Book Extract: Twelve Nights by Penny Ingham

I am pleased to be welcoming Penny Ingham to Novel Kicks. She’s here with the blog tour for her novel, Twelve Nights. 

The Theatre

London, 1592

When a player is murdered, suspicion falls on the wardrobe mistress, Magdalen Bisset, because everyone knows poison is a woman’s weapon. The scandal-pamphlets vilify her. The coroner is convinced of her guilt.

Magdalen is innocent, although few are willing to help her prove it. Her much-loved grandmother is too old and sick. Will Shakespeare is benignly detached, and her friend Christopher Marlowe is wholly unreliable. Only one man offers his assistance, but dare she trust him when nothing about him rings true?

With just two weeks until the inquest, Magdalen ignores anonymous threats to ‘leave it be’, and delves into the dangerous underworld of a city seething with religious and racial tension. As time runs out, she must risk everything in her search for the true killer – for all other roads lead to the gallows.

 

Penny has shared an extract from Twelve Nights with us today. Enjoy! 

 

*****beginning of extract*****

 

Thank you so much to Laura at Novel Kicks for letting me share my latest novel with her readers.

Twelve Nights is set in 1592, in the wild and glamourous heart of Elizabethan theatreland. When a player is murdered, suspicion falls on the wardrobe mistress, Magdalen Bisset, because everyone knows poison is a woman’s weapon.

Magdalen is innocent, although few are willing to help her prove it. Her much-loved grandmother is too old and sick. Will Shakespeare is benignly detached, and her friend Christopher Marlowe is wholly unreliable. Only one man offers his assistance – she is drawn to handsome Matthew Hilliard, but dare she trust him when nothing about him rings true?

With just two weeks until the inquest, Magdalen ignores anonymous threats to ‘leave it be’, and delves into the dangerous underworld of a city seething with religious and racial tension. As time runs out, she must risk everything in her search for the true killer – for all other roads lead to the gallows.

Here’s a sneak preview of the first few pages:

 

“John Wood looked very ill. A rivulet of sweat ran through his face paint, and his hand trembled as he straightened his long blond wig. Magdalen would have liked to ask what ailed him, but her lips were clamped around half a dozen tiny dressmaking pins. She shook her head, a silent plea for him to be still whilst she attached the sleeves to his gown.

A cacophony of frantic voices vied for her attention:

‘Where are my yellow stockings?’

‘Help me fasten my laces!’

‘I can’t find the cushions for Orsino’s palace!’

She glanced around the ‘tiring house. Moments before the start of the performance, it was overcrowded, noisy and uncomfortably hot. Costumes tumbled from wormwood infused chests, and props lay in a profusion of stuffed dogs, gilded crowns and sea captains’ hats. She couldn’t see the cushions so she shrugged her shoulders, and nodded towards the prop boxes. The ‘tiring house had once been her grandmother’s domain, and Magdalen her lowly apprentice. The redoubtable Agnes Bisset would never have allowed such disorder to go unchecked. Moving pins from lips to fingers to fabric with practised ease, Magdalen swore she would try harder to maintain some semblance of order, for her grandmother’s sake.

‘A full house this afternoon,’ Richard Burbage announced jubilantly. Burbage owned the Theatre, and the company bowed to his authority in all things. He was not a handsome man, his nose being too big and his lips too thin, but his dignified bearing meant he often took a noble role. In costume as Duke Orsino, he wore a short cloak slung jauntily over his shoulder, its fur trim brushed until it gleamed.

The clamour of the audience was beginning to drown out the mayhem of the ‘tiring house and Magdalen felt a familiar pang of exhilaration and panic combined. They had but twelve players, and two apprentices. It was not enough to stage Twelfth Night easily, or any other play for that matter, but the company had only recently reopened after a year of plague, and the coffers were empty. And so the players were doubling up, taking two, three or four roles per play; a dizzying amount of costume changes for her to oversee.

Eyeing John appraisingly, she decided not to add a ruff about his neck, nor a head ‘tire. The audience expected magnificent costumes, but even they might wonder why a noblewoman’s apparel had survived a shipwreck perfectly intact. Magdalen had bought John’s gown second-hand at a time when the coffers were full.

