Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Blog Tour + Extract)

Hi guys! Today we’re celebrating the publication od “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate – out tomorrow, published by Quercus. This book sounds incredibly intriguing and I can’t wait to read it. In the meantime, I have an extract from chapter 1 for you, and really guys, just have a look how beautifully it’s written! The story itself is about two families, generations apart, that are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice,  inspired by true story. Enjoy!

 

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CHAPTER 1

Avery Stafford

 

Aiken, South Carolina, Present Day

I take a breath, scoot to the edge of the seat, and straighten

my jacket as the limo rolls to a stop on the boiling-

hot asphalt.

News vans wait along the curb, accentuating the importance

of this morning’s seemingly innocuous meeting.

But not one moment of this day will happen by accident.

These past two months in South Carolina have been all

about making sure the nuances are just right—

shaping the inferences so as to hint but do no more.

Definitive statements are not to be made.

Not yet, anyway.

Not for a long time, if I have my way about it.

I wish I could forget why I’ve come home, but even the

fact that my father isn’t reading his notes or checking the

briefing from Leslie, his über-efficient press secretary, is an

undeniable reminder. There’s no escaping the enemy that

rides silently in the car with us. It’s here in the backseat,

hiding beneath the gray tailored suit that hangs a hint too

loose over my father’s broad shoulders.

Daddy stares out the window, his head leaning to one

side. He has relegated his aides and Leslie to another car.

“You feeling all right?” I reach across to brush a long

blond hair—mine—off the seat so it won’t cling to his trousers

when he gets out. If my mother were here, she’d whip

out a mini lint brush, but she’s home, preparing for our second

event of the day—a family Christmas photo that must

be taken months early . . . just in case Daddy’s prognosis

worsens.

He sits a bit straighter, lifts his head. Static makes his

thick gray hair stick straight out. I want to smooth it down

for him, but I don’t. It would be a breach of protocol.

If my mother is intimately involved in the micro aspects

of our lives, such as fretting over lint and planning for the

family Christmas photo in July, my father is the opposite.

He is distant—an island of staunch maleness in a household

of women. I know he cares deeply about my mother, my

two sisters, and me, but he seldom voices the sentiment out

loud. I also know that I’m his favorite but the one who confuses

him most. He is a product of an era when women

went to college to secure the requisite MRS degree. He’s not

quite sure what to do with a thirty-

year-old daughter who graduated top of her class from Columbia Law and actually

enjoys the gritty world of a U.S. attorney’s office.

Whatever the reason— Perhaps just because the positions of perfectionist daughter and

sweet daughter were already taken in our family—I have always been brainiac daughter.

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A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry / #BlogTour + Extract

Hi guys, hope you’re all doing great. Today is my stop on Veronica Henry’s blog tour that’s celebrating her newest release, “A Family Recipe”, and this book is a charming little gem of a novel, full of relatable characters and situations, and really guys, you should all read it. Next to my review I have a teeny tiny foretaste for you – an extract from the story. Enjoy!

 

A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry

 

39337351Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 17th May 2018

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

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The brand-new feel-good story from bestseller Veronica Henry –
a perfect mix of family, friends and delicious food.

What’s the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .

Rating: four-stars

Laura is just about to experience an empty nest syndrome – her youngest daughter Willow is leaving for university. The daughter that Laura focused on for so many years, and worried about for so many years when she was fighting against the life threatening asthma. Jasmine, the older daughter, the much more independent and – what’s more important – healthy one, has left home already to study. So Laura is now facing a question, what to do with her life – she didn’t have to work, she only needed to concentrate on her husband and daughters but what now?
Laura’s widowed grandmother has gave up the 11 Lark Hill to Laura and Dom and moved to a smaller house on the same property. Now Laura decides to do up and rent some of the rooms on Airbnb. It’s a great distraction, as there are things happening in Laura’s life that she’s never expected. Is her marriage going to survive? Will Willow stay healthy at the university?

