The only downer was the main character, Robert West, who was simply a bit wet. And who, instead of ending up with either his old pal Don Shaw (with whom the mutual attraction was striking) or the nice MP Gracie Richards, became besotted with a dull, self-centred, adulterous cow of a character.
Orlando knew that he shouldn't have come to watch the rugby. He should have gone to the dentist and had his teeth pulled out, it would have been less painful.
It wasn't as if he could complain that the game was bad; it was a very exciting match, good end-to-end stuff and plenty of points scored. It wasn't bad weather, having turned much milder than it had been the last month, and the sun was high enough in the sky to have the suggestion of heat about it.
The problem was the bloody stupid way that Jonty Stewart threw himself headlong into every tackle. Bodies crunching together, stomach-churning sounds of bone and muscle in collision—that was what was so distressing. And he always seemed to emerge from the melee with a daft grin and, usually, the ball.
More excerpts at the Rainbow snippets group.
In other news, my flowering cherry is out:
and Winchester was looking particularly nice this morning:
These will go onto my free story page for general consumption. You can sign up for my newsletter by using the link on any page of my website so the next time I have freebies to share you get first dibs!
Don’t forget the literary romance quiz in Portsmouth the week after next, with a panel of very interesting romantic novelists (and me!) to follow – tickets available at the door.
I’m delighted to return from holidays to find an excellent review for Old Sins at the Mystery People site, Promoting Crime.
This is a series that gets better all the time and this book is excellent, with an interesting plot, lively dialogue and engaging protagonists. The author has only one problem, she has made Campbell so endearing that he is going to have to be the longest-lived dog in fictional history, because his fans will never allow her to kill him off.
This week’s bargains are Lessons in Love and Lessons in Desire. There’s always a bargain to be had with one or other of the new Endeavour editions of the Cambridge Fellows series.
Today’s excerpt is from one of my darker works, Broke Deep. This is a story of unexpected love found against a backdrop of family crisis and features a leading man whose mother has dementia and who, after a series of strange dreams, fears he’s going the same way.
Late morning, the doorbell went off with its horribly insistent tone. Morgan smoothed his hair and put on a smile—the best smile he could manage on a day when he’d woken at five o’clock in the morning and not managed to get back to sleep. The fact his waking had interrupted an erotic dream involving James hadn’t made things any easier.
He was bloody glad he’d made some effort on his appearance when he glimpsed the vision of hotness through the hall window. This had to be a lost surfer boy or someone who’d come to the coast to find himself a job as a lifeguard and got hopelessly off track. It couldn’t be Dominic, because blokes like this didn’t usually knock on the door of Cadoc for any legitimate reason.
Morgan hesitated, hand on the doorknob. If real life was like a gay romance book, this would be Dominic and they’d bond over a discussion of James, one full of shared hatred for the bloke. The next minute they’d be taking a romantic walk on the beach, and maybe tonight they’d drag each other up the stairs and . . .
The doorbell rang again, and Morgan realised he was still standing fantasising. He opened the door in a rush just as “surfer boy who might be Dominic” had turned to go back down the path.
“Sorry I took so long,” Morgan said, as brightly as he could manage.
“I thought there was nobody in.” Surfer Boy smiled, which reignited memories of last night’s dream. Morgan squirmed. “There’s a guy here to see you, only he’s gone off to take some pictures, and he asked me to come over and say he’d arrived.” Surfer boy waved airily at a bright-red hire car, parked next to the gate.
“Are you a friend of his?” Surely this couldn’t be Dominic’s boyfriend, although his twin brother would be a good outcome.
“No. We met on the plane, and when he heard where I was heading, he said he’d give me a lift so I didn’t have to wait for a bus. My girlfriend lives up on the main road.” Surfer Boy grinned, looking stupidly handsome, more so for being unavailable. “Stroke of luck on my part. Eh?”
“It worked out well.” Morgan sighed as he scanned the line of the hedge. “Has your chauffeur gone walkabout?”
