A belated thank you…

When I begin to collect my thoughts about a new book sometimes there are areas where I simply don’t have the expertise to write convincingly. Take my current WIP set on an estuary town in south Cornwall. There are three families central to the plot, one of them owning a vineyard. Now I have absolutely no idea what happens between grape and bottle so professional guidance was definitely needed. Fortunately we have a local vineyard only a ten minute walk from home so it was easy to book an appointment for a tour where I could view the processes, make notes and ask questions.

Rewind to 2012 when I embarked on The Other Side of Morning – now released under the title Wicked Game. Rock musician Christian Rosetti was one of the central characters and part of the plot saw him on tour throughout Europe. Now I had absolutely no idea about music tours, but I knew someone who did.

Jane Risdon has been a long term social media friend. We came together through our joint love of music and I was aware of the time she spent in LA working with some of the most famous stars in the music business. Who better then to advise on how to write the scenes I needed for this book?

She took time with me, answered my questions and gave me a huge amount of information which gave me a broad view of what touring with a rock musician entailed. Jane’s expertise was invaluable and enabled me to send Christian off on a ‘virtual’ European tour safe in the knowledge I actually knew what I was talking about!

In 2017 Jane collaborated with fellow author Christina Jones to create her own rock star Scott in Only One Woman, a romantic novel set against the backdrop of the 1960s music scene.


Two women, one love story.

June 1968. Renza falls head over heels for heartthrob guitarist Scott. But after a romantic summer together they are torn apart when Renza’s family moves away.

December 1968. On the night she believes to be her last, Stella meets Scott at a local dance. He’s the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and if this one night is all they have, she’ll take it.

As the final colourful year of the sixties dawns, the question is: can there be only one woman for Scott?

Thank you Jane for all the support you’ve given me since we met on Facebook. You’ve been an amazing friend…

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Monday 7th January and it’s publication day for Wicked Game

SYNOPSIS

Fashion designer Thérèse D’Alesandro has recently moved into Westhead Manor with daughter Felicia and stepson Marco. Joining forces with neighbour Ella Benedict, she is about to open a bridal boutique at Ella’s exclusive wedding venue Lawns at Little Court.

 Managing his father’s European restaurant chain, Marco has both the looks and charm to guarantee him any woman.  Any woman, that is, except the one he wants: Ella’s niece Charlotte.  Marco knows he should walk away as not only is she the most exasperating female he has ever encountered she’s currently in a relationship with rock star Christian Rosetti. But the chemistry between them is undeniable and sensing trouble brewing between Charlotte and the egotistical singer he is prepared to wait.

Charlotte’s cousin Lucy has discovered Christian’s guilty secrets – ones he has been keeping safely hidden from everyone. Determined to cause mischief and at the same time settle her own score with the arrogant star, she sets in motion a chain of events which eventually brings Marco and Charlotte together.

Thérèse’s husband Gianlucca has invited the granddaughter of an old friend to stay as a house guest while he undergoes heart surgery. Rossana Caravello is due to inherit the one of Italy’s premier vineyards on her twenty first birthday in September. Aware this would make an excellent addition to her husband’s international business portfolio, Thérèse plots to push the young heiress and her stepson together. Rossana is already besotted with Marco, but if the plan is to have any chance of success first she needs to get rid of Charlotte…

AMAZON LINK: https://tinyurl.com/ya8k36g2

  Wicked Game was previously published as The Other Side of Morning.

WICKED GAME IS ON TOUR 10TH – 16TH JANUARY 2019

DECEMBER UPDATE…

So here we are at the end of another year. 2018 has flown by and so much has happened during those twelve months. The biggest news, of course, is having my novel The Boys of Summer accepted by Choc Lit. and due for publication in 2019. Exciting times!

My current news is that Wicked Game, my latest novel, is due out on 7th January 2019 and currently available for pre-order on Amazon. Previously published as The Other Side of Morning (2013) , the fifth book in my Little Court Series, it has been reworked and can now be read as a stand alone novel.

