Book Extract

Book Extract and Review: That Girl by Kate Kerrigan

Kerrigan_THAT GIRLHello and welcome to Kate Kerrigan and the blog tour for her new novel, That Girl which was released by Head of Zeus on eBook on 1st January 2018. 

You can escape a place. But you can’t escape yourself.

Hanna flees the scene of a terrible crime in her native Sligo. If she can just vanish, re-invent herself under a new name, perhaps the police won’t catch up with her. London seems the perfect place to disappear.

Lara has always loved Matthew and imagined happy married life in Dublin. Then comes the bombshell – Matthew says he wants to join the priesthood. Humiliated and broken-hearted, Lara heads to the most godless place she can find, King’s Road, Chelsea.

Matthew’s twin sister, Noreen, could not be more different from her brother. She does love fiance John, but she also craves sex, parties and fun. Swinging London has it all, but without John, Noreen is about to get way out of her depth.

All three girls find themselves working for Bobby Chevron – one of London’s most feared gangland bosses – and it’s not long before their new lives start to unravel.

 

I’ve reviewed the book below but first, Kate and her publishers have kindly shared an extract from That Girl. I hope you enjoy! 

A year passed and Hanna turned from thirteen to fourteen. She became more independent and began to speak her own mind. She was glad that her mother had Dorian to focus on, instead of just her, and she came to trust him. While she knew her stepfather would never be a replacement for the father she so deeply loved, Hanna grew fond of him as time went by. Dorian Black loved her mother, there was no doubt about that, and he made her happy. Hanna also understood that he had been kind and generous regarding her as well. As the nuns pointed out to her in school, ‘It’s not every man would take on another man’s child.’

Dorian never patronised her, or talked to her like she was a poor child, as so many people did since her father died. He treated her as an equal, and she liked that. Dorian allowed her to call him by his first name. When she first did it, her mother tutted, insisting she call him father to show him proper respect. But Dorian had been on Hanna’s side. ‘Don’t push the child, Margaret,’ he said. ‘I am not her natural father. There is no reason she should look on me as such. Hanna is old enough to make up her own mind about the role I play in her life.’

Margaret became worried that Hanna was moving away from her, that she was losing her. Dorian was as wise and reassuring as ever. ‘Hanna is becoming a fine young woman,’ he told her. ‘She is not your little girl any more, Margaret. Sooner or later you’ll have to accept that she’s an adult.’

Margaret pursed her lips and remained silent on the subject. Hanna could tell she didn’t like it but it was important that her mother understood she wasn’t a child any more. Dorian was right, she was becoming a ‘young woman’ and her mother just had to get used to it. United in that understanding, a bond grew between stepfather and stepdaughter that felt to Hanna like friendship, or maybe even love.

Then, as Dorian and Margaret Black were coming up to their second wedding anniversary, Margaret came down with a nasty bout of flu. At first it seemed not to be serious but then her symptoms worsened with lethargy and headaches. Weeks passed and Margaret remained bedridden. With little appetite and no energy to lift herself from the bed, it appeared that there was something more serious underlying the illness. Hanna was worried and asked Dorian if there was anything more they could do. He reassured her that her mother’s recovery was just around the corner.

‘It’s only a virus,’ he promised.

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From Non-Fiction to Thrillers, Review and Extract: White Bodies by Jane Robins

whitebodiesWhite Bodies is the new novel from author, Jane Robins and is due to be released by HQ on 28th December 2017. 

‘He’s so handsome and clever and romantic. I just wished he hadn’t forced Tilda under the water and held her there so long.’

Callie loves Tilda. She’s her sister, after all. And she’s beautiful and successful.

Tilda loves Felix. He’s her husband. Successful and charismatic, he is also controlling, suspicious and, possibly, dangerous. Still, Tilda loves Felix.

And Callie loves Tilda. Very, very much.

So she’s determined to save her. But the cost could destroy them all…

Sometimes we love too much.

I’ve reviewed the book below and we also have an extract but first, Jane joins me to chat about going from narrative non-fiction to psychological suspense. Thank you for joining me, Jane. Over to you. 

When I was young (just out of university young) I thought ‘one day I’ll write a book’ and I think I had in mind a novel, though I’m not sure what type of novel. Then I shelved the idea for twenty years because, like most of us, I had to make a living. I became a journalist and worked for some great organisations including The Economist, the BBC, and The Independent. It was only when I found myself, in my early 40s, with a small child and wanting to work from home, that I allowed that dream of writing a book to resurface. At that stage I didn’t feel able to write fiction because I couldn’t afford two years or so, with no income, writing something that might sell for a very low sum, or not at all. It was simply too risky. With non-fiction you sell your book to a publisher on the basis of a proposal, and get a chunk of money up front.

Writers rarely talk about the financial side of their careers – the filthy lucre. But the truth is that most of us are not prepared to starve in a garret for our art. It’s not that we lack commitment, I think. It’s rather that we’re not convinced that we have a talent so almighty that it’s worth sacrificing everything else. Not just our income, but duties to our friends and families and duty to be a reasonably productive member of society.

So, when I was offered a contract to write historical non-fiction, I was thrilled. Money up front! Working from home! Over the following years I unlearned my punchy journalistic writing style and tried to write in a more relaxed and lyrical way, hoping that the reader would be happy to stay in my company over hundreds of pages. I found it a very different craft from that required to hold someone’s attention for a mere 600 or 800 words – the length of a newspaper article.

From the beginning, I thought a lot about structure and how to present my historical facts in such a way that the story had a strong narrative pull. I wanted to introduce as much suspense and tension as possible without distorting the underlying, factual story. All three of my non-fiction books have a natural narrative arc – ending in dramatic trials. The first is about the crazy life of Queen Caroline who was put on trial for adultery by her husband, King George IV (the silly Prince Regent in Blackadder.) The other two are about serial killers – George Smith, The Brides in the Bath murderer, who faced trial in 1915, and Dr John Bodkin Adams, an Eastbourne family doctor accused of killing hundreds of his patients. He was tried at the Old Bailey in 1957.

It took ten years to write these three books, and by the end I felt sufficiently confident of my storytelling skills to attempt a novel. At last! Money was still a problem, but with my son now a teenager at secondary school I was able to take a part-time job teaching at the London School of Economics. With that income in the bank, I could spend my spare time writing White Bodies.

