Escape to Willow Cottage by Bella Osborne

Escape to Willow Cottage by Bella Osborne

 

33651984Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 10th August 2017

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

Number of pages: 464

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

The Escape to Willow Cottage was originally published as a four-part serial. This is the complete story in one package.

A cosy and heartwarming seasonal romance, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley.

Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a warm, caring and safe place for little Leo.

When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.

Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…

Escape to Willow Cottage was originally digitally published as a four-part serial under the title Willow Cottage. This is the complete story.

Rating: four-stars

“Escape to Willow Cottage” by Bella Osborne was originally published in four parts series and I’ve managed to read the two first one parts – the lack of time hasn’t allowed me to read the other two ones, even though I really liked the story, and so when I spotted there is a whole book available on NetGalley I downloaded it to my kindle immediately. Some books read well in parts, some are better as a whole one package, and this one is the latest – you just don’t want to leave the characters and their world in this heart – warming and feel – good story.

First of all, I truly like the idea of buying a cottage in the auction without even seeing it – not that I’d decide for such a great step myself, but as Beth did it was a great, promising start to the story. And well, the cottage looked so great in the auction catalogue, right, so what could go wrong? It turns out that a lot can go wrong but please read for yourself – it’s hilarious. But our Beth is not a woman that quickly gives up. We know that she’s running from an abusive relationship, that she has a son and that she had a great job. As Beth is very new to the village, together with her we are introduced to the people of Dumbleford and one seems to be more eccentric than the other.

The village of Dumbleford is a charming place, with all the villagers being so friendly, all of them jumping to help each other and supporting each other – you know how much I love those community feelings and here Bella Osborne captured it wonderfully.

The characters were very easy to like, though not all of them from the very beginning, as I had some problems with some of them. But altogether, they were warm, relatable and believable. They had flaws, they made mistakes but mostly they also learnt from those mistakes and you just couldn’t help but like them and cheer them on their way. The plot is complex, with some twists and turns and some drama added, and the author also mixes some heavier issues into the story, but it blends really well with the whole story and I liked the outcome.
Bella Osborne’s writing is great. It’s easy to follow, it’s light, with a right dose of humour – there are some really hilarious scenes in this book! – and seriousness. The characters were developing, and the cottage was taking shape, and I loved to read about all the ideas Beth had and how the villagers were willing to help her. The writing is really vivid and down to earth and I could easily imagine all the things really happening.

“Escape to Willow Cottage” was hooking, interesting story about abusive relationships, commitment problems, new beginnings. There is also the romance element introduced, which I liked very much, as it was not at all predictable. Over the course of four seasons our main character has learnt a lot, realised she can trust again and that it is worth to trust again. It was a lovely, quirky, summery read, great for one evening with a glass of wine. Recommended!

A Taste of Death by H.V. Coombs – #BlogTour / Extract

Hi guys, happy Friday! Another day and another blog tour, and today I have an extract from H.V. Coombs’s “A Taste of Death” to whet your appetite – I, for example, am desperate to read this book, as it sounds brilliant, and am already looking toward my holidays, hoping I’ll find some time. In the meantime, hope you enjoy the extract with me.

a-taste-of-death

Extract four – Chapter Four

I tried to kid myself that I liked this minimalist look, but, in truth, it was rather depressing and the carpet that Mrs Cope had bequeathed me – well, threadbare would be a euphemism. It was stained and moth-eaten. Frankly, it was nasty.

Well, I could always take my mind off the carpet by looking out of the window. I had a view across the common and in the daylight I could see Dave Whitfield’s house with the charred mess of his obelisk and behind it, trees and fields.

I finished my yoga, squared up in front of the mirror and did some shadow boxing. I had been quite good at boxing when I was young, as an amateur, and had come back to it in my late thirties, obviously just for fun. Far too old to compete. I did some basic simple combinations, left jab, straight right, left hook etc., using the timer on my phone for three-minute rounds. Then the front doorbell sounded. I rolled my eyes, pulled a tracksuit on and went downstairs to investigate.

