Aria Fiction

Book Extract: One Christmas Star by Mandy Baggot

I am happy to be welcoming back Mandy Baggot. She is here with the blog tour for her novel, One Christmas Star. 

 

Emily Parker is set to have the worst Christmas ever!

Her flatmate’s moved out, she’s closed her heart to love and she’s been put in charge of the school original Christmas show – with zero musical ability.

Disgraced superstar, Ray Stone is in desperate need of a quick PR turnaround.

Waking up from a drunken stupor to a class of ten-year-olds snapping pics and Emily looking at him was not what he had in mind.

Ray needs Emily’s help to delete the photos, and she needs his with the show.

As they learn to work together they may just open their hearts to more than a second chance…

 

To celebrate the release of One Christmas Star, Mandy and Aria have shared an extract today. 

 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

‘Tangfastic?’

Before Emily had a chance to reply, the sharing-size bag of Haribos was pushed under her nose by Dennis Murray, the forty-something teacher of the Year Five class. He shook the plastic and all manner of gum, sugar, sweet and sour flew into Emily’s sinuses in one mammoth rush. She picked out a sweet simply to get the bag away from her nose. Popping it into her mouth, the bitterness hit her taste-buds straight off, contorting her expression. She watched, one eye squinted, as Dennis put five sweets into his mouth at once, double-chin wobbling. He was a walking, talking pick ‘n’ mix addict but still his capacity for sugary sweet treats astounded her. Simon had liked sweets – Maltesers, Minstrels, Mars Bites, all the chocolate. Simon had liked chocolate the way Emily liked cheese…

‘So, what do you think the budget meeting is going to be about this time?’ Dennis asked, nudging Emily’s arm as the other teachers joined them in the main hall used for assemblies, performances, lunch and meetings such as these. ‘Christmas cancelled? No unnecessary expense until we’re back in January?’

‘I don’t know,’ Emily answered. ‘But no matter what it is, I can’t protest.’ She lowered her voice and leant a little into Dennis’s personal space. ‘Susan caught me giving Jayden Jackson help with his project this morning and I bought him a bagel because I know he isn’t getting breakfast at home.’ She wasn’t getting breakfast at home herself, but only because the cupboards always seemed to be bare now Jonah had gone. Plus, really strong coffee almost counted as a meal, didn’t it?

Dennis sucked through his teeth, bits of gum crushed between his canines. ‘A double-whammy.’

‘I know,’ Emily said with a sigh. ‘I only narrowly managed to avoid the proverbial third thing because the Sellotape on the Christmas stars held out just long enough until Susan had closed the door behind her.’ But she knew she was under scrutiny and it made her nervous. She pulled at the sides of her maroon corduroy skirt, shifting her bottom on the too-small chair. Had she picked one of the children’s chairs and not a grown-up one. That was exactly how her luck was right now…

‘Definitely no extra baubles for the Year Six Christmas tree this year then,’ Dennis remarked, chewing on more sweets.

Emily’s phone erupted, tweeting like a bird, from inside her all-colours vintage carpet bag. It had been a bargain. Well, actually it had been quite expensive, but it was a genuine 1950s artifact. And she’d been quite emotional on that particular visit to the antique boutique. Emotion and her love of vintage were a heady mix…

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Book Extract: Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman

What better treat on a Tuesday than to have Lucy Coleman visit Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her festive novel, Magic Under the Mistletoe. 

 

Christmas and romance are in the air…

It’s December 23rd and while everyone else is rushing home for the holidays, workaholic Leesa Oliver is dreading switching on her out-of-office for the festive season. And it seems her equally driven boss, Cary Anderson, isn’t relishing spending Christmas at his family’s country estate either.

So together, they draft an unexpected Christmas contract: They’ll spend half of the holidays with each other’s families, pretending to be a couple. Leesa knows the insufferably good-looking Cary will make her Christmas more bearable, but what happens after the last of the mince pies have been eaten…?

Leesa signed off on a sensible business agreement, but somewhere, amongst the fairy lights and carols something seems to have changed… It seems there might just be some magic under the mistletoe this Christmas!

 

Lucy and Aria have shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Standing beneath the steady stream of hot water without the overhead shower wetting my hair isn’t easy but it’s so refreshing. By the time I’ve dried, changed my underwear and donned the crease-resistant, long-sleeved top rolled up in my hand luggage, I at least have a bit of my sparkle back. A quick brush of my hair, a squirt of deodorant and then perfume, and I’m done.

Making my way back into the open area of the lounge and scanning around the sea of occupied seats, I look for Cary. His head appears above the crowded masses as he stands to wave at me and I head in his direction. He, too, is looking a little more refreshed, I notice as I sink down very gratefully into the squishy leather seat next to him.

