The Little Cottage in the Country by Lottie Phillips

The Little Cottage in the Country by Lottie Phillips



34597491Publisher: HQ Digital

Publishing Date: 3rd July  2017

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 289

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle





Escape to the country!

Anna Compton thought that moving to the countryside, leaving London and her past firmly behind her was the perfect solution. Goodbye life of thirty-something, crazed single mum of two, hello country glamour queen, domestic goddess and yummy-mummy extraordinaire.

But her new life at Primrose Cottage isn’t quite what she expected! Very soon she’s chasing pork pies down hills, disguising her shop-bought cakes at the school bake sale – and trying to resist oh-so-handsome Horatio Spencerville, who just so happens to be the Lord of the Manor…

Could moving to the country be the biggest mistake she’s ever made?

A delightfully uplifting romantic comedy to get you in the mood for summer! Perfect for fans of Christie Barlow, Holly Martin and Tilly Tennant.

Rating: four-stars

So guys. “The Little Cottage in the Country” – already the title sounds like right up to my street. Add to this the gorgeous, bright, colourful cover and here we are, the book is already on my kindle. I was hoping for a lovely, feel – good story about new beginnings, light – hearted and easy to read and well, I did get what I was hoping for. I have spent some hilarious hours in the company of the quirky characters.

The characters in this story were a little too overdone but they were also great and funny. Anna was great, just my kind of character. Easy – going, funny and incredibly accident prone, getting herself into so many embarrassing situations. She wanted everything to go so well, but not everything she tries and wants goes according to her plan but she just kept going, full of determination. When she meets Horatio, Lord of the Manor, and his horse there is such a clash between them but also there was the spark, and their banter and the way they kept meeting were probably one of the best parts in this book. For Anna however, Horatio comes across as rude, bumptious, full of himself and obnoxious, and he seems to appear in all the embarrassing for Anna moments – especially at the beginning.
What bothered me a little about Anna was the fact that she was so unsure of herself and her abilities as mother, journalist, friend. She was asking herself all the time is she’s capable to do things, if she’s a good mother to her children – I just missed more of confidence and I wanted her to start to believe in herself. On the other hand, I totally got her as I too often doubt in my capabilities myself, hm, and she was just trying her best.
Moreover, the author has really brilliantly written Anna’s children, the five – years – old twins Freddie and Antonia. It’s not easy to write animals and children, I have read many good books where everything went wrong as soon as the authors added a child or animal, but Lottie Phillips has done them really, really well. And I know what I say as I have a five – year – old at home and I work in kindergarten. The children were so easy to like, the way they spoke was so natural and so adequate to their age and they just felt honest and genuine. They provided a lot of funny moments in the book, adding a word or two in the most inappropriate situations. Also, Anna’s love for her children is palpable through the pages and Lottie Phillips has – again – brilliantly captured the relationship they had. Actually, all of the relationships in this story were brilliantly written, no matter if it was between mother – children, between friends or frenemies in the village – they were all relatable, down – to – earth and full of hilarious moments.
We also have Anna’s best friend Diane, full of laughs, and I wouldn’t be afraid to say a little crazy who was a make – up specialist making her clients look like the members of a heavy – metal band. However, she wore her heart on the sleeve and this friendship was the best thing that could happen to Anna and Diane – she was also a brilliant aunt to the twins. There is also Anna’s mother Linda and while at the beginning I was a little sceptical about her, the more I got to know her the more I adored her and her ways. And of course the male protagonist in the story, the above mentioned Horatio, and hunky farmer Richard, as well as all the other yummy mummies at the school gates and the rest of the villagers, that provide many hilarious moments.

I think I get what the author has tried to do but there were moments that the story felt much too exaggerated, much too overdone, the characters too cartoonish. I guess it was intentional and generally speaking it didn’t bother me so much but there were moments that it was too much. Sure, there were plenty of humorous moments as well and altogether I enjoyed the book, it was funny, easy to read and there was this feel – good factor to it. However, some of the situations happened totally out of the blue, quickly, some elements were a bit too OTT and too far fetched. The scenes appeared out of the blue, were very short, ended rapidly and there was no mention of them ever again, and I was wondering if they were really so necessary. I was looking so much towards the diary that Anna’s Aunt Flo left to her but there was almost nothing about it, only the briefest of the brief mentions, and I would love to read an actual page or two from it. Also, Anna’s column that she was supposed to write for her boss seemed a bit forgotten, and it’s a real shame – again, one or two wouldn’t go amiss, right? In the end, it all seemed too rushed and as if the author had to squeeze all the things she wanted to write about as soon as possible together. I missed some more building – up of the budding romance, for example, and altogether, it felt a little too chaotic, too rapid, too rushed. However, having said that, I really enjoyed this story, the eclectic cast of quirky characters and the humour and I am very glad to have discovered Lottie Phillips, especially as she was trying here a totally new genre for her, having written thrillers before under the name Louise Stone. “The Little Cottage in the Country” was a real breath of fresh air and I enjoyed it very much – recommended!

Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage by Zara Stoneley

Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage by Zara Stoneley


34875719Publisher: HarperImpulse

Publishing Date: 22nd September 2017

Series: Love in Langtry Meadows #2 (read my review of book #1 here )

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 339

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback (out on 30.11.2017)




Return to the charming little village of Langtry Meadows and cosy up by the fire with this gorgeous romance that will warm your heart…

As the lazy days of summer ebb away and the hedgerows fill with rich, plump blackberries, Lucy Jacobs couldn’t be happier. She’s feeling more and more at home in the small village of Langtry Meadows and has fallen in love with idyllic Jasmine cottage – not to mention gorgeous vet Charlie.

But just as Lucy is thinking about putting down roots like the blackberries that grow in her garden, Charlie’s ex returns and threatens to put a thorn in their perfect life…

Rating: five-stars


Guys. What a lovely feeling it was, to be back at Langtry Meadows with the characters from “Summer with the Country Village Vet”! It was so great that we didn’t have to wait too long for the second book in the series, and as “Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage” started off exactly where we left, it was so easy to immediately get comfortable and enjoy the novel immensely.
Because guys, there is no other option than enjoy this book! I’ll probably repeat myself in this review but Zara Stoneley has such a huge talent to write welcoming, warm, down – to – earth and funny stories, with the best characters in the world. We are back with the incredibly laid back Lucy, the sexiest vet ever Charlie (can you hear me roar?), Maisie, Sally, Jim, Elsie, Trish and many, many other colourful and wonderful characters that we remember from book number one.

This novel was packed full with events yet it never felt too overdone, which must be an art itself. There were dramas aplenty but also many, many, many relaxing and hilarious situations usually involving animals and children, and Zara Stoneley can write both brilliantly well. There is not a single moment flat and I was so caught up in the lives of the characters that I didn’t want to put the book away. The author has in such a great way written about Maisie and how hard it was for her to come to terms with the fact that her mum is right now absent from her life, and she wonderfully captured all those feelings and emotions of a little girl. Don’t get me wrong, Charlie and Lucy of course did whatever they could that Maisie felt loved but still her mum was not there and she felt so alone, and my heart was breaking in thousand little pieces when I saw her so sad. Then of course we have this brilliant, lovely close knit community that support each other no matter what – they just go along so easily, in such a natural, genuine way. There are also some secrets being kept in the story and some closures as well and it all just works perfectly together.

Reading the book was for me like sitting under my favourite blanket, in front of the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate with a whipped cream and marshmallows – it was absolutely a bliss and I can’t wait for a book 3 in the series. There was this so hard to capture cosy and warm feeling and I truly didn’t want this story to end. I think that Zara Stoneley’s writing and stories just get better and better and each of her books is a real treat for me, as I know that she’s always going to deliver this what I’m looking for. I highly recommend “Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage”!

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club by Poppy Dolan

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club by Poppy Dolan


36199960Publisher: Canelo

Publishing Date: 25th September 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 260

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle





Finding happiness one stitch at a time

When Dee Blackthorn’s brother, JP, breaks both wrists not only is he in need of a helping hand – or two – but the knitting shop he owns can’t function. Sisterly duties take Dee away from her demanding job and she is unceremoniously fired amidst rumours of inappropriate behaviour. Dee is certain that her hot-shot nemesis, Ben, is behind it all but has no proof.

When Dee bumps into an old friend who is new mum to a premature baby she convinces JP to enlist his knitting pals to make lots of tiny woolly hats. Then Ben turns up denying involvement in Dee’s sacking and she ropes him into helping the knitting cause.

