My new novel – Freya’s Choice – is set in the charming, picturesque and seemingly tranquil small town of Abbey St. Francis. Chocolate box thatched cottages sit alongside a meandering river. Birds of every hue sing and chirrup. The world moves at a slower place in communities like this, doesn’t it?
Well, don’t you believe it! In my small town – hardly much more than a village really – strange things happen within some of those cottages. Unnatural, spooky things. The river transforms into a raging torrent when it feels like it. A massive bird takes to the air and a new resident has moved in. One that will change everything for this peaceful little backwater.
In England there are many places like Abbey St Francis. And some of them are well haunted. Scarily well in some cases. Many of them hide deadly secrets. Oh yes, a lot can – and does – go on in the heart of rural England…
On the edge of the Cotswolds, nestling in some of the most beautiful countryside England has to offer, lies the pretty village of Prestbury (meaning ‘priest’s fortified place’). Already, we can get a hint of the history of the place. In fact, in the Doomsday book of 1086, its name was given as Preosdabryg. This is seriously ancient territory. Along with such antiquity, frequently come troubled spirits unable to find rest. It seems Prestbury is no exception.
In the peaceful parish church of St Mary, a monk known only as the Black Abbot created hauntings so severe and worrisome that he had to be exorcised. But no one has been able to remove him completely. Although banished from the church, he continues to wander the churchyard and disappears through a wall into a cottage in the High Street where he starts moving things around in the attic. He only ever does this at All Souls’ Day, Christmas and Easter.
Another - and most tragic - ghost is the young girl who haunts Sundial Cottage. She plays her spinet. Many people have heard it through the years and she appears to have been particularly active during World War 2 when a family, who took refuge there, reported sightings of her.
Other ghosts haunt Prestbury – the charging horseman, killed by an arrow during Edward IV’s reign, a phantom horseman, who literally lost his head during the English Civil War, and a number of others, perhaps as many as twelve, making this one of the most haunted villages in England.
Prestbury lies in the heart of England, in the vicinity of so many bloody battles fought over many centuries. So many people in that area had their lives torn away from them that perhaps it is unsurprising to find many of them still tread their ancient paths, searching for their elusive rest….
Freya’s Choice is published by Amber Quill Press. Here’s the blurb:
Nothing much happens in Abbey St. Francis, but Freya’s about to change all that...
Eve Lawson is no stranger to heartbreak. Three years ago, the man of her dreams betrayed her and left her unwilling to trust anyone ever again. So when gorgeous hunky farmer, Mark Latimer, starts to take more than a casual interest in her, she is cautious and nervous of committing either her mind or her body to him. But the attraction is there, and it’s growing. All Eve needs is just a little more time.
Abbey St. Francis—a sleepy, pretty village where nothing much happens and traditional values are held true—has been Eve’s home all her life. No one suspects that the beautiful young woman who has just moved into West Lodge is anything other than a wealthy and generous benefactor. But Freya Nordstrom is not what she appears to be.
Then the mysterious stranger takes more than a passing interest in Mark, and Eve knows she has a battle on her hands. But never in her wildest dreams could Eve have imagined the nature of the forces stacked against her...
Here’s a short extract:
...A loud flapping startled me. I looked up and couldn’t believe what I saw. The most massive bird I had ever seen flew past me and hovered, silhouetted against the moon. Then it flew directly toward West Lodge. I glanced back down at the cats. Their ears twitched, but nothing more. I searched the sky for the giant bird again, but it had disappeared.
Could I have imagined it? Surely not. I certainly wasn’t imagining those cats or the malevolence in their eyes.
My knees buckled from my unaccustomed crouching position, but I was scared to make any rapid movement, and Freya’s cats continued to stare at me. Their eyes narrowed, as if at any moment they would pounce and tear me to shreds. But their hackles didn’t rise, they didn’t arch their backs, spit or make any of the warning gestures cats employ to let you know they’re about to strike. They just sat there, like statues. Waiting.
My knees ached and I had no choice or I would simply keel over. Slowly, I rose to my feet, wobbling with the effort, while I kept my eyes on the animals.
Their gaze traveled upward with my movement. A chill wound itself around my spine, spiraling the length of it, and I shivered.
Then, as if receiving some signal I couldn’t hear, they blinked in unison and turned away. They slunk down my path before jumping over the wall and out of sight. I continued to watch and, in the light of the streetlamp at the bottom of Freya’s drive, saw them emerge and pad slowly up her long drive. They matched each other step for step, their tails held high.
Then I saw a tall figure striding down Freya’s drive toward me. He passed the cats, apparently without acknowledging their presence. Too dark and far away to make out his features, my heart still lurched.
Mark. I could see the familiar long hair fanning his shoulders, the white shirt and dark pants. Tears pricked my eyes. At that moment, I wished with all my heart I hadn’t seen him. It couldn’t be happening again. Surely he wouldn’t betray me as John had. After all he’d said to me. And I’d believed every word.
So Freya had been telling the truth. Somewhere along the line she’d made his acquaintance, and now I knew why he hadn’t answered his phone. He’d been with her.
I told myself to calm down. There could be a hundred innocent explanations for his visit. But unless I asked him, I wouldn’t know. I hurried down my path and opened the gate.
“Mark! Hi!” I hoped I sounded nonchalant, but a note of desperation had crept into my voice.
He reached the end of her drive and turned left. He was directly opposite me now, in shadows, on the other side of the lane. Any second and he would cross over.
He must have heard me, but not a flicker. He never broke his stride. Just carried on walking, farther down the lane, away from me, while I stood and watched him, my insides turning to mush in dismayed disbelief...
You can find Freya’s Choice here: