Murder in Bloom

Maybridge Murder Mysteries

Cover of Murder in Bloom with the words Pre-OrderI’m delighted that the third of my Maybridge Murder Mysteries, Murder in Bloom, is now up for pre-order on Amazon.

As you can see, the kindle edition is at a launch price of 99p/99c. It won’t stay at that price.

So, what’s been happening in Maybridge since Christmas? Quite a lot. Abby’s business, Earthly Designs, is growing. And Jake has now moved into the cottage. He never left after Christmas.

It’s the summer half-term. Lucy—about to leave school—is off to a music festival with her boyfriend Cal. Tom is at a cricket coaching week. Sophie is camping with the Guides. Jake is away on a business trip in Ireland. Abby, meantime, has been working every hour to put the finishing touches to her show garden.
Today is judgement day.

The Maybridge Show

Maybridge Observer announcing Daisy Dashwood to appear at Show for Murder in BloomThe Maybridge Show has been an annual event in Maybridge since Sir Harry Beaumont was granted a patent to hold a fair by Queen Elizabeth I back in the sixteenth century. (For more about ancient fairs visit the National Archives.)

It was a gathering for livestock and horse trading, a time to make deals and hire servants. It was also an opportunity to let your hair down and have a good time. There was drinking, gambling, women. And there were villains and pickpockets ready to take advantage of the those with money on the hip.

Click on the image to read the newspaper!

A day out for the family

Sketch of People at a Theme ParkThe Maybridge Show is held at Beaumont Court every year—civil wars and other inconveniences excepting—but it is now a much more family friendly event.

The only rivalry will be in the show tents as adults and children compete for rosettes in the show classes. For the best, the biggest, the weirdest vegetables. For miniature gardens and flower arrangements.

Preserves, cakes, home made wines and beers and crafts of every kind will be judged for pride rather than financial reward. And there are a host of entertainments.

Television arrives in Murder in Bloom

News and media - word cloud Keen to attract the social media and television coverage of the big flower shows, the committee have now introduced show gardens. Abby, approaching her own, is content that she has achieved a major personal ambition. She tells herself that It doesn’t matter a jot what colour medal she’s been awarded.
Who is she kidding!

While she is still absorbing her gold medal, Maybridge-born celebrity gardener Daisy Dashwood arrives with a film crew in tow.

Daisy Dashwood

Person sneezingDaisy is famously prone to hay-fever—such a nuisance for a gardener. (But such a business opportunity.) There are rumours of a drink problem and she is somewhat unsteady on her feet.

Daisy admires Abby’s garden then takes a little breather in her “summer house”. Before leaving, she insists Abby join her on stage in the marquee for the broadcast of her television show, The Potting Shed.

She doesn’t wait to take no for an answer but, having made a cutting remark about the next designer’s garden—they have history—she moves on.

What does Abby do?

Mug with the words What Would Abby Finch Do? Just right for Murder in BloomAbby makes her way to the marquee to find it in chaos. Daisy isn’t there, Poppy, her sexy show “sidekick”, has been rushed off to hospital with a scald. Abby is handed a mike and told to hold the fort until Daisy turns up.

She does her best, but the audience want Daisy. When she finally staggers into the marquee, she collapses in front of the shocked audience.

Is it a combination of an excess of hay fever medication? She had been warned. Or could it be vodka in her water bottle? Abby discovers that Daisy isn’t quite the “sweetheart” her PR image would suggest. More than one person is keen for Daisy to lose her television slot. Maybe to lose a lot more.

Could it be murder in bloom?

Poison BottleThe unexplained death of a national treasure is a disaster for Maybridge. Acting Detective Sergeant Dee Newcombe is sent to seek out Abby and ask for her help.

Her suspicions grow, as does the suspect list and Abby, unable to resist a mystery, dives in…

Read Murder in Bloom to find out what happens next.

Maybridge

And if you want to see what is in my head when I’m writing this series, this is the town on which I based my fictional Maybridge.

PS

Daphne du Maurier first place award certificate for Murder Among the Roses with book coverAnd in late news, I have just heard that Murder Among the Roses has won first place by the RWA’s Kiss of Death Daphne du Maurier award for excellence in mystery/suspense in the cozy mystery category!