But before long Dee’s good intentions backfire and she risks losing her friends, her family and Ben, who’s turned out to be not so bad after all…

A feel-good romantic comedy about learning what life is really all about, The Woolly Hat Knitting Club is perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Tilly Tennant and Carole Matthews.

Rating: four-stars


Poppy Dolan is back again with her new novel “The Woolly Hat Knitting Club”, and even though knitting is totally not my thing (but I have other talents, really!), it IS Poppy Dolan’s book and I requested it without hesitation – I fell in love with her books some time ago and I am incredibly happy that after a long break she’s back with her second book this year – keep them coming, Poppy!

The story started very promising and engaging, with Dee being very suddenly being fired from her beloved job. Then I think it went a little downhill and slowed down a bit but I was still caught up in the novel and kept my fingers crossed for (almost) everybody. Dee has really gone on a journey of self – developing and finding her priorities, becoming a new person in short. She had a passion, when she did something she put all her heart into it and she loved her family. She didn’t hesitate for a single moment to leave behind her life in London when her younger brother JP breaks both his wrists and needs help. Actually, this is where her new life starts – even if she doesn’t know it yet herself! What we don’t know about JP yet is that he’s a knitter, runs a blog and the crafting gangs out there just love him. Dee doesn’t knit. At all. But she’s still there to help him, especially as after a chance encounter with her school friend Becky Dee realises they can help! So then we follow her, JP and some of their friends (and enemies) bringing the challenge to life.

I admit, I had some problems to get into the book. I mean, all this knitting, the structure and colours of the yarn, descriptions of needles or whatever the right name is, and generally, there was something keeping me back, but fortunately this overwhelming feel – good factor, the positivity and the wonderful message took over and I just simply started to enjoy this book. It was so warm that you just can’t not like it, and I really am not sure what my problem was.

We see Dee changing, seeing there are other things that count in life than work, seeing different perspectives, and I enjoyed watching her realising all those things. I always like such characters that set their priorities right. Actually, all of the characters are really well drawn. They are down to earth, they have their battles and struggles and they really feel realistic. They play their parts well and there is enough personality in all of them to like them and fell for them, even though their futures are a little bit predictable.

“The woolly Hat Knitting Club” was a lovely story about realising the importance of a family and friends with a beautiful message in it, also touching upon issues that are so important but not often talked about such as premature babies. It is thoughtful but also light – hearted and easy to read, fun and poignant and I simply liked it. It was written in a lovely, warm way and actually, it was all I was expecting from this book. Recommended!

Q&A with J. Paul Henderson

Hi guys! I am absolutely thrilled to have J. Paul Henderson on the blog today. Three years 20467872ago (THREE years already!) I read and incredibly enjoyed his novel “Last Bus to Coffeeville” (here you can read my review) – I can still tell you what the book was about and why I liked it so much, and it is really a sign of a VERY good novel. This year the author is back with another book and already it had me at the  35224222title: “”Larry and the Dog People”. I am right now looking at this novel, it is on my TBR pile and well, I am so sure that it’s going to be one of my next read. In the meantime, though, I have a great Q&A with Mr. Henderson. Enjoy!


Tell us a little about Larry and the Dog People and what inspired you to write it?

Larry MacCabe is a well-meaning man who unwittingly drives people nuts and can’t get anyone to befriend him on Facebook.  He’s a retired academic, a recent widower and apparently a person born to lose:  a man who walks along the hard shoulder of life with an empty gas can in his hand and unlikely to make it to a service station without the help of another.

Fortunately for Larry, the administrator of a care home he’s been banned from visiting takes pity on him, and at her suggestion he adopts a Basset Hound and joins her at a local park one Saturday.  He becomes a regular visitor and, for the first time in his life – and largely on account of his dog – finds acceptance.  It’s the idyll he’s longed for, but one that proves to be of short duration.

While his new companions prepare for the annual Blessing of the Animals service on the Feast Day of St Francis, Larry puts the finishing touches to a conference paper he’s due to present in Jerusalem and arranges for someone to house-sit his dog while he’s away.  Neither the service nor his visit to Israel go to plan, however, and on his return Larry is inexplicably charged with conspiring to blow up a church and complicity in the deaths of four people.  All that stands between him and conviction is a personal injury lawyer – and things for Larry aren’t looking good!

