I know Timothy Bateson. He’s been a real help to me in the past and is a generally awesome person. That is why I didn’t tell him I was writing this review. Instead I paid full price for them (though they are reasonably priced) to read. If I hadn’t liked his work, I wouldn’t have posted anything about it. I would have been tactful, not mentioned I had seen them, and continue to be awestruck at the amount he does to help fellow authors and his incredibly generosity of time and encouragement.
These prequels are awesome!!!
They are written in the first person, which is not always my favourite, but the way that Timothy uses the first person makes the story far more engaging and immediate. The stories are the growth of a character, Richard Parsons, a werewolf growing up in modern day USA, and the trials that he faced. They are gritty and stripped down stories of a werewolf struggling in an urban environment, trying to scrape by. There is no glamour or glitz, but a hard reality about them. I know werewolves don’t exist but this reads true to that reality. There are no dark lords or imperious courts, just getting by and making bad choices in a harsh environment. The three prequels show the hero as a boy facing the biggest hurdle in his life, a crossroads where he has to make hard decisions that impact on his relationships, and the difficulty of being a werewolf in the conflicts in the Middle East – all with tantalising hints of more to come.
I really enjoyed reading them. I have two main complaints. The first complaint is that I would have like to have an option to buy them as a bundle. The second complaint is that the actual books that these prequel aren’t available yet. I should also add (sorry Timothy) that these are quite short, so you may like to check the length before you buy them. I thought they were value for money, but I know that sometimes you have to watch a budget.
I seriously recommend these awesome books, and I also recommend that you check out Timothy Bateson’s blog as not only do you get snippets of writing (and hopefully news of when the next books come out) but Timothy also showcases a lot of other authors with reviews, book tours and insights that can lead you to other awesome books.
This is a good book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will almost certainly dip into more books from Stephanie Foxe.
You have snappy dialogue, well drawn, multi layered and believable characters, a great plot with unexpected twists and a believable and coherent magic system that isn’t overtly explained but is instead subtly shown throughout the book. The fight scenes are great, the hints of passion are amazing and I want to know more.
The only thing is, it’s in the first person present tense! I do not do well with first person present tense, it doesn’t draw me in the way that a more conventionally written story does, although in this case it does pretty well. It has very nearly almost come close to possibly considering changing my mind. Here is the opening paragraph, and you have to admit that it works:
I’m the only healer in two hundred miles who would let a vampire dump a half-dead snack off on my doorstep. I’m also the weakest healer in over two hundred miles, my magical talent is in brewing potions and salves, but I can keep a necker alive if a vampire gets a little over zealous
I read this on Kindle Unlimited, this is an unsolicited review, and I can recommend this book if you don’t mind first person present tense.
I enjoyed read this book, it has an interesting background, it has some sparky dialogue, some great action and there are some beautiful descriptions.
I read this for free, entirely unsolicited, from Kindle Unlimited. It’s not a bad read. I don’t regret the time I spent with this story. However it didn’t quite hit the spot with me.
I think the problem I have with this story is that I feel that it could do with being around 25% longer. Sometimes it feels like the story is rushed past some parts, or details are skimmed over. I would like to have a clearer set up about the deities and the way they interact. Of course, anyone who is writing using the Olympic deities is going to be compared to Rick Riordan and he is a tough act to follow. April Canavan doesn’t have the same take as the Percy Jackson series, which is kind of refreshing, but I personally would have liked to know more. Perhaps it will grow in the next books of the series.
As an entirely personal preference, I would like more distance between Gods and non-Gods, to have more of an air of glory about them. It doesn’t mean that this book isn’t worth reading, just that it didn’t push all my buttons. Here is a (non-spoiler) example:
“The only one of the gods of the wind who didn’t live with her was sitting there, eating a banana and reading a newspaper.
“‘Boreas,’ she greeted with a smile. ‘What are you doing here so early?’ Normally he didn’t show up until after everyone had eaten breakfast and calmed down a little.”
It also ended on something of a cliff hanger. Hopefully this will be resolved in the next books. It isn’t my favourite end to a book, though.
I’ve said the negatives about this, but there is a lot of good in this story. I think it’s going in interesting directions and I will almost certainly read the next in the series.
This is a well-written, entertaining book about magic in our present day world, with a well thought out, logical magic system and a recognition that being a witch doesn’t pay the bills. The pacing was great, with some variation, the descriptions had depth and supplemented the story and the characters were well thought through.
It is written in the first person present tense, which can be an acquired taste, particularly with the use of the present tense. That means that you get quotes like:
A few moments pass as Dean considers his options. Which are basically zero, so I’m not bothered. The fact that my skin has gone from tingling to crawling tells me he’s got a serious problem on his hands. A problem that I seriously doubt a psychic could deal with. Add to that, I can’t imagine one being dumb enough to try. Any true psychic would steer clear. So Dean has me or no-one…
I love the details included, the way that everyday, mundane life is used as a touchstone and counterpoint to the magical world and I love the reality of the language. It is an interesting, detailed, well imagined world with great plotting and lots of hints that don’t give the game away until the end. I can say that it is a good book to settle down with.
