Laura

I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts. I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

Book Review: Not In My Name by Michael Coolwood

Private Eye meets Agatha Christie

What if the British people had been given a vote about invading Iraq in 2003. And the referendum split the nation with a 52% to 48% yes vote.

A young activist is beaten to death after an anti-war demonstration.

The police say her murder was random. It wasn’t. More activists will be murdered. The activists only trust each other.

Maybe that trust has already been betrayed. Witty, political and provocative, this New Adult mystery is based on real events, and keeps the reader guessing to the very end.

Not in My Name is set in an alternative 2003. A referendum on whether to intervene in Iraq has just got a 52% Yes, 48% no result.

Phoebe Green is part of a group that opposes the referendum result. They are seen as traitors and the enemy.
When one of their group is killed, Phoebe is determined to get to the bottom of it but it’s not long before the situation goes from bad to worse.

Immediately, this book caught my attention. It’s a very interesting look at how divided a country can be and how quickly we can turn on each other. It scared me and yet the characters fascinated me all at the same time.

It’s both a political and murder mystery which had me invested in the plot very early on.

All of the characters are hiding something and this did add to the intrigue. I really had trouble figuring out what was going to happen or how it was going to end. I didn’t see the end coming actually. I found that, at some point, I suspected everyone of having a hand in Cassie’s murder.

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Book Review: Always and Forever at Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters

What if we’re all just searching for something?

Anna Stewart is lost. After barely surviving a car accident as a teenager, Anna is scared of settling. Flitting between jobs, boyfriends and homes whenever she gets bored, she has no idea what the future holds. Then her brother Brodie, minister of Glendale, suggests she moves to the beautiful Scottish village, lining up a housekeeper job for her at Glendale Hall.

Out of options, Anna agrees to the move, knowing that she can always run away again. Once at the hall, her culinary skills impress everyone, and she agrees to give Hilltop Farm’s new manager, Cameron, cooking lessons. Sparks fly between Anna and the handsome Scot, but Cameron is looking for love – something that Anna definitely isn’t.

But it’s wedding season at Glendale Hall, and Anna is about to discover that her new home has a way of working its magic on even the coldest of hearts. Will she really be able to just walk away, or could Anna have finally found a place to belong?

It’s summertime in the beautiful Highlands village of Glendale – pack your bags and come on holiday with this gorgeously uplifting, romantic read. Fans of Milly Johnson, Heidi Swain and Holly Martin will love this charming romcom.

Anna never likes to stay in one place too long. She’s running from her family and a past she blames herself for.

When circumstances mean that she has to take a job for the summer in Glendale, she isn’t happy about being near her brother. However, as it’s only for a couple of months, she puts her head down and get on with things.

Can Glendale work its magic on Anna like it has for other village residents?

Always and Forever at Glendale Hall was my introduction to the series but this can be read as a standalone or first if, like me, you’ve not read the previous three novels.

I found Anna to be a relatable character. At the start, she seems so lost. She has a persona of strength but there is such a vulnerability to her because of an accident she had when she was thirteen.

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Book Review: The Bridesmaid by Nina Manning

‘Promise me? If you hear any secrets, never tell me. That would make you a most treasured friend. More than a friend really. You’re almost like a sister to me…’

Your best friend….

From the moment they met as children, Sasha knew that beautiful, wealthy, and confident Caitlin would always be her absolute best friend.  Sasha would do anything to make Caitlin happy.  

Even keep her darkest secrets…

The years have passed, but their friendship remains.  And when Caitlin announces she’s getting married there is only one choice for the role of bridesmaid.  

Sasha will make sure Caitlin’s wedding is as beautiful and perfect as she is.  Won’t she? 

Your worst nightmare?

But Sasha is growing tired of always being in Caitlin’s shadow  – always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  And as the big day approaches, cracks begin to appear between the two woman.  Secrets and lies swirl between the two friends like confetti. Both of them are hiding dark secrets, both of them are lying. 

