Sunday Serial #10

I’m following a nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray in weekly instalments.
You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.
So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..

CHAPTER FOUR

After parting from Sharon outside her office in Luffield, Dylan Bourne set off for his immediate destination which was York. In this ancient, walled city the Station Hotel had served as his base for the past six days. It was from here that he’d ventured forth every morning to motorcycle all over North and East Yorkshire searching for potential properties; and every evening he’d returned, having left behind him several happy estate agents, each one under the impression that they’d definitely be receiving a cash offer from him for one of their overpriced pieces of real estate. Unfortunately, he’d never possessed the authority to make such a promise: the decision to purchase a property required the agreement of his colleagues. But Dylan was one of those people who wanted others to be happier than reality usually permits them to be.

He arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon and headed straight for the lounge where he settled in to a comfortable arm chair and ordered a cream tea. Whilst waiting for it to arrive he again studied the property details for The Old Rectory and indulged himself in a pleasant recollection of Sharon Makepiece’s memorable eyes and her other undeniable attributes. Later, after scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream washed down with two cups of Earl Grey, he went up to his room where he showered, changed his clothes, packed his few belongings and checked out. He then drove the Ariel Red Hunter back to London via the A1 and M11, at times approaching speeds slightly in excess of seventy miles an hour, and arrived at the outskirts of the capital just after nightfall.

His destination was a luxury riverside development in Narrow Street, Limehouse. This was the home of Charles Reynolds, who, after his elevation to the peerage by New Labour, was now known as Lord Reynolds of Sandleton-on-Sea. The popular East Yorkshire fishing resort had been chosen by Charles as the territorial designation for his title because in 1951 he’d been born there into a family of hotel keepers. His all-consuming ambition in youth, however, was not to be an hotelier but a painter. In order to realize his dream he’d deeply antagonised his parents. On his eighteenth birthday, they’d been shocked when their gift of a fourteen bedroomed hotel had been ungratefully rejected in favour of a place at The Slade. Sadly, in the years following graduation, Charles discovered that a combination of rejection and lack of material comforts was vitiating what little single-mindedness of purpose he possessed for the creation of Art. Five years and dozens of unsold pictures later, he humbly returned to Sandleton to claim his birthright, and then rapidly achieved the material success his parents had always wished for him. His first fortune had been made from property; his second from buying and selling Old Masters. These early, seminal experiences gave him an ineluctable faith in the transformative power of Art, and the unshakable conviction that in a civilised country no-one should ever be denied access to decent accommodation. Which is why, in 1995, he’d broken with decades of family tradition and joined the Labour Party. It was also at this time that he’d established The Sandleton Trust, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to using art and art therapy to transform the lives of young people who’d been excluded from mainstream education because of their anti-social behaviour.

Charles opened the door of his penthouse apartment and greeted Dylan warmly. He then ushered him into the main reception area where a man and two women were sitting drinking white wine. Their names were Eric, Toni and Zoe. Eric was in his late twenties: his caramel skin tone, springy black hair and light blue eyes indicated a lineage rich in racial diversity. He was smartly but casually dressed in a white open necked shirt, brown leather jacket and beige chinos. His long hair would have suggested non-conformity if it hadn’t been so stylishly cut. Toni was several years older than Eric. She wore a navy blue cardigan over a pink blouse and her grey skirt was knee length. Blue tights and navy blue high heeled shoes completed her outfit which was vaguely redolent of school uniform. Her fair hair was cut short and her rimless spectacles gave her a slightly severe look which vanished on better acquaintance when you saw that her face was actually radiating kindness and integrity. By contrast, Zoe was dressed fashionably but sportily in white trainers, white joggers with a drawstring waist and a pastel blue T shirt. She wore only one piece of jewellery, a necklace in blue coral. These colours perfectly complemented her long titian hair and cobalt blue eyes that glinted with unusual lights. Her hair and skin had the wholesome glow of those who spend as much time as they can in the open air. Her face was striking and had a perfect balance of features but was prevented from being conventionally beautiful by a slight twist of pugnacity about the mouth. She’d studied drama at university and had acted professionally for a while. Like many actresses her face was unusually expressive: so sensitive an instrument for conveying mood and emotion that she appeared to feel things much more keenly than others; and often did. Charles was dressed formally in the businessman’s standard uniform of light grey suit, blue shirt and red silk tie. He was a man in his late forties, of medium height and with closely cropped greying hair. Only his stylish Italian spectacle frames prevented him from appearing completely stuffy and boring, and indicated the possibility of a slightly more intriguing hinterland. In this smart company, Dylan, who was wearing his unwashed grey T shirt and faded blue jeans, looked somewhat under-dressed. Yet, despite his recent long journey, he appeared to be the only one who was completely at his ease.

