Tuesday, 20 October 2020

A romantic suspense novel set in Provence

Escape to the Little Chateau is published today by Choc Lit UK!

Mystery, romance and a fascinating journey into the history of Provence…

Blurb

Will Amy’s dreams of a Provençal escape come true?

There are many reasons Amy Carter is determined to make Bellefontaine, her farmhouse hotel in the French countryside, a success. Of course, there’s the time and money she’s put in to making it beautiful, but she also has something to prove – particularly to people like Fabien Coste.

Fabien is the owner of the nearby château, and he might just be the most arrogant, patronising man Amy has ever met ... unfortunately, he’s also the most handsome.

But as rumours circulate in the local community and secrets about the old farmhouse begin to reveal themselves, Amy quickly sees the less idyllic side of life at Bellefontaine. Could Fabien be the man to help prevent her Provençal dream from turning into a nightmare?

Escape to the Little Chateau is available from Amazon uk and Kobo

It was previously published as A Spell in Provence by Accent Press in 2015. This is a revised, edited and updated version. Published October 2020 by Choc Lit.

 

 

 


Tuesday, 19 May 2020

My Inspiration for ‘A Mother’s Secret By Jan Baynham


Inspiration for Jan Baynham's 'A MOTHER'S SECRET' 

I am delighted to welcome fellow ChocLit UK / Ruby author Jan Baynham today. Jan's debut novel A MOTHER'S SECRET was released in April 2020. Today she is telling us about her inspiration for writing the novel.

I have always been intrigued by family secrets and the fact that these sometimes do not come to light until after a person has died. I read of someone who was sorting through her mother’s things after her death and found a diary. In there, the young woman learned about a part of her mother’s life she knew nothing about. The ‘what ifs?’ started in my head. At the time, I’d been reading a novel where the rustling in the trees sounded like whispers and inanimate statues took on the form of ghosts of the people they represented. Perhaps the whispering could show the presence of a past family member. Always fascinated by the bond between mothers and daughters, this was basis for ‘Her Mother’s Secret’. 


Very often, the close relationship between mothers and daughters means that they would know things about each other no one else would. I wanted to explore how my character, Alexandra, would feel when she found out about her mother, Elin’s secret life. How could her mother have kept this from her? How would she feel? I needed Elin to have been able to keep her secret from everyone, even her own mother, until she died.

I decided that Elin would be an artist, having just finished art college. She travels to Greece to further her painting skills and while there, something happens that she never mentions again. I chose a setting where the colours would be more vibrant and intense perhaps than in her home country of Wales. In awe of the wonderful palette of colours seen in every landscape, Greece was my obvious inspiration. Every holiday has inspired me with contributions to create characters and settings that are hopefully authentic showing the climate, the vivid colours of the sea and the flowers as well as the warmth of its people.


BLURB:

A secret left behind in the summer of ’69 …
It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …

Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.

BIO

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction. From then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and short listed in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published.  Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in further depth and delve into their stories. She writes about family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters. Partly set in the last year of the 60s, ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ takes you to sun-drenched Greece, her favourite holiday destination.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. Having joined the Romantic Novelists Association in 2016, she values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of her local RNA Chapter.

‘Her Mother’s Secret’ is available on Amazon:
You may find out more about Jan here:
Twitter: @JanBaynhamhttps://twitter.com/JanBaynham
Facebook: Jan Baynham Writer  https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit/
Blog: www.janbaynham.blogspot.co.uk                                         


 Thank you very much for coming on the blog today, Jan!

Monday, 18 May 2020

A PARIS FAIRY TALE - Five Random Facts about Ancient Manuscripts!


Ancient manuscripts and A PARIS FAIRY TALE
By Marie Laval
 When I started writing A PARIS FAIRY TALE, I embarked on a fascinating journey through the ages and the history of illuminated manuscripts. The story took a long time to research but since research is one of my hobbies, it was a pure joy. 

I read articles and books on the subject – my two favourite books being the wonderful Meetings with remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel and Master of Death by Michael Camille – but I also registered on a couple of courses on Ireland and the Book of Kells run by Futurelearn (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/book-of-kells) and on art trafficking (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/art-crime), both so very informative and completely free!

The main plot of A PARIS FAIRY TALE revolves around a manuscript which everybody believed destroyed in a fire, but which mysteriously resurfaces and which the heroine, Dr Aurora Black, is asked to authenticate and value. The manuscript in question is the Heures de Turin, a genuine illuminated manuscript, which was indeed lost in the great fire of the Turin University Library. Therefore, the story of it being found again is completely fictional!

So what did I learn in the course of my research? Lots and lots of fascinating facts but I will limit myself to five.

1.     Most manuscripts from medieval Europe were written on vellum, or animal skin, usually calf, sheep or goat. The production of one single book would usually require the skins of a whole flock.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

2.      The largest illuminated manuscript is the Codex Gigas, currently located in the National Library in Stockholm. Also called The Devil’s Bible because it is believed to be cursed, it is nearly nine inches (22cm) thick and 36 inches (92cm) tall, and is said to have required more than 160 animal skins to complete. It was created in the 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice in Bohemia. The ‘most mysterious’ manuscript is the Voynich manuscript, written in an unknown writing system no professional code-breaker or cryptographer has yet managed to translate. It has been carbon dated to the 15th century, and features hundreds of very peculiar astrological, anatomical and vegetal illustrations.