Could the secrets that once bound these two friends, rip them apart for good?

 

When Caitlin announces that she’s getting married, Sasha is the choice of Bridesmaid. However, secrets that have been buried for years are just bubbling below the surface and Sasha doesn’t know how much longer she can keep things to herself.

When I read the blurb for this novel, it sounded right up my street and I couldn’t wait to get started. It is a slow burner to begin with. I think this sort of start adds to the tension and pulls you right in.

Caitlin and Sasha’s relationship was one I found both fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. They are a good example of how two people, who wouldn’t have chosen each other otherwise, are thrown together as friends simply because they were in the same place at the same time. Even though they are supposed to be friends, social status, class and background play huge parts, even when they reach adulthood.

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Book Review: Things Are Looking Up by Maxine Morrey

What if what you really need is right there in front of you, if you just take a moment to look up?

Milly has been waiting for this moment forever and finally it’s just an hour away – an interview with Vogue magazine and the opportunity to get her Louboutin-clad foot in the door.  There’s just one problem – totally engrossed in her mobile phone, Milly doesn’t see the bus that is fast approaching – until it’s too late…

When Milly next opens her eyes, the consequences of her accident become clear. Everything she has worked for and dreamed of suddenly feels out of reach. But there is one bright spot on her horizon – the reappearance of her ex Jed, in all of his six-foot-four, broad-shouldered glory, with the most piercing ice blue eyes Milly ever saw.

Once used to working in a whirlwind, Milly now has the chance to reconsider how to live. Will she rush back to the treadmill, get her head down and back to business, or is there a whole other life waiting for her, if she’ll just look up to see it?

Milly is on the verge of getting the job she has spent most of her working life trying to get; much to the detriment of everything else.

What she didn’t plan on, was getting hit by a bus.

When she wakes up a week later, she finds herself homeless and jobless.

Her ex also comes back into her life… her very handsome, sweet ex.

It didn’t take me long to get completely engrossed in this novel. I immediately felt immersed in the London setting and I could imagine myself walking around London with Milly.

Milly was a character I could get behind. Yes, she has flaws and there were many points where I found her frustrating, but she felt very real and like an old friend. I wanted everything to work out for her. It was lovely to see her journey as I progressed through the book as she gets to know herself again.

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Long Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

How beautiful is this weather? What a lovely way to start June.

For this month’s book, I’ve picked The Long Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper.

I’ve started this novel and I’m already enjoying it. It’s perfect for reading in the garden or on the beach (now that we are allowed out.)

I’m looking forward to reading this and discussing it with you. Our book club is open to all, whether you’ve not started reading yet, are halfway through, or finished. As usual, I have posted a question below to get the discussion started.

See you in the comments below and happy reading!

 

About The Long Long Afternoon:

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Book Review: The House Guest by Charlotte Northedge

Kate trusts Della, and Della trusts Kate.
Their downfall is each other.

When Kate moves to London after the disappearance of her sister, she’s in need of a friend. A chance meeting leads Kate to Della, a life coach who runs support groups for young women, dubbed by Kate as ‘the Janes.’

Della takes a special interest in Kate, and Kate soon finds herself entangled in Della’s life – her house, her family, and her husband. It’s only when she realises that she’s in too deep that Della’s veneer begins to crumble, and the warnings from ‘the Janes’ begin to come true.

Why is Della so keen to keep Kate by her side? What does Kate have that Della might want? And what really lies beneath the surface of their friendship?

Kate has long lived in the shadow of her elder sister’s disappearance. Even when she leaves the family home in Cambridge for a new life in London, finding her sister is still priority.

Then she meets Della and is invited to take part in life coaching sessions. Della seems to have it all and Kate is soon under the spell. Are things as they seem though?

When I first started reading, I wanted to reach into the page and give Kate a big hug. She’s so lost.

I really don’t want to give much away when it comes to the plot of this novel as I am hoping it’s one you’ll discover for yourself.

This was a thriller that immediately drew me in. How it starts and then proceeds had me intrigued and desperate to know what was happening and how it fitted together.

It was obvious to me that certain characters and situations were not as they seemed and, like Kate, I didn’t know who to trust. I also questioned whether things were too good to be true.

Unexpected twists and turns throughout had me reading well past my bedtime.

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Cover Reveal: The Promise of Summer by Bella Osborne

I am always so excited when Bella Osborne releases a new novel and today, we are helping to reveal the cover for her latest book, The Promise of Summer. 

Here’s a little about the book…

Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
 
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Are you ready to see the cover. Drumroll. Three, two, one! 

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Hello May. It’s nice to see you. 

For me, when May arrives, it feels as though Summer is on its way (although you wouldn’t believe that going by the rain today.)

The book I have chosen for this month’s book club is one I have been wanting to read for a while. It’s The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. 

It sounds really interesting and I can’t wait to get reading.

Anyone can take part in our book club and you can do this from the comfort of your sofa. I am really looking forward to discussing this book with you and as usual, I have put a question down in the comments to get the discussion going.

 

About The Giver of Stars… 

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NK Chats To… David Russell

Can you tell me about your novella, High Wired On and what inspired it?

I was inspired to write my dystopian novella High Wired On by a state of extreme despair and negativity. I was inspired to try romance by some powerful efforts on the part of a friend of mine.

 

What’s your typical writing day like?

For many years I did not have a typical writing day. There were brief snatches of evening time, after a multiplicity of daytime work. That changed with the onset of Covid: with this I generally get up at 6 am and have a solid stretch until about 9.30 am. There are parallel slots in the afternoon and evening.

 

How long does it typically take you to write a book? 

Anything from weeks to years.

 

What are the challenges you found when writing?

To convey suspense and tension while trying to maintain stylistic accuracy.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

I’d like to meet Selene, the Greek Moon Goddess – the supreme Dream Girl.

 

What elements make up a good story? 

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Book Extract: Blood Loss by Kerena Swan

A big hello to Kerena Swan. She’s here with the blog tour for her novel, Blood Loss. 

Sarah

With one eye on the rear view mirror and the other on the road ahead, Sarah is desperate to get as far away from the remote Scottish cabin as she can without attracting attention. But being inconspicuous isn’t easy with a black eye and clothes soaked in blood…

… and now the fuel tank is empty.

DI Paton

When a body is discovered in a remote cabin in Scotland, DI Paton feels a pang of guilt as he wonders if this is the career break he has been waiting for. But the victim is unidentifiable and the killer has left few clues.

Jenna

With the death of her father and her mother’s failing health, Jenna accepts her future plans must change but nothing can prepare her for the trauma yet to come.

Fleeing south to rebuild her life Sarah uncovers long-hidden family secrets. Determined to get back what she believes is rightfully hers, Sarah thinks her future looks brighter. But Paton is still pursuing her…

… and he’s getting closer.

Kerena Swan’s brilliant novel explores how honest mistakes and human frailty can have terrifying and long-reaching consequences. It’s a tale of family ties and loyalty, revenge and redemption that you won’t want to put down.

 

Kerena has shared an extract today. Enjoy.

(CW: May be unsuitable for young children/scenes relating to a body.)

 

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

 

I was inspired to write this novel after reading a news article about people who undertook DNA tests to find out more about their heritage with shocking results.

Blood Loss is book one in a series featuring DI Paton and his son Tommy, a boy with Down’ Syndrome. After writing Who’s There? I was asked many times to write a sequel with the main character, Arnold. Tommy is a reincarnation of Arnold with a few subtle differences. You can discover the characters in a free novella available on my website. www.kerenaswan.com

 

DI Paton

Blue police tape fluttered across a rutted road to the right and three people, hunched in thick coats, stamped their feet nearby. ‘Bloody press,’ Paton muttered. ‘Come to feast while the body’s still warm. Who tipped them off?’