PPS It’s still free at the moment so if you haven’t read it now is the time to grab a digital download!.

 

Liz Fielding

Liz

Gold and jewellery. From earliest times? For females only?

One of the things that struck me on recent visits to museums in Crete and Santorini was the sheer amount of gold and jewellery on display. Much of it dated from millennia ago. And the workmanship was often exquisite, as you can see.

necklaces 1400-1300 BC from Archanes, Crete

necklaces 1400-1300 BC from Archanes, Crete

Gold necklaces, rings, bead, Heraklion Museum

Made me think about what that means in practice.

Imagine goldsmiths working in Crete in 1500  or 2000 BC. They would be working with the relatively soft Bronze-Age tools—no acetylene torches for them; no hard steel implements, because smelting of iron didn’t start till around 1300-1200 BC—and with only experience and handed-down skills to guide them in their manipulation of metal and fire. Continue reading

Risk and Rewards of Re-reading Fiction

Old library with pile of books and vintage alarm clock on top of them on a desk.This last few weeks, I’ve really been experiencing the risks and rewards of re-reading fiction. As regular readers of this blog will know, I am deep in Project De-cluttering.  This is long overdue and requires me to find room on my bookshelves to put many, many books that are currently sitting in piles on tables, desk, clavichord and, I’m afraid, even the floor.

Find room on bookshelves? Easier said than done.

Part of the solution has been to install a new set of shelves on a small wall space in my newly refurbished spare room. (The refurbishment was responsible for starting Project De-cluttering, to be honest. Pure desperation.)

So far, I’ve cleared the spare room of books-on-the-floor and books-on-the-blanket-box and bedside table. It turns out that the new shelves offer the perfect space to gather my ultimate classics from a lifetime of reading romantic novels.

But deciding which books get a place Is a major problem. Ideally many books will need re-reading and I am much too willing to slip into a beloved fictional world and forget – well, everything. Continue reading

Women in Ancient Greece were Chattels. Or were they?

Greek temple at Paestum, Italy

Greek temple but not in Greece. This temple is in Paestum, Italy

Everything I’d read suggested that women in Ancient Greece were chattels. That their position was even worse than that of women in Ancient Rome. Neither could be citizens. First their fathers governed (owned?) them; then husbands and sometimes even grown-up sons. They should remain within the home, concentrating on children and weaving. (The distaff side that Sarah mentioned last week was much to the fore.)

gold ornaments from Machlos, Crete, 2600-1900 BC

gold ornaments, Machlos, Crete, 2600-1900 BC

You may recall that the law placed restrictions on what freeborn women in Ancient Greece could do (see my earlier blog on sumptuary laws). Our freeborn woman could not leave the city at night, nor could she wear gold jewellery or a  garment with a purple border, nor could she be attended by more than one slave. (There were exceptions, relating to being drunk or a courtesan or committing adultery. Yes, quite.)

Women in Crete were different?

Continue reading

Catherine Gordon Byron – a bad mother, or Gothic heroine?

Catherine Gordon Byron

Earlier this year I wrote about the Romantic poet and favourite bad boy, Lord Byron.  In that blog, I mentioned his wild family but concentrated on his father’s side. They were all, well, shall we say wild and wayward. Now it’s time to redress the balance.

I want to talk about his mother, Catherine Gordon Byron, who has at least some of the hallmarks of a Gothic heroine. Let’s start with her ancestors.

The distaff side

Rabbit hole warningNot a term we hear a great deal about, these days, unless you work in the textile industry, so here’s a bit  more information.

WARNING, A RABBIT HOLE! Continue reading

Romantic Hero in Archetype and Fashion

Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

During the last few weeks all occasions have conspired to make me think about the hero in archetype and fashion; specifically the romantic hero.

First there was my book winnowing, about which I have already mourned on this blog.  Identifying the books I absolutely couldn’t bear to part with has resulted in a personal romantic classics shelf.

Then there was describing one of my current works in progress to a non-writing reader. (Well, she did ask me.) Did my romantic hero have to be a lust object, she wondered. I considered. I mean I love him to bits but he can be seriously annoying, to author and heroine alike. Not a universal lust object, I concluded.

