Rainbow Snippets: A Touch of Spice

This weekend, I thought I’d share another Rainbow Snippet from my new novelette, A Touch of Spice, set in Elizabethan London. This continuing story of the romance between Gregory and Jehan, two young working men, follows on from last year’s Valentine story, The Spice of Life.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend are encouraged to post approximately six lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook. I always enjoy joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

In this snippet from A Touch of Spice, Gregory and Jehan have spent an evening at a tavern on busy Fleet Street and have returned to the shelter of Jehan’s spice shop.

Gregory relaxed as soon as they were out of the streets. He lit a candle while Jehan locked up, relishing the knowledge that they would be safe and undisturbed until daybreak.

“I have some fresh ale in the storeroom if you’d like another jar?” Jehan asked as he turned around. Gregory looked at that fine-boned face, pleasingly olive-brown in tone despite a lifetime of living in English climes, those wide, lash-framed eyes that at closer inspection were a dark gold-tinged hazel rather than uniform brown. He knew that Jehan’s attractions were far from superficial, the handsome exterior a mirror to the good, honest, quiet, and witty man below the surface. My man, Gregory thought with wonder and pride. Rather than answering, he stepped forward, put his hands on Jehan’s shoulders, and leaned in to kiss those lush lips.

After a moment, Jehan returned his kiss before smilingly asking, “Upstairs, then?”

Words in Progress: How to offend a Tudor

As regular readers of my blog will already know, I’m a huge fan of Ruth Goodman’s historical reference books. As a living historian, her understanding of life as it was lived in past centuries is second to none and her books are always lively and entertaining as well as full of fascinating facts.

I read her reference books for pure pleasure, but also find them invaluable for story research. I had to dip into my most recent acquisition, How to Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain when researching my newly released story, A Touch of Spice set in 1573 in Elizabethan London.

How social attitudes change and diverge over centuries is a subject I find endlessly interesting and will no doubt keep coming back to different aspects of that topic in my blogs. As Ruth Goodman puts it so well, “Societies in all times and all places are governed by intricate, overlapping codes of conduct.”

Tudor society was in many ways far more earthy, straightforward and brutal compared to modern times, however, heavens forfend if you bowed incorrectly to your social superior! I love this sort of tiny detail about customs that brings a far-gone era to life.

Irresistibly, in How to Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain, there’s an entire chapter on contemporary insults. As Ruth Goodman points out, flowery phrases were employed only in literature or recited on the professional stage, but the common language of the street was as colourful and direct then as it is now. I couldn’t resist adding a few of these choice ripostes to give colour to the street scenes in my story.

In the heat of the moment, a Tudor might select “a turd in your teeth,” or, “I do not give a fart for you,” as a pithy comeback in a verbal altercation, amongst many more. And of course, there’s the universal and still resonant, “kiss my arse!”

Release Day: A Touch of Spice

My new release, A Touch of Spice, is now live! It feels like this story has been a long time coming, as I first had the idea of a follow-up story for The Spice of Life, last year’s Valentine’s story, shortly after it was published.

My young Elizabethan lovers, Gregory and Jehan, lingered in my mind long after their adventure concluded and their romance commenced. I couldn’t resist writing about how their lives were flourishing a year after the events of The Spice of Life. Although they have high hopes for the future in A Touch of Spice, they reckon without their trouble-magnet friend William who can never keep out of a scrape!

A Touch of Spice is currently in the 20% off new release sale at JMS Books until February 24th.

In the spring of 1573, twenty-one-year-old Gregory Fletcher is a happy man, set to move into the spice shop on London’s Ludgate Hill with his true love Jehan Zanini, who he spared from being condemned as a thief the year before.

But Gregory’s kind inclinations to help others in need tend to thwart the couple from fulfilling their dreams as Gregory delays living with Jehan to assist his adoptive family in a crisis.

Then William Anstell, their friend and the cause and saviour of Jehan’s previous problems, gets amorously involved with an unscrupulous tavern server and relies on Gregory and Jehan to resolve his embarrassing mess.

Can the lovers finally put aside distractions and other people’s problems to find lasting happiness?


Mistress Cecily looked up from her stitching with a smile as Gregory entered her sewing room. Gregory felt a sting of nostalgia, that increasing sensation of being caught between two worlds. The safe patterns of boyhood grated against the exciting challenges of impending adult independence as he passed the age of a serving lad, only tied to this place by family loyalty.

As a courtesy, Gregory reported the purchase of the nutmeg and delivered his lady’s remaining money. Mistress Cecily nodded her head absently without bothering to count the change. 

“And how is young Master Zanini today?” Mistress Cecily inquired.

“Both he and his trade are doing well, and he sends his compliments,” Gregory replied, the courtesy causing Mistress Cecily to smile more widely. 

The Master and Mistress, Gregory’s de facto parents, had been delighted when he broached the notion of entering into merchandising. Jehan’s skill and knowledge of the goods he sold were never in question but Master Crossley had previously dealt with the business side of running the shop where Jehan was apprenticed. So the newly established merchant had scant experience of running a business and little certainty in his ability to notate letters and numbers.