They rushed forward as Paton and Cheryl walked towards the police officer guarding the outer cordon.

‘Can you tell us what happened?’ a man asked, a watery drip wobbling under his red nose.  He grabbed a tissue from his pocket and rubbed it away.

‘Do we know who the victim is?’ A woman in a fur-trimmed hood stood in front of Paton, notebook at the ready, her fingers blue with cold.

‘You probably know more than me at this stage. Excuse me,’ Paton said. Stepping around her, he strode away with Cheryl following.

They gave their names to the officer who wrote them in the crime scene log. Behind him a man in a white suit was taking photographs of the mud and stones, swearing as the snow obliterated his evidence.

‘You need to get suited and booted, and take a spare pair of shoe covers for indoors,’ the officer said, running a finger around his collar and hunching his shoulders as large snowflakes melted against his neck. ‘Are you both on the fingerprint and DNA databases?’

They nodded.

‘When you’re ready, follow the path marked out by the tape.’

Paton was puffing by the time they reached the cabin at the top of the hill.

‘Maybe you should join my gym,’ Cheryl said.

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Book Review: After The Storm by Isabella Muir

When a violent storm blasts England’s south coast, it’s up to retired Italian detective Giuseppe Bianchi to sift through the devastation and piece together the tragic events left behind in the storm’s wake.

Giuseppe Bianchi’s brief visit to Bexhill-on-Sea has become an extended stay. He is loath to return to his home in Rome because of the haunting images that made him leave in the first place.

During his morning walks along the seafront with Beagle, Max, he meets Edward Swain, who becomes Giuseppe’s walking companion. They form a friendship of sorts and find they have a similar outlook on life.

But the devastating events of a single night lead Giuseppe to question the truth about Edward Swain. Teaming up with young journalist, Christina Rossi – his cousin’s daughter – Giuseppe learns about the brutal reality lurking behind the day-to-day life of families in the local community. And as the story unravels Giuseppe is reminded how anger and revenge can lead to the most dreadful of crimes.

After the Storm is the second novel in the Giuseppe Bianchi mystery series – the much awaited sequel to Crossing the Line.

I was very excited to be included in the blog tour for After the Storm which is the second novel in the Giuseppe Bianchi mystery series.

Ex Italian Detective Giuseppe Bianchi is staying with his cousin’s family in Bexhill. When the town gets hit by a terrible storm, he soon finds himself investigating the death of a friend.

From page one this book had me intrigued. I was a little concerned about whether I would be able to keep up with the story as I have not read the first book in the series, Crossing the Line. I had nothing to worry about. After the Storm can easily be read as part of the series or as a standalone.

There is such a calm at the beginning of the book that I really did feel, like a storm, that the narrative was building up to something and this added tension and suspense. Add in the mystery that Giuseppe is trying to solve and this made this book hard to put down.

I also loved the fact that it was based in the 1960’s. I am a big Beatles fan so I have always wondered what it would be like to live in the 60s. It was the decade of change and you can really feel that in the plot; like everyone and everything is on the verge of something bigger. I could realty imagine myself there, at Mario and Anne’s café, sipping tea as I look out over the sea.

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Book Review: The Girls From Alexandria by Carol Cooper

‘Memories are fragile when you are seventy years old. I can’t afford to lose any more of them, not when remembering the past might help with the here and now.’

Nadia needs help. Help getting out of her hospital bed. Help taking her pills. One thing she doesn’t need help with is remembering her sister. But she does need help finding her.

Alone and abandoned in a London hospital, 70-year-old Nadia is facing the rest of her life spent in a care home unless she can contact her sister Simone… who’s been missing for 50 years.

