Anne Bonny #BookReview Shipyard Girls In Love by @arevellwalton 5* Genius #Saga #ShipyardGirls #Series #ww2 #WomenOfWW2 @arrowpublishing ‏ ‘The cleverly weaved secrets and expert plotting had me hooked!’

Shipyard Girls in Love
Shipyard Girls In Love by Nancy Revell
#4 Shipyard Girls Series

Review copy
Synopsis:

Sunderland, 1941

With a brief break in air raids providing some much-needed respite from the war, things are looking up for head welder Rosie, who has fallen head over heels for Detective Sergeant Miller. But how long can their romance last in such uncertain times?

Life remains full of challenges for Gloria, who must face her abusive ex-husband and confront her own guilty conscience about baby Hope’s real father. The secret is tearing her apart but if she admits the truth, she will risk losing everything.

Both women are determined that their love and faith will be enough to keep the most difficult of promises, but nothing is as simple as it seems…

My Review:

It is well known I am a huge fan of this series, I have sung its praises all over social media. I have to admit this is my favourite of the series so far! It starts off on a fabulous high, but slowly the cleverly weaved secrets emerge, and the ending left me desperate of the next edition to the series.

The novel opens in Sunderland 1941, We pick up pretty much where we left off. We have a brief update on the various girls and where they are now. We also learn they are working on a new ship named the Empire Brutus. There is some gossip and speculation about Martha’s parentage. The darkest update comes from Hannah, who learns her parents have been moved to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. She is desperate for news and concerned for their future. Will they make it out of the war alive?

Across town, Gloria is in a cheerful mood. After Arthur set to helping Jack regain his memories, he can now recall his love for Gloria and remembers baby Hope. Although he still suffers some memory loss and can’t remember his parents and childhood unfortunately. Jack is mystified that he recognised Hope despite never having seen her before. Gloria fears Miriam’s anger and revenge, but for the moment, she wears a huge smile upon her face.
Some of Jack’s memories maybe gone, but his feelings for Gloria remain.

‘She had the love of her life back’

We have a brief re-cap with another couple in-love this time, it is Rosie and Peter. Despite Rosie’s initial struggles to trust Peter, they continue to be absolutely smitten with one another. They decide for their future to succeed they must remain completely honest with one another and they have a heart to heart, where secrets are uncovered, and truths shared.

“I was just thinking how, if I died at this very moment in time, I would do so being the happiest man on earth” – Peter

There is also the impending wedding of George and lily. Which something tells me will be a wedding to die for. Lily is known to exude everything French and luxurious!

There is a minor love triangle between Hannah, ‘young Ollie’ and Martha. With Hannah feeling excluded now Ollie and Martha are working together at the APR.
Will this lead to more heartbreak for Hannah?

Pearl and Maisie return from their trip to London. With this Bel reflects that in the coming future she will be determined to finally uncover who her own father is. Will Bel solve this mystery? Will Maisie learn more about her own father?
In their time away Maisie is able to confide in Pearl about her own experiences after her adoption. It is clear it was not the happy home, Pearl had hoped for her daughter.

One character that remains in the background but fascinates me more and more, is Kate. I know at some point we will uncover her backstory and I can not wait. There are hints at her past, within this novel and I fear it will be a painful past to uncover. But nevertheless, her mousy and quiet appearance and demeanour has me so intrigued.

When there is an accident at the shipyard, Martha is the hero of the moment. But it is a stark reminder, what a dangerous job the women are doing day in and day out. The accident results in Jim Mackie possibly losing his leg but lucky to escape with his life. But is it luck or the heroics of Martha? She is honoured to be put forward for an official commendation by Helen, Harold and Donald the yard’s management.

Helen remains in-charge at the yard, but in this novel, I must admit she does eventually become more humanised. She learns some shocking revelations and must overcome them rather than use the skillset she has inherited from her scheming mother.
Miriam continues to scheme and meddle, it is when Helen starts to see through her that the changing point comes for Helen.

Vinnie finally figures out what has been staring him in the face the entire time. And when he does promises there’ll be hell to pay!
Putting Gloria at serious risk and baby Hope also.