The Story…

Fashion designer Thérèse D’Alesandro has recently moved into Westhead Manor with daughter Felicia and stepson Marco. Joining forces with neighbour Ella Benedict, she is about to open a bridal boutique at Ella’s exclusive wedding venue Lawns at Little Court.

 Managing his father’s European restaurant chain, Marco has both the looks and charm to guarantee him any woman.  Any woman, that is, except the one he wants: Ella’s niece Charlotte.  Marco knows he should walk away as not only is she the most exasperating female he has ever encountered she’s currently in a relationship with rock star Christian Rosetti. But the chemistry between them is undeniable and sensing trouble brewing between Charlotte and the egotistical singer he is prepared to wait.

Charlotte’s cousin Lucy has discovered Christian’s guilty secrets – ones he has been keeping safely hidden from everyone. Determined to cause mischief and at the same time settle her own score with the arrogant star, she sets in motion a chain of events which eventually brings Marco and Charlotte together.

Thérèse’s husband Gianlucca has invited the granddaughter of an old friend to stay as a house guest while he undergoes heart surgery. Rossana Caravello is due to inherit the one of Italy’s premier vineyards on her twenty first birthday in September. Aware this would make an excellent addition to her husband’s international business portfolio, Thérèse plots to push the young heiress and her stepson together. Rossana is already besotted with Marco, but if the plan is to have any chance of success first she needs to get rid of Charlotte…

A Big thank you…

I would like to give a mention to my editor Elaine Denning, to Jane Dixon Smith for yet another fabulous cover and finally to Rebecca Emin for her formatting expertise. Thank you so much for the support you have all given me during this latest writing journey.

And finally…

So it just remains to say, as 2018 draws to a close and we welcome in a new year, I would like to wish you all a very happy 2019 and hope the months head bring you everything you have hoped for.

Tomorrow I’ll be back on my blog, greeting the New Year with a few non-writing thoughts on 2018 and the coming year.

Best wishes Jo

NOVEMBER UPDATE…

30TH NOVEMBER, 2018

A whole month has passed since my last update. This year has flown by and it’s difficult to believe that from tomorrow there are only 31 days left in 2018.

I have a busy end to the year.  When I left work five years ago I honestly believed that settling down to full time writing would see me balancing my time properly.  No more would there be a day job which shunted my writing into evenings and weekends. No, life was going to be far less busy.  Of course, that simply hasn’t happened.

Now I am probably as busy as I was when working full time.  Of course there are days when the writing has to take a back seat. Dental and GP appointments, getting my hair done, meeting friends, shopping or going out with my husband for our regular Tuesday lunch dates – predictably there’s always some non-writing event cropping up.  Although I realised these things were a natural part of my life at first I found it frustrating.  I wanted to hit the targets I had set myself and at the time that meant getting as much writing in as I could. What I soon learnt, however, was that you can have writing overload and taking these intermittent breaks can actually improve your work.  You’re fresher when you come back to the PC. Your thoughts are clearer, you feel more enthusiastic and you have a clear map in your head of what happens next to move the story on.

Of course there is more to this new life than simply writing novels.  I also run an active blog and produce regular updates on my book website.  The blog – Jo Lambert – A Writer’s Journey  hosts a weekly Q & A session for writers, giving them an opportunity to promote their work. It’s also involved in publication date promos and book reviews for fellow authors.   Yes I do actually find the time to read!

As this month draws to a close my rewrite of The Other Side of Morning – now under its new title Wicked Game has just left the building for formatting.  Once again Jane Dixon Smith who has been with me since I published my very first book back in 2008, has produced a fabulous cover.

Wicked Game Cover MEDIUM WEB

Publication date is 7th January  I’ll be back to advise about pre-ordering a little later in the month. I also have a book tour commencing 10th January with Rachel’s Random Resources

The Boys of Summer, my debut for Choc Lit, is due out in 2019 and I should be getting down to edits in the New Year.

Other news in the run up to Christmas is that I have a Festive Offer on Summer Moved On and Watercolours in the Rain at 99p/99c each.  These are linked contemporary romances set in South Devon so you get two books for the price of one.