Despite being told she’s ‘confused’ and not quite understanding how wi-fi works, Nadia is determined to find Simone. So with only cryptic postcards and her own jumbled memories to go on, Nadia must race against her own fading faculties and find her sister before she herself is forgotten.

Set against the lush and glamorous backdrop of 20th century Alexandria, Carol Cooper’s The Girls from Alexandria is equal parts contemporary mystery and historical fiction: a re-coming of age story about family, identity, and homeland.

 

Nadia finds herself abandoned in a London hospital. She is having trouble remembering many things but the one thing she is sure about is that she needs to find her sister, Simone before it’s too late.

The problem is, she has not seen or heard from her sister in fifty years and the people around her are convinced that no such person exists.

As her current situation becomes more dire, Nadia becomes more determined. She begins to reflect on her past and the time she spent growing up with her family in Alexandria.

This book appealed to me. It’s historical fiction but has a mystery weaving through it which meant I kept wanting to turn the page, losing track of time in the process.

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Book Review: The Invitation by A.M. Castle

Thirteen guests. One killer. No escape.

On an island on the coast of Cornwall, cut off from the mainland by the tides for most of the day, thirteen old friends meet at Tregowan Castle for a weekend of revelry.

By the next evening only twelve are still alive.

Amongst them is a killer – but who? As a storm traps them on the island and past betrayals and grievances are revealed, nerves fray and friendships begin to fracture.

But with no escape and no way of calling for help it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again. And when everyone is keeping secrets, anybody could be the next victim…

Thirteen friends arrive at a remote castle in Cornwall to attend a special Halloween party. The next evening, only twelve are alive. The killer is one of the twelve but who is it?

From the first page, I knew this was going to be my kind of phycological thriller.

Immediately, I got pulled into the story as the tension and suspense continued to build.

This book is told from the point of view of various characters including Rachel, the rich hostess who has planned this special night down to the last detail. Vicky who is fighting a drinking problem and a breakdown in the relationship with her son. Gita and her husband Tom whose marriage isn’t as happy as she’d like it to appear.

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Book Extract: Pluto’s in Uranus! by Patrick Haylock

I am pleased to be welcoming Patrick Haylock to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for his novel, Pluto’s in Uranus!

This Christmas Jupiter and Saturn will become closer to each other than they have been for almost 800 years. It is an event that has set the world astrological community abuzz with the possible consequences of such an alignment and its potential impact on global leaders and world events.

But what happens when an even rarer conjunction between Pluto and Uranus occurs and what affect does it hold in store for the lives of everyday ‘ordinary folk’?

Well, it’s something that Dave from the post room is about to find out. Pluto is in Uranus and for him this indicates that everything is about to come up smelling of roses or so he thinks!

Dave suffers from OCF, Obsessive Compulsive Fatalism, and his Achilles heel is his daily horoscope, which is about to become dramatically affected by the historic planetary alignment.

The lucky omens predicted will compel him to take uncharacteristic chances, cross paths with a hotchpotch of larger than life characters who get him embroiled in situations with hilarious outcomes that are way beyond his control and  out of his comfort zone

Pluto’s In Uranus is written by globally unrecognised no award-winning Essex author Patrick Haylock.

 

Patrick has shared an extract from Pluto’s in Uranus! today. Enjoy! 

 

 

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

 

There are plenty of cars that I would love to own, but I’m afraid to say that a BMW is not one of them, although, I wouldn’t turn one away as a gift.

My main reasoning for excluding this vehicle from my motoring bucket list, is based upon experience, observation, and the fact that you need a set of unique driving skills to own a BMW.

Persistent overtaking, undertaking and the ability to maximise the visibility of your registration plate in the rear-view mirror of any vehicle that refuses to move out of your way are key attributes to successfully driving a Beamer!

Erratic headlight flashing and ownership of outside motorway lanes are also useful assets to possess.

Sadly, not being blessed with any of these talents would mean that a BMW would be wasted on me.