I loved how effortlessly did Veronica Henry weave two – at first sight – different stories set in different times. One of the stories follows young Kanga – Jilly – living through the Blitz in WW2 in Bath, bringing back the memories of the severe destruction, of loss. It was a beautiful story bringing to life Jilly’s friendship with Ivy – the girls supported each other in their most dark moments and stayed friends for ever. Jilly has never forgotten Ivy’s support, the courage she has given her when Jilly discovered she’s pregnant and is going to be a single mum – she knows she wouldn’t be able to do it without Ivy.
The second story is about Laura and her world being shattered by discovering that her husband is having an affair. I admired Laura’s consequence and how firm she was in this situation but to be honest I also started to feel sorry for the poor Dom. Sure, as you make your bed so you must lie on it and I am not justifying him but there came a moment that I really wanted Laura to give him a chance to at least talk to her, and honestly I was surprised that he went for this whole charade, as Laura didn’t want to tell their daughters about them splitting up. I thought, hey, they’re grown up, they’re not children any more and using Willow’s asthma as a pretext can only work for a time. Nevertheless, this situation gave Laura the chance to find herself afresh, and what a better way than to dig out the old family recipes and start making jams and chutneys in her beloved but moody Aga?

The two leading female characters, Jilly and Laura, were brilliantly written by Veronica Henry. It was great to observe Laura standing again on her own two feet, coming to terms with her new life, being so strong and becoming independent. Getting to know Kanga and her history was great, her story was so poignant and heart – breaking, and I loved how determined she was. The relationship between them, between grandmother and granddaughter was unforced, natural and genuine and I loved that Kanga wasn’t one of those grandmothers that meddle in other lives. I also think that the author has managed to capture Laura at the best moment – this character could have gone two ways, as a spoiled, always leaning on somebody housewife, or a strong, determined woman who wants to do something useful with her life, and the author has she pulled it off in the best possible way. Laura was likeable and from the very beginning I warmed to her.

“A Family Recipe” was a lovely, down – to – earth family saga, with likeable and believable characters, warm and inviting. The writing style is so easy to follow, full of depth, emotions and feelings and I immediately felt a part of this story. Veronica Henry has – again – delivered a charming novel about family, friends, love, betrayal and forgiveness in challenging times. I truly enjoyed this book and I can only highly recommend it to you all, guys.

EXTRACT

2

September 2017

Willow had asked for nachos for her farewell supper.

Laura was pathologically incapable of doing

what most normal people would have done: plonked a

saucepan of chilli on the table with a packet of tortilla

chips and got everyone to help themselves.

Instead, by five o’clock the evening before Willow

was due to go to university for the first time, a huge

cauldron on the hot-pink Aga belted out a cloud of steam

scented with cumin and cinnamon and chilli. On the

worktop were bowls filled with grated cheese, soured

cream, guacamole, jalapeños, spicy beans, finely chopped

coriander and chargrilled sweetcorn salsa. Wedges of lime

were waiting to be stuffed into bottles of beer – ‘cerveza’,

Laura teased herself with a Spanish lisp.

She had stopped short of making margaritas because no

one would want to face the next day with a hangover: it

was a six-hour drive to York and it was going to be a difficult

enough day without a thumping tequila headache.

She’d put a row of tiny cactuses in pots down the

middle of the slate-topped island and empty milk

bottles filled with bright pink, yellow and orange gerbera.

A donkey piñata hung from one of the hooks in

the ceiling. She’d managed to refrain from filling it with

sweets. This wasn’t an actual party, after all, just a goodbye

to Willow from her family and her friends, and a few

neighbours, and . . . well, Laura didn’t know exactly who

else, but by eight o’clock the joint would be jumping.

That was how things rolled at Number 11.

It was Laura’s schtick to go to immense trouble, but her

efforts on this occasion were doubled, masking the fact

that tomorrow was the day she had been dreading more

than any other in her life – and there had been a few. She

stood for a moment in the quiet of the kitchen.

This kitchen was her safe place, where she felt love and

gave love. There was always a sense of calm underlying the

chaos. No one else knew how she did it.

‘How do you make it look so effortless? I always have

a nervous breakdown when I’m entertaining. Nothing

looks right, nothing tastes right, and I worry myself to

death.’ Her best friend, Sadie, was eternally mystified by

her entertaining skills.

‘Because I love it? Because I don’t have a career? Because

I don’t look as if I’ve just walked off the pages of Vogue?’

Laura teased.

Sadie owned La, the most fashionable boutique in

Bath, and always looked incredible. ‘But you’re naturally

gorgeous. You don’t have to spend hours making yourself

look ravishing. You just are,’ she complained.

It was true, with her eyes the colour of maple syrup and

her tousled dark mane. Laura, however, thought she was

overweight and unkempt, as it was all she could do to pull

a comb through her hair. She wore skinny jeans, because

her legs were like matchsticks, and had a selection of linen

shirts and sloppy sweaters that covered her embonpoint

and her tummy, about which she was unnecessarily selfconscious.

She didn’t see her own beauty.

‘I’m top heavy,’ she complained. ‘Like a robin – far too

big for my silly little bird legs.’

She felt distinctly unglamorous at this moment, her

hair tied up on top of her head with the elastic band the

postman brought the letters in, a blue and white apron

wrapped round her and a wooden spoon in her hand,

dishevelled and covered in tomato sauce. She was also

finding it desperately hard to stop herself from seeing how

Willow was getting on with her packing.

The back of the car was already loaded up with everything

a new student could possibly want, mostly courtesy

of Ikea to keep the cost down. But Laura had spoiled

Willow with a few things. A luxury mattress topper, essential

for making a strange single bed comfortable. A fleecy

blanket to snuggle up in when it was cold and Willow

was missing home. And some Jo Malone bath oil, because

Laura believed in the power of smell to comfort you.

Willow, however, was a girl who liked to leave everything

to the last minute. Even now her favourite sweatshirt

was rolling around the tumble dryer because she’d only

fetched it from her friend’s house this morning. Laura,

who laid everything out on the spare bed a week before

they went on holiday, found it nerve-racking.

Dom told her not to worry. If Willow forgot anything

she could do without until she came back for the weekend.

‘I probably won’t come back till Christmas,’ Willow

had pointed out. ‘York’s miles and I won’t be able to

afford the train fare.’

Laura’s stomach lurched at the thought of three months

without seeing her daughter, but she squashed the feeling

down. Instead, she sat down at the island and picked up

her Berol pen. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d

written a proper letter, but she wouldn’t be able to say

what she wanted to say without blubbing. As she began to

write, in her best handwriting, she relished the satisfaction

of forming perfect letters, the ink running smoothly across

the paper, the loops and the circles and the curlicues.

Number 11 Lark Hill

Bath

My darling Willow,

Apologies in advance for doing one of those embarrassingly

sentimental mum things. You know how good I am at

those! But I wanted to send you off on your adventure with

something to remind you of home, and I couldn’t think of

anything better than these recipes. They all come from the

little recipe box I keep in the pantry. You and Jasmine have

used them often enough over the years because they still

have your sticky paw prints on them!

The oldest recipes go all the way back to your greatgreat-

grandma – the flapjack and the Yorkshire pudding

come from her (also good for toad-in-the-hole!). The

crumble and the tea loaf come from Kanga – she used to

cook them during the war for the people she had living with

her at Number 11. The avgolemono and the spanakopita

are from my mother, from her travels in Greece . . . I was

not the only thing she brought back!! You can taste the

sunshine in them – they are for when the wind is howling

outside and you want to feel warmed.

The rest are from me: things I have made for you over

the years. Brownies and pancakes and sausage rolls for

sharing. And your favourite suppers: spag bol and chilli

and Thai curry. I know you probably know how to cook

them, but I wanted you to have a keepsake, a little bit

of family history to keep with you. And I know you will

probably live on Cheerios and Cheesy Puffs and Chinese

takeaways, but maybe from time to time you might want

some proper home-made comfort food to share with your

new friends.

