March Competition: Winners and Simon Trewin’s Adjudication

It was a pleasure to welcome Simon Trewin, Head of the London Literary Department of William Morris Endeavours as our adjudicator for March. Simon kindly stepped in when Becky Bagnell had a family emergency.

The number of entries this month was back to a more manageable number, at 27.

I am sure that all of the entrants are thrilled to know that Simon cast his expert eye over their work, a wonderful experience even if they didn’t win. Read Simon’s comments and the winning entries below. His choice of winners is:

1st Place

HOME TO ROOST by DAVID LEA

2nd Place

VOYAGE AROUND MY HEART by LOUISE MORRISH

3rd Place

FAMILY MATTERS by JUSTIN STRAIN

Highly Commended:

FIREBALLS by GILL HOLLANDS

BRITISH LAWNS AN OVERVIEW by CHRISTOPHER YOUNG

Congratulations to all.

Next months competition is:

 

Write a steamy love story. (300 words)

 

The adjudicator will be Alison Spencer, author of Tug of Love, best debut novel, Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Please remember that I have set up an automatic reply informing that your work has got through. I will come back to you ASAP if anything is wrong with your entry.

Keep writing,

Sharon

 

1st Place

Simon Trewin: ‘This felt instantly intriguing and that the author understood the genre from the inside out. HOE TO ROOST sounds like the sort of book as a consumer I would gladly pick off the shelves’

 

HOME TO ROOST by DAVID LEA

‘Home To Roost’ is a Police Procedural set in Hampshire. The story opens with the discovery of a body at a chicken farm – a young woman’s leg wearing a man’s Argyll pattern sock protrudes from the surface of a slurry pit.

The victim, Christiane, is French.

DCI James Gawthorpe leads the enquiry and is attached to the Serious Crime Investigation Unit based in Winchester. Gawthorpe is approaching his fiftieth birthday and the people he has to deal with rarely surprise him any more, whether criminal or police. He has a greyhound called Putin.

Gawthorpe meets PC Effie Makepeace at the scene of the crime. She is thirty-three years old and of mixed race. She is also extremely bright and very attractive. She went to school at Cheltenham Ladies College and speaks with an upper-middle-class English accent. She has joined the police under the auspices of the Police High Potential Development Scheme. All of the above can result in her attracting jealousy, suspicion and prejudice, both inside and outside the force. She also speaks fluent French and Gawthorpe needs her expertise.

As the investigation progresses there is no shortage of possible culprits and they all appear to at have least one of the usual motives – lust, greed, pride, envy and jealousy. Most of them have interconnected lives and motives. Most are also known to Roger Humphry.

Humphry is a grotesquely obese and deeply unhappy man who lives in a large house overlooking the farm. He is a consultant in the technology of surveillance and has hacked into the phones and computers of many of the suspects. He seems to have had a particular interest in Christiane. Effie agrees to meet him and we then fear that she could become the next victim. However, Roger commits suicide, leaving evidence that helps lead to the arrest of the actual murderer.

Although its setting is ‘cosy’, it is realistic in style and references a number of gritty contemporary issues. Apart from ‘whodunit’, the main plot interest is in the development of the major characters and, in particular, the relationship between Gawthorpe and Effie.

 

2nd Place

Simon Trewin: ‘This is bold, ambitious and multi-layered. I knew nothing about Jeanne Baret and this synopsis makes me very intrigued indeed as to how the novel will unfold.’

 

VOYAGE AROUND MY HEART by LOUISE MORRISH

Inspired by true events, ‘A Voyage about My Heart’ is set in the 18th Century and tells the story of Jeanne Baret, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.

When Jeanne, a humble French herbalist, meets ambitious botanist, Philibert Commerson, the course of her life takes an extraordinary turn.

Commerson is compiling a grand herbarium, a collection of every plant in France, and desires Jeanne’s herbal knowledge. Working closely together, they soon become lovers. But when Jeanne falls pregnant, Commerson, intent on completing his life’s work, forces her to abandon the baby in a foundling hospital.

Clinging to the hope that she will be able to reclaim her baby one day, Jeanne stitches a keepsake into the child’s clothes; a muslin bag of carefully chosen herbs, symbolizing a secret message of love for her son.

But the baby dies within months.

Heartbroken, Jeanne believes she has little to live for. Within weeks, Commerson accepts a position as Ship’s Naturalist on a voyage of exploration around the world, and asks Jeanne to accompany him as his assistant. Seeking to escape her grief and guilt, and with nothing left to lose, she agrees. Disguised as Commerson’s cabin boy, Jeanne sets sail on the Etoile, a lone woman amongst three hundred men.

The crew are suspicious of her, particularly the ship’s surgeon, Vives. Over the next two years Jeanne travels uncharted waters, visiting exotic lands and discovering new plants.

But then the voyage runs into misfortune. Jeanne suffers an assault by Vives, and her secret is discovered.

When the Etoile reaches Mauritius, Jeanne realises she is pregnant. Commerson leaves the ship to work for Pierre Poivre, the administrator of Mauritius and a keen horticulturist. Desperate to escape Vives, Jeanne chooses to stay with Commerson, continuing as his assistant.

Jeanne gives birth to a girl, Stella, but soon after, Commerson dies from an infection. His Will leaves Jeanne enough money to live on, if she can return to France to claim it within a year. Jeanne sells herbal remedies to raise money for her passage home, and finally sets sail for France with Stella.

 

3rd Place

Simon Trewin: ‘This is a compelling premise for a novel and the synopsis fills me with a hunger to know more.’

FAMILY MATTERS by JUSTIN STRAIN

Steven’s family has a secret.

When Steven’s grandfather dies, his family is shocked to learn of an unknown granddaughter, Stella, who lives tucked away in a quiet Cornish village. Compelled to learn more, and searching for a change in his own life, Steven moves to Cornwall to meet Stella.

As Steven and Stella’s relationship grows, Steven begins to understand his history from a different perspective. He unearths the long-buried secret of Stella’s grandmother, Margaret, a wartime heroine, in Nazi-occupied France. Through flashbacks and letters, Margaret’s story gradually unfolds, revealing more about her clandestine work for the Special Operations Executive and her London romance with Steven and Stella’s grandfather, at the time a young seaman in the Royal Navy.

The revelations shake Steven’s beliefs and force him to reconsider his own family ties. Stella confronts him with his estrangement from his sister, his mother and his dying father, and challenges him to rebuild those relationships. Initially reluctant, he comes to realise how much they matter to him. As they begin to forge fragile bonds, Steven learns to accept his family, with both their virtues and their flaws, and to recognise his own responsibility for the divisions between them.

For Stella also, the revelations have far-reaching consequences. As her anonymity dissolves, she is drawn inexorably into the lives of her new-found family. She too begins to question the safety and comfort of her old life and to embrace a changing future, laying to rest her mother’s disastrous marriage and eventual suicide, and coming to terms with her own mental fragilities.

As the novel reaches its climax, Steven and his family confront their differences and the reality of his father’s cancer. A chance meeting with an old friend forces Steven to choose between his self-contained safety and the emotional gamble of committing to a relationship. Meanwhile, Stella discovers the story of Celeste and her brief but passionate love affair with Margaret. Past and present collide in Stella’s old family friend, Irene, and the tragic truth of Margaret’s life, loves and death is finally laid bare.

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