Absolutely delighted to join the blog tour for I Looked Away by Jane Corry today! My thanks to Ellie Hudson at Penguin for the invitation to join and for the wonderful review copy!
Author : Jane Corry Title : I Looked Away Pages : 490 Publisher : Penguin UK Publication date : June 27, 2019
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
Every Monday, 49-year-old Ellie looks after her grandson Josh. She loves him more than anything else in the world. The only thing that can mar her happiness is her husband’s affair. But he swore it was over, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she’s got.
Then one day, while she’s looking after Josh, her husband gets a call from that woman. And for just a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. The accident that happens will change her life forever.
Because Ellie is hiding something in her past.
And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder…
| MY THOUGHTS |
I do so thoroughly enjoy a Jane Corry book! They are always full of incredibly brilliantly fleshed-out characters that get under your skin and drag you through a wide range of emotions. Her latest offering, I Looked Away, is no different.
Any parent can surely relate to that horrifying moment where you take your eyes off your child for that tiny split second and suddenly they are not where you left them. This is what happens to Ellie. While looking after her grandson Josh, her husband gets a call from his mistress. Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson and the accident that happens will change her life forever.
Ellie hides a massive secret and it’s one that might make people look somewhat differently at this accident. Short flashback chapters give the reader an insight into Ellie’s life and her story wasn’t always easy to read about. I often felt extremely angry and incredibly saddened as the events of her life played out in front of me.
The story is mainly told through alternating chapters from characters Ellie and Jo. I couldn’t at all figure out how the two were connected and Jane Corry kept me guessing until the reveal. Watching the two threads come together was hugely satisfying. At the end of it all, I was even left with a bit of lump in my throat.
I Looked Away deals with some hard-hitting topics, from mental abuse to PTSD to homelessness. I particularly liked how the author tackled the plight of homeless people. There is no unnecessary over-dramatisation, because let’s face it, the circumstances tend to be dramatic enough all on their own. But it is all incredibly realistic and believable, full of both the bad and the good.
Full of suspense and fascinating characters, I Looked Away pulled me in from the very first page and did not let go. Quite emotional at times but always utterly compelling, I think this one might be my favourite by Jane Corry so far. Definitely not one to miss and I can’t wait to read more by her.
Jane Corry is a writer and journalist (Daily Telegraph and women’s magazines) who worked for three years as the writer in residence of a high security prison for men. This experience helped inspire her Sunday Times bestsellers ‘My Husband’s Wife’, ‘Blood Sisters’ and ‘The Dead Ex’. She also writes short stories as well as a weekly digital column about being a granny for My Weekly.
Jane speaks at literary festivals all over the world.
Many of her ideas strike during morning dog-jogs along the beach followed by a dip in the sea – no matter how cold it is!
Author : Clare Mackintosh
Title : After The End
Pages : 384
Publisher : Sphere / Little Brown UK
Publication date : June 25, 2019
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.
What if they could have both?
| MY THOUGHTS |
This is such a hard review to write but I imagine not nearly as hard as it must have been to write this novel.
Max and Pip face one of the toughest decisions any parent could possibly face. Their three year old son, Dylan, is brain damaged due to complications from a tumour. Max and Pip are one of the strongest couples you’re bound to meet but now, they find themselves on opposite sides as each tries to decide for themselves what’s best for Dylan.
After The End is a novel I had to read in bits and pieces, for fear of choking on the huge lump in my throat. The author deals with a highly emotional topic and it all feels incredibly realistic, moving and extremely heartbreaking. The story is split into two parts, the before and after. The reader is offered an insight into Dylan’s circumstances and the many long days Pip spends at his bedside. The tiny slivers of hope and the plummeting realisations when things go downhill felt like a rollercoaster. There are also the wonderful friendships parents form with each other on the ward, the support they give each other and yet it must be so incredibly hard to watch another child make a recovery and ultimately leave for home when your own child lies unmoving in their bed.
The “after” in the story is split in two. The reader follows both Pip and Max but in alternative storylines. Each has to deal with the decision they made regarding Dylan’s future. Was it the right one? How can you ever know? Will their marriage survive when so many do not?
I must admit that my feelings for this novel were also split in two. I thought the first part of the story was exceedingly compelling and I was right there with the characters on the ward, trying to figure out what I would do in that situation. But the second half of the story started to lose me somewhat. It seemed a bit repetitive at times and while I was still rooting for the characters to come through it all, I didn’t find this second half as gripping as the first half.
Nevertheless, After The End is a beautifully written story about a marriage put under strain in the most difficult of circumstances and facing an impossible choice. A remarkable departure for Clare Mackintosh, who you may know from some excellent psychological thrillers. This was quite obviously a story that she needed to tell and she did it in the most wonderful way possible. Not an easy story to read, yet one that will remain with me forever.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A Modern Family by Helga Flatland. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my beautiful review copy!
