As spring slips away from the hotel Penmarrow, excitement builds for an exclusive auction hosted at the hotel, featuring priceless possessions from a Hollywood actress turned lady of the manor, including her famous diamonds. Celebrities and collectors form a crowd that is keeping Maisie and the rest of staff busy, even as Maisie faces a crossroads for her manuscript.
But when the diamonds are stolen and Sidney is accused by the authorities, Maisie’s dilemma as a writer is pushed aside out of fear that his future in Port Hewer is in jeopardy. Desperation to prove that someone else is behind the theft will lead Maisie to uncover a very different secret outside of jewel thieves and village rumours… one that could change her life and her future forever.
Can Maisie deal with the latest secrets exposed — including those that paint Sidney’s past in a questionable light? And as summer’s dawn alters her idyllic life in Cornwall, will Maisie’s feelings for Sidney change as well?
Guest Post Laura Briggs Fun Facts about My Romance Series ‘A Little Hotel in Cornwall’
Thank you so much to Jane for letting me stop by and share with her lovely readers today. It’s publication day for Book Four in my Cornish romance series about aspiring author Maisie who finds herself working at a historic hotel by the sea. This latest instalment is filled with romance, secrets, and even a bit of mystery—and I thought it might be rather exciting to share with you some of the fun facts behind the story’s creation. So here goes:
The concept for a plucky young American woman entangled with a daring theft on foreign shores was inspired partly by the 1989 TV movie adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit. It, too, features a ‘fish out of water’ scenario for a daring young heroine, a grand and mysterious foreign adventure, and a rugged, British love interest with a little bit of mystery in his past! Blake Edwards’ 1960’s comedy The Pink Panther was another influence, especially for Maisie’s latest brush with jewel thieves, along with the Road to Avonlea season four episode “The Disappearance” guest starring Diana Rigg and Robby Benson. I really love daring adventure stories with romantic settings and a touch of mystery, as you can see!
References to Doctor Who abound in my Cornish series, since both Maisie and her would-be love interest Sidney are huge fans of the classic science fiction show. But there’s a more subtle nod to the franchise in this book, with the choice of ‘Eccleston’ as a surname for the silent film star whose possessions are being auctioned at the hotel—the same last name as that of the actor who portrayed the 9th incarnation of the Doctor in the 2005 series revival (the very first series of Doctor Who that I ever watched, in fact!).
The jewelled dragon mentioned among the famous actresses’ collection in the story was inspired by the one featured in the 1991 Disney television movie Bejewelled, while the theft of a diamond necklace harkens back to the 1981 classic The Great Muppet Caper. Both of them are films that remind us that a little bit of mystery can pop up in any kind of story.
The character of Detective Anson is a nod to such classic literary investigators as Lord Peter Wimsey, Maigret, and Hercule Poirot. Every classic genre mystery has a distinctive, inscrutable investigator at its heart, after all.
The Lady Marverly novel that pops up in the hands of various characters throughout the story is meant to be a (rather obvious) reference to the ‘bodice ripper’ type paperbacks one used to see for sale in supermarkets, often featuring the male model Fabio on the cover. I thought it would be nice to pay subtle tribute to the original ‘standard’ in romance literature that everybody has seen, with its memorable and oh-so unmistakable hunky male models on its covers!
So hopefully these fun facts will make you curious enough to check out Maisie’s newest adventure, as well as the rest of the series. The first four stories are available in eBook format, with book five currently on pre-order!
Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Giveaway Link above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Irish countryside the famed mills have created the finest wool in all of Ireland. Run by the seemingly perfect Corrigan family, but every family has its secrets, and how the mills came to be the Corrigan’s is one of them…
Miranda and her husband were never meant to own the mills until one fateful day catapults them into a life they never thought they’d lead.
Ada has forever lived her life in her sister’s shadow. Wanting only to please her mother and take her place as the new leader of the mill, Ada might just have to take a look at what her heart really wants.
