I am beyond delighted to host my friend, Jude Bayton. She is talented, funny, lovely, and kind. And, she has an awesome British accent. 🙂 Oh yes, and her writing is fabulous. Check out my review of The Secret of Pendragon Island… (Which is FREE on Kindle Unlimited)
The Secret of Pendagron Island took me back to my days of devouring Gothic Mystery Romances by authors such as Barbara Michaels, Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, and Daphne du Maurier. Miss Bayton has the perfect voice for the genre, and the setting and mood were delightfully atmospheric. I loved Poppy—a wonderful gothic heroine, strong but vulnerable, smart and brave. There was a nice little love triangle and I was rooting for Donovan the entire time. A compelling mystery with a few clever twists at the end, The Secret of Pendagron Island is a must read for gothic mystery lovers…or anyone who enjoys being swept away into a fabulous story.
Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
I was born in Germany into a British military family. I am from Kingston-Upon-Thames in Surrey, just outside of London. As a child, I lived in Yemen, Kenya, Wales, Scotland & Germany, until my father left the Army when I was 10.
I now live in Oklahoma with my husband John. Between us we have four sons and four grandchildren. We are empty nesters, except for our Blue Heeler. Her name is Scout.
Tell us a little bit about how this book came about.
This is the third book in what I call the Secret Set. I have always been fascinated with the Victorian era. Whenever I start to write, I automatically go to that time in history. As a reader, I love historical fiction, but I read contemporary also. I enjoy a thread of romance, but I always like getting my teeth into a good mystery.
The setting for this book is Cornwall, a beautiful place much beloved by us Brits. The inspiration for the title was from the old Arthurian tales of Uther Pendragon, a very well-known name in Cornwall, where the Arthurian legends run deep. It was fun coming up with a completely fictitious island! The main character, Poppy, is a lot like the younger me—curious, passionate, with a strong the desire to be a writer, always with her nose in a book. She compares people to the characters she reads about and has a strong sense of justice.
As with all my books, the main character and place drives the start of the process. Research colours in many things for me, especially with the stories being historical. To me, that can be the most difficult part. Historical accuracy is sticky. It’s horrid when you write about them being on a train, and then realise there wasn’t even a station where they are going! Keeping mysteries going without giving too much away is also hard work. The hardest part of this story was balancing more than one mystery at the same time.
What book have you read that you wish you had written?
Persuasion, by Jane Austen
Do you collect anything?
Would you rather have a bad review or no review?
A bad review can be helpful and point out real issues – If you point out a flaw though, explain why, or offer a solution.
What celebrity would you most like to be stranded on an island with?
Your most prized material possession? Why?
A locket my father bought my mother on their 60th wedding anniversary – now that my parents are no longer here.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Yes. I have two more Gothics which will come out in 2022. I also write under the pen name DJ FitzSimons and plan to release a contemporary detective novel.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The worst said that a mistake I made in one book was ‘lazy writing’ – Best said they couldn’t put the book down and wanted more.
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
They all know I’ve waited a long time to do this. They have been very encouraging, proud, and tell me to write more!
What character in your book are you least likely to get along with?
Mrs Malahide – she reminds me of my headmistress in boarding school.
How much of the book is realistic?
My work is fictional, and the situations can be far-fetched. But HOW the characters react to everything has to be realistic. It is the same in books I read. You can stretch a plot and a storyline, but people are always people, no matter what!
‘This secret might be the death of her…’
Working for the wealthy Nightingale family in a Cornish castle, is just the adventure budding novelist and librarian Poppy Livingstone is ready to undertake. The orphaned daughter of a convicted criminal, she is anxious to leave London and strike out on her own. But upon arriving at Pendragon Castle to a discourteous welcome, Poppy finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation, and on the trail of a woman whose mysterious disappearance twenty years earlier has captured her imagination.
Discovering evidence of an embezzler who has infiltrated the Nightingale family’s mining empire, Poppy becomes privy to their identity. Sworn to secrecy by Pendragon’s handsome heir, Clive, she inadvertently becomes a target – and the killer is watching.
When a series of catastrophes jeopardizes the family’s financial future, all evidence points to foul play. Who seeks to ruin Lord Nightingale’s family, and why? The death of another victim tempts Poppy to run for her life. But stubbornly she stands her ground, delves deeper, and boldly confronts an unknown enemy. But a lifetime reading literature is insufficient training as a sleuth. When at last she forces the killer’s hand, Poppy is unprepared for a shocking revelation and her own role in dark secrets of the past. Though the villain will finally be unmasked, ultimately Poppy will question if her entire existence has been a lie.
Adjacent to the castle was the kitchen garden—a generous rectangular affair. Though summer was yet to arrive, the herbs and plants were coming along a treat. I walked the length of the garden, admiring the healthy vines and leaves of different vegetables growing from the rich brown soil. The following plot I encountered was most likely a cutting garden. I recognised Daffodils, red and yellow Tulips, Lily of the Valley and one of my favourite’s, Iris. The heady scent of freesia hung in the air, and I momentarily paused to enjoy it while I ate my toast.
“It is a wonderful morning to dine alfresco, is it not?”
I whirled around so quickly that tea splashed from my mug. I had company. A tall, dark-haired man stood several feet away from me, leaning against a tree trunk while inhaling on a cheroot. Smoke spiralled above his head and clung to the dewy morning air.
“I beg your pardon,” I stammered. “I was unaware of your presence.” I began to move back towards the castle.
He took a step towards me. “Please, do not let me scare you away. I did not mean to startle you. I was just enjoying the fresh air and trying to wake up.”
I stared at him. He was well-built and muscular. His face of hard angles was softened by a pronounced dimple in his right cheek and a generous mouth that now smiled at me. He was black-headed, with eyes the colour of coal. Yet, there was something in his expression which smoothed the rugged masculinity of his appearance.
“Thank you, sir. We must have thought alike. I too sought to escape the warmth of the castle.” Who was this man? I had not seen him before. Could he be one of the groundsmen? I glanced at his clothing. Nothing to tell there. He was dressed neither as gentleman nor labourer, but something in between.
“Are you employed by the Nightingale’s,” he asked, one thick eyebrow arched.
“Yes, well, for the moment anyway.” I chewed my lower lip, and his eyes moved to my mouth. “I am cataloguing the Pendragon library. This is my third day here.”
“Ah,” he gave an easy grin. “A mainlander.”
I nodded, and then as I opened my mouth to speak, I heard footsteps approaching. It was Mrs Malahide. She carried a flower basket and cutting shears as she strode towards where I stood, clutching my tea and half-eaten toast. Inwardly I groaned.
“Miss Livingstone?” Her frown conveyed what thoughts were in her mind at the sight of me speaking to a man without a chaperone.
“Good morning, Mrs Malahide,” I said politely.
She took a breath, but the man interrupted quickly. “Morning, Malahide.” He threw down the stub of his tobacco and ground the ember out with his boot. “Ladies, if you would please excuse me.” He strode away, and as he passed, winked at me. I was shocked. But before I could react, the burn of Mrs Malahide’s disapproving glare landed upon me once again.
“I must get to work,” I blurted, and moved away as fast as I could without running.
I am a Londoner, but currently call the wilds of Tulsa, Oklahoma home. I grew up devouring Victoria Holt novels, loved Kathleen Woodiwiss, and adore the Victorian era. My stories are generally set in Europe, in places I have either lived or visited. I currently have three books published in the historical suspense genre, and one ready to publish this spring. I have two contemporary novels to publish in 2022 under a different pen name.
I write a monthly blog at judebayton.com – a satirical look at my life in Oklahoma.