“Probably. He seems a bit of a fanatic; he’s got a bee in his bonnet about ships or timbers or whatever. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention. I bet he’s seen an interesting piece of wood and gone to take a sample or whatever.” Surfer Boy—straight, unavailable surfer boy—smiled again, then adjusted his backpack. “Right. Unless I want a dose of earache, I’d better be on my way. Bye.” He turned on his heels and walked off down the path towards the gate, duty done.
“Bye,” Morgan answered, watching him go and wondering why life was never like gay romance books.
And finally – caves created by lava flow that made my inner science nerd get very excited.
And the amazing whistling language of La Gomera:
Yes, it does sound like the Clangers.
(If the videos don't crosspost you can find them here: https://charliecochrane.wordpress.com/
However, I have--as always--my slash goggles on when I read anything from the early 20th/late 19th centuries. Ahem:
It was with a little twitch at his heart that (Robert) West recognised in the man walking towards him the adored companion of his school and college days...
To put it in proper English, we're off to the Canaries on a sort of floating Harrods. Our third cruise in just over a year (sure sign we're getting old) and actually our third cruise ever. Suspect we've got the bug for it.
If we see any of these we'll be lost:
although I do hope for one or two of these:
However I had one great disappointment. I don't mind reading a modernly written classic era Holmes (the Anthony Horowitz ones are rather good) and this one began with an intriguing premise - that Watson was set up from the start to spy on Holmes. Started well, went downhill rapidly. The original scenes were much better than the retelling of the Conan Doyle bits which were, frankly, dull. Such a curate's egg of a book. I wish Alex Beecroft or Elin Gregory had written it.
Just been to a lovely service at church so this excerpt from Don't Kiss the Vicar feels appropriate.
“Vicar!” The shout, the almost friendly wave meant the decision to veer off was taken too late.
“Steve!” A cordial wave back as the distance between them narrowed. “Didn’t think you frequented this place.”
“Is that why you come here, then? To get away from the parishioners you like least?”
Dan tried to find an answer, but somehow the connection between his brain and mouth had become severed. Helpless, he could feel the flush rushing up his neck, and could see—without looking at the bloke—that Steve was less than amused. What the hell else was he going to think other than that he’d hit the nail on the head, and Dan was too dumb to cover the fact up?
“Rex!” A high pitched, agitated female voice broke the awkward moment, as did a huge Great Dane, about the size of a rhinoceros, which came haring out of the woods, onto the path and straight into Steve’s leg.
“Shit!” Steve staggered, arms flailing in a futile effort to keep himself upright. Dan’s attempt to reach out and catch him before he hit the stony path was equally ineffective, but at least he could keep the nasty, snarling brute at bay with the aid of the stick he habitually took when he walked. Jimmy had said it gave him gravitas, now it provided the ideal weapon.
More excerpts at Rainbow Snippets.
Our “Great Detectives panel was a success, with lots of nice feedback. Alas, Cadfael lost out to Hercule Poirot in the meaningful vote. My next gig has me with my romance hat on, celebrating love in literature. I’ve done a round for the quiz, which I’ll post to my blog once the big night is done.
My ‘find a title’ challenge was won by George Loveland, who suggested lots of excellent variations on the lines of Seasons of Love. Clever lad!
This week I’m featuring a guest author, Elin Gregory, whose latest book, Midnight Flit, looks a right bobby dazzler. (Let me state here and now that I’d only ever feature guests who are a) pals of mine and b) blooming good authors. I’m not into random newsletter swops.)
Book Two of The Carstairs Affairs: Miles Siward and Briers Allerdale return for another thrilling Jazz Age adventure.
“Silk stockings on expenses.”
Miles’s aristocratic mother has information of importance to the British Government and he must escort her home from Bucharest immediately, but their plans go violently awry and Miles and Lady Siward find themselves on a train to Belgrade - where Miles’s lover is posted. Since their pursuers are looking for a man and a woman, might two women slip past them unnoticed?
"Is anyone on this train who they say they are?"
Briers doesn’t know whether to kiss Miles or punch him but is delighted to accompany him and his mother on their journey. All he has to do is keep an eye open for their enemies - but who exactly are they; the enormous Russian, the sinister priest, the handsome jazz pianist, or maybe the winsome young movie star? And his mother-in-law might just be the most terrifying of all!