I have two issues. The first is that it ends on a cliffhanger, but not an irrational cliffhanger, so that is down to personal preference. It isn’t my preference, but it isn’t a bad end to the book. It is a logical, sensible, rational and consistent end to the book that leads well into the next of the series. If you don’t mind this sort of cliffhanger, then you will be fine.
The second issue is my completely irrational prejudice against first person present tense. It has it’s value as a method of story telling as it makes all the action very immediate and, if well written (and this is), it can make it very relatable. I think it is utterly awesome for short stories. My completely irrational dislike is that I feel that it can affect the flow of information so that you get more ‘tell’ than ‘show’ and that it can affect pacing. JS Malcom has done a wonderful job conveying the information necessary for the plot and the pacing works great. In fact, the way that the background is gently introduced during the story is wonderfully handled. I still have this completely ridiculous aversion to first person present tense.
If you are okay with a cliffhanger ending and a story in the first person present tense then I would be happy to recommend this book and to perhaps check out the sequel.
It was a sad place, and a sadness that Karen had come to know very well in the last few days. This garden had once been loved, as Miriam had once loved her garden. A small cottage seemed to be fading away behind the weeds, with broken windows and the front door missing. Bindweed and nightshade were writhing over the doorway and into the house. Karen didn’t recognise all the plants, but she could see the remains of raspberries, the dregs of some strawberries, an apple tree that was full of ripe apples, plum trees surrounded by rotten fruit and mint running wild up to the ivy filled, bushy hedge. “It seems such a sad place.” Karen said. “I try not to think of it.” Carl shook some carrier bags from his pocket. “Right, let’s do my Mum proud.” “How about things like the apples?” Karen asked as she shook out a well re-used carrier. “Sam’s having the apples, he should have said about the plums, but he normally has them as well.” Carl started picking the blackberries nearest the gate. “Come on, city girl! You start over there, I’ll pick towards you, let’s see who fills a bag first.” “Deal!” Karen said with a laugh and waded through a patch of raggedy grass to her starting point.
Blackberrying, Karen found, was very absorbing. There was always one more berry to find, one that bit out of reach, one more head of luscious, juicy berries nodding just a little way up… It was marvellous. With the sound of birds and the soft sun, Karen felt more relaxed than she could ever remember feeling.
Karen, don’t move, stay absolutely still.” Karen froze. There was an edge to Carl’s voice. There was no sound, not even the birds now. Then a rustle as Carl put down his bag. “Come out, show yourself. I know that you are there.” Carl sounded like, well, like a policeman or a seasoned soldier. There was a deep calm in his voice, an assurance and a steadiness around a core of steel. “Karen, I want you to slowly move behind me towards the gate.” “Don’t want to share?” A scrawny man slipped out of the cottage, wearing some dirty track suit bottoms and nothing else. “Come on, it’s lush round here, there’s plenty to go around.” “Have you introduced yourself to Tyr Armstrong yet?” Carl kicked off his shoes as Karen eased herself around him. “Or Lord Lothar? Not a good idea to upset them.” “Why should a wolf answer outside his own pack?” The thin man had ratty, shoulder length brown hair, but it seemed to Karen that it was growing longer. “We aren’t all puppies, like round here. Does the meat know what you are?” Karen felt sick. This was a werewolf as well, but not like Carl. This was a werewolf from the horror movies – the nasty ones that she hated watching on her own. She eased around a little further, to give Carl room. She had no idea what to do. Carl flexed his shoulders and worked his neck. “There are always rules, the rules of the territory. Tyr Armstrong rules the pack here, and his word goes. Better stick to the rules, stray, or you could regret it.” The skinny man was twitchy. “Yeah, well I have got to feed and I have got to feed now and I aren’t letting a puppy try and stop me.” Karen had reached the gate. She looked quickly up and down – she couldn’t see anything, but then, she had had no idea that there was this creature waiting for them. She looked back. Carl seemed to flow out of his clothes in an easy, controlled movement. He really was built like a barn, the strange werewolf must be crazy. He, too, was also flowing out of his clothes and into a wolf like shape. Again she glanced up and down the empty lane. How could she get help? Mobiles didn’t work and there wasn’t a soul around. She wasn’t even wearing a silver ring. Carl started his growl, low and menacing. Karen felt a shiver down her, this was so much more frightening than anything she had ever seen. Surely the strange werewolf would flee. As a wolf, Carl was huge, with thick, glossy fur over well-muscled flanks. His gleaming teeth were exposed in a chilling snarl but unlike a dog there was a cold intelligence in the eyes, and a steel framed determination. The strange werewolf was scrawny with matted fur, with his eyes flicking all around. Carl looked solid, perfectly ready to leap, but the strange werewolf paced regardless of the chilling growl. He barked at Carl’s growl, hesitated, looked about to leap, hesitated, looked as if he may flee and then the strange werewolf leapt. Karen was terrified. The two snarling wolves met in mid air and landed snapping and rolling. For a few moments Karen could only see a whirl of fur. The two werewolves tussled and struggled for advantage. Carl slammed into the strange werewolf, then leapt into his rib cage, knocking the breath out of him. The stranger crashed into the cottage doorway and the doorpost broke. Fragments of wood flew in the air, but the stranger just rolled back into the garden. He tried a snap at Carl’s belly that didn’t connect and a vicious swat from Carl threw him back into the brambles, with Carl snapping as he fell. But Carl’s snaps at the throat of the stranger didn’t quite meet as the stranger managed to wriggle away. Carl tried to follow but was caught in the brambles and the stranger was heading straight at Karen. Carl managed to pull himself away from the tangle of thorns, leaving a huge hank of fur behind as he threw himself at the back of the stranger with all his weight behind him. The stranger crashed into the gatepost and Karen backed into the road, terrified. Carl coiled himself and then sprang as the stranger tried to get away from the brambles and they both fell snarling and growling into the hedge. Karen looked around frantically and picked up a long piece of the fencing that seemed solid enough. She held it in front of her like a baseball bat as the two werewolves rolled out of the hedge and into the lane. Carl ripped into the stranger’s shoulder and spat out fur and blood. The stranger yelped, rolled away and paused, his eyes focused on Karen. There was a shot and the strange werewolf fell.