I have friends who live in Georgetown, a suburb of Washington DC, and they exercise their dog in a local park that doesn’t enforce leash laws.  I used to accompany them there and I was struck by the strange mix of dog owners who frequented the park.  Volta Park was the ideal setting for a story of oddball characters, but for a long time I was lacking a central character who would act as the cornerstone for the book.  And then I hit upon Larry, a character I based on a long-winded professor I’d known in Mississippi, and the novel started to take shape.

The plot came in fits and starts, but the key element of the story was always for Larry to be the victim of circumstances.  I was already familiar with the Desert Land Act of 1877 and the story of Masada, and I was lucky enough to stumble on other subjects that I could weave into the story – dyspraxia, animal blessings, waterfall tuning and Christian Buddhism, for instance.  I always knew how the book would end, but I was never sure just how I’d get there.  It turned out that dyspraxia, animal blessings, waterfall tuning and Christian Buddhism were good vehicles to get from one chapter to the next.


What was your favourite chapter in Larry and the Dog People to write, and why?

It was probably chapter 10:  Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…  For the plot to be believable I had to find a way of bending the equivalent of iron bars, and the toughest of these are to be found in this chapter:  Wayne’s completed back-story, the re-appearance of Kevin, and the logic – if there was any logic – to their decision to blow up a church on the Feast Day of St Francis.


What’s more important:  characters or plot?

Both are important.  It’s like love and marriage or a horse and carriage:  you can’t have one without the other.  Or, at least, you shouldn’t have one without the other.  I don’t like plot-driven books where the characters are wafer-thin and seemingly there for the sake of being there, and neither do I enjoy entering the world of well-rounded protagonists who do little more that eat pizza and contemplate the world between slices.  If I don’t invest in the people then I’m unlikely to invest in the plot, and if I don’t invest in the plot then I’m unlikely to invest in the people.  It’s one of those love and marriage things, one of those horse and carriage things:  you can’t have one without the other.  Or, at least, you shouldn’t have one without the other.  (This is like answering an exam question where you say the same thing three times and hope that the examiner only notices the length of your answer).


Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I always write in the same room and at the same desk and usually from 11am.  The day starts gently.  I’m not a big fan of silence and so I listen to music while I write, usually Planet Rock which, for a man of my generation, is the equivalent of easy listening.  This is about as interesting as it gets.  I don’t go in for ritual.


If you could tell your younger writing self something, what would it be?

Don’t get an agent.


The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club by Chrissie Manby

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club by Chrissie Manby


35582348Publisher: Hodder

Publishing Date: 21st September 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 384

Genre:  Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback






In the quaint seaside town of Newbay, a beginner’s cookery course is starting. And three very different students have signed up . . .

Liz’s husband has left her for a twenty-something clean-eating blogger, and she’s determined to show the world – and her daughter – she’s just as capable in the kitchen. John, newly widowed after fifty years of marriage, can’t live on sympathy lasagnes forever. To thirty-year-old workaholic Bella, the course is a welcome escape from her high-pressure job. Their only common ground: between them, they can barely boil an egg!

Enter talented chef Alex, who is determined to introduce his pupils to the comforts of cuisine. As Liz, John and Bella encounter various disasters in the kitchen, the unlikely trio soon form a fast friendship. Their culinary skills might be catastrophic – but could the cookery club have given them a recipe for happiness?

The wonderful new novel from Chrissie Manby is perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Trisha Ashley and Cathy Bramley.

Rating: five-stars


Each new release by Chrissie Manby is a treat. I was very inconsolable some time ago that there is no more Proper Family to come, however with “The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club” we return to Newbay, the town that was already featured in another Chrissie Manby’s cracker of a story, “A Fairy Tale for Christmas”, and it was lovely to see some characters from the previous book mentioned, as well as the NEWTs. But it is a fully stand – alone novel, with a new bunch of the most lovely, humorous and life – experienced characters and the book has easily elevated itself to the top of my favourite reads this year.

