New general fiction titles

A Close Connection by Patricia Fawcett9780719814471

Eleanor and Henry Nightingale, and Paula and Alan Walker, are two very different couples brought together by the marriage of Nicola, the Nightingales’ daughter, to Matthew, the Walkers’ son. A holiday in Italy, intended to bring the four closer together, creates both bonds and rifts with long lasting effects. On their returning home, a health scare brings Eleanor’s life into sharp focus and she calls on Paula, who will soon experience her own struggles, to help. Meanwhile, Nicola and Matthew’s marriage is facing its own crisis point. Will these historicthree marriages survive such turmoil?

Born in Preston, Lancashire, Patricia Fawcett now lives in Devon, close to her family. She divides her time between writing, being a lively grandmother and a volunteer at a National Trust property. She is a member of the West Country Writer’s Association. Her previous novels include Best Laid Plans and A Small Fortune, both published by Robert Hale. You can find out more about Patricia at http://www.patriciafawcett.co.uk.

Buy your copy of A Close Connection here.

9780719814907A Killer Past by Maris Soule

Mary Harrington doesn’t want to revive her past. She certainly doesn’t want her son and granddaughter to know what she did forty four years ago. But when two teenagers from a local gang try to mug her, old habits are hard to forget. Sergeant Jack Rossini, Rivershore, Michigan’s lone investigative detective, initially doesn’t believe an ‘old’ woman could have put the youths in the hospital, but once he meets Mary, he becomes curious. That curiosity grows when he discovers there’s no record of her existence prior to forty four years ago. Mary and Jack’s lives continue to intersect as the gang vows to teach Mary a lesson, and a man from Mary’s past arrives in Rivershore, threatening to reveal her secrets.

Born and raised in California, Maris Soule was studying for a master’s degree at U.C. Santa Barbara when she was swept off her feet by a red-head with blue eyes. Soule now lives in Michigan, a quarter mile from Lake Michigan, with an oversized Rhodesian Ridgeback and the same red-head. Maris Soule is on Facebook, Twitter (@marisSouthHaven), and LinkedIn. She also writes a weekly blog on writing and Rhodesian Ridgebacks http://marissoule.com/blog/.

Buy your copy of A Killer Past here.

9780719814990Sherlock Holmes and the Four Corners of Hell by Séamas Duffy

The Adventure of the Soho Picture: When murders are accompanied by unmistakable symbols of ritualism, Holmes’s trail leads to a respected peer of the realm and he unearths a web of vice, deception, and intrigue beneath Victorian society’s respectable veneer.

The Adventure of the Edmonton Horror: A case which causes the wildest speculation, and seems destined to join the apocrypha in Holmes’s ‘uncommonplace book’ – a collection of the strangest and most mysterious occurrences ever recorded in the capital. Is it a matter for a detective, a clergyman, or an occultist?

The Adventure of the Rotherhithe Ship-breakers: Holmes tracks down a would-be assassin, yet no one is certain whom the bullet was meant for. The investigation leads Holmes to one of the foulest, most dangerous corners of riverside London, a criminal plague spot which even the locals call the Four Corners of Hell.

Séamas Duffy lives and works in Glasgow. He is a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of Scotland, author of Sherlock Holmes in Paris (Black Coat Press, 2013), and wrote the Foreword to The Aggravations of Minnie Ashe, by Cyril Kersh (Valancourt Books, 2014).

Buy your copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Four Corners of Hell here.

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The Tolpuddle Woman by E. V. White

Wesley Gillam has had little chance of romance, growing up in a strict Methodist household in the Dorset village of Tolpuddle. It’s his headstrong brother Saul who’s ignored his parents’ wishes and has turned his attention to local girl Saranna Vye. Wes first sets eyes on Saranna at Dorchester market when she warns him of vagrants plotting to steal his takings, and as he walks home at the end of the day he can’t get the image of her waif-like beauty out of his mind. But when Wes learns she’s his brother’s girl, family loyalty stands in the way of romance. Wes knows in his heart what he wants, but with tensions mounting in the West Country, as farm labourers suffer from crippling wage cuts and rickburners storm the land in protest, Wes is committed to protecting his fellow countrymen from the law’s injustice, before he has the freedom to pursue his most cherished dream.