Daisy shifted nervously in her seat. “Grandpapa,
are you sure about this?”
Her husband held her hand. “It’s okay. We’re
doing the right thing.”
“It’s okay for you, Russ, you didn’t grow
up with Grandpapa.”
“He’s not exactly your grandfather,
though, is he?” Russ said. “I mean, he’s your great-great-great grandfather. And
he’s old enough to know his own mind.”
Daisy looked across at the ghost sitting
next to the fire. It was an open fire, hissing softly with the smokeless coal
they had to use in this part of the city. Grandpapa had never countenanced
changing to central heating. “But it seems so final.”
“I know what I’m doing, girl.” Grandpapa
puffed on his ghostly pipe. “But I’ve stayed here long enough.”
“Is it about Mrs Henderson?” Russ asked.
“Russ!” Daisy hissed.
“I’ll have you know that I was always
faithful to my wife, your grandmama…”
“Great-great-great grandmother,” Russ whispered
“… but I do admit that when Mrs Henderson
moved in next door I was struck by her character.” Grandpapa ignored Russ’s
comment. “And, yes, now that she has passed over, it has made me think that perhaps
I should go and join my Millie…”
“Or Mrs Henderson” Russ murmured to Daisy.
don’t mind.” Grandpapa snorted. “It’s time to join my Millie. I just hope you
found someone suitable to take my case.”
“Are you sure you need help, Grandpapa?”
Russ asked. “Can you not just, I don’t know, decide?”
Grandpapa shifted awkwardly. “I’ve not had
any luck so far.” He admitted. “I may be a special case.” He puffed on his pipe
again, enjoying the thought. “But hopefully you have engaged a suitable
specialist, one who can manage matters with appropriate dignity.”
“He is the only one we could find,” Daisy
said. The thought of the familiar, irritating figure disappearing left her unsettled.
“But three separate people said he was very good. All the other people we asked
were, well, fakes.”
“And he isn’t asking a fortune, like some
of them out there.” Russ added. “If he can’t help us, it will have to be a
“No priests!” Grandpapa snapped. “I don’t
approve of them. The old vicar ran off with his secretary and his replacement
cooked the books.”
Daisy and Russ exchanged worried glances. There
were plenty of stories about bad priests, but who else could get rid of ghosts?
Daisy waved her hand at the table. “Are you sure we need to have this ready for
Grandpapa snorted, “Anyone who can get rid
of me will be a man of some courage, a man of discernment, a man of taste and
refinement. It won’t be some teddy boy in a silly jacket or one of those punk
mohicans. He will be a gentleman.”
Russ looked over the small table set aside
for the ‘ghost whisperer’. “I hope he smokes.”
“All gentlemen smoke.” Grandpapa said. “Or
they should. A man should be able to choose a good cigar. That’s how you can
tell the quality of a gentleman. It may make all the difference in whether he
accepts the case or walks away. And have you water for the whisky? I know we
have soda, but some of the old guard take water with their whisky.”
Daisy and Russ avoided looking at each
other. Grandpapa was becoming more and more out of touch, but Daisy had had the
opinionated ghost in the background all her life and Russ had grown to love the
old man – more or less. Neither could imagine the house without him. But now
that the sprightly and scandalous Mrs Henderson had gone, a spark had gone out
of the old spirit and he had become quieter and a little less visible. They jumped
as the doorbell echoed through the room.
“Don’t keep him waiting!” Grandpapa said, “Or
he may realise we no longer have staff! Go on – answer the door!”
