Hi guys, hope you all have wonderful Friday. I am thrilled to be hosting Fiona Walker’s blog tour on my blog today and I have an extract from her newest novel, “The Country Set”, for you. The book sounds brilliant and I am incredibly looking towards reading it – would be done already and apologies for not being able but I am really poorly and reading is the last thing on my mind. Though I promise to get into the story asap. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the extract!
‘…and there’s a John le Carr. film on BBC One we can all watchone night next week – or is it Jim Carrey? The one you both like,’Pip was saying loudly to an out-of-sight Lester as she filled nets planning a few evenings of company for him and the Captain.Both men claimed to prefer to be alone, the stallion man drinkingcaramel-dark tea in his stable cottage while his boss downed claretin the main house, but she didn’t believe it, and they loved theirtelevision. It must be terribly lonely here nowadays. The Captainwas deeply antisocial, rarely stepping across his threshold, tooproud to use the walking frame Pip had acquired for him on loanfrom the NHS, along with a shower seat and grab-rails. He hadonce been a regular at the Jugged Hare, she’d been told, always talking horse, part of a ribald farming and hunting set who hadbeen yesteryear’s wild men of the Comptons. It was hard toimagine that now: her curmudgeonly charge had his beady eyesfixed on the television screen all the time.
The Captain’s fierce raptor of a wife, Ann, had employedPip, reluctantly taking on her only applicant for the role of part-timehousekeeper, a thirty-something former job-centre manager. Pip had recently started up her Home Comforts carer serviceafter taking voluntary redundancy to look after her ageingparents: ‘You obviously didn’t do a very good job as they’re bothnow dead, but at least English is your first language and you livein the village, so you’ll have to do.’ There had been impatience inAnn Percy’s manner, which Pip took to be typical of her breed,but it turned out her need to find someone to look after her gout-riddenhusband was urgent: she’d underplayed her on-off battlewith cancer to family and friends for almost a decade and the disease was spreading into her lungs and liver. Just three monthslater Ann Percy’s funeral had brought so many mourners to thevillage they’d opened the church meadows for extra parking.
Pip was honoured that the immensely practical, no-nonsenseAnn Percy had entrusted her house and husband to her care, theformer’s beauty more than capable of making up for the latter’sbeastliness. She gazed lovingly out from the hay store now at thegolden-stone tiles, tiny top dormers and tall chimneys visible overthe stable-yard roofs, the fast-climbing sun creeping across them.
In the village, the stud was a star attraction architecturally, itsclock-tower and pretty house a landmark that visitors saw first asthey approached Compton Magna along the die-straight narrowlane up from the Fosse Way, causing many a hire car to veeronto the verge towards its paddocks. The oh-so-handsome face,with its symmetrical sash windows, flirty dormers and limestonequoins was like a perfect doll’s house.
The main house at Compton Magna Stud had never been givena name. Unlike its Stables Cottage and Groom’s Flat, it wasn’tseparately listed in the records of the Eyngate Estate to which ithad once belonged. For years, it was commonly known as PercyPlace, and so many letters were addressed thus that it was assumedto be historically correct, but family accommodation was officiallyindistinguishable from horse. Pip rather liked its anonymity, likethe mares in its oldest stud books with only stable names writtenin. Lester had explained that their bloodline was more importantthan their individual merits. That was how she felt as its part-timechâtelaine. Just Pip. A tiny part of its history, and a seed that mightfind a place to root there.
Whenever she introduced herself to somebody new, Pip wouldtell them, ‘My dad nicknamed me Pipsqueak. Everyone calls mePip.’ It wasn’t strictly true. Both parents had always addressed heras Pauline. Even after their deaths, she could still hear their voicesin her head when someone called her by her given name. She hadchosen to bury Pauline Edwards with them and Pip, the village’shappiest helper and bounciest baker, had been born.
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