All aboard for the ride of a lifetime, with a cast of characters you'll never forget!
Elin and I collaborated on a Cambridge Fellows/Miles and Briars crossover, which is available to download free here.
“Is she dead?” A deep voice. Miles could hear it clearly and suspected he might be able to put a name to it from some deep cavern of memory, but he could neither open his eyes nor respond.
“No, she’s breathing, you clown. Hopefully nothing worse than being out for the count. And a pint of claret down the front of her dress.” Another voice, one that Miles instantly recognised, although what Jonty Stewart was doing here, God alone knew. Unless Miles was dreaming, of course. Or really had died and Dr. Stewart and his colleague—that’s who the other voice must belong to—formed an unusual pair of heavenly ushers. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“I know. It was that other idiot going far too fast. Worse driver even than you.” The colleague—what was his name again? Wainwright? Copperberg?—sounded beside himself with worry. “We should have gone for the doctor. The car would be quicker than a cart.”
“And leave the farmer here with a team of spooked horses? Have you seen the size of those things or have any idea what sort of damage they could do? Better to look after h— Ah, hello.”
Miles had managed to force his eyes open; there were worse sights to greet a man than Jonty Stewart, even though he must be into his fifties by now. Classically handsome face, high cheekbones, a scar that added rather than detracted from the whole effect. Miles couldn’t deny that he’d fancied his tutor during his years at Cambridge and just hoped he hadn’t made too much of an exhibition of himself at the time. Although wasn’t he making an exhibition of himself now?
“Hello,” he managed. “I don’t think anything’s broken.”
“Only most of the front of your car.” Stewart, grinning, drew out a handkerchief then applied it to Miles’s nose. “And your cover, Miles. Although not as badly as it might have been had I let the farmer perform first aid.”
“Oh.” He morphed Millie’s voice into his own; a more nasal version than normal, although he didn’t think his nose was actually broken. “Is it so obvious?”
“Only to somebody who admired your Rosalind.” Stewart busied himself with taking Miles’s pulse and checking him over. “You remember Siward, don’t you, Professor Coppersmith? One of the less vile dunderheads.”
Coppersmith peered closer. “The one who was quite useful at whist. Yes. Is this what they’re wearing in London these days?”
“Only when they’re involved in Room 40 type stuff. Just as well they didn’t ask you to get dolled up in a tea frock. You haven’t got the legs for one thing.
And finally – a picture of the panel from the Great Detectives event. Why can I never keep my eyes open when the camera goes off?
Today's excerpt is unexpectedly serious.
It was after lunch, a beer, and half an hour of kip that they actually got around to discussing the morning’s events again. Robin hadn’t received any further messages and nothing definitive was featuring on either the news or social media yet, so they’d made themselves comfy on the sofa, with Campbell stretched out on the floor like a living rug.
“I hope himself’s asleep and can’t hear what I’m about to ask,” Adam said. “What’s the law on killing dogs?”
“Long story short, if you’re a farmer and a dog’s trespassing on your land, worrying your sheep, you can kill it, preferably in one clean shot. You’d need to prove you were justified in taking the action, though. Long story longer, if you asked your pal to come over and he brought his dog and it starts worrying the sheep, you’ve lost the right.”
“That’s sounds straightforward enough.”
Robin grimaced. “It isn’t. You’re supposed to try to contact the owner first, and only shoot if absolutely necessary. You’re supposed to report it, afterwards, too.”
Loads more excerpts at the Rainbow Snippets Group.
Our “Tea and cakes with the Deadly Dames” event in Portsmouth went very well. Next up is me making a case for Cadfael being the greatest fictional detective at the Great Detectives panel on Thursday 7th March at 7pm at the Eldon Building, which is part of Portsmouth University. Tickets on sale now!
Today’s special offer is on a print book. If you fancy a copy of Lessons in Power to have in your paw, then it’s cheap as the proverbial chips (although not real chips which are actually quite expensive!) on Amazon.