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Extract: His Guilty Secret by Hélene Fermont

Guilty SecretHis Guilty Secret is the latest novel from Hélene Fermont. It was released by Fridhem Publishing on 27th November. 

Secrets & Lies Are Dangerous.

When Jacques’s body is discovered in a hotel room his wife, Patricia, suspects he has been hiding something from her.

Why was he found naked and who is the woman that visited his grave on the day of the funeral? Significantly, who is the unnamed beneficiary Jacques left a large sum of money to in his will and what is the reason her best friend, also Jacques’s sister, Coco, refuses to tell her what he confided to her?

Struggling to find out the truth, Patricia visits Malmö where her twin sister Jasmine lives and is married to her ex boyfriend. But the sisters relationship is toxic and when a family member dies shortly after, an old secret is revealed that shines a light on an event that took place on their tenth birthday.

As one revelation after another is revealed, Patricia is yet to discover her husband’s biggest secret and what ultimately cost him his life.

His Guilty Secret is an unafraid examination of the tangled bonds between siblings, the lengths we go to in protecting our wrongdoings, and the enduring psychological effects this has on the innocent…and the not so innocent.

 

For my stop on the blog tour today, Hélene and Fridhem Publishing have shared an extract from His Guilty Secret… 

 

“I’m sorry I frightened you but we need to talk.” Patrik’s frustration was building. “You may think we can just continue like we are but I’m not willing to live like this any longer. I want you to return home where we can decide what to do next.” Clearly, no matter how hard he tried to get close to her and understand what she wanted from him and their marriage, Patrik knew that unless she was willing to put their relationship first they may as well get a divorce. He’d loved her for too long to just give up on their future together.

Pulling the towel tighter around her naked body, Jasmine replied, “I’ll get dressed first, if that’s okay with you?”

“Sure, I’ll wait for you in the kitchen and make coffee.” He sighed with relief. Perhaps she’d concluded they couldn’t continue like this too.

Five minutes later she joined him at the kitchen table wearing a white top and torn jeans, her bare feet and damp hair accentuating her vulnerability. Pouring her a cup of coffee and watching her take a sip of the hot liquid, he said, “I want us to give our marriage another go. Please tell me if that’s what you want as well.”

He held out a hand and reached for hers, his touch making her tremble with desire for him… withdrawing her hand, she replied, “I want the same as you…But your sister seems to be of a different opinion. You know, she even accused me of having an affair! Matilda’s never approved of me from the start. She told me Ruben saw me with some man in a bar not so long ago, a client whose name escapes me. Since when do I answer to your sister?” Jasmine was terrified he’d believe Matilda over her.

“You don’t answer to anyone except yourself. The reason she and Ruben worry about me is because she knows how miserable I’ve been for quite some time.”

“Great! So you’ve confided in them behind my back?” Jasmine replied in an angry voice, livid they interfered in her personal life.

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12 Days Of Clink Street Christmas: Matthew Redford

Matthew RedfordIt’s my final stop on the 12 Days of Clink Street Christmas. Joining me today is Matthew Redford, the author of the short story, Who Killed The Mince Spy? 

Tenacious carrot, detective inspector Willie Wortell is back to reveal the deviously delicious mind behind the crime of the festive season in this hugely entertaining, and utterly unconventional, short story. 

When Mitchell the Mince Spy is horrifically murdered by being over baked in a fan oven, it falls to the Food Related Crime team to investigate this heinous act. Why was Mitchell killed? Who is the mysterious man with a long white beard and why does he carry a syringe? Why is it that the death of a mince spy smells so good?  

Detective Inspector Willie Wortel, the best food sapiens police officer, once again leads his team into a series of crazy escapades. Supported by his able homo sapiens sergeant Dorothy Knox and his less able fruit officers Oranges and Lemons, they encounter Snow White and the seven dwarf cabbages as well as having a run in with the food sapiens secret service, MI GasMark5.

With a thigh slap here, and a thigh slap there, the team know Christmas is coming as the upper classes are acting strangely – why else would there be lords a leaping, ladies dancing and maids a milking?

And if that wasn’t enough, the Government Minister for the Department of Fisheries, Agriculture and Rural Trade (DAFaRT) has only gone and given the turkeys a vote on whether they are for or against Christmas.   

Let the madness begin!

 

Matthew and Clink Street Publishing have shared an extract from Who Killed The Mince Spy today. Enjoy!

Who killed the mince spy

 

“This is taken from the beginning of Chapter 1 where we are first introduced to Mitchell the Mince Pie who is working undercover and who is danger from a mysterious man with a long white beard.”

The soft sound of castanets drifted across the morning daybreak as effortlessly as a butterfly meandering over a garden in summer.

Except this was no summer day.

It was a cold, brisk December morning. A frost had settled overnight, not too thick to be troublesome, but thick enough to mean that car windscreens needed to be scraped with whatever device the driver had to hand. For Mitchell it was the back of an unused library card which he had found lurking in his wallet, not that he could actually remember signing up for one in the first place. No matter, it was coming in useful now.

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Extract: Recluse Millionaire, Reluctant Bride by Sun Chara

Recluse MillionaireRecluse Millionaire, Reluctant Bride by Sun Chara has been released today by HarperImpulse. 

Is his reluctant bride a business risk or a personal necessity?

Stan Rogers, recluse millionaire, must negotiate a risky deal with Stella Ryan, the exotic beauty from his past, to gain custody of his son. But how can he close the deal with her, the one and only woman who flips his switches and pegs him as the enemy?

Martial artist Stella knows she should steer clear of Stan, the man who had shattered her heart and could still destroy her. Four years have passed since their hostile business deal, and now, the American financier is proposing holy matrimony…but she’s the reluctant bride wondering, what’s he up to?

 

To celebrate the release of her new book, Sun Chara and HarperImpulse have shared an extract. Enjoy!

Chapter 3

“Doesn’t look like snow to me, not by a long shot,” she said again. “At least not for another couple of months.”

“We like to be prepared in case it’s early this year.” He hauled himself off the sofa and reached out for the blanket and pillow.

She clutched them tighter, like a protective device. “What about trekking to the limo and driving from there?”

“Not in this darkness, unless it’s an absolute emergency,” he said, tone flat. “Dangerous, especially if you’re not familiar with the trail.”

“To me, this is an emergency.”

