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Free Excerpt of Jane Jackson’s The Master’s Wife!

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We bring you an exclusive lunchtime treat – a cheeky snippet of Jane Jackson’s The Master’s Wife, the second book in The Captain Honours Series! 

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‘When you’ve finished writing, leave the pen and ink out, will you? I need to update the log.’

She glanced round and saw him strip off his shirt, revealing a broad back and muscular shoulders. Longing pierced and a flush burned her cheeks. He was her husband, the only man she had ever kissed, touched, held, loved.  He was her husband and he had lain naked with Louise Downing; made love with Louise Downing… She choked down a painful stiffness in her throat and carefully wiped the pen nib on a cotton square before laying it on the grooved wooden tray.

Water splashed, she smelled the fragrance of the soap she had used, heard the soft rasp of the towel as he rubbed himself dry, then the rustle of clothing as he dressed again.   He emptied and replaced the basin then carried the bucket and ewer to the door.

‘Goodnight.’ Caseley limped into the sleeping cabin, pulling off her shawl and dropping it over the foot of the berth. She reached for the curtain but didn’t touch it. With it drawn across, the small space that had once been a cosy private haven now felt lonely and claustrophobic. She lay down and pulled the blankets over her. Had she no pride? What kind of fool longed for a man who preferred someone else? A tear soaked into the pillow.

When Jago returned to the cabin he sat down and opened the log. Elbows propped on the table he raked both hands through his hair. Tension made his scalp ache.

He was ashamed of his pleasure at seeing Caseley out of the black that constantly reminded him of his failure. Recognizing her uncertainty about wearing a summery dress, he had hoped to reassure her. She was still hurting, her loss still a raw wound. She hadn’t uttered a word of complaint. That made it worse. He didn’t know what to do and hated his helplessness.

After meeting the reporter in the Custom House, he and Pawlyn had walked along the quay to Cygnet. Making conversation, Pawlyn had asked if he had family. He’d said no, and left it at that. Explanations would invite commiserations that were pointless and painful. They reminded him too vividly of Caseley’s drawn, grief-ravaged face when he arrived home too late.

How could he ever make it up to her? Did she even want him to? That her rage seemed to have dissolved only increased his guilt. Their conversations were pleasant and their unspoken understanding of each other’s thinking on all other matters was still intact. If only she would meet his gaze, she would surely see everything he could not find words for: how much he missed her, needed her.

Several times, about to blurt it out, he had bitten his tongue to stop himself. Such a confession would make it about him and that was self-indulgence while she was coming to terms with such devastating loss. He would live with the permanent ache at the base of his skull and a gut tied in knots. He would wait for as long as it took. He had adored his sons. But Caseley was the love of his life. So he would wait until she was ready, until she turned to him.

***

The Master’s Wife is available to purchase on amazon.

For news on Jane Jackson make sure you head on over to her Facebook page or follow Jane on Twitter 

Tom Williams on the anniversary of Cawnpore

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One rainy weekend, I was stuck in a small house in the middle of Wales with no TV or Internet. We used to make our own entertainment in those days, but, lacking a piano for us to organise a singsong round, I resorted to reading. Picking books off the shelf more or less random I came across a history of the Indian Mutiny. The more I read, the more fascinated I was. Although the Mutiny had its share of battles and derring-do, an awful lot of the history of that terrible year was about individuals and their relationships with other people. More than in most conflicts, success or failure seemed to depend on the ability of leaders on both sides to convince people of the justness of their cause. Indian rulers chose between loyalty or a revolt based on their estimation of the men they were dealing with. Some Indian regiments mutinied, while others, in almost identical situations, fought under the British flag because they believed in their commanders.

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For anybody like me, whose historical fiction tends to focus on armed conflict but who isn’t that interested in matters military, the opportunity to write about a conflict where the human element was so vital to the outcome was too good to miss. The question was: where should I focus the story?

In the end, I decided on Cawnpore because the protracted struggle there allows us to look in depth at what drove both sides. It also seemed to me a subject that would be familiar enough to my readers for me not to have to worry about their finding the whole idea of the siege and the massacre too alien to grasp. Alas, I have given away my age. When I was at school, we learned about Cawnpore presented somewhat one-sidedly as the heroic struggle of the besieged British, the treachery of the local Indians, and the terrible massacre of women and children. When I talked to younger friends, though, it turned out that nobody nowadays knows anything about Cawnpore at all. So I’m going to write about it here. (Don’t worry: you don’t need to know the history to enjoy the book, but you might well be interested in the background anyway.)