Author : Helga Flatland (trs Rosie Hedger) Title : A Modern Family Pages : 250 Publisher : Orenda Books Publication date : June 13, 2019
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
When Liv, Ellen, and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.
Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.
A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships, and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change.
| MY THOUGHTS |
This novel is the perfect example of why I love doing blog tours as much as I do. It isn’t exactly the type of book I’d normally go for. In fact, I was rather worried it wouldn’t be my thing at all. But Orenda Books has never let me down before and as I have the utmost faith in their books, I decided to go for it. Didn’t regret it for a second!
On a trip to Italy to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday, Liv, Ellen and Håkon’s lives are thrown into turmoil when their parents reveal their decision to get divorced. Each must now come to terms with the changes that will bring.
I didn’t particularly like any of these characters. Yet the feelings they are struggling with were immensely relatable. It’s easy to forget sometimes that your parents are just people too, with their own thoughts, opinions and feelings. How well do we ever really know our parents and the life they lead when we aren’t around? Just because they don’t argue in front of us, doesn’t mean they don’t argue in private, for instance. Watching the siblings struggle with their parents’ divorce made sense. In effect, it is a safety net that has vanished and for Liv especially, who tried to model her own marriage after her parents, things fall apart rather quickly. If her parents can’t make their marriage last, how can she?
A Modern Family is a beautifully written story about relationships and the shifting of family dynamics. It delves deep into the psychology of these characters and shows remarkable insight as the characters start to analyse, not only themselves, but also those closest to them. I often found myself nodding at some of the things that were said and you just can’t help reading this and subsequently put your own family under a magnifying glass. With complex characters and issues, this beautifully written story soon became utterly immersive and that is no mean feat when you realise there are no bells and whistles, no twists and turns, but just everyday people dealing with everyday problems.
A Modern Family surprised me in the best way possible. Moving, powerful, thought-provoking and immensely absorbing, it paints a wonderful and realistic picture of a family going through the ups and downs of modern life.
A Modern Family is published tomorrow and available for preorder!
Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors.
Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize.
She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.
It’s a real pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for The House On The Edge Of The Cliff by Carol Drinkwater today! My thanks to Sriya at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join. I have an extract to share with you all today but first, here is what this novel is all about.
Author : Carol Drinkwater Title : The House on the Edge of the Cliff Pages : 448 Publisher : Michael Joseph Publication date : May 16, 2019
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
Grace first came to France a lifetime ago. Young and full of dreams of adventure, she met two very different men.
She fell under the spell of one. The other fell under hers.
Until one summer night shattered everything . . .
Now, Grace is living an idyllic life with her husband, sheltered from the world in a magnificent Provencal villa, perched atop a windswept cliff.
Every day she looks out over the sea – the only witness to that fateful night years ago.
Until a stranger arrives at the house. A stranger who knows everything, and won’t leave until he gets what he wants.
| EXTRACT |
Beyond gently billowing muslin curtains, the windows were open wide, exposing a waxing crescent moon hanging midway in the sky. It was a little after five in the morning, and I was awake. My head resting on Peter’s chest, I tuned in to his heartbeat. Its speed was alarming. In spite of his daily medication, it still beat disconcertingly fast. By com-parison, my ticker is an old plodder. I lifted myself to a sitting position. Peter was sleeping, sighing and moaning.
‘My darling, please get well.’
I have always been in the habit of rising early. When the house is silent, I slip out for a long walk and a swim, like a full-sail galleon scudding across a cloudless sky, leaving my cares behind me. But during these anxious days, these fretful days of waiting for Peter’s operation, once out of bed I dally, hang back before heading for the beach, watching over my husband until I feel secure about leaving him.
This early-May morning, my knees tight against his side of the bed frame, I gazed upon him. Peter, my beloved, swathed in a twisted, sweaty sheet. He was fight-ing for equilibrium. His heart had become his enemy, hammering furiously at him. It pained me to observe his suffering, his visible decline. I bent low to him, stroked his shoulders, reassuring him of my love, while taking care not to disturb him. I crouched, laid my cheek against the fleshy part of his upper arm, softly kissing it. I inhaled him, the night on him. The heat, the worry sweat. He claimed he was not apprehensive about what lay ahead, but I would have argued otherwise. I was witness to his unsettled dreams.
I am the spectator, tuning in to his restlessness.