“Not enough to risk a broken leg in a pot hole? Be serious, Ms. Ryan.” He raised a brow. “What’s one more day going to matter? You could leave early tomorrow without risk.”

What he said made sense, but she didn’t have to like it. She certainly didn’t want to stay shacked up with him, miles from anywhere. It was time to be proactive, and get her own ticket outa this sticky mess.

“You’re invited for dinner. Minni ’ll—”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Fine.”

His indifference infuriated…then she glanced down at the bedding in

her hands. Odd, she hadn’t had them when she first lay down by the fireside.

She frowned, and an image pushed its way to the forefront of her mind. Somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, she’d felt a gentle hand lift her head and slip the pillow beneath…cover her with the blanket. She thought she’d been dreaming but—

“Did…uh…you bring the blanket?”

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12 Days of Clink Street Christmas: Extract From The Shield by C.J. Bentley

The Shield CoverIt’s time for the 12 Days of Clink Street Christmas and today, author C.J. Bentley joins me with her book, The Shield which is book one in the Finder Series.

People lose their belongings. That is a fact of life. It can happen by accident, but sometimes it can happen when you put them in a very safe place and forget where that safe place is. Not many people are good at finding them again.

A young, gutsy girl with a kind heart, who’s searching for her own identity growing up in the 1960s, just happens to be very good at finding things. Can she be the one to help return whatever is lost – anywhere and at any time – to its original owner? 

With the help of a beautiful yet mysterious wise woman and a chivalrous knight she does just that. She finds and returns his shield, lost in battle, which unbeknown to her holds a secret that is important to his King, the safety of the Kingdom and the life of the daughter of his best friend.
The Shield is the first story in The Finder Series, taking our heroine on extraordinary journeys back in time. Her first adventure takes place in Medieval England in 1340 where she meets King Edward III, his wife Philippa and their son, who will later become the Black Prince.

 

C.J. Bentley has shared an extract from The Shield with us today. 

“Can you lot see that dust cloud over there?” Jeanette was facing the field and had to move her head to where she meant as her hands were full. “It looks as though it’s coming this way I wonder what it could be”.

“Sometimes you get dust clouds when there hasn’t been much rain, the wind whips up and disturbs the dust, you know a bit like in the desert, mini tornados”, Richard liked his geography just as I liked my history. As we were so intent on carrying the heavy shield between us and joking as to who the first person to let go would be, we didn’t notice what was happening in the distance.

“Can you lot move around so I can see, my back is where you are looking,” Hugh turning studied the dust cloud for a while, “looks like a horse coming towards us don’t you think?”

“I think you must be eating lots of carrots if you can see a horse that far away,’ Linda moved her head round and watched the dust cloud approach, “do you know Hugh I think you are right it is a horse with somebody riding it and quite fast, looks like some sort of a flag flying too”.

“I think we should put this down and run,” Richard looked quite scared.

“Don’t be daft you lot, it’s probably one of the girls from the riding stables riding towards us trying to frighten us, if we stand our ground she will stop”. I wished I felt as confident as I sounded but something about the ‘cloud’ coming towards us reminded me of something, something, or someone, it couldn’t possibly be what I thought it was.

The way the person confidently rode the horse and looked to be encased in shiny armour which flashed as the sun hit it, the white horse moved in a colourful swathe of material in blues and reds, swirling around his legs as he galloped towards us. The shine of the rider’s metal suit of armour. The long pole from his foot to past his head, which was encased with a plumed helmet, was flying a coloured flag on the top. It all reminded me of my favourite book, ‘Ivanhoe’. What we were looking at was surely an apparition, my imagination playing tricks on me, but on the others too. Strange we could all see it, so no apparition then.

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Extract: The Perfect Victim by Corrie Jackson

The Perfect VictimA big welcome and hello to Corrie Jackson and the blog tour for her new novel, The Perfect Victim which was released by Zaffre on 16th November. 

Husband, friend, colleague . . . killer?

Charlie and Emily Swift are the Instagram-perfect couple: gorgeous, successful and in love. But then Charlie is named as the prime suspect in a gruesome murder and Emily’s world falls apart. Desperate for answers, she turns to Charlie’s troubled best friend, London Herald journalist, Sophie Kent. Sophie knows police have the wrong man – she trusts Charlie with her life.

Then Charlie flees. Sophie puts her reputation on the line to clear his name. But as she’s drawn deeper into Charlie and Emily’s unravelling marriage, she realises that there is nothing perfect about the Swifts. As she begins to question Charlie’s innocence, something happens that blows the investigation – and their friendship – apart.

Now Sophie isn’t just fighting for justice, she’s fighting for her life.

Corrie and Zaffre have kindly shared an extract from The Perfect Victim today. Enjoy!

 

CHAPTER 38

I wiped the rain from my eyes and lurched towards the hut nearest the forest. I ran my torch over the door; it was padlocked. I pressed my ear to the door but I couldn’t hear anything over the wind. I did a circuit of the building; no windows, no other way in except through the door. My fingers tightened around the rock; I’d have to bash open the padlock.

‘Kate!’ I raked the darkness with my torch but I couldn’t see her. My gaze fell on something on the ground and I crouched down for a closer look. Was that blood? I inched forwards, following the trail with my torch beam. It ran across the gravel, in the direction of the forest. I hesitated for a split-second then turned back towards the hut. As I did, my torch landed on a man, standing ten feet away from me, his hands jammed in the pockets of his waterproof.

‘What are you doing?’ The wind carried his gravelly voice towards me.

‘I – I’m looking for someone. A woman. I think she’s inside this hut.’

He edged towards me, on the tips of his toes. ‘That’s not possible, Miss. I’ve just been in that hut. Nothing but farming equipment in there.’

I tightened my grip round the rock and shone my torch in his face. I couldn’t see much; he was wearing a woolly hat, and his chin was buried in a scarf. ‘Then you won’t mind showing me.’

He cocked his head to one side. ‘And you are?’

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Extract: In The Dark by Andreas Pflüger

In the DarkA big lovely welcome to author Andreas Pflüger and the blog tour for his latest novel In The Dark which was released by Head of Zeus on 2nd November. 

She lost her sight, but she can still see the truth…

Jenny Aaron was once part of an elite police unit tracking Germany’s most dangerous criminals. She was the best. Until it all went wrong. A disastrous mission saw her abandon a wounded colleague and then lose her sight forever.