In 1857 the British had been ruling India for exactly 100 years (assuming we measure from Clive’s victory at the Battle of Plassey). British rule had become a bit complacent, a bit arrogant, and a bit greedy. The native rulers were becoming increasingly impatient with their European overlords and the native soldiers, who we relied on to maintain our rule, were complaining that we were no longer treating them with proper respect. Things came to a head with a rumour (quite probably false) that we were using pig and beef fat to grease the cartridges that we issued to our native troops. As part of musket drill, the end of the cartridges (made of greased paper) was ripped off with your teeth (hence the expression “bite the bullet”). To bite pig fat was anathema to Muslims, while Indians would lose caste by touching the beef.

Whether the cartridges were really the issue, or whether they were simply the casus belli for a planned revolution remains an open question, but on 10 May 1857 troops at Meerut refused an order to load with these cartridges and the Indian Mutiny had begun.  Mutinies of Indian troops and outbreaks of rebellion by local leaders soon spread across the whole of north-west India.

In June, the rebellion reached Cawnpore. The tiny British force stationed in the town was commanded by General Wheeler, a man coming to the end of a long military career. He had not seriously considered the possibility of the Indian troops and the local leader, Nana Sahib, turning on them. They had made totally inadequate provision for defence. Wheeler’s force consisted of around sixty European artillery men with six guns, eighty-four infantrymen, and about two hundred unattached officers and civilians and forty musicians from the native regiments. In addition, he had seventy invalids who were convalescing in the barracks hospital and around three hundred and seventy-five women and children. They were surrounded by hugely bigger Indian force, supported with cavalry and artillery from 6th to 25th June, the British forces were under continual bombardment by day and sometimes by night. They nevertheless managed to hold out until they were offered safe passage in return for their surrender.

The Indian forces, under Nana Sahib, reneged on the terms of the surrender and attacked the British as they boarded the boats they had been promised would take them to safety. The massacre (and massacre it was, as almost all the soldiers who had survived the siege were killed at the boats) was bad enough, but terrible things happen in war. It was what came next that made Cawnpore a byword for horror for almost a century and was used to justify appalling acts of retribution by the British after the real fighting in India was over.

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The European civilians had taken shelter with the army when mutiny broke out at Cawnpore. The men fought alongside the soldiers and were massacred with them. There were, though, around 375 women and children who were also trapped in the siege. It was concern about the safety of these civilians which was a principal reason for the surrender. Many of the women and children were killed at the boats, but after the initial bloodshed, those who survived were taken prisoner. They were kept in a private house. The house was said to have once belonged to the mistress (or ‘bibi’) of a British officer, and it was therefore called the Bibighar. Around 180 women and children were imprisoned there.

Conditions in the Bibighar were, to put it mildly, poor, but some effort was made to ensure that the prisoners received food and medical attention. They were even occasionally allowed to take the air outside the house – an important concession in a jam-packed building in the summer heat.

It seems likely that Nana Sahib didn’t really know what to do with his prisoners. There were those in his court  who demanded that he show mercy to the women and children. Others, though, had a different agenda. As the British forces sent to relieve Cawnpore drew close to the city, the latter group gained the upper hand.

A little before 5.30 in the evening of 15 July, the women of the Bibighar were told that Nana Sahib “had sent orders for their immediate destruction”. The soldiers ordered to do the killing refused, most firing instead into the ceilings.

In the end, five men (two of them butchers) went into the Bibighar with swords and cleavers and set about hacking all those within to death. Their leader hacked with such a combination of enthusiasm and incompetence that he twice broke his sword and had to send out for new ones.

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The next morning, the bodies were removed and thrown down a nearby well. It emerged that not all of them were dead, but the wounded were thrown in anyway. Three or four children, who had survived uninjured, ran helplessly around as the bodies were disposed of. Once the adults were all in the well, the children were killed and tossed in after them.

The horror of Cawnpore led to reprisals that were themselves horrific. The repercussions echo, albeit increasingly faintly, even to the present day. Nana Sahib is honoured as a hero in modern India.