Remember a few weeks back I was looking for a title for an anthology of old stories I’m republishing? I had some cracking suggestions, including the excellent-but-probably-unusable-because-
The excerpt this week is from a few years back, the novella length story Second Helpings which is slightly more bittersweet than my normal offerings (although a happy ending is guaranteed…)
Stuart pulled his car up to the garage door, turned off the engine, and sat, staring at the steering wheel without really seeing it. Friday already—where the hell had the last fortnight gone? Where the hell had the last year gone?
Dad had rung on Thursday, no, make that the previous Thursday, to say he was taking Isabel to see a show, sounding airy, as if he was trying to give the impression it wasn’t important. Yesterday he’d reported back that they’d been to their matinee, although the old man had been cagey about whether they’d come home to deepest Berkshire that evening. The uncomfortable thought that the pair of them might be doing more than holding hands and sharing butterfly kisses got shut out of Stuart’s brain. What business was it of his anyway? Dad was happy, even if he wasn’t.
God, he hated child murder cases, especially when it seemed a member of the family might be responsible. He felt nauseous just at the thought of the tests he’d run, let alone gathering their results. Still, if the police had enough evidence to make an arrest and make the charges stick, he’d played his part.
That sort of thing hadn’t been so bad back in the days when he’d been able to walk in the house and know somebody was there to take away a slice of the pain. Somebody who could absorb it all without complaint and still come back for more.
He turned to look at the darkened windows, knowing he’d be opening the front door to nothingness. Friday evening used to be one of the highlights of the week. Mark would cook dinner, they’d share a bottle of wine, and then they’d use that big, comfortable bed. This Friday would see Stuart flicking on the television and catching up on the sleep he’d missed while helping to pin down the little boy’s step-grandfather with the crime.
It was enough to make him want to restart the car straight away. Dad wouldn’t mind, would he, if his only son appeared on the doorstep and said, “I can’t stay alone tonight”? What a bloody state to be in, when you couldn’t summon up the courage to walk through your own front door.
He tried an old trick, counting to ten then getting out of the car. Counting to ten again and getting to the door. Counting to ten again and then putting the key in the lock. Stupid, but it worked. Counting to ten again and he was in the hall. The effort seemed to expend his last bit of energy. He couldn’t face cooking, or anything more taxing than slouching on the sofa, and if his head nodded within minutes of him parking his backside, what did it matter?
His mobile went off, propelling him out of sleep and sending the remote control flying onto the floor. Who the hell could be ringing him at six o’clock in the evening? It had to be work, another bloody-awful case to deal with.
“Hello?” he said, fighting to fully wake himself.
“Stuart Collins?” The voice wasn’t one he recognised, and if it was somebody unknown from work, they would probably have addressed him as Dr. Collins. Had to be a salesman or a scammer. He tried to keep his bubbling anger in check.
“I’m Isabel Franklin’s son.”
“Paul?” Stuart relaxed a bit. Known quantity, or at least known about.
“That’s me. I wanted to introduce myself.”
“Oh. Right. Well . . . hello.”
“Sorry, this is a bit awkward over the phone. I wondered if we could meet up. Have a chat. Nothing to worry about,” Paul added hastily.
“Yes. That would be fine.” A bit early for the official meet-the-family bit—and surely that should be all four of them—but maybe things had moved faster than Stuart had reckoned with. “When were you thinking of?”
“As soon as you like. Where are you?”
Stuart, brain not quite in gear, almost said, In the lounge.
“I’m not far from outside Maidenhead.”
“Great. I’m in High Wycombe. There’s a pub about halfway. Do you know The Bull, just outside Marlow, on the main road? It used to be called something else.”
“I can Google it. Although I must have driven past the place.” Mark’s family had lived out that way; the memory of driving around Marlow, in happier days, stung.
“Most people have. There’s a garage, then a church, then The Bull. Can you get there by eight?”
“This evening?” This sounded urgent. “Unless the road’s full of tractors, yes.”
“Magic. See you then.”
Stuart stared at the phone after Paul had terminated the call. Friday night could well be interesting again, at least for this week.
And finally – rare that I include a picture of me, but couldn’t resist me Deadly Daming!