E.V. Thompson was born in London. After a spell in the Royal Navy, and then at Rhodesia’s Department of Civil Aviation Security Section, he returned to England. His novels have won him thousands of admirers around the world. In 2011 E.V. Thompson was awarded an MBE for services to literature and to the Cornish community. Ernest died in 2012.

Buy your copy of The Tolpuddle Woman here.

New fiction: Three Strange Angels by Laura Kalpakian (Buried River Press)

9781910208120Francis Carson, brilliant British novelist, renowned for his lyrical prose, his drinking, and his womanizing, was a free spirit who crashed through life. In February 1950 he was found dead in the Garden of Allah swimming pool. Diffident Quentin Castle–newly-married, a lowly junior partner in his father’s firm, Castle Literary Agency–must convey this terrible news to the widow in Oxfordshire. Claire Carson’s plight, impoverished, alone with three small children, her dignity, her desolation, her deep blue eyes awaken in Quentin wholly new emotions. In a spasm of gallantry, he promises to escort Francis’s body home to England from California.

Regent Films are making a movie of Carson’s best known book in sun-splashed Hollywood. As a Brit, accustomed to austere, pinched, post-war London, Quentin navigates uneasily through artifice and opulence. The top executives at Regent treat him with conventional sympathy, polite condescension, and something obscure, tinged with evasion. But these few days in California—and a weekend in Mexico—will change Quentin Castle forever.

His subsequent choices—variously brilliant, audacious and unethical—are enveloped in impenetrable layers of betrayal that will crack, crumble, and finally destroy.

Laura Kalpakian is the author of eleven novels and three prize-winning collections of original short fiction.  Her work has appeared extensively in the UK and the USA.  She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a residency at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, and her 2006 novel, American Cookery, was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. A native Californian, Laura was educated on both the east and west coasts of the USA, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.  You can find out more about Laura at her website at www.laurakalpakian.com

Order your copy of Three Strange Angels here

New fiction: Francesca and the Mermaid by Beryl Kingston (Buried River Press)

9781910208076Unhappy in her life and relationship, Francesca is inspired by her sighting of a mermaid swimming away to freedom, to leave her lover and uproot her life. She moves to Lewes to stay with Agnes Potts, her loving, eccentric friend. Francesca begins to paint again with Agnes’s encouragement and when her painting of the mermaid is seen by Henry, a local potter, he takes her into his employment and plans to organize an exhibition of her art.

When Agnes suffers an accident, Francesca must become nurse, chef and companion to her friend. Meanwhile, her ex-lover reappears and attempts to con Henry. Preoccupied by her new duties as Agnes’s carer, Francesca is too late to stop him and suddenly everything she has worked for and built in her new life is put at risk.

Beryl Kingston was born in South London, where she lived throughout the Blitz. Having married her first love at the age of nineteen, Kingston went on to have three children and spent many years teaching English and Drama to secondary school children. Now a full-time writer, Kingston has published over 20 novels, many of which have been bestsellers. Her recent novels Girl on the Orlop Deck and Off the Rails were also published by Robert Hale. For more information, please visit: www.berylkingston.co.uk

Order your copy of Francesca and the Mermaid here

The mystery behind Murder on the Minneapolis

by Anita Davison

As a reader, I have always loved the cosy mystery genre, the Agatha Christie style gatherings of genteel characters among whom one, or maybe more, turn out to be the villain(s). I like the easy to read formula which works without taking the reader into too many dark corners. Psychological thrillers are compelling but there will always be a place for the lighter crime story where the threads are neatly tied; the villain is revealed, justice prevails and everyone gets what they deserve. Maybe because it’s so different to real life, which is often inconclusive and messy.

When I decided to write a cosy mystery, I wanted to set it in the Edwardian age, mainly because this was a time of great change and also because there are vast amounts of documented and photographic evidence available to help give the novel an authentic atmosphere. I chose the location to be one of the steamships, which became all the rage during the late nineteenth century. The SS Minneapolis, built in Belfast, and was commissioned in the 1890s by the American Atlantic Transport Line. Along with their sister ships, she was a luxurious, seagoing palace designed to ferry first class passengers only between New York and London before the First World War.