Daisy and Russ raced into the hall and
then paused at the door. Daisy looked at Russ. “If we open this door, we won’t
be able to stop it.”
“If we don’t open the door, Grandpapa will
carry on being miserable.” Russ said, “And he’ll make our lives miserable with
it.” He looked at the door as if seeing it for the first time. “But I know what
The doorbell rang again. “Open the damn
door!” Grandpapa roared from the sitting room.
Daisy swallowed and, despite shaking
fingers, opened the door. “Oh!” She looked at the skinny lad in the thin jacket
and supermarket jeans and wondered what Grandpapa would say about this.
“Mr and Mrs Smyth? I’m Kane Thelwell. We
spoke on the phone about a ghost.” Kane smiled nervously. “May I come in?”
Not that I’m name dropping, but I was privileged to have an interview with J K Allen whose latest title, Heavenfire, is available for pre-order. I feel very smug.
Welcome, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you write.
Hello! My name is Julia aka JK Allen when I’m writing. I write primarily YA urban fantasy, but do dabble in lots of other genres, including poetry. I actually did my senior thesis in college in poetry and it’s a love of mine. I studied English and Creative Writing in college, and that’s when I decided to become an author. After graduating, I worked on getting published in several anthologies, and then released my debut series of novels, the Angelborn series starting with Angelborn. Now Heavenfire is coming out and I’m so excited to continue the journey of Ginny and Aiden.
I am also the President and Head Editor of Three Furies Press, an indie publishing house that I started with Isa McLaren and Rebekah Jonesy. We are starting out strong, with a full publishing schedule for this year already! I love my job as editor, because I get to get my grubby little paws on a ton of great books before they even come out! And I love helping authors make their stories shine. Check us out at threefuriespress.com!
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since the day after I learned how to write. I learned how and thought to myself “what now?” Then I realized I could write a story! I wrote a fairy tale, complete with pictures, and showed my sissy proudly. She teased me mercilessly for spelling beautiful like “but”iful, and that’s how my love of editing began.
What inspires you most?
I find that reading and watching movies sparks my imagination most. When I’m not reading enough, I can tell because I get less ideas. As far as my writing style though, what I’m most inspired by lately is a dreamscape tarot deck I got for plotting. I do like to do some planning ahead and know where I am heading before I sit down to create the first draft. This tarot deck gives me great insights into my characters and different scenes. It’s a very intuitive way of looking at your story that really inspires me.
Who is your favorite author and why?
My favorite author is Jane Austen. Her characters are real and wonderful, and she writes about the everyday in such a beautiful and exciting way. If I can write my characters half as well as hers, then I’m very happy.
Who has influenced your writing the most? Is it different than your favorite?
I would say that Austen is my favorite and has influenced my writing the most. My stories are about character first, and I try to glean lessons from her with regular rereading.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get them from the things that inspire me and what if situations. Always ask yourself, “what if?” It leads you to wonderful places.
Do you have a process? What is it like?
I am a reformed pantser (one who flies by the seat of their pants) so I would say I’m a plantser (mix of plotter and pantser) who maybe leans more on the plotting side now. I used to never know where I was going, but then I also never finished anything. I started novel after novel, loving the storylines and characters, and then I would get “writer’s block” because I didn’t know what happened next and set it aside. When I got serious about publishing, I knew I had to rethink my writing process. So I researched different ways to outline and realized there were all sorts and I found the one that worked for me. I also employ scene lists, using index cards to add, subtract, and shuffle around to get the perfect order. Try something new and you may find the perfect process for you!
What’s one piece of advice you would give another author?
Write first, edit later. For me I need to just focus on being creative when I’m writing the first draft. If I put my editor hat on too soon, then I get too analytical and critical, and it kills my creativity. You can also start obsessing on making what you have perfect, instead of just moving forward. As someone said, you are shoveling sand into a box so you can make castles later. Get the draft down, then polish.
What character that you’ve written do you love most?
I really love Ginny from the Angelborn series. She is kind and caring, sticks up for her friends even when she’s scared, and does what is right rather than what is easy. I love writing characters who have the kind of courage found in ordinary people.
What character someone else has written do you love most?
My favorite character (that isn’t an Austen character lol) is Hermione. She is unabashedly who she is and doesn’t change herself to make herself more popular. She is intelligent, passionate, and brave. And definitely relatable.
So Heavenfire is releasing, it’s book two in the series. Tell us more about the Angelborn series and what happens in this new installation.
Ginny Gracehurst thinks she’s a normal teen until she gets a bruise that won’t fade and starts having strange dreams. Turns out she’s half-angel, and a half-demon is after her to bring his plans to life. Angelborn follows Ginny as she discovers who she is and what this new world is as she tries to protect the ones she loves. Heavenfire finds her on a new mission halfway across the world, trying to protect some precious relics from the half-demon who still wants her. Here’s the blurb to Heavenfire.
A divine sword, magic tomes, and uncontrolled power. Can 16-year-old Ginny Gracehurst keep them from an obsessed half-demon?
