Friday, 5 October 2018

Spotlight, Review and Excerpt: Joseph Barnaby by Susan Roebuck

Joseph Barnaby by Susan Roebuck

Stand by your beliefs – even if it means going to the end of the Earth
By standing up for his principles to save the life of a prize racehorse, farrier Joseph Barnaby loses everything. Now, a personal vendetta has become too deep to fight and he escapes to the island of Madeira where he finds work on a small farm at the foot of a cliff, only accessible by boat. The balmy climate and never-ending supply of exotic fruit, vegetables and honey make it sound like paradise but, for Joseph, it’s the ideal place to hide from the world. Can the inhabitants of Quinta da Esperan├ža, who have more grit in them than the pebbled beach that fronts the property, help Joseph find his self-worth again? And can he escape the danger that draws ever nearer?

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The first chapter:

The noise level in The Rose and Crown pub grew in proportion to the amount the clientele drank, but Joe Barnaby’s father managed to make himself heard as he shouted, “My son is the best farrier in the business.”
Joseph Barnaby laughed and raised his glass. “And what my dad doesn’t know about horse farming isn’t worth knowing.”
There was a cheer, then a brief lull as glasses chinked and someone threw a bag of nacho chips in the air, which was a signal for the noise to start up again.
He sure is,” one of the farmers cried, joining Joe and his father at their table. “And make sure you’re at my stables tomorrow at nine, young Joe! You need to renew the hoof dressings you put on the bay the other day.”
It’s in my diary,” Joe confirmed. “And the chestnut’s hooves are due for trimming too.” He picked up his pint of beer and downed it. He had the best job in the world, he decided: great friends and clients, and the opportunity to work all day in the beautiful countryside with his favourite animal.
A stud-farmer Joe had worked with came over and spoke to him. “My grandson wants to be a farrier. Could he come out with you one day?”
Sure. But tell him he’ll have to deal with everything, from sombre, heavy-footed brewery horses to skittish, highly valuable racehorses who could explode into a nervous rage at any moment.”
The man nodded his understanding. “They can hurt themselves when they spook, can’t they?”
And me. I’m talking from experience, here, mind. I’ve had enough kicks up the backside to last me a lifetime. Sometimes a nervous horse can turn you as vulnerable as a crash-dummy. Tell your grandson that, and then see if he still wants to come.”
Joe was chatting to a farmer who’d been one of his customers for years about the merits of one vet over another when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to face a man he thought he should know, but couldn’t put a name to. The man’s squashed-in face was familiar. He was a little shorter than Joe, but blonder, and he had a red goatee. He smiled, showing long yellow teeth that would look better on a horse. What was his name?
Bobby Shaw.” The man stuck his calloused hand out.
Joe hoped his eyes weren’t popping in surprise. The Bobby Shaw. Not from Joe’s area, certainly, but famous in the farrier world – not only because he part-owned one of the biggest thoroughbred race-horse training stables in the area, but also because he was trainer to Starlight, the champion thoroughbred steeplechaser, who’d recently romped home a good thirty yards ahead of his rivals to win the Champions Cup for the third time in a row.
Can we talk outside?” Shaw gestured with his head at the door. “Quieter.”
Sure.” Joe followed him out, saying, “It’s good to meet you.”
Outside, lit by the glow from the pub, Shaw licked his lips. The guy’s permanent grin was weird, Joe thought.
Mutual,” Shaw said, finally responding to Joe’s greeting. He studied Joe’s features as if committing them to memory, and the grin made it look as if he found them amusing. “Looks like you’ve built up a good network here,” Shaw remarked.
Can’t complain.”
When I walked into the pub tonight I only came in for a quiet drink. Didn’t know I’d get to meet a farrier. I’d never heard of you before, but I’ve spoken to a couple of guys here tonight who say you’re a quiet character who likes to get on with the job. Someone who doesn’t meddle, if you get my meaning.”
Joe wasn’t sure he did get his meaning, so he kept quiet.
Someone who can be trusted. Also hear you mainly work with farm horses but you do have some dealings with thoroughbreds.”
Yes,” Joe admitted. “I do. Not many, but I can handle them if needs be.” He was curious. Surely this man from the country’s most famous thoroughbred racehorse training farm wasn’t going to ask him to check Starlight’s hooves?
Thing is,” Shaw said, looking around him as if he wanted to make sure no-one could hear him. “We have a little problem.”
Joe made a sound he hoped conveyed sympathy and wondered, again, what this had to do with him.
Grand National is coming up, and I need a farrier.”
Joe considered saying that was very careless of him, but decided against it. “I’m sorry about that. What happened to your regular one?”
Shaw shrugged. “They come and go.”
Could have been an illegal worker who took off, Joe thought. These things happened, although he’d have expected more from this stables.
You interested in giving a hand with three horses? They’re the ones the other farrier was working with, and they’re running in the hurdles at Kempton Park next week.”
Interested? Who’d say they weren’t interested in working for the Norchester yard?
You won’t be working with Starlight. I cater for all his needs, and these three you will be working on are rank outsiders in their next races. So nothing fancy expected of them. But,” Shaw waggled his head, “if you do a good job, keep your head down, mind your own business, you might find it worth your while.”
How could he refuse?
After they’d fixed for Joe to be at the stables in a couple of days’ time, Shaw headed for the exit, leaving Joe to ponder on the fact that if this job led to regular appointments (or, please God, a contract), then Joe’s career would rise like Starlight leaping the The Chair at Aintree racecourse.
When Joe returned on his own to the pub, the stud-farmer who’d talked about his grandson spending the day with him, came up to him. His face was grim as he said, “Saw you talking to Shaw. Just watch your back. OK?”