Throughout his waking hours, I had begun to remark a new expression in Peter’s eyes. A fixed stare, glassy, as though his pupils had glazed over or been coated in a thin layer of varnish. This focus disguised his fear, blocked it out, blocked me out. Peter was pushing me away, which, according to his logic, was to protect me. He believed that he was sheltering me from his terror, or sheltering himself from my terror, my inability to confront the worst possible outcome: his death.
I dreaded losing my husband, his heart packing up without warning, ‘worn out by strain’, in the consultant’s ominous words. Snatched from me while he was sleeping or, when the appointed day arrived, while he was under sedation. A being submerged beneath the effects of medication who would never awaken.
I refused to compare it to the past, to the first time I had lost someone, a lover who never resurfaced, the years it had taken me to come to terms with it.
Had Peter made the connection, cast his mind back to 1968, ‘our first summer’ together at this house, our long, carefree days together on this beach? Until calamity had struck.
It had come as no surprise to me that Peter was diag-nosed with atrial or supraventricular tachycardia, SVT. He had lived his life at a supersonic pace, in the turbo lane. He had travelled ceaselessly, worked incessantly, handled and triumphed over high-profile legal cases, which had won him a coveted international reputation and the honour of a CBE. However, alongside the acknowledgements came high stress levels. His caring heart carried the burdens of those less fortunate, those whose liberties he fought for and won. In his juridical field, few reputations, if any, surpassed Peter Soames’s.
Long-haul flights were his norm, sometimes once or even twice a week. He was always out of bed by five thirty a.m. no matter when we had turned in the night before. Even after we had stayed up till two watching a movie, he had set his phone alarm for five. And then he’d switch it off and roll over for half an hour, indulging in his ‘lie-in’.
I longed for him to slow down. Some days I felt as though I’d never catch hold of him, never pull him by his shirt tails and draw him in slow motion back to me, begging, ‘Hey, what’s the rush? Bide time with me.’
I turned now from the bedside and pattered to the open window, leaning my elbows on the sill, mesmerized by the swallows dipping and circling above the pink-tinged beach. I loved this time of year, with the first stirrings of summer ahead. I loved this old cliff house built high into its scrubby hillside overlooking the Mediterranean. Heron Heights. Peter had inherited it, this rather splendidly eccentric sunlit villa, from his late aunt, an artist, Agnes Armstrong-Soames. Yes, the painter. The very same.
I loved the privacy, the isolation, the villa’s distance from the nearest town. Our lives here have become secluded, our world privileged. The environment has cocooned me, allowed me to feel safe, even from the past. My past. Our past. The tragedy that took place here too long ago to remember. Except that I do remember. I have never allowed myself to forget it, but I have forgiven myself. Forgiven myself for the foolish, brainless role I played in someone’s death.
Peter and I never talk about it, never allude to it. That long-ago midsummer night.
But what happened on that long-ago midsummer night? If you’re intrigued and you’d like to find out more, The House on the Edge of the Cliff is available to buy!
Anglo-Irish actress Carol Drinkwater is perhaps still most familiar to audiences for her award-winning portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small. A popular and acclaimed author and film-maker as well, Carol has published nineteen books for both the adult and young adult markets. She is currently at work on her twentieth title.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin! My thanks to Jenny Platt at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join and the wonderful review copy!
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
After the disastrous failure of D-Day, Britain is occupied by Nazi Germany, and only rescued by Russian soldiers arriving from the east and Americans from the west. The two superpowers divide the nation between them, a wall running through London like a scar.
On the Soviet side of the wall, Jane Cawson calls into her husband’s medical practice, hoping to surprise him. But instead she detects the perfume worn by his former wife, Lorelei, star of propaganda films for the new Marxist regime.
Jane rushes to confront them, but soon finds herself caught up in the glamorous actress’s death.
Her husband Nick is arrested for murder. Desperate to clear his name, Jane must risk the attention of the brutal secret police as she follows a trail of corruption right to the highest levels of the state.
And she might find she never really knew her husband at all.
| MY THOUGHTS |
Well, here is a frightening scenario.
The year is 1952. The setting is London. But not the London we all know. D-Day was an enormous failure and the war was lost. The United Kingdom has been divided in two with a wall running through London. Jane and her husband Nick live in the Republic, under Russian control. Jane suspects her husband of having an affair with his first wife, Lorelei. When Jane decides to confront them, she finds Lorelei dead in the bathtub and soon, husband Nick is arrested by the National Secret Service. But all is not what it seems.
Jane is just your average woman who suddenly finds herself in the middle of extraordinary circumstances. Not only is goodness knows what happening to her husband while he’s being held but she also suddenly finds herself responsible for his daughter from his previous marriage. Desperate to find evidence that will help free her husband, she soon ends up in situations she is wholly unprepared for.
Life is not a bed of roses on this side of the wall. Corruption is rife and the things that have been promised do not come to fruition. Danger lurks around every corner. People are arrested and disappear. You can’t even trust your neighbours, who seem to be watching your every move, ready to inform the authorities. Some try to escape, making desperate attempts to reach the other side of the wall. Most fail.
The cover of this book is black and white with some red highlights standing out and that’s exactly how I saw things in my head while reading. At its heart, Liberation Square is a murder mystery and I felt it had a bit of a noir vibe to it. As Jane digs deeper, trying to figure out who was responsible for Lorelei’s death, she uncovers a multitude of secrets and is left to wonder if she knows her husband at all. With so much deceit going on everywhere, I ended up being suspicious of just about everyone and had a hard time imagining living my life like that. Scary.
With a fascinating and original premise, Liberation Square turned into quite the surprising read for me. I say that because dystopian stories don’t always hit the right spot with me but this one most definitely did. Having the added bonus of a murder mystery and a bit of a spy thriller touch to it, made this an enjoyable, atmospheric and gripping story. One that had me guessing until the end and in awe of the utterly believable alternative scenario.
Gareth Rubin is a British journalist and author. His journalism covers social affairs, travel, architecture, arts and health. His novel Liberation Square is a mystery thriller set in Soviet-occupied London.
In 2013 he directed a documentary, Images of Bedlam, about the connection between art and mental illness and how art can help people express that which they cannot put into words. It was filmed at the Bethlem Royal Hospital (‘Bedlam’) and interviews artists with a history of psychiatric illness.
He previously worked as an actor on stage and television.
Delighted to host a stop on publication day for The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my beautiful review copy.
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
Nightingale House, 1919. Liddy Horner discovers her husband, the world-famous artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting The Garden of Lost and Found days before his sudden death.
Nightingale House was the Horner family’s beloved home – a gem of design created to inspire happiness – and it was here Ned painted ‘The Garden of Lost and Found’, capturing his children on a perfect day, playing in the rambling Eden he and Liddy made for them.
One magical moment. Before it all came tumbling down…
When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale House, she opens the door onto a forgotten world. The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers. For who would choose to destroy what they love most? Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or, in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness.
Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what?
| MY THOUGHTS |
It’s been a while since I read a family saga but I was quickly reminded of why they make such engrossing stories. Especially when they are as brilliantly written as this one. It took just a few pages for me to be swept along and become absolutely captivated.
The Garden of Lost and Found is centred around the Horner family and a painting. Ned Horner used to be quite the well-known artist and “The Garden of Lost and Found” was his masterpiece. It captured his children on a beautiful day, playing in the garden of their beloved home, Nightingale House. But in 1919, a few days before his death, Ned destroys the painting.
Now, Ned’s great-granddaughter Juliet returns to Nightingale House for the first time since her grandmother died. True to form, there are a lot of family secrets to discover but most importantly, there is a mystery to be solved. Because what could possibly have driven Ned to destroy his most famous painting?
The Garden of Lost and Found is full of complex characters, some a bit more flawed and unlikeable than others, yet all incredibly realistic and believable. For most of the novel, I was mostly drawn to the chapters set in the past. I suspect that’s the crime fiction lover in me, who was desperately trying to figure out the answers before Juliet did in the modern day setting. And to be quite fair, her children drove me up the wall. Yet it also brought home how different things were generations back when the kind of behaviour they display wouldn’t have been tolerated for a second.
Despite having had The Wildflowers on my shelf for the longest time, this was my first introduction to Harriet Evans. I really enjoyed her writing style as it’s beautifully descriptive. At times it felt as if I was right there at Nightingale House, hearing the rain patter on the windows, smelling the glorious scents from the garden, maybe even hear a mouse skitter across the floorboards.
At almost 500 pages, this isn’t exactly a quick read but at no point did it drag or become boring. It never felt like a long book as I became completely immersed and invested in these characters’ lives, losing myself within the pages. The Garden of Lost and Found is an engrossing, enchanting and sometimes emotional story about family, love and secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with these characters and I will definitely be reading more by Harriet Evans.
Harriet Evans is the author, Going Home, A Hopeless Romantic, The Love of Her Life, I Remember You, Love Always, Happily Ever After and Not Without You. Before becoming a full time writer Harriet was a successful editor for a London publishing house. She lives in London with her family.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for White Leaves of Peace by Tracey Iceton. My thanks to Karen Bultiauw for the invitation to join. White Leaves of Peace is the final instalment in the Celtic Colour Trilogy and today, Tracey visits my blog to talk about the research that went into this series.