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Book Extract: A Question of Us by Mary Jayne Baker

Hello to Mary Jayne Baker and the blog tour for her novel, A Question of Us. 

Two best friends. Eight pub quizzes. One shot at love…

There are some people who seem like they have all the answers in life. Clarrie Midwinter isn’t one of them.

At the age of 26, tomboy Clarrie is still struggling to become a ‘proper’ grown-up.

She’s eternally strapped for cash, she hasn’t had a date in nearly a year and her attempts to quit smoking tend to take a nosedive after the second pint. Most annoyingly of all, her ladykiller best friend Simon just won’t stop asking her out.

The only thing keeping her sane is her pub quiz team, the Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers.

But when Simon bets her a date their team will win the quiz league, Clarrie is forced to confront what she really wants out of life – and love. Is it finally time for her to grow up?

 

Mary Jayne and her publisher have shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

‘The chances of me getting lucky with Sally Pemberton are slim to none,’ Dave said.

‘The chances of Si getting lucky with Sally Pemberton, and me therefore receiving the knock-on benefit of a faster pint, are about 99.9 per cent. I’ll take those odds.’

Clarrie was still squinting at the photo of the dog, which was small and Ewok-like with curly beige fur.

‘I reckon it’s a cavapoo,’ she said.

Si shook his head. ‘That’s not a thing.’

‘It is too a thing, the woman next door to my mum’s got one.’

‘What, so it’s half poodle, half fizzy wine?’

She nudged him, smiling. ‘Half Cavalier King Charles, you div.’

‘You know, dogs really went downhill when they started breeding them for comedy portmanteau purposes.’

‘Go on then, write it down,’ Dave said, rolling the pen to Clarrie. ‘You’re captain, you get final say.’

‘All right.’ She jotted it into the answer box. ‘But if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. I don’t want it following me to the grave like Sonny and the fifth Marx brother.’

Sonny scowled. ‘Do we have to bring that up every week? Anyone could’ve made that mistake.’

‘Very true,’ Dave said gravely. ‘I’m sure Karl had plenty of time after writing Das Kapital for a bit of slapstick fun with the family.’

‘Oh, knob off, can you?’ Sonny rubbed a V-sign at Dave against his cheek. ‘Eight years ago I got that wrong. Jesus.’

‘Still funny though,’ Dave said, grinning. ‘Right, I’m off to the bar. Same again, you lot?’

Jeff was half asleep again, but he flickered to attention when he heard the magic word ‘bar’.

‘Another Landlord for me, young Davy.’

‘Si?’

‘I’ll skip this round.’ Simon waggled his still half-full beer. ‘All right with what I’ve got for now.’

Clarrie glanced at the dregs of her pint. She had to work tomorrow. Probably should go easy…

Oh, what the hell.

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Book Extract: The Postcard by Zoë Folbigg

A big welcome back to Zoë Folbigg and the blog tour for The Postcard. 

 

The sequel to the bestselling phenomenon The Note – based on the true story of one girl and her ‘Train Man’…

A year after the kiss that brought them together in a snowy train-station doorway, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time around the world. The trip starts promisingly, with an opulent and romantic Indian wedding.

But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby, and James doesn’t feel the same. Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all… 

 

Zoë and Aria have shared an extract from the Postcard today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

6

December 2015, Kent, England

‘Happy Christmas, James. Happy Christmas, girls,’ James’ mum says in a small voice as she raises an elaborately cut glass of sherry at the table. It’s the most flamboyant Diane Miller gets all year.

‘What about me?’

‘You too, dear,’ she says to her husband, as he scratches his white hair. ‘You too.’

James’ dad, Stuart, and his sister, Francesca, barely look up from their plates. Francesca’s wife, Petra, lifts her wine glass, closely followed by James, and they say ‘Happy Christmas’ in unison. ‘Cheers Diane,’ adds Petra. ‘Thanks for a beautiful lunch.’

The Christmas dinner table at the Miller home in Kent is quieter than the Flowers of Hazelworth. It is circular, covered by a neat tablecloth with holly embroidered onto it. I

n the middle, a metal Christmas carousel rotates, where angels chase – but never catch – each other, powered by heat rising from the candles around it. Gold crackers perch uncracked on beige linen napkins, and Diane’s late mother’s Denby ware pottery all still matches.

No one’s elbows knock into anyone else’s elbows. No one shouts ‘SPUDS TO THE NORTH END!’ over a clatter of crockery and glasses. Neither James nor Francesca flash a mouthful of food at their sibling.

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Book Extract: The Time of Our Lives by Abby Williams

Welcome to Abby Williams and the blog tour for her novel, The Time of Our Lives.

Two women from two very different generations are brought together through dramatic circumstances and help each other to forge new paths.