‘Do come in, DI Slattery,’ I said, as I opened the door.

‘Thank you.’ He didn’t sound terribly thankful. I had forgotten his intimidating bulk, he filled the door frame.

Slattery was a big man. He looked at me coldly. His eyes were brown and hard. With his glossy black hair and slightly swarthy colouring he did look a bit like an over the hill romantic lead from a soap-opera. A modern-day ageing Heathcliff.

Perhaps I ought to hum a bit of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, as played a lot on Beech Tree FM ‘home of local radio, coming at you through the trees …!’

Heathcliff …

Perhaps it would relax him. I looked at his unfriendly face. Perhaps not.

There was no back room at the restaurant. Just the eating area, toilets and kitchen. We could have gone upstairs but there were no chairs and while I couldn’t speak for DI Slattery, I personally had no great wish to sit next to him on my mattress.

For a moment I envisioned the idea: it would be worth it, just to see the look on his face. ‘Do take a seat …”

Or, sinking sexily down on to the mattress and patting it suggestively, maybe undoing a button or two on my chef’s jacket in a saucy way.

Let’s make ourselves comfy, shall we—’ a seductive smile as I had no hair to toss alluringly back ‘—I can call you Michael, can’t I, Detective Inspector? Let’s not be formal …

I waved him to a table in the restaurant. I did not want to switch machines that had been cleaned on again. He would have to do without the offer of hospitality. No coffee or cake for you, Mr Policeman.

‘How can I help you?’

He sat opposite me, giving me a sardonic once over. It was such a classic policeman’s look, polite scepticism with a hint of amused contempt.

‘How long have you been here?’ he asked.

‘On this earth?’ I said innocently.

He rolled his eyes. ‘In this village.’

‘Since the first of January,’ I said. He knew that anyway.

He nodded. ‘And during this time we have had two crimes: a break-in and a fire bomb.’ There was something accusatory about his tone, as if it were my fault.

‘A bomb?’

‘Mm-hm, Mr Whitfield’s obelisk was set alight with an incen­diary device which was detonated with a timer made from a mobile phone. Are you good with electronics, Ben?’

‘No,’ I said, shrugging. ‘It’s unfortunate, the crimewave, but it’s nothing to do with me.’

Slattery looked at me sceptically.

‘Pure coincidence,’ I said firmly.

He nodded thoughtfully and then said, ‘Of course, you’ve been in trouble with the law before.’

There was the obvious implication that he had run me through the system because I was a suspicious blot on the landscape; the veiled threat of ‘I’m on to you, Sonny Jim’ and the implicit threat that he would make sure knowledge of my chequered past would return to haunt me.

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The Summer of Second Chances by Maddie Please

The Summer of Second Chances by Maddie Please

35229298Publisher: Maze

Publishing Date: 17th July 2017

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The Summer of Second Chances is the perfect feelgood summer read.’ Chrissie Manby, author of What I Did On My Holidays

Lottie is about to discover that even when you think you’ve lost everything, hope and romance can be just around the corner . . .

It takes time to build your life. To get into a long-term (OK, a bit boring) relationship. To find a job (you don’t completely hate). Lottie might not be thrilled with the life she’s put together, but it’s the one she’s got.

So when in the course of one terrible evening, it all comes crashing down around her, Lottie has a choice: give herself over to grief at being broke, single and completely lacking in prospects.

Or, brick by brick, build herself a new life. And this time, with a little help from friends, a crumbling cottage in Devon and a handsome stranger, maybe she can make it the one she always wanted.

The Summer of Second Chances is an irresistibly funny read about never giving up, whatever the world throws at you. Perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Jane Costello and Christie Barlow.

