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The Golden Maid Extract

The Golden Maid‘On the book tour for Evie Grace’s new book called ‘The Golden Maid’, which is part of ‘The Smugglers Daughters’ series, sit back and relax an extract from the historical novel.

Deal, December 1812
‘Miss Winifred Lennicker of Compass Cottage, Cockle Swamp Alley, Deal. You are charged that on the eighth day of December 1812, you were found in possession of goods illegally imported from France, namely a half-anker of cognac hidden in a handcart. Furthermore, you obstructed a Riding officer whilst he was carrying out his duties in accordance with the law.’

Trembling, Winnie stood listening from the dock as Reverend North, a well-fed gentleman in his fifties, wearing a cassock and Canterbury cap from which dangled strands of powdered grey hair, gazed at her from the Bench in the crowded courtroom. She glanced from the vicar to his fellow magistrates, Mr Norris, a portly figure with a florid complexion who had placed his whip and gold watch on the table in front of him, and Mr Causton, landlord of the Waterman’s Arms. Standing to their left was Officer Chase who was bringing the case against her on behalf of the Revenue, watched by an audience of Winnie’s family, and many of the townspeople of Deal, both friends and strangers.

The stench of sweat and filthy clothes cut through the perfume of rosewater and the herbs that had been scattered across the floor, making her retch. She was in deep water and it wasn’t her fault.

‘How do you plead?’ the vicar went on.

‘Stop!’ interrupted Officer Chase. ‘There is another charge to be included.’

Reverend North gave a weary sigh. ‘I understand that you are keen to obtain a conviction and hold this young woman up as an example to those who are involved in the free trade, sir, but may I suggest that your enthusiasm has as much to do with your desire for pecuniary reward as it does for your wish to see justice carried out.’

‘You may suggest no such thing,’ Officer Chase protested as a ripple of laughter spread through the courtroom. Everybody knew that he would receive a bonus if the case that he’d brought against Winnie was proven.

‘These are summary offences that can be dealt with quickly and quietly by the Bench here,’ Reverend North said haughtily.

‘The prisoner –’ Winnie didn’t like the way the officer lingered on the word ‘– tried to deceive me by pretending to be someone else. Impersonation is a capital offence. Miss Lennicker must go to trial at the Assizes in front of a judge and jury. I am determined on this course – I will not be gammoned by the villains of Deal any longer. They have led the Revenue a merry dance for long enough.’ Officer Chase was a young man, of not more than five and twenty, who stood tall and straight-backed in his riding clothes, his spurs flashing at his ankles. ‘Of course, we all know why you won’t consider this latter charge, Reverend . . .’

If that extract wasn’t enough to wet your appetite, you can buy ‘The Golden Maid’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

Family Business Book Tour – Extract

Family BusinessSit back and enjoy an extract from the latest book by Mark Eklid, called ‘Family Business’.

They were probably dead. I knew that as soon as I arrived at the scene. You develop an instinct when you’ve been doing this for as long as I have.

The call from Control said there were reports of fatalities and, naturally, you suspect the worst when you hear those words but as soon as you respond to say you’re on your way you’re already thinking about the best route to get you there as quickly as you can. The sooner you can get there, the better. You never just assume the worst. You should never assume anything in this job because it’s rarely straightforward and often surprises you – sometimes in a good way.

I reckoned I was only about five minutes away when the call came through that night and, because it was so late, there was hardly any traffic around, so I got there no problem. I was the first on the scene.

I started to slow down when I saw the hazard lights of a car parked on the left of the road. There was nobody else around, so I reckoned these had to be the people who had called the accident through. It was the end of a fairly long straight stretch at that point, just before the road turned to the right, and there was no street lighting, so you could see the intermittent blinks of amber light for quite a while in the full beam. I killed the sirens and slowed down.

It’s a bit of a relief, actually, when you see that the witnesses have stayed and waited for you to get there because they don’t always. Sometimes they’ll drive off when they see the police car arriving. Maybe they think they’ve done their bit or maybe there’s a reason why they don’t want to talk to the police at that time, I don’t know, but you have to make sure you get a clear look at them on the camera as you drive up, just in case, so that you’ve recorded their number plate. This time they stayed, which is good. It means you can get a statement from them without having to go through the hassle of having to track them down later.

