Friday, July 6, 2012

Dangerous Waters by Anne Allen: Interview & Excerpt


Romantic Suspense


Oh my God, what's happening to me? After all this time, please, not again!' Jeanne Le Page, gripped by fear and panic, struggles to breathe as the ferry arrives in Guernsey, the island she had fled 15 years before, traumatised by a family tragedy. Now she has to return after her grandmother's death. Jeanne has inherited her cottage and she plans to sell it before returning to the UK. Deeply unhappy after the recent end of a long-term relationship, she has no desire to pick up her old life on the island. Suffering traumatic amnesia after being involved in the accident that killed her family, Jeanne has experienced nightmares for years. The return to Guernsey triggers frightening flashbacks and Jeanne undergoes hypnosis to recover her memory, reliving the tragedy as the ghosts continue to haunt her. But someone on the island does not want her to remember, and she faces danger from an unexpected source...

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chapter one

Jeanne went out on deck as the spring sun broke through the clouds.

A warm glow spread over green and gold jewel-like Herm and its larger neighbour, grey and white building encrusted Guernsey.

The salt-laden air enveloped her like an old and trusty coat.

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and was a child again,playing on the beach with her parents. The image was so powerful that tears formed and she blundered, unseeing, towards the railings.

As her vision cleared she found herself staring at Herm and,without warning, was overwhelmed by such a strong feeling of fear that she had to hold onto the rail. Jeanne’s heart began to race, blood pounded in her head and her breathing came in short, painful gasps.

Oh my God, what’s happening to me? After all this time, please, not again!

Struggling to breathe she was on the verge of passing out. Letting go of the rail she stumbled, crashing into a man who was walking past.

‘Hey, steady on! Look where you’re going!’ he said angrily,grabbing hold of her to stop them falling. ‘Overdid the duty frees, did you?’

Stung by his accusation, she took a deep breath before replying.

‘No… no. I. I just lost my balance.’ The man’s hands were gripping her arms so hard that she could already imagine the bruises. ‘Hey,that hurts!’

He loosened his grip and guided her back to the rail where she clung on, filling her lungs with the sea air.

‘Sorry, didn’t mean to hurt you. OK now?’

Jeanne nodded. As the man stepped back she took in, through still blurred eyes; dark brown hair, deep blue eyes and the muscled arms of a man unlikely to be a pen-pusher. Responding to his slightly warmer tone, she managed a tight smile before straightening up and walking, unsteadily, to the starboard side.

What on earth was that? Is this what I can expect now? Perhaps I shouldn’t have come back though I didn’t have much choice… The thoughts whirled around her pounding head. She shuddered as she leant against the railings and Guernsey came into full view. While the ferry headed towards St Peter Port harbour, she felt as if she were approaching a strange, unknown country rather than the land of her birth. The whole of the northern sea front, from Les Banques into St Peter Port, had been transformed. Towering edifices of granite and glass had replaced the old, tired mish-mash of warehouses, scruffy hotels and shops. With a gasp, she realised that even the elegant landmark of the Royal Hotel had been supplanted.

Wow! What’s happened here? It was if a natural disaster had occurred, flattening the old front and replacing it by buildings more reminiscent of London than of the parochial island she remembered. She’d never have thought that Guernsey would move into the twenty first century with such a bang.

The dramatic transformation which lay before her seemed to Jeanne to be an echo of all the change in her own life and she felt a stranger here. She wished that she had stayed in the familiar, dull Midlands town which had been her home these past fifteen years.

For a moment the urge to remain on the ferry and return to England, without setting foot on the island, was overwhelming. Her face must have mirrored her inner turmoil as a middle-aged lady standing nearby asked, ‘Are you all right, dear? Only you’ve gone very white.’

‘I’m fine, thanks. Just not very good on boats.’

