Saturday, 28 July 2018

"The Folded Notes" Historical Fiction set in India on the Indian Railways, by Mandz Singh



Blurb of The Folded Notes by Mandz Singh


Inspired by true events

Bath, 1898: Catherine embarks on a trip with her mother to Lahore in India to meet her father, who is posted at the Punjab University.

There, her path crosses with Kharak, a recently qualified engineer from Lahore who works for the Indian Railways, and a mutual friendship blossoms.

In disapproval, her father, with the help of Ivan, a colonial engineer, conceives a plan to keep Catherine from falling in love with Kharak by getting him sent away to work in another British colony.

He manages to leave two notes for Catherine before departing.

Realising that her feelings for him are overwhelming, she leaves Lahore, following him to Mombasa without her parents’ knowledge.

Little does she know that not only will Ivan be there as Kharak’s supervisor, but as her pursuer.

With everything to lose, hope is all Catherine has to enable her to triumph in expressing her enduring love for Kharak.


“The book’s cross-cultural relationship is refreshing, and its peek into sites around Lahore is delightful.”

- Kirkus reviews




Buy link: https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/historical/the-folded-notes/ 






Excerpt from The Folded Notes by Mandz Singh



The chirps of the native rock buntings were a poetic harmony to wake to. The golden rays of the morning sun trickled through the glass window and hit the bed. Catherine’s eyes slowly adjusted to the bright morning sun as she gradually woke up. Her body felt weightless, relaxed, and her mind addled.
A knock on the door finally awakened her senses, and she realised where she was.
“Come in,” she answered, befuddled.
The door creaked open and Sana, the lady’s maid, wearing a peach sari and holding a tray with a teapot and teacup on it, walked in.
“Good morning, memsahib,” she said softly. “Your bed tea is here. I shall leave it by the bedside.”
“That will be lovely, thank you,” Catherine replied as she leaned up and backwards, resting on satiny cotton pillows in front of the cushioned headboard.
The aroma of the Darjeeling tea brewing in the teapot beside the bed was invigorating.
“Is there anything else you need, memsahib?”
“No, thank you.”
The woman bowed and effortlessly walked backwards in her sari, closing the door behind her.
Without hesitating, Catherine made a cup of tea and took her first sip; it was different to the tea she was accustomed to. It had a refined taste that she immediately liked. She placed her cup on the tray, got up and walked towards the curved armchair next to her bed and collected her bath gown to wear over her nightdress.
Picking up her cup of tea, she walked towards the window and twisted the brass handle to open it. Lavender-flowered jacaranda trees intertwined with red-flowered sumbul trees greeted her eyes. The lawn was lush green and finely manicured. The air was filled with a fragrant scent that was appealing and fresh.
Seeing the garden reminded her of the dream she’d had the night before. She scanned the garden, looking for those yellow flowers she had plucked, but there were none. After all, it was a dream.
It then came to her where she had seen the yellow flowers, and she remembered Kharak’s face.
She smiled to herself as she sipped her tea.

Kharak woke with a jolt. His heart was pounding as beads of sweat rolled down his forehead. He was breathless and hollow. It took him a few seconds to realise where he was and it was the biggest relief he had ever had.
It was just a nightmare. Mighty soul-destroying and numbing it was.
He should have held her hand; never let it go; perhaps he should have stopped her before she ran across the wooden bridge. It was disturbing to hear the cracking of the wooden planks and to see Catherine drop through the gap. He had held her hand, but it slipped through his. She screamed as she fell into the raging, brackish water of the river and disappeared. He yelled for her.
That’s when he woke up. It was just a bad dream, he reassured himself, wiping the sweat from his forehead as he allowed his pulse to come back to its normal rhythm.
He sat up on the edge of his bed with his feet on the floor and his forehead resting between the palms of his hands, and gradually the images of his dream drifted into the background as his reality overcame his sleepy thoughts.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Guest post - "The Lamorna Reach" by Joy V Sheridan. A dark historical romance

The Lamorna Reach presents a Zola-esque tableau of raw, elemental life in Cornwall at the time of the Napoleonic wars. Issy Penhalligan, the heroine, is incredibly beautiful and talented, but these qualities do not secure her a happy, comfortable life. She enters the world as a foundling, under the most brutal circumstances; she is fostered. Issy undergoes rape and abuse, and is pressurised into a prestigious but oppressive marriage. There is a saga of mutual obsession between her and the fascinating but totally dark and menacing Tobias Carmichael, who seduces but does not finally control her. There are brief glimpses of euphoria and romance. Issy is a fiercely independent spirit; true to form, she disguises herself as a man and goes on a maritime expedition. Eventually, jealousy and prejudice conspire against her. She leaves the world, but her spirit lives on.
This novel has the added bonus of multiple perspective, alternating between first and third person narration.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lamorna-Reach-Cornish-Saga-ebook/dp/B079T4QYGB


From The Lamorna Reach
(I can only compare the two of us to be some kind of immortal duellists, twinned in love and in hatred, with a thread running betwixt us that neither man, God, time nor space could alter.)
Tobias came towards me, his face light and shadowed; only his eyes were fixed, hard as serpents, or like stars in some mysterious galaxy – to my face. His hands were very steady as they reached out towards me. I noticed how pale he looked. Those hands – they seemed like birds winging their way all up and down me, fluttering. He made them seem to pass over me, moving from my shoulders to the tip of my head, then swooping them down to my ankles. I thought ’twas all most odd, but I was fascinated by his every movement: indeed, I got a rare measure of delight from this eccentric behaviour. Then, seeming satisfied, he moved away and sat in a chair. He looked down once, then up and straight into my face; he spoke clearly and slowly.
“Undress for me Issy, undress.”
I suppose he guessed my nervousness, or thought I needed more brandy. I know there was a sheen of sweat about my brow. I began to tremble very mildly. He handed me a glass of brandy, nodded at me solemnly as though he were some lawyer or judge. I drank a hefty amount, rather too quickly. I coughed as the flames of that molten potion burned my throat. He continued staring at me, sitting in the chair bolt upright, with his fingers stretched out along the arms. He moved one hand so that it supported his chin, his head being thrown slightly to one side. He moved his head again, his lips forming the unspoken command “U N D R E S S”.
I began to obey his wishes; the brandy had given life to my fingertips, which had suddenly numbed on me, from fear or chill. I began to ease the buttons undone from the side fastening of my blouse; then I shook my head – watching his reactions – trying, I dare say, to adopt his almost insolent attitude. I began to ease the garment over my head The underclothing I had was delicate but worn thin in places. My stitching, never first class, would – I was sure – give him the clue to my impoverished state. I had to pretend to be strong, so almost involuntarily I tightened the muscles in my chest, so that my breasts poked out, springy and firm.
He moved from the chair and began, very quickly, to undo his own garments – throwing off the jacket in a trice, then the waistcoat. With speeding fingers he had the breeches unbuttoned, till he was left wearing only his flannel undershirt. I could see his passion throbbing like a small ghost under the edge of the garment. But (and in imitation of him) I pushed the flattened palm of my upraised right hand at him. I was not ready yet and – if this was the game he contrived to play, then I could play it (I thought) as well as he.
Slowly I began to undo the fastening to my skirt, holding the blouse before my breasts. I let the garment flutter to the ground, then applied both hands to the skirt. I made sure to adopt some mightily provocative poses, for I had to occupy my time somehow at Whitehays and I was really quite a performer in this area. I shook my breasts towards him – the nipples hard and pointed. Sensuality was most assuredly in the air, so that the invisible musk of what was inevitable, seemed to be spicing the atmosphere. My hair was down and tumbling about my shoulders; it tickled a little and I suppressed the urge to laugh. It was a game in deadly earnest after all!
There was hunger in Tobias Carmichael’s face now. Again, I stopped him from moving in on me. I ran my fingers over my Mount of Venus, moving to a sideways position and pressing the fabric taut upon myself, so that he could see the better what was his principle design for conquest. Then – off with the skirt; the petticoat wriggled down to my hips, bending from the knees to pull at the waist, which was snagging over my heel, till at length I stood bolt upright before him, stark naked.
I recall saying to him that this was, on my part, planned adultery and on his seduction and ravishment – if not out-and-out stealing. He all but threw himself at me, but I was determined to play the game well and squirmed from his grasp – meanwhile giggling and attempting to hoist the shirt off of him. He got my drift and it was removed in a flash. The air was pressingly over-charged with our mutual longings – and in a pant, with an almighty gasp, he was in me – his tool actually seeming to hurt as though I were that same virgin girl he had taken three years before.
I began to relax, enjoying the sensations as they swept over me; I had all but forgotten what it was like to feel a man’s hardest and most intimate part moving within me. He was groaning and sighing, his lips devouring mine. I could feel the crescendo building up in his phallus, which was now so hard and big, that I wondered how I could take it. I stopped moving, for I wanted to prolong the ecstasy. He grasped my unspoken meaning and we lay still for a few minutes – both our loins throbbing, veins of pleasure sweeping about us, so that it seemed we were mutually bound by some exquisite electricity. I began to rise to a crescendo; our juices were flowing now and I could detect that rooting smell as it pervaded the air about us. He began to sense my moment – faster, faster – our antics were surely singeing the sheets. Then the ultimate: our outburst of joy was mutually matched. We lay quiet, sated to our first point – for that moment exhausted.
So the night continued, and ’twas as though the ardour increased with the coming dawn. Not that we hadn’t taken time to sup and drink, and to see that my poor little puppy had his eats. We left the inn, but I cannot truthfully say if what had passed between us had proved to quieten our mutual selves. Tobias rode with me to the outskirts of the estate. We barely communicated for the greater part, though I urged Carmichael to pick up Happy and let him ride on the steed in some fashion, for the poor little creature was all but beat. Carmichael pulled me down from my mount as we were nearing the entrance to the estate. His lips were all tenderness, his hands weaving delicate patterns about my cheeks and hair.
“Issy,” he murmured, “to the Gods: I believe it was not a ghost we’ve laid at all, but we have to raise a multitude of unearthly beings.” There was despair in his voice. I was mute: what could I say? Feelings of guilt and remorse were washing over me now that I was back on home terrain. He pushed me gently from him, surveying me; then he was down on one knee, looking up at me beseechingly. I gestured him up with an impatient wave; I felt foolish to be so approached.
Then I was all ruthlessness and was back upon Soda, flying up the drive towards Whitehays. I did not cast a glance to where Tobias stood. Panic – and a wild, exultant abandon were mixing in me like some illicit concoction, mixing perhaps like grape and grain.
I determined to leave Whitehays. I would find Morgan. Or Tom. Or anyone. Or no-one. For I could not let Carmichael have the possession over my being – as he had done three years earlier – and indeed had all but succeeded in doing once more, in the past ten or fifteen hours.