Callie has a flourishing international career as a top designer and a man who loves her dearly, she appears to have it all. When a secret is revealed and she’s unceremoniously turfed out of the design world, Callie might just get what’s she’s been yearning for. The chance to go home.
Simon has always wanted more. More money, more fame, more notoriety. The problem child. Simon has made more enemies than friends over the years, and when one of his latest schemes falls foul he’ll have to return to the people who always believe in him.
Ballycove isn’t just a town in the Irish countryside. It isn’t just the base of the famous mills. It’s a place to call home.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A family saga set in Western Ireland. The setting is vivid and provides the perfect ethos for this story. Family secrets, love, lies, hardship, loss, and after much angst and drama, the light at the end of the tunnel, make this a poignant but ultimately satisfying story. This immersive read draws the reader into a quintessentially Irish way of life, with a solid plot, that showcases the spectrum of human emotions. Authentic, complex characters and a chance to escape into another world.
This is a story to be savoured, the pace is gentle and you get to know the characters well, both in the past and present. Not all of them are likeable, but this is a reflection of life, so you wouldn’t expect them to be.
The mill is the lifeblood of the community, a character on its own. It witnesses so much, over the years, and is the source of happiness, sadness, poverty and riches. The details of its running and historical significance give the book depth and make the story more believable.
A flowing family saga of life, love and lies, beautifully told.
Guest Post – Faith Hogan
Welcome to Ballycove….
I’m so delighted to visit Jane’s lovely blog today and to tell you about my new book – THE PLACE WE CALL HOME. If you’ve read my other books, you’ll know by now that I write uplifting stories, about friendship, family, secrets, lies and sometimes, there’s a little romance thrown in!
This time we visit Ballycove – it’s a village that appeared fleetingly in an earlier book – The Girl I Used To Know. I wanted to create a place that represented the best of the place I call home. I live in the west of Ireland – in a little town that sits on one of the richest salmon rivers in Europe. Just over half a dozen miles away, the Atlantic Ocean breathes up its icy air on flawless beaches and you can walk for miles without meeting a soul. On the other hand, if you’re feeling more social you can ramble with the dog through the nearby Beleek woods where everyone has time to say hello.
Ten miles in the opposite direction, there’s a small town called Foxford. It is a fairly typical little town in the west of Ireland, with the River Moy flowing through it, plenty of hills to walk across and local shops and restaurants that serve great food and offer Irish hospitality at its best. At the bottom of the town, sits the Foxford Wollen Mills. The Corrigan Mills are loosely based around these world-famous mills.
There are a number of differences, however – unlike the Foxford Mills which were built by a pioneering nun in response to the poverty she saw at the time; the Ballycove mills are a family-owned business.
And it is from this family business that the tension in the novel arises…
Still a young woman, Miranda Corrigan has found herself at the helm of the biggest employer in her locality – except that it looks like the mills will have to close. She must juggle raising her three children alone and saving the mills – it’s no wonder then that when the time approaches to hand them on she does so reluctantly since there appear to be no safe hands available to pass them onto.
The problem is that her children don’t agree and the divisions that are setting in between them all look as if they may never heal.
Until David Blair arrives in town and reader, I will not say she married him, but he proves to be the wild card that may just blow the whole family apart – or could he be the person who manages to bring them all together?
You’ll have to read it to find out for yourself…
Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has a Hons Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.
Meg Mathers, the headstrong youngest sibling of a reiving family on the English-Scottish border, is determined to remain at her childhood home, caring for the land and village she’s grown up with. When an accident brings her a broken ankle and six weeks in the resentful company of ambitious and angry young reiver Will Hetherington, attraction starts to build. Both begin to realise they might have met their match and the love of their lives, but 15th-century border living is not that simple, as Meg soon finds herself betrothed to the weakling son of a tyrannical neighbour, Alexander Gray. When tragedy strikes, can Meg and Will find their way back to each other, and can Will finally take his own personal revenge on Gray?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Forbidden love in a dangerous place and time.
