Spotlight: Jo Fenton, The Abbey Series

The Abbey Series

Today on the blog, I’m delighted to welcome fellow Cat, Jo Fenton, to tell us the ‘history’ behind the fictional setting of her two novels, The Brotherhood and The Refuge (released just last month!). I don’t care that it’s not real; I want to go and visit right now… Over to you, Jo.

Jen writes the most wonderful historical novels, so when she invited me to be on her blog, I wanted to find some historical content to discuss about my psychological thrillers.

The Refuge - cover pic

As they’re set in the early part of the 21st Century, I seemed to be on a lost cause – but then I remembered the setting: The Brotherhood and The Refuge are set in an old Abbey in the Cheshire countryside around Macclesfield.

The Abbey is imaginary in location, layout and indeed, existence, but is based on the type of Abbeys that were built in the 10th-16th centuries to house monks in England. Dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII between 1536 and 1541 meant that many of the monastic properties were sold off to fund Henry’s military campaigns.

Dominic’s ancestor, Sir Frederick Bishop was a wealthy, ambitious and despotic Baron, who wanted to impress and terrify the people dependent on him, and managed to gather together enough money to buy the Abbey near Macclesfield. The building had previously been named after a nearby village, but there was a viscount linked to the village with whom Bishop was embroiled in a feud over a young woman. Legend suggests the woman died inside the Abbey in tragic and mysterious circumstances. Bishop, however nasty, lacked imagination, so failed to find a suitable alternative name. The building became The Abbey, and continues to be known as such even now.

The Abbey passed down the generations, undergoing many changes of usage – from a stately home, to a school, to a hotel, but when Dominic Bishop inherited it at the age of 24 after his father died of a heart attack, it was in use at that time as a private home, albeit a somewhat run-down and struggling property. Dominic had been studying for a PhD in philosophy and Christianity in London at the time, but was struggling with bouts of mental illness, which he tried to hide. Only support from his half-brother Benedict (they shared a mother – Dominic alone was descended from Sir Frederick Bishop) kept him from being consigned to a mental institution.

Benedict was a doctor in training in London at that time, and misused his position to steal anti-psychotic drugs to give to his relative.

With an inherited Abbey, and a loyal, if frustrated, half-brother keeping him out of trouble, Dominic decided to return to Cheshire to run the family estate. Debts hung over the young man’s head, and he needed to find a way to make some money. Various ideas were tried and failed, but in 1993, Dominic became aware of the existence of David Koresh after the siege of Waco. Now 27, Dominic decided to use his education to form his own religious sect.

Initially, despite a stormy relationship, he installed his mother as housekeeper; but after discovering severe mismanagement of funds, Dominic felt he could do better. A shocking accident, days later, found his mother dead at the bottom of the stairs.

Benedict returned to the Abbey briefly for the funeral, bringing with him a new supply of stolen drugs, and gave his brother strict instructions on their use. Both maintained that their mother had fallen down the stairs, and they were able to find a doctor who accepted this explanation without question.

Dominic recruited his first followers with promises of luxury accommodation in a historical building, and a peaceful, non-materialistic existence away from ‘the rat-race’. He preyed on vulnerable men and women with family issues, but with large sums of money stacked away. This money was appropriated to help organise the Abbey into the chapters and buildings that were in existence when Melissa joined in 2005.

The secret passages, cellars and chapel helped to create the atmosphere inherent to The Brotherhood, and although this is largely changed for The Refuge, the building continues with its chameleon-like characteristic of changing to suit its owners. It does however, retain a gothic atmosphere – a reminder of its bloody history.

Blurb for The Refuge:

Following the death of The Brotherhood’s charismatic but sinister leader, Dominic, Melissa and her husband Mark resolve to turn the Abbey into a refuge for victims of domestic abuse. But when Melissa’s long-lost sister, Jess, turns up at the Abbey, new complications arise.

The Abbey residents welcome the new arrival but find it hard to cope with the after-effects of her past. As Jess struggles to come to terms with what she’s been through, her sudden freedom brings unforeseen difficulties. The appearance of a stalker – who bears a striking resemblance to the man who kept her prisoner for nine years – leads to serious problems for Jess.

Meanwhile, Mark also finds that his past is coming back to haunt him. When a mother and daughter venture from the Abbey into the local town for a shopping trip, there are dreadful consequences.

A build-up of tension, a poorly baby and a well-planned trap lead Mel, Jess and their family into a terrifying situation.

Can Jess overcome the traumas of her past to rescue her sister?

Find the books here…

The Refuge and The Brotherhood are available from Amazon. Together they make up The Abbey Series:

The Brotherhood (The Abbey Series Book 1):

The Refuge (The Abbey Series Book 2):

About Jo

Jo - profile photo 2 - cropped

Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire. She devoured books from an early age and, at eleven, discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer. She now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.

Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.

When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her family and is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and three reading groups.




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