Category Archives: Excerpts

Cover Reveal and Prologue – Broken Bones by Angela Marsons

I am beyond excited tonight to be able to reveal to you the cover for the next DI Kim Stone novel by Angela Marsons and … wait for it … I also have a teaser for you as I am able to share the prologue! EEEEEKKKK!!!!!

So, what’s Broken Bones all about?

They thought they were safe. They were wrong.

The murder of a young prostitute and a baby found abandoned on the same winter night signals the start of a disturbing investigation for Detective Kim Stone – one which brings her face to face with someone from her own horrific childhood.

As three more sex workers are murdered in quick succession, each death more violent than the last, Kim and her team realise that the initial killing was no one-off frenzied attack, but a twisted serial killer preying on the vulnerable.

At the same time, the search begins for the desperate woman who left her newborn baby at the station – but what looks like a tragic abandonment turns even more sinister when a case of modern slavery is uncovered.

The two investigations bring the team into a terrifying world of human exploitation and cruelty – and a showdown that puts Kim’s life at risk as shocking secrets from her own past come to light.

A gripping new crime thriller from the Number One bestseller – you will be hooked until the final jaw-dropping twist.

Oh my God, how good does that sound??? And the cover for Broken Bones looks pretty damn good too…

You can pre-order Broken Bones now and get it sent straight to your Kindle on publication day by following these links:

UK: http://amzn.to/2wwkvci
US: http://amzn.to/2vDLPsP

And if that’s not enough to whet your appetite, here’s a sneaky peek at the prologue…

Black Country
Christmas Day

Elaine Goddard sat on the roof of the thirteen storey block of flats. The winter sun shone a grid on to her bare feet dangling over the edge.

The protective grate had been erected some years ago after a father of seven had thrown himself over.

By the time she was eleven she had stolen a pair of wire cutters and fashioned herself an access point to the narrow ledge that was her place of reflection.

From this vantage point she could look to the beauty of the Clent Hills in the distance, block out the dank, grubby reality of below.

Hollytree was the place you were sent if Hell was having a spring clean.

Problem families from the entire West Midlands were evicted from other estates and placed in Hollytree. It was displacement capital. Communities around the borough breathed sighs of relief as families were evicted. No-one cared where they went. It was enough that they were gone and one more ingredient was added to the melting pot.

There was a clear perimeter around the estate over which the police rarely crossed. It was a place where the rapists, child molesters, thieves and ASBO families were put together in one major arena. And then guarded by police from the outside.

But today a peace settled around the estate giving the illusion that the normal activities of robbing, raping and molesting were on pause because it was Christmas Day. That was bollocks. It was all still going on but to the backdrop of the Queens speech.

Her mother was still slurring her way around the cheerless flat with a bottle of Gin in her hand.

But at least Elaine had this. Her one piece of heaven. Always her safe place. Her escape.

She had disappeared unnoticed up here when she was seven years old and her mother had been falling all over the flat pissed as a fart.

How lucky was she to have been the only one of the four kids her mother had been allowed to keep?

She had escaped up here when her mother’s drinking partner, Roddy, had started pawing at her groin and slobbering into her hair. Her mother had pulled him off, angrily, shouting something about ruining her retirement plan. She hadn’t understood it when she was nine years old but she had come to understand it now.

She had cried up here on her sixteenth birthday when her mother had introduced her to the family business and to their pimp, Kai Lord.

She’d been up here two months earlier when he had finally found her.

And she’d been up here when she’d told him to fuck right off.

She didn’t want to be saved. It was too late.

Sixteen years of age and already it was too damn late.

Many times she had fantasised about how it would feel to lurch forward onto the wind. She had envisioned herself floating to and fro gently making the journey like a stray pigeon feather all the way to the ground. Had imagined the feeling of weightlessness of both her body and her mind.

Elaine took a deep breath and exhaled.

In just a few minutes it would be time to go to work. Heavy rain, sleet, snow, Christmas – nothing kept the punters away. Trade might be slow but it would still be there. It always was.

She didn’t hear the roof door open or the footsteps that slowly strode towards her.

She didn’t see the hand that pushed her forward.

She only saw the ground as it hurtled towards her.

Sounds like it’s going to be another absolute belter!

About Angela Marsons

Angela Marsons is the author of the Amazon Bestselling DI Kim Stone series – Silent Scream, Evil Games, Lost Girls, Play Dead, Blood Lines, Dead Souls and now Broken Bones. Her books have sold more than 2 million in 2 years.

She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their cheeky Golden Retriever and a swearing parrot.

She first discovered her love of writing at Junior School when actual lessons came second to watching other people and quietly making up her own stories about them. Her report card invariably read “Angela would do well if she minded her own business as well as she minds other people’s”.

After years of writing relationship based stories (The Forgotten Woman and Dear Mother) Angela turned to Crime, fictionally speaking of course, and developed a character that refused to go away.

She is signed to Bookouture.com for a total of 16 books in the Kim Stone series and her books have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Her last two books – Blood Lines and Dead Souls – reached the #1 spot on Amazon on pre-orders alone.

https://www.facebook.com/AngelaMarsonsAuthor/
@WriteAngie https://twitter.com/WriteAngie

http://angelamarsons-books.com/

 

Excerpt – Reality Rehab by Lisa Mary London

I am delighted to bring you an exclusive excerpt today of Reality Rehab, the debut novel by former producer Lisa Mary London. Grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy!

The Blurb

Faded soap star Gloria Grayson swaps banoffee pie for humble pie with a stint on reality TV. But her last ditch bid to salvage her celebrity backfires, when the ex-husband from hell is sprung on her in front of 10 million viewers.
Can Gloria win back A-list status, happy ever after and her Rear of the Year title? Reality is stranger than fiction!

Faded TV star Gloria Grayson has hit rock bottom. Sacked from her starring role in a top soap, divorced from hell-raising actor ‘Mad’ Tommy Mack, and obese from binge eating, her days as Britain’s sexiest blonde are well and truly over.

But her luck changes when cruel paparazzi photos relaunch her career, and she and her fat, feisty dog are booked to appear on TV’s Reality Rehab.

Gloria is incarcerated with an American psychotherapist, a rabble of D-list celebrities and umpteen cameras, then put on a starvation diet. But worse is to come, with the shock arrival of her alcoholic ex-husband.

Tears and tantrums ensue as the divorced couple’s therapy sessions take over the show, and ratings soar. The other celebrities are infuriated to be sidelined and Reality Rehab fast becomes The Tommy and Glo Show.

But Gloria and Tommy are hiding explosive secrets from each other and 10 million viewers – Reality is stranger than fiction!

Chapter One

Life’s A Bitch And Then You Diet

The weirdest thing just happened. A woman walked up to my table at Highgate Bistro and said: ‘Excuse me – Didn’t you used to be Gloria Grayson?’

I was reading about Kim Kardashian’s latest diet in a celebrity magazine, a forkful of steak and chips halfway to my mouth. I was taken aback. Used to be Gloria Grayson? What a strange question. Whatever could she mean?

I put down my cutlery, gave her my most dazzling smile and replied, wittily, that I was still Gloria Grayson the last time I looked. She was a dumpy old lump bless her, but the burden of fame weighs heavy on me. I can’t begrudge a fan the chance to bask in my celebrity aura, even a fan as drab as this one. Then I awaited the inevitable selfie request.

But it never came. She just raised a shaggy eyebrow, sniggered and lumbered back to her equally frumpy friend. They’re sat two tables down having coffee and tarte tatin. I hope they didn’t nab the last slices, that’s my favourite dessert. They’re whispering and giggling… People can act strangely in the presence of a star. It’s intimidating for them I suppose, they’re overwhelmed God love ‘em.

Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I was approached by a fan. When I was on TV every week, the lead actress in Britain’s top soap, I was forever being mobbed. Fans chased me down the street pleading for photos and autographs, desperate to cop a feel of a genuine, bona fide star. Well there are so few of us around these days, thanks to reality television and all the ghastly fake celebrities it’s spawned.

To a great extent I blame my agent Belinda. She’s taken loads of these reality TV types on her books, you know the sort. Nonentities who are famous for absolutely no good reason. People without an ounce of talent, whose hitherto biggest life achievement was producing a bowel movement. These no-marks are NOT celebrities, but Belinda’s getting work for them hand over fist and neglecting me, the genuine article!

I wouldn’t mind if they had a talent, could dance, sing, tell a joke or even read autocue without squinting. But they can’t and they’re stealing work off us pros! We’ve earned our fame the hard way, been to drama school, toured the provinces, slept with TV executives. These cretins spend a fortnight in a house with CCTV cameras and walk out of there megastars. The world’s gone mad.

I met that Joey Essex at a showbiz do once. Nice enough lad, but he should be stacking shelves at Homebase, not hosting his own TV shows! He was all over me, horribly star struck. Gushed he was my biggest fan ever, said I was ‘Peng’ and ‘Sick’ and begged me to pose for a selfie. I duly obliged and later found he’d posted it to Instagram with the caption: ‘Me & Barberra Windser – Wot a carry on, LOL!!!’ It got 10,000 Likes and what’s more, NO ONE CORRECTED HIM! And this is what the millennial generation calls a celebrity… Liza Minnelli would be spinning in her grave, if she were dead.

Skimpy pile of French fries today, I’m still peckish. I’m sure these bistro portions are getting smaller you know. Maybe I’ll order myself a baguette basket. Baby-Girl’s fast asleep on the chair beside me in her tutu and tiara, snoring like a tractor. She had bangers and mash with onion gravy and petits pois, licked the plate clean. The vet says she’s obese but she looks fine to me. Though recently I’ve been buying her doggy dresses a size bigger. Last week I had to put my foot in her back to zip up her ra ra skirt… Maybe I won’t order her a dessert today…

Well there’s nothing else for it with no money coming in, I’m going to have to sell my engagement ring. It’s not like it has any sentimental value, I even paid for it myself. Tommy said he’d stump up, but needless to say he never got round to it. Oh I know, I know, the omens were there from the start. Last week I took it to the village jeweller for a valuation and he said the diamond was severely flawed. I said: ‘So was the marriage’.

Sad to say, it’s the only bit of bling I have left that I haven’t sold. Apart from my gold ‘GG’ necklace, but I wouldn’t part with that. Not because Tommy gave it to me you understand, just because… Well it’s my signature piece, my trademark if you will. I was pictured wearing it when I picked up Soap’s Sexiest Female Award, and at my big leaving bash for Jubilee Road. Oh and in those famous tabloid shots of me throwing Tommy’s clothes out of our bedroom window, into the swimming pool. It’s funny really, he’s the only one who’s ever called me GG.

‘Pour me a scotch GG, it’s medicinal – I’m sick of being sober’.

‘Where’s that bacon sarnie GG – My belly thinks my throat’s been cut’.

‘Get me a beer GG – I’ve got a gob like Gandhi’s bum-crack’.

I told him GG made me sound like a horse and he said: ‘Well you are an old nag’.

God I’m so glad to be shot of the vodka-soaked loser! What did I ever see in him? I should have married a millionaire, not a third rate actor and first rate drunk. I had my pick of men. I copped off with Richard Branson at a party once, honestly I could kick myself now. Or was it Richard Bacon? I forget. Either way, I could have done a lot better than Tommy!

Sounds brilliant right? Published in the UK on 12 July 2017 you can order your copy now.

About Lisa Mary London

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Lisa Mary London went from Chief Reporter on a sleepy Cotswold newspaper to become Celebrity Producer on some of Britain’s best-loved TV shows. Her TV credits include An Audience with Ken Dodd, A BAFTA Tribute to Julie Walters, The British Comedy Awards and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! She’s worked with stars from Tony Curtis to Ant and Dec, and her debut novel Reality Rehab features around 200 famous names.

‘There’s never a dull moment when you’re working with the stars’, says Lisa. ‘One minute you’re sipping champagne with Pierce Brosnan, the next you’re standing in the Ladies’ minding Barbara Windsor’s handbag.’

Reality Rehab is based on her real life, behind-the-screen experiences as a Celebrity Producer. ‘I’ve met many old school stars like my book’s protagonist Gloria, who curse reality TV and think the cast of TOWIE should be stacking shelves at Tesco, not walking the red carpet.

‘She’s a cross between Diana Dors, Boadicea and Miss Piggy, a glorious, garrulous anti-heroine with bags of fattitude – Gloria puts the real in reality TV!’

Gloria’s petulant pooch Baby-Girl is closely based on the book’s cover star, Lisa’s beloved Maltese Dolly-Dog (says Lisa – ‘You couldn’t make her up’). Dolly-Dog won fame on ITV’s Loose Women when she married Sherrie Hewson’s Westie Charlie, in a ceremony officiated by John Barrowman (available on YouTube). The couple split acrimoniously and are currently fighting for custody of a chew toy.

A journalist by profession, Lisa has written for the Daily Mail and was briefly a News of the World reporter, but made her excuses and left before anyone was imprisoned for phone hacking.

Blog Tour – The Orphan Of India by Sharon Maas *Excerpt*

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Sharon Maas’s The Orphan Of India and doubly delighted to be able to share an extract from this gorgeous book. I reviewed the book earlier this month and loved it. You can read my review HERE.

Here is the excerpt you have been wanting to read…

Prologue
A village in Maharashtra, India, 1977

Jyothi’s slight form wavered a little as Ma placed the small bundle on her head, but she held her head up high and gripped it tightly with both hands, and soon found the point of perfect balance. It was bulky rather than heavy, and far easier to carry than water. A single full bucket dragged from the well was back-breaking, down-pulling, stop-and-start work for a girl of almost five, but she could carry laundry with ease, using her arms as props, following Ma with swinging steps and a straight but pliant back, all the way up to the Great House at the top of the hill.

Ma carried a much larger bundle on her head without the help of hands, and she walked briskly, for they were late. Jyothi quickened her pace to keep up. Every now and then she stumbled on the hem of her too-long skirt, stopped to push a fold of fabric into her sagging waistband and hurried forward to catch up, for Ma would not wait. They reached the top of the hill, turned into the driveway, entered the front courtyard and walked up the three stairs to the great wooden door at the top.

Ma knocked twice with the brass elephant-head knocker. The door swung open silently and Devi Ma let them in, frowning slightly because the sun was already rising above the turrets to the east, and work was waiting.

Jyothi followed Ma, who followed Devi Ma; single file they walked along the coloured tiles of a short passageway of fretwork walls into the inner court. Ma lifted the bundle of laundry from her own head, and then Jyothi’s bundle, and set both side by side on the marble floor of the inner court.

Devi Ma squatted down beside Jyothi’s ma and together the women began the sorting and the counting: saris in one heap, dhotis in another, blouses and underwear in other, smaller heaps; counting and adding up the prices.

Jyothi’s ma could not follow the counting and the calculations but nodded at all of Devi Ma’s sums, trusting her. Only occasionally they squabbled over the price of an item, like the big yellow woven bedspread, which Jyothi’s ma said was so heavy and hard to wash her husband had needed her eldest son’s help in wringing it out, and it was worth fifteen rupees, whereas Devi Ma said it was only worth twelve. But the squabbling was amiable and soon put to rest, and Jyothi’s mother got fourteen rupees for the bedspread. After the clean laundry was checked against Devi Ma’s list and paid for, the pile of dirty laundry in the corner would have to be sorted, counted and listed. It was a good hour’s work, interspersed with good-natured stories of village gossip volunteered by Jyothi’s ma in exchange for Great House gossip.

While they did their business Jyothi sat at the edge of the pool in the middle of the courtyard and played with the water-spitting fish. It was an oval pool of turquoise tiles and shallow water that caught the early morning sunlight and played with it in golden concentric circles rippling backwards from the fish.

Jyothi wore a red ankle-length cotton skirt and a flowered blouse; her hair was neatly plaited and hung down her back in a thick black rope. She swivelled her body around, lifted her skirt to her knees and put her feet in the pool. She leaned forward and lifted cups of water out of the pool and let the water fall back through her fingers into itself with a delicious splash. The gurgle of bubbling water was music.

All of a sudden she stopped playing and cocked her head. She had heard a sound, a sweet sound, sweeter even than the water’s voice; barely perceptible yet strong, insistent, reminding her of something but she knew not what, calling her somewhere but she knew not where.

If you could turn the glow and delight of the first glimpse of the sun rising over the trees at the edge of the village into sound, it would be this. If you could turn the perfume of a rose or the taste of a ripe mango into sound, or the feel of cool water running through your fingers, it would be this.

If you could turn a soul welling with wonder into sound, it would surely be this too…

Jyothi stood up.

The fretwork passageway led back to the front door in one direction. She had never been in the other direction, had never continued up to its end; always they had left the passage at the arch leading into the inner court.

A last glance at her mother told Jyothi the business of sorting, counting and adding was only halfway through. Her mother had forgotten her presence.

She found herself in a wide room with a wooden herringbone floor, polished to such a shine she could see a faint reflection of herself in the deep brown gloss. A series of arched windows set into one wall let in the early sunlight, casting it in long slanting pools of round-topped light. The room was bare except for a few straight-backed chairs against the walls and, near the entrance to the passageway, a hatstand with an oval mirror built into it. Jyothi crossed the room and followed the sound to an open doorway at the far side. She hesitated just one second before passing the doorway.

She found herself in a large hallway, dark, for there were no windows, only several heavy doors of wood, all closed. There was no need to open any of the doors for there was also a staircase, and the sound came from above, from the top of that staircase. Jyothi walked up, her left hand on the banister, looking upwards as if expecting that, any moment now, the glorious sound would take on form and appear as a vision of light before her, a goddess beckoning her on.

Along the upstairs landing there was a wall broken by several more doors, again all closed. As in a trance, Jyothi walked along the landing, arms held out before her as if to feel her way forward, although the landing was not dark like the hallway below, but light, and the light was coming from the far end, as well as the sound. Light and sound merged into a single entity pulling her forward, erasing the memory of Ma and the bundle of clothes downstairs, and even the memory of herself and who she was, wrapping itself around her mind and drawing her into itself.

She felt light-headed, like clear water sparkling with sunlight.

Jyothi arrived at the end of the landing and stood on the threshold of a room that was all light: smooth shining white floor, white bare walls and, at the far end, opposite to where she stood, an open balustrade broken by a row of slender columns joined by scalloped arches. Beyond the balustrade Jyothi’s glance took in the green hills rolling away to the east, and the sun, now well above the hills, brilliant white at its glowing centre, and the entire eastern sky shining white, everywhere a blinding whiteness.

White, too, were the clothes of the two people in the room. It was these two who claimed Jyothi’s attention. One of them, she saw at first glance, was the source of the sound. It was a man, sitting cross-legged on a small red carpet that provided the only spot of colour in the entire room. Across his legs rested a sitar; his fingers caressed the strings, and it was the music thus produced that had drawn Jyothi.

Music! This was music! Nothing she had ever heard before was worthy of the name. Sometimes musicians came to the village and there was singing and dancing in the main street, and of course at every festival there was music. She had seen a sitar before; she had even heard one played.

But never before like this. She stood in the doorway, transfixed, staring.

The Blurb

A lost child. A childless couple. Can they save each other?

Living on the streets of Bombay, Jyothi has no-one to turn to after her mother is involved in a tragic accident.
Monika and Jack Kingsley are desperate for a child of their own. On a trip to India, they fall in love with Jyothi and decide to adopt the orphan child.
The new family return to England, but Jyothi finds it difficult to adapt. As Monika and Jack’s relationship fractures, Jyothi is more alone than ever and music becomes her solace. But even when her extraordinary musical talent transforms into a promising career, Jyothi still doesn’t feel like she belongs.
Then a turbulent love affair causes her to question everything. And Jyothi realises that before she can embrace her future, she must confront her past…
The Orphan of India is an utterly evocative and heart-wrenching novel that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Perfect for fans of Dinah Jefferies, Santa Montefiore and Diane Chamberlain.

Sounds gorgeous right? You can purchase your copy in the UK HERE and in the US HERE.

A huge thank you to Sharon Maas and Kim Nash at Bookouture for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for allowing me to share this excerpt. Follow the rest of the tour…

 

 

Author Guest Post by Susan Gandar ‘Absent Father’ and Excerpt

It is Father’s Day on Sunday and as a celebration of that I have a gorgeous guest post from the lovely Susan Gandar. Susan is the author of the beautiful We’ve Come To Take You Home and along with her guest post you can read an excerpt of her debut novel. I’m delighted to have Susan vising the blog today as We’ve Come To Take You Home was one of my favourite books of 2016. I will now hand you over to Susan…

 

Absent Father

What was it like to grow up, the daughter of a 4 Oscar winning father? Yes, it had its moments, very exciting and very different. One of my birthdays was spent, with a group of friends, visiting Shepperton Studios where Carol Reed’s musical ‘Oliver!’ was being shot. We watched as Mark Lester, playing Oliver, crept up to Harry Secombe’s Mr. Bumble, held out his bowl – and whispered, ‘Please, Sir, can I have some more?!

With my father working away so much of the time, most of my school holidays were spent visiting him on location. One of those summer holidays was spent in Spain, in Madrid, where ‘Doctor Zhivago’ was being filmed. Early one blazingly hot morning, heat already shimmering off the pavements, we set off from the cool, dark apartment my parents were renting to visit the unit filming on the other side of the city.

An hour later, I was standing, up to my ankles in snow, in ‘Kropotkin Street’ in Moscow. And it was still over 100 F! And there wasn’t just one street but several, with trams clanking up and down, even a cathedral and in the far distance the crenellated walls of the Kremlin – the Magician, as my father was known, and his team had been at work again.

Those are the positive memories. But there are many that are less so: the number of birthdays that were missed, my very unhappy and frustrated mother, the bullying at school because I was so ‘different’.

Things came to a head when my father was offered and accepted the role of production designer on David Lean’s epic ‘Laurence of Arabia’. He packed his bags and walked out of the front door – not to return for two years. I remember so well the puzzlement, the heartache, the tearful phone calls, the feeling that we all, my mother, my sister and I, the rest of the family, had been deserted.

And then it was Christmas – and he was coming home, just for a couple of days, but that had to be better than nothing. I stood there, five years old, trembling with excitement, staring out of the window, watching out for my father. And there he was, walking down the street, towards our house. I ran out of the sitting room into the hallway, wrenched open the front door, flew down the steps, down onto the street – and threw myself into his arms saying those lines which Jenny Agutter made so famous in the film The Railway Children, ‘Daddy, my Daddy!’.

But the magic moment I’d been dreaming about, better than any Christmas present, being hugged, kissed, burying myself in my father’s arms, didn’t happen. My father just stood there, shuffling his feet, saying nothing, doing nothing. And then my mother was there, pulling at me, apologising, saying she was really sorry, and I was being led back up the steps, through the front door, into our flat. This man wasn’t my father, he was a stranger, just a man walking down the street, my real father would be coming later. And he did, tall and suntanned, and rather glamorous, but rather aloof, mentally and emotionally- still out in Jordan, in the desert, drawing a line through the sand, for Omar Sharif to follow when riding into the well on his camel.

