When charming, mysterious, Nik sits next to Jess on a plane home from a Christmas toy trade fair, she never could have imagined the impact he’d have on her life. As they touch down in London, Jess is hesitant to let Nik walk away, and before she knows it, she’s invited him to visit.
As the two take in the delights of the toy store where she works, Jess gets an upsetting phone call. Willow Court, her Grandmother’s care home, is to close before Christmas. With the help of Nik, and her best friend Oliver, Jess is determined to find the perfect new home for her Gran – and throw the best Christmas party Willow Court has ever seen! But time is running out and Oliver isn’t the only one who has suspicions about charismatic Nik’s intentions.
Will a chance encounter on an aeroplane bring love to Jess’s life or is this Christmas miracle too good to be true?
Samantha and Aria have shared an extract today. As this is set at Christmas, grab that hot chocolate, a comfy chair and play that Christmas song. I won’t tell, I promise. Enjoy!
*****beginning of extract*****
‘So, you’ve been to England before?’ I asked and took a sip.
‘Yes. It’s only the last few years or so that I’ve been going to the trade fairs on my own. I joined the company straight from university and Mum and Dad have been teaching me the ropes ever since, taking me on work trips abroad.’ He ran a finger around the mug’s rim. ‘They brought me here as a teenager though, on holiday to see the sights. Mum and Dad went backpacking during university holidays and always said there was nothing quite like travel for broadening the mind. They liked discovering unusual places. We travelled the length of the country, from Newcastle to Bournemouth.’
‘Wow. Any favourite places?’
‘Stonehenge was amazing – so atmospheric. And we rented a cottage in the Cotswolds for a few days, in a quiet little village. It looked like a picture off a chocolate box and ducks visited the back garden – Mum fell in love with it. Manchester was pretty cool with trendy independent coffee shops and warehouse stores. We had to visit the Cavern Club in Liverpool as Dad had always been a massive fan of The Beatles and we also took a wonderful steam engine trip through Norfolk. We only spent one day in the capital so I don’t really know London.’
‘It sounds as if you’ve seen more of my home country than I have. So what got your parents interested in toy manufacturing?’
‘Mum was studying a degree in arts and Dad a design degree with modules in consumer engineering. He was left some money from his grandparents – enough to start the business. Also both of their families are big and even in their twenties, between them, Mum and Dad had lots of nephews and nieces and loved entertaining them and Grams and Grandpa – Mum’s parents – would often talk about how Mum was always making her own toys as a child out of food packaging and scraps of materials or plastic.’ He smiled. ‘She encouraged me as a boy. I used to love crafting with the week’s leftover cereal boxes and plastic butter tubs. I guess that passed the passion onto me.’
‘My gran used to be more of a chef and we’d make a new recipe up from leftovers each week,’ I said. ‘A friend of hers owned an allotment and we’d bake all sorts of crumbles and concoct different pasta sauces with vegetables. Our pumpkin spaghetti became a favourite.’ The waitress delivered our breakfast and I looked down at the plate. It had a small pot of baked beans, fried eggs, bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms, plus slices of buttered toast and a hash brown. ‘Gran would love this. When I was younger, she’d do me a fry-up as a treat every Friday, before school. There’s nothing like waking up to the smell of bacon.’
‘So how did you get into the business?’ he said, offering me the salt before shaking it across his eggs.
‘Angela, the boss of the toy shop where I work – Under the Tree – went to school with my mum, therefore she knew Gran and heard how I wasn’t sure what to do after my A levels. She said there were worse careers than working in retail, and that she couldn’t pay me much to begin with, but would I be interested in a job in a new toy shop she was setting up.’ I shrugged. ‘Angela gave me a future, a purpose, and I was grateful, working hard to prove her trust wasn’t misplaced.’ A comfortable silence fell for a few moments. I popped the last bit of toast into my mouth. ‘What do you eat for breakfast in Australia?’
‘Similar to this if I’ve got time. Or I grab a bowl of cereal.’ He closed his eyes and made a satisfied noise before opening them again. ‘I hadn’t realised how hungry I was. Thanks for suggesting this, Jess. I feel like a new man. Well… almost. My legs are still aching from being squashed behind that seat in front.’
‘Not a problem I have, at five foot three.’ I cut through an egg, sunshiny yolk spilling across the plate. ‘Although next to Gran I’m practically a giant. She must be only four foot something now.’
‘Grams shrank too during her final years.’
‘Oh. I’m sorry to hear she isn’t with you anymore.’
***** end of extract*****
About Samantha Tonge….
She has travelled widely. When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines.
She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category.
In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award.
Click here to read my review of The Winter We Met.