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The story of British colonial rule in India is not straightforward. The British did much good, as well as great harm. The lesson of Cawnpore, though, is that when one culture imposes its rule on another, the result is often behaviour that brings out the worst in both.

The Williamson Papers are all available on amazon.

1.The White Rajah

2. Cawnpore

3. Back Home

Keep up to date with Tom Williams via his Facebook, Twitter and Blog.

 

Missing Nancy – A novel about living, loving and family life – Five Star Amazon Review

Missing Nancy - a novel about living, loving and family life
A beautifully written book about a modern family, after divorce through the eyes of each generation. Mum bravely taking her family camping in France was portrayed so wonderfully. Can only strongly recommend this to others. Will definitely read more from this talented author.

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A Handful of Ash – a Cass Lynch Mystery by @MarsaliTaylor – Five Star Amazon Review

A Handful of Ash (The Shetland Sailing Mysteries)
”I’ve read all three of the books in this series now, and they really just go from strength to strength. Ms. Taylor is a remarkably good writer. The stories are compelling, and the characters are both interesting and believable. I really love Cass, and I think it’s a great portrayal of a independent young woman still working out her place in the world. Even some of the clichés of the crime genre that can get a bit old–like the love triangle–are believable and fresh here. I can’t wait for the next one!”

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Swordland by @ruadhbutler – Five Star Amazon Review

Swordland (The Invader Series)
”Superbly researched and thrillingly told, Swordland is a vivid portrait of the ferocious but godly Normans as they rampage through Wales and Ireland. Writing in a lucid, descriptive style that brings to life landscapes, characters and battles, Butler delights in a narrative that blazes with intrigue and spine-chilling bloody action, while still managing to weave themes of religious affiliation, kinship and questions over birthright like golden threads in a medieval tapestry.”

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Wicked Words – a @HoneyDriver Mystery – Five Star Amazon Review

Wicked Words - a Honey Driver Mystery #7 (A Honey Driver Murder Mystery)
“Amusing, confusing and enthralling. Well written tale. This series of books is totally addictive. Recommended read. Looking forward to the next story.”

“A good mystery with some great laughs this should be on your `not to be missed’ pile. Highly recommended.”

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An Unusual Midwife: An Accent Amour Medical Romance – Five Star Amazon Review

An Unusual Midwife: A Heartwarming Medical Romance (99p Medical Romance Specials Book 12)
“Enjoyable story about life as we would like it to be. Very escapist! I read a lot of hospital story’s. The sort of book you can pick up and put down for an od half hour when the opportunity arises without losing the thread.

I enjoy Gillian Sanderson’s writing, they certainly give you the ‘feel good’ factor. Have read many of her books.”

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The Chain Garden by @JJacksonAuthor – Five Star Amazon Review

“Set in Cornwall, this novel follows the dynamics of a family struggling to come to terms with their individual pasts. All the characters are well drawn and their problems completely believable, especially Grace, whose story this is. […]
Very well written and a fascinating picture of life in a Cornish village at the turn of the 20th century.”

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Toxic Gossip by @FalconerFiles – Five Star Amazon Review

Toxic Gossip: (Brief Cases) (The Falconer Files - Brief Cases Book 4)
“I enjoyed the book. Convinced me to try other Falconer File books and Andrea Frazer other books. I surprised by ending a ‘comfy’ bedtime read.

If anyone likes Agatha Christie with a modern twist, an on-going story in each book and great touches of humour amongst the murders this is the type of book you will enjoy. I have read all but the Christmas Mourning book which predictably I am saving to read over Christmas… so I hope you enjoy the Falconer stories as much as I have.”

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Loving Susie by Jenny Harper – Five Star Amazon Review

Loving Susie: The Heartlands series
’Loving Susie’ is not a straightforward romance, although love is at its heart. Every member of the Wallace family finds new love, gets entangled in a fateful relationship or struggles to maintain an established one. It’s a story about a family, and about what happens when secrets surface and trust is undermined. And, as in ‘Face the Wind and Fly’, the heroine is under pressure from other directions too – this time because she’s an outspoken politician and because her family problems make her take her eye off the ball.

There are big issues woven throughout, and Jenny Harper is great at engaging you with her characters and their problems. And her writing, again, is a delight.”

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