With a few alterations here and there, she took something old and created something new. She replaced the sleeves of a gown. She padded a doublet to create a fashionable peasecod paunch. She slashed and pinked. She sewed ribbon and lace, and beads and feathers. She added buttons, and the players strutted about the stage as proudly as the peacocks at Greenwich Palace.

She had paid over the odds for John’s costume but no matter, for he looked beautiful – at least, his apparel did. He was sweating profusely now, and she frowned with concern. She thought of him as a brother, and she fancied she could read him like a book. He had walked the boards since he was twelve years old, so it was unlikely he was succumbing to stage fright now. She prayed this was an excess of beer and not the ague or the sweating sickness or, Christ forbid, the plague.

The door opened and Christopher Beeston charged into the ‘tiring house. A big, strong man with an untidy thatch of straw-blond hair, he was often given the soldierly role.

‘We need more fruit! Is there any more fruit?’ he cried.

Flinging an empty wicker basket onto Magdalen’s work bench, he raced frantically about the small room, his unruly hair falling into his eyes. In his haste he tripped over a prop box and a cascade of goblets, daggers, books and gaudy jewels spewed out.

‘Heavens, that hurt!’ he swore, hopping on one foot. ‘Are you listening to me, Maggie?’

Magdalen spat the pins into the palm of her hand. ‘What did you say?’ she queried absently.

‘We need more fruit! And more bags of nuts!’

‘You’ve sold it all.’

‘Well, I suppose that’s for the best.’ Christopher was backing out the way he had come. ‘They’ll throw it all straight back at us if they don’t like the play. I’ll try and sell a few more cushions.’

‘You’re not in costume yet,’ she called after him, but he was gone. Magdalen glanced about the ‘tiring house again. Will Kempe was in costume for Feste the clown. Older than the rest, Kempe was bald save for tufts of wiry, grey hair sprouting over his ears. He had wicked, twinkling eyes, a bulbous nose, pock-marked cheeks and a mouth built for bawdy.

She had enjoyed making his ‘tire; a gaudy creation in proud, cockerel red. He had been dressed for some time and was evidently bored for necklaces hung from his huge, over-exaggerated cod-piece. ‘Who will taste my wares?’ he demanded, thrusting his groin suggestively at anyone who crossed his path but no-one was paying him any heed.

Magdalen returned her attention to John. His eyes looked unfocussed. May God protect them all, perhaps it was the plague.”

 

*****end of extract*****

 

 

About Penny Ingham:

I was born and raised in Yorkshire where my father inspired my love of history from an early age. He is a born story teller and would take us to the top of Iron Age hillforts, often as dusk was falling, and regale us with stirring tales of battles lost and won. Not surprisingly, I went on to study Classics at university, and still love spending my summers on archaeological digs. For me, there is nothing more thrilling than finding an artefact that has not seen the light of day for thousands of years. I find so much inspiration for my novels from archaeology.

I have had a variety of jobs over the years, including working for the British Forces newspaper in Germany, and at the BBC. When our family was little, the only available space for me to write was a small walk-in wardrobe. The children used to say, ‘oh, mum’s in the cupboard again’.

I have written four historical novels: The King’s Daughter explores the story of Aethelflaed, the Lady of the Mercians. The Saxon Wolves and the Saxon Plague are both set in fifth century AD, a time of enormous upheaval and uncertainty in Britain as the Romans departed and the Saxon era began. My latest is something a bit different. Twelve Nights is a crime thriller set in sixteenth century London, and features William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.

I now live with my husband in the Hampshire countryside. Like many others during the pandemic, we decided to try growing our own fruit and vegetables – with mixed results! We can only get better!

 Say hello via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and via my website

Twelve Nights is the first book in the Heavenly Charmers series. Click to buy on Amazon UK, Waterstones and Amazon US

 

*****

Want to win a paperback copy of Twelve Nights?

You have a chance to win a paperback copy of Twelve Nights. To enter, click here. The link will take you to a Rafflecopter form. Open to UK only.

 

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

 

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Laura
I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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