After retrieving the only thing that could set Jacob’s demon father free, half-angel Ginny has a new mission. She and Aiden are charged with collecting the Eternal Tomes, which teach how to use sigils in the Angelic Tongue.
They are in a race against Jacob and his minions, who can travel anywhere in a matter of seconds. Allowing demonkind to learn those sigils would spell disaster for them all. In order to get what he wants, Jacob needs one more thing besides the Tomes—Ginny herself.
What future projects do you have planned?
Right now I am plotting a new series set in the Angelborn world, but a few generations later. So we have new characters we will follow as things get dangerous once again.
Phoebe Darqueling, the awesome author of ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ has kindly shared some insights on one of her wonderful characters and a brief taster of her latest novel.
Prudence Thorne started seeing the dead when she was a child. Her brother had no time or patience for the little girl who trailed him like a shadow, so the spirits who drifted into Thorne Manor became her closest friends. Prudence believed the ghosts were a delicious secret for her alone. Then, everything changed.
The ability to see the dead and channel spectral forces didn’t belong only to Prudence, it was a family trait. It didn’t affect all of the Thorne women and it didn’t manifest at the same time, but most of her family line had some kind of ability enhanced by their close connection to the spirit world. Much to her delight, Prudence’s aunt Magda came to live in the Manor and immediately recognized her potential. In no time, they became closer than sisters, closer than mother and daughter. Prudence learned all about her family history and how to expand her potential, and the day that Magda passed peacefully into the afterlife was the loneliest of her entire life.
But there was a ray of hope. For though Prudence never married, her brother had a daughter whom she hoped would connect with her the same way when her powers manifested. She kept a sharp eye on Vi and sent her ghost companions into her path in the hopes that her niece would show some inkling of power. But even though the energy that pulsed off of the child was the stronger than anything Prudence had ever felt, the little girl either never saw the dead or refused to admit the truth of her eyes. The feeling of betrayal caused a deep, painful schism between the two, and when Vi was old enough to strike out on her own, she leaped at the chance, leaving Prudence alone and bitter, rattling around an empty mansion.
Then, everything changed again. After a long absence, Vi and some companions arrived on the doorstep of her ancestral home…
From No Rest for the Wicked by Phoebe Darqueling
The room was so quiet, even the ticking of the grandfather clock reached their ears. Every tiny scrape of a utensil or creak of a floorboard under the butler’s foot echoed all the way to the tall ceilings of the dining room. A golden chandelier encrusted with crystals and dust in equal measure hung over the center of the table. A huge, Venetian mirror reflected the stoical scene from over an ornate mantel; a tall woman, with gray hair cropped close to her skull, scowled at
one end of a long wooden table, while two other women sat in awkward silence staring at the other.
Even though it had been almost a decade since Vi had last seen the room, nothing had changed. The same family portraits kept watch from the bloody red walls, the same servant still served the food, though his age had slowed his movements. She moved the elegant meal around her plate with her fork as she thought about George enjoying what would probably be plain but delicious fare in the cozy surroundings of the kitchen alongside the old cook. She’d never wanted to trade places with a child so much in her life.
Bonnie started to speak, but Vi quieted her with a shake of her head and nervous glance to the woman at the far end of the long table. Her friend looked from the matriarch’s stern and quiet visage and back, mouthing, “Why not?”
Vi returned a frustrated but silent, “Just don’t.”
The other woman rolled her eyes. “Miss Prudence—”
A vehement, short shush interrupted her from the corner. When she searched for the source, Bonnie found the ancient butler bringing a quivering finger to his lips.
The little brunette’s face screwed up in defiance and she continued. “Thank you ever so much for welcoming us into your home.” Prudence didn’t even lift her eyes from her plate, her knife squeaking as she cut off another tiny piece of pork chop and brought it to her lips. Bonnie raised her voice and tried again. “You have a lovely home, Miss Prudence.”
The room held its breath as the older woman picked up a linen napkin and dabbed at the corner of her mouth. Prudence gently set down her fork and leveled her razor-sharp, green eyes at her niece. “Viola,” she said, voice soft but her tone wrought with iron.
Vi swallowed hard. “Yes, ma’am.”
“You know how I feel about talking during mealtimes.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“I’m sorry,” Bonnie cried, blood rushing to her cheeks. “I didn’t know.”
Prudence waved away her concern with a skeletal hand, but continued to glare at Vi. “No. Of course you didn’t. Because my wayward niece never thought to inform you.”
Vi began to protest, then slumped back in a sulk. “No, ma’am.”
“And why do we do that?”
She mumbled, “Because silence is golden.”
“Indeed,” her aunt replied. The barest hint of a smile crossed her lips, then they returned to a straight line. “I rather thought you’d taken that particular lesson to heart. All I’ve had from you is silence.” She balled up her napkin and threw it onto her half-eaten meal. “That will be all, August. I’ve lost my concentration completely. Clear the dishes.”
The grifter slanted protectively over her plate. “I’m not finished.”