I pulled up a bit of a way behind the car because I could see in my headlights a gap in the hedge to my left and the steam rising from another vehicle where it had come to a very sudden halt against a very large tree. The other car was a bit further down the road. I positioned my car on an angle, pointing towards the crash scene so that it was illuminated by my headlights, and left the blues going. If anyone was to come down the road from either direction, you want them to see there had been an incident and, hopefully, they work out that they’re not meant to try to continue along the road. You can set up proper road blocks when other units arrive, but you have to do all you can as soon as you get there because it’s important to preserve the scene for the Serious Collision Investigation team to do their jobs properly.

You can buy ‘Family Business’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

We Met In December Book Tour – Extract

We Met In DecemberOn the book tour Rosie Curtis’ stunning new book called ‘We Met In December’, enjoy an extract from the first chapter of the Christmas story.

Jess
22nd December, 15 Albany Road, Notting Hill

I pause for a minute outside the house and look up, still not quite believing that this terraced mansion is home. It’s huge, slightly shabby, and has an air of faded grandeur. Six wide stone steps lead to a broad wooden front door, painted a jaunty red that is faded in places and chipped away to a pale, dusky pink. Each window on the road is topped with ornate stuccoed decorations – the ones on our house are a bit chipped and scruffy-looking, but somehow it just makes the place look more welcoming, as if it’s full of history.

Next door on one side is freshly decorated, the black paint of the windowsills gleaming. They’ve got window boxes at every window, crammed full of pansies and evergreen plants. I can see a huge Christmas tree tastefully decorated with millions of starry lights, topped with a huge metal star. There’s a little red bicycle chained to the railings and a pair of wellies just inside the porch. This must be the investment banker neighbours Becky talked about. The mansion on the other side has been turned into flats, and there’s a row of doorbells beside a blue front door.

I rush up the steps and lift the heavy brass door-knocker.

‘You don’t have to knock,’ Becky says, beaming as she opens the door. ‘This is home!’

‘I do, because you haven’t given me a key yet.’ I love Becky.

‘Ah.’ Becky takes my bag and hangs it on a huge wooden coat hook just inside the door, which looks like it’s been there forever. There’s a massive black umbrella with a carved wooden handle hanging beside my bag.

‘Used to be my grandpa’s,’ she says, absent-mindedly running a hand down it. ‘This place is like a bloody museum.’

‘I can’t believe it’s yours.’

‘Me neither.’ Becky shakes her head and beckons me through to the kitchen. ‘Now wait here two seconds, and I’ll give you the tour.’

I stand where I’ve been put, at the edge of a huge kitchen-slash-dining-room space, which has been here so long that it’s come back into fashion. It’s all cork tiles and dangling spider plants and a huge white sink, which is full of ice and bottles of beer.

I think Nanna Beth would be impressed with this. With all of it. I’ve taken the leap.

‘Life is for living, Jessica, and this place is all very well, but it’s like God’s waiting room,’ she’d once said, giving a cackle of laughter and inclining her head towards the window, where a flotilla of mobility scooters had passed by, ridden by grey-haired elderly people covered over with zipped-up waterproof covers. The seaside town I’d grown up in wasn’t actually as bad as all that, but it was true: things had changed. Grandpa had passed away, and Nanna Beth had sold the house and invested her money in a little flat in a new sheltered housing development where there was no room for me, not because she was throwing me out, but because – as she’d said, looking at me shrewdly – it was time to go. I’d been living in a sort of stasis since things had ended with my ex-boyfriend Neil.

Weirdly, the catalyst for all this change had been being offered a promotion in the marketing company where I worked. If I’d taken it, it would have been a job for life. I could have afforded to buy a little house by the sea and upgraded my car for something nice, and I’d have carried on living the life I’d been living since I graduated from university and somehow gravitated back home when all my friends spread their wings and headed for the bright lights of London, or New York, or – well, Sarah ended up in Inverness, so I suppose we didn’t quite all end up somewhere exotic.