Meg is a young woman living with her family on the borders of England and Scotland in the fifteenth century. The historical detail in this story is absorbing and well researched, the writing is immersive and you experience life during this turbulent period of British history with the characters.
Circumstances bring Meg into close connect with Will when she suffers an injury. Passion, of a youthful kind, ignites between the two young people, even though they realise they cannot be together. The forbidden romance is gentle and shows how the two come of age in this dangerous time.
Meg is a courageous woman, who understands her position in society, and is willing to sacrifice her happiness to ensure the safety of her family. Her love for Will is strong and something she cannot deny. Will has nothing material to offer Meg, and he knows that her family would never allow them to marry. He fights his attraction, but youthful passion makes common sense a distant memory.
Suspense and menace increase with the story’s progress. Will Meg survive her fate? Exciting, passionate, and ultimately the ending keeps the spirit of true love alive.
If you enjoy experiencing turbulent historical events, with strong characters, and the taste of forbidden love this adventure is for you.
Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history and historical fiction whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England for work reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition and has been working on a number of projects since, including co-hosting the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and her time-slip novella, The Last Plantagenet?, by Ocelot Press. She lives in North Tyneside and is very proud of her approximately 2-inch sea view.
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
Lucy fell in love with tumbledown Rosemary Cottage as a child. So thirty years on, when she loses her city job and discovers the cottage is for sale, it feels like fate. She’ll raise her children in Burley Bridge and transform the cottage into a B&B with her husband.
But a year can change everything . . .
Now Lucy is juggling two children and a B&B but on her own. Christmas looks set to be their last on Rosemary Lane – until she meets James, a face from her past and someone who might offer a different kind of future . . .
Should Lucy leave the cottage behind? Or could this winter on Rosemary Lane be the start of something new?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Childhood memories can be powerful, and Lucy’s love of the cottage on Rosemary Lane stayed with her for thirty years. When her career reaches a crossroads, she convinces her husband that living there would be perfect for their family. For a while it is. Then life happens and tragedy strikes and Lucy is left to rebuild her family, but will it be at the cottage on Rosemary Lane?
Whilst this story is not exclusively festive, there are many Christmassy references and touches, which show the best and worst of the season. Told from mainly from Lucy’s point of view, this is a lovely tale of family life in a small Yorkshire village, it is a story of bereavement and loss and starting over. There are some strong friendships, and interesting romantic possibilities overlaid with courage, emotion and humour.The story draws you in, and it becomes important what happens to Lucy and her young family.
The rural setting is well described and the cast of characters diverse and realistic. James’ story is intricately woven into the main plot in a believable way, with just the right amount of serendipity. The story brings hope out of tragedy and leaves the reader with a feel-good hug.
Charlotte, daughter of Reverend Percival Hatton, has been content to follow the path laid out for her. Charlotte has an understanding with Captain Nicolas Paget – every inch the gentleman – who she expects someday to marry. But then she meets Josiah Martyn and everything changes…
A driven and ambitious Cornish mining engineer, and the complete opposite to Captain Nicholas, Josiah has come to London to help build the first tunnel under the river Thames. When unpredictable events occur at the inauguration of the project, Josiah and Charlotte are suddenly thrown into an unexpected intimacy.
But not everyone
is happy with Charlotte and Josiah growing closer. As friends turn to foes,
will they be able to rewrite the stars and find their happy ever after,
although all odds seem to be stacked against them…?
I received a copy of this book from the author and Corvus Books in return for an honest review.
Set in 1825, this romantic family saga explores the engineering feat of building the first underwater tunnel in London, by Brunel. The vision of this late Regency event comes across well in this story, but so does the human cost, of such a dangerous undertaking.
Charlotte is the Rector’s daughter, who since her mother’s untimely death has fulfilled the parish duties expected of a Rector’s wife. She is compassionate, clever and courageous, and does what she can to help the parish’s poor and unfortunate. The Rector is judgemental about his poorer parishioners. He is the antithesis of his daughter and prepared to put his material needs above his pastoral duties.