Jo Lambert Christmas Banner 2018

 

So at the moment with Wicked Game off my hands I’m able to give my full concentration to my current WIP, a contemporary coastal romance set in South Cornwall.  Currently sitting at 66,000 words, there’s still some way to go but I’m hoping to have the first draft ready just before Christmas.  Then I’ll take a break and be ready to start editing straight after we’ve welcomed in 2019.

And that just about winds up November’s news.  All that remains is for me to wish everyone reading this a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2019!

OCTOBER UPDATE…

I recently posted this as a page from my Book website. Although it reached Facebook OK not sure about Twitter.  Am therefore re-posting on the Jolambertbooks website’s blog…

I’m aware that I haven’t been in touch on this website, rather I’ve been posting on Facebook and Twitter but am about to remedy this.

2018 hasn’t turned out to be the year I thought it would be.  On 17th May, while we were away on holiday in Menorca, I received a text from Choc Lit asking me to contact them with a view to discussing publication of The Boys of Summer, a manuscript I had submitted to them earlier in the year.  Coming the day before my birthday I believed this was a good omen; that things could only get better.  The next day – my birthday evening,  I slipped off the bottom step of the staircase in our villa.  I was stone cold sober, not a drop of alcohol had passed my lips – in fact we were about to have a pre-dinner drink and the wine was sitting in a cooler on the coffee table.  I figured such a small slip would at worst see me with a sprain. Instead I ended up in Mahon ED, was x-rayed and my ankle put in a plaster.  I was told it was fractured and that I should I to go to my own ED department as soon as I returned to the UK.  Back home I discovered I had a triple break which required surgery and plating.  So began a very long journey which was to impact on  everything, including my writing life.

It was a month before I felt ready to attempt any writing.  Everything I had taken for granted was turned on its head.  In the days following my return home I had to get used to a whole new way of living with a non-weight bearing plaster.  It totally took over my life and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I spent those early days reading and binge watching TV box sets.  The glorious summer we had helped as it meant I could at least sit in the garden and enjoy the sunshine while I read. Happily though, the need to write eventually returned.  In late June I received my contract from Choc Lit which meant I knew I had to get moving on my second book for them.  I’d already got an idea in my mind for a story set on the South Cornish coast.  Fowey and Polruan, holiday destinations which I have great memories of, became my fictitious towns of East and West Kingswater.  The characters gradually began to evolve. Some I kept, some got lost along the way. However as my writing is organic, things do have a habit of changing. I’m now happy with what I have – working title Heron’s Gate is now 20,000 words in and another 60,000 to go.  A long journey, yes, but one which I now have a mental sat nav for- although that’s not to say it’s the route the story will eventually take.  I always try to keep an open mind while writing and am never surprised at what happens before I type THE END.

Now to my second project. Wicked Game.  This was previously published as The Other Side of Morning, the fifth book in my Little Court series.  Before I was contracted to Choc Lit, I had decided to take all these books off Amazon, rework and re-publish them.  The first one When Tomorrow Comes, was published in 2008, ten years ago.  I thought the series was commercial but hadn’t sold as well as it could have.  Those were my early writing days and as an indie author I still had a lot to learn, particularly about marketing.  So I decided to update, organise new covers and then re-publish. I was all set to do this when Choc Lit accepted The Boys of Summer, so it rather skewed the project and put it on the back burner.  However, The Other Side of Morning kept niggling at me, it simply wouldn’t go away.  It was the one book which could be read as a stand alone. It featured the second generation of the families and wasn’t directly connected to the other four books. After a lot of deliberating I made the decision to go ahead and work on it.  Now completed it is nearly 30,000 words slimmer and has a fabulous a new cover courtesy of Jane Dixon Smith. I had plans to publish at the end of October, but with all the Christmas titles out there at the moment and a delay on the formatting date I decided maybe it would be best to  hold off until the new year.

I will be back later with more information about the cover reveal, publication date and also when it will be available for pre-order.  Republishing a book is a delicate balance but I believe the story is strong enough to attract new readers who enjoy romantic sagas which are just a little bit different.