Rating: five-stars

Wow, what a gorgeous, cute little story “The Summer of Second Chances” was! I truly didn’t know what to expect from this book but it really wow-ed me, with the light – hearted writing style, interesting plot and lovable characters, and the last few sentences at the end were just brilliant and a perfect end to this book. OK, I admit, there was one thing that bothered me, namely for me it looked as if this book was written by two different authors – why, I hear you ask? Well, you know, so the story and narration flew steadily and then suddenly, like the impossible to see icebergs, the narration was starting to turn incredibly hilarious, the events ridiculously funny and I was finding myself laughing out loud at Lottie’s antics, and it lasted for a few pages and then the story telling was back again to this normal, steady one. It happened a few times and while it didn’t make me confused or something, oh no, I enjoyed those moments incredibly, it just made me think. But that’s me. My problems. Don’t pay any attention and just read this book because it’s great. And it has a stunning cover – so summery!

The story introduces us to Lottie, who’s been through some dramatic moments in her life recently – she’s homeless, money – less, jobless, single – and is now looking for a fresh start. It seems that she can find it in a little cottage belonging to one of her friends – in return for redecorating it, Lottie can live there next, and she jumps at the chance. After living a comfortable life, with no financial troubles and a partner on her side, it was a change for Lottie, wasn’t it? But maybe it was this what Lottie needed right now? Well, this and a new neighbour, Bryn?

I have seen many accident prone characters in my life but Lottie overdone them all! Guys, it was incredible, really, those situations and troubles she was getting herself in – this story abounded in many awkward, embarrassing situations. I loved Lottie, she was such a positive personality, even though she had to cope with so many awful things in her life. She was this kind of character that grows on you and you keeps everything crossed for her. And I loved to see Lottie changing, spreading her wings despite all new troubles and worries and turning into almost a different person. She was honest and told us about things how they really were, and I really didn’t have any problems to connect with her and to understand her.
And of course, let’s not forget Lottie’s new neighbour, Bryn. Not broody nor moody, like many other characters yet incredibly interesting and colourful and hmmm, I wouldn’t say no to such a neighbour and his jacuzzi.

It wouldn’t be a rom – com without the “rom” part, of course, and I loved this aspect of this story! Sure, there were the necessary ups and downs, the road to happiness was bumpy and not too straightforward but it never felt too cheesy or forced, if anything it was fresh, funny, adorable and honest. It was not too rushed, which was also great, because moving into a new man too quickly would make it too unbelievable, and it also gave the heroine time to come to terms a little with the new situation.

Altogether, “The Summer of Second Chances” was a lovely and easy read that made me feel relaxed and I finished it grinning from ear to ear. There were characters that you quickly start to root for and relate to, and it was a light take on new beginnings and – yes! – second chances. It also makes you think about life, about figuring out what it is you really want, but not in a too serious way, nono, no worries. However, there is also so much to this story than meets the eye, there is depth, it touches upon some sensitive issues but it’s perfectly mixed with light – heartedness and really some best one – liners and situations in history. So if you are in need of cheering up, picking yourself up and seeing how not to give up, try this book – I can only highly recommend it to you!

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The Summer of Second Chances by Maddie Please – #BlogTour/Extract

Hi guys! A new day, a new blog tour! I am very excited to hosting “The Summer of Second Chances” by Maddie Please and I have a lovely extract from this lovely little novel for you. I am currently reading it and guys, what can I say? It is a light – hearted read with some heavier issues as well and it sounds really, really promising – keep your eyes peeled for my review in the next few days! And in the meantime, enjoy the extract.

[Extract 3 from Chapter 1 ]

I stood outside Holly Cottage, lost in thought. Just about every­thing I had taken for granted had gone wrong. Now I had to take this chance and focus on the future because I certainly couldn’t change the past.

I got out, locking the car behind me although, to be honest, it didn’t feel as though there was a living soul for miles. I wandered around to the back of the house, my heels catching between the broken paving slabs. I wondered if the ‘huge and bear-like’ Bryn was around to watch the homeless idiot arriving. Might he be lurking in the shadows under the trees down the lane? For some reason I pictured him standing, shoulders hunched like Lurch from The Addams Family, knuckles dragging on the ground. Fortunately there was no sign of him. But he had left the back door key under an upturned bucket in the porch as Jess had assured me he would. The key stuck for a heart-stopping few moments and then turned in the lock with an unwilling squeak. I let myself in to the hall.