Charlotte meets Josiah, an engineer working for Brunel on the tunnel when he averts a near-tragic accident for her. The attraction although immediate and powerful builds through friendship when they meet on many occasions, through Charlotte’s parish duties and mutual acquaintances. Their romance appears ill-fated, when her father’s desire to maintain his reputation overrides the needs and wishes of his daughter, leading to an angst-ridden emotional climax to this story.
The historical background is well researched and written in a vivid real-time way that allows the reader to experience some of the events of the era. The characters are complex. Many are disagreeable but add to the story. All act in a way that fits with this exciting historical period. The social class divide is marked, but the evidence of change that the future Victorian era witnessed is seen here.
An absorbing plot, with vividly written characters, historical events, and a believable but utterly romantic love story, makes this the perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter’s afternoon.
Jean Fullerton is the author of thirteen novels all set in East London where she was born. She also a retired district nurse and university lecturer. She won the Harry Bowling Prize in 2006 and after initially signing for two East London historical series with Orion she moved to Corvus, part of Atlantic Publishing and is halfway through her WW2 East London series featuring the Brogan family.
Spend a white Christmas on Summer Island, where the fires are warm
and the romance is hotter
Lila Sloan wonders why she ever thought house-sitting for her
sister Meg on the remote Summer Island was a good idea. And to make matters
worse, local real estate developer Beck Grainger is trying to cut down the
beautiful trees that line the property. Lila can’t let this happen; Meg will
never forgive her.
Beck can understand Lila’s anger—sort of. The trees are actually
on the neighboring property, and the land was zoned for development months ago,
so his plans were no secret. But he dislikes being at odds with his friend’s
sister, especially because Lila is appealing in every way: loyal, quick-witted
and completely stunning.
Lila hates that she’s so attracted to Beck, who seems like a
genuinely good man, despite his tree-murdering tendencies. And their chemistry
is off the charts. She just wishes he’d let this development go. As Summer
Island counts down to a snowy Christmas, Lila and Beck will have to strike a
compromise that seems impossible for them both—or risk losing the best thing
either of them has ever had.
I received a copy of this book from Harlequin Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The second in the Summer Island series, it’s close to Christmas and it’s snowing, the idyllic setting for this lovely feel-good romance. Lila is on Summer Island to help her older sister Meg, who is taking time out with her new boyfriend. Lila is hurting, after a bad experience at work, which forces her to rethink her career. Helping her sister gives her the solitude she needs until someone disturbs it. Forcing Lila into a confrontation she neither needs or feels capable of,but she has to protect her sister’s business and their childhood memories.
Lila and Beck feel the heat, despite the snow and their difference of opinion. Their relationship is full of conflict, as they battle over the wood, their unwanted feelings, emotional angst and the other person in their relationship. It is through compromise, friendship and understanding of each other’s emotional damage, that finally makes them see that they may have a future.
This reads well as a standalone story, but the cast of characters are lovely, and I would like to read the first one and those that follow.
Emotional romance, compassionate friendships and a lovely snowy setting make this a perfect holiday romantic read.
THE GIVING HEART by Toni Blake – Excerpt
Five long, cold
minutes later a tall, broad-shouldered man wearing a winter coat with blue
jeans and some weird, worn, leathery sort of cowboy hat on his head came
walking down from the direction of West Bluff. Despite herself, and for the
first time ever in her life, she found herself envying work boots like the ones
he had on because they appeared so sturdy and dry. She braced herself for a
When she looked up
at him, two things struck her simultaneously. First, he was ridiculously
handsome—with dark hair peeking out from beneath that dumb hat, and dark
stubble on his chiseled jaw to match. And second, his
warm brown eyes wore that same confused, cautious look as the man on the
bulldozer’s as he said, “I’m Beck Grainger. And…there seems to be some sort of
Lila drew back. This
was Beck Grainger? Who Meg had spoken of so fondly? And even Suzanne, too,
during their short visit yesterday, had mentioned him as a friend. Meg had told
her he’d been interested in dating Suzanne and she’d declined, but they both
still thought he was a great guy.