‘This war’s changing us all in so many different ways” – Gloria

Rosie and Peter’s courtship, I found really heart-warming and inspiring. Not because it is one of hot passion or based on secrecy etc. but because it is built upon love and acceptance of each other’s flaws. I just hope this love can withstand the revelations that we learn and the future than has now changed!

‘Why did love always seem to come hand in hand with hurt’

Just before Christmas the yard is full of gossip with the strikes at Pearl Harbour. The women become confused and alarmed but glad the Americans will be joining the war effort on the side of the Allies. It is easy to reflect that in 1941, with the Americans joining the war, many thought it would soon be over!
Which we know from history, was not the case at all.

Christmastime during the war, reminds us of the harsh life of rationing and how truly tough life was for the families that lived under such conditions. Where wrapping paper is made from newspaper and not a scrap to be wasted!

Rosie is shocked to discover that Charlotte wants to come home to Sunderland. Rosie is wary of Charlotte uncovering her secret work at Lily’s. But she also has a desperately miserable teenager on her hands. Worried about the risk of the air raids and exposure to her lifestyle, Rosie doesn’t know which way to turn and what choice to make.
I hope we do see Charlotte come to Sunderland, but that is perhaps because she is another background character that has me very intrigued.

Polly receives a letter from young lover boy Tommy, it is packed full of love and pride in her. What it doesn’t tell Polly is that Tommy has been picked for covert ops. What will this mean for the future of loves young dream?

The shipyard girls enter the new year with shocking revelations for all. Whether these secrets become exposed to all and sundry is yet to be known. But when I finished the final pages I was absolutely gobsmacked!!!

‘There were ships to be built – A war to be won’

This is the first book in the series to leave you on an absolute cliff hanger of an ending! Which leaves you desperate for answers and the next book in the series, Victory For The Shipyard Girls. This is a series that has gone from strength to strength and I had already added it to be list as my ‘series of the year’ before I completed this novel.

Great to be back with the shipyard girls.
The cleverly weaved secrets and expert plotting had me hooked!
5* Genius

Nancy Revell
Nancy Revell
Website
Twitter
My Review – The Shipyard Girls #1
My Review – Shipyard Girls At war #2
My Review – Secrets Of The Shipyard Girls #3
Extract – Shipyard Girls In Love #4

*****Coming soon*****
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Victory For The Shipyard Girls – Available 6th September 2018!
Pre-order links available. CANNOT wait!!!!!!!!!

 

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract – Prologue #DeadLock by @DamienBoydBooks #NewRelease #CrimeFiction #DINickDixon #Series @AmazonPub

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Dead Lock by Damien Boyd
#8 DI Nick Dixon Series
Synopsis:

Early on a cold Somerset morning, ten year old Alesha Daniels is reported missing by her father, a violent alcoholic. Her mother, a known drug addict, is found unconscious, but it’s her mother’s boyfriend the police are keen to trace.

As the hunt for Alesha gathers pace, a second local girl is taken, plunging another family into the depths of despair.

Cutting short his holiday, DI Nick Dixon races home to join the Major Investigation Team, but no sooner has he identified a network of local suspects than they begin to show up dead.

At odds with his superiors, Dixon is convinced the child abductions are anything but random, but nobody is prepared for the investigation to lead quite so close to home.
Can Dixon and his team crack the case before all the suspects are silenced? And will he find the missing girls before it’s too late?

Extract:

