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Publication Day for Pleasing Mr Pepys – Read an extract!

pleasing mr pepysPublication Day Pleasing Mr Pepys

I’m delighted to announce that Pleasing Mr Pepys is out today with Accent Press. In years gone by, when there were far less books produced, and all of them physical copies, publishing a book was a much more unique and celebrated event. Now there are thousands of e-books released every day and we have a new information age which is transforming the way we find and digest information.

But the beauty of books is that, like people, each one is unique. There is no other book that re-imagines the story of the events in Pepys’ famous diary from the point of view of Deb Willet, the maid he fell in love with. My portrayal of her is different from the Radio and TV interpretations which lost sight of the fact that she was very well-educated. I have given her a vibrant life which takes place both within the confines of the diary and within my imagination – a life that involves espionage, double-dealing, and treason.

I started the novel in 2013, so it is a joy to finally hold a copy in my hands.

The book has three women from Pepys’s diary as major point of view characters – Deb the maidservant, Elisabeth Pepys (wife of the famous diarist) and Abigail Williams, an actress who is mistress to Lord Bruncker and despised by Elisabeth. Here’s the first chapter to give you a flavour of Abigail.

 

Pleasing Mr Pepys

Chapter 1

September 1667

A metallic rattle – the key in the lock. Abigail Williams stiffened her spine as the draught from the downstairs door and the stink of the Fleet River blew round her ankles. Harrington closed the door and she heard him scratch the flint to light the wall sconces. Lighting up time already. It had been daylight when she had broken into his house. With one hand, she held her skirts closer to her thighs; with the other, she gripped the flat-bladed knife – a small weapon, but the edge sharpened razor-thin. She pressed back against the wall behind the door as the light from the hall flickered across her kidskin shoes.

Harrington’s footsteps lumbered up the stairs, his breathing laboured. She tightened her hold on the knife, preparing herself. These breaths would be his last. She found death harder to bear than she used to, now she had seen so much suffering – the plague years, the fire. Oddly, Harrington paused on the threshold of the room, as if he could sense her waiting presence. Through the crack of the open door she saw him standing motionless, his steeple hat a silhouette in the wavering light, his head cocked, listening.

He was an old hand, like her. She repressed a flash of compassion, the foolish urge to call out, to warn him. But then his dark back came through the door and he stepped in front of her, and without even thinking she moved like quicksilver. The knife slid easily across the side of his neck. With the other hand she pushed as hard as she could. He tried to turn, but it was too late, he was already falling, clutching his collar, blood slippery over his hands, hat rolling away under the table.

Experience told Abigail it had been enough. She ran, hoisting up her skirts, down the stairs, flinging the front door open, out into the cramped back alley. Nobody followed her; the passage to Fleet Street was empty. A brownish fog wreathed around her hem. When she finally slowed, she took a rag from inside her sleeve and wiped her blade, wrapped it, and stowed it in the pocket hanging next to her petticoats. She put a hand up to the bare skin at her chest, feeling the hot rise and fall of her collarbone.

She emerged onto the main thoroughfare where the houses were lit with torches, and walked, heart thudding, down towards the King’s playhouse. Arriving at the theatre, she saw Lord Bruncker’s carriage was where he had left it, across the road. His coachman was leaning against the wall, a smoking pipe in his mouth, waiting. She didn’t want to go in the front way – someone might ask why she was late – so instead she made for the tiring house behind.

The stage doorman knew her and nodded to her as she entered. The dressing room was empty, the actors ready to enter by the shutters for act two. From there, the audience sounded like the sea, the swell of all those voices. She checked her face and the satin of her dress for stains: a few dark spots on her sleeve, easily explained away.

Only now did she begin to shake. It was always like this: afterwards the weakness, nausea and trembling would set in. The moment when she wished she could turn back the day, the moment when she remembered their eyes, hollow with their unspoken question. Why?

Legs as unsteady as a newborn calf, she paused, leaned heavily on the trestle table, took out a phial of camphor from her pocket and inhaled. Better.

She arranged her face into a smile. Her performance for Lord Bruncker was about to begin. Her petticoat rustled against the boards as she went along the corridor and up the stairs into the box. On the way she almost bumped into Mr Pepys hurrying up the same stairs with a supply of nuts and oranges.

‘For Elisabeth,’ he said, obviously feeling the need to apologise for the sheer number of squashed bags hugged to his chest.

She nodded and stood aside, lowering her eyes to avoid his conversation. He could talk the baggage off a donkey. To her relief, he squeezed past and hurried into his own box further along the row.

When she got to her own, the candelabra had been lit, and upon her arrival Lord Bruncker drew out the chair so that she could sit.

‘Ah, there you are,’ he whispered. ‘You’re late. You missed the first act.’

She shook her head. ‘The traffic through town—’

‘Hush, they’re about to start again. Have a confit.’

She reached out her hand and smiled, took a marchpane cherry, but dropped it under her seat as soon as Lord Bruncker turned back to look at the stage. She was glad his attention was diverted, so he did not notice her pallid face or that she could not swallow.

The actor who had just entered rapped three times for silence, his face ghoulish from the footlights, which smoked in their holders. The hubbub fell to a hush. But Abigail’s thoughts would not lie quiet; she was thinking of Harrington, of how long it would be before they found him.

He should have listened to Piet. Then his mouth wouldn’t have had to be shut the hard way. She’d liked him, but in her business, liking was a luxury she was ill able to afford.