“Very well.” Prudence let out a long-suffering sigh at the small act of defiance. “Carry on. I suppose we’ll all simply have to wait for you.” The butler shuffled over and cleared away his mistress’ plate and utensils while she stared at her former ward over steepled fingers. When August went to Bonnie’s place, she allowed him to take away her unfinished dinner, her
eyes flicking uneasily from one woman to the other. With a saccharine smile, Vi cut a tiny piece of potato and placed it delicately into her mouth with a theatrical ‘mmm.’
Prudence clucked her tongue, then turned to her other dinner companion and gestured widely. “You’re right. It is a lovely home.”
Bonnie let out a squeak, withering under the unexpected turn of the woman’s granite gaze. She recovered her aplomb, replying. “Yes, er… has it been in the family long?”
“There’s been a Thorne in this house since it was built,” Prudence replied proudly. “Though I don’t know how much longer that will be true. I thought to leave it to her when I pass, but Viola seems to have made her home…elsewhere.”
“You’re going to leave me the house?” Vi exclaimed, choking on her half-chewed bite.
“This is why we don’t talk and eat,” her aunt scolded, then returned her attention to Bonnie. “So, tell me. How do you two know each other?”
Her friend shot Vi another look, uncertain of how to proceed but unwilling to be the one to spill the secret. “It’s quite a long story…” she hedged.
“I see,” Prudence replied coldly. “And you believe I am somehow unequipped to listen to a long story?”
“Well, I—” Bonnie stuttered.
Vi re-entered the conversation. “Leave her alone. You’re angry with me, not her.”
“Do I sound angry?” the older woman replied with an infuriating lack of emotion. “I’m not the one raising my voice,” she pointed out.
“You never sound angry,” her niece replied. “But that doesn’t mean you aren’t. I know you too well to believe you aren’t furious with me right now.”
“Are you quite finished yet?” Prudence sighed. “We could adjourn to the study like civilized people if you would surrender your plate.”
The corner of Vi’s eye twitched, but she pushed away the remains of her supper. As August rounded the table, he stopped to whisper something in his mistress’ ear.
“Apparently, I already have a visitor waiting for me in the study. If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’ll see to what he wants.”
The butler assisted Prudence with her chair as she rose, but Vi’s next words stopped her halfway through the motion. “He’s with me.”
Her aunt regarded her skeptically. “I highly doubt we’re talking about the same… person.” She brushed at non-existent wrinkles and straightened her cuffs before stepping away from the table.
“The ghost?” Vi asked, savoring the moment. Her heavy heart lifted a little as she watched her aunt stop dead, confusion twisting her features. With a smile, Vi continued lightly. “Yes, Peter is my guest, but he preferred to take a nice stroll rather than arrive with us in the carriage.”
Prudence lifted her chin and glowered down her aquiline nose at her niece, but she couldn’t keep the curiosity, and perhaps even pride, out of the creases of her stately face. She gestured at the study door. “Come along,” she said, her eyes momentarily flashing with satisfaction. “And tell me everything.”
As first dates went, it hadn’t been too
bad so far. I had met him at the local coffee shop and we had drunk a few
lattes. He looked like his online profile, which was something, and the conversation
had been light. He was studying computers and something that I didn’t catch or
really understand and getting some side hustles with web design on the side. We
shared a love of Doctor Who, agreed to disagree on Star Trek and I felt more relaxed
with him than I had in a long time. I should have known it was too good to be
“Let me walk you home.” Ryan said. “It’s a
shame to end the conversation. I feel like I could talk with you for hours.”
“I’m good.” I said. “And if you walk me
home and we get talking there then I won’t get to bed early enough and I have
“Come on, let me walk you at least part of
the way.” Ryan said. “Don’t pretend we haven’t had a marvellous time.”
“It’s been a great evening.” I said, “And
I hope we have another one like it, but I do need to get up tomorrow.” What
with one thing and another I would be lucky to get even a couple of hours sleep
before work, even if he didn’t come in.
“Spoilsport.” He smiled at me and I smiled
back. “Okay, let me walk you some of the way back. I promise I won’t go all the
“That sounds like such a cheesy line!” I shook
my head. I either gave in or he made a scene here. “But you said you lived over
the other side of the city. Why don’t we walk as far as the subway terminus?
Then you can get the subway back and I will be near home.”
“You aren’t that near to the subway
terminus.” Ryan sounded a little sulky.
“Someone’s done their research.” I said. “But
we can hang out together until you get on the subway, so we have a little more
Ryan smiled. “I know you haven’t lived in
this part of the city long, but I grew up around here. I know a great short
cut, through the old park.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be haunted?” I
asked. “I mean, I was warned about going into the old park after dark as it was
“Nobody believes in ghosts.” Ryan said, “And
I can protect you.”