Eric waved a greeting and smiled. Toni said, ‘Hello.’ Zoe nodded coolly. Then Toni and Eric started to bombard him with questions.

‘Hang on!’ said Dylan. ‘I’m dying to go to the loo.’

When he returned he found bowls of chilli con carne and salad had appeared. Charles offered wine. Dylan declined and asked for mineral water. They started to eat and the questions began again, polite banal questions: how had he enjoyed York? What had he done in the evenings? What had the traffic been like on the motorway? Dylan’s responses were perfunctory because he was not only tired but disorientated. Outside the penthouse, dark, warm night had fallen. The Thames was winding luminously between canyons of post-modernist apartment buildings, its flat surface iridescent with the reflected light from thousands of domestic light bulbs. Downstream the aircraft warning light on the roof of Canary Wharf was pulsing with mesmeric regularity. But the built environment was competing for attention with much more compelling images in Dylan’s mind: the Yorkshire landscape and Sharon Makepiece. He was surprised to find himself yearning for both.

‘So, what have you got for us?’ asked Charles. The meal was over; coffee served; the real business of the meeting had begun.

Dylan opened his canvas duffle bag and took out the details of properties he’d identified as suitable for the establishment of the first social inclusion unit in Yorkshire. He placed them on the coffee table. ‘As I told Charles on the phone, there were an enormous number of properties in the target area which met our criteria and fell within budget. I’ve managed to reduce them to a shortlist of six.’

The estate agents’ descriptions were passed around and scrutinised while Dylan gave his personal impressions of the six properties he’d identified as potential purchases. He was then subjected to rigorous questioning about them and the advantages and disadvantages of each property were discussed in full. Disagreements were aired; positions taken up; opinions began to harden like cement.

Although he thought Cold Dale Farm probably came nearest to meeting their needs, Dylan didn’t attempt to promote the purchase of any particular property. He simply described the merits of each and was happy to answer questions and provide further information whenever it was appropriate. Otherwise, he was content to rest his aching limbs and relax as best he could on Charles’s uncomfortable minimalist furniture. He’d have given anything to have gone straight home to bed but he knew that wasn’t an option. Charles was flying out the following day to Washington. He was part of a delegation of members of the Upper House who were touring the United States researching the work of social inclusion units. He wouldn’t return for three weeks. A decision on the property had to be made that night.

Charles removed his glasses and fixed Dylan with an unnervingly myopic blue stare.

‘Well, Dylan. We seem to have reached an impasse. You’ve had the opportunity to view all of these properties. Which one do you think is the most suitable?’

Dylan smiled and was astonished to hear himself say, ‘The one that’s made the least impact on you all: Leefdale rectory.’

Read on with the free preview below.

#ThrowbackThursday #BookReview Kings and Queens by TerryTyler @TerryTyler4

Last week I wrote my first #ThrowbackThursday #BookReview about An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns.

Renee at It’s Book Talk started using the #ThrowbackThursday meme as a way to share books that are old favourites. I first saw this idea on a blog I read regularly: Between the Lines – Books ‘N’ Stuff and thought it worked well.

For several years I wrote a book blog and accumulated reviews of some really good books. So I decided to visit my old blog and re-post my favourite reviews here on 3sixtyfiveblog for #ThrowbackThursday.

Today it’s Kings and Queens by Terry Tyler, a clever hybrid of contemporary and historical fiction.

Published in 2014, Kings and Queens was Terry Tyler’s seventh novel. With 66 four and five star reviews, the novel has pleased many other readers just as much as myself.

On my book blog I wrote:

Kings and Queens is a really well written family saga based on the fortunes of a property development company. Lanchester Estates is inherited in the 1970s by young, charismatic Harry Lanchester on the death of his father. The story recounts the ups and downs of Harry’s business life along with the ups and downs of his love life.

Each chapter shifts the viewpoint to a different character although Harry’s life-long friend Will Brandon returns to narrate more of the story from time to time. This structure works very well and the strongly developed characters, crisp and lively dialogue and highly engaging plot provide the reader with an excellent “can’t -put-it-down” novel.

However, Kings and Queens has a twist because Terry Tyler has cleverly mirrored the story of Tudor King Henry the Eighth and his six wives in the development of her novel. This is not in any way an historical novel but everyone who knows the story of “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” will enjoy the parallels explored here. In addition the contemporary characters reflect what we know from history and historical fiction about Henry, his wives and other significant Tudor personalities.