We talked a bit about myth, story theory and Christopher Vogler’s influential guide to the Hero’s Journey (based on Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces).

Which brought us to Bridgerton, the Netflix Phenomenon, of which more in a future blog.

And then, following the recent awards for the Romantic Novel of the Year, I’ve been dusting off my collection of the award winners of the RNA’s first half century, 1960 – 2010. And oh boy, did the fashion in heroes change over that time. Continue reading

Reverted Books and Digital Publishing

Secondhand Books

I have been a published author for thirty-two years. I’ve had bestseller stickers at Amazon and won a number of awards. It’s been a great career.

Sadly, though, my publisher’s business plan was to put up a book for a month and then it was gone. If a reader wanted to find a copy, they had to hunt it down in a library or look on secondhand bookshelves.

Then a publishing revolution occurred with the arrival of digital publishing and suddenly it was all about the eBook. Continue reading

Spinalonga : Venetians, Ottomans, Lepers

Spinalonga is a tiny island off Crete, next to a much larger peninsula, also (confusingly) called Spinalonga. It (the little island) was one of the really interesting places we visited on my recent trip to Greece. It was a beautiful day when we went there, as you can see from the image below, taken from the boat.Spinalonga, off Crete, from sea

The island has a long history and was strategically important during the wars between the Venetian and Ottoman Empires. The Seventh (and last) of the Ottoman Venetian Wars was in 1714-1718. That was when Venice finally lost Spinalonga to the Ottoman Empire.

Strategic importance?

Map of Greece, Crete, SpinalongaThis is where Spinalonga lies (circled in red on north-east of Crete in this map of Greece and the Adriatic):

The island was part of Venice’s extensive fortifications against the Ottoman Empire. They acquired Crete after the Fourth Crusade in 1204. They began fortifying Spinalonga in 1578, with blockhouses at the highest points and a ring of fortifications. This map shows their work.Spinalonga, Venetian fortifications

One of the huge bastions (highlighted yellow in the early Venetian map above) is named after Luca Michiel, the engineer who planned it in 1579. It has seven cannon ports. The half-moon-shaped (mezzaluna) Bastion Michiel is still impressive, both from the landward side and from the sea. Definitely not the place to attempt a hostile landing.

Spinalonga, Basion Michiel, land side Spinalonga, Bastion Michiel, from sea

Continue reading

Saying Goodbye to Too Many Books : Culling Hurts

A mountain of books, some flying off into the air.This last few weeks has been traumatic for me — I have been saying goodbye to too many books. Culling hurts.

The immediate cause has been simply building work. All the books from one room have been under a tarpaulin for the duration. Now the builders have gone, the room itself gleams with fresh paint, clean carpets and a new en suite shower and loo.

3 hard-backed books bound in blue. held together with twine. On top of them is a cup and saucer, bearing a red heart logo and holding a bunch of blue forget-me-knots The books, however, are higgledy piggledy and covered with dust. Much of that, I have to admit, both dust and disorder, settled in long before the building work started.

And that leads me on to  the deep-seated long term cause. Both darker and more complicated, it involves memories, energy levels and some serious avoidance issues. And a neurotic cat. Continue reading

Shortlists: Romantic Novel of the Year Awards 2024

Now updated with winners in Bold
Sarah Mallory RNA RNOTY 24

AND SHE WON!!
HUGE CONGRATS TO SARAH

The Night She Met the Duke, by Libertà hivie Sarah Mallory, is in the shortlists (in the Historical Romantic Novel category) for this year’s Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.

These awards are judged entirely by readers, without input from any industry professionals and there are some great books on the lists, including many by good friends of Libertà.

Woman in a bare-shouldered party dress with champagne glass in her hand looks across a night time city scape and smiles.Congratulations to each and every one!

The winners of the awards will be announced during the Romantic Novel Awards ceremony, which is being held at the Leonardo Royal Hotel London City, 8-14 Cooper’s Row, London EC3N 2BQ, on Monday 20th May 2024 at 6.30pm.

THE CATEGORIES AND FINALISTS ARE BELOW
(authors are listed alphabetically in shortlists)
Winners in bold green (updated 21st May)

Continue reading