The stale scent of wet dog, mingled with something even more unpleasant, hit me. The smell of damp carpet, neglect and, unmistakably, fish.

I left the door open and made my way into the sitting room, one hand over my nose. The room was flagstoned with a large rug over the top, which was soaking. Someone had flung a plastic bucket plus water into the middle and my shoes squelched as I took a hesitant step into the room. They had also enhanced the décor by chucking around a few shovelfuls of ash from the fire. The walls were pale and marked with squares of grime where pictures had been removed. Underneath one windowsill the paper had been pulled off altogether and someone had drawn stars in pink and purple felt tip pen on the wall.

The smell was stronger here, pungent and eye watering. Trying not to gag, I pushed back the curtains and opened both the sash windows. The crispness of the evening air was welcome. I hurried back outside for a moment to refresh my lungs and then went upstairs to explore further, finding a small bathroom and two bedrooms.

There was evidence in the expensive wallpaper and the sisal carpet that this place had once been very pretty, but now it was neglected and extremely dirty. There were stains on the floor and muddy fingerprints around the china light switches, and someone had been free with wax crayons on the walls of the landing.

In the corner of the bathroom was a huge web, the spider still busy in the middle with a struggling bluebottle. I shuddered. On the mirror, in coral lipstick, was scrawled Bitch. It neatly crossed over the reflection of my cold, pale, frightened face.

Jess had wanted me to clean and decorate, that was the deal, but it was obvious this place wasn’t just in need of a flick round with the antiseptic wipes and a lick of paint; it needed pressure washing. The stink from downstairs was curling up the stairs so I opened all the windows and re-buttoned my coat.

In the larger of the two bedrooms was a mahogany wardrobe that had once been highly polished and beautiful, but was now scratched, covered with globs of Blu-Tack and propped up with a brick at one corner where one of the feet had been lost. There was a sink in the corner filled with scummy water and dead flies.

‘Bloody hell!’ I said.

My words echoed around the room.

‘What on earth’s been going on here?’ asked a voice from behind me.

I spun round, squeaking with shock. There was a silhouette of a man in the doorway, his shoulders almost filling the space. I yelped again.

‘Well, if you don’t want people to walk in you shouldn’t leave all the doors open,’ he said, unapologetic.

‘And you shouldn’t just wander in to someone else’s house uninvited,’ I said, my voice shrill with fright. I flapped my hands at him to shoo him back down the stairs.

He turned and went, his movements unhurried and careful in the confined space of the stairwell. I followed him downstairs and into the kitchen, trying to calm the thudding of my heart.

‘What’s happened here?’ he said. ‘It wasn’t like this the other day. And what’s that terrible smell?’

‘How would I know?’ I replied. ‘I’ve only just got here.’

‘Hang on,’ he said and went into the sitting room, ducking his head under the lintel. He searched around for a few minutes and then retrieved a rotting fish wrapped in newspaper from behind a radiator.

‘Jesus!’ I clamped my hand back over my nose and watched him take it outside into the garden.

He reappeared, framed in the kitchen door. ‘I’ve no idea where that came from. I’m assuming it’s nothing to do with you?’

‘Of course it isn’t. Why the hell would I do a thing like that?’

‘OK, calm down. All I know is it didn’t smell like this when I last called in. Nor was there a pond on the sitting-room floor. Perhaps the Websters are responsible?’

‘The Websters?’

Oh yes the Websters. What had Jess said about them? I should have paid more attention.

‘The last tenants. Two years without a problem and then Mr Webster discovered skunk and scratch cards. They left a few days ago. Spent all his money on things other than his priorities. But I know he left his house keys behind when he left. I can’t think how he could have got back in. I’ve been here, Webster had a beaten-up old camper van. Red and white. I’m sure I would have noticed…’

I stood watching him for a moment wondering who he reminded me of.

‘It needs a bit of a sort out,’ he said, his blue eyes flicking from the piles of junk mail behind the door to the chocolate handprints on the wall. At least I hoped they were chocolate.

‘A bit of a sort out?’ I said, incredulous. ‘Never mind the smell, it’s absolutely filthy and disgusting.’

‘Ah well.’ He shrugged his shoulders. They really were very broad. ‘I’m Bryn Palmer, by the way.’ He held out a hand and I shook it.

‘I’m Charlotte Calder. What do you mean “ah well”? Would you want to live here?’

He stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans and rocked back on his heels. ‘Nope.’

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Her Last Breath by Tracy Buchanan – #BlogTour/Extract

Hi guys. Today I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in another blog tour. I am so sure that all of you have heard about Tracy Buchanan and her compelling, intriguing novels – on 29th June her fourth book, Her Last Breath, was published by Avon and do watch this space for my review coming soon! In the meantime, I have a brilliant extract for you – enjoy!

33645202[Extract 5 from Chapter 2 pp. 15-16]

‘Would you like a drink?’ she asked Louis. ‘Water? Green tea? Organic beer?’ She leaned forward, lowering her voice. ‘Or we do have normal drinks that Seb keeps stowed away in a cupboard somewhere.’

He laughed. ‘Water would be perfect, thank you.’

She poured them both some water from the jug she kept in her fridge, then sat down across from him, brushing her blonde fringe from her eyes.

Louis peered towards the oven. ‘Don’t you use a timer?’

‘No. I’ve been baking so long I have an instinct for time.’

He laughed. ‘Why doesn’t that surprise me? So, just a month until your book launch. How are you feeling?’

Estelle felt a tremor of nerves. She’d been waiting so long for this moment and thought she was ready for it, but the closer she got, the more she felt like a fraud. Did she really deserve this? A friend of hers who’d had a novel published said she’d felt the same. Despite the fact she knew how hard she’d worked, it still felt alien, unearned. She called it ‘imposter syndrome’ and Estelle had it bad.

‘Nervous,’ she admitted. ‘Excited too though.’

‘No need to be nervous. So, let’s start at the very beginning. Where do you think your interest in food first came from?’

Estelle hesitated a moment. She could tell the journalist it had all started with how scarce good food was when she was a child, pale meals shoved in a microwave, cheap takeaways bought by her parents. She could tell him how, when she went into care and foster homes, it wasn’t always much better so she’d had to learn from an early age how to prepare food, the simple things like making scrambled eggs. She could tell him about how she paid attention in cooking classes at school because of this, unlike her peers, because she had no choice if she wanted to feed herself. She could then go on to tell him about Lillysands and the Garlands. Finally a place where food was something to be treasured and enjoyed, making dishes with her foster mother Autumn, helping to serve up business lunches for her foster father Max.

But she didn’t.

‘I really don’t know,’ she said instead. ‘It’s just always held a fascination for me.’

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The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach by Kat French / #BlogTour

Hi guys, and happy Sunday! I am so, so thrilled and excited today to be a part of Kat French’s blog tour for her newest release “The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach”. I loved this book SO much and I really couldn’t wait to share my review of this sunny, summery story with you. The novel is already put as an ebook and out on 13th July in paperback, and I can guarantee that you are going to LOVE it! AND – I have an extract for you as well!

The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach by Kat French



34016826Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 13th July 2017

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

Number of pages: 336

Genre:  Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback (out on 13.07.2017)

 

Synopsis:

A gorgeous summer read to escape with this summer!

A Greek island solves all life’s problems…doesn’t it?