Now, five years later, she has learnt to navigate a darkened world. But she’s still haunted by her betrayal. Why did she run?

Then she receives a call from the unit. They need her back. A prison psychologist has been brutally murdered. And the killer will only speak to one person…

 

Thanks to Andreas and Head of Zeus, we have an extract from In The Dark. Enjoy. 

 

‘How old was Dr Breuer?’

The murder victim’s colleague has been crying a lot. Her voice is hoarse, dull, empty. ‘Thirty-three. Her birthday was in December. She invited all her colleagues to go to the cinema.’

‘How long had she been working in the correctional facility?’

‘Three years. We knew each other from university. Then I started here, for a bit of security. Melly always wanted her own practice. But it didn’t work. She waitressed part-time, it wasn’t a life. When the job here came up I was on at her until she applied.’

Tears start to come, but get stuck in her throat.

‘Did she like the job?’

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Extract: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz

Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen meets Christmas in Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe which is the latest novel by Melissa de la Cruz.

Darcy Fitzwilliam simply doesn’t have time to fall in love. But this Christmas, a kiss under the mistletoe will change everything…

As partner at a major New York hedge fund, Darcy’s only serious relationship is with her work cellphone. The truth is, she’s too busy being successful and making money to have time for Christmas… let alone to allow romance into her life.

But this year Darcy is coming home to Pemberley, Ohio, for the holidays. There, she runs into her old neighbour and high-school foe Luke Bennet – the oldest of five wayward brothers. When Darcy’s enmity with Luke is re-opened, along with a hefty dollop of sexual chemistry… well, sparks are sure to fly. Can Darcy fall in love – or will her pride, and Luke’s prejudice against big-city girls, stand in their way?

Melissa and the blog tour for her new book join me today and to celebrate the release of Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, Melissa and Hodder & Stoughton have shared an extract. Enjoy.

A Taylor Swift cover of “Last Christmas,” originally recorded by Wham! in 1986, strummed from the stereo of the sleek, black town car, where Darcy was sitting in the backseat. Over the driver’s seat she could see Edward’s head bobbing up and down as they drove over the bumpy terrain, and it was somewhat of a comfort. Edward had worked for the Fitzwilliam family since Darcy was a small girl, and though she told herself over and over that she hadn’t missed anything about her hometown in the eight years since she’d fled, the truth was she had missed Edward.

Despite being only fifteen years older than she was, he had a grandfatherly twinkle in his blue eyes and an impressively sharp memory that she had always admired. He always remembered everything she told him. And she told him plenty, as he was the only person in her family she felt she could trust.

“She’s going to be okay,” Edward said from the front seat. “So you can wipe that worried look off your face, my dear.”

“Oh, I hope you’re right,” she said, chewing her bottom lip anxiously. “But you know how my mom is. She’ll never let people know if she’s suffering.”

“That’s true.” She watched his head bob up and down. “You know, you haven’t aged one bit,” he said, looking at her reflection in the rearview mirror.

“I know.” She tried to smile through her nerves. “You always told me if I kept scowling I’d have forehead wrinkles by twenty- five.”

“Now you’re twenty-nine and wrinkle free!” He chuckled. “What’s your secret, Miss Fitzwilliam?”

He never called her that. Darcy, Darce, the Darcinator, some- times Darce-Tastic, but never Miss Fitzwilliam—that was her mother’s name. Doing so now was a playful acknowledgment of the way she’d skyrocketed to a position of unfathomable power and status, in the time since he’d last seen her, that even her own blue-blooded family had never quite held. He was proud of her, she could tell, and she appreciated it. At least somebody from her old life was.

She swallowed hard, so unsure of how she’d be received in her family home. How should she act when she saw them all again? How did she used to act around them? Suddenly she couldn’t remember; suddenly she felt seized by anxiety, like this one interaction with her parents and brothers after eight years would make or break their relationship for the entire future.

From the outside, anyone would think that Darcy Fitzwilliam was doing unusually well on her own in New York City, and in many ways she was. But in her gut she knew something was horribly off, and when she’d got that middle-of-the-night phone call, she finally knew what was missing. Her glamorous Manhattan life was missing family, people to love and to be loved by. She’d hopped on the first flight home. Now, for the sake of at least making a good impression on Edward, she used all her energy to shake off the nervousness and said, “My secret? A lady never reveals her secrets, Mister Peterson.”

She turned then to face her refection. It was true: at twenty- nine and as partner at the second most successful hedge fund in NYC, she didn’t look a day over twenty-four. She was con – dent in her good looks and considered herself to be just as gor- geous as everybody told her she was. Her slender, heart-shaped face boasted elegantly chiseled cheekbones; a lightly freckled, ski-slope nose; big, stormy gray eyes shuttered by naturally long lashes; and a perfectly pouty set of pale pink lips. Now and then she started to think they were losing their youthful luster, and in those moments she’d briefly toy with the idea of getting them plumped. But the thought was always eeting, as she had far more important things on her mind. The real question for Darcy was not to plump or not to plump. No, it was something far less simple and far more troubling.

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Book Extract: The Note by Zoë Folbigg

9781786698070The Note is the debut novel from journalist and editor, Zoe Folbigg. It was released digitally in September and is due to be released in paperback by Aira on 2nd November. 

One very ordinary day, Maya Flowers sees a new commuter board her train to London, and suddenly the day isn’t ordinary at all. Maya knows immediately and irrevocably that he is The One.

Every day they go through the same routine; he with his head in a book and her dreaming of their happily-ever-after. But eventually, Maya plucks up the courage to give Train Man a note asking him out for a drink.

And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness where you least expect it. Based on the true story that everyone is talking about, The Note is an uplifting, life-affirming reminder that taking a chance can change everything…

 

I’ve reviewed The Note below but first, thanks to Zoë and Aira, I have a pre paperback publication extract to share with you today. Enjoy! 

Chapter One

May 2014

Maya has done it. She has delivered three sentences and a friendly sign-off, and now it is out of her hands. She struggles to walk the incline of the seemingly uphill train carriage because her legs are shaking, her mouth is dry, and putting one foot in front of the other takes effort and focus her racing heart isn’t capable of at the moment.

Her legs buckle as Maya slumps into a seat on the other side of a grubby internal door. Which is just as well because she wanted to linger with the last straggles of bedraggled Train People disembarking reluctantly; to make herself invisible to all the commuters she just embarrassed herself in front of. So, Maya lies low with the sleepy people. The people who can’t stand their jobs. The people who are lost in someone else’s life, frantically turning or swiping pages to find out if the girl got the guy, the adventurer made it back to London or the heretic was burned at the stake.