The events in Kings and Queens often track the events in the historical saga although the author hasn’t over-worked this and she allows contemporary realities to take precedence where necessary. But it’s a nice puzzle to try and work out the historical references.

I really enjoyed reading Kings and Queens and was delighted to read the sequel, Last Child.

The story of the Lanchester property empire continues into the next generation after the death of Harry Lanchester, the charismatic protagonist of Kings and Queens.

Harry’s legacy is passed on to his children. Thirteen year old Jasper views the directors of Lanchester Estates as Harry Potter characters, and finds out that teenage love affairs are no fairytale. Isabella, the eldest daughter, is lonely and looking for love and returns from a holiday in Spain with more than a suntan. Impulsive, independent Erin dreams of the continuation of her father’s work.

Once again the narrative is passed between the main characters giving a different viewpoint in each chapter which moves the plot strongly forward. The opening pages concisely summarise events thus far which serves as a good reminder for readers who don’t continue straight on from Kings and Queens or as an introduction for any readers who’ve decided to start reading here.

Actually, I couldn’t put this book down and kept snatching quick reads every time I had to do something else. The device of using historical personalities and events as the framework for the novel works really well once again. If the reader is familiar with the era this creates dramatic irony which really enhances the plot. However anyone reading the novel who doesn’t have these insights won’t be short-changed as it’s such a well written and engaging family saga.

The author has used the Tudor history really effectively but makes adjustments where necessary to avoid the contemporary plot becoming strained and contrived. This has been done especially well at the end of the novel where there is a surprise every few pages and the conclusion leaves the reader making their own decisions about what might happen next.

I loved the way the relationships between various characters were explored and evolved. The author has used her trademark reality style to make her characters come alive and zing. The writing is clever, original and compelling and the whole saga is a totally enjoyable read.

If you’re stocking up your Kindle for summer holidays, this two book saga is perfect.

Click the free preview below and start reading today!!!!

 

Thanks for visiting my blog today and hope your day is going well.

 

 

Sunday Serial #9

Leefdale

I’m following a nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray in weekly instalments.

You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.

So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..

‘Are you going to stay there all night?’ Greg asked.

Sharon was lying on the carpet, naked, watching him as he hastily dressed. She’d been lying in this position ever since he’d extricated himself from her. Her blouse was scrunched up between her legs absorbing the last residue of fluids. She wanted only to stay like this for a while, staggering her return from that far, far shore on to which she’d been transported by the crashing waves of her orgasm. Why was he talking to her? She wanted only to be quiet and still and facilitate her soul’s reunion with the material body from which it had partially and rapturously separated; a body that was still registering faint yet unpredictable aftershocks of indescribable pleasure. They were only an echo of their former intensity but she’d no wish for these exquisite little tremors and shivers to cease. She couldn’t bear the last vestiges of ecstasy to vanish, restoring her again to the plane of the ordinary. Yet how difficult it was to sustain the thrill of that orgasm: to maintain her tenuous hold on those ineffable sensations. She wanted those feelings to last forever. She wanted to lie still and quiet and think only of the sex; she wanted to postpone all thoughts of that broken promise to Louise. She wanted to forget that, yet again, sex had made her her own gaoler.

She watched Greg putting on his underpants. Those same underpants that Pam had probably washed and ironed. Don’t go there, Sharon, she told herself. Better to recall the way he’d stared at her bare breasts in rapt admiration: how he’d spread his fingers wide and stroked both of them, lightly at first, so she could feel nothing but the tantalising brush of his hands over her soft, bare skin. And then his tongue going and making quick, urgent licks and kisses all over her breasts and in the cleft between them before taking each nipple between his teeth, gently bringing his teeth together over it and then the nipple going deeper into his mouth, his tongue flicking and agitating it into hardness. The memory made her nipples swell and grow hard again. She felt a faint renewal of the blind, moist welling up from the depths of her.

She smiled at him and said, ‘I’ll get up in a minute. Just coming down to earth.’

He looked conceited. ‘It was that good, eh?’

‘No, it was terrible,’ she said, and laughed. He laughed too, but afterwards the look he gave her was uncertain.

Read on with the Free Preview below.

Sunday Serial #5

house

Following a well established nineteenth century tradition, here’s the next instalment of the serialisation of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray.

You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.

Or go here to start reading the novel from the beginning.

But if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments, read on …..