However, just prior to calamity it seems Dave begs to differ, because he wishes to own a BMW, have a great adventure and to feature in a book ending with the word pancake. His goals in life are mediocre but achievable.

Up to now his life had been stagnating, as were his attempts to fulfil his aspirations. Every day always began the same: an alarm call, a nature call, a shower, and a shave.

He would skip breakfast, dash to the newsagent’s, run after the bus, sprint for the train, then crawl to his boss for late arrival –yet again!

His habitual lateness was due to OCF – Obsessive- Compulsive Fatalism which he attributed to being born on December 25th.

This syndrome made it imperative for him to read his online horoscope prior to leaving home every day. After many years of failed predictions, todays were going to prove the spectacular exception, because Pluto was in Uranus!!

Even his computer seemed to be in a more optimistic mode, as, far quicker than usual, it launched Dave’s horoscopic homepage.

The colours seemed more vibrant, and the information as clear, precise, and positive… and today, without doubt, it was addressing him personally.

Capricorn

‘Pluto has moved into Uranus, indicating revolution, a time of rebirth, new thinking, and the sweeping out of old ways.

The risk-averse should abandon their fears and take a leap of faith, as an uncharacteristic decision will turn out well!

Those with names that contain an E D A or V should be extra vigilant, as many surprising, and unexpected, opportunities are about to come your way.

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Book Extract: Girl With Secrets by Carol Rivers

I’m happy to be welcoming Carol Rivers to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her book, Girl With Secrets. 

1938, East London. Nine year old Daisy Purbright is a country girl at heart and together with beloved brother Bobby, they’ve enjoyed the endless freedoms of rural England.

But when her father gambles the family’s fortunes on a speculative investment in London’s docklands, Daisy and her family are swept up into the intrigue, danger and excitement.Desperately the Purbrights attempt to settle to a new life in the East End, but the whisperings of war grow louder.

Then, one late afternoon in September 1940, Adolf Hitler conducts a paralysing bombardment on London and war tightens its grip. Life changes dramatically and closely guarded secrets threaten the Purbrights’ happiness.

Can Daisy and her family survive one of the most fateful events of the 20th century?

Perfect for fans of Nadine Dorries, Pam Howes, Rosie Clarke and Dilly Court.

 

Carol has shared an extract from Girl With Secrets so grab that drink, the comfy chair and enjoy. 

 

 

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

 

Cheer up, ducks, you look as though you’ve lost a pound and found a penny.’ Mrs Hayes steered the rattling trolley towards the canteen at a rate of knots.

‘No, I haven’t found anything. Well, not really.’ Daisy trotted beside the tea lady trying to keep up, listening to the tea-stained mugs clink violently against each other. A quick manoeuvre to the left swerved them down another walkway in the opposite direction to the offices.

‘Either you have – or you haven’t,’ the tea lady objected. ‘Speak now or forever hold your peace.’

Daisy was not certain how – or even if – she should reveal what she had seen. If she was to tell anyone at all, it would be Mrs Hayes or even Bobby, but was there really something to tell?

Perhaps she had imagined Aunt Betty standing close to Mr Calder? Had peering through one eye with the other closed distorted their figures? The more she thought, the more she was uncertain. Yet still the imprint of what she had witnessed remained in her mind. Just like Matt and Amelia’s almost-kiss.

Mrs Hayes launched the trolley into the doors of the canteen, where the scarred and dented flaps flew open. Once safely into the deserted room filled with stout wooden tables and chairs, smelling strongly of the cleaning agent that was used to kill the roaches and mice, the trolley was abandoned.

‘There now, all done,’ sighed Mrs Hayes, planting her hands on her hips as she studied Daisy. ‘Did you find your aunt?’

Daisy hesitated. ’Yes, but I didn’t actually speak to her.’

‘Why not?’

‘She was with – she had – a visitor.’

Mrs Hayes screwed up her eyes. ‘Who was that?’

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