Train Man isn’t a straggler. Every day Maya sees him stand up confidently at the same point on the track, somewhere between the football stadium and the tunnel, as the train snakes towards a new day and a new terminus. Equine legs, strong arms. He throws a grey backpack with two thin brown leather straps onto his back, stands in the doorway and, as the train comes to a stop and orange lights ding, he steps off with pace and purpose. Maya usually walks a healthy distance behind Train Man, tiny sparks flying from her heels, down the platform and through the barriers under the canopy of a reverse waterfall bubbling white and bright above them. The intimate huddle of a metal umbrella for thousands of people who don’t even look up. Train Man always walks straight through the station and Maya wonders what he’s listening to, trying to guess from his gait, not realising he was at four of the six gigs she went to in the past year. Every day she sees him turn right out of the station and walk swiftly, resolutely, into a mist of people down the road. Until she can’t keep up with his long stride, he in Converse, she in heels – or ballerina flats if she needs to be nimble and get to a meeting – and Maya tends to lose him around the big crossroads at the artery by the hospital. But not today. Today Train Man has long gone.

When Maya’s legs buckled and she fell into a dusty seat, she put distance between where Train Man had been sitting, where she had awkwardly stood over him, and into this sanctuary of a cringe-free carriage. Catching her breath, she waits for three minutes until she, Maya Flowers, is the last of the stragglers. Hot face. Thumping heart.

I did it!

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Book Extract: Sun, Sea & Sex by Greta Horwood

Sun Sea Sex CoverA big hello to author Greta Horwood and the blog tour for her novel, Sun, Sea & Sex which was released by Author House UK in August. 

About Sun, Sea & Sex:

The book tells of the trials and tribulations of Zeeta, who has overcome many obstacles and survived different relationships. A loving marriage led to a horrendous one. Her second marriage was to a man with a depraved sexual appetite.

The sunny parts were when everything was going well. There were choppy seas between when things were not going right, not just in a relationship but in general life.

Also there were times when the sea was calm and all three women were coping well. The sex within relationships was, in the most part, good to excellent. In Zeeta’s second marriage, sex was a nightmare.

She endured and suffered.

Happy ever after on a Caribbean island. Zeeta survived with the help of two friends—one from her school days, Sheila, and the second one was Peggy, her boss and a very good friend. Their relationships and stories are part of this book.

 

Greta has very kindly shared an extract from Sun, Sea & Sex with us today. Here’s a brief introduction to the scene; 

Zeeta was at college, a new life full of new experiences.  A chance accident where Zeeta was pushed to the floor, by a revolving door, led to an unlikely friendship with an Arabian Prince, Armaan.  He was to advise her about men and gave her a sex education without the actions.  Her time with Armaan left her wanting more, but she did not know what more meant.  Being kissed by Armaan led to more feelings of wanting more.  It left Zeeta confused.  He abruptly stopped his kissing, that led to more confusion, he was pushing her away.  Zeeta could not understand, she loved him, but having no experience of love, she could only guess the feelings she had were love.

Armaan appears throughout the book, during other relationships.  Meeting him at these other times, Zeeta knew she loved and wanted him.

The Extract….

(Warning: Adult content.)

Armaan was back.  I can’t explain my feelings in seeing him.  I was overwhelmed by them.  Yes I missed him, but what I was feeling was more than that.  We continued with our easy friendship and he said he was delighted to be back.  He was now married and his wife was expecting their first child.  He was a different person now, I think the worry of not having a wife was bothering him, but now he was married, life had suddenly became enjoyable.  He said he enjoyed my company and although he was 14 years older than me, I was not empty headed like the gigglers.  We continued our friendship and I often felt he was preparing me for the life I would eventually lead.  He said my blue eyes and personality would attract many man, but I would know who was right for me.  He said beware of false promises, men will say they love, but often it is a way to easy sex, so beware of false promises.

He said he had stones cast for my future and these foretold of a happy life with two children.  He said choose a husband older than myself, he would be considerate.  That happened my husband was  older than me and he was considerate.

We had many of these talks, he was the perfect gentleman and I loved him.  Well I thought these feelings I had for him were love, I had never felt like this.  I had limited experience, but hoped the feelings I was having, were love, they were very pleasant.

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NK Chats To… e. lockhart

E Lockhart copy 2A huge massive hello to e. lockhart (Emily) who is joining me today. Her new novel, Genuine Fraud was released by Hot Key Books on 5th September.

About Genuine Fraud:

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.

Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.

An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.

A bad romance, or maybe three.

Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream,

superheroes, spies, and villains.

A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.

A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

 

Welcome to Novel Kicks. I am so excited to have you as our guest today. What is your typical writing day like?

Thanks for having me! I sit down to work around 8:30 in my home office. The cat sits with me. Then I fret and bleed and feel sick and feel impressed with myself and despair and have flashes of inspiration.

 

Your new book is called Genuine Fraud. What is the premise and what inspired it?

It’s about two young women who look enough alike to share a passport. It was inspired by various superhero origin stories, the Patricia Highsmith novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, Victorian orphan stories including Vanity Fair and Great Expectations, action hero movies and my desire to write a feminist antiheroine story. Its a story that’s in conversation with all of those. And it’s a tale told backwards.

 

GENUINE FRAUD CoverWhat are the challenges of writing a young adult novel?

YA readers love their books passionately, and tolerate neither bulls—t nor boredom. That’s an exacting and super-responsive audience to have.

 

What elements do you feel are important?

I try to get the inside of my head onto the page in the shape of a story that will be entertaining and emotional to read. I try to offer my brain up to the reader.

 

How do you approach the editing process?

The editor pushes me to be my best self. She pushes really hard and I can’t say I enjoy it. I revise my books about twenty times. Maybe more.

 

What is your process like when starting a novel (from idea to final draft,) and has it changed since writing your first book?

With Genuine Fraud, because it is told backwards, I had to lay the plot out ahead of time. Then I wrote the book from the last chapter to the first — in reverse order to how people will experience it. But after that came the twenty revisions.