Joseph Barnaby loves his job as a farrier, taking care of horses and keeping track of race relating news and gossip. A horse named Starlight, a predicted winner for the Grand National is much talked about, yet the behaviour by staff at the Norchester yard is suspicious. On race day at Aintree, Joe's convinced the horse is unfit and spooks it sufficiently resulting in the animal's withdrawal from the race, believing his professional judgement is correct. However, as the scandal unfolds and experts conclude he is wrong, Joe flies to Madeira to escape from the trouble he caused, finding a new life full of promise even though he's still questioning his personal integrity.

Abandoned by her parents, Sofia lives with her uncle and aunt on their remote farm, accessible only by boat. She spends her days helping out and attending to the beehives she keeps. She's supposed to be dating a man who is the son of her aunt's friend yet intrigued by the foreign man who has come to help her uncle.

The narrative is full of surprises and personal coincidences and heartily enjoyed reading about them from another perspective. From, attending the abandoned Grand National in 1993, halted due to false starts. Joe's experience contrasts sharply to mine, but the atmosphere of the large prestigious race meeting was just the same. Coincidentally, beehives are kept a short walk from my home. The landscape here is vastly different to tropical Madeira, but Sofia's passion and care for her bees are just the same. Lastly, after visiting the island earlier this year, I hoped by reading about Joe I would soak up some of the atmosphere I experienced on the island. The author's descriptions of this beautiful and rugged paradise in the Atlantic Ocean are very realistic and enabled me to re-live the short time I was there, just as I had hoped.

A slow burn romance, complementing Joe and Sofia's story is a wonderful array of secondary characters, specifically, the mysterious Lua. Additionally, I liked the twist near to the end, tying up the past sufficiently for Joe to move on with his new life in Madeira...with Sofia.

For me, this novel is the whole package and contained so much more than I expected. With romance, mystery and suspense, the writing is well paced and includes a smattering of local Portuguese words of which the author kindly includes a glossary. As first impressions go, I've found a new author to follow and look forward to reading more of her books.

***arc received courtesy of the publisher Crooked Cat Books***

I was born and educated in the UK (I am British!) but now live in Portugal. I've been an English teacher for many years with the British Council and also the Portuguese civil service where I developed e-learning courses.

My first love is, of course, my husband, my second writing, and my third painting. And now I have time to be able to indulge in all three.

My debut novel, "Perfect Score" was published by Mundania Press on Sept 21, 2010 and the paperback launched on May 11 2011. It was a finalist in the 2012 EPIC e-book Awards in the Mainstream Category.

My second novel is a dark thriller/fantasy called "Hewhay Hall". It won an EPPIE award in the 2013 EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) e-Book Awards in the Horror Category.

Next comes "Rising Tide", published in 2015. Set in Portugal, published by Mundania Press. It is set in a tiny fishing village that the world, and most of Portugal, has forgotten. Read about the wonders of the ocean and see if Piper from Norfolk UK and Leo from Alaska, USA, can find what they're searching for in the little village of Luminosa.

"Forest Dancer" was published on 20th February 2018 by CrookedCat Books. This is novel number 2 set in Portugal but this time in the forests outside Lisbon, Portugal. Instead of the sea (as in Rising Tide), now find out about the wonders of the forest and whether classical ballerina, Flora, can find what she's searching for in the small village of Aurora.

On 5th October 2018 CrookedCat Books published my newest novel, "Joseph Barnaby", another romance/suspense which is set on the island of Madeira.

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  3. 3rd prize - 2 x ebooks of Joseph Barnaby
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