Prologue

Coal smoke. It was a familiar smell – comforting somehow – swirling in the fog of his dreams every morning when the crows dragged him back to his senses, even before he opened his eyes. Was it the same bloody lot following him along the cut these past several weeks? Sitting on the cabin roof every morning, squawking for all they were worth.
Mutton headed coveys.
He glanced across at Jack, fast asleep in his bunk. He was never up before dawn. It must be the grog. He reached over, picked up the jar and took a swig. Just the dregs. He grimaced.
Disgusting.
Tam’s bunk was empty, as usual when they reached Combe Hay. Selling coal to the lock keeper’s wife, no doubt. And more besides.
He slid his feet out from under Sikes, the smelly brindle Lurcher who kept them in rabbits in return for the scraps, and yawned.
Time to sort out Bess. Poor Bess. She comes first.
He slipped his feet into his boots and crept out of the cabin, finding the horse where he had left her last night, tethered to a tree along the towpath eating the wet grass, as far from the water’s edge as he could get her. She’d been in the canal again last week, but then it was Tam’s proven remedy for a buckled shoulder.
‘Works every time,’ he always said. ‘Get her in the water and let her swim it off. It’ll soon pop back in.’
It was happening more and more often these days. Poor old Bess. The old nag was starting to struggle to get the barge moving when it was full of coal.
All twenty ton of it.
He filled her nosebag with the last of the oats from the barrel and slipped it over her head. They should get to Paulton today and he’d make sure he filled it up good and proper for the return trip.
He left Bess eating her breakfast in the half light of the dawn and wandered back along the towpath towards the barge. He slid back the tarpaulin and dropped down into the empty hold as quietly as he could. It was either that or wake up Jack and get another basting for his trouble.
He picked up the last few bits of coal. The dregs.
Again.
One day he’d have his own boat – it was the life of a bargee for him – then there’d be no more dregs. For him, or Bess.
He tiptoed along the gunwale to the back cabin, trying not to rock the boat. Smoke billowed out of the stove when he opened the door, which explained why everything – and everyone – was covered in a thin layer of black dust. Coal safely in, he gave it a prod with the poker, closed the door and then placed the kettle gingerly on the top. Jack didn’t mind the whistle of the kettle if it was followed by a nice cup of ‘Rosie’, as he called it. And the stronger the better to mask the taste of the coal.
‘Nat, are you in there?’
He poked his head out of the back cabin to find Tam running along the towpath, doing up his belt as he ran.
‘Get Bess harnessed up, then get up to the next lock. It’s against us.’ Tam was banging on the side of the cabin with his fist. ‘Get up, Jack. We need to get moving. I’ll meet you at the top of the flight.’
Then he watched Tam disappear through a gap in the hedge and sprint off across the field.
Lock keeper on your tail again, is it?
Here we go again, Bess.
Nosebag off, harness on. Then he ran along the towpath to the next lock. They had stopped for the night in the middle of the flight so it was only a short dash. He closed the top gate and then ran back to the bottom gate to open the paddles, emptying the water from the lock.
First the nearside, then across the top of the gate to the offside. With both paddles open the lock would empty twice as fast.
He looked back to the barge. Jack was already getting Bess moving. Easier for the old girl today, with no cargo on board.
He glanced down at the top of the gate as he cranked the windlass lifting the nearside paddle, the water swirling as it roared out through the opening. The gate was crumbling and split where it had been rammed by barges coming into the lock too fast over the years, the splintered wood just visible through the piles of wet leaves lying along the top.
He could step over them.
It’d be no bother.

DB
Damien Boyd
Website
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Boy Who Saw by @simontoyne 5* #CrimeFiction #Thriller #KindleDeal @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam ‘This novel is phenomenal, I opened the pages and fell into the story 100%’

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The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne
My own copy from tbr pile
Synopsis:

A MURDER
An elderly tailor is found tortured and murdered in the ancient town of Cordes. Written in blood beside the body are the words: FINISHING WHAT WAS BEGUN.

A SECRET
But the dead man has left a cryptic message for his granddaughter and her son, Leo – one that puts them in immediate danger.

A RACE
They are forced to go on the run, accompanied by the enigmatic Solomon Creed. What began as small-town murder becomes a race to uncover a devastating secret dating from World War II. The few men who know the truth are being killed by a powerful organization, and only one man stands in its way.

Only Solomon Creed can stop the murders.
Only he can save the boy.

My Review:

This is one of those novels that is so much bigger than its synopsis! I am new to Simon Toyne and the Solomon Creed series, but I am well and truly awoken now!
The novel is an impressive read and I look forward to further novels in the series.
I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for future releases.

The novel opens with Josef Engel being brutally tortured and murdered. The murder is quite graphic, and savage and you begin to wonder what has enraged someone so much that they want to eradicate Josef’s existence completely. The killer taunts Josef that he should have been killed in the past and it is well-known Josef is a holocaust survivor. The killer finishes by cutting a star of David into Josef’s chest and you are left under no illusion about the depravity of this killer.

‘Josef had not been this afraid since the war, when pain and death had been commonplace in the labour camps’

We are then briefly introduced to Solomon Creed at Madjid Lellouche’s property. It is an unusual meeting and difficult to describe. But it gives you a firm indication of Solomon’s character and how he will continue to come across on the page.

Commandant Benoit Amand of the police nationale is at the scene of vandalism. A swastika has been written on a Jewish memorial. He is disgusted by the crime, as he glances at the nearby banners celebrating 70yrs since the end of ww2.
He is deep in thought about who in the town would have done such a thing, when he is alerted that Josef Engel has been found murdered in his nearby shop.

Solomon is following vague clues, such as a label on his suit with an address in Corde-Su-Ciel. Solomon’s reasoning for memory loss is explained further on in the novel and makes for intense reading. But I loved the way the character was self-assured as he followed vague cryptic clues. Especially as that is exactly how you could summarise the man himself. I have never read a protagonist quite like Solomon before.

The novel is scattered with the real-life accounts of the holocaust written by Herman Lansky. They make for shocking reading and the harsh cruelty of the holocaust is brought alive on the page. But is Josef’s murder linked to the past? If so how?

‘The souls of the damned had been reclaimed’

Marie-Claude is Josef’s granddaughter and she has recently began to research her grandfather’s history. Beginning with the Die Schnider Lager – The Tailors Camp. She knows her grandfather was one of four individuals that somehow survived their death sentence and she is determined to track the other survivors down. This is a course of action that will have huge ramification for Marie-Claude and her young son Leo.
A course of action Josef warned her against.

‘We known that knowledge is sometimes a curse. And you can never unlearn something once it is known’ – Josef Engel

Amand receives an Interpol alert warning that Solomon Creed is highly intelligent and extremely dangerous. An alert that unravels Solomon’s past history and care under Dr Magellan. We also become aware Solomon’s headed straight towards Marie-Claude and that her and Leo are in great danger. A letter she holds and the suit Solomon wears are somehow linked to the recent murder. Marie-Claude knows she must do as her grandfather instructed and deliver the letter.

‘Do not trust this task to anyone. You must deliver it yourself’ – Josef Engel

The chapters from the perspective of Herman Lansky offer a glimpse into history and a stark reminder of the dangers of hate and fascism.
‘Only now, looking back, do I realise that Samler was not a man at all. He was something else, something that looked human but had no soul. A devil in a beautifully cut uniform’
The man he describes is Artur Samler, one of the Nazi high command. Samler ran the first camp to use a crematorium and was involved in the fuel machines program.
Yet I was growing more and more intrigued to learn how the past fitted into murder of Josef Engel. I found myself racing through the pages, not able to read quick enough!

‘If Die Schnieder Lager was hell, then Samler was the devil. And death was his command’ – Herman Lansky

Herman Lansky published his memoirs in 1949, living in Britain at the end of the war. He was found dead in a case of ‘misadventure’ after he was gassed during a fire. Everything ties back to a horrific memory of the holocaust, and the scars the men carry both physically and mentally.

The police continue their investigations, but they are slow on the uptake as they endeavour to uncover Solomon’s background first.
We become aware of a fascist modern-day group that are somehow tied to the case and seeking revenge on Marie-Claude. Leaving Leo is grave danger.
Can Solomon protect him?

The fascist group in question is the PNFL – similar to the BNP in their demand and ‘cause’ if you can even call it that. This part of the novel is incredibly timely with the rise in Nazi ‘sympathy’. However, it becomes very clear that the greatest danger is a lack of education, ignorance and manipulation. That is how these groups operate and sustain their membership.
‘You needed a police state, and a strong hand. A dictatorship. Democracy didn’t work because most people were stupid’ – Jean Baptise
Yet again the most ignorant and intolerant are usually the loudest!