Here, Gregory held the advantage. Growing up in a considerable household and being involved in its daily management proved invaluable, and Master Robert had guided him through the rest, poring for hours over the business ledgers and discussing how best to invest Jehan’s store of sovereigns. 

If Master Robert had gladly imparted his knowledge of bookkeeping, Mistress Cecily had immediately bestowed her patronage on the Ludgate shop. Gregory reckoned that Master Crossley would not be dismayed at losing such a prestigious customer since he owned both premises, but Mistress Cecily’s friendly support to Jehan was a boon, as well as her recommendation of his services.

A few months after Jehan started trading from the narrow shop, Gregory was set to join him, openly as a partner in the business and privately, to conduct their burgeoning love affair. In overcrowded London, it was usual for men to share a room or even a bed without inciting gossip or moral outrage. Additionally, there was a small upstairs front room in direct proportion to the shop below, ideal for keeping the shop’s records. This chamber had a decent-sized window overlooking the street, garnering enough natural daylight for scribing. 

Gregory had been preparing to decamp to Ludgate permanently in the depths of winter, when Master Robert’s elderly father had fallen down from the icy front steps of the Bishopsgate house. The doctor declared that Master Edward was lucky to get away with shock and bruising and a clean break of the bone in one arm. Gregory was a particular favourite of the old gentleman and had attended him in recent years more from fondness than duty. After the accident, not only did Master Edward require more practical assistance until his limb was mended, but the shock of the injury suddenly aged and confused him. For some months, it seemed that only Gregory’s presence could restore his good humour.

 Neither Master Robert nor Mistress Cecily expected Gregory to remain to tend to their kinsman, but he could not bear to leave under the circumstances. After all, he reasoned, they had unhesitatingly opened their home and hearts to an orphaned boy. It would be unthinkable to repay those long years of kindness with desertion, especially when the old master needed him. 

When he tried to explain his decision to Jehan, he feared outright rejection, even the end of their dreams of forging a life together, but although Jehan’s expressive face was sombre at the disappointing tidings, his dark eyes were full of compassion. “Family comes first,” He said. “You can’t desert Master Edward now. I sympathise, and I would expect no less of you. After all, if you hadn’t stuck by me when I was in trouble, where would I be now? You’re not the kind of man to abandon loved ones to follow your own desires, and I cherish you all the more for that quality. Never fear, I can wait a while longer.”

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Rainbow Snippets: The Spice of Life

For this week’s Rainbow Snippets, in the run-up to the release of A Touch of Spice next weekend, I’m posting another snippet from The Spice of Life, the first of these two stories about my Elizabethan lovers Gregory and Jehan.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend are encouraged to post a few lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook. I always enjoy joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

In this snippet, Gregory is hiding Jehan in an outbuilding of his relatives’ house after Jehan has been falsely accused of theft and is evading the law. Before this momentous event, they were mere acquaintances in the spice shop where Jehan was apprenticed and met as a server and customer. In this conversation, while they plan how to get Jehan safely out of London, they finally learn each other’s names.

The two young men smiled at each other. “Jehan Zanini. I like that,” Gregory said shyly. 

Jehan’s shadowed eyes seemed as black as jet in the dim light of the barn. “Gregory Fletcher is at least as fine a name,” he said with a hint of a smile.

They heard a good-natured guffaw of laughter from the outer yard, shattering the moment.

“I’d better get back to the house,” Gregory said. “I’ll do my best to find your uncle and then return with some supper for you,” he added, trying his best to sound optimistic. As he turned to climb down the rickety steps, he heard Jehan’s voice, as soft as a prayer. “God speed and God bless you. How can I ever repay you?”

Rainbow Snippets: The Spice of Life

This weekend it’s the first bookversary for my Elizabethan London set romance, The Spice of Life, so the perfect time to choose a snippet from this story. Lots of my stories lurk around the late 18th/early 19th centuries, so it’s always nice to plunge into a different era for a change and who can resist the Tudors!

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend are encouraged to post a few lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook. I always enjoy joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

In The Spice of Life, Jehan, a senior apprentice with a local spice merchant has caught the eye of Gregory Fletcher, a serving man who lives with and works for his wealthy relatives nearby. Gregory doesn’t expect anything to come from his crush, but when Jehan is accused of stealing and plunged into danger through no fault of his own, Gregory is impelled to hide him from the authorities.

Jehan lay down obediently as Gregory knelt, heaping the rest of the blankets over him. “I should be able to get some food for you at dinner time,” he said.

Jehan’s eyes looked heavy already, “All I need to do right now is to get some sleep.” Then he hesitated and asked, “Why are you helping me?”

Looking down at that drawn, vulnerable face, Gregory thought, because you’re handsome and charming, and I have a liking for you, so it pains me to see you brought so low. But instead of voicing his thoughts, he said stolidly, “Such a charge could be brought against any of us. But for the grace of God, it could be me.”