And the ankle?  When the final plaster came off in July then I had a orthopaedic boot for a month and physio.  It’s been a long journey. I’m still maintaining my daily physio regime but I never lost my determination to get back to walking normally (despite those who tried to encourage me to buy a telescopic walking stick which would tuck neatly into my bag – absolutely not!) – and I’m pleased to say I’m nearly there.  I’ve kept a diary and although the daily changes in my mobility may be small, looking back through it lets me see how far I’ve come and keeps me positive.

Summer Moved On – Final day at special Easter price…

Jo Lambert Easter Banner 2018

To celebrate Easter Summer Moved On, the first book of my South Devon Duo is on special offer over the holiday weekend.

For each of the four days this offer is posted I will be including an extract from different parts of the book as a taster…

 SYNOPSIS

a0e31-81imft4sfdl-_sl1500_After a long-buried secret tears her family apart, Jess Hayden moves to the South Devon village of Lynbrook to live with her uncle.   Rufus owns the village pub, The Black Bull, and having visited before, Jess knows the villagers well…especially one of them.

Talún Hansen has a reputation, making him the kind of man no decent girl should get involved with.  Jess, however, has been under his spell from the moment they first met.  Although they always seem to bring out the worst in each other, there is no denying the attraction that simmers between them – an attraction Jess knows she needs to keep under control after repeated warnings from her uncle.

As she settles into village life she begins to learn more about this wild, dark-haired gypsy with the compelling eyes, and realises their lives hold many similarities.  Despite her uncle’s warnings, she begins to spend time with him.  For Jess, the coming summer holds passion; for Talún the hope that he has at last found someone who truly cares for him.

But as autumn approaches, a dark shadow from Jess’s past returns, bringing far-reaching and unwanted changes for both of them.

BUY LINKS:

 ️http://amzn.eu/fClL0V7 http://a.co/6iMotg7

 

EXTRACT

Talún covered his eyes with his hands, wanting the world to go away. In all his emotional turmoil over Jess he had nearly forgotten the date, something that made him angry with himself as well as with her. He had vowed never to forget his mother, the woman who gave birth to him, who had devoted her whole life to raising him – someone who he still believed was out there somewhere and would return one day. In crazier moments of wishful thinking he’d dream of returning to the cottage to find her in the kitchen baking bread, her wild, brown hair tied back, and a smudge of flour dusting her cheek. Ellie had been responsible for teaching his mother to cook and, like everything else she turned her hand to, she had excelled.

And now, just when he thought he’d successfully hidden himself away here alone with his memories, Jess Hayden had turned up with her soft words of apology. His reaction to her intrusion and to the words he never imagined her ever saying to him resulted in one volcanic, emotional outburst as he hurled the axe at the nearest tree.

Afterwards, awash with misery and confusion, he slumped onto the nearest thing he could find: a hard, uncomfortable, fallen log. And now he was aware of warm pressure on his thighs and a soft voice breaking into the blanket of fog shrouding his thoughts. Pulling his hands away from his face, he found himself looking down into huge, brown, anxious eyes.

‘Talún, please, it’s all right.’

His first reaction was to push her away but he hesitated as he found himself unable to tear himself away from her concerned gaze.

‘Please I want to help,’ she said, her expression gentle as her hands covered his.

‘I don’t need any help; and why should you care anyway?’ he snapped, pushing her away and springing quickly to his feet.

‘Because I know how you must be feeling,’ she said quietly, as he moved away from her.

‘Jess, you haven’t the slightest idea how things are,’ he threw right back at her with a wave of his hand. Heaven help him, the last thing he needed was this sudden sympathy to make up for all her previous insensitive words, however well-intentioned. Who had told her why he was here, anyway? George, he expected; someone else with misplaced good intentions.

‘I lost my mother too.’

As he heard her words he stared at her blankly. It was the first time he had ever considered her situation. ‘Yes, I realise Amber was your stepmother. I’m sorry,’ he said quietly.