This novel is phenomenal, I opened the pages and fell into the story 100%. The backstory of the holocaust and ww2 is not only insightful but historically accurate.
The writing is powerful and reflective to modern day politics. 5*

ST
Simon Toyne
Website
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***The Ebook in currently on Kindle deal for just £1.99 in the UK***

Anne Bonny #BlogTour Q&A with @anne_obrien #Author of, Queen Of The North #HistoricalFiction #Medieval England 1399 @HQstories #AuthorTalks ‘This is one woman’s quest to turn history on its head’

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Queen Of The North by Anne O’Brien
Review to follow
Synopsis:

To those around her she was a loyal subject.

In her heart she was a traitor.

1399: England’s crown is under threat. King Richard II holds onto his power by an ever-weakening thread, with exiled Henry of Lancaster back to reclaim his place on the throne.

For Elizabeth Mortimer, there is only one rightful King – her eight-year-old nephew, Edmund. Only he can guarantee her fortunes, and protect her family’s rule over the precious Northern lands bordering Scotland.

But many, including Elizabeth’s husband, do not want another child-King. Elizabeth must hide her true ambitions in Court, and go against her husband’s wishes to help build a rebel army.

To question her loyalty to the King places Elizabeth in the shadow of the axe.
To concede would curdle her Plantagenet blood.

This is one woman’s quest to turn history on its head.

#BlogTour Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel? Biography

A) Although I now live in the Welsh Marches, in Herefordshire, I am a Yorkshire girl by birth in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, I lived in East Yorkshire for many years where I taught history. Writing was not something I ever thought of doing.
That was in a past life.
Moving to Herefordshire, I gave up teaching and began writing historical novels. It has brought me much enjoyment and a new career. Now I live with my husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage with a large garden, where I write about the forgotten women of medieval history. It is a marvellous area for giving me inspiration, full of castles and churches and battlefields.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) – Firstly I have to select a medieval woman as the central character. She must be well connected and involved in the politics of the day. There must be an element of notoriety, scandal, or interest about her life to make her a worthwhile candidate to tell the story.
– A timeline is essential to put the woman and her family into historical perspective with other characters and historical events.
– After many weeks of historical research to put all the relevant facts into place, I start writing. Accuracy is essential.
– A year later, after four separate drafts, additions of events and characters who often take me by surprise, much editing and reviewing and it is complete to be sent off to my agent and my editor
– With my editor’s keen eye, there follows some polishing, usually with regard to length. I tend to write too much.
– And hopefully, sixteen months after I began, the novel is finished.
It is not always as seamless as this of course. Real life tends to break in to my writing schedule with such mundane occupations as dusting and shopping and cooking a meal or two, but I try to write something every morning. It also takes perseverance, patience, and compassion with my characters and what they wish to say. All of it though is highly enjoyable.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) If I wish to read historical fiction, it has to be Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, six novels that carry her hero through sixteenth century France, Scotland with visits to Russia and the Levant, all magnificently constructed to combine fact and fiction.
If I feel a need for some atmospheric crime, then what better than Anne Cleves’ Shetland series, now a superb TV adaptation in the bleak but beautiful islands off northern Scotland.
An excellent blend of folklore, myth, crime, and rural creepiness makes compulsive reading with the novels of Phil Rickman’s series with Merrily Watkins the priest in the depths of Hereford, starting with Wine of Angels.
If I want a novel of family or the relationships and interaction between people, then there can be no better than Anne Tyler. I first discovered her years ago with Breathing Lessons, and continue to read her novels.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) They tended to be historical. My interests have not changed.
A loved the novels of Mary Renault, particularly those which brought the Greek myths to life. I think the first I read were The King Must Die and Bull from the Sea. The novels of Alexander the Great also make great reading in my teenage years, starting with Fire From Heaven. I have re-read them more recently and find they have stood the test of time.
The Passionate Brood was the first historical novel by Margaret Campbell Barnes that I recall reading. It tells the tale of the children of King Henry II and Robin Hood. It showed me what could be done with history to make it a page turning experience for the reader.
Mary Stewart’s novels of King Arthur and Merlin, beginning with The Crystal Cave , captivated me, and still do. I still have a soft spot for King Arthur novels.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) It has to be, every time, holding the completed novel in my hands. All is done and it can no longer be changed and edited. It is complete in its cover. It is proof that I have produced something tangible over the past year that has come together in readable form. It is proof that not only have I enjoyed writing it, but my editor and my agent have also enjoyed reading it. It is also a time of some trepidation of course. Now the novel is out of my hands and available to the vast the reading public. I always hope that they enjoy it too.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) For me writing is a very private matter. No one reads my novel, not even sections of it, until it is finished when it is sent off to my agent and editor. Even so the support of those around me is invaluable. My husband who I often dragged into my discussions of historical motivation and logic. His interest in 19th Century history but he is fast becoming well educated in the politics of medieval England. My agent who I know will give me all her support if I get into difficulties or simply need some encouragement. My editor who has the final sweeping view of the novel and gives me advice. I trust her expertise implicitly.
I am blessed to have such support in what can be a very lonely world between me, my PC, and people who have been dead for at least six hundred years.