The older lady nodded sympathetically. ‘My Tom gets seasick too. Has to fill himself up with beer or the odd whisky or two before he’ll set foot on a boat. Just as well I can drive or we’d be marooned on the ferry till he’s sobered up!’ She laughed.

Jeanne grinned weakly.

‘Aren’t these waters supposed to be dangerous?’

‘Yes, they can be, if you don’t know where all the rocks are,’

Jeanne replied. Yet again, her heart hammered against her chest and her breathing quickened. She fought down the feelings of panic to add, ‘but these big boats are perfectly safe,’ wondering who she was really trying to reassure.

Jeanne now joined the throng of eager passengers heading towards the car deck, found her car and sat there feeling sick and trapped in the echoing bowel of the ship. She would just do what had to be done here and then go back – but where? Her body arched with pain at the memory of her loss. Going back would be as painful as going on, she realised. The sound of car horns blaring behind her brought her back to the present. She started the engine and joined the queue towards the gangway and whatever lay ahead.

Emerging from the White Rock, Jeanne followed the steady stream of cars up St Julian’s Avenue and turned left into Ann’s Place. She smiled on seeing that the Old Government House Hotel was still there and was lucky to find a parking space close by. It was just a short walk to the advocate’s office but she decided that she needed a coffee first. Ideally she would have preferred a couple of vodka shots to calm herself, but didn’t think it would be appropriate to meet her lawyer with glazed eyes and a stagger, especially as she’d already been accused of hitting the duty frees! The thought made her frown as she walked down Smith Street, side-stepping the tourists intent on window shopping.

Jeanne began to feel more at home at the familiar sight of Boots at the bottom of the hill. It was where she and her friends used to meet up before going on the prowl in Town. On her right was a smart and inviting looking café with squashy leather chairs. She sank, with a contented sigh, into a chair and ordered a cappuccino from the young waitress.

‘Anything to eat with your coffee? We have some scrummy chocolate cake guaranteed not to put on an ounce.’ The girl grinned.

‘Can’t resist!’ Jeanne smiled back, pleased that at least one of the natives seemed friendly.

Sipping her frothy drink, conscious of a milky moustache flecked with chocolate crumbs forming, Jeanne thought about her impending meeting with the advocate. She had been receiving gentle but persistent reminders from Advocate Marquis that there were important legal issues to discuss, not least that of her grandmother’s cottage. Her mind, unbidden, took her back to that awful day five months ago…

The phone was ringing as she and Andy arrived home, glowing from their holiday.

‘Oh, Jeanne, thank goodness! I’ve been trying to get you for

ages and left so many messages… I’m so sorry, but it’s your Gran.’

Molly’s voice caught on a sob and Jeanne’s stomach clenched as she anticipated the dreaded news.

‘She died in her sleep, Jeanne. It was… peaceful, just as she’d have wanted,’ Molly continued as Jeanne’s eyes filled with tears.

‘The… the funeral?’

‘It was yesterday. I’m so, so sorry, Jeanne. The advocate and I kept trying to contact you but she died over two weeks ago and we didn’t know where you were or when you’d be back. I did try your mobile but it was switched off.’

‘We’ve been in Tenerife for three weeks. It was a bit last minute and I forgot my mobile charger. But Gran had seemed so well! If only I’d known… ’ The tears were now flowing freely.

‘Look, Jeanne, you couldn’t have foreseen it. None of us did. She slipped away quietly. No pain, no fuss. We weren’t sure what to do for the best but in the end the advocate, as her executor, thought he’d better organise the funeral. But you’ll be over soon? To sort out the cottage and everything?’ Molly’s voice was calmer, more urgent.

‘Ye e s. I guess so. I’ll get back to you later. Thanks… Molly.’

