Hello, hello you lovely folk out there. Today I have a fresh blog tour for you – one of my most favourite authors, and namely Sue Moorcroft, has written a new book. “The Little Village Christmas” is a lovely read – I haven’t finished it yet, as yours truly is really, really poorly, so I can’t share my review with you, but I am deep into the story and I am really enjoying it. So please keep your eyes peeled, the review is coming asap, and in the meantime I have an extract for you. Enjoy!
Accepting her help unquestioningly as he moved through his morning’s chores, Gabe didn’t ask Alexia why she was there. It wasn’t because he didn’t care, she knew. Gabe just had an uncanny knack for letting people be.
It wasn’t until they stopped for elevenses of homemade mint tea with Eccles cakes, consumed leaning companionably on Snobby’s gate, that he enquired whether Ben had spoken to her again. Snobby rested his head on Gabe’s arm because Gabe was the one person he’d come to without a bribe.
‘Nope.’ She sipped her steaming drink and stroked Snobby. ‘Looks like his coat’s thickening for winter already.’
He nodded. ‘Probably it will be a hard one.’ He sighed, making Snobby sigh back. ‘Alexia, I’m not excusing Ben’s clumsiness but he has had a dreadfully shitty thing happen to him. He pretends he’s coping but I can’t tell you how unBen-like it is to isolate himself in the woods.’ He gave Alexia a nudge to encourage her to look at him. To read the sincerity in his brown eyes. ‘All the people he loved most let him down. He’s full of anger and he doesn’t know how to let it out. I think I understand why he was so maladroit yesterday and then didn’t seem able to retrieve the situation. It was like he was a boiler with a tiny crack. The steam that escaped was under pressure.’
Alexia put down her Eccles cake as she relived the stomach-plummeting feeling of being made to feel like a criminal by the man whose body she’d caressed. ‘Are you talking about his divorce?’
Gabe hesitated. ‘It’s a hard thing to face, not being able to keep your wife. But there’s so much more to Ben’s situation than that.’ He finished the final bite of Eccles cake before continuing. ‘I’ve always had a special relationship with Ben. I see him as a bit of a kindred spirit. For most of my life I tried to conform. I let my parents influence me into joining the bank, a very stuffy institution in those days, just because I was good at maths. I tried to give my wife the kind of marriage she wanted, with dinner parties and a modern box of a house. I was thrilled when the bank gave me the opportunity to retire early but she was horrified that I wanted to get an allotment and animals. I wasn’t trying to winkle her out of her precious six-bed detached in Orton. I would have carried on with all that nonsense if she’d given me a bit of understanding, but she wanted me to fritter away my days on bridge parties and coop myself up on cruises. We had the most extravagant rows about it.’
His laugh held an echo of an old relief. ‘When we finally gave up on the marriage, I came here to the simple outdoor life I’d always wanted and my wife was happy with that as long as she got the lion’s share of the money in the divorce settlement. Ben was the only one of my family who seemed to understand, who glowed as he explored every inch of the place, asking question after question. The rest of our family looked down their noses and said they were wearing unsuitable shoes.
‘In time, it was me who supported Ben’s wish to study arboriculture instead of whatever boring subject my sister Penny had earmarked for him. Because I recognised a square peg in a round hole when I saw one.’
Despite herself, Alexia was interested. She still tried not to show that her interest extended to Ben, though. ‘Do you think of your wife much?’
He gave her a wink. ‘I called my pony Snobby, didn’t I?’
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