I’m so proud of you, darling girl. I know you will fly, and

make the most of this wonderful opportunity.

With lots of love and kisses

Mum xx

Laura looked down at the letter, the inevitable tears blurring

her eyes, then folded the sheet into three. She tucked

it inside the Moleskine notebook she had bought specially.

Each page held a different recipe, carefully copied. It had

taken her over a week to write it, as she’d had to hide it

from everyone. She wanted it to be a surprise, but she was

also a bit self-conscious. Was it too sentimental?

‘My goodness – it smells absolutely wonderful in here.’

‘Kanga! You made me jump.’ Laura put a hand to her

chest. ‘I was miles away.’

Kanga walked through the kitchen, lifting the lid on

the pot and smelling it appreciatively. She looked around

the room.

‘What is this? Fiesta time?’

‘You know me. I can’t help myself.’ Laura grinned, sliding

the notebook into a drawer. ‘I’m sure Willow would

much rather go to the pub with her mates.’

‘She did that last night. Tonight’s for family – she

knows that.’

‘Yes. I want it to be a good send-off, though.’

‘You’re a good mummy.’

‘I had a good role model.’ Laura smiled at her grandmother.

Kanga had brought her up from the age of four,

when Laura’s mum had died. The tiny, thoughtful Laura had

decided that she didn’t want to call her ‘Granny’ any more,

as she was so much more than that, and had christened her

Kanga, after her favourite Winnie the Pooh character.

At ninety-three, Kanga was still more than just a

grandmother – though she looked barely seventy-three.

She was in a pale-pink linen shirt and black trousers and

soft boots, her bright white hair cut close to her jaw, her

dark-grey eyes with their hooded lids missing nothing.

Of course Laura worried she was too thin, but Kanga

had laughed that her appetite had gone with her libido

many years ago, and she was much happier for it. ‘I have

so much more time now I don’t have to think about sex

or food,’ she claimed. Laura wasn’t sure what else there

was to live for.

‘No Dom?’ asked Kanga, taking a seat at the island.

‘He’s got a meeting with the quantity surveyor this

afternoon. So he’s bound to stop off at the Wellie on the

way home.’

The Wellington Arms was Dom’s favourite watering hole,

where he and his property mates cut deals and watched

rugby and sneaked in dirty pints on a Friday afternoon.

Kanga frowned. ‘Even on Willow’s last night?’

‘It’s fine. He’d only drive me mad if he was here. It’s

always much better if he turns up five minutes before

every one else and doesn’t interfere.’ Laura pulled the elastic

band out of her hair, wincing as it caught. ‘Can I leave

you to keep an eye on everything while I get changed?’

Of course.’

‘There’s wine in the fridge.’

In her bedroom, Laura tipped her head upside down

and sprayed dry shampoo onto her roots then ran her

fingers through her curls. There was no time now for a

shower. She pulled off the sweatshirt she’d been cooking

in and rifled through her wardrobe for something

to wear. Sadie was incredibly generous and always gave

Laura things from La for her birthday she would never

dare choose for herself. She pulled out a pearl grey shirt

with pintucks and pearl buttons, pulling it over her head.

It looked perfect – it fitted in all the right places, as expensive

clothes tend to.

‘Hey, Mum.’ Willow sauntered in. Laura’s heart

squeezed. Every time she saw her she wanted to hold

her tight. All her fears whooshed in – a runaway bus,

an insecure balcony, a virulent strain of meningitis . . .

Oh God, had Willow actually had all the jabs she should

have? Laura knew she’d checked a trillion times, but what

if she thought she’d arranged it but had forgotten? The

familiar dry mouth of anxiety hit her and she worked her

tongue to get some saliva.

‘Have you finished packing?’

‘I think so. I’m going to do make-up and stuff in the

morning.’ Willow flopped on the bed.

‘Are you excited?’

‘I don’t know about excited . . .’

Of course. Excited wasn’t cool. ‘Looking forward to it?’

‘It’ll be what it is, won’t it?’