I looked at him thoughtfully. He was in
good shape, but he didn’t look like he could take on a pack of muggers. What was
worse, if we cut through the abandoned park, we would have to go past my home
to get to the terminus. It looked like Ryan could be a problem. “I’d rather stay
in public. You know all the advice that they give, about online dating, to stay
in public for the first few dates and to be really careful who you give your
details to? Perhaps I should just get an uber home.”
Ryan put a hand on my shoulder. Somehow it
felt heavier than it should. “Please, we are having such a good time. Let’s
just walk for a little while, carry on connecting and you can wait with me at
the subway station.”
“And we can go past the supermarket.”
“Come on! Where’s your sense of adventure.
There is nothing wrong with the park. It’s just neglected, that’s all.”
“It will be dark.” I said.
“It will be romantic.” Ryan held my hand
and smiled at me. I felt incredibly uneasy.
The old park had effectively been
abandoned by the council. Once it had been carefully landscaped but now it was
an overgrown of tangled bushes and trees with some worn tracks through the
dense growth. It was dimly lit even in daylight. We walked through the rusted
gates in the dark and away from the street lights and we were suddenly in an
eerie dark. I dug a mini torch out of my handbag.
“You’re prepared.” Ryan said. “I admit, it’s
darker than I was expecting, but I thought you would use your phone.”
“Wouldn’t that run the battery down really
quickly?” I asked as I found a path. “Is this the way?”
“I think we need to go down here.” Ryan
said, pointing to a different path.
“No, this way will get us through the park
quicker and nearer the subway.” I insisted pointing my torch.
“But this way will be more fun, I promise.”
He set off ahead of me, and I sighed and
followed. The park was not safe after dark just because it was so overgrown and
badly lit. If he fell, he could hurt himself badly and not be easily found. I
decided that I would see him off at the subway and then send him a ‘it’s not
you, it’s me’ text. “Hang on!” I shouted after him.
“The park is supposed to be haunted, you
know.” Ryan said as I scrambled after him. “They say that you can see ghosts
here and that vampires and werewolves come here to meet.” Ryan looked around as
much of the park as he could see in the small beam from my torch. “It’s a shame
it isn’t a full moon.”
“Vampires and werewolves, seriously?” I said,
as I hurried after him. “We’ve left the path.”
“I grew up here, remember?” Ryan turned
and smiled in the glow of the torch. “I know all the tracks, like this one
here.” We stumbled out onto a slightly wider path that was heading downward towards
the neglected artificial lake.
“I need to get home and you need to make
sure you get to the subway in time for the last train.” I said. “This is silly.”
Ryan looked around. “I’m just trying to get
my bearings. Does your phone have GPS?”
“I thought you knew this place?” I was
trying to keep calm. I really didn’t want to have a scene. “Come on, lets get
out of here.”
“Seriously, which way is North?”
I ignored his hand open for my phone and
pulled up the map function myself. “It’s that way, and if we follow this path,
we’ll come out almost next to the subway. And you won’t miss your…” I was interrupted
as I turned to point to a path. Ryan snatched my phone out of my hand and threw
it into the bushes. I whirled around to glare at him. “What are you doing?”
“It’s kind of exciting, isn’t it?” Ryan
said, in a low voice, running his hand over my arm. “You are in the middle of
the haunted park, in the dark, possibly surrounded by werewolves, and with a
handsome stranger. Anything could happen. And you have no way to call for help.”
He tried to pull me towards him for a kiss, but I struggled free.
“Okay, that’s it. This date is over, lose
my number.” I shone my pitiful torch where I thought my phone landed.
“I don’t think you understand.” Ryan said.
“You are alone, in the dark, with a stranger. You are in no position to tell me
what to do. I’m in charge.” He moved a little closer. “I could even be a
werewolf. That would be something, wouldn’t it, to be rescued by a werewolf.”
I swore at him and headed to where I
thought I saw a glint of grey. “What are you going to do? Leave me for the
ghosts. Leave me alone.”
“Or what?” Ryan was smirking as he
followed me. “There are no werewolves around to rescue you.” He pushed his hand
into my hair and pulled my head back. “We are going to have a nice time here,
and then we are going back to your place and by the morning you will see that I
am the best thing that could happen to you. No werewolves needed.”
“You’re right.” I snarled, my fangs
lengthening as I grabbed his arm and twisted until he was on his knees,
screaming. “No werewolves needed at all.”
“Can you see anyone?” Justin asked. He stood at the window, tension in every line of him.
“One moment, Mr Birstall.” Kane tried to concentrate on the sobbing ghost in front of him. “Calm down and just try and…” You couldn’t tell a ghost to take a breath. “Just take it easy.”
“All my life I’ve heard the story of the family jewels.” Justin said. “I’ve waited my whole life to buy back my family home.”
Kane nodded distractedly as the ghost slowly straightened up and looked at his sister’s great grandson. “That’s better. Now, this is Justin, and he wants to know what happened to his great grandmother’s jewellery.”
Justin looked between Kane and the gap that Kane was apparently speaking to. “Dad said that the jewellery wasn’t much, but it would be great to be sort of reconciled with that, to be part of the family.”