‘I was thirteen.’

Again he digested her words: a terrible age for a child to have their mother die.

‘She had an affair with a man almost half her age.’

Those words destroyed his previous thoughts and also made him realise why her reaction to his relationship with Leanna had been so hostile. He went to open his mouth but she clearly had not finished. ‘They eventually married and moved abroad,’ she continued. ‘I’ve not seen her since she left. In fact,’ she said with a small heave of her shoulders, ‘she didn’t even say goodbye. I came home from school one afternoon to find she had packed her things and gone.’

‘Gone?’ He looked at her in surprise.

‘Yes. The divorce had come through, she had remarried, and left for her new life in Mexico.’

‘How could she do that?’

Jess gave a strange smile. ‘You have to understand I never had the same sort of upbringing as other kids. Leo worked abroad for most of my childhood, we hardly saw him. I lived with my mother, although…’ she hesitated, ‘…I never saw much of her either because most of the time she was out – shopping or lunching with friends or at some evening thing she’d been invited to. I had various babysitters and went to sleepovers with school friends. So I would think leaving me behind was probably quite easy for her.’

Talún stood watching as she settled herself on the log he had been occupying. He had been eighteen when his mother had left. He still had the note she had written telling him she loved him and would be back in a few weeks. In contrast, Jess had simply been abandoned by a mother wanting a new life without the burden of a child.

‘And after she’d gone?’ he prompted.

‘Oh, Leo returned to sort things out, but he made it clear he was remaining abroad and I would have to board at my school. If it hadn’t been for Rufus I don’t know what would have happened.’

Talún paused for a moment. ‘I’m so sorry, Jess. I had no idea.’ This new awareness of her situation made him abandon all previous thoughts he’d had about who and what she was. Materially she seemed to have had it all but emotionally her growing up must have been tough. At least his childhood had been a happy one. Suddenly he wanted very badly to reach out and give her a simple hug. However, although he sensed things might be changing between them he was smart enough to know exactly where those new redefined boundaries lay. ‘I know our situations are slightly different,’ he added quietly, opting for a safe halfway house as he settled beside her on the log, ‘but I can see how it must have been very painful for you.’

‘It was,’ Jess nodded, tucking her hair behind her ear, intense brown eyes fixing themselves on him again. ‘But for me those bad memories are no longer an issue. For you, however, they are. You’re still hurting and you shouldn’t be here on your own today.’

Easter Promotion: Special offer – Summer Moved On 99p/99c…

Jo Lambert Easter Banner 2018

To celebrate Easter Summer Moved On, the first book of my South Devon Duo is on special offer over the holiday weekend.

For each of the four days this offer is posted I will be including an extract from different parts of the book as a taster…

SYNOPSIS

a0e31-81imft4sfdl-_sl1500_After a long-buried secret tears her family apart, Jess Hayden moves to the South Devon village of Lynbrook to live with her uncle.   Rufus owns the village pub, The Black Bull, and having visited before, Jess knows the villagers well…especially one of them.

Talún Hansen has a reputation, making him the kind of man no decent girl should get involved with.  Jess, however, has been under his spell from the moment they first met.  Although they always seem to bring out the worst in each other, there is no denying the attraction that simmers between them – an attraction Jess knows she needs to keep under control after repeated warnings from her uncle.

As she settles into village life she begins to learn more about this wild, dark-haired gypsy with the compelling eyes, and realises their lives hold many similarities.  Despite her uncle’s warnings, she begins to spend time with him.  For Jess, the coming summer holds passion; for Talún the hope that he has at last found someone who truly cares for him.

But as autumn approaches, a dark shadow from Jess’s past returns, bringing far-reaching and unwanted changes for both of them.

BUY LINKS:

 ️http://amzn.eu/fClL0V7 http://a.co/6iMotg7

EXTRACT

The day after the incident at the waterfall, three very determined thirteen year olds were busy plotting again. In Amanda Lee’s bedroom with the Sugarbabes playing in the background, they had been brooding over their recent failure. Their plan to be the envy of their classmates by displaying Talún in all his glory on social media had bombed miserably.