This novel has all that I absolutely love in books – brilliant characters, dogs and cooking. I immediately fell in love with Liz and her life – approach, it was so easy to relate with her character and to feel her pain. Liz had troubles to come to terms with her husband leaving her for a much younger health blogger and her daughter blaming her for this fact – of course! The fact that Brittney is a health blogger, posting vegan recipes and radiating calmness and zen also doesn’t help as Liz – simply – can’t cook. Add to this an overweight border terrier Ted only starting his own doggy weight loss class at the local vet – you can really loose self – control, right? However, Liz’s patience was amazing, and the way she coped with all those things was brilliant, she was so stoical and cool as a cucumber, and I just wanted to give her a hug.
But the story doesn’t only tell us Liz’s story. Through Alex’s cookery class we get to know other characters that basically have nothing to do with Liz and her life, they only get to know each other on the course but we get the chance to also see into their backgrounds and histories, and I must say that while sometimes it doesn’t work – mixing characters that have nothing in common – here it created such a warm atmosphere and was a brilliant balance to Liz’s tale. There is Bella, a public defence lawyer, almost always on telephone duty – she was so kind and human and if I were in troubles I’d want Bella and only Bella. It seems that her job takes over her life and she starts to wonder if this is really how she wants to live. There is John, a seventy – something widower, still missing his late beloved wife and keeping a secret, and Alex, the one setting up the cooking course, hoping for a class full and landing with the three so very different, but so very personality rich students.
What all the characters have in common, though, is the fact that they were not happy with their lives, and all of them started to realize this – the question was if they’re going to do something with this.

Chrissie Manby has described the food in the most delicious way but what was the best thing is that mostly the dishes were associated with some of the best memories in our characters’ lives – it was lovely and touching and I absolutely adored this part of the story. I would only love if there were some recipes at the end of the book – maybe they’re going to be put in the finished copies but they weren’t in my review copy.

This book is written in such easy, comforting way! I just couldn’t stand the thought that I must put it down for a moment, I was so caught up in the characters’ lives, their antics and their banter – it was all perfect! There are so many hilarious scenes in this novel, usually involving Liz, as she was incredibly accident prone, but also there were some more poignant moments and I loved this balance. From the very first page I knew that I am for a new treat and that I’m going to enjoy this book. It was another fantabulous story that I simply devoured and didn’t want it to finish.

So shortly, very shortly – it was funny and emotional, it was heart – warming, it was so genuine and realistic and it is a MUST READ this autumn. It was so brilliant, with adorable characters with their own background interesting stories, full of funny situations that really made me laugh out loud, and there are too many to list them, and besides I don’t want to spoil the joy for you, and moments that had me tearing up – just what I love. I am already looking towards Chrissie Manby’s next release, I simply can’t have enough of her writing. Highly recommended!

The Picture House by the Sea by Holly Hepburn

The Picture House by the Sea by Holly Hepburn


35716672Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 10th August 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 464

Genre:   Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback






The brilliant new series from the bestselling author of The Star and Sixpence series. Perfect for all fans of Cathy Bramley.
The little picturehouse by the sea is the Palace at Polwhipple – a lovely art deco cinema, nestled in front of azure Cornish seas. But it is long past its heyday now, and its only saving grace is Ferelli’s, the family run ice-cream concession in the foyer, which is widely known as the best ice cream for miles.
So when Ferdie, the owner of Ferelli’s, falls ill, his granddaughter Gina drops everything to come and help out. But when she arrives she is dismayed by the state of the cinema, which she remembers fondly from summer holidays when she was little, and she is determined to give it the makeover it deserves. Along with local builder Ben Pascoe, she sets about reviving the Palace to its former glory.
But the cinema needs more than a lick of paint. Its very future is under threat from a developer with greed in his eyes. Can Gina save the place before it is too late?

Rating: five-stars


“The Picture House by the Sea” is Holly Hepburn’s second full – length novel that I had a pleasure to read – because after reading and enjoying “A Year at the Star and Sixpence” I just knew I have to read the new one, no matter what. There is such a lovely feel – good vibe to this beautiful cover, don’t you think, it makes you want to go and visit the place pictured there, and the synopsis sounds so inviting – well, the story promises ice – creams and cinema, so nothing can go wrong there, right? What I personally loved in this book was the fact that the book didn’t feel like being previously published in parts – mostly, when the novel is first published in instalment, when you read it as a full – length there are many repetitions, which is understandable but often just bothers me. This time however it didn’t feel like that, and that’s a real brownie point.

The next thing that I really liked was the fact that each of the four parts of the story introduces us to a new old movie and even though I’m not a great cinema fan even I have heard (and seen!) those films, so I could really get into the atmosphere and I understood all the references or nicknames. Also, next to the films there is also a new ice – cream flavour and a cocktail being introduced and oh my words, guys…! They sounded so innovative, so different, so intriguing and so, so good! I would do lots to try them all, really.