My mother threatened by father with divorce – and the films abroad stopped, at least for a while. And I had a father who was at home, not all of the time, but at least some of the time. And we did what other families did, going for walks together in the local park on a Sunday. To me, even now, the memory of my father’s hand gripping mine, him being there, with us, fills me with a mix of huge happiness – but also huge sadness. Not because of all the time he spent away, not being there when we were growing up. But because, when I was older, when I could spend more time with him and really appreciate who he was, he became the most supportive and most wonderful father – and my dearest friend.

A huge thank you Susan for such a wonderful and moving article.

We’ve Come To Take You Home Excerpt

The accident and emergency waiting room was full, every seat taken, with bonfire night casualties.
‘Your address?’
‘7 Seaview Road.’
‘Your friend’s name?’
‘Friend?’
‘The girl you came in with? In the ambulance?’
‘Amy Roberts.’
‘Address?’
‘Tudor Close.’
‘Number?’
A tall figure, dressed in pilot’s uniform, gold braid on his sleeves, cap perched at just the right angle on top of his head, was striding towards the entrance doors of the accident and emergency department.
‘I’m sorry…’
The automatic doors slid open.
‘The house number? In Tudor Close?’
‘Twenty-four, I think. I’m not sure…’
The figure disappeared outside.
‘No problem. We can check. If you’d like to take a seat I’ll get…’
She couldn’t wait. She’d done all she could. There was a police car sitting outside the girl’s house. When her parents arrived home they would be driven straight to the hospital.
She pushed her way past a family, a little boy his head buried in his father’s shoulder, his right hand tightly bound in a wet towel, the mother sobbing into her phone. Behind were two girls, the same age as herself, supporting a third, the side of her face streaked a livid red. The doors slid open. And there he was. Head held high, arms and legs pumping, on his way to somewhere else.
‘Dad…’
An ambulance, blue lights flashing, sirens blaring, turned off the main road. It accelerated up the ramp directly towards her father.
‘Dad, look out.’
There was no slamming of brakes. No thump of hard metal crunching into soft flesh. The ambulance continued up the ramp. It screeched to a stop outside the accident and emergency department. The driver got out, walked round to the back and threw open first one door, and then the other. An elderly couple looked Sam up and down, shook their heads, muttered something to each other, and continued walking down the ramp towards the main road.
She stood there, trembling, staring at the spot where her father had just been. There had been no slam of brakes, no thump of metal, no screaming or calling out for a doctor, because there had been nothing to scream or call out about. Instead of shattered bone and blood and guts there was empty space. Her father had vanished – if he had ever been there at all.
She ran back into the accident and emergency department, through the waiting area, and down the corridor to the lift. She punched the button. She stepped inside. The doors closed, the doors opened, people got in, people got out; sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and, at last, the tenth floor.
‘Stand clear… oxygen away…VF… shock.’
A trolley, laden with equipment, stood at the end of her father’s bed. She recognised it.
‘Asystole. Flat line.’
It was the same trolley the doctors had used to shoot electricity through the old man’s body. The old man with the grey face thick with stubble, locked away in his coma, who had suddenly sat upright, straight backed in his bed, his arms outstretched, his eyes staring, his mouth opening and closing as if he was trying to say something. That bed was now empty.
‘There’s no heartbeat. It’s been too long.’
A nurse started to remove an intravenous tube from her father’s right arm. A second nurse started to remove an intravenous tube from his left arm. A third nurse unplugged a monitor.
Her father was being tidied up, packed away, like he was nothing more than a head, and a chest, with two arms and two legs which had never felt pain, had never felt anger – had never known love.
She pushed past the trolley, with its plugs and its wires, its paddles and its cables, which had produced the electric shocks that had shot through her father’s body, sending him convulsing off the bed. None of which had worked.
‘Dad, it’s me, Sam.’
She grabbed hold of his hand.
‘Please come back.’
Someone was trying to pull her away from the bed.
‘Sam, come with me now. Your dad can’t hear you…’
It was Mac. Standing next to him was Dr. Brownlow.
‘We did everything we could.’
And now Mac was putting his hand on her hand, and he was uncurling it, finger by finger, out of her father’s. She kicked out, hitting him hard on the shin. He jumped back. She held on to her father’s hand even tighter.
‘We love you…’
Her whole body was screaming.
‘Please come back…’
She had to make him hear.
‘We love you, we love you. Please come back.’
‘Sam, stop now, Dad can’t hear you…’
She had a special gift. That’s what the old lady in the church had said. She could see and hear things other people couldn’t see or hear, go to places other people couldn’t reach. So where would her father be now? Where would he go, inside his head, if he was in a coma?
She closed her eyes. Sometimes her father would be away for just a couple of days, sometimes a full week, often even longer, but, wherever he was, even if it was on the other side of the world, they had always been able to talk to each other. She had always been able to reach him.

You can purchase a copy of We’ve Come To Take You Home HERE.

Read my review HERE and Susan’s Author Influences HERE.

Blog Tour – My Mourning Year by Andrew Marshall *Excerpt*

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Andrew Marshall’s My Mourning Year: A Memoir of Bereavement, Discovery and Hope and am able to share with you an excerpt from this very special book.  But first here is what the book is about –

The Blurb

In 1997 Andrew Marshall’s partner, and the only person to whom he had ever truly opened his heart, died after a gruelling and debilitating illness. Unmoored from his old life, and feeling let down by his family, Marshall struggled not only to make sense of his loss but to even imagine what a future without Thom might look like. In his diary, he wrote about what set him back – like a rebound relationship – some weird and wonderful encounters with psychics and gurus and how his job as a journalist gave him the chance to talk about death with a range of famous people, a forensic anthologist and a holocaust survivor. Slowly but surely with the help of friends, a badly behaved dog and a renewed relationship with his parents, he began to piece his life back together. Although his diary was never meant for publication, Marshall did share it with friends and colleagues dealing with bereavement, who found it immensely helpful, so to mark the twentieth anniversary of Thom’s death, he has decided to open it for everybody to read. My Mourning Year is a frank and unflinching account of one man’s life for a year after the death of his lover. In turn heartbreaking, frustrating and even sweetly funny, this is no step-by-step guide to dealing with bereavement but a shoulder to lean on when facing the unknowns of death and a resource for those left behind.

And now for the excerpt…

Thursday 16 October – Germany

Strange unidentifiable feelings ran through my stomach as I checked in at Gatwick airport. I was shattered, both physically and emotionally. I might need a holiday but for some reason that I cannot explain, I’ve chosen to return to Germany and confront the past. The couple ahead of me in the queue were speaking German. There was something very reassuring about the familiarity of Thom’s mother tongue. I’d forgotten what a central part of my life Germany has been. For five and a half years, I flew there at least once a month to visit Thom. Even after he moved to England, we would return together several times a year. It was only in the last few months that it became tied up with sickness, disease and death. So I’m returning for the right reasons, aren’t I?

The bustling terminal was not the place for self-examination. It was only after I sat on the plane and looked out of the window, that I came face to face with my true feelings. As usual, I’d bought a copy of Vanity Fair to read during the journey. It was just another flight to Germany. Except my other purchase was a packet of tissues. It has been months since I had always carried an emergency supply.

Waiting for my baggage at Dortmund airport, I found myself looking for Thom the other side of the barrier. How many times had he collected me from that airport? How many times had I left customs and thrown myself into his arms?

I dug deep for some consolation. At least this time I would not be hiring a car and driving to that hospital – the heart of my hell. Instead, I took a taxi to my friend Martin’s flat (where I had stayed during Thom’s final weeks).

Dortmund was full of nostalgia but it was a gentle pain and the tears I’d expected were sweet rather than bitter. I was amazed at how easily I fell back into sync with Thom’s friends. It was wonderful to talk about him and hear them recount their favourite stories. Back in England, it always seemed to be me who brought up his name. Even if I couldn’t have Thom, I could spend time with his friends and walk the streets that he walked.

You don’t stop loving someone just because they’re dead. In fact, the love grows greater, as it’s easier to forget their faults.

My Mourning Year is published by RedDoor Publishing and is available on eBook now and paperback on 20 April 2017. You can purchase a copy HERE.

About the Author

Andrew has been a marital therapist for almost thirty years. He trained with RELATE the UK’s leading couple counselling charity. He now has a private practice in London and Sussex (England), gives workshops on relationship and inspirational talks. His books have been translated into twenty languages (including French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Italian). He also writes for UK newspapers Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. These articles are collected on his Facebook page. As well as being a writer, Andrew is a keen reader and is always looking for suggestions of great books to read (either about relationships or novels).

A huge thank you to Anna at RedDoor Publishing for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and share with you this extract. Be sure to catch the other bloggers on the rest of the blog tour.

 

 

 

Blog Tour – Ashes to Ashes by Paul Finch *Excerpt*

Whoop whoop it’s my turn on the Ashes to Ashes blog tour and I’m very excited to be able to share an excerpt from Paul Finch’s latest Detective Mark Heckenburg book. First up here is the synopsis…

The Sunday Times bestseller returns with his next unforgettable crime thriller. Fans of MJ Arlidge and Stuart MacBride won’t be able to put this down.
John Sagan is a forgettable man. You could pass him in the street and not realise he’s there. But then, that’s why he’s so dangerous.
A torturer for hire, Sagan has terrorised – and mutilated – countless victims. And now he’s on the move. DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg must chase the trail, even when it leads him to his hometown of Bradburn – a place he never thought he’d set foot in again.
But Sagan isn’t the only problem. Bradburn is being terrorised by a lone killer who burns his victims to death. And with the victims chosen at random, no-one knows who will be next. Least of all Heck.

Sounds good, right? To whet your appetite further here is an excerpt from the book…

The hanging rope was only five feet away. Heck knew there was a good chance he’d make it, but he also knew that if he stopped to think about this he wouldn’t go any further. So he didn’t think, just launched himself out, diving full-length – and dropping like a stone, maybe ten feet, before managing to catch hold of the rope. Several more feet of cold, greasy hemp slid through his fingers before he brought himself to a halt, ripping both his gloves and the flesh of the palms underneath. Doing his best to ignore the blistering pain, he clambered down and alighted on the garage roof nearest the building.

‘Suspect heading northeast along Bellfield Lane!’ he shouted down to the two uniforms who’d spilled onto Charlton Court from their patrol car, faces aghast at what they’d just seen Heck do. ‘Spread the word!’

Without waiting for a response, Heck ran due north along the flimsy roofs, feet drumming on damp planks covered only in tarpaper, jabbering into his radio again, giving instructions as best he could. At the far end, he dropped onto all fours and swung his body over the parapet. He hung full-length and dropped the last five feet, before careering down¬hill through grass and clutter onto the road.

‘Bellfield Lane heading northeast,’ he shouted, hammering along the tarmac. ‘Any units in that direction to respond, over?’ But the airwaves were jammed with cross-cutting messages. ‘Shit . . . come on, someone!’

As he ran, the vast concrete shape of a railway gantry loomed towards him. Above it, stroboscopic lights sped back and forth as trains hurtled between East Dulwich and Peckham Rye. Conversely, the shadows beneath the structure were oil-black. In normal times this would be a muggers’ paradise, but Heck was armed, and besides the night was now alive with sirens – it was just a pity none were in the immediate vicinity.

Beyond the railway overpass, a sheer brick wall stood on the right, but on the left there was wire fencing, and behind that another slope angling down to a glass-littered car park. The fence’s second section was loose, disconnected along the bottom, giving easy access to the other side. Heck swerved towards it – only to find that his quarry, neatly camouflaged in his all-black garb, had secreted himself flat at the foot of the waiting slope. The first Heck knew of this was the muzzle-flash, and the hail of shot that swept the wire mesh.

He threw himself to the pavement, rolling away and landing in the gutter – where he lay on his back, gun trained two-handed on the wall of fencing.

Until he heard feet clattering away again.

He scrambled to his knees.