‘Well, I think it’s exciting. York’s lovely. We can explore

tomorrow. Maybe an open-topped bus tour if it’s sunny.’

Willow laughed.

‘What?’ asked Laura, hurt.

‘You’re so funny, Mum.’

‘I’m not trying to be funny.’

‘I know. That’s why you are.’

Willow jumped up and put her arms round her. Laura

breathed her in. Sugary, powdery perfume and Wrigley’s

and the awful incense she insisted on burning in her

bedroom. Not like Jasmine, who was driving back to her

third year at uni in Loughborough by herself the next

morning, who smelled of chlorine and talc and muscle

rub.

Laura had always been grateful for Jasmine’s love of

sport. It had given their life structure at a time when

everything else was chaos. Asthma was nothing if not

disruptive. They had never really known when Willow

might have an attack. There’d been a team of mums ready

to help whenever she did: the netball mafia were fiercely

loyal and supportive, taking Jasmine home for tea or for a

sleepover or dropping her home. Laura could never repay

them as long as she lived, but they didn’t want repaying.

Of course not.

Jasmine could have told her she was going to Timbuktu

on a skateboard and she wouldn’t have worried. They were

close, but in a very different way. When Jaz had gone off

to Loughborough, Laura had treated them both to a day

at the spa in Bath, swimming on the rooftop and sitting

in the Roman steam room and the ice chamber and the

celestial relaxation room; a physical treat for the physical

Jaz, who rarely sat still for a moment and didn’t really

need nurturing.

But Willow . . .

She felt tears fill her eyes. She didn’t want to go down

to the kitchen and share Willow with everyone else. She

wanted to curl up on the bed with her, watch a few

episodes of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, eat a bowlful of

M&M’s, let her daughter fall asleep in her arms, like they

always used to when she was recuperating.

‘Do you think I should take Magic?’ Willow asked.

Magic. The white toy rabbit whose fur had worn away

to nothing, he had been hugged so much. So called because

he was the Magic Rabbit who helped her fall asleep

in a plethora of strange hospitals. Laura felt fearful for

him. What if he got lost or stolen or thrown out of the

window as a student jape?

‘If you want to leave him here, I’ll look after him.’

‘I kind of want him, but I don’t know if you’re supposed

to take your cuddly animals to uni.’ Willow made

a face. ‘Of course Jasmine didn’t, but we all know Jaz

doesn’t need looking after.’

Jasmine’s teddy was as pristine as the day it had been

bought.

‘I’d leave him here,’ said Laura, not wanting to admit

that Magic had been as much a talisman for her as Willow.

‘You will look after yourself, won’t you?’

‘Mum.’ Willow sat up and fixed her mother with a

stern stare. ‘Will you stop worrying? I’m not an idiot.

And it’s been nearly eighteen months.’

‘That doesn’t mean you won’t have an attack. Anything

could trigger one.’

York, thought Laura. If something went wrong, she

couldn’t be there quickly. Even London would have been

nearer. But maybe Willow felt the need to escape. She

knew she’d been guilty of smothering, but what mother

wouldn’t?

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The Cafe at Seashell Cove by Karen Clarke / #BlogTour + #Extract

Hi guys! Hope you’re all doing well. Today we have a wonderful spring – finally! – the sun is shining and the sky is blue, and really, this extract that I’m going to post right now is from a book that fits this weather absolutely – it’s my part on Karen Clarke’s blog tour for her new release “The Cafe at Seashell Cove” and it’s a story with a lot of sunshine. Enjoy the extract, guys!

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Extract from Chapter 1 of The Café at Seashell Cove

I’d known my early return would come as a surprise to my parents.

What I hadn’t anticipated, on stepping into the brightly lit living room,

was the sight of my mother’s breasts in all their naked glory.

‘Cassie!’ She goggled at me over the back of the sofa, as guilty as a

teenager, while I tried to snap my jaw shut.

‘What… are you… please tell me you’re having a hot flush and

that’s why you’ve taken your top off.’ I clamped a hand over my eyes

to block out the sight of her rumpled hair and fiery cheeks. Not to

mention her naked breasts.