AOB
Anne O’Brien
Website
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QueenNorth_BlogTour[2]
***Review to follow soon***

 

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Juliet & Romeo by @david_hewson #Literary #Romance #Historical #NewRelease @DomePress #JulietAndRomeo

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Juliet & Romeo by David Hewson
Synopsis:

Two young people meet: Romeo, desperate for love before being sent away to study, and Juliet facing a forced marriage to a nobleman she doesn’t know. Fate and circumstance bring them together in a desperate attempt to thwart their parents with a secret marriage. But in a single fateful week, their intricate scheming falls terribly apart. Shakespeare’s most well-known and well-loved play has been turned in to a gripping romantic thriller with a modern twist. Rich with the sights and sounds of medieval Italy, peopled with a vibrant cast of characters who spring from the page, this is Shakespeare as you’ve never read it before.

Extract:

Part One: To Borrow Cupid’s Wings

The Marangona bell in the Torre dei Lamberti had just sounded the hour. Nine of a busy Monday morning in what was once Verona’s imperial Roman forum, now its marketplace, the Piazza Erbe. The square thronged with shoppers bargaining at stalls selling meat and fish, cheese and fruit and vegetables, cheap wine and cheaper beer. In the shadows of the colonnades two youths lurked, Samson and Gregory, both servants of the Capulets. The first a skinny seventeenyear-old kitchen boy, the second a priest’s bastard from Padua, a tall and hefty stable hand shuffling on his big feet as he caught the glint of metal in Samson’s grubby hand. They wore the clothes of their class – rough wool jerkins, baggy britches, sandals held together by thread and nails. This poverty extended to the weaponry they took with them on to the streets. The sons of fine families were in the habit of carrying daggers and rapiers forged in Florence and Milan. The lower orders snatched at anything they could lay their hands on, sharp or blunt. They fought with fists and boots and punches to the balls. Died that way, too. A crude swagger stick sat on a piece of rope round Gregory’s fat stomach, a mallet handle with a spiked iron ball on the end. The blade Samson owned was nothing more than a paring knife stolen from the

kitchen, the edge honed carefully until it gleamed. He held it now, low by his side so that only his companion might see. ‘There’s that fat Montague pig Abraham with his mate. Time to put that stick of yours to some use, Gregory. Go over and wallop him. He wants it.’ Across the piazza, just visible beyond the stalls, two figures moved through the market. Much the same age as the two Capulets. Much the same size: one short and lean, one tubby and daydreaming. Samson and Gregory wore a scarlet feather in their caps. The Montagues a blue one. Not that any of these were flesh and blood of the Montague or Capulet lines. Just servants, sharing the same borrowed hatred and never asking why. Gregory kicked a fish head and stuck his fists deep into the pockets of his britches. ‘I don’t know. We’re getting hard looks from those blokes on the stalls. They don’t like trouble when they’re trying to sell stuff.’ ‘I reckon it was them Montague lads who had that kitchen girl of ours last week.’ Lucia. An orphan who worked the ovens. She’d gone out for a walk by the river. Came back in tears and rags, telling tales the soldiers of Escalus, the city’s current military master, didn’t want to hear. ‘That hare-brained lass should have been in the kitchen stirring the pots, not hanging round down them dark alleys in Sottoriva. Could have been anyone had his way with her. Besides the watchmen reckoned she was up for it. Plenty been there with that daft cow. You for one.’ ‘Scared are you?’ ‘Just thinking it through.’ The Montague pair had spotted them but they hadn’t moved their way. ‘I don’t see you in a rush either.’

