The Drumbeats Trilogy – Julia Ibbotson


It’s 1965 and 18 year old Jess escapes her stifling English background for a gap year in Ghana, West Africa. But it’s a time of political turbulence across the region. Fighting to keep her young love who she believes is waiting back in England, she’s thrown into the physical dangers of civil war, tragedy, and the emotional conflict of a disturbing new relationship. So why do the drumbeats haunt her dreams?

This is a rite of passage story which takes the reader hand in hand with Jess on her journey towards growing into the adult world.






This extract is taken from Drumbeats, the first of the trilogy. It’s 1966 and naive 18 year old Jess has escaped her rather stifling parental home for a gap year in Ghana, West Africa. It’s a coming of age story as Jess loses her innocence and finds, not only a new romance, but also the dangers of civil war. The echoes of drumbeats haunt her dreams. Are they some kind of warning? And what of? In this extract, she is walking down a street in the capital Accra when she hears the screeching of a car, soldiers running …

She must have blacked out. Then, in a mist, bodies leaning over her. Faces above her, bending towards her. Hands on her leg. Strangely numb. Voices urgent. Then footsteps retreating and quiet again.

“Get up! Get up!” someone shrieked. She could hear. She was alive. She looked up. The blood on her hands wasn’t her blood; it was pumping from the soldier beside her. She saw the huge gash in his chest, raw and shining, the tatters of his shirt ragged around the wound. A great enormous gaping wide hole. The whiteness of his eyes, his contorted face. And she knew then that even if she were allowed to live, it would haunt her dreams forever.

“Get up!”

“How?” she squawked. “For god’s sake! I’m shot!”

She struggled to raise herself up on to legs that couldn’t hold her, and looked into the barrel of a machine gun.


Walking in the Rain

Jess happily marries the love of her life She wants to feel safe, secure and loved. But gradually it becomes clear that her beloved husband is not the man she thought him to be. She survived civil war and injury in Africa, but can she now survive the biggest challenge of her life?






The second book in the trilogy, Walking in the Rain, follows Jess’s life after Ghana, her joys and tragedies, marriage and motherhood, happiness and betrayal, through the 1970s and 1980s. The opening sees Jess in 1986, twenty years after returning from Ghana, clearly having suffered some kind of traumatic event, and remembering vividly what happened on her return and how events led

to her current situation. And still the drumbeats haunt her. Here, she remembers sitting on her bedroom floor back at her parents’ house after her return from Ghana in1966, starting to unpack her steamer trunk that has followed her back from Ghana, thinking she has lost the love of her life …

Chapter 2: “Dedicated to the One I Love”

Jess stared at the metal steamer trunk before her on her bedroom floor. She picked at the labels stuck to its top that declared its arrival at the port of London from Sekondi/Takoradi, Ghana, West Africa.

Involuntarily, she reached for her leg and foot, rubbing the circulation back. In the month since she had returned home, her foot and leg had been healing well but she still got cramps and of course she was still sore. As the damage faded, so did the memories. Now they flooded back into her mind.

The searing heat, the oppressive harmattan blowing in from the north bringing with it the hot dry desert sands on the wind, the sudden torrential monsoon downpours that were such a relief after the sweaty heat. A picture swamped her mind, of herself and Sandra, her flat mate, sitting on their veranda sipping the ubiquitous lager, gazing out over the African bush at the mango trees, watching the approach of the tornadoes whirling violently in from the ocean. So clear and vivid, that she could see the brilliant sharp colours of the jewel-bright bougainvillea, the flame-red flamboyant; she could smell the sweet hibiscus, the rich earthy scents of the bush, the deep aroma from the cooking pots steaming with groundnut stew outside the huts. She heard again the drumbeats: the pounding rhythms of the dondo haunting her dreams as the souls and spirits of the near-by bush villages of Kakomdo and Ebubonku called quietly to her as she slept.


Finding Jess

Single mother, Jess, has struggled to get her life back on track after the betrayal of her beloved husband and her best friend. When she is on the brink of losing everything, including her family and her job, she feels that she can no longer trust anyone. Then she is sent a mysterious newspaper clipping of a temporary post back in Ghana. Could this be her lifeline? Can Jess turn back time and find herself again? And what, exactly, will she find?