“Well, I’m Lila
Sloan,” she said. “And yes, there’s a problem. I’m not letting you destroy
Meg’s property value like this.”
dark eyebrows shot up beneath his leathery brim. “You’re Meg’s sister?”
She gave a terse,
The handsome man
sighed, shifting his weight from one work boot to the other. “Look, no one is
trying to destroy anyone’s property value. And I assumed Meg knew about this.
It’s not a secret. It was brought publicly before the town council and zoned
for residential use back in the spring.”
Ugh. None of this
was good news. But Lila was certain Meg didn’t know. Her sister had been
dealing with a lot this past year and perhaps hadn’t been paying attention to
island business. They’d actually discussed these very woods over the
Thanksgiving table last week, recalling how they’d played here as children when
their grandmother was still alive and running the place. Meg said that a couple
of years ago she’d crossed the stream to plant some shade-loving trillium and blue
cranesbill among the trees, and that the small blooms had added color visible
from the patio each of the last two summers. Meg loved and valued these trees.
And Lila brimmed with anger that no one had made Meg aware of this—but that was
neither here nor there. “I can assure you she doesn’t know.”
The handsome man’s
brow narrowed skeptically. “Well, if it’s a problem for her, why didn’t she
just pick up the phone and call me?”
“Because she’s away
right now—traveling. And even if she were here, she wouldn’t have known you
were the person to call. And maybe she would have done something
sensible—because Meg is definitely sensible—like contact someone on the town
council. But I, being less sensible and more rash, took a more direct approach.
Meg left me in charge of the inn while she’s away—and I can’t let you do this.
I just can’t.”
The tilt of Beck
Grainger’s handsome head told her he was going to try reasoning with her. “You
know, it’s not gonna be that bad. Luxury homes. With big yards. They’ll fit into
the landscape.” He even ended the sentence with a wink. Was he serious? Given
what Lila had been through recently, he was definitely barking up the wrong
tree with an elitist suggestion that rich people made better neighbors.
“I don’t care
what you’re building—you’re doing it at the expense of my sister’s inn. People
stay here because of the ambiance and atmosphere. They stay here to listen to
crickets in the trees and see fireflies blinking in the woods. We played in
these trees as kids. They’ve been growing here since…well, since before Summer
Island was even Summer Island. I can’t let you tear them down.”
USA Today bestselling author Toni Blake’s love of writing began when she won an essay contest in the fifth grade. Since then, she has written over twenty contemporary romance novels. Her books have received the National Readers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers’ Best Award, her work has been excerpted in Cosmopolitan, and she has been nominated for a RITA Award. Toni lives with her husband in Northern Kentucky.
When you’re working undercover the smallest mistake can cost you your life.
Detective Constable Bailey Morgan has been out of the undercover game since her last job went horribly wrong, leaving her with scars inside and out. When her colleague Alice is found dead whilst working deep cover in a women’s prison, Bailey steps in to replace her.
Working alone, Bailey embarks on a dangerous journey through the murky underbelly of the prison and soon discovers that Alice’s death was part of a spate of brutal murders.
Surrounded by prison officers, criminals and lowlifes, the slightest mistake could cost Bailey her life. Illicit drug trafficking, prison gangs and corruption are just some of the things she’s up against… and behind it, all lurks a sinister and terrifying secret that will truly test her survival instincts.
Is ‘Jailbird’ inspired by a particular event? Can you share your inspirations for this story?
‘Jailbird’ isn’t inspired by any particular event. It’s more like it emerged out of a collision between various interests and preoccupations of mine.
I’d been wanting to write a women’s prison thriller for a while because I’ve always enjoyed prison-themed books, films and TV shows. I tried several different variations on the story but none of them felt quite right until I got to the scenario of a cop going undercover in a prison. And that tapped straight into a preoccupation I’ve always had with how far people put up facades to fool others for good motives or bad, and how far you can see the cracks in those facades if you look closely enough. The idea of an undercover cop, having to conceal her identity in order to fight crime, takes this to the extreme, because if people see through her facade she’s a dead woman!