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Book Extract: Dating Daisy by DaisyMae_224

eBook Daisy Mae - 9.6.17 - v6Today, I’m so pleased to be a part of the blog tour for Dating Daisy by DaisyMae_224 which was released by Clink Street Publishing on 27th July 2017. 

Here’s a little about Dating Daisy…

What do you do when you’re a newly divorced 52-year-old mother, keen for a second chance of romance? Why internet dating of course! Daisy Mae_224 embarks on the internet dating process with trepidation.

Having not been on the dating scene for nearly 30 years, and with fairly rudimentary computer skills, she finds herself embroiled in a series of haphazard and hilarious situations.

Daisy keeps a diary of her internet dating life and reveals detail by detail, the ups and downs of her midlife dating extravaganza. Soon after starting out, Daisy realises her true mission. With no past experience and no-one/nothing to guide her, she needs to produce – Internet Dating lessons.

Read on to find out about PLONKERS, muppets and MAWDs, and a whole host of amusing anecdotes, tips and ideas. Working by day as a Sexual Health doctor, the story as it unfolds contains accounts of Daisy’s clinical experiences with patients in the Sexual Health clinic.

She also reflects on her past life with Voldemort (the dreadful ex-husband). With advice and encouragement from Imogen, her 17 year old daughter, her surrogate parents known as the Amigos, with a big house and swanky swimming pool, her friend Pinkie and from Jeannie, her nonagenarian friend from the Nursing Home, Daisy resiliently persists in her quest to find a long term partner.

This is a heartfelt story that will ring bells with anyone who has ended a long-term relationship and now wants to find somebody new. It is humorously written, full of emails, poems, limericks, and even a recipe!

Daisy can’t resist her pages of advice on topics like “Kissing” and “Anti-Snoring.” It is a unique and highly amusing book, which will make you laugh out loud! So read on and see. Will Dating Daisy find her “prairie vole?” Or will the whole process end in disaster?

 

Thanks to DaisyMae_224 and Clink Street Publishing, I have extracts from Dating Daisy to share. These also include notes from the author. Enjoy!

Dating Daisy is a humorous novel about Daisy, who aged 52, and newly divorced, plucks up the courage to start internet dating. It is a fiction book but based on the authors’ experiences. In between the dating, she works as a doctor in the Sexual Health Clinic. The book follows the up’s and down’s of this period in her life, and reveals some unpredictable, escapades, that may just make you laugh out loud!

In this first extract, Daisy has bravely done all that was required. With trepidation, as she has not had to think about any sort of dating for three decades, let alone advertise herself on the internet, she has actually completed the profile, uploaded the photo., and then went to bed to sleep on it. The next morning, full of anticipation she logs on, expecting to find a row of possible suitors.

*
Not one wink, smile, email or anything else. I am deflated.
Oh, wait a minute, 37 men have viewed me and one has listed me as a favourite.
One! Out of 37! How can I be so unattractive!

Didn’t I say rhinoceros earlier? Time to think of ugly mammals. Hopefully not because I’m one of them!, but because I have to behave like one. The thicker the skin the better. Didn’t the elephant get his saggy baggy skin by scratching it in the Limpopo River? I need to scratch mine somewhere. It’s getting very itchy.
“What’s wrong with me,” my brain asks Daisy. “Am I so ugly no one wants to speak to me?”
“Now come on,” says the brain, “there are lots of reasons nothing has happened – yet. And it is early.

“You only loaded your profile less than 24 hours ago. It has to be checked by Trust HQ!
“And anyway, remember men are like ostriches, they see a beautiful woman, they stick their head in the sand. You, Daisy, need to lead the way.

“Think about the men on BritainonSunday.com. The Britain on Sunday readers of the UK have just risen early, downed a cooked breakfast and boarded the 6.48 to Clapham Junction. They are probably only now unfurling the daily newspaper, and may not even yet have reached the dating section.

“And how many will be actually online-now? In the rush hour? Don’t be ridiculous!

“And those who do like you, may be shy, they may be poleaxed, frozen with desire, helplessly in love with the tantalising image in the red dress, but uncertain how to make the first move.

“Daisy, you will just have to make the first move yourself. Now what did I say?
“Dazzling, beautiful, smart and alluring.
“Be brave! The world CAN be your oyster.”
*
I chose this extract because disappointments when internet dating are all too common. This is fairly early on this story, and Daisy is quite dismayed to see that the man who gets off the train, is a different person to the one she saw in his photograph on the internet.)

*

Anyhow, I was now driving to meet Henry, this talkative, charming, perfect soulmate who wanted to be my teddy bear, and today Dating Daisy had a date. Nothing was going to get in the way. Jeremy took my love and threw it away. Jeremy is history.

I arrived at the station. The train was due in 20 minutes but it seemed the longest 20 minutes in history. He had texted that he was in the front of the train. I waited in the waiting room as it was very cold that day. I popped in to the ladies to brush my hair and apply a bit more lipstick. What would he think of me, this 53-year-old, Dating Daisy? I was aware that I had my love poem, Finding True Love, folded in a an envelope in my hand bag.

Would I, oh would I, in my wildest dreams, be able to give this to Henry?
The train slowed, a whistle blew, the doors opened. A lot of people were moving about, getting on and off the train. I scanned the front of the train for a tall, balding man with a smiley face.

But what was this. A carriage door opened and a man was smiling and walking towards me. But it wasn’t, it couldn’t be, Henry? I guessed it must be as he was hugging me and grasping my hand. I looked over his left shoulder as he enveloped me on that station platform. I am 5ft8½, and he is shorter than me.

First lie.

Second lie. He didn’t look anything like his photo. The picture I had seen must have been a picture of someone else.

This man had had seriously bad acne, and had a very scarred face. Deep craters peppered his rough complexion. In addition, his cheeks had caved in, rather like an old person who has taken out their false teeth. I knew he didn’t have any hair, so that was not a surprise, but he was very, very bald. And you know what else? He was wearing a purple and green striped shirt over a pair of tatty jeans, and what had I said? No Morris dancers!

*
Daisy continues to work at her day job in the Sexual Health Clinic. The book is interspersed with anecdotes and stories from the clinic.

*
A patient made me laugh today.
She said, “Can I ask you something doctor?”
“Of course,” I said.
“The thing is, I keep getting this pain in my vagina.”
“Ok. Pain in the vagina?”
“Yes, I get it whenever I use two vibrators at once. Have you heard of that before?”
I considered this.
“Well, have you tried only using one vibrator at a time?” I said.
“Now there’s an idea,” she replied.
People can be very strange!

