Beyond Summerland by Jenny Lecoat

Posted 5 July, 2024 by Heather in Blog, Blog Tour, Book Excerpt, Heather / 0 Comments

Beyond Summerland is a page-turning tale of ordinary people caught in extraordinary times. It explores suspicion, prejudice, female friendship, and the fictions we cling to when faced with the harsh realities of history. Secrets buried deep within the island’s landscape come to light, and survival takes unexpected forms.

Here’s an excerpt from Beyond Summerland. Enjoy!




Jersey, Channel Islands

June 1945

Excitement billowed down the street. It poured out of every doorway and crackled in the air, tickling the back of people’s necks, beckoning everyone into this thrilling, historic morning. And what a morning! Yesterday’s storm had vanished north over the English Channel, leaving bright sunshine and a powder blue sky. Now the whole of St Helier was waiting, rinsed and gleaming, impatient with anticipation. A stiff southwesterly gusted through the streets of the town, carrying on it the faint murmur of a distant, chattering crowd, and standing on her front path to breathe it all in, Jean felt a surge of genuine optimism. She ran her fingers through her mousy hair to revive its sagging shape, tugged at her jacket to make sure that the moth hole in her blouse was hidden, then called back into the house:

“Mum! Hurry up, or we’ll get stuck at the back.”

Violet Parris shuffled out, her ancient leather handbag perched carefully on her arm. Jean watched as she turned, methodically, to lock the Chubb. It was a habit that recent years had ingrained, and with pilfering still rife around the parish, it made sense to be cautious, though everyone missed the days of open front doors. “Things will settle down by Christmas,” people kept saying. And perhaps they would. Jean took in the pallid face beneath the battered felt hat and considered what a frail, brittle figure her mother cut these days, the anxious, darting eyes and slight stoop of constant burden more pronounced in sunlight than in the gloom of the house. Certainly, most people would have guessed her to be older than forty-six. But then, Jean supposed, every living soul on this island had aged a lifetime in the last five years. She felt a sudden urge to reach out and hug her mum tightly but, knowing Violet would balk at such a display, offered her arm instead.

They set off at a pace that Jean calculated her mother could maintain for the half-mile walk. The street was filled with the sound of garden gates clanging as women shooed husbands and children onto the pavement, reknotting ties and smoothing errant hairs before scuttling toward the town center. One or two of them carried folded Union Jacks ready to unfurl at the crucial moment, and Jean felt a pang of envy; their own flag had been used for kindling back in the winter, and no replacements could be bought now. But then, it would be inappropriate for the family to appear in any way frivolous. Jersey was a small island. People liked to talk.

By the time they reached the end of Bath Street, the roads were already thick with people heading for the Royal Square. At the corner of the covered market on Halkett Place, two streams of moving bodies became a human river, pushing the two of them along like paper boats, and Jean wished again that they had set off earlier. As a woman behind stumbled slightly, forcing them both forward, she felt her mother’s fingers tighten on her arm; quickly, Jean tugged her away from the melee toward a quiet side street and leaned her mother against the concrete wall, supplying a handkerchief, which Violet immediately dabbed across her forehead.

“All right?”

Violet shook her head. “So many people. Why didn’t we go down the Albert Pier, see the SS Jamaica coming in, or find a place along the Esplanade?” Jean, who had suggested these exact choices last night, merely took the dampened handkerchief back and tucked it into her sleeve. As she did so, her eyes fell on the shop front, a small bakery set halfway down the turning. The display window had been boarded up to replace the shattered glass, but evidently the vandals had returned for a second visit, because now a huge swastika was painted on the plywood in black pitch. She glanced at her mother and saw that she too had become transfixed by it.

Violet jerked her chin a little. “Collaborators.” Jean nodded. What had the proprietors done to earn such a reputation? Had they served German soldiers their bread? Fraternized with them? She imagined the angry faces of men rushing toward the shop in the dead of night, bricks and rocks in their hands. What had happened to this island in such a few short weeks?