But Nanna Beth had derailed me and challenged me with the task of getting out and grabbing life with both hands, which is pretty tricky for someone like me. I tend to take the approach that you should hold life with one hand, and keep the other one spare just in case of emergencies. And yet here I am, an hour early (very me) for a housewarming party for the gang of people that Becky has gathered together to share this rambling, dilapidated old house in Notting Hill that her grandparents left her when they passed away.

‘I still can’t believe this place is yours,’ I repeat, as I balance on the edge of the pale pink velvet sofa. It’s hidden under a flotilla of cushions. The arm of the sofa creaks alarmingly, and I stand up, just in case it’s about to give way underneath my weight.

Becky shakes her head. ‘You can’t? Imagine how I feel.’

‘And your mum really didn’t object to your grandparents leaving you their house in their will?’

She shakes her head and pops open the two bottles of beer she’s holding, handing me one. ‘She’s quite happy where she is. And you know she’s all property is theft and that sort of thing.’

‘True.’ I take a swig of beer and look at the framed photographs on the wall. A little girl in Mary-Jane shoes with a serious face looks out at us, disapprovingly. ‘She’s keeping her eye on you: look.’

Becky shudders. ‘Don’t. She wanted me to come to Islay for a Christmas of meditation and chanting, but I managed to persuade her that I’d be better off coming when the weather was a bit nicer.’

Becky’s mum had been a mythical figure to all of us at university. She’d been a model in her youth, and then eschewed all material things and moved to an ethical

living commune on the island of Islay when Becky was sixteen. Becky had stayed behind to finish her exams with a family friend, and horrified her mother by going into not just law, but corporate law of all things. Relations had been slightly strained for quite a while, but she’d spent some time in meditative silence, apparently, and now they got on really well – as long as they had a few hundred miles between them.

I look at the photograph of Becky’s mum – she must only be about seven. She looks back at me with an intense stare, and I think that if anyone can save the planet, it’s very possibly her. Anyway, I raise my bottle to her in a silent thank you. If she’d contested the will, Becky might not have inherited this place, and she wouldn’t have offered me a room at £400 a month, which wouldn’t have got me space in a broom closet anywhere else in commutable distance of King’s Cross, where my new job was situated.

‘Just going to get out of this jacket,’ Becky says, looking down at her work clothes; then she disappears for a moment and I’m left looking around. The house is old-fashioned, stuffed full of the sort of mid-century furniture that would sell for vast amounts of money on eBay – there’s an Ercol dresser in the sitting room and dining chairs that look like they’ve come straight out of Heal’s. I take a photo of the huge potted plant that looms in the corner like a triffid, and then I wander into the hall. It’s huge and airy, with a polished wooden banister that twirls round and up to the third floor where there’s a skylight – dark just now, because it’s midwinter, but I bet it fills this space with light in the middle of summer. There’s a huge wooden coat stand with a mirror by the interior door, and a porch with ceramic tiles worn through years of footsteps passing over them. The place must be 150 years old, at least. And – I push the sitting room door open – there’s enough space for everyone to collapse on the sofas in a Sunday-ish sort of way. The paintings on the walls are draped with brightly coloured tinsel and fairy lights, and there’s a Christmas tree on the side table, decked with multi-coloured lights and hung with a selection of baubles, which look—

‘Hideous, aren’t they?’ Becky’s voice sounds over my shoulder. ‘I couldn’t resist. They’re from the pound shop so I just went to town a bit. If you can’t be tacky at Christmas, when can you?’

‘I love it,’ I say, and I do. Becky disappears back into the kitchen and I can hear the sound of her warbling out of tune to Mariah Carey and the clattering of plates and saucepans. I stand in the hallway and look at this amazing house that I couldn’t afford in a million years, and I think back to about two months ago when I saw an advert for my dream job in publishing come up and wondered if I should take the chance and apply. And how Nanna Beth had said, ‘Nothing ventured, lovey – you never know what’s around the corner . . .’