Finding Jess is a passionate story of love, betrayal and second chances – and of one woman’s bid to reclaim her self-belief and trust. It is a feel-good story of a woman’s strength and spirit rising above adversity.






The final book in the trilogy sees Jess facing betrayal and disasters. Thinking she has lost her husband, her best friend and even her children, she returns to Ghana. The drumbeats still pervade her dreams and she wonders what they are warning her of? In this extract she longs for her beloved daughters back home in England …

Chapter Twenty Three: the streets of Accra

There was an hour before she needed to be at the Ministry, so Jess grabbed her shoulder bag, locked the apartment, and ran down the stairs and out into the gardens. She breathed in the perfume of the tropical blossoms and the rain-washed soil, the tarmac steaming in the hot

sun. Out on the street, the morning was already bustling with activity and noise: cars screeching and blaring their horns, women carrying shallow baskets on their heads laden with oranges and bananas, tomatoes and mangoes, moving gracefully and smoothly through the crowds of smart dark-suit-clad office workers scurrying towards their offices in centre of Accra.

Even in her pale pink shift dress, Jess felt dull amongst the bright jewel colours of the women’s Ghanaian cloth and turbans glowed in the sunshine. Plump and proud, market mammies swung through the noisy streets to set up their stalls, or to accost passing drivers with their wares, hoping to sell a few before the competition of the central market. Jess smiled at the babies swaddled on their mothers’ backs but they only blinked passively at her, their big glassy eyes fringed by long thick black eyelashes.

The open drains alongside the pavements were already stinking with rotten vegetables, the air thick with spices, putrefaction and melting tarmac. Jess felt nauseous. Even here in the city of Accra, children with the distended bellies of kwashiorkor, were washing in the drains and under the water spouts at the shop fronts. Little children with tattered tops and shorts, thin young men with crates of beer aloft, and scrawny chickens and goats mingled with the crowds on their way to work.

She could hear the strong beat of the high-life music issuing tinnily from the buildings as she passed, and, the backbeat of the drums. Was that the pulse of the kpanlogo djembe throbbing through her head or the words of the donde rising and falling, surging to a crescendo and softly falling away, like a migraine, surging and dying.

As she walked, Jess felt as though the crowds and the noise of the streets softened to an echo in the distance and she could only hear the voices of her daughters calling to her. She saw their loved faces, there across the busy street, and she stepped over the open drain and into the road to embrace them …

But she didn’t see the car, swerving towards her …

Thank you, Julia Ibbotson and RachelsRandomResources.


About the author

Award-winning author Julia Ibbotson is fascinated by the medieval world and concepts of time travel. She read English at Keele University, England (after a turbulent but exciting gap year in Ghana, West Africa) specialising in medieval language, literature and history, and has a PhD in socio-linguistics. She wrote her first novel at 10 years of age, but became a school teacher, then a university lecturer and researcher. Finding Jess (2018) is her sixth book and the last of the Drumbeats trilogy (which begins and ends in Ghana). Apart from insatiable reading, she loves travelling the world, singing in choirs, swimming, yoga and walking in the countryside in England and Madeira where she and her husband divide their time.

Acclaimed author of:

Drumbeats (2015), the first of the trilogy set in 1960s Ghana: sometimes you have to escape to find yourself.

Walking in the Rain (2016), the second in the trilogy set in 1970s and 1980s England: never give up on your dreams.

Finding Jess (2018), the last of the trilogy set in 1990s England and Ghana: can the past ever be left behind?

Also by Julia Ibbotson:

A Shape on the Air (2017): historical (Dark Ages/early medieval) time-slip romance. Two women 1,500 years apart, with one aim: to reclaim their dreams and fight the dangers that threaten them both across the ages …

The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen, (first published 2011, rereleased 2017) a feel-good story of the renovation of a Victorian rectory interwoven with period recipes to feed the soul, all from the rectory kitchen.

S.C.A.R.S (first published 2012, rereleased 2016) (children’s novel): a troubled boy slips through a tear in the fabric of the universe into a parallel medieval fantasy world of knights, dragons, and a quest for the triumph of Good over Evil. But can he save himself?

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Pinterest page: includes boards with pics and images that inspired each book

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RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) website author page