Winnie, Stella and Frankie have been best friends forever.
When their lives unexpectedly unravel, they spontaneously decide to buy a gorgeous B on a remote Greek island.
Drenched in hot sun, Villa Valentina is the perfect escape
from reality. But when Winnie meets Jesse, their brooding
neighbour, she finds that Greece is full of its own complications – not least how attractive he is…

Meanwhile, Frankie and Stella are discovering that Villa Valentina has its own secrets – starting with the large supply of gin in the cellar and the arrival of a famous rock band. A band with one very good-looking member who just might distract Frankie from thoughts of her husband…

Smart, sassy and sexy, this summer sizzler is perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond and Jane Costello.

Rating: five-stars

Ah, guys, there is nothing better than a Kat French book, really. Yes, I somehow missed her last release but as soon as I’ve spotted The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach and then read the synopsis, there was nothing stopping me from reading this book. Literally nothing. And truly, one look at this gorgeous colourful cover made me fall in love with it, it just screams “summer, here we come”, don’t you think? And then the story itself, laugh – out – loud fun, relax and brilliant romance – absolutely brilliant.
So yes, guys, this book. I had a feeling that I can fall in love with it (as you have probably guessed) but I haven’t expected how much! It was such a lovely, light – hearted and uplifting read with this gorgeous feel – good vibe and the overwhelming summery feeling, and I really can’t stop thinking about me needing to immediately go on holidays or at least drinking G&T, or two. Already the cover is shouting holidays, here I come, but what is hidden between the covers is even better.
It was so easy to immediately fall in love with this gorgeous – unfortunately fictional – island of Skelidos and all of its specific inhabitants. Just imagine – not spoiled by the tourists, peaceful, with a donkey or two – a perfect place to spend your holidays, no? Or maybe to spend the rest of your life, even? Which happens to Winnie, Stella and Frankie who travel there to stay for a weekend only and end as the owners of the pink Villa Valentina.

I liked the book and the characters from the very beginning, and I also found myself liking it even more with every page turned! There was something magical in all of them, and in the writing, and I just didn’t want to put the book down. Heck, I didn’t want it to end! I could really read about the three friends and their adventures much, much longer. And they were really true friends, the three girls. You could see they like and respect each other, that they feel so good in their own company and it was lovely to see how they support each other. They weren’t afraid to say uncomfortable truths as well, they did it, they were not afraid to laugh at each other, but this is just what a real friendship is, right, and this one here felt so genuine and not at all forced. Winnie was running away from her abruptly ended marriage. Stella was a career woman, devoted to her job, but she was made redundant. Frankie was having the empty nest syndrome and when her twins left home, her marriage also came to an end – so they all really have their own reasons to risk everything, leave their old lives behind and try their luck on Skelidos. However, as you are absolutely right, things never run smooth and there are some troubles in paradise waiting for our lovely, likeable and believable girls, and it doesn’t only mean a stubborn donkey, underground gin distillery and not speaking a single word in Greek. And then there are of course all those hot men: hunky Australian Jesse, the Greek God Angelo and the member of a very popular band, Seth, but let’s not forget the husband Gav as well! And villagers worshipping a bush that grows only in the Villa’s garden – a recipe for disasters, no?

Kat French of course doesn’t forget about male characters, oh no, she doesn’t! And what great characters they were, guys! Jesse was so direct and outright that after my first jaw dropping moment I couldn’t stop to laugh at Winnie’s amusement, but I also wanted to cheer her on, high – five her and yell, you go girl, show him. I loved how he started to show her how to leave her comfort zones, how to appreciate herself – it was a gorgeous, beautiful subplot.

There were enough twists and turns to keep me glued to the pages, and I loved how the author surprised me every now and then. The unexpected visits, the way the story took its turn – it was all so surprising, and even for me not predictable, as the villa itself had also hidden treasures to discover! It was absolutely great and inspiring to see the three friends coming back to Skelidos to make the best of the villa, to just see how their lives are going to turn out, to just grab the life by the horns.