She (Sharon) left him in the dining room, crossed the hall and moved purposely back into the drawing room. Fighting her desire for a cigarette, she sank into one of the overstuffed modern sofas. Her confrontation with Dylan had left her shaken, and now that the adrenalin which had emboldened her to be so recklessly assertive was beginning to recede, she was having misgivings about the wisdom of her behaviour. She’d called him a piss artist to his face! What a stupid thing to have done. Supposing he complained about her? He’d indicated that he was strongly attracted to the house. What if her rudeness had affected his decision to purchase? Her attitude would have lost the firm a cash sale and with it would have gone the new dining room suite. The thought made her almost laugh out loud. Shit! Was she really so abject she was willing to be sexually harassed and humiliated just to protect her commission?

Hang on, though, wasn’t she overstating it a bit? He’d only offered to paint her. Many women would have taken it as a compliment. And it was she who’d suggested he might want to paint her nude. Now why had she done that? He’d never even mentioned it. Yes, but hadn’t he followed her into the dining room just a little too closely? Hadn’t he invaded her personal space? Wasn’t that why she’d put him in his place? And rightly so!

Immediately she was recalling the many bad experiences she’d had viewing properties with single males. The short, fat one who’d patted her bum as they’d climbed the stairs at Killingholme Grange; the racehorse trainer who’d tried to grope her in the bedroom at The Ridings; the ugly businessman who’d stood in the kitchen of Oxenholme Farm and promised to purchase the property on condition she had sex with him. (Just joking love; just joking). After all those experiences how could she have allowed herself to enter the dining room in front of him? Why hadn’t she said “after you” and let him go on in front of her? But then what exactly was it he’d actually done? Nothing! He hadn’t laid a finger on her. But that was the point: they were so clever, they never did anything that couldn’t be explained away as an accident; and it was the apprehension of what might happen that made the situation so threatening: the way they invaded your space and accidentally brushed their shoulder against your nipple; the way their knuckle came into contact with your thigh, again accidentally, as they bent to inspect something; the unblinking stare as they looked deeper and deeper into you, and then…

She got up suddenly and wandered over to the window. Christ! She was really getting paranoid. Was being with Greg and all the secrecy and everything finally getting to her after all these years?

But such thoughts were instantly forgotten by what she saw through the window. Outside, on the front lawn, a little drama was being enacted. Howard had now been joined by his wife, and they were obviously involved in some kind of row. Isobel was gesticulating angrily and jabbing her finger at the Major, who was on his knees by the border digging out weeds. She bent down, brought her mouth close to Howard’s ear and shouted into it. Howard sprang up bawling savagely. Isobel screamed, kicked out at the wheelbarrow and then, sobbing, fled across the lawn in the direction of Rooks Nest. Sharon turned away: she’d no wish to witness Isobel’s distress.

Up above, through a first floor bedroom window, Dylan too was observing the unpleasant scene taking place on the front lawn. It was obvious that Major Roberts and the woman – who was almost certainly his wife – had marital issues. He hadn’t much liked the Major but he couldn’t help feeling a certain sympathy for him. He knew from experience how draining it was to live with someone who was neurotic. For a moment or two he watched Isobel’s tense back retreating down the drive. He then returned to the centre of the room and flung himself onto the vulgarly draped four poster bed.

Stupid of him to have suggested painting her. But how was he to know she’d react like that? He reflected on various ways in which the situation might be retrieved, and concluded that to follow up on any of them would result only in making matters worse. Still, it was interesting that she’d introduced the notion of posing for him in the nude, although he’d done absolutely nothing to encourage it. Was her professed abhorrence of the idea of being painted nude, real? Or was it being used to mask a fantasy which she secretly cherished?

He tried to think of something else, but Sharon’s image continued to insinuate itself into his mind. Surely it was inconceivable that a woman like that could ever be his type? Had meeting her suddenly released within him a long suppressed fetish for short skirted business suits, dark tights and high heeled shoes? Ludicrous thought. So ludicrous he felt himself smile. Normally he regarded women who power dressed like that as a joke: unthinking subscribers to notions of male stereotypes. Clones of Margaret Thatcher. So why was he finding her so adorable? Why couldn’t he stop thinking about the way her chestnut brown hair framed the perfect symmetry of her face: its locks and tresses so attractively curling and twisting down to flick the shoulders of her jacket with every turn of her lovely head? Why couldn’t he stop seeing her big hazel eyes, that combination of tawny brown and flecks of olive green always so difficult to represent in oils? Why was he obsessing like a frustrated teenager over her voluptuous mouth and her delightful snub nose? Recalling her perfect bow lips and the enticing way they parted ever so slightly when she was thinking? Christ, he could even remember the tiny crater just above her left eyebrow, presumably some relic of a childhood chickenpox attack. And he could still see the almost imperceptible scar on her right cheek, close to her ear.
What was happening to him? OK. So he hadn’t had sex with anyone since Zoe. But surely this infatuation with an obviously hard-nosed Tory estate agent was uncharacteristically excessive? Of course, it was the curse of the artist to absorb and retain a more intense impression than other people. Which was probably why he was falling such an easy victim to nature’s timeless confidence trick: his preoccupation with the gorgeous Sharon was just an atavistic call for him to reproduce.

