I’ve been very spoiled this week as it was my birthday (hurray!) and Feathers, our rescued friend, is happily enjoying having food and drink supplied. We’re not sure how her wing will recover but she looks more comfortable and happy so hopefully that means she’s on the mend.
Talking about being comfortable and happy, I haven’t had the easiest of periods since I lost my sight (and before) and unfortunately had a re-emergence of mean head stuff and, out of all the physical issues I deal with, head stuff is far harder to get on with.
My publisher (Bink) has been amazing especially when I needed them to be gentle with me so please, please cheer them for how they have supported me through reworking and publishing Hayefield Manor. They’ve allowed me to stand tall and be myself.
When the idea for Hayefield Manor popped into my head, I wanted to create an estate that is a merging of Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and some of the historical buildings near my home. I placed the lake from Pride and Prejudice and added touches then implanted a very special unique tree called the Haye Willow-Blossom which mixed two very beautiful trees. Being a para-regal estate, it has its own stables and sweeping green lawn and large forested areas. As Morgan, my intrepid main character says Hayefield Manor itself has an archway large enough that mounted knights could have trotted through. Yes, it’s very grand, posh and perfect for a mystery.
Which leads me to Lady Sophie Haye… With an estate so grand and a lineage that has been intermarried with royalty for over a thousand years, Sophie needed to be the kind of character that you could envisage being the steward of such a place. Sophie is one of my favourite characters because she appears so superior and brusque—if you love Ursula Frei then you’ll really love getting to know Sophie!
If I’ve done my job properly then Sophie should feel dangerous and mysterious to the point you’re not sure if you like her or not but she’s enticing enough that you will love reading about her anyway and be enthralled by Morgan trying to figure out if she’s innocent, guilty or somewhere in between.
As Morgan says…
“I’m the type of person that tends to throw myself into things. Having a job, any job, made me feel useful and it would be too easy to forget why I was at the manor. Didn’t help that Lady Sophie Haye was . . . well, you ever meet a woman who has this magnetism around her? The kind that makes her feel untouchable yet it’s so beyond sexy, you want to try and reach her?
Yeah, that was Sophie Haye. Arrested for murder or not, the woman was gorgeous: Olive skin, tanned like she’d been somewhere far warmer than Warwickshire, charcoal eyes, and stark white hair even when she couldn’t have been more than her mid-forties. It was silky white.
She walked like a dancer. You know the strut-come-prowl? And when she strode down a corridor, boy, did she demand attention.
She never so much as made eye contact with anyone. She was beyond aloof, snarled when someone hovered near and it was easy to see why my former colleagues were set on building a case against her. It took five minutes in a room with her to know that she could slice someone and not think twice. Felt like being in a room with a predator . . . they looked cute sometimes but they only did it so it would save them chasing you.”
Yes, Sophie is a character I’ve loved bringing onto the page and Hayefield Manor is a book that I love so much, I’ve re-read myself a few times just for my own enjoyment.
So, to reiterate: Morgan is a true wounded hero who has lost her career and is struggling but needs to prove the innocence of a completely unlikeable yet compelling (and attractive) aristocrat, Sophie, who is accused of murdering a lover… only Morgan starts to feel like she’s being lured in and that Sophie might not be as innocent as she hopes… or is she?
Hayefield Manor has romance, action, mystery, sweeping mists, seductive suspects, sword fighting (well, it is a manor) cute puppies, disabled heroes, historical buildings, strong heroines, eclectic staff members, laughter, tears, peering-through-finger moments, scratching head moments, ah-ha! Moments and… it’s me… so great big cheering moments!
And, there’s an extra special touch as Morgan’s own part of the story begins on her birthday and… as it’s my birthday week, I’m delighted to say that my publisher seems to have been working extra hard to celebrate too…
Yep… you heard me… HAYEFIELD MANOR is OUT NOW!
I hope you enjoy the first two chapters pasted below and… even better… you’ll go and see for yourself just why I love this book so much.
Usual note that you’re not allowed to go pasting, reproducing or doing other weird stuff with this excerpt of the book without permission from the publisher.