Fights were fine so long as the numbers were on your side. And you had the right comrades. Samson liked to whine. It was his principal pastime. Action always came last. ‘It’s only fair. They had one of ours. A bit of gravy on their chops and then we leg it.’ Gregory pulled a stick of dried sausage out of his pocket, bit off a chunk and waited. ‘Master sent us out to buy grub for his ball tonight. He won’t be happy if we come back empty-handed.’ ‘We whack them round the head a bit. Then go hunting round the back of their palazzo. First girl that comes out of the kitchen’s mine. Unless she’s hideous – then you can have her.’ Samson had a sly and cruel face and it was turned on Gregory. ‘With a bit of luck we might get a virgin if the Montagues have got any left. You all right with that?’ ‘I’m all right with the girls. Escalus ain’t so bothered about them. It’s the walloping bit–’ ‘They got to know who’s boss. You with me or not?’ Gregory patted his pocket. He had a stable knife with him as well as the swagger stick. Short, a bit blunt. But he was strong enough to hold a struggling stallion when he had to. The thing would do. ‘I hate the buggers, too, you know. But like I say. Escalus has got that one wicked eye on lads like us. Same way his bosses in Venice have got their eyes on him. The Marshal hates riots. They get him in trouble too. I don’t fancy jail or worse just for giving one of them scummy Montagues a few bruises and a sore head.’ ‘Then let’s get clever. Make them start the scrap. I’ll look at them funny. Get ’em going. That way we’re just… defending ourselves. Which is every man’s right, and Escalus is bound to uphold us in that.’ Samson grinned, displaying a remarkable absence of teeth. ‘As

to the kitchen girls… well… everyone knows what they’re like. I want first go though. This’ll do it.’ Samson winked, grinned and bit his thumb. The oldest, stupidest gesture any of them knew. Someone said the Romans used to do it when they fancied a brawl. ‘Go on then,’ said Gregory and didn’t move. Samson looked up at him. ‘You first.’ ‘When we get around to the girl, you mean?’ ‘No. The fight. You’re the big one. You lead. I’ll follow.’ Gregory slapped him hard on the shoulder. ‘Ow,’ Samson whined. ‘That hurt.’ ‘Oh sorry, friend. We’re supposed to be buying stuff for the evening ball. There’ll be trouble if that goes wrong. Capulet will do the walloping himself and we both know what he’s like with that whip of his.’ Samson went quiet. He’d had enough of Capulet’s beatings. ‘Tell you what,’ said Gregory. ‘We’ll skip the girl. Next week. When we’ve got more time. And…’ A shape they recognised was moving through the crowds, a tall youth around their own age. But he was an aristocrat; it showed in his clothes, his manner, the haughty way he held his head above the swarms of common folk around him as if he couldn’t stand the stink of them. ‘Well, well,’ Samson murmured, gleeful all of a sudden. ‘If it isn’t our master’s well-loved nephew. Just the chap you’d want at a time like this.’ ‘I suppose,’ Gregory agreed, though the sight of the young man across the Piazza Erbe gave him pause. ‘I heard the noble Tybalt crippled a clerk who’d done nothing more than bump into him in the street a month or so ago.’

‘Dead right he did. I was there and he paid me well to keep quiet. Back last winter he ran a cheeky cart boy right through down by the brothels in Sottoriva.’ Gregory didn’t like those dark and dangerous colonnades by the river. ‘Our Tybalt got caught hanging round the tarts down there?’ ‘The only kind of girl that one beds are the sort you pay for. Expensive business. The old man had to dig deep to keep him out of Escalus’s clutches after he murdered the poor little bugger.’ Tybalt was bloodthirsty, vicious and short tempered, always armed with the latest weapons, forever spoiling for a quarrel and a chance to use them. ‘Nothing stopping our Tybalt,’ Samson added. ‘’Specially when there are Montagues around.’ He clapped his grubby hands. ‘This will be fun.’

DH
Photo: Dingena Mol / Crimezone Magazine
David Hewson
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