‘If only Jess Hayden hadn’t come barging out of the wood on her great snorting horse,’ Amanda complained, a pinched expression on her face. ‘We almost had him, you know.’

‘Well, it’s a waste of time trying again. He’ll be expecting us, won’t he? And he’ll probably wear his pants from now on.’ Kimberley pouted as she sat cross legged on the floor, twirling a finger in the curl of her dark brown hair.

‘I think she ought to be taught a lesson,’ Hayley, lounging on the bed next to Amanda, announced. ‘We need to give her a bit of a fright. After all, I lost my mobile because of her.’

‘Yeah, right.’ Amanda rolled over and sat up. ‘Like I’m sure she’ll be scared of us. And why are you moaning about the mobile, Hay? Isn’t your dad going to stump up for a new one? I don’t think you’ve got any reason to complain.’

The room fell silent for a moment and then, as the CD came to an end, Kimberley got to her feet. ‘I’ve just had the most amazing idea,’ she said with a wicked grin.

‘I know your ideas, Kim, they usually get us into trouble.’ Amanda eyed her anxiously. ‘My Dad plays golf with Rufus Hayden; if this goes wrong…’

‘Oh shut up, Amanda, you’re such a wimp at times. Nothing will go wrong because she won’t even know it’s us.’

Opening her mouth to protest, Amanda found Hayley’s hand on her arm. ‘At least let us hear what Kim has to say and then we can decide if we want to do it, okay?’

Reluctantly, Amanda nodded. With a spiteful smile, Kimberley leaned towards her two friends. ‘Right, now this is the plan…’

-o0o-

Kimberley and Amanda were crouched together, hiding in undergrowth above the track along the ridge. ‘Are you sure this is going to work?’ Amanda looked at her friend sceptically. ‘What if she’s taken a different route this morning?’

‘This is the main track through the wood, she always comes this way,’ Kimberly insisted, in a voice that indicated she was rapidly running out of patience with her friend.

The appearance of Hayley, running through the trees towards them, suggested their quarry was not far away. ‘Told you,’ Kimberley said, giving her friend a smug grin.

‘She’s stopped to give the horse a drink,’ she said, settling herself down with them and getting her breath back.

‘Right Amanda, get ready.’ Kimberley handed her a black hooded cloak and mask. ‘And make sure you completely cover your head.’

Holding on to her doubtful expression and trying to bury her annoyance at being the bait for this trap, Amanda slid down to the path, pulled on her disguise and carefully positioned herself on its rough, flat earthen surface.

‘Move out to the middle,’ Kimberley instructed, as she gazed down at the prone form of her friend, ‘that’s right. Pull the hood over your head a bit more and tuck your hair in. Good, now stay there and don’t move!’

Moments later they heard the distinctive sound of a horse’s hooves approaching. Jess rounded a bend in the pathway, riding slowly, her attention fixed on the river below. Kim and Hayley pulled on their own similar disguises of dark cloaks and masks, waiting until she got close enough to become aware of Amanda’s prone form lying in the dirt.

Eventually, Jess switched her attention back to the track, her eyes widening with surprise as she saw what looked like a heap of black rags lying on the path. Kim saw her frown as she dismounted and led the horse closer. Nudging Hayley, they crept quietly down the bank, positioning themselves directly behind her.

Dropping Skylark’s reins, Jess leaned over the body, her hand only inches from the mass of black material when it unexpectedly came to life. As she lurched backwards with a horrified shriek at the white faced monster that rose up before her, the two girls struck from behind. One heavy shove from Hayley knocked her completely off balance. Stumbling towards the edge of the pathway, her foot caught in an exposed tree root. Another push from Kimberley sent her tumbling down the steep bank towards the river, her scream echoing through the trees.

Kimberley grinned and pulled off her mask. ‘I knew these Trick or Treat outfits would work,’ she said, waving it at her two friends.

‘Kim, I thought we were only going to frighten her,’ Hayley said, with a worried look towards the river.