The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach by Kat French has really had it ALL. Incredibly gorgeous setting, enough G&T to keep you happy, all – knowing neighbours, villagers that adored their own traditions, brilliant, bouncy and quirky characters, romance in the air and some stumbling blocks as well, and I simply adored it. It was easy to read, light and full of sun and humour and poignant moments – a perfect escapism. Brilliant story about new beginnings, second chances and leaving your comfort zones, being courageous. It is filled with friendship and hilarious moments and it is a must have accessory for your summer bag – really, guys, you don’t have to thank me for the recommendation. I am sure you are going to fell in love with all elements and Villa Valentina.


EXTRACT:

[Extract 3 from Prologue pp. 11-13]

Ajax placed a tray of three tall, fine-stemmed fishbowl glasses on the beach-bar table in front of them an hour or so later.

‘You’ve built our expectations sky-high now, you know that, right?’ Frankie said, lifting her eyebrows at him. ‘If these cocktails don’t make us feel a million dollars we’re going to want our money back.’

‘Your first drink is always on the house anyways,’ Ajax said grandly. ‘Villa Valentina house secret mix, guaranteed to make you happy.’

‘Free drinks always make me happy,’ Stella sighed. ‘People used to give me free drinks all over town. Stella! Come in, have a glass of champagne! And another!’

‘Ah, get over yourself, superstar. This one’s still free and looks amazing.’ Frankie reached for one of the glasses and handed it to Stella.

‘What is it?’ Winnie lifted her sunnies and squinted up at Ajax hovering close by for their verdict.

He shrugged. ‘Gin and tonic.’

It wasn’t like any gin and tonic Winnie had ever seen before. Peering into the glass as she slid it towards her, she could see rich shades of honeyed nectarine red sparkling with ice and slices of rose-pink grapefruit.

‘Is this rosemary?’ Frankie asked, plucking a herb from her glass and sniffing it.

Ajax preened. ‘I grow it myself in the garden at the back of the villa.’

Frankie dunked it back into her cocktail, using it to swirl the ice cubes. All three women looked up as the guy they’d spotted earlier with Ajax wandered over and placed a platter of glistening halved figs scattered with walnuts down on their table.

‘Oh. My. God.’ Winnie groaned. ‘How good does that look? They’re the fattest figs I’ve ever seen in my life.’

‘Best in the world. I grow them myself in the garden behind the villa.’

‘I’m sensing a theme,’ Stella murmured, then took a sip of her drink and gasped. ‘Bloody hell! That’s amazing. You have to tell me how to make this before I leave.’

Ajax ignored the request, choosing instead to make introductions.

‘Ladies, this is my husband, Nikolas.’

Nikolas stuck out his hand. ‘Nik, please.’

‘Well, thank you, Nik, for this. It looks wonderful,’ Winnie said, nodding towards the plate. ‘I’m Winnie.’

The others jumped up in turn and shook his hand, and he just nodded politely and excused himself.

‘He likes actions, not words,’ Ajax sighed, watching his lover wistfully until he’d disappeared back into the villa.

‘My kind of man,’ Stella laughed, making Ajax scowl theatrically.

‘What is it that you English like to say?’ he said. ‘Not on your nelly.’

He winked and blew them a kiss before threading his way through the tables in the direction of his husband.

‘Happy couples make me want to vom right now,’ Winnie said, taking a good gulp of her drink and then almost choking on the rosemary stem.

Stella grabbed for the glass. ‘Christ, Winnie, it’s too good to splutter all over the floor!’

Frankie lifted her drink so that the sunlight shone through the liquid, bouncing pink crystal shimmers all around them.

‘Everything about this place is special,’ she said. ‘The villa, Ajax, the cocktails, that view . . . it’s all blissful.’

Winnie had recovered sufficiently to raise her glass and toast the others.

‘To forty-eight hours of secret recipe cocktails and unin­terrupted bliss.’

Stella clinked her glass against Winnie’s. ‘I’ll drink to that. And to friendship.’