Why are prisons popular settings for crime fiction and thrillers?
I think prisons make for good crime thriller material because they’re a closed environment with an inbuilt element of criminality which provides the potential for lots of intrigue and conflict. The atmosphere of a prison lends itself well to this genre because you’ve got that claustrophobia from hundreds of people being locked in with each other against their will, and the constant simmering tension which arises as a result.
I love reading books set in prisons and I don’t think there are enough of them which is one reason why I wanted to write ‘Jailbird’, to make my own contribution to this crime sub-genre.
What makes your story unique, in such a popular genre?
Well, they say no story is truly unique, don’t they? So I guess it’s the way you tell it that makes it special…
I think good well-defined characters play a very important part in making a story stand out. The main character of ‘Jailbird’ is Bailey Morgan, the policewoman who goes undercover in the prison. I’ve tried to make her as three-dimensional as possible – yes she’s tough and resourceful, with an appetite for danger, but she also has a vulnerable side which is explained by a backstory that actually ends up feeding into the very risks she’s facing on a daily basis as an undercover cop in a prison.
As for the plot itself, there have been stories before about cops going undercover in prison, but I think the female cop/female prison angle makes ‘Jailbird’ different from what I’ve encountered in the genre so far. Plus the fact that it’s set in the UK perhaps makes it a little more unusual.
There are also other elements to the story that makes ‘Jailbird’ unique, which you discover towards the denouement, but of course, I’m not going to give that away here. You’ll have to read it to the end to find out!
There is a varied cast of characters in your novel, how did you make them realistic and relatable?
One thing I did when I was writing ‘Jailbird’ was to create questionnaires for all of the main characters which ran the gamut from things like, ‘where does she live?’, ‘what’s her height?’, ‘what’s her favourite colour?’, ‘what’s her favourite song?’ etc, right through to deeper things like ‘what was her first experience of death?’ and so on. For the most part, the answers to these questions didn’t make it into the actual book. But when you force yourself to think through the answers to these questions for each character, they really start to become alive and much more three-dimensional. And once that happens their motivations for doing what they’re doing become a lot clearer.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I love crime and thriller books obviously – recently I’ve been enjoying novels by Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, Heather Burnside, Gillian Flynn, Don Winslow and Martina Cole amongst others. Reading other people’s novels is a great way to understand some of the techniques these very talented writers use in order to generate suspense and create great characters.
I also do like horror fiction – authors like Adam Nevill, James Herbert and C.J. Tudor. From a personal writing perspective I find horror complements crime quite well and in fact, there can often be a cross-over.
I read quite a bit of non-fiction as well. True crime, current affairs, popular psychology. Some of it is research on what I’m writing, some of it I read just because it interests me!
What are you currently writing?
I am currently working on the follow-up novel to ‘Jailbird’. After all, Bailey Morgan is still around and she’s not going to be able to put up with normal life for very long before she’ll be wanting to go undercover again…
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
If you enjoy prison drama, suspense and menace, Jailbird is an exciting new story to explore.
It contains everything you would expect in a novel of this type, a courageous, challenged protagonist, who is only there to finish a job, her friend was unable to, after her violent death. A corrupt prison ethos, where it is debatable who is in charge, and a culture of abuse, drugs and violence.
This story contains well-written, but graphic descriptions of the violence, and so this is for a mature adult audience. There is a varied cast of characters, most are complex and realistically flawed. A setting like a prison demands that the characters are exceptional, and for the most part they are. The plot has twists, that keep you guessing, and the build-up of suspense is well done.
Gritty, graphic and powerful, this is a story that makes you think.
Extract from Chapter 1 – Jailbird – Caro Savage
The clank sounded out of place. Alice Jenkins stopped pushing the laundry trolley and lifted her head. She tossed her long reddish-blonde hair out of her face. ‘Hey, who’s there?’ She was answered only by the repetitive groaning of the huge industrial washing machines and dryers which lined both sides of the prison laundry. She peered uncertainly into the shadows beyond the giant wire racks, which held folded piles of freshly laundered bedding and towels. Down here in the basement there were no windows and the overhead strip lighting flickered with a sickly insipid yellow which failed to illuminate the room properly.