Perhaps the quickest way to exorcise her disturbing effect on him would be to sketch her. He took out a pen from his inside pocket and turned the property details for The Old Rectory over, so that the blank side was uppermost. From memory, he began drawing a full length portrait of estate agent Sharon Makepiece, starting with her black business suit.

****

‘But we know Mrs Brand won’t go any lower… I agree… but if Morrison won’t budge, I think we should look for another purchaser…’

Dylan was descending the last flight of stairs. Realising that Sharon was in the hall speaking on her mobile, he halted halfway down and waited. She was partially turned away from him, standing with her weight thrown back on one leg. The other leg was slowly pivoting back and forth on the ball of her foot. Christ! He’d never imagined a woman in a business suit could be so sexy. But it wasn’t just the suit or the way she was standing: it was the combination of beauty and assured competence that was so compelling. Her voice was attractively low, yet full of warm ripples and little cadences like a clear, fast running stream. Her accent was Yorkshire but softly rural, like others he’d heard in the Wolds. As she issued instructions confidently into the phone she exuded certainty of purpose. For him, who’d never truly been certain of anything, this was a potent aphrodisiac.

She changed weight from one leg to the other, and, in turning, became aware of Dylan standing on the stairs.

Now that was a detail he’d forgotten. The single string of creamy pearls enhancing her graceful neck and complementing the silky smoothness of her white top.

‘Just a minute Tracey…’ Sharon took the phone away from her ear and called up to Dylan,

‘Have you seen all you need?’

‘More than enough.’

She returned to the phone. ‘I’ve got to go. I’ll be with you in half an hour.’

Dylan continued down the stairs. Sharon was standing by the front door waiting for him.

‘The house is perfect. Just what we’re looking for,’ he said, as he approached her. ‘I’ve decided to make an offer.’

‘Good.’

‘I haven’t fixed on a figure yet. I’ll call you about that tomorrow.’

‘Fine.’

Sharon went over to set the alarm. Almost immediately she stopped and turned back to him. ‘Oh, you haven’t seen the rear garden.’

‘That’s OK. I saw it from the window upstairs. It’s the size of a small park. Mr Corbridge must have employed an army of gardeners.’

‘No. Amazingly he and his wife did it all themselves.’

They stood around awkwardly.

‘Well, I’m ready to go if you are,’ said Dylan. ‘Are you confident that I’m safe enough to travel in your car without molesting you or shall you call me up a cab?’

Sharon smiled. ‘Don’t be silly!’

‘I’m serious,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to cause you any unnecessary stress.’

‘It’s all right. I over-reacted, I’m sorry.’

Continue reading with the free preview (link below).

Leefdale #Kindle #KindleUnlimited

Today I’m writing a promotion for Michael Murray’s novel, Leefdale.

As well as being the author of Magnificent Britain, Julia’s Room, and the best-selling detective novel, A Single to Filey, Michael has been my other half for over forty years.

Leefdale was published as a Kindle ebook earlier this year. The novel explores how both individuals and a community respond to change. Its themes are concord and discord, inclusion and exclusion, the liberating power of Art and the complex nature of Love.

You can read a free sample of Leefdale on the Amazon site.

It’s a long free sample because Leefdale is a long novel, over 300,000 words. My iPad estimates that Leefdale has twelve hours of reading time. Great for readers who like to get lost in a book for a good few hours.

You don’t need a Kindle to read Kindle books.

Leefdale is busily preparing for the 2001 Magnificent Britain Gardening Competition. Major Howard Roberts is obsessed with gaining the fifth consecutive gold medal for the village. Unfortunately, the sale of The Old Rectory and its exemplary gardens threatens his hopes and those of many of Leefdale’s residents.

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Sleepy, picturesque Leefdale soon becomes a place of petty, bitter conflict which attracts the attention of a boorish political reporter and the national media who are, coincidentally, in pursuit of a much bigger story.

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An estate agent with unconventional domestic arrangements; the taken-for-granted wife of a Tory politician; an emotionally traumatised drama therapist and an overworked and frustrated artist are just some of the diverse characters whose lives become entangled and dramatically changed following the sale of The Old Rectory.

Leefdale

I hope you’ll have time to visit the Leefdale book-page, read some of the free sample and hopefully find yourself hooked. You might need to know that there is a little strong language in the novel but nothing that you won’t have heard before!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

You might also like my book of the day.