*****

Samuel_Pepys

You can buy the book here on Amazon in the UK or in the US , Waterstones, Guardian Bookshop or your local bookseller.

Deb Willet, Elizabeth Pepys’s maid and the object of Samuel Pepys’s attentions, is finally given centre-stage after 350 years, and her tale was worth waiting for. This is exceptional story-telling. L. C. Tyler author of the Historical John Grey Mysteries

Laced with emotional intensity and drama. Reader’s Favorite

The first chapter will suck you right in immediately; there is drama and intensity…before you even know who these characters are! I was hooked!  The Maiden’s Court Blog

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The Outlaw’s Ransom – the romance of Robin Hood

 

Outlaw's Ransom

I’m thrilled to welcome Jennifer Ash to my website today to talk about her new novella, The Outlaw’s Ransom.

Here’s a description of the book:

When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life.  Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…

A thrilling tale of medieval mystery and romance – and with a nod to the tales of Robin Hood – The Outlaw’s Ransom is perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and Jean Plaidy.

Good to have you here, Jenny. What sort of books do you like reading? Could you share with us some historical novels you really enjoyed?

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, The Bishop Must Die by Michael Jecks, Kitty Peck and the Musical Hall Murders by Kate Griffin, A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss, The Thief Taker by Janet Gleeson

I’ve only read two on that list, so I’ve some catching up to do! Tell me a little about how you first got interested in the medieval period, and the birth of this novella.

I’ve been a lover of all things medieval since I clapped eyes on an episode of Robin of Sherwood back in the 1980’s. Since then, I’ve had a fascination with the era; especially the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries which led to do a PhD in Medieval Criminology and Ballad Literature.

Despite five years of hard and intense study, my interest in the medieval legends continued, and when the chance came to indulge my passion in my fictional work, I grabbed it.

The resulting novel was Romancing Robin Hood; a part modern, part medieval romance and crime story.

Not only does the lead character in Romancing Robin Hood, Dr Grace Harper share my love of all things connected with the man in green tights (well, probably red hose actually), she also shares my love of the television show, Robin of Sherwood.  In fact, Grace loves medieval outlaws so much that she writes her own medieval mystery based on the life of a young woman called Mathilda of Twyford and her entanglement with an outlaw family called the Folvilles.

Mathilda’s story can be read within Romancing Robin Hood alongside the modern romance.

When Romancing Robin Hood was published so many people got in touch to tell me they wanted to read more of the medieval part of the story, that I decided to re-release it as a story in its own right.

Given the title, The Outlaw’s Ransom, Mathilda’s story was expanded a fraction, and published in its own right in 2015.

I’m delighted to say that Mathilda’s story doesn’t end with The Outlaw’s Ransom. I have recently finished writing the novel, The Winter Outlaw, which continues Mathilda’s adventures with the notorious Folville family. (Out Autumn/Winter 2017)

I can see the appeal of men in tights (!) but what appeals to you about outlaws?

Whether historical or fictional, there has always been something fascinating about these forced into- or who chose to adopt- the outlaw lifestyle. During the thirteenth and fourteenth century in England, there were periods of great political upheaval. As a consequence, many noble families took crime as a profession, and with it ruled their locality. Those outside the law often had more respect from the community than the representatives of the law did.

In fourteenth century Leicestershire, the Folville family had a mafia style grip on the county. But were they the good guys or the bad guys? Obviously it isn’t as simple as all that, the study of the exploits of this family- and those like them- is simply fascinating.

When you were writing the book, did you have a favourite ‘research moment’ ?

I have a small confession – I didn’t do any research when I was actually writing The Outlaw’s Ransom. My research was pre-done many years ago, between 1993 and 1999, when I studied for the aforementioned PhD on the correlation between medieval crime and the ballad literature of the fourteenth century.

It was during that time that I came across the Folvilles. There is a fairly convincing argument that this was family that the balladeers of the age – possibly- based their Robin Hood stories on.

Quite a few of the readers of this blog are writers too, I wonder if you would share a little bit about your method for writing a book? 

Left to my own devices I’m a panster. I much prefer handing control of the story over to my characters so I can let them dictate what happens. However publishers prefer (understandably), to have a guide that can give them an outline of the story they’ve just agreed to commission. As a consequence I tend to plot the first half out properly, and then wing the second half our in a much rougher plot form. Luckily my editor knows me well enough to know that the latter half of the plan I’m giving him will very probably change drastically by the time the story is actually written.

My writing career started 12 years ago when I started to write erotica as Kay Jaybee. In 2013 I became a contemporary fiction and romance novelist, Jenny Kane, as well. Then last year I took on the pen name Jennifer Ash- medieval mystery writer.

I try and write one book per ‘me’, per year. Two of these will be novels and one will be a novella, and then each different ‘me’ takes it in turns as to who gets the shorter work.

This year, Kay gets the novella, and Jenny Kane and Jennifer Ash get the novels!

Thank you to Jenny for sharing her thoughts with us, and now I’m sure if you’ve got this far, you’ll want to buy the book. Tap or click to download. US    UK

The Winter Outlaw which follows on from this book will be published in 2017. You can find details of all Jennifer’s stories at www.jenniferash.co.uk

Jennifer also writes as best-selling contemporary romance author Jenny Kane with books such as Another Glass of Champagne, Christmas at the Castle, and Abi’s House. (Accent Press) Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat  and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015) Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Follow Jenny on Twitter @JennyKaneAuthor or on Facebook