If you liked the sound of this book and would like to read more, you can pre-order ‘We Met In December’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 3rd October 2019.

A Perfect Cornish Summer Book Tour – Extract

A Perfect Cornish SummerToday on the book tour for Phillipa Ashley’s latest book called ‘A Perfect Cornish Summer’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the summery tale.

‘I just hope Porthmellow will be good enough for him. If not, it’s tough,’ said Sam. A raindrop ran down her nose. Time was racing by and she had to finish the posters and get to work in Stargazey Pie. ‘There’s no rest for the wicked, eh?’

Chloe nodded. ‘Then I must have been very wicked indeed.’ She tugged her hood forward as the rain came down harder. ‘I must admit the festival is a much greater demand that I expected. No one has any idea of how much work is involved. I’ve run events but none as big as this. Even though we’re all volunteers, it’s still serious stuff.’

‘I don’t think I’ve really thanked you for joining the committee, by the way,’ Sam said. ‘I don’t know what we’d do without you and the other volunteers.’

‘Oh, I wanted to get involved. I can’t bear to sit around doing nothing and it’s been a great way to meet new people.’ Chloe’s eyes lit up at the praise.

Sam agreed. The festival had helped Sam make new friends too and cement relationships with people of all ages and backgrounds. Chloe had said she’d chosen Porthmellow because of the happy holidays she, her daughter, Hannah, and her ex had spent in the area, and the fact that Porthmellow was still was a real community where people lived and worked year-round, not simply full of holiday homes or deserted in the off-season. Even so, Sam thought it must have been hard for Chloe to move so far from home, especially as Hannah was in her first year at uni in Bristol. Chloe clearly adored her daughter, but Sam had yet to meet her. Sam thought, not for the first time, that Chloe must have been quite a young mother to have a daughter at uni. She didn’t look a day over thirty-five.

‘Thanks, Chloe. Will Hannah be coming to the festival?’

Chloe hesitated. ‘I don’t know. I doubt it. She’ll have exams, I expect, and she said something about wanting to go travelling afterwards. I’d be way too busy to see much of her anyway.’

‘I guess so,’ said Sam, detecting an edge of disappointment in Chloe’s voice. Perhaps she shouldn’t have asked. Hannah had shown no signs of making an appearance in Porthmellow since Chloe had arrived eight months ago, so perhaps it was a source of family tension. Sam certainly knew all about that.

You can buy ‘A Perfect Cornish Summer’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Keep Her Close Book Tour – Extract

Keep Her Close ‘Keep Her Close’ is the latest book by MJ Ford. On the book for MJ Ford’s new book called ‘Keep Her Close’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the thrilling tale.

Oriel College was nestled in the cobbled streets between the High Street and Christ Church College. Not Jo’s natural milieu by any means, though she couldn’t help but admire the gothic architecture of the entranceway, and the resplendent, perfectly mown quadrangle of grass inside, still coated on the shaded side with the silvery remains of a lingering frost. A sign read ‘Open to visitors’ – term had ended a week or so before, so the majority of students would have left. The city itself was noticeably quieter, enjoying a brief lull before the panic of Christmas shopping really set in.

PC Andrea Williams was waiting just to one side of the quad. As ever, the constable’s height made Jo give her a second glance. She was at least six-two, possibly the tallest woman Jo had ever met in the flesh, and her dreadlocks gave her the appearance of being a couple of inches taller still. Dimitriou called her Andre the Giant, which only he found funny, and which had earned him a verbal warning when Stratton heard him say it. Dimitriou protested that Heidi had once called him George Michael’s less talented, uglier sibling, on the basis of their shared Greek heritage, and the fact that he had murdered a rendition of ‘Club Tropicana’ on a work karaoke night.

‘And I dare you to say it to Andrea’s face,’ Heidi had added. Jo would have liked to see that, because she knew that Williams had been an accomplished judoka before joining the force, only missing out on the national team through injury. She could probably have tossed Dimitriou’s gangly frame from one side of a holding cell to the other.

I’ve just finished the book and really enjoyed the gripping story, check my review here.

You can buy ‘Keep Her Close’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.