This week’s spotlight is on Jennie Jones
and we’re showcasing
The House at the Bottom of the Hill
Jennie Jones loved everything romantic from an early age. This led her to tread the boards in the theatre as a professional actor in the UK. More recently she put her artistic energies into writing fiction and says that like acting, she can’t imagine a day when writing romance will ever get boring…
Jennie Jones. Feel-good fiction with romance (and a touch of humour) at heart.
With a love of all things country from stately homes to cottages to sheds at the bottom of the paddock, Jennie’s stories focus on adventures of the heart, with real-life aspects of small towns and all their quirks and blessings, and occasional mayhem.
Born in Wales, Jennie has been an Australian for almost 20 years and lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two cats, a new rescue dog, Churchill, the lovely memory of their chocolate Labrador, Harry and the occasional sighting of their 20 year old daughter.
From the best-selling author of The House on Burra Burra Lane, comes a brand-new story about opposites, attraction, an outback pub, and a pink house…
The mysterious death of her mother has left Charlotte Simmons on edge and off-balance for too long. Searching for the truth, Charlotte buys a Bed & Breakfast establishment in Swallow’s Falls, a small town in Australia’s Snowy Mountains, as a ploy to get close to the man who might have the answers. She’ll jazz up the old place, flip it, get her answers, and be gone in two months – max.
What she doesn’t count on is opposition from the dogmatic and slightly eccentric members of the town council. And the hotshot owner of Kookaburra’s Bar & Grill and his two-hundred-squats-a-day physique is simply poking his handsome nose in when he offers to act as mediator between Charlotte and the council.
Easy-going Daniel Bradford knows progress is slow in Swallow’s Fall. He’s finally about to put his plans into place to upgrade the hotel when a prim-and-proper, citified redhead blows into town, putting everyone on edge. The only way to contain the trouble she’s about to cause is to stay close – he knows trouble when he sees it, and soon it becomes very clear that there’s absolutely nothing containable about Charlotte, or the way he feels about her.
Excerpts from The House at the Bottom of the Hill by Jennie Jones
Note from Jennie: Grandy is a main figure in the lives of everyone in Swallow’s Fall. In this first excerpt, redhead Charlotte is already aware that he knows more about her past than she’d like him to. He knows she was referred to as Charley Red when she was taken from Australia as a child after her mother’s murder – but she doesn’t know how he knows.
Charlotte ended the telephone conversation and rubbed a hand over the tired, tense muscles in her face. With the B&B sold as a house, not a business, Daniel could get on with his plans for Kookaburra’s without creating unnecessary acrimony between himself and another accommodation business. No-one in town would be hurt. Thank God she’d seen sense in time. One guilt she wouldn’t be taking with her when she left.
‘Cup of tea time, Charley.’
Charlotte turned for the kitchen.
Charley. Charley Red. She bit down on her agitation and headed for the kitchen where Grandy waited. He was up earlier than the birds. Forget making his breakfast, he was the one who had toast and tea waiting by the time Charlotte dawdled from her bedroom at seven a.m. She’d never had such a perfect house guest. He made a damned good cup of tea too, insisting on tea leaves and teapot.
‘Settling in nicely,’ Grandy said, putting a cup and saucer in front of her with a steady hand.
‘I’m glad.’ Charlotte lifted the cup from the saucer. ‘I would hate to think you didn’t like it here.’
‘Didn’t mean me,’ Grandy said, taking his seat and resting his cane against his thigh. ‘Meant you.’
‘Oh?’ Charlotte asked guardedly.
‘You got friends in town.’
Charlotte pulled her mouth into a penitent smile. ‘And a few enemies.’ Pointless not admitting her foibles regarding her inept handling of the townspeople. ‘Of my own making, I know that.’
Grandy chuckled. ‘They’ll come round. So what are your plans?’
‘Oh, you know … Fix the banister. Lift the lino and sand the floorboards. Some other stuff, just bits and pieces.’
‘Didn’t mean that either.’
Charlotte took a sip of her tea, cautioning herself against its heat but unable to think of what else to do with her hands. Being under Grandy’s scrutiny was like being on the blind side of a two-way mirror. Questioning Grandy about whether he knew her history would have to wait until she’d sorted out in her own mind how he might know and where he was involved. If she didn’t get that right, she’d only create more apprehension and unpleasantness for the people of Swallow’s Fall.
‘You haven’t done what you came here to do,’ he said. Charlotte knew he wasn’t referring to her renovations. He shifted in his chair, took hold of his cane and rested his hands on top. ‘Got a heap of questions in that head of yours, haven’t you?’
Charlotte met Grandy’s regard but couldn’t speak. This was her opportunity – and she wasn’t ready. She’d travelled thousands of miles to find answers and the questions she’d decided not to ask were choked in her throat. She shook her head slightly and put her cup into the saucer.
He leaned across the table and patted her hand. ‘Maybe the next time we talk will be the right moment. Let’s discuss something else.’
Relief was a balm to her nerves.
‘How long are you planning on staying?’
‘Grandy …’ Too soon, the relief turned to nagging worry. This man knew things. He wasn’t the type to give up, and Charlotte had to find the courage to ask him those questions.
A later scene… and Grandy is full of clues, like an old puzzle. Charlotte wants to paint the flamingo pink B&B yellow but she’s hit complaints from the town committee who don’t want anything changed.
‘You didn’t have to get someone to cut the grass, Grandy.’
‘Got to do something for my keep, and anyway, Josh needs the extra money.’ He lowered himself with grace into one of the rocking chairs by the front door.
Charlotte smiled. ‘I like your waistcoat. It’s very … yellow.’
‘Ain’t it just? Got Julia to nip into Cooma. She got it from one of the second-hand stores. I call it sunflower yellow.’
Charlotte sank into the chair next to Grandy’s and rocked, nursing her hurts. ‘What are you doing, Grandy?’
‘Just letting folk see a bright yellow waistcoat on a craggy old man.’
‘Against a peeling pink weatherboard.’
‘Terrible colour,’ Grandy muttered. ‘You paint it yellow, Charlotte. And while you’re at it, open up your heart to what surrounds you.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Sometimes we don’t see what’s right in front of us because we’re too busy chasing the dream to colour our hearts with the shades of love already there.’
Charlotte studied her guest. His rugged features, the sparking light in his watery blue eyes and the way he held himself. Old, yes. Decrepit? No. This strong man had lived fully, had given his energies to those around him, be it family or neighbours. This man didn’t need to look for friendships, he could hold his own without them and that was the characteristic that made him so compelling. His safe, almost stately personality brought people to his side and made them listen to his quiet instruction. People wanted to hear his wise words. And Charlotte wanted to hear how she could colour her heart.