She collapsed onto the sofa while Andy made some tea and muttered a few ineffectual words of condolence before opening the post. As she sipped her drink she remembered the feisty old lady, the last link to her past life in Guernsey. Although her gran had been over a few times to see her Jeanne had not been tempted to return. It would have been too painful.…

*

But now she was back and without any known living relatives in Guernsey. Apart from the cottage, the only sign of the family’s roots here were the headstones in the graveyards. Jeanne shuddered at the thought of her loved ones lying cold and unvisited in the earth and felt the tears threatening. It just wasn’t fair! She gripped the coffee cup tightly, self-pity heightened by her guilt at staying away so long.

Catching sight of a young, laughing family walking past the café only made her feel even more sorry for herself. For heaven’s sake girl, get a grip! Stop being maudlin and get on with what you came to do. You owe it to the family. With this thought she straightened up and finished her coffee.

Glancing at her watch, she saw that she’d better get a move on and, after paying the bill and freshening up in the Ladies, walked the few yards to the advocate’s office.

The receptionist took her down a corridor and Jeanne glanced at the watercolours on the walls. With a pang she recognised the local bays with cabin cruisers – oh, just like dad’s! – bobbing on the waters and families gathered on the beaches. She could almost smell the sea and the pungent tang of seaweed on the rocks. Her thoughts were interrupted by the girl opening a door and announcing ‘Miss Le Page, Advocate.’

 ‘Good afternoon, Miss Le Page. How are you?’ enquired the man who came forward to shake her hand.

‘Well, thank you, Mr Marquis. I’m sorry for the delay in coming over. There’s been a lot, um, happening recently and certain… events,’ she paused, ‘have meant that I couldn’t travel. Now I’m ready to settle everything before I go back to… England.’ She had nearly said ‘home’ before remembering she no longer had one.

‘It’s straightforward. Your grandmother’s will leaves everything to you as her sole beneficiary. Once we’ve gone through the various papers I’ll need you to sign some forms then you’ll be the legal owner of Le Petit Chêne as well as the money your grandmother left.’

After much reading and signing Jeanne was presented with the keys to the cottage and Mr Marquis arranged for the monies to be transferred to her bank account. Mm, didn’t realise Gran had as much as that in the bank. But she’d never been a big spender, not bothered by material things. Just her beloved cottage and garden. Especially the garden. A lump formed in her throat as Jeanne realised that Gran’s savings might come in very useful until she sold that beloved cottage.

‘Where are you staying while you’re here? In case I need to contact you.’

‘I’m staying with Molly and Peter Ogier for a few days until the

cottage is more habitable.’

‘Good. I believe they were close friends of your family?’

‘Yes, I’ve known them since I was a child.’

Jeanne hesitated and then said ‘I have to ask, Mr Marquis, have there been any, er, developments with the investigation? Have the police found anyone yet?’

He shook his head. ‘No, there’s been no progress at all.

Technically the case is still open, but I don’t think the police have found any more evidence. It’s difficult without any witnesses and after all this time… Have you remembered any more of what happened?’


 
 
Hello Anne!  I'm so happy to have you as a guest on my blog.  I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to find out more about you.  How did you start your writing career? 
 
It was a bit late in the day actually, as I was about to become a grandmother when my mother ‘pushed’ me into entering a writing competition. Bless her! She knew I’d started to write a novel and thought it would be a useful experience, assuming that it was a fiction short-story comp. Instead the national magazine wanted a true-life story in 500 words based on a significant life event. I still entered (my life had been anything but boring!) and won! It was quite a boost and spurred me on with my book which, by the way, has taken me six years to get to the publishing stage.  Not the quickest writer on the block!
 