A dark shape was haring across the car park below, at the far side of which a concrete ramp led down onto yet another housing estate, this one comprising rows of near-identical maisonettes. Heck slid under the fence and gave chase, stumbling down the slope until he reached the level tarmac, all the time trying to get through on his radio.

‘Is no one fucking listening to me?’ he shouted. ‘For what it’s worth . . . still in pursuit, suspect still on foot, still armed, opening fire at every opportunity. Heading west onto the Hawkwood estate. Listen, this is a built-up area with lots of civvies. Not many around at present, but someone’s got to get over here fast. Over and fucking out!’

The latest Heck instalment sound fan-bloody-tastic and is definitely on my TBR list! A huge thank you to Paul Finch and Helena Sheffield at Avon Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and allowing me to share an excerpt.

Be sure to catch the rest of the Ashes to Ashes blog tour for reviews and author guest posts.

Publication Day Excerpt – A Manor In Cornwall by Laura Briggs

Those of you who regularly read my blog may remember that I reviewed Laura Briggs’ A Wedding In Cornwall and A Christmas In Cornwall. Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the celebrations of the publication of  A Manor In Cornwall, the fourth book in the series. Laura has kindly given me an excerpt of the novella, but first I’m pleased to share with you the blurb.

The Blurb

The fourth instalment in the bestselling, feel-good series!

Now that Julianne’s happy ending is secure, her career as Cliffs House’s event planner is suddenly busier than ever. Thanks to a Cornish singing sensation’s upcoming concert at Cliffs House, and her promise to plan the perfect wedding for Pippa, Julianne hasn’t a moment to spare for Matthew or his plans for a weekend outing at Pencarrow. But she’s determined to find a way without letting down Ceffylgwyn for its big moment, or disappointing Pippa on the biggest day of her friend’s life.

With a star-struck crew of volunteers, a persistent American event planner, and a seemingly ill-chosen assistant in the form of the village’s former troublemaker, Julianne has her hands full, as usual. And it will take all of her friends, a few surprise twists, and—of course—her beloved Matthew to see her through it.

Excerpt

The next morning, the winnowed pool of part-time manor workers waited for their assignments. I had a checklist with names divided into two groups, one for Geoff and Lady Amanda and one for Pippa.

“As I read off the names in the first group, you’ll be joining Geoff for stage construction,” I said. “The rest of you will assist Pippa with moving the furniture into storage.” I checked the name sheet once more. “Kitty — you’ll be helping me for this afternoon.”

Several pairs of eyes latched onto the dark-haired girl when I said this last name. Several more people were whispering. After a short pause, the girl began moving in my direction.

“What are you thinking?” hissed Gemma. “That’s Kitty Alderson, for heaven’s sake!”

“What?” I asked.

“She’s a troublemaker,” whispered Pippa. “Don’t you know she’s —” But that was as far as she got before she hushed herself.

Kitty stopped in front of me. She was slightly shorter than I was, but that was because my high heels and her battered red sneakers placed us at different eye levels. Her dark hair was almost black and rather untamed, while freckles were visible on her fair skin, across the cheekbones just beneath her greenish-blue eyes.

“Follow me,” I said. And I led the way to my office, aware that Pippa and Gemma were both watching with disapproval.

“Basically, this is a simple job,” I said. “I want the piles of paperwork on my desk sorted into separate stacks of bills, sketches, and receipts. Any file folders go in the cabinet by the big antique globe, in alphabetical order. And if I need an errand run, you’ll pop out and do it for me so I don’t have to leave while they’re working downstairs. Does that sound manageable?”

Kitty stood in the middle of the room, her hands stuck deep in the pockets of her old canvas coat. Underneath it, she wore a red hooded jacket and a pair of jeans cuffed at the bottom because they were too long. The only time she took her hands out was to lightly touch the globe, her fingers giving it a deft spin on its axis.

“All right,” she answered. She shrugged her shoulders. There was a decided lack of interest or enthusiasm in her voice, and a decided coolness — it was the audible expression of a poker face, almost.

Author Bio

Laura Briggs is the author of several women’s fiction and chick lit novels, with themes that range from wedding planning to modern Jane Austen. Even though she tends to write stories with a romance theme, as a reader she has a soft spot for mysteries, including those by Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart. She also enjoys books by Jane Austen, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, and too many others to name. In her free time, she likes to experiment with new recipes and tries to landscape her yard (a never-ending project).

Author Website: http://paperdollwrites.blogspot.com/
Twitter Account: http://bit.ly/1ME9ivJ
Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/1JjeMoI
Official Series Page for A Wedding in Cornwall: http://weddingincornwall.blogspot.com/

Wishing a huge happy book birthday to Laura and I hope you enjoyed reading the excerpt.

 

Promo – Jungle Rock by Caroline James *Extract, Review and Giveaway!*

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I’m absolutely delighted today to join Brooke Cottage Blog Tours on their promo day for Jungle Rock, the new novella by Caroline James, and bring you an extract, review AND an amazing giveaway in which you can win an ecopy of the book and a £10 Amazon gift card!!!

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The Blurb

Genre: Romcom
Release Date: 21st Nov 2016
Publisher: Ramjam Publishing
Romantic comedy author, Caroline James has written an entertaining novella with a Christmas feel Set in the Australian jungle, the book has been described as ‘entertaining and funny, a real feel-good read’ and fans of, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me out of Here are sure to enjoy it.