Liberation Day, less than a month earlier, had been the most significant, emotional event that any islander, young or old, had ever experienced. The most longed-for day in their history had come at last, and, with the arrival of a British task force in the harbor and the official surrender of the German military, five brutal years of Nazi occupation had finally come to an end. So long and arduous had the Occupation been—Jean was a schoolgirl of just fourteen when it began—that for the first week of freedom she had found the transformation impossible to take in. To be able to leave the house without curfew…to speak fearlessly on the street without fear of spies or listen to the BBC news on a neighbor’s radio! But best of all was the joy of eating a proper meal again, as the British army unloaded crate after crate of supplies, and the Red Cross ship Vega brought more relief parcels. Given the near starvation of the previous year, extravagances such as tinned meat, lard for cooking, sugar and tea had moved them to tears of relief as they unpacked their box. The taste of raspberry jam, spooned straight from the jar in a moment of pure elation, would stay with her forever.

Yet those early days had also brought bewilderment. After years of inertia, with entire months punctuated by nothing but the tedious struggle for food and fuel, Liberation brought a tornado of welcome but exhausting developments. They had dutifully exchanged their reichsmarks for sterling at the local bank and watched the mines being cleared from the beaches; they had read public announcements that the non-native islanders deported by the Germans in the autumn of 1942 had been flown back to England, and that their return was imminent. They had even received, at long last, a letter from Jean’s older brother, Harry, released from service and now back home with his own family in Chelmsford. Horrified at the long-belated news of his father’s arrest, Harry spoke of his frustration at being cut off from all island information for so long but, to Jean’s delight, promised that he would visit as soon as regular transport services resumed. Encouraged by a sense of returning normality, she and her mother would sit at the kitchen table of an evening, cutting out every significant article from the Evening Post and pasting them all into a scrapbook for posterity. And as they pasted, in a whispered voice too soft for the fickle fates to hear, Jean would dare to speak of the coming weeks and the news from the continent that even now might be on its way. Violet would nod and smile, but rarely responded. Hope, Jean calculated, was too heavy a burden for this exhausted woman in the final length of a horrendous journey; better for Jean to button her lip and direct her own dreams into the rhythmic movements of her pasting brush.

Not all the recent news was good. Among the celebratory headlines and the public announcements had been other, troubling pieces. Dreadful photographs of murderous Nazi camps where untold numbers had died. Accounts of local “jerrybags”—island women who slept with German soldiers—chased through the streets by marauding gangs who shaved their heads and stripped them naked. Reports of the island’s insurmountable debts. And one terrifying front-page report of a local father and son, deported eighteen months earlier, who had both perished during their incarceration. After reading these, Jean would retire to her bed and lie awake for hours in the grip of a dark, low-level panic, until falling into a fitful sleep just as the sun rose. She told no one about this, especially not her mother. She could not pinpoint the exact moment when she had assumed the maternal role in their relationship, and suspected it had crept up on them over many months. But Jean now knew instinctively that her mother’s shaking fingers indicated that Jean would need to peel the vegetables for dinner, or that Violet’s single, hot tear on her book’s page in the quiet of the evening required a hot drink and an early night. There would be time enough for her own feelings, Jean told herself, when this nightmare came to an end, which it surely would soon. So today, despite the sight of the boarded-up bakery and the unsettling feelings it brought, Jean squeezed out a comforting smile and placed a hand on her mother’s arm.

“We can just go home now, if you want.” Jean thought of their still, gray kitchen at the rear of the still, gray house and dreaded her mother’s nod. But Violet just gave a little frown.

“No, we’ve come this far. Come on.”

The Royal Square was, as expected, heaving with people.

Men, women and children were squashed together like blades of grass and stewards had placed barriers across the middle of the square to contain the crowd. Jean dragged her mother through the jostling bodies and, instructing Violet to hang on to the back of her jacket and not let go, began to slither her way through the crush, making the most of any tiny gap. She smiled helplessly at any gentleman in her path until he retreated, and threw apologetic backward looks when she trod on someone’s foot or dislodged their hat, until they found themselves only two heads back from the barrier just as the official cars pulled into the square. A huge cheer tore through the crowd, and by standing on her tiptoes and craning her neck Jean managed to find a sliver of a clear view.