“I never thought she would leave.” The ghost started sobbing again. “I thought if I forbade her to marry then we would be together and comfortable. But she wanted to go to London with this clerk.”
Kane nodded politely. “I’m sure you missed your sister…”
“I missed her so much. How could I know that I would drive her away.” The ghost pulled out a spectral handkerchief. “I mean, if I had realised perhaps I would have at least had letters.” The ghost looked between Kane and Justin. “I have to know – did she die in poverty? Did she die in pain? Did she have a family? I’ve worried about it for so many years, I can’t rest.”
Kane looked at Justin. “Your great-grandmother, was she happy?”
Justin smiled. “I grew up with stories about her life. She loved the theatre, was devoted to my great-grandfather – she was so proud of him. She was always well dressed, and had all the latest fashions, especially when she went to the big dinners and galas.”
“What do you mean, big dinners?” The ghost forgot to sob into his handkerchief and stared at Justin.
“The ghost is surprised your great-grandmother went to big dinners.” Kane said, a little timidly. A skinny kid just out of local authority care shouldn’t ask questions of a high flyer in the City.
Justin didn’t take offence. “My great-grandmother ran off with my great-grandfather to the horror of all their families. But they settled in London, he went back to his father’s firm and they were very happy. Once he took over, there were shareholders’ dinners and charity events with the Lord Mayor.” He smiled. “Granny used to tell us stories about how they met with royalty and all sorts.” He sighed “But she used to whisper to Granny that all the fancy necklaces she had didn’t have the same feel as the locket her brother gave her and that she left behind.” He shook his head. “That’s why I’m here. One last chance.” He sighed. “Who am I kidding? That locket was probably sold or thrown long ago.”
“How dare you, sir!” The ghost stood, indignant. “The very thought that I would do something like that! Of course, I didn’t want the maids finding it and perhaps sending it on to London, so I hid it.” He turned to Kane. “Boy, you can fetch it for me.”
“What?” Kane said, bewildered. “I mean, what do you mean? Where is it?”
“I put it in the kitchen.” The ghost said. “No-one would think to look in the kitchen for something I hid. I never went there as an adult.” He shook his head. “Everyone forgot that I grew up in this house. I know every nook and cranny. Come on, lad, smarten up.”
Kane followed the ghost out of the empty study and down the echoing, uncarpeted hall and into the kitchen. Justin trailed after him.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m following the ghost, Mr Birstall.”
“What ghost?” Justin said. “I can’t see anything. Don’t you have to have a seance and call on them or something.”
As Kane walked into the kitchen, he wondered what it would be like to have to ask a ghost to come instead of trying to get them to shut up and leave him alone. “I’m getting a message.” He said.
“Hmph, a message.” The ghost snorted. “Anyone would think you were some sort of spiritist. Come over here, lad, and put your hand up the chimney, quick as you like.”
Kane looked at the soot-encrusted mantle and took off his jacket. “Whereabouts up the chimney?” He asked doubtfully, rolling up his sleeves.
“What?” Justin asked.
Kane ignored him and, following the ghost’s instructions, slid his hand behind the mantle. “The ghost, your great-great-uncle, would like to know if his sister was happy, and how she died.” The soot felt unpleasantly damp and a little slimy.
“What?” Justin asked. He stared at Kane and then shrugged. “Everyone said she had a happy heart. She died in the Blitz, direct hit on the house.”
“She wouldn’t have suffered.” The ghost said quietly. “And she was happy.” He sighed. “Try a bit further left, boy.”
Kane looked down at the soot streaking his newest jeans and trainers. “Are you sure? Hang on…” His fingers found a loose stone and he wiggled it a little before he managed to prise it out. He set the stone carefully down on the hearth and tentatively reached in. “I think this is it.”
Justin took the small tin box from Kane, regardless of the soot falling on his bespoke suit and, after a struggle, opened it up. He swallowed and tipped the contents onto the dusty windowsill. “Great-grandmother’s locket.” He pushed aside the discoloured pearls and the garnet necklace and pulled out a simple locket, still faintly gleaming under the dust.
“She didn’t die poor, she died happy.” The ghost sighed as he started to fade and pass over. “I didn’t drive her to poverty. She was happy.”
Kane watched the ghost go home and turned to Justin. “The ghost has gone, Mr Birstall. I don’t think that there’s anything else.”
“Hmm?” Justin was staring at the picture in the locket. “Sorry, I was caught up with this.” He showed the facing pictures to Kane. “My great-grandmother and her brother. I have a similar picture of her at home, look.” He pulled out his phone and scrolled through to show Kane the picture of the same laughing young woman that was in the locket.
Kane looked at the faded photographs and smiled politely as he tried to brush the soot off his jeans. “So, I’ll see myself out.”
Justin came back to the present. “I’ll give you a lift to the station.” He handed Kane an envelope. “Agreed fee.” He added a second envelope. “And the bonus for finding the locket.” The smile on his face grew. “The family jewels.”