HAYEFIELD MANOR WAS not a welcoming place.
Deep in the English countryside, mist crawled its way across the darkened fields and engulfed the village of Hayefield until only shadowy forms peered from the bleakness. Its thatched roof cottages all huddled around the prominent spire of an ancient church as if for comfort; its deserted cobbled streets lit in an eerie blue-white lamplight echoed with the scratching and scurrying of unseen creatures.
Beyond the village, along a pitch black winding lane, lay Hayefield Manor itself. A colossal structure built on prestige and tradition: its castlements obscured, its owner murkier than the smoky fog.
Lady Sophie Haye stared out at the night in the darkness of her room. The security light flicked on and off, on and off, flashing stark white-blue light onto Sophie’s face. A beautiful face, sculpted as if from the stone itself, her heart as cold.
“Sophie, is there something you need?” Edwina, the head of the household, whispered, hoping her hands weren’t shaking too visibly.
Sophie’s charcoal eyes hardened and her dark brow dipped. “Why else would I call you?”
“It’s three in the morning?” a soft voice came from the bed. “Whatever it is, can’t it wait? Come back to bed.”
Sophie turned, full broad-shouldered body covered in a thin green silk gown, hugging in at her waist, charcoal eyes glinting with her temper, a vile uncontrollable temper. “Wait?”
Edwina shuddered and fussed with her glasses. “What is it you need, ma’am?”
Sophie met her eyes, hers pulsing with sheer stubbornness. “Call the chauffeur.”
Edwina sighed. “Chauffer . . . but—”
“Do I need to repeat myself?” Sophie’s tone grew colder, harder.
“Where are you going?” the soft voice from the bed muttered.
Sophie strode to the chair and threw clothes at the shadowed bed. “You are leaving.”
“Excuse me?” Long blonde curls fell into the flashing white-blue light.
Sophie turned back to the window. “Show her out.”
“Of course, Sophie.” Edwina sucked in a breath and urged the woman from the room. “I’ll have Mick take you to the gate house.”
Rachel Salisbury tugged on her clothes. She was not used to being thrown out of anywhere. “Oh, that’s just fantastic. Who does she think she is to do that to me?”
“A Haye, madam.” Edwina had heard this far too many times. “Which
you knew before you fell into her bed.”
“My father owns more property than she does,” Salisbury snapped. She leaned on the wall and pulled on her higher than necessary heels. “He’s richer than she is. He has more land than she does. He could flatten her if I ask.”
“But he’s not a Haye.” Edwina held her hand out as they reached the stone steps. “And neither are you.”
“What is that supposed to mean? So she’s got a title. She’s a bore.” Salisbury’s eyes misted.
“It’s not just any title. She’s a Haye.” Edwina helped Salisbury down the steps and ushered her through the dimly lit corridor. “If you’d like any other information please feel free to pick up a leaflet at the gatehouse, or visit the website.”
Edwina flinched as old floorboards creaked under her feet.
“Why are you so scared of her?” Salisbury muttered as Edwina grasped her elbow and dragged her through the huge hallways, the courtyard, the large arched gateway.
“Mick?” Edwina hammered on the door of the guard office. “Mick?”
She shoved open the door but the office was empty.
“I asked you a question. Why are you scared?” Salisbury laughed at Edwina and flicked back her long blonde hair.
Edwina gave her only a pained smile. “Please wait here for Mick to escort you.”
Salisbury rolled her eyes. “No, thank you. Unlike you, I’m not scared of her or some pathetic mist.”
Edwina shrank back and hurried back into the office.
Salisbury laughed a nasty laugh, hoping it covered the sobs. The mist
seemed thicker as the lights from the manor disappeared. The inky figures of trees seemed to watch her every step; their rustle sent a shiver up her spine. She hurried down the lit driveway, glad of the gatehouse coming into view. The place gave her the creeps. Who threw people out at three in the
morning? Her father would be furious. Yes, he’d make Sophie Haye pay for that.
Something behind her snapped. She jumped and glanced over her shoulder but saw only the mist. She picked up her speed. Just had to get out of the estate. Just needed to get away from the place.