Holly Hepburn has created brilliant, warm characters that you love or love to hate. Gina was lovely, she was full of passion and determination and she never gave up, even when life was getting in the way. Was there a thing she couldn’t do or organise? I don’t think so – impossible was nothing for our Gina, but in all this she came across as down – to – earth, normal young woman. I adored her ideas and how quickly she always got the feeling of what is needed to help. Ben is Gina’s friend from the times she was coming to her grandparents for holidays and now they catch up. Ben … *swoon*. Helpful, honest, with an unusual hobby of stream trains but at least it was something different and not so obvious. And of course all the background characters – full of good vibes, personalities and I just felt good in their company.

It was light, a little predictable read – but it didn’t spoil the reading this time because I was too caught up in the story for it to bother me. There were moments that I had a feeling the narration is going too far with descriptions or concentrating on things that are not so significant to the story but altogether the pace of the story was quick, there were many things happening, there were plenty of events and it kept me hooked to the pages. The writing was rich, vivid and colourful – you could really see why this art deco cinema used to be a local landmark and why Gina was so desperate to bring its brilliant days back – and the author brought all the ice – creams flavours to life and also the descriptions of the Picture House were detailed but full of charm and atmosphere.

Altogether, “The Picture House by the Sea” is really a lovely, warm and inviting story that has it all: vivid, living, bubbly characters, battles to fight, gorgeous setting, some romance and troubles. It’s about being determined, about not giving up, about friendship old and new and family bonds, and I truly enjoyed it. A perfect summer read, full of charm and vintage dresses and I can only highly recommend it to you all, guys!

99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter / #BlogTour + Extract

Hi guys, and happy Friday! It’s weekend, hurray! I don’t know about you but for me this week felt as if it had 14 days, instead of 7. But whatever. Today I am thrilled to welcome you to another blog tour to celebrate publishing of “99 Red Balloons” by Elisabeth Carpenter. To be honest, it was first the title that made so intrigued about this book and I am looking forward to read this book so much! Today I have an extract from the novel for you – enjoy!


Chapter 14 p.71-72



The only words I’ve said to George since the ferry are yes, no and thank you. And we’ve been driving for over a hundred hours or whatever it is. I’m usually a chatterbox in the car – Mummy would have told me to keep it zipped at least twenty times if she were driving me. My bum is burning I’ve been sitting on it for that long.

‘Come on, kid.’ He keeps trying to talk to me. ‘I’m getting bored driving, listening to bloody French radio stations. You’re not still mad at me, are you?’

He was mad at me, but I can’t say that. He’d tell me off again. He can just turn. I’ve seen grown-ups do that. I keep trying to guess to myself how old he is. He’s older than Daddy, but not as old as Gran. His hair is black, but it has loads of streaks of grey, and he’s either got a lot of hair gel in it, or it needs washing. That’s what Mummy says about Daddy’s, though he doesn’t wear hair gel much these days.

Tears come to my eyes when I think of Mummy and Daddy. They’ll be missing me by now. Are they really waiting for me in Belgium? George won’t let me talk to them on the phone. It would be good to hear their voices, then I won’t miss them as much.

I have to blink really fast to stop the tears. I daren’t ask George about Mummy any more. Every time I do, he shouts at me. For the fiftieth fucking time, stop talking about Mummy and Daddy. I’ll leave you in a field if you’re not careful. It was dark when he said that.

Out of the window, the land is flat. It’s like I can see for miles, but I can’t see England. We’re nowhere near the sea.

‘When are we stopping for food?’ It’s my tummy that told my mouth to talk. My brain didn’t want it to.

‘Ah, so it does speak.’ He reaches over to the passenger seat and puts a cap on his head. It’s not a nice cap like Abigail from school got from Disneyland, but a beige one – like a grandad would wear. ‘Once we cross the border, we’ll stop off some­where. Promise. We just have to get past these bastards.’

He’s the only man I’ve ever met that would do swearing in front of a kid. My gran would have a coronary if she heard him.

In front of us, cars are lined up in rows. There are little houses in the middle of the road that everyone is stopping beside. George turns round.

‘Listen, kid. They might call you by a different name, but it’s just a game. We’re playing at pretend. If you win, and they don’t guess your real name, then I’ll buy you some sweets after your dinner. Deal?’