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
The final part of the explosive Celtic Colours Trilogy. When the big men get around the table on Good Friday of 1998 and sign up to peace in Northern Ireland nine year old Cian Duffy’s story should have ended. Instead it is the beginning of a decade of Troubles for him. Haunted by his mother’s IRA past and chased by present day violence sectarianism, Cian ends up being forced to flee peace-torn Belfast. Facing a life in exile, he reconciles himself the past and makes a new life for himself, somewhere he feels he belongs.
Then Britain votes for Brexit; the old adage of England’s difficulty being Ireland’s opportunity is tabled yet again and Cian has to confront the past and the future.
White Leaves of Peace is a stark reminder that ending a war takes more than the signing of a treaty. Peace is hard won. You have to fight for it.
The Celtic Colours trilogy has been my most heavily researched fiction project, weaving real historical events into the plots and using real people as characters alongside invented characters and imagined storylines. Doing so I discovered the advantages of research-based fiction writing.
Parts one and two, Green Dawn at St Enda’s and Herself Alone in Orange Rain required extensive research. Green Dawn, set 1911-1916, tells the story of fictional schoolboy Finn Devoy who ends up fighting in the Dublin Easter Rising. I knew little about the topic so read widely and visited relevant places, including the Pearse Museum in Dublin which is as it was when it was St Enda’s. This all helped recreate period and place in the book and ensure accuracy. Orange Rain is set during the 1980s, when I was a child. The book centres on Caoilainn Devoy, Finn’s granddaughter, and her experiences as an IRA volunteer. Again it needed much research, reading accounts by/about IRA women and uncovering pertinent facts. I also talked to people who lived through this period and drew on that during the writing. Though somewhat problematic, this firsthand research added an extra dynamic, bringing the story to life for me; I hope this comes over in the novel.
Set in my own lifetime, I thought White Leaves of Peace would require the least research. I was wrong. When did ipods come out? What was the craze in kids’ toys in 1998? Who was in the charts in the early 2000s? I made work for myself by having the main character, Cian Duffy (Caoilainn’s son) be a computer nerd and I’m expecting letters from IT experts pointing out my ‘tech’ errors. More significantly, reading around events in Northern Ireland during the period I realised how much I didn’t know, news that didn’t cross the Irish sea. It was a lesson to never assume I know what I need to in order to write about something. I also did more firsthand research, talking to people who knew what Cian’s life would have been like which was invaluable. And I was able to draw on my own experiences, particularly for the Australia section of the novel – I lived there for a year. If you can use what you know you should, although I wouldn’t let lack of knowledge restrict me. If a topic interests me enough to write about it, it interests me enough to research it also.
So to anyone considering research-heavy novel projects I say don’t be deterred. Researching can take fiction to exciting places, uncovering unexpected angles to stories and introducing writers to people who will make for engaging characters. Researching, although time-consuming, can make writing easier, giving you a framework for the story. And truth really can be wilder than fiction so why not use it to your advantage?
| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |
Tracey Iceton is an author and creative writing tutor from Teesside who completed a PhD in creative writing at Northumbria University. An English teacher experienced in delivering creating writing courses and workshops, Tracey won the 2013 HISSAC short story prize for ‘Butterfly Wings’, was runner up in the 2013 and 2014 Cinnamon Press short story competitions with ‘Slag’ and ‘As the world (re)turns’, which appear in the anthologies Journey Planner and Patria. She also won the 2011 Writers Block NE Home Tomorrow Short Story Competition and has been shortlisted for the 2012 Bristol Short Story Competition with ‘Apple Shot’ and the 2015 Mslexia Women’s Short Story Competition for ‘Ask Not’.
Green Dawn at St Enda’s, her debut novel and part one of her Celtic Colours Trilogy, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2016 followed byHerself Alone in Orange Rain in 2017. White Leaves of Peace is the final part of the companion trilogy.
Tracey regularly reads at literary events. Her stories have appeared in; Prole, Litro, Neon, Tears in the Fence, The Momaya Annual Review, The Yellow Room and Writer’s Muse.
It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for Suddenly Single by Carol Wyer today! My thanks to Ellie at Canelo for the invitation to join! I have an extract to share with you but first, here is what the book is all about.
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
When bestselling romance author Chloe Piper’s marriage implodes a week before Christmas, she flees her cheating ex and the village gossips for the solitude of the newly built Sunny Meadow Farm and the company of her hapless dog, Ronnie.
But Chloe is soon pushed out of her comfort zone. Because with a lively development building crew – headed up by charming Alex – and a larger-than-life neighbour determined to make Chloe’s love life her pet project, Chloe finds herself in a whole new world of chaos…
| EXTRACT |
Faith was the first to comment. ‘Chloe, it’s perfect. So you.’