The SS Minneapolis left New York on her maiden voyage in April 1900, which is not strictly Edwardian as Queen Victoria died in 1901 – but close enough as her influence had been usurped by the Prince of Wales by then. At 600 feet long and with a passenger complement of under a hundred, I imagined my characters wouldn’t get lost in a vast, floating city.

                       SS Minneapolis

The murder plot was inspired while researching the skyline passengers would see as they sailed up the Hudson into the Atlantic. I came across a report in the New York Times dated December 1899, whose bold headline announced ‘BRIDEGROOM ***** DEAD’. With journalistic straightforwardness, the report said a businessman had died unexpectedly within a week of his secret wedding. The details were brief and factual, with no speculation as to what had led up to the death, or the effect on his bereft bride.

This lack of back story prompted me to invent a scenario as to the possible circumstances of this tragedy, if there was one. My cosy mystery plotline, complete with villain, red herrings and solution was all there in that one, short news clipping. I have not produced it here as I’d like to avoid leaving little for the reader to work out for themselves – which is surely half the fun of this genre.

I was still unsure as to who my sleuth would be. A Poirot type character or a Miss Marple? Or neither? Then, while searching through Victorian photographs in a local antique shop, I came across a gentle-faced girl with light eyes, her hair upswept into a soft bun, and her slender neck encased in a delicate lace collar. Instantly, I knew this girl would be my investigator and gave her the name Flora Maguire. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy the photograph as it was part of a much larger collection, but she’s lodged comfortably inside my head and resides there quite happily.

Flora is an English governess; intelligent, educated, and a striking woman, though her station in life means that her intellect is often overlooked. She’s observant, but not too forward as she is used to keeping to the background.

When a man dies on board ship, Flora isn’t satisfied with the opinions of the crew and ship’s doctor, so she embarks on a personal mission to solve the mystery before the ship reaches England.

I felt Flora needed a confidant on this voyage, a young man to talk out her theories with, but who would also make her rethink her conclusions.  He needed to be attractive, kind and somewhat enigmatic, after all, any one of the passengers could be a killer. Whether their friendship would progress is unclear as he is from a different class, something which would have been a real barrier in the year 1900.

Amongst the usual complement of shipboard characters is one who appears almost as interested in the death on board as Flora, but whether or not he is a villain is not evident.

Flora’s story was fun to write, but more challenging than I imagined when it came to feeding clues and red herrings into the plot without giving too much away. If the outcome is too predictable, the reader will become bored and if too convoluted, they will become frustrated and give up.

I have heard of strange coincidences cropping up during the course of research. Thus far this has not happened to me – except in this case. During the WW1 Centenary celebrations of last summer, I discovered that all the ‘Minne’ class steamships of the Atlantic Transport Line were used as troopships. At the same time, I was also researching my paternal grandfather’s and great uncle’s service records, discovering they both served in the same regiment. The battalion in which my great uncle served was transported to the Western Front in October 1914 on the SS Minneapolis, and took part in the Battle of Ypres. My grandfather survived the war, but my eighteen-year-old great uncle was killed in France in June 1915.

This was something I was unaware of until then, more than a year after I went looking for a steamship on which to base my murder mystery.  Research, mystical connection or simply coincidence?

Murder on the Minneapolis by Anita Davison will be published by Robert Hale on 30 June

Wendy Perriam: ‘Mother’s Day – And we’re all awash with schmaltz’

Wendy Perriam on mothers in fiction.

‘“Mothers are angels in human form, divinities on earth”; “God moulded my mother’s heart from gold and put shining stars in her eyes”. Such tributes paid to mothers online are surely only fitting for unbelievable paragons like Marmee in Little Women. Most psychologists agree that the mother/child relationship, and especially the mother/daughter relationship, is often intractable and fraught. According to research, women only finally appreciate their mothers after 183 rows and 164 door-slammings. (Don’t ask me how they record such things!) And serious mother/child disruptions are all too familiar in literature, from Ancient Greece to modern times – think Oedipus, Medea, Hamlet, Mrs Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, Madame Bovary, or Lolita’s mother who puts her own sexual satisfaction above the safety of her daughter. And most crass and vile of all mothers must surely be Matilda’s, depicted by Roald Dahl as neglectful, idiotic and tyrannically abusive.