Twenty-six-year-old Erin has everything she’s ever wanted – a good job, a gorgeous fiancé and a best friend who’s always there for her. But suddenly her life comes crashing down around her. Unable to return home to her parents, she takes a room in a house nearby and her life starts over in the most unexpected of ways…

Seventy-six-year old Lydia, who, shocked by the sudden death of her husband, is devastated to discover that he has left her in crippling debt. With no choice but to take in a lodger, Erin comes into her life. When they find a letter hidden in the attic old secrets come to light and, with Erin by her side, Lydia finds herself going on a trip of a lifetime.

 

Abby and Aria have shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Brad and I had been together for three years, and now I was a fully qualified architect but still also worked as his PA. Watching him now as he walked along the open plan office towards me I felt my heart bang against my chest. Tall, with chocolate eyes and thick, black hair, Brad still gave me butterflies.

‘Erin, have you got my itinerary for the conference tomorrow?’ he asked, standing in front of my desk.

‘Of course,’ I replied, pulling out a glossy brochure from my in-tray and handing it to Brad. ‘I booked you into your usual hotel for two nights and I’ve arranged for the hotel business centre to set up your presentation material so you don’t need to worry.’

Brad smiled. ‘Thank you, that was very thoughtful.’

‘All part of the job,’ I replied sweetly.

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Book Extract: The Single Mums Move On by Janet Hoggarth

Today I’m welcoming Janet Hoggarth who is joining me with the blog tour for her book, The Single Mums Move On. 

 

Can neighbours become more than good friends…

After her husband left her, Ali and her daughter Grace enjoyed living in what became known as ‘the Single Mums’ Mansion’. However, with her best friends Amanda and Jacqui moving on, it’s time for Ali and Grace to make their own way. Thankfully, a chance conversation leads to them moving into the infamous South London gated community known only as ‘The Mews’.

In ‘The Mews’ everyone lives in each other’s pockets and curtain twitching is an Olympic sport. The neighbours are an eclectic bunch – from Nick the alleged spy, Carl the gorgeous but clearly troubled Idris Elba lookalike, to Debbie who is about to face the hardest fight of her life, and TV agent Samantha who is not as in control as she likes to pretend.

Each day brings another drama, but along with the tears, real friendships grow. And her neighbours’ problems might unlock the key to something Ali has yearned for all along…

Based on a true story – you’ll never be able to look at your neighbours quite the same way again… 

 

Janet has very kindly shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

‘I hate everyone looking at me,’ Amanda said tremulously, holding on to her dad’s arm as we waited for the music to start in the antechamber of Rye Town Hall. ‘What if I cry?’

‘You’re supposed to cry at weddings!’ Jacqui said, rolling her eyes. ‘No one’s going to tell you off!’

‘Stop catastrophising,’ I said gently. ‘Just enjoy it. It’s your moment!’

However, when the time came to walk down the aisle, I hadn’t heeded my own advice. As soon as the impressively ornate doors opened and the town crier rang his bell to announce us, I spotted Ifan standing next to Jacqui’s Mark, his hand proprietorially on Grace’s shoulder, eagerly waiting. The first thought that burned in the back of my mind was: I can’t marry a shop assistant. I swiftly berated myself for being such a snob, but in reality, he didn’t earn enough money to support us if we had a child.

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NK Chats To: Mandy Baggott

Hello Mandy. Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your new book, One Last Greek Summer and what inspired it?

One Last Greek Summer is a perfect summer read set on the Greek island of Corfu. It’s the story of newly divorced thirty-something Beth Martin and her friend, Heidi, having one last holiday before they both re-evaluate the next stage of their lives. Except Heidi has picked the destination they both first visited when they were 21, and there just might be a few familiar faces waiting for them…

 

How has your writing process changed since writing your first novel?

*laughs* Seriously, it hasn’t changed that much! The only thing that has changed slightly is I now write two books every year as opposed to one when I first started out. I still initially come up with main characters and setting, the very bare bones of an idea, and then I literally start to write. I am not a plan it all and stick Post It notes around the room kind of writer, I just haven’t got that in me. I think if I knew the beginning, middle and end of each story I’d get bored writing it.

 

Where do you like to write? Do you have any writing rituals?

I have two main places I write. I have an office at home and I also visit my husband’s office at Numeric Accounting in Salisbury three days a week to give me that true ‘getting up and going to work’ feeling. It’s amazing how productive you can be surrounded by a team of accountants… As for writing rituals, I don’t really have any of those, just keep the coffee coming! Oh, and we always go to the pub at lunchtimes on a Friday! That surely counts, doesn’t it?

 

How important is it to pick the right names for your characters? 

This is SUPER important to me otherwise the characters don’t come alive or feel real to me. I remember one publisher (who shall remain nameless) at the very last moment, I think at the proofreading stage of things, wanted me to change the name and nationality of my hero. I was so shocked and I was absolutely not happy about it. I stuck to my guns and obviously I was right! It doesn’t usually take me long to come up with names but they do have to feel right for the characters.

 

What’s next for you?

I’m currently finishing writing Christmas! One Christmas Star comes out in e-book on 12 September and I am really excited about this book. It’s the story of schoolteacher, Emily and down-on-his-luck singer, Ray. It’s set in a festive London and involves a full-on school Christmas show – think Nativity meets A Star is Born – that’s how I pitched it to Aria Fiction.

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Cover Reveal: Magic under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman

huwfaircloughphotography

Christmas is in the air! No, don’t worry, you’ve not skipped summer. 

I know it is only the beginning of June so this opinion may be unpopular but to me, it’s never too early for festive themed novels. That is why I was happy to be taking part in the cover reveal for Magic under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman.

 

Christmas and romance are in the air…

It’s December 23rd and while everyone else is rushing home for the holidays, workaholic Leesa Oliver is dreading switching on her out-of-office for the festive season. And it seems her equally driven boss, Cary Anderson, isn’t relishing spending Christmas at his family’s country estate either.

So together, they draft an unexpected Christmas contract: They’ll spend half of the holidays with each other’s families, pretending to be a couple. Leesa knows the insufferably good-looking Cary will make her Christmas more bearable, but what happens after the last of the mince pies have been eaten…?

Leesa signed off on a sensible business agreement, but somewhere, amongst the fairy lights and carols something seems to have changed… It seems there might just be some magic under the mistletoe this Christmas!

OK, so drumroll for the cover. Three… two… one.

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Book Extract & Review: The Family by P.R. Black

It’s the weekend, the sun is shining (mostly,) and P.R. Black is here with the blog tour to his latest novel, The Family. 

 

The best way to catch a killer? Offer yourself as bait.

Becky Morgan’s family were the victims of the ‘crimes of the decade’. 

The lone survivor of a ritualistic killing, Becky’s been forever haunted by the memories of that night.

Twenty years later, with the killer never found, Becky is ready to hunt them down and exact revenge. But the path to find the murderer is a slippery slope and she finds herself opening up some old wounds that should have been left sealed. 

Will Becky avenge her family or join them? 

 

I’ve reviewed The Family below but first, P.R. Black and Aria have shared an extract. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

‘Let’s turn to the perpetrator – who is it we’re looking for?’

‘I’m afraid that clues are few and far between, which is why it’s taken so long to find him. He never showed his face, but what we can say is that the man we’re looking for was around six feet tall or more, well-built, and probably aged between 25 and 40 – certainly a young, fit man. That means he’d be between 45 and 60 today, of course. He had a strong accent – not English, and, we think, not French, but perhaps Eastern European.’

The presenter faced the camera. ‘I apologise to viewers in advance, as this is a particularly distressing detail. But we have to talk about the mask.’

Becky looked away. 

‘Yes,’ said Inspector Hanlon. ‘As far as we can tell, it was this mask.’

‘We should stress, this is an artist’s interpretation,’ the presenter added.

‘Yes. This object seems to have been created by the killer himself. We believe it’s made of real bone, attached to some dark cloth. It’s nothing that was available in fancy dress shops, but it is just possible that someone, somewhere, might remember a man buying this mask from a specialist shop.’

‘It’s difficult to imagine what that poor girl must have gone through.’ 

Becky toasted the TV screen. ‘Don’t have nightmares,’ she said, remembering the final words uttered by the presenter who hosted an earlier series of Crimewatch.

On-screen, the presenter said, ‘Inspector, what more can you tell us about what the killer was wearing?’

‘When he arrived at the cottage, he wore all-black clothing. The only other clue we have is that he had size-fourteen feet, going by footprints left at the scene. He was wearing these shoes…’

The man beside Becky said, ‘I bet he wasn’t wearing all-black clothing when he got going. He might have kept his shoes on, though, for a quick getaway.’

She glanced at him for a moment – and then he was wearing her G&T. 

Rivulets meandered down his jowls like tears, and a sliver of lemon clung to his chin like a slug on a bannister losing its fight with gravity. 

‘What do you think you’re doing?’ he spluttered.

‘Hey.’ The barman pointed at her. ‘You’ve had enough, love. Out.’

‘I was just going. Love.’ Becky lurched to her feet, clinging to the counter until her shoes found purchase, and then strode out the door. 

The bar was set in the basement of a refurbished tenement block, and Becky had got halfway up the stairs to street level when the man who’d sat beside her gripped her shoulder. She gasped and clung onto the railings to avoid falling backwards.

The man’s hair was still plastered to his forehead with her gin. He looked like a young boy grotesquely groomed by his mother for church. 

‘I dunno who you think you are, freak,’ he snarled, ‘but you’re lucky I don’t kick you up and down this street.’

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