Tell us about your current release.
It’s actually my only release but who’s counting?  The book is Dangerous Waters, a romantic mystery set on the little island of Guernsey situated between England and France. Although part of the British Channel Islands, the island has a strong French influence and this is still apparent today with lots of French names.  The islands were also unique in being the only parts of Britain which were occupied during WWII and my story, in part, refers to this time. 
The story revolves around Jeanne Le Page, a thirty-something, who returns to Guernsey after an absence of 15 years. She had left in a hurry after a family tragedy and went to live with an aunt in the UK. She now has to return as her grandmother has died and left her a cottage. Jeanne doesn’t plan to stay long, just sell the cottage and go. She’s feeling bereft by the end of a long-term relationship and is rather lost.
However, she finds that the cottage holds a long-buried secret and while Jeanne unearths the details she also begins to discover what really happened to her family. She was involved in the accident but suffered traumatic amnesia and has experienced frightening flashbacks which get more intense back in Guernsey. Someone on the island does not want her to remember and she faces danger from an unexpected source while learning to live and love again.
What was the scariest moment of your life?
Well, you mean the time I fell down through the engine hatch on my Dutch barge, dislocating my (fairly new) hip and getting stuck there for one and a half hours? In quite a bit of pain too! As I fell I thought ‘this is it, you’re going to smash your head on the engine and . . . ‘ But luckily, I landed on my side between the generator and the engine with my head intact. But not my hip! I actually landed on my ‘good’ hip but that was extremely bruised and swollen by the time the team of 14 – yes! – 14 – firemen and paramedics got me out on a flexible stretcher.  They had to pull me out vertically thanks to the confined space. The fire brigade were involved as they had all kinds of gear to use in emergencies but even they struggled to work out how to free me. I could write a book about it . . . . !
What makes you happy?
Mmm, a few things, I suppose. I love spending time with my small grandchildren – Freya,6 and Harry, 2 – as they make me laugh so much! Particularly Harry who’s just found his verbal ‘muscles’ and can chat away, getting his words mixed up. They’re the reason I’m now living in Devon. Happiness for me is being with or around people I love – family and friends- having a laugh and enjoying time out. I also have a strong need to be by the sea, it seems to have an uplifting effect . Unfortunately, our British weather doesn’t allow for the continuous warmth and sunshine that also makes me feel happy. A couple of months a year around the Mediterranean would do the trick!
Use no more than two sentences. Why should we read your book?
Because it has everything –love, a couple of mysteries to be solved and a heroine in danger. And a gorgeous hero to boot!
       Are you writing another book?
Yes, I am! It’s been on the go for a while as I spent so long re-writing Dangerous Waters and trying to get it published. I’ve dug it out of the drawer and it’s taking shape. It’s called Finding Mother and is the story of a young woman’s search for her natural mother. The setting is predominantly Guernsey but there are excursions to England, Jersey and Spain.
You just won a huge lottery. What is the first thing you’ll buy?
A lovely white villa in the sun in either Italy or Spain. Or possibly both!!
Do you have a Website or Blog?
 
Yes, I do. My website is www.dangerouswaters.co.uk . It has pages about the book, myself, Guernsey and a sort of blog. More like a mini-diary, really. Certainly not as sophisticated as a lot of Blogs – including yours, Laurie!
 
 
 
Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby. She was born in Rugby, to an English mother and Welsh father. As a result she spent many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learnt to love the sea.  Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.
 
By profession Anne is a psychotherapist but has long had creative ‘itches’, learning to mosaic, paint furniture, interior design and sculpt. At the back of her mind the itch to write was always present but seemed too time-consuming for a single mum with a need to earn a living. Now the nest is empty there’s more time to write and a second novel is gestating, but novels take a lot longer than children to be born!
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Giveaway ends August 4th 11:59PM Central Time.





6 comments:

Joanne said...

This book sounds really intriguing. Can't wait to read it to see what happened to Jeanne all those years ago.

e.balinski(at)att(dot)net

Becky Johnson said...

Superb excerpt choice. And thanks for the interview. I love reading about authors.

Lori said...

Very evocative and intriguing excerpt.

april_hunter24 said...

Great interview, this book sounds really interesting. Thanks for the giveaway !

Nancy said...

Liked the two sentence sales pitch.

Gale Nelson said...

sounds like a wonderful read thanks for the chance to win this. Gale