She jumped, then scowled as she neared the gatehouse. Its lights the only thing she could make out through the mist. Hands grabbed her from behind. She spun around. “You?”
Salisbury dropped to the ground before she could scream.
SOMETIMES LIGHT HURT.
You know that feeling when you’ve drunk about ten times the amount any sane person would? Well, that was me right now. The scruffed up excuse for a bed smelled like the inside of a wine bottle, the pillow smelled like stale smoke, and I was pretty sure I stank of both.
Yeah, me and my bright ideas.
I rolled out of bed, hoping the room would stop swaying, and stared at the reason why I was alone. You see, when you have a successful career, people like you. They rate what you have to say, and sometimes they even stick around long enough to build something meaningful. Society approves . . . ish.
When you’re a cripple, no one gives a shit. In fact, you don’t exist. I didn’t. I’d been a detective inspector, PIP level four. You know what that is? There are four levels of investigator, PIP level four was the top. You work the big crimes, you work the real juicy cases.
At thirty-four, I’d been an amazing detective, engaged, great financial health, loving friends, great at sports but this morning was my birthday and I was thirty-five years old with no job, a fiancé who didn’t answer her phone, a medical pension, one friend, and try playing sport when you have a prosthesis.
The room was still swaying. My bedside table looked miles away. My “hand” was on it, baiting me. Next to it was my phone. It used to ring all the time. I stumbled over and flicked my finger over the screen. Two messages: One was my answer machine, the other was Bob, my sole friend. Wow, I was so popular . . . and grumpy. Hangovers would do that to a girl.
I called my voicemail and dared a peek in the mirror. Hint: I looked like shit. Bush instead of hair, glassy eyes, lipstick smeared over my cheek—not sure what that was about—and a black eye—I vaguely remembered assaulting the door of the taxi.
“It’s me,” my fiancé, Trin, muttered to my answering machine. “I guess you’re asleep. Anyway, a big case came in. I’ll call you when I get some free time.”
I raised my grazed eyebrow at myself in the mirror. The answering machine stated Trin had called at five in the morning. Guess she’d forgotten my birthday and dinner. How nice for my confidence.
I flicked to Bob’s message and smiled. Now I insulted him all the time. What self-respecting police officer lowered themselves to running school liaison? He was still a police constable too . . . because he wanted to be.
My phone rang and I jumped, then smiled. It was Bob.
“Morning, my dear. How is that epic hangover?” Bob chimed it at me with a full smug tone. I wasn’t a drinker . . . at all . . . and delighted in taunting him mid-hangover.
“Painful.” I grunted it much the same way he always grunted his reply at me.
“Good to hear.” He snickered and clanged something in the background.
“So, Fiona and I were talking.” Fiona being his long-suffering wife and my old administrator. “She thinks you should go into investigations . . . or back to law.”
“Fiona thinks too much.” I stumbled from the mirror—painful sight—and into the pokey excuse for a kitchen. Think galley but galley in a cardboard box. I would have splashed out on somewhere more luxurious but I’d never been home.
“Yes, but sometimes she’s good at it.” Said like he didn’t dote on her.
“She really thinks you’d make a good investigator. Someone where she grew up needs your help . . . she wondered if you’d think about it?”
Fiona was such a sweet lady. She’d been the kind of woman who brought in cakes, chatted freely and happily and organised me to the minute. Seemed like she still wanted to organise me.
“Bob, I don’t really want to follow people’s cheating spouses around.” I pulled open the fridge then shut it again as nausea hit me. Less about the hangover and more about the fact I hadn’t bothered to go shopping and the remaining slab of cheese was definitely out of date.
“This case is right for your taste buds. Have a think and let me know . . . it’s either that or Fiona will start looking for premises so you can set back up as a barrister.” Bob chomped on something and it made my stomach churn.
“Sure,” I mumbled. Uh oh . . . sickness rumbling.
“When you finish spewing, you need greasy. Trust the expert.” Bob snorted like he was delighted I was fighting my insides. “Happy birthday, my dear. Welcome to real adulthood.”
He hung up and I hung onto my stomach. Greasy . . . right . . . I’d do that.