Frankie nodded solemnly and touched her glass to the others. ‘To us.’

Ajax watched the three women carefully from an upstairs window of the villa, observing the way they laughed together, how they toasted each other, that they were relaxed in each other’s company.

Maybe.

With enough of his secret cocktails and a fractured kalei­doscope of sun-gilded images laid out to seduce them, just maybe.


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Confetti at the Cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley / Blog Tour + Extract

Hi guys, hope you all have a pleasant and relaxing Sunday and that the weather is spoiling you, just like it’s spoiling us here. Today I have something that will help you to enjoy your weekend even more – as a part of Phillipa Ashley’s blog tour celebrating the third part in the Cornish Cafe series, “Confetti at the Cornish Cafe”, I have a little extract from the novel. Put your feet high and enjoy!

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Yes, I know Demelza’s is my cafe but even after six months, I always think walking inside is like stepping into a cosy, delicious haven. We’ve pulled out the stops to make it welcoming this cold spring morning, arranging early narcissi in stone jars on the window ledges to add a pop of yellow sunshine. Confetti-coloured freesias have been placed on every table and we’ve laid the two tables closest to the window with the vintage china I found at Kilhallon House last summer. Lily and Ben should be able to enjoy the view over the sea from there. The coffee machine is already burbling and the room is filled with the smell of freshly baked pastries. In the background, Cornish folk songs are playing softly. Mentally, I cross my fingers and hope they like the fresh and welcoming atmosphere we’ve tried to create.

Ben plonks himself down at a table and picks up a teacup as if he’s never seen one before. Lily lingers in the middle of the room. She pulls off her hood and a mane of glossy red hair falls down her back. Although she wears very little make-up, and is swamped by the shiny coat, she’s still stunning. Not like a real human, but a fairy in a children’s storybook. She turns around slowly, and lifts her arms, as if the cafe might revolve around her if she so wills.

I hold my breath. She could quite easily turn round this second and head out of Kilhallon and that would be that. Because we’re not glamorous, though we’ll bust a gut to be our very best. At the end of the day, we’re only a cosy little place in a wild and beautiful corner of Cornwall.

Lily sighs deeply as if she’s just finished a particularly hard yoga session. My heart thumps madly. I avoid a strong urge to wipe my palms on my jeans, waiting for this big star’s verdict on my little Cornish cafe.

Lily stares straight at me, a sad but sweet smile on her face.

‘This place is very … soothing. Like being wrapped in a big squishy duvet. It’s very authentic. Yes, I like it. I like it a lot.’

It’s hard not to let out a huge sigh of relief, even if part of me already wishes that Lily, Ben and Harry would get straight back into their ‘actor mobile’ and drive out of Kilhallon. Yes, it’s exciting to have them here and it would be amazing publicity for the park and cafe but I already can’t stand the tension of trying to live up to their expectations. Calm down, Cal would say, just be yourself.

But he’s not here, is he?

Lily perches on one of our old oak settles next to Ben. She picks up one of the vintage tapestry cushions I ‘recycled’ from the farmhouse and hugs it. Ben is on his phone. Harry is sitting at a nearby table with his arms folded. He makes the chair look an infant’s school chair.

‘What can we get you all, then, before we discuss menus and food? I thought we’d warm up in here before we take a tour of the rest of the park and the wedding …’

‘Handfasting,’ Ben mutters without glancing up from his phone. ‘We’re going to do the legal bit at the register office near our house a few weeks later. No one will be looking for that once we’ve had the ceremony here.’

‘Isla said you want a simple ceremony in a natural setting?’ I say.

‘Oh yes, we don’t want a fuss, do we, Ben? I can’t stand all those weddings with zillions of people where the bride and groom sit on thrones and everyone arrives by helicopter.’

‘Is there a helipad?’ Ben chimes in.

‘Sorry, no. There’s a field behind us that the emergency services could use at a push but no helipad.’

‘Oh.’ He goes back to his phone.

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