‘So, she’ll get a good soaking as well. Seems only fair, doesn’t it, after what she did?’ She glared at Hayley, daring her to argue.

‘I suppose so.’ The other girl shrugged uncomfortably.

‘What are you doing?’ Kimberley now turned her attention to Amanda who was leading Skylark towards a nearby tree.

‘Tying him up, of course. He might run off. We can’t expect her to walk home from here, not after…’

‘Of course we can,’ Kimberley interrupted, giving Skylark a sharp smack on his rump and sending him cantering off down the track. ‘Come on, let’s go home before she climbs back up,’ she said, pulling off her cloak with a grin.

Five minutes into their walk, Amanda halted. ‘My mask!’ She turned her black cloak over in her hand. ‘It’s gone. I must have dropped it.’

‘Leave it,’ Kimberley snapped at the panic stricken girl, ‘we can’t go back. She’s going to be as mad as hell when she gets out of the river soaking wet and finds her horse gone. The last thing we want is to run into her. She’s bound to know it’s us.’

-o0o-

Talún was almost home. It had taken less time than he anticipated for Joe Sellars, the blacksmith, to re-shoe Lukas and he knew it meant he would be arriving back at Manor Farm well in time for lunch. As he turned into the country road leading to the village, movement to his right made him look up. ‘Skylark?’ he said under his breath, as he recognised the riderless horse that had just emerged from the wood. A second thought colliding with the first reminded him George had selected the gelding for Jess to ride that morning. Urging Lukas forward, he went to intercept the animal, now busy cropping grass.

Skylark raised his head as Talún approached, patted the animal’s neck and retrieved the reins. ‘What’s happened to Jess, then?’ he asked gently, checking the horse over to make sure he wasn’t injured. ‘Let’s go take a look, shall we?’ he said, leading him back to where Lukas waited. Remounting, he followed the trail of crushed grass back towards the trees. Entering the wood, he decided to follow the high ridge track that ran parallel with the river, which he knew to be her usual route.

As he rode, he repeatedly called out her name, disappointed and frustrated when all that greeted him in return was the rush of the river below and birdsong in the trees above. Then, as he rounded a bend, he saw something white lying in the middle of the pathway. Dismounting, he walked forward and picked it up, turning the hideous skeletal mask over in his hand. All at once the implications of such an item lying here changed everything. He tied both horses to a tree and scanned the water below, but from this height and with the overhang of the bank he realised he was only viewing the far half of the river bed. Sliding down through ferns, soft earth and rock, he hovered on the lip of the bank and saw her, lying face down in green vegetation on the edge of the river, her legs immersed in water.

‘Jess!’ he called, lowering himself into the river and wading towards her. Turning over her lifeless body he knelt beside her and lifted her wrist, giving a huge sigh of relief when he found her pulse beating strong and steady. As he moved her onto a large slab of dry rock, he realised how lucky she had been. If she had landed the other way round with her head in the water she would most probably have drowned.

Setting her down gently, he began to pat her face. ‘Jess,’ he whispered, ‘Jess, come on, wake up,’ but she remained unresponsive. ‘Shit!’ He inhaled an agitated breath and pulling his phone from the back pocket of his jeans quickly dialled 999. His actions, however, drew another curse when he realised here in the middle of the wood he was in a mobile blackspot. Pocketing the phone, he lifted Jess gently into his arms. Keeping close to the bank, he made his way upriver, looking for a place that would allow him to reach the track above. Eventually he saw a break in the bank and headed for it, splashing through the shallows.

When he reached the horses he placed her carefully onto Lukas’s back, hauling himself up behind her. As he secured a steadying arm around her waist he felt sure he heard a slight groan. ‘Jess?’ He leaned forward in the saddle, his face next to hers, hoping to hear some response. When there was none he dug his heels into the roan and with Skylark in tow began making his way as swiftly as he could back along the track. As he rode, the first spots of rain came hissing through the foliage above, splattering his shoulders and face. The shower intensified and he urged the animal forward, eager to reach shelter as quickly as possible.