The kitchen was a blend of contemporary trends of industrial and neutral tones, while holding on to a warm essence. Open shelving created a relaxed atmosphere and the designer Italian stools that stood by a large rustic island would be ideal for casual dining. Mood lighting over the island and task lighting over the kitchen units created a great balance while the natural light that flooded through the huge windows softly illuminated the entire space.
Faith pointed to it. ‘I can picture myself sitting there, glass of wine in hand and snacking on some warm, crusty bread. Ah, bliss!’
‘You’ll definitely come and visit me here in the wilds of Staffordshire, then.’
‘You bet. It has a certain appeal,’ she added, her eye drawn to the figure tapping on the window attempting to attract Thomas’s attention. It was Jack. Thomas stuck up a thumb in acknowledgement and the carpenter departed.
‘They’re all keen to know if you’re happy with it,’ said Thomas.
‘Very,’ replied Chloe, savouring being in her own home.
The island’s pale marble top had a hint of pink that was reflected in pink roses that stood in a light pink flower bag. She hastened towards them breathing in their delicate perfume.
‘The flowers are beautiful. You shouldn’t have bought them.’ Her cheeks had turned the same shade of pink as the petals. Thomas merely smiled a response, his attention on Ronnie, who scuttled about the kitchen checking every corner and sniffing the length of every skirting board.
‘Is this the lounge?’ asked Faith, wandering towards the wooden door at the far end of the kitchen. She opened it and emitted a squeal of delight. ‘A whopper of a log burner, and it’s alight! It’s gorgeous. How toasty! Ooh, lovely huge settees. You have good taste, Chloe. These are much nicer than those leather things you had at the old place. Okay, forget the island and the crusty bread. I’m thinking more of snuggling up in front of this with a glass of mulled wine.’
The smile on Thomas’s face broadened. He turned towards Chloe. ’Couldn’t have you coming into a chilly house, could we? I got my lad, Alex, to fetch up some wood for you. We stacked it around the back of the house and you should have enough to last you over Christmas.’
‘I really don’t know what to say. You’ve been amazing. I’m sure you’ve done more than you ought to have for me. You’ve been here to take delivery of my furniture, bought me light shades, sorted out the television aerial man, advised me on materials and design and held my hand during the whole process.’
‘We all need a little hand-holding from time to time. The lads and I work on developments all the time. It’s our business and it’s easier for us to find those little necessary bits and pieces, like toilet roll holders and outside lamps or doorstops, than for you to mess about. We only help out the clients we like though,’ he added with a wink. ‘Now, can I ask you a favour?’ He put his large hand into his coat pocket and extracted a copy of a book.
‘My missus would love you to sign this.’
Chloe looked at the cover and gasped. ‘How did you find out? I thought I was anonymous here. No one is supposed to know I wrote it. I wanted to keep it quiet.’
Thomas tapped the side of his nose. ‘I like to find out as much as possible about the folk who buy my houses and I have a particular fondness for this development. This is going to be my last project ever before I retire and I want it to be special with only the “right” people living here. I’ve turned down many folks who have put in offers on these properties. I’m only accepting those from people I feel ought to be here. Call me old. Call me stupid, or quirky, but that’s what I’ve decided to do. It’s taken four years of planning and arguing with authorities to get it this far. I designed all the houses myself so I want them to be cared for and loved as much as I care about them. Don’t worry. I won’t spill the beans about you. An old pal in Appletree told me about you. He heard a rumour. You will sign the book, won’t you? Patricia loved it. She can’t wait for your next one.’
Faith, who had returned from the lounge, pricked up her ears. ‘You’d better get that laptop out pretty quickly. You have fans. And they can’t get enough of your naughty vicar stories. What a great place to write. It’s so peaceful and calm. I expect many more bonkbuster novels from you, Chloe Piper. I’m depending on you to keep me in designer clothes and expensive holidays.’
‘This is my agent, PR guru, right-hand woman and best friend, Faith Hopkins,’ said Chloe, spotting Thomas’s eyebrows lifting in interest. He held out a hand. Faith obliged and shook it.
‘You in publishing?’
‘I am and Chloe is my star client.’
Chloe took the copy of Spank Me Harder, Vicar together with the pen Thomas offered, and wrote a brief message. He read it, smiled, and thanked her.
‘Patricia will be stoked and the ladies at her book club are going to be very jealous she has a signed copy. Thank you. By the way, the flowers aren’t from me. They’re from an anonymous admirer,’ he said, tapping the side of his nose with a broad forefinger again. He opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of champagne which he handed over. ‘But this is. From the first time I met you I knew you were the right person to buy Sunny Meadow Barn. I hope you’ll be very happy here, Chloe. Now I’m going to leave you and your lovely friend to settle in and if there’s anything you need, just come over to the big barn. The lads will be there until four o’clock.’