‘I’m not menopausal,’ she huffed, as if I’d just returned from a

longish walk and interrupted her favourite TV programme.

‘Of course you are. You’re fifty-eight,’ I argued. ‘It’s simple biology.’

She gave an exasperated tut, which wasn’t the sound I’d imagined

her making on seeing her beloved daughter return to the fold. On the

journey down, I’d shaped a scene where tears of joy and perhaps a bit

of crying featured, considering she hadn’t seen me for nearly a year.

(Skyping didn’t count.)

‘We weren’t expecting you until tomorrow, love.’ Dad’s voice was

accompanied by the sound of a zipper, and I let out a quiet moan.

Glancing through my fingers, I was treated to an eyeful of his greying

chest hair, as well as his receding head hair.

 ‘For god’s sake, you two.’ I turned my back, reaching for the dimmer

switch to reduce the overhead glare, listening to them scrabble about

for discarded clothing. It was bad enough that they’d copulated twice

before, to conceive my brother and me, but faced with the evidence that

they were still ‘at it’, nearly thirty years later, was a bit much on an

empty stomach. ‘It’s barely seven thirty,’ I grumbled.

‘You should have phoned.’ Mum sounded reasonable, and I turned,

relieved to see she’d put her top back on. ‘We would have postponed

our lovemaking—’

‘LA-LA-LA-LA-LA LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA,’ I sang, childishly

jamming my fingers in my ears, while my parents exchanged coy smiles,

and Dad pulled on his ancient Garfield T-shirt, flattening his hair to

his scalp. He’d started going grey in his thirties, and at fifty-nine was

a shade that Mum called Silver Fox.

‘You should be pleased your parents still find each other physically

attractive and like a cuddle before dinner,’ he said, when I’d unblocked

my ears, with the merry twinkle that made people instantly warm to

him. ‘Shouldn’t she, Lydia?’

‘I’ve no objection to you cuddling,’ I said. ‘It’s’—I flapped my

hand—‘the groping I can’t cope with.’

In response, Dad lunged for Mum while making kissy noises,

causing her to let out a girlish squeal. ‘Stop it, Ed!’ She pretended to

bat him away, and I wondered whether I’d fallen asleep on the train

from London to Devon and was, in fact, dreaming.

It would explain the slightly surreal feel the day had taken on, which

had begun with me standing on a packed Tube train that morning,

sleep-deprived after another uncomfortable night on Nina’s sofa bed,

reminded of a different morning, two months earlier: the morning I’d

met Adam Conway. Finding myself sardined against a tall, dark-haired

man, who’d smelt like the interior of a leather-seated car, I’d taken the

unusual step of acting on Nina’s advice to ‘be more proactive in the

man department’, by slipping a business card into his jacket pocket

with a pithy ‘Call me, some time’, accompanied by a flirty eye-twinkle

(which might have come across like a nervous tic, because of being tired

and rubbish at flirting). Unfortunately, my watch strap had snagged on

his pocket flap, causing his head to jerk down and his dark-chocolate

eyes to rest on me with a glimmer of amusement.

‘Are you trying to distract me while you steal my wallet?’ he’d

queried, his gaze sweeping over my unremarkable work suit, carefully

made-up face (copied from a popular beauty guru on YouTube), and

strands of hair escaping my never-perfected topknot. ‘Because I don’t

carry a wallet in my pocket.’

‘Only old men carry wallets,’ I’d managed, my cheeks hotter than

molten lava, before freeing myself and leaving the train two stops too

early, wondering why I couldn’t have apologised like a normal person

instead of blurting out something that probably wasn’t true. What did

I know about wallets?