Handsome young chef, Zach Docherty is feeling the heat. Following an exposé in a national newspaper his fiancée Poppy Dunlop, has broken their engagement. Heartbroken at the thought of life without Poppy, Zach drowns his sorrows and when his agent suggests that Zach becomes a contestant in a reality TV show, Jungle Survival, he reluctantly agrees. Plunged deep into the jungle, with a bizarre mix of talent and trials, Zach meets glamour model, Cleo Petra, and the cameras go crazy. Will Zach survive and be crowned Jungle King? Or will his latest exploits push Poppy further away…

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Extract

“He’s doing what?” Hattie said. She had a mouthful of shortbread and a mug of coffee in her hand and stopped in her tracks as she watched Jo stare at her mobile phone.
“Zach’s going into the jungle. He’s a contestant on Jungle Survival.”
“Oh my.” Hattie smiled and wiped a spray of crumbs off her chest.
“He’s at the airport with Bob; they’re about to board a plane.”
“Well I never.” Hattie put her mug on the desk and stared at her friend. “How do you feel about that?”
“Astonished.”
“It might do him good.”
“Or not.”
“Fancy a bracer?”
“Start pouring.”
Cradling mugs of coffee, laced with a good slug of brandy, Jo and Hattie sat in the conservatory and looked out at the garden beyond.
“It doesn’t seem five minutes since he was a little boy running all over this lawn with his brother,” Jo said as she stared thoughtfully across the neatly manicured grass.
“And now he’s running off to Australia.”
In the distance, a group of guests appeared from the meadow, where a clairvoyance course was being run in an old gypsy caravan. Originally horse-drawn, the caravan had been John’s pride and joy, brightly painted with little wooden steps. It was a perfect setting for an intimate group. Boomerville hosted many courses for residents to enjoy and it was Jo’s hope that a stay at the hotel would inspire middle-aged boomers and set them up with new and inspiring skills to use in their later years.
“Another successful event,” Hattie said as she watched the beatific expressions of the participants as they drifted down the garden, confident that the spirits of their dead granny and Rover, the family pet, were beside them, whispering and woofing encouraging words from beyond.
“I wish I could see into Zach’s future,” Jo replied. “I hope he’s not making a terrible mistake.”
“Well, if he is, he’s picked the right place to make it. That show’s watched by millions. Perhaps we should run something similar here?” Hattie closed her eyes and began to plan out a jungle camp, set in the meadow. “The old ‘uns would love it! Prancing about like Bear Grylls, cooking over an open fire, sleeping under the stars. It has ‘winner’ all over it.”
“It has mass suicide all over it,” Jo replied. “Hyperthermia and food poisoning.”
“Think of the low overheads. We could bring Wonder Boy in to teach them how to skin a rabbit or two, a bit of camp-fire bonhomie and all that stuff.”
“Hattie, will you please be serious. My son is currently on his way to the other side of the world, where he’ll be exposed to any amount of danger; he’s emotionally vulnerable and I’m worried about him.”
Hattie sat up and opened her eyes.
“Oh, get a grip,” she said. “Can you imagine what he’s getting paid for this stint? How can he possibly go wrong? They’ll have him stripped down to his six-pack before the opening credits have run. He won’t even need to open his mouth and the phone lines will be pulsating as fast as every female viewer’s heart. Your Zach has made his finest career move yet.” Hattie reached for Jo’s empty mug. “Get that grumpy expression off yer face and let’s send him good luck wishes for his arrival in Aus.” She stood and glanced at the group in the garden. “Perhaps we can get that lot to send him a mystical sign…”
As Jo watched Hattie walk away, she felt cross. She knew that Hattie was probably right but Jo had a niggling feeling that Zach’s trip wasn’t going to run as smoothly or as successfully as everyone expected. A mother had an instinct about her offspring, but in this case, Jo hoped that her instincts would be proved wrong.

Jungle Rock is available as an ebook and paperback.  You can purchase a copy HERE.

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My Thoughts

Jungle Rock is a welcome return to Westmarland and the lives of Hattie and Jo, their family and friends. Although part of the Coffee, Tea… series, Jungle Rock can be read as a standalone.

Caroline has packed a lot into this novella and it makes for a fun quick read with just a touch of Christmas to get you in the festive spirit. Zach the celebrity chef is taking part in the reality show Jungle Survival while coming to terms with the recent break up with his fiancée. Fans of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here will enjoy this book but it also works well for those who don’t watch it (like me). We also get the first glimpse into how Jo and Hattie’s new venture ’Boomerville’ is going.

Well written with Caroline’s trade mark humour, Jungle Rock is the perfect read if you are in need of a good giggle. Hattie is hilarious and you can’t help but love this larger-than-life, outgoing character. The friendship between Jo and Hattie is portrayed wonderfully and comes across with a real warmth.

There is the right mix of ’will-they-won’t-they’ romance as the story follows Zach and his ex Poppy with added comedy from Jo and Hattie at Boomerville making this a great light read. Caroline’s writing is great with her creating a real sense of place and ensuring the story moves a long at a quick pace keeping you reading to find out what will happen next.

Fast paced, light-hearted, funny and not overly festive, Jungle Rock is a book to read curled up with a cuppa to escape from all the stress of the Christmas period.

Thank you to Caroline James for the copy of Jungle Rock.

AUTHOR CAROLINE JAMES (PROFESSIONAL PROMO SHOTS 14.08.2015)

About Caroline James

Caroline’s debut novel, Coffee Tea The Gypsy & Me shot to #3 on Amazon and was E-book of the Week in The Sun newspaper. Her second novel, So, You Think You’re A Celebrity… Chef? has been described as wickedly funny: ‘AbFab meets MasterChef in a Soap…’ Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me, an Amazon best-seller, was a Top Ten Finalist at The Write Stuff, London Book Fair 2015 and the judge’s comments included: Caroline is a natural story-teller with a gift for humour in her writing.” Her next novel, Boomerville will be published spring 2017.

Caroline has owned and run many catering related businesses and cookery is a passion alongside her writing, combining the two with her love of the hospitality industry and romantic fiction. As a media agent, Caroline represented many well-known celebrity chefs and her TV script, So, You Think You’re A Celebrity Chef? was runner up at the Winchester Writers Festival 2016.

She has published short stories and is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association. Caroline writes articles on food and celebrity based interviews and is Feature Editor for an online lifestyle magazine. She is a founder member of The Cheshirati and is available for inspiring and entertaining talks on anything related to the hospitality and publishing industry.