Chloe thanked the man again and watched as he plodded carefully around the house and onto the gravel drive towards the as yet unfinished outbuildings.
Has this extract piqued your interest? Do you want read more? Then you’re in luck, because Suddenly Single is available to buy!
As a child Carol Wyer was always moving, and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.
Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Punch by Kate North! My thanks to Karen Bultiauw for the invitation to join! Author Kate North visits my blog today to talk about short stories but first, here is what Punch is all about.
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
Punch is a collection of stories exploring the uncanny, the uncomfortable and the surreal in the everyday, at home and abroad.
Whether its a man with a growth on his hand, a couple trying for a baby, a woman finishing a book, a pope with penis envy, or a bullied girl, characters throughout the collection assess their surroundings and are often forced to reassess themselves.
Punch offers the reader a humorous and disturbing take on life in the twenty-first century.
Hi, I’m Kate North and I’m absolutely thrilled that Eva has handed over the blog spot to me today for the blog tour of my short story collection Punch.
I love writing short stories. I think they are the perfect vehicle for diving into action just before the crux of things. They also allow you to get out when you have given the reader just enough so they can imagine what might happen next for themselves. I like short stories that stay with me, stories that unsettle or calm me in some way. I enjoy working out how and why later. Writers like Anna Kavan and Ali Smith are really excellent at doing this. When I was younger I enjoyed the TV shows Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone for the same reasons.
The stories in Punch are set in a number of places throughout the UK and across various European countries. They are told from a range of perspectives, young through to old, male and female. What they all have in common is the fact that they explore the weird and how it exists in and amongst the everyday. I am fascinated by the strange and the un-nerving, how the uncanny can emerge in the most average of settings. Those moments when you do a double take and say to yourself, ‘did I really just see that?’, the times when you are thinking ‘am I the only person in the room who thinks this is odd?’. In these instances you can find yourself questioning your own sanity and even facts you know to be true. These are scenarios that I explore in my stories. I write about how characters respond, whether on a first date or having just moved into a new home.
My stories have characters who are surprised and encounter the unexpected in some way or other. How they react to a given situation depends upon personality and background, but also on the environment in which they find themselves. The title story of the collection follows a girl being relentlessly bullied at school, but it isn’t until she finds herself outside of the school that she feels able to respond to her tormentors.
I also write poetry and I think that may be another reason I am drawn to the short story. The poem and the short story have a lot in common. The intense and the lyrical are at home in a short narrative. You don’t necessarily want or need the expanse of a novel to think about why a character makes a specific decision or how they may react in a particular place. I think that commuters may like these stories, they are the ideal size for a train or bus trip. They are short, sharp tales that pack a punch, they are written to make you think. I’m really looking forward to people reading them.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Kate! I’m always quite impressed at how much information an author can pack into a short story.
| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |
Kate North’s first novel, Eva Shell, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2008 and her poetry collection, Bistro, in 2012. She writes and edits for a number of journals and publications.
She has a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from Cardiff University and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. She lives and teaches in Cardiff.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Rainwatcher by Tatiana de Rosnay. My thanks to Julia Forster at World Editions for the invitation to join. I have an extract to share with you all today but first, let’s find out a bit more about the novel.
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
It is raining non-stop over Paris. The Malegarde family – split between France, London, and the US – is reunited for the first time in years.
When Paul, a famous yet withdrawn arborist, suffers a stroke in the middle of his 70th birthday celebrations, his son Linden is stuck in a city that is undergoing a stunning natural disaster.
As the Seine bursts its banks and floods the streets, the family will have to fight to keep their unity as hidden fears and secrets also begin to rise.
In this profound and intense novel of love and redemption, De Rosnay demonstrates her wealth of skills both as an incredible storyteller and also as a connoisseur of the human soul.
| EXTRACT |
Opening to The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay
“It’s been like this for the past two weeks,” says the listless taxi driver. The rain pours down, a silver curtain, hissing, obstructing all daylight. It is only ten o’clock in the morning, but to Linden, it feels like dusk glimmering with wetness. The taxi driver says he wants to move away for good, flee Paris, find the sun, go back to balmy Martinique, where he is from. As the car leaves Charles de Gaulle Airport and edges along the jammed highway and ring road that circles the city, Linden cannot help agreeing with him. The sodden suburbs are dismal, clustered contours of cubic volumes bedecked with garish neon billboards flickering in the drizzle. He asks the driver to turn on the radio, and the man comments upon his perfect French, “for an American.” Linden grins. This happens every time he returns to Paris. He replies he’s Franco-American, born in France, French father, American mother, he speaks both languages fluently, with no accent at all. How about that, eh? The driver chortles, fumbles with the radio, well, monsieur certainly looks like an American, doesn’t he, tall, athletic, jeans, sneakers, not like those Parisians with their fancy ties and suits.
The news is all about the Seine. Linden listens while squeaky windshield wipers thrust away rivulets in a never-ending battle. The river has been rising for five days now, since January 15, lapping around the Zouave’s ankles. The huge stone statue of a colonial soldier situated just below the pont de l’Alma is, Linden knows, the popular indicator of the river’s level. In 1910, during the major overflows that inundated the city, the water had crept all the way up to the Zouave’s shoulders. The driver exhales, there’s nothing to be done to prevent a river from flooding, no use fighting nature. Men need to stop tampering with nature; all this is her way of lashing back. As the car inches along sluggish circulation, unrelenting rain pounding on the car roof, Linden is reminded of the email the hotel sent him on Tuesday.
Dear Mr. Malegarde,
We are looking forward to your arrival and stay with us as from Friday, January 19th, at noon, until Sunday, January 21, in the evening (with a late checkout, as requested). However, the traffic situation in Paris might be problematic due to the level of the river Seine. Fortunately, the Chatterton Hotel, situated in the fourteenth arrondissement, is not located in an area liable to inundations, and therefore will not be concerned by the inconvenience. For the moment, the prefecture informs us there is nothing to worry about, but our policy is to update our guests. Please let us know if you need any assistance. Kind regards.
Linden read it at the airport on his way from LA to New York, where he was booked to photograph a British actress for Vanity Fair. He forwarded the message to his sister, Tilia, in London, and to his mother, Lauren, in the Drôme valley, who were to join him in Paris that Friday. Linden had not included Paul in the email because his father only appreciated letters and postcards, not emails. His sister’s answer, which he received when he landed hours later at JFK, made him chuckle.
Floodings?!What?! Again? Don’t you remember there was already a scaryflood in Paris last November? And what about the one in June2016? It took us years to organize this bloody weekend, andnow this?! She signed off with a series of scowling emoticons.
Later, his mother replied to both of them: Willcome by boat if we have to, dragging your father away fromhis trees! To at last be together! No way will we cancel thisfamily gathering! See you on Friday, my loves!
The Malegarde family was meeting in Paris to celebrate Paul’s seventieth birthday, as well as Lauren and Paul’s fortieth wedding anniversary.
Linden had not given the hotel’s warning another thought. When he left New York for Paris on Thursday evening, he felt weary. It had been two full days, and before that, weeks of hard work around the globe. He would have preferred to fly back home to San Francisco, to Elizabeth Street, to Sacha and the cats. He had not seen much of Sacha, nor the cats, in the past month. Rachel Yellan, his dynamic agent, had landed him one job after the other, a dizzying swirl from city to city that left him depleted and longing for a break. The narrow blue house in Noe Valley and its cherished inhabitants would have to wait until this special family event was over.
“Just the four of us,” his mother had said, all those months ago, when she had booked hotel and restaurant. Was he looking forward to this? he wondered as the plane took off. They had not often been together, just the four of them, since his teenage years at Sévral, where he grew up, and more so, since he had left Vénozan, his father’s familial domain, in 1997, at nearly sixteen. He saw his parents once or twice a year, and his sister whenever he went to London, which was frequently. Why did “just the four of us” sound both so cozy and ominous?
On the flight to Paris, Linden read Le Figaro and realized with a jab of apprehension that the situation described by the hotel was, in fact, disquieting. The Seine had already flooded in late November, as Tilia pointed out, after a wet summer and autumn, and previously, in June 2016. Parisians had kept a wary eye on the Zouave, and the little waves lapping up his shins. Fortunately, the flow had stopped increasing. Le Figaro explained that thanks to modern technology, one could predict the river’s engorgement three days ahead, which left ample time for evacuating. But the actual problem was the torrential rain, which had not lessened. The river was on the rise again, and threateningly fast…
If this extract and Tatiana de Rosnay’s beautiful writing has left you wanting more, then why not buy yourself a copy of The Rain Watcher!
Tatiana de Rosnay, of English, French, and Russian descent, was born in 1961, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, and raised in Boston and Paris.
After studying literature in England at the University of East Anglia, Tatiana worked in Paris as a reporter for Vanity Fair, Psychologies Magazine, and ELLE.
She has published twelve novels in French and three in English including New York Times bestseller Sarah’s Key, which sold over eleven million copies worldwide, and was made into a film starring Kristin Scott Thomas in 2010.
Her books have been published in 42 countries and in 2011 she was listed by Le Figaro as the fifth most-read French author worldwide.