I’d almost fainted when he called to ask me out to dinner, certain I

was punching way above my weight. But although his job in investment

banking was as far as you could get from the frivolous world of event

planning, I felt like I’d managed to impress him. It had been a shame

that our hectic work schedules meant we’d only been on a handful of

dates before I was fired, and that I’d probably never see him again…

If you have enjoyed this extract from Chapter One of Karen Clarke’s A Café at Seashell Cove,
Grab your copy here: myBook.to/TCASCSocial

 

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Last of the Summer Moët by Wendy Holden / #BlogTour + Extract

Hi guys, here I am again, with another blog tour this week (yes. I love blog tours!) This time it’s my stop on Wendy Holden’s tour for her new release “Last of the Summer Moët”, a second book in the Laura Lake’s series, and today I have an extract from the book for you – review to come very soon!

EXTRACT

‘What did you think? she asked Harry. He had seemed rather annoyingly

unmoved by the fact she had once gone out with James Bond.

‘I liked that bit when he got clubbed and shoved in the vat of

baked beans,’ Harry replied.

‘Shame he came round before he got to the canning machine.’ Laura smiled. Perhaps Harry was jealous after all. The baked beans episode had reminded her of the horrible flat where Caspar had lived at his lowest ebb. The loo had lacked a seat and the only utensil had been an unwashed spatula that the four or five residents  – all male  – shared to eat beans straight out of the tin.

‘Do you think that sort of thing really happens?’ she asked.

‘What  – a protocol that could destroy the world with poison gas from contaminated baked beans?’Harry gave an incredulous snort.

‘Well, all of it. The spy thing.’ Harry grinned.

‘If you’re asking me whether James Bond is an accurate reflection of the security services…’

‘Which I could be,’ Laura returned. Harry was always infuriatingly elusive about what he knew of MIs 5 and 6. But he had to know something. All Harry’s exposés involved international miscreants, and it seemed unlikely he investigated them without official help. Their first date had been at the Not Dead Yet Club, a place awash with foreign correspondents and diplomats. That Harry was a spy himself did not seem out of the question. Perhaps he, not Caspar, was the real James Bond.

‘…the answer is…’Harry went on.

‘Yes?’

‘That I really wouldn’t know. Shall we get a chicken katsu curry?

’They were passing an Itsu. Laura, who had been brought up on a diet of French classics by her Parisian grandmother, shuddered. She found Harry’s lack of interest in food both baffling and appalling. His idea of Sunday lunch was a bag of steak ridge-cut chips followed by a packet of Skittles. Inside the takeaway, Laura tried not to wince as she watched the server ladle the curry gloop over what had been a perfectly respectable chicken escalope.

‘I don’t know how you can eat that stuff,’she said as they walked out, Harry’s dinner in a plastic bag.

‘Boarding school,’he replied easily.

‘The food was horrendous. Dead Man’s Leg and Nun’s Toenails.’

‘Oh God, yes. We had this thing called Skeleton Stew…’

Only after offering up her own memories of school food did Laura realise he had steered her off the subject of spies completely, and they were now turning into her street. Laura lived in Cod’s Head Row, Shoreditch. It was an area of London once synonymous with grinding poverty but now synonymous with grinding affluence. Quite literally, given the preponderance of artisan coffee roasters.

 

About the book:

Last of the Summer Moët by Wendy Holden
Published: February 1st 2018 by Head of Zeus
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Blurb: 

Top reporter Laura Lake has struck journalistic gold.

She’s discovered a super-exclusive English village where the rich and famous own weekend retreats. Where film stars, Turner-prize winners and Cabinet ministers park their helicopters outside the gastropub and buy £100 sourdough loaves from the deli.

Outsiders are strictly forbidden. But luckily Laura’s best friend Lulu, a logo-obsessed socialite with a heart as huge as her sunglasses, suddenly fancies a quiet life in the country. The door to this enchanted rural idyll opens for Laura. Revealing a great professional opportunity.

Can Laura write an exposé before the snobbish villagers suss her true identity? And before the world’s poshest pub quiz triggers a political scandal not seen since Profumo?

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The Country Set by Fiona Walker – #BlogTour + Extract

Hi guys, hope you all have wonderful Friday. I am thrilled to be hosting Fiona Walker’s fiona-walkerblog 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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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

99

 

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?’

 

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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.

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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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