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Extract: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel Lilly Barlett’s new novel, The Big Dreams Beach Hotel is due to be released by Harper Impulse tomorrow. I am delighted to be able to share with you an extract from Lilly’s new book. First, here’s the blurb… 

Wriggle your toes in the sand and feel the warm breeze on your face at the hotel that’s full of dreams…

Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.

What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.

That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.

How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?

 

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel

Lilly Bartlett

Chapter 1

 

New York is where I fell head over heels for a bloke named Chuck. I know: Chuck. But don’t judge him just because he sounds like he should be sipping ice-cream floats at the drive-in or starring in the homecoming football game. Rah rah, sis boom bah, yay, Chuck!

Believe me, I didn’t plan for a Chuck in my life. But that’s how it happens, isn’t it? One minute you’ve got plans for your career and a future that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of being in love, and the next you’re floating around in full dozy-mare mode.

I won’t lie to you. When Chuck walked into our hotel reception one afternoon in late October, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was lust.

Be still, my fluttering nethers.

Talk about unprofessional. I could hardly focus on what he was saying. Something about organising Christmas parties.

‘To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing,’ he confided as he leaned against the reception desk. His face was uncomfortably close to mine, but by then I’d lived in New York for eighteen months. I was used to American space invaders. They’re not being rude, just friendly. And Chuck was definitely friendly.

‘I only started my job about a month ago,’ he told me. ‘It’s my first big assignment, so I really can’t fuck it up. Sorry, I mean mess it up.’ His blue (so dark blue) eyes bore into mine. ‘I’m hoping someone here can help me.’

It took all my willpower not to spring over the desk to his aid. Not that I’m at all athletic. I’d probably have torn my dress, climbed awkwardly over and landed face-first at his feet.

Keep him talking, I thought, so that I could keep staring. He looked quintessentially American, with his square jawline and big straight teeth and air of confidence, even though he’d just confessed to being hopeless at his new job. His brown hair wasn’t too long but also wasn’t too short, wavy and artfully messed up with gel, and his neatly trimmed stubble made me think of lazy Sunday mornings in bed.

See what I mean? Lust.

‘I noticed you on my way back from Starbucks,’ he said.

At first, I thought he meant he’d noticed me. That made me glance in the big mirror on the pillar behind him, where I could just see my reflection from where I was standing. At five-foot four, I was boob-height behind the desk in the gunmetal-grey fitted dress uniform all the front-desk staff had to wear. My wavy dark-red hair was as neat as it ever got. I flashed myself a reflected smile just to check my teeth. Of course, I couldn’t see any detail from where I stood. Only my big horsy mouth. Mum says giant teeth make my face interesting. I think I look a bit like one of the Muppets.

‘Do you have the space for a big party?’ he said. ‘For around four hundred people?’

He didn’t mean he’d noticed me; only the hotel. ‘We’ve got the Grand Ballroom and the whole top floor, which used to be the restaurant and bar. I think it’s even prettier than the ballroom, but it depends on your style and your budget and what you want to do with it.’

Based on his smile, you’d have thought I’d just told him we’d found a donor kidney for his operation. ‘I’ve been looking online, but there are too many choices,’ he said. ‘Plus, my company expects the world.’ He grimaced. ‘They didn’t like the hotel they used last year, or the year before that. I’m in over my head, to be honest. I think I need a guiding hand.’

I had just the hand he was looking for, and some ideas about where to guide it.

But instead of jumping up and down shouting ‘Pick Me, Pick Me!’, I put on my professional hat and gave him our events brochure and the team’s contact details. Because normal hotel receptionists don’t launch themselves into the arms of prospective clients.

When he reached over the desk to shake my hand, I had to resist the urge to bob a curtsy. ‘I’m Chuck Williamson. It was great to meet you, Rosie.’

He knew my name!

‘And thank you for being so nice. You might have saved my ass on this one. I’ll talk to your events people.’ He glanced again at my chest.

He didn’t know my name. He’d simply read my name badge.

No sooner had Chuck exited through the revolving door than my colleague, Digby, said, ‘My God, any more sparks and I’d have had to call the fire department.’

Digby was my best friend at the hotel and also a foreign transplant in Manhattan – where anyone without a 212 area code was foreign. Home for him was some little town in Kansas or Nebraska or somewhere with lots of tornadoes. Hearing Digby speak always made me think of The Wizard of Oz, but despite sounding like he was born on a combine harvester, Digby was clever. He did his degree at Cornell. That’s the Holy Grail for aspiring hotelies (as we’re known).

Digby didn’t let his pedigree go to his head, though, like I probably would have.

‘Just doing my job,’ I told him. But I knew I was blushing.

Our manager, Andi, swore under her breath. ‘That’s the last thing we need right now – some novice with another Christmas party to plan.’

‘That is our job,’ Digby pointed out.

‘Your job is to man the reception desk, Digby.’

Ya vol, Commandant.’ He saluted, before going to the other end of the desk.

‘But we do have room in the schedule, don’t we?’ I asked. Having just come off a rotation in the events department the month before, I knew they were looking for more business in that area. Our room occupancy hadn’t been all the company hoped for over the summer.

‘Plenty of room, no time,’ Andi snapped.

I’d love to tell you that I didn’t think any more about Chuck, that I was a cool twenty-five-year-old living her dream in New York. And it was my dream posting. I still couldn’t believe my luck. Well, luck and about a million hours earning my stripes in the hospitality industry. I’d already done stints in England and one in Sharm El Sheikh – though not in one of those fancy five-star resorts where people clean your sunglasses on the beach. It was a reasonable four-star one.

There’s a big misconception about hotelies that I should probably clear up. People assume that because we spend our days surrounded by luxury, we must live in the same glamour. The reality is 4a.m. wake-ups, meals eaten standing up, cheap living accommodation and, invariably, rain on our day off. Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?

But I loved it. I loved that I was actually being paid to work in the industry where I did my degree. I loved the satisfied feeling I got every time a guest thanked me for solving a problem. And I loved that I could go anywhere in the world for work.

I especially loved that last part.

But back to Chuck, who’d been stuck in my head since the minute he’d walked through the hotel door.

I guess it was natural, given that I hadn’t had a boyfriend the whole time I’d been in the city. Flirting and a bit of snogging, yes, but nothing you could call a serious relationship.