3.     The most common pigment used in illuminated manuscripts was red. The most precious was ultramarine, obtained from lapis lazuli, which came all the way from Afghanistan and was more precious than gold.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

4.     When book production was no longer the monopoly of monasteries and guilds of illuminators were established, many workshops employed women to paint borders, letters or miniatures in manuscripts, but Christine de Pizan (1364-1430) was the first ‘woman of letters’ to make a living by writing, illustrating and producing books for the French court.


5.     As a deterrent against theft and vandalism, scribes would write dramatic curses in manuscripts threatening thieves with excommunication, disease and pain. Here are two examples of such curses: “May the sword of anathema slay if anyone steals this book away”  or  “If anyone take away this book, let him die the death; let him be fried in a pan; let the falling sickness and fever size him; let him be broken on the wheel, and hanged. Amen.”

A PARIS FAIRY TALE
Is Paris the city of happily ever afters?
Workaholic art historian Aurora Black doesn’t have time for fairy tales or Prince Charmings, even in the most romantic city in the world. She has recently been hired by a Parisian auction house for a job that could make or break her career. Unfortunately, daredevil journalist Cédric Castel seems intent on disrupting Aurora’s routine. 
As Aurora and Cédric embark on a journey across France, they get more than they bargained for as they find themselves battling rogue antiques dealers and personal demons, not to mention a growing attraction to each other. 
But with the help of a fairy godmother or two, could they both find their happily ever afters? 

A PARIS FAIRY TALE is available as an ebook and Audio book from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paris-Fairy-Tale-heart-warming-recommended-ebook/dp/B07SV2VTJL/ref

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

BLUEBELL'S CHRISTMAS MAGIC


BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC, my first ever Christmas romantic comedy, was published by Choc Lit UK on November 19th.
As random as it seems, the inspiration for Cassie Bell's story was a family holiday in the Lake District, Christmas cracker jokes and the 1980s band Bananarama – and in particular the song ‘Cruel Summer’. It does seem a bit strange, but that's how inspiration works for me. Even if I can usually pinpoint the exact moment or place when I got the first idea about a new story, the process of creating characters and a plot line usually takes me a long time and is a complete mish-mash!

I first had the idea for BLUEBELL when staying in a tiny cottage in Coniston, which is one of my most favourite places in the UK and one I try to visit every year. The scenery there is beautiful, the village so quaint and lovely, and the lakeside is just wonderful. One of the places I particularly love is Brantwood, which was John Ruskin’s house. The view of the lake from the terrace is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Last time we went we stayed in a holiday cottage near a very old farmhouse with strange round chimneys, which gave me the idea for Belthorn Manor where the hero Stefan Lambert comes to stay to forget all about Christmas…
Lake Coniston

No Christmas would be complete without Christmas cracker jokes, and I had a lot of fun finding some to put into the book – some of them were supplied by my friends and my children, and others I made up myself (but I won't say which ones)!
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

What about Bananarama and their song ‘Cruel Summer’? Well, in my story, Cassie Bell always wears dungarees when she does her cleaning job, and she ties her hair up with a scarf, like the singers in the clip. She also used to be in a Bananarama tribute band when she was younger.

I hope that BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC will be the first of a series of standalone romantic stories set in the same Cumbrian village of Red Moss, and I am now working on the second novel.

Blurb
A gorgeous new Christmas story from the author of bestselling novel Little Pink Taxi
A flick of a feather duster and a sprinkle of Christmas magic …
Cassie Bell is used to mess. Her cleaning business, Bluebell Cleaning, is well known in the Cumbrian village of Red Moss. However, now it’s almost Christmas and Cassie has a slightly messier situation to deal with than she’s used to.

She’s been hired to help Stefan Lambert, an injured army helicopter pilot who’s staying at the local Belthorn Manor whilst he recovers. Stefan resents Cassie’s interference and is definitely not looking for Christmas cheer. But Cassie prides herself on sparkling surfaces – so, can she bring some festive sparkle to Stefan’s life too?

You can buy BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC as an ebook and audio book here from Amazon UK


Thursday, 22 August 2019

August Round Robin - Stories that make you want to travel...


In my latest contemporary romance, A PARIS FAIRY TALE, which was released by Choc Lit in July, the heroine Aurora Black is a paleographer hired by a Paris auction house to value an ancient illuminated manuscript. She has to work with daredevil journalist Cédric Castel to unravel the mysteries surrounding the manuscript.

Although the story is mostly set in Paris, Aurora and Cédric travel to Turin and they also visit a chateau in the Massif Central. The inspiration for the chateau was a wonderful place I visited during a recent holiday in Auvergne. Isn't this castle beautiful?

Chateau de Chareil-Cintrat, Auvergne, France
(Excerpt from Chapter Three – A PARIS FAIRY TALE)
‘I’ll be fine here, Jérôme. Merci et bonsoir.’ Aurora shut the passenger door and watched the black Lexus speed away. The tyres splashed into puddles, and the tail lights soon disappeared in the line of traffic on Boulevard Saint-Germain, still busy despite the late hour.

The rain had stopped, and the wet pavements glistened and reflected kaleidoscopes of neon lights of the district’s many bars and restaurants. In fact, Papa Louis, the jazz club Cédric Castel had mentioned earlier, was only a few streets away – at least that’s what Jérôme had said as he drove her back from Neuilly.

Why was she even thinking about Castel? The man was smug and obnoxious – the archetype of the pushy journalist, and it seemed that she was stuck with him. What could Florent Maupas be thinking of, allowing him to shadow her as she worked on the manuscript? It would be impossible to concentrate with him at her side, watching, assessing, judging – waiting no doubt for her to make a mistake, and confirm what he already believed: that she had only been offered the job because she was Augustus Black’s granddaughter.

She pushed back a feeling of unease. The thing was, he may well be right. Once again, Augustus’s formidable shadow stretched over Aurora.
Trying to ignore the pain in her foot, she turned into a side street and hobbled across the tiny Furstemberg Square where trees created pools of shadows around an old-fashioned cast iron lamp post.

This was one of her favourite places in Paris. Centuries before, the artists and craftsmen and women she so admired had walked along the same streets on their way to purchase paints or pigments from the apothecary shops in the Ile de la Cité, or sheets of vellum from the tanners in nearby rue de la Parchimenerie, or to visit the libraires who commissioned their work. Perhaps they still haunted these narrow streets, and watched over her right now…

The thought of walking among ghosts made her smile as she strode into the narrow Impasse Fleury leading to the apart-hotel Florent Maupas’s secretary had booked for her.

As she reached out to push open the side panel of the porte cochère, a gust of wind rustled through the branches of the square’s Paulownia trees. The light from the old-fashioned lamp post flickered and the darkness filling the alleyway grew thicker. Uneasy, Aurora glanced over her shoulder. A large shadow appeared to detach itself from the wall and move towards her.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Blurb from A PARIS FAIRY TALE

Is Paris the city of happily ever afters?
Workaholic art historian Aurora Black doesn’t have time for fairy tales or Prince Charmings, even in the most romantic city in the world. She has recently been hired by a Parisian auction house for a job that could make or break her career. Unfortunately, daredevil journalist Cédric Castel seems intent on disrupting Aurora’s routine.
As Aurora and Cédric embark on a journey across France, they get more than they bargained for as they find themselves battling rogue antiques dealers and personal demons, not to mention a growing attraction to each other.
But with the help of a fairy godmother or two, could they both find their happily ever afters?
A PARIS FAIRY TALE is available from Amazon as an ebook and audiobook


To read more extracts from stories that will give you a taste for travel, please visit:






Tuesday, 23 July 2019


A PARIS FAIRY TALE
By Marie Laval

It’s publication day for A PARIS FAIRY TALE! Thank you so much to everybody at Choc Lit for making this happen, and for giving the book such a gorgeous cover… Montmartre and the Sacré-Coeur have a special importance in the story and I was delighted to see it featured so prettily on the cover.
Blurb
Is Paris the city of happily ever afters?
Workaholic art historian Aurora Black doesn’t have time for fairy tales or Prince Charmings, even in the most romantic city in the world. She has recently been hired by a Parisian auction house for a job that could make or break her career. Unfortunately, daredevil journalist Cédric Castel seems intent on disrupting Aurora’s routine.
As Aurora and Cédric embark on a journey across France, they get more than they bargained for as they find themselves battling rogue antiques dealers and personal demons, not to mention a growing attraction to each other.
But with the help of a fairy godmother or two, could they both find their happily ever afters? 

A PARIS FAIRY TALE is available as an ebook and audiobook on Amazon and various other platforms.
You can find many beautiful photos of Paris and illuminated manuscripts which inspired the writing of A Paris Fairy Tale on Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.co.uk/laval0232/)


Thursday, 25 April 2019

COVER REVEAL FOR SUMMER DREAMS AT VILLA LIMONCELLO!

COVER REVEAL TIME!


I loved Daisy James' WEDDING BELLS AT VILLA LIMONCELLO and was very happy to find out that the second book in the series, SUMMER DREAMS AT VILLA LIMONCELLO, would be released on June 13th!

Today I am delighted to be part of the cover reveal for this enchanting romantic novel set in Tuscany. Isn’t it absolutely beautiful?


Escape to Villa Limoncello… where dreams come true in the most unexpected ways.
Izzie Jenkins never expected to find herself living in a gorgeous oasis in Tuscany but when life gives you Villa Limoncello you say thank you and bake treats to celebrate!
Izzie and debonair chef Luca Castelotti are officially setting up shop together but when their inaugural ‘Pasta and Painting’ venture is sabotaged and one of their guests poisoned they’re forced to turn detective. Because if they can’t find the culprit, they’ll be out of business before they’ve even begun...
A gorgeous holiday read perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan and Jenny Oliver

You can buy Summer Dreams at Villa Limoncello from Amazon by clicking here