Alice had only started her job in the laundry two days before. Normally there were other inmates working in here, but this afternoon she was all alone. That was because she’d volunteered to do some overtime, explaining to the laundry supervisor that she wanted to earn a little extra cash for her canteen account.
She hadn’t been in prison for very long. Just a few weeks. She’d been sent down for benefit fraud. Not a major crime but enough to land her inside for a year and three months. But she seemed to be getting the hang of things. Like managing to get this job in the laundry.
There was still plenty of stuff that she was unfamiliar with though, so she wasn’t totally relaxed by any means. In fact, she’d found that this place could suddenly put you on edge when you were least expecting it. Like now for example.
She glanced around nervously.
‘Hey stop messing about!’ she said.
Maybe some of the other inmates – her laundry colleagues – were playing a practical joke on her. She hoped so. Because if it wasn’t them then maybe it was one of the dangerous looking cliques she’d seen around the prison. Maybe they’d taken a dislike to her for some reason. Maybe they had it in for her.
‘Haha. Try and creep up on Ally. Yeah, that’s hilarious. You can come out now.’ She tried to sound breezy but her nerves betrayed her, her voice instead coming out reedy and uneven.
There was no answer. Just the incessant rumbling of the machinery.
Her knuckles turned white as she tightened her grip on the handle of the trolley and squinted into the dim recesses of the cavernous laundry. A burst of excess steam hissed from a nearby pipe. She jumped and gasped, her heart thumping in her chest.
Her mind raced to think what had made the clanking sound. It might be a rat.
The prison did have a rodent problem. Or maybe she was just spooking herself out unnecessarily.
‘You silly girl,’ she muttered, shaking her head and pulling herself upright.
She recommenced pushing the trolley, awkwardly manoeuvring its bulky weight towards one of the empty washing machines at the end of the room.
Then, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a shadow pass behind one of the sheets that were hanging up, waiting to be folded and placed on the wire racks.
She let go of the trolley and spun around to look. Was there someone there? She could have sworn she was the only one in here.
No. It was surely just a ripple in the material caused by convection in the warm air currents generated by the dryers. She turned back to the trolley, taking hold of the handle once again.
But then in the darkness beyond the racking, just behind the dryers, something caught her eye.
A brief sparkle.
A shiny surface which captured the few photons bouncing around behind the stacks of machinery and reflected them back to her…
She stopped again, momentarily entranced by it as it twinkled in the shadows like a lone star aglow in the distant black depths of deep space. For a brief moment, she forgot her apprehension as she tried to make sense of it floating there in the shadows like the needle of a compass… turning… pointing in her direction…
Then a depth charge of cold fear detonated in her gut as she realised what it was.
Her heart began to hammer inside her chest. Her hands fell away from the handle of the trolley.
‘Oh fuck,’ she whispered. They’d come to kill her.
They’d decided to come for her when she was all alone. She cursed her stupidity for making the mistake of being down here by herself.
Somewhere along the line, she’d messed up and now she was going to pay for it with her life.
She felt a heavy nausea rise up inside her, the fear of impending death.
Slowly, she edged backwards around the trolley to put it between herself and whoever was behind the dryers. She again squinted to try and see more.
In the shadows, silence. A flicker of movement in the darkness. A shadow within a shadow. It was big. It was no rat. That was for sure. It was a person.
She gulped. Her mouth was dry. She glanced towards the doorway. It was at the far end of the laundry. That distant metal door had never looked more appealing. Nor had it ever seemed further away. She glanced back at the row of dryers.
Tensing, she took a deep breath… and bolted.
Caro Savage knows all about bestselling thrillers having worked as a Waterstones bookseller for 12 years in a previous life. Now taking up the challenge personally and turning to hard-hitting crime thriller writing.