Even some of my close friends are in constant daily conflict with their daughters, or despairing of children who seem distant, recalcitrant or downright bolshie. So we’re faced with a dichotomy: angelic mothers, on the one hand, hymned and praised in treacly Mother’s Day cards and, on the other, the unwelcome truth of slammed doors and family rifts. Last year, I asked my Creative Writing students to write a one-page study of their mothers and was shocked by the number of callous harridans who nagged and scolded from those pages.

And, when it comes to me and mothers, I didn’t have the best start in the world! Born in the middle of the war to a highly anxious mum, who already had an underweight toddler, born prematurely and still giving much cause for anxiety, the last thing she wanted was another child. And who can blame her, with my Dad away, bombs raining down on the family home, and us forced to sleep in the cramped and smelly air-raid shelter under the dining-room table?

Even my actual birth was far from serene. Mum’s labour started in the middle of a horror film, precipitating a mad dash from cinema to hospital, where I emerged in an undignified rush, sickly-yellow from jaundice. One look at my ghastly hue and satanically dark hair was enough to convince my parents to change my name from Angela to Wendy – I was clearly more devil than angel. But, since Wendy isn’t a Saint’s name, the nuns who schooled me from age 4 to age 21 disapproved of it intensely.

Those same nuns constituted a whole troupe of alternative “mothers”– scary forbidding figures with, apparently, no hair and no discernible bodies, just long black gliding robes. Nor could one expect much mercy, let alone mothering, from such strict, judgemental disciplinarians, who regarded touch as dangerous and pleasure as a one-way ticket to Hell. My schoolgirl diaries record how often we were told we were “vegetables”, “hopeless failures” and “miserable worms”, who would never amount to anything.

9780709093862So perhaps it’s little wonder that my latest short-story collection has Bad Mothers in the title. However, I didn’t consciously set out to write about mothers, good or bad, and it was only when I re-read the whole collection that I realized how many bad mothers feature in the stories. The thing about short stories is that they require much less pre-planning and structuring than novels, and seem to arise spontaneously, often prompted by childhood experiences. And, certainly, as a child, I was in frequent trouble both from my mother and the nuns. The latter eventually expelled me and told me I was in the devil’s power – the most frightening moment of my life, since Satan seemed totally real and terrifyingly evil.

In the story A Cuppa and a Biscuit, I recreate a younger version of my troubled schoolgirl self and re-enact her dread of Hell and damnation – still with me at the age of 74! This story is based on a real-life incident, when I was told by Reverend Mother (the most daunting of all mothers) not to keep fainting at Holy Mass. But how could I stop what she called “this pernicious habit”, when it seemed to happen automatically and I’d find myself blacking out and slumping to the floor? Truth to tell, I was probably just weak and hungry, since we girls ate nothing from early supper to post-Mass breakfast the next day.

However, as a counterbalance to punitive Reverend Mothers and cantankerously critical real mothers, there are some benign and gentle mothers in my new short-story collection. The title-story, Mouse, for example, features a kind and decent mother, whose only fault is her fear of mice. (This is an extremely common phobia, judging by the statistics, so I hope musophobics readers aren’t unduly alarmed by the book-jacket!) And Debs’ Mum in Presents is genuinely loving and caring, a supportive figure who cooks her daughter proper porridge in the morning; has her supper waiting when she returns knackered after work; makes her a hot-water-bottle if her period-pain is bad; sews new eyes on her old, balding teddy bear, and offers to make her curtains if and when she moves away from home. And the reason Debs doesn’t move, despite her desire for her own flat, is because of the very strength and solidity of that love, which she now sees as a precious gift – a gift of time, effort and devotion

And talking of gifts, I hope that, despite its title, Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers will make an apt and unusual present for Mother’s Day. After all, if a few of the mothers prove alarming, the brilliant lovers may well compensate!’

Order your copy of Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers here 

New fiction: Another Chance, Another Life by Mark Neilson

Another Chance, Another Life

Becky and Kathy are great friends and, in a cruel yet
comforting parallel, both have recently lost their jobs and
face the prospect of starting their lives all over again.

