly writing, and, as he did so, his stick fell off his arm, causing him to lean more heavily against the counter.
‘Would you like to sit down, Mr Armstrong?’
‘Aye, I would.’
Jennifer fetched a chair and settled him in it, lifting his carrier bag up off the floor and placing it gently in his lap.
‘So what’s next?’ she asked when she was back behind the counter.
‘Page one hundred and eighty-four… blasphemy.’ Mr Armstrong turned the pages tortuously slowly, referring to his list from time to time, and Jennifer looked at the library clock, hoping that somebody would come in and give her an excuse to call Sheila and Lionel out of hiding. Not much hope of that: late-night opening and only an hour until closing time. The graveyard shift. The only voices Jennifer could hear were coming from the children’s section, a woman and a little girl by the sound of it. They must have come in when she was up in the office.
It was always a mistake, one way or the other, to come out of the office.
Mr Armstrong found the offending page and held the book up for Jennifer to read, obviously deciding that the blasphemous passage would sully him further should he reacquaint himself with it.
Jennifer scanned the words. ‘The character just says, “God’s Blood”, Mr Armstrong.  He is a pirate.’
Mr Armstrong sucked his teeth. ‘Then, on page two hundred, more sex.’
The tortuous finger-wetting and page-turning recommenced until he found what he was looking for.
‘Lord Percival Dennison feasted his eyes on Lady Cranleigh’s voluptuous form, from the milky mounds of her breasts to that place where he longed to plunge his…’ Mr Armstrong stopped and tutted and there was more pained sucking of teeth before he passed the book to Jennifer. ‘I’ll not read the rest.’
 Jennifer glanced at the page and snapped the book shut. ‘Yes, easy to see where that’s going… so, anything more then?’ She nodded at his carrier bag, hoping there was nothing else he considered improper lurking within it.
‘No, not this time. You’ll send a letter to the council?’
‘Of course. Would you like to see it before I send it?’
‘Why no, pet. I trust you.’
‘Fine, and you know, Mr Armstrong, what I was saying last time, about you perhaps being a bit more careful concerning the books you choose if strong language and, um, physical interaction offends you?’
Mr Armstrong looked up at her from under his brows and she ploughed on, picking up the book he had just laid down and looking at its cover.
‘For example, the title of this one – Plundered by Pirates - it should have warned you off really.’
‘Warned me off? How?’
If it had been anybody else, Jennifer would have thought they were pulling her leg, but Mr Armstrong’s eyes were devoid of humour. A faint tang of soap and toothpaste lingered about him.
‘Well, “plundered”, particularly in historical novels, is often used to describe the act of…‘Jennifer had another run up at it. ‘…when a man forces himself, um, upon a woman.’
Mr Armstrong studied her intently and then shook his head.
‘Well, I dare say it’s a modern thing. We never had that when I was young. We were Methodists.’
            In the poetry section, Jennifer heard several books thud to the floor…