There wasn’t any time, really, for a social life. That’s why hotelies hang out so much with each other. No one else has the same hours free. So, in the absence of other options, Digby and I were each other’s platonic date. He sounds like the perfect gay best friend, right? Only he wasn’t gay. He just had no interest in me. Nor I in him, which made him the ideal companion – hot enough in that freckle-faced farm-boy way to get into the nightclubs when we finished work at 1 or 2a.m., but not the type to go off shagging and leave me to find my way home on the subway alone.

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The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons – Extract

choir on hope streetHello everyone. Today, I am pleased to be welcoming Annie Lyons to Novel Kicks with the blog tour for her new book, Choir on Hope Street which is due to be released on 6th April by HQ. 

The best things in life happen when you least expect them
Nat’s husband has just said the six words no one wants to hear – ‘I don’t love you any more’.

Caroline’s estranged mother has to move into her house turning her perfectly ordered world upside down.

Living on the same street these two women couldn’t be more different. Until the beloved local community centre is threatened with closure. And when the only way to save it is to form a community choir – none of the Hope Street residents, least of all Nat and Caroline, expect the results…

Thanks to HQ and Annie, we have an extract to share with you today. Enjoy!

(Strong language warning.) 

CHAPTER ONE

NATALIE

‘I don’t love you any more.’

That was it. Six words delivered so simply, as if he were reading the news.

‘Good evening and here is the news. The marriage of Natalie and Daniel Garfield, which lasted for fifteen years, is over. In a statement today, Mr Garfield said, “I don’t love you any more.” Mrs Garfield responded by punching him in the face and trashing the house.’

At least that’s what I wished I’d done later but at the time an odd sensation of calm descended. It was as if this wasn’t really happening to me. It was at best some kind of joke and at worst something that could be sorted.

This wasn’t in the plan. This kind of thing was never going to happen to us. Other people split up, their marriages disintegrating like a swiftly disappearing desert island, but that was never going to happen to us. We were rock-solid – a steady ship; Nat and Dan, Dan and Nat.

It had the ring of one of those American teen shows that Woody loved to watch on Nick Jr.; all jazz hands and sparkly teeth.

We were a great couple. Everyone said so. We were the kind of couple that others looked at with awe and secret envy.

Everybody loved Dan. He’s just one of those men who people like – old ladies, babies, men, women, children have all told me over the course of our marriage, what a really great guy he is.

I would go on nights out with my female friends as they ripped apart their partners and husbands, picking over their faults like vultures feasting on carrion. I would nod with sympathy but never really had anything to add. They would often turn their sleepy, drunken gaze to me, pat me on the shoulder and slur, ‘Course you’re lucky, Nat. You’ve got

Dan. He’s such a lovely guy.’

And he was. Possibly still is.

Dan was my husband, my soul mate. Of course he had his faults. The underpants on the floor and the toilet seat in the perpetual ‘up’ position were an irritation, but not exactly a major crime against domesticity. He was, is a good man – a good husband and father. He was my happyever- after.

Naturally, we had disagreements and wobbles. Who doesn’t? We didn’t spend as much time together on our own as we would like but that’s to be expected. We’re busy with work, Woody and life. Obviously it would be lovely to go on the odd date-night or even have sex but frankly, we were usually too knackered. I’d always thought that the shared bottle of wine o n Friday night with a movie was good enough. Clearly I have been labouring under a major misapprehension.

Initially, I went into full-on denial mode when he dropped the bombshell. I wondered later if my body had actually gone into shock in a bid to protect myself from the truth. Certainly at the time, my brain sent me a quick succession of messages to counter his statement: he didn’t mean it (he did), he’d been drinking (he hadn’t), he was tired (true) and angry (not true). It wasn’t until I’d picked over the remnants of that evening with various friends (my turn to be the vulture now) that I’d fully taken in the order of events.

It was a Tuesday evening. I hate Tuesdays. They make me feel restless and impatient. Monday is supposed to be the worst day but for me, it has always been Tuesday. I can deal with the post-weekend slump and Monday is usually my most productive day but by Tuesday, I am longing for the week to move ‘over the hump’ towards the downhill joy of Thursday. I often long for a glass of wine on Tuesday evenings but on this particular day I was disappointingly sober because I was having a so-called healthy week.

At least I was before he said it.

It was around 8.30 and we had just finished dinner.

Woody was reading in his room before lights-out and I had been about to go and tuck him in. I normally love this part of the day: the feeling that another episode of motherhood is successfully complete; no-one died. Everyone is safe.

If I had been paying attention, I would have noticed that Dan was particularly uncommunicative during dinner.

Again, it wasn’t until later that I recalled the details: his downward gaze and hands fidgeting with the cutlery, his water glass, the pepper mill.

I had been telling him about a problem with my latest book. I am a children’s picture-book writer and have enjoyed some success with my series of books about ‘Ned Bobbin –
the small boy with the big imagination’, as my publisher tags it. There have been six books so far and my editor wants another three but I was struggling with ideas and wondering whether to take him down the super-hero route.

When I recalled the conversation later, I realised that I had done all the talking; posing and answering my own questions with just the odd ‘mhmm’ or nod from Dan. That was the problem with being a writer – you spent too much time at home on your own with no-one to talk to.

I talk to myself all the time when I’m working. I read back what I’ve just written, talk to the radio or hold imaginary conversations with all manner of people, including Ned.

I read somewhere that adults have a certain number of words they need to say in a day and that the word quota for a woman is higher than a man’s. I believe this. It isn’t unusual, therefore, for me to unpack my day to Dan when he gets home. I thought he liked it. Maybe I was wrong about that too.

I had finished my dinner: an unimaginative stir-fry containing any vegetable-like items I’d found in the fridge on opening it at 7.30. Woody had eaten earlier. He was eight years old and always starving when he returned home from school so I tended to feed him straight away and then either Dan or I cooked our dinner later.

I stood up to clear the plates, reaching out for Dan’s.

He looked up at me and only then did I notice how pale he looked – his face, slightly pinched with age, but still handsome. He stared at me, unsmiling and I realised he was nervous.

‘What?’ I asked with an encouraging smile.

He swallowed and bit his lip. Then he said it.

At first I assumed he was joking.

‘Yeah right, and I’m having an affair with James McAvoy.’ I shook my head and made for the door.

‘Nat.’

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