The cars lined up outside the library. A young, uniformed Tommy opened the door of the shining black Ford. And suddenly there they were. Right there on the pavement in front of the States of Jersey government buildings, not thirty feet away, all the way from Buckingham Palace—the King and Queen! Jean gazed at King George, resplendent in his uniform, as he was greeted by low-bowing Crown officials. The Queen, magnificent in a feathered tam hat and draped decorously in a fox fur, accepted a huge bouquet of Jersey carnations, waving graciously. The cheers around the square were thunderous now, with snatches of patriotic songs breaking out here and there. Jean looked at her mother and saw her own excitement reflected back. But at that moment a woman next to them wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and grinned at Violet.

“Isn’t it marvelous? I can’t believe it!’

Jean felt her mother’s body stiffen beside her as she dredged up a suitable courtesy. “Yes, wonderful.”

“It’s over, really over! We can start living again!”

Jean watched Violet’s mouth turn to a grim line of sandbagged wretchedness. By the time her bottom lip began to tremble, Jean knew it was over—public tears were a humiliation that could not be tolerated, and the window of fake composure was closing fast. With one last reluctant look at the royal couple, Jean put her arm around her mother’s waist and pushed out through the crowd until they were both back on the high street, breathless and unsteady. In the doorway of a shop, shielding her from passersby, Jean again offered her handkerchief, and this time Violet pressed it across her face as she sobbed into it for several moments, emanating tiny stuttering sounds like a wounded animal. Eventually the shaking eased, and she took a deep breath.

“Sorry. It was just what that woman said.”

Jean rubbed her arm. “I know. But it can’t be long now. For all we know Dad’s already on his way home. Could be out there on a boat right this minute.”

Violet nodded and managed a small wet smile. Jean, working hard to hide her disappointment at missing this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, again offered her arm, and the two of them began the slow walk back to the house, Jean’s mind whirring. Was it right to offer such optimism? No one knew if her father was actually on his way home. It was fifteen months since he’d stepped onto that German prison boat, headed God knows where. Twelve months since his last letter. And not a word from the authorities since Liberation. She told herself they had no choice but to believe, but one thing was certain—the Occupation was far from over. Not for them.

Excerpted from Beyond Summerland by Jenny Lecoat. Copyright © 2024 by Jenny Lecoat. Published by Graydon House Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.



On Sale: July 2, 2024; 304 Pages, Harlequin Trade Publishing/Graydon House

Beatriz Williams meets Laura Spence-Ash in this fast-paced and tension-filled novel about secrets and betrayal in a small community recovering from war, and the two young women at the center of a volatile mystery.

In June of 1945, Jersey is in the midst of change as the German occupation of the Channel Islands comes to an end. However, demands for punishment are rising for those suspected of collaborating with the Nazis. Neighbor turns against neighbor as distrust flourishes and accusations fly, especially towards women who had romantic relationships with the German soldiers.

When Jean Parris learns that her father, who died in a German prison, was reported to the Nazis by an anonymous woman, her rage hits a boiling point. The suspect, Hazel Le Tourneur, denies the accusation but has a motive for wanting Jean’s father gone. Then, when Hazel catches Jean secretly meeting with a German soldier, the women form an unexpected bond in the face of ruinous consequences. With tension running high and secrets at every turn, the truth behind the accusations may be more complicated than anyone could imagine.


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About Jenny Lecoat

Jenny Lecoat was born in Jersey, Channel Islands, where her parents were raised under German Occupation and were involved in resistance activity. Lecoat moved to England at 18, where, after earning a drama degree, she spent a decade on the alternative comedy circuit as a feminist stand-up. She also wrote for newspapers and women’s magazines (Cosmopolitan, Observer), worked as a TV and radio presenter, before focusing on screenwriting from sitcom to sketch shows. A love of history and factual stories and a return to her island roots brought about her feature film Another Mother’s Son (2017). She is married to television writer Gary Lawson and now lives in East Sussex. Her debut novel, The Girl from the Channel Islands, was an immediate New York Times bestseller.


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I'm a PhD chemist who loves sarcasm, music, and books-paranormal, mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, and romance. Most of my free time is spent at the martial arts studio these days--whether practicing Combat Hapkido or reading books while watching my son's Taekwondo classes, or even working up a sweat with Kickboxing for fun. Goodreads

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