Becky takes a relative up on his offer of the use of his
narrowboat, and sets sail for the Yorkshire Dales with her
son Jonathon, to see if pastures new can help her regain
what she’s lost. Kathy finds herself in love with a widower,
whose only daughter is still in mourning for her gifted
musician mother, her grief proving a solid opponent to any
new woman in her father’s life.

Both women must endure the weaving and uncertain path
of life, and love, towards a second chance at happiness.

9780719814341

Mark Neilson

Having previously worked as a banker, Mark Neilson went
on to become an Economics lecturer at Strathclyde
University. He later became a consultant but is now a fulltime
writer. His previous novels The Valley of the Vines and
A Strange Inheritance are also published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Another Chance, Another Life here

 

Dylan Thomas, Sunset Boulevard and the Beatles: inspiring Three Strange Angels

by Laura Kalpakian

One of the pleasures of being a novelist is to be able to build an entire book from a wisp, a particle otherwise insignificant, an anecdote that lodges in the brain, rather like the grit that eventually becomes a pearl. Three Strange Angels is that sort of novel.

My first London agency was a venerable firm, founded in about 1919 and boasting a list of authors that dazzled me. By association, I liked to think, my work was included in this stellar company. I lived in England, off and on, Oxford and Cambridge, throughout the 80s, and when I first went to the literary agency’s Mayfair offices, I was delighted to step back in time. Amid an ambience of ramshackle tradition, typewriters clacked away, the air hung heavy with cigarette smoke, and manuscripts lolled off every shelf. In an arc across a high wall were a galaxy of author photos, literary sophisticates mostly from the 1930s and 40s. My own agent in this firm was new, a young woman around my age, and we became (and remain) fast friends. The head of the firm was a man of my parents’ generation, dapper, convivial, charming.

One summer afternoon he took the two of us out to lunch at a posh Mayfair restaurant. He was treated like royalty; the drinks kept coming, the service was impeccable, the conversation funny and anecdotal. He told a story about their client Dylan Thomas (no less!) and Thomas’s sad, sudden demise at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. At that time, 1953, this now-distinguished head of the agency was a young man, a junior partner. The firm sent him as their (and the family’s) emissary to New York to escort the poet’s body home to England. This was the era of ocean liners. On that voyage, on learning that the young literary agent was associated with the much-mourned poet, other travelers feted him, fed him, bought him drinks to salute the sadness they felt for the late, lamented Dylan Thomas. The experience made him understand the power of poetry.

After that lunch, on my way back to Cambridge, as the train whistled and rocked, I kept thinking, there’s a novel there

And now, some thirty years later, and spun far from that morselette of anecdote, Three Strange Angels comes to print. I didn’t actually start writing the book until about 2010 when the central character, Quentin, emerged in my imagination: a young man with all his tickets punched, his future foreordained. Francis Carson’s death would draw Quentin into the unexpected orbit of the fascinating widow, Claire Carson, a displaced American. The task of escorting the late Francis Carson’s body home from Los Angeles would change Quentin forever.  As I wrote and read and researched over the years, the central thematics emerged: the tension between Austerity and Desire. For a young Londoner in 1950 to step into Los Angeles would have been a total, cosmic shock to the system.

Gigi Fischer – clever, sassy, shallow – nicely embodies that cosmic shock. The formidable cookery writer, Louisa Partridge, offers Quentin insight, sophistication he could never have come to on his own. And Claire Carson offers him love, the great love of his life for which he was willing to imperil everything. The book’s title, from the D. H. Lawrence poem ‘Song of a Man Who Has Come Through’ (fittingly) came to me years after. I have always loved that line about the three strange angels knocking at the door, and the urgent admonition “Admit them, admit them.”

I filled Three Strange Angels with elements that have been important, even crucial to my own life. Books, of course. Reading. Especially novels.  Music of all sorts. I am especially fond of old, early recordings that hiss and rasp and the singer’s voice wavers up from the past. And films. In my research I sat spellbound through Sunset Boulevard (1950) and a lot of British films from and of that era as well. And then, just before I wrote the (sort of) last draft, I went to the library and spent days with the whirring microfilm machine and reading the London Times, beginning in January 1950, when the novel opens, to have a sense of the world in which Quentin Castle would have actually moved and lived and had his being.

Quentin Castle’s England was indeed pinched and austere. The war, though it ended five years before, was everywhere apparent in still-uncleared rubble; incalculable losses hung over everyone, as Robert’s death remains a vivid loss for Quentin. Rationing didn’t end till 1954; the winters were bitter and coal shortages kept people hunkered in their overcoats. Americans, who did not live with the war on their soil, nor with daily privations, had no understanding of England’s post-war suffering. And frankly (as the novel makes clear) wanted none.

In Britain the grim fifties ground on, and then, as the decade turned, the Beatles emerged!  Boyish, cheeky, energetic, incredibly talented, and tons of fun (A Hard Day’s Night is one of my favorite movies) the Beatles and the rock scene they inspired in the early sixties seemed to wake Britain up. The old post-war pall lifted, and England was suddenly chic, mod, even enviable. Three Strange Angels ends at this bright moment, June 1965, when Quentin, at age forty, prosperous, professionally acclaimed for his astute literary taste, sits at his desk and once again, risks everything for love.

Three Strange Angels will be published by Robert Hale in March 2015.

Wendy Perriam: ‘My new short story collection, Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers, is published today!’

Wendy tells us about her latest collection.

9780709093862‘The title may seem a tad blatant but, in my 35 years as a writer, I’ve been continually fascinated by the key influence parents exert over their children’s future development and life-chances, and also by the power of sex to enrich and exhilarate. Yet I’m equally aware of the darker side of sex, which, if violent or exploitative, can damage and debase. Taught by the Reverend Mother of my convent boarding-school that one single act of incontinence could land me in hellfire for all eternity, I was conscious from a tender age of the dramatic dangers of “the world, the flesh and the devil”.

Bad mothers certainly feature in this collection – negative, critical, or cantankerous – but I wanted to balance them with some positive, upbeat element – hence the lovers, who, although by no means all ‘brilliant’, engage in enough passionate and transformative sex to justify the adjective. However, there are also more troubling liaisons, for instance, an 82-year-old professor’s attempt to seduce a post-graduate student 60 years his junior. The encounter begins promisingly enough, as the Prof runs through his repertoire of erotic expertise but, when it comes to the crunch, he proves just too offputtingly ancient and the girl flees his bed in panic and disgust.

Another, much younger lover – a data analyst obsessed with numbers, algorithms and mathematical formulae – seems incapable of sexual spontaneity, adhering to a rigid sexual system, as if his every timetabled move is dictated by a dispassionate cyber-brain.

But many of my characters lack any kind of lover: essentially lonely souls, such as 93-year-old widow Primrose, divorcee Sarah, or single, childless Ellen. Yet, each of the three achieves redemption and reprieve – another recurring theme in my work. The basic notion of redemption was instilled in me, very early on, as a Roman Catholic child and I found it appealingly compassionate in that every person on earth can be saved, so long as they seek forgiveness. Of course, redemption for my fictional characters is rarely a religious matter; indeed, is sometimes achieved through bizarrely secular means – in businesswoman Helen’s case, a self-indulgent glut of marshmallows, or, for shy loner Ken, a home-made Christmas pudding – but the basic concept holds good, in that it remains a regenerative and liberating force.

As always, many of the stories sprang from personal experience: the fake gold ring I was offered in a scam; my encounter with a colony of mice at Clapham Common tube station; the bridal couple I saw posing for photos in the Lost Property Office, of all places; my horror as a pious child when I fainted during Holy Mass and believed I was plunging into Hell.

And that terrifying incident brings me back to mothers and lovers. Reverend Mother, who deplored my habitual fainting and refused to call me Wendy on the grounds it wasn’t a Saint’s name, was undoubtedly a ‘bad mother’. Yet I sought solace in God the Father, whom I regarded as a lover, in the sense of a powerful, life-enhancing Presence, demanding worship and surrender.

Oppressive mothers and unobtainable fathers have characterized much of my work since my first novel in 1980, along with Catholicism, of course, which has left indelible traces in the fibre of my being, like letters lingering in a stick of rock until the very last lick. And, in many of my books, I explore the struggle between rebellion and submission, and the drive for self-fulfilment in conflict with the pernicious lure of self-destruction. All these themes recur in Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers, yet, in the interests of fairness, I’ve also included a few good mothers in the stories, as well as some downright crappy lovers. Take your pick!’

Order your copy of Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers here

OUT NOW: It’s in the Cards by Pamela Fudge

It’s in the Cards

Ellen Carson is still heart whole and fancy-free at forty – and that is just the way she likes it. Growing up in a crowded family home has given her a yearning for the quiet life, and watching her older siblings make a mess of their relationships has left her grimly determined to remain single. But her family are full of other ideas and, when they discover that not one, but two men from Ellen’s past have arrived in town, are keen to show that one of them must be right for Ellen.
its in the cards
Just as she is coming round to the idea of finding ‘the one’ and changing her lifelong attitude, she finds herself a confidant to those around her who have now decided that staying single was the right idea all along. Is Ellen to blame when relationships start to fail? And what is she going to do about it to get everything back the way it was?

Pamela Fudge

Pamela Fudge works as a part-time administrator at Bournemouth University and has written poetry since she was a child. She started writing fiction in 1983 and has had short stories published in most of the national women’s magazines. Her previous books, also published by Robert Hale, include High Infidelity, A Blessing in Disguise, A Change for the Better, Never be Lonely, Turn Back Time and Not What It Seems.

You can find out more about her at http://www.pamfudge.co.uk

Buy your copy of It’s in the Cards here

Wendy Perriam tells us what Christmas means to her and her characters

Dear Father Christmas, what I’d really like for Christmas is some joy …..

9780709093862No, not the anguished plea of an unhappy child, but a letter from 55-year-old Ken, posted in the big red mail-box in Santa’s Grotto at his local shopping centre. Ken, the protagonist of the second story in my new short-story collection, Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers, is struck by the rarity of joy in his life, almost non-existent since his childhood. Yet the story ends on Christmas Day with him in euphoric mood, relishing the best Christmas dinner he’s ever experienced to date.

The short-story form itself could be described as joyous, in that it is so much less laborious than novel-writing. All these 15 new stories came easily and effortlessly, prompted by some small incident or even an offhand remark – the dismissive “Just yourself?”, for instance, with which I was greeted by the snooty manager when entering a restaurant on my own. Before I’d even glanced at the menu, a story took shape in my mind: unmarried, childless Ellen, receiving the same grudging welcome – and on her 40th birthday, of all days – feels unloved, unwanted and an all-too-obvious failure. Yet, by the end of the story, she, too, is considerably more upbeat and even has a ring on her finger!

Yet Christmas can be a challenging and lonely time for those without families or loved ones. The widowed, childless Primrose in my story, Lost, dreads what she sees as the “long, benighted days of the so-called Festive Season” and has to draw up a plan to make Christmas Day more endurable: a nice boiled egg for breakfast, a short walk to the Common, then back for the Queen’s Speech, a couple of mince pies, and an evening watching television – hardly very exciting, but at least it fills the empty hours.

And in Magical Numbers, young bride-to-be Lynne lands up in hospital in mid-December, with a badly broken leg, and faces the prospect of a pain-ridden, immobile Christmas in a ward full of elderly invalids. However, in her case, her spirits are high, because something magical has just occurred in that very hospital bed: “serendipitously, and in the nick of time, she has managed to “escape an onerous life-sentence”.

I personally detest Christmas, with its fake good cheer, the increasingly crowded shops and increasingly irritable shoppers, and the obligation to spend, spend, spend, cook, cook, cook, and tirelessly celebrate this season of hype and hysteria. I may sound like a Scrooge, but when Christmas catalogues begin arriving as early as July, one gets heartily sick of glitter, baubles, reindeer, robins, recorded carols in the supermarkets, and all the razzle-dazzle rest of it, by the time Christmas Day actually arrives.

However, on 14 January, when Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers, is officially published, I’ll be truly celebrating – not just the new book, but the fact that the days are getting longer, the mornings lighter, the first snowdrops are in bloom, and Christmas is over for another 345 days!

Bad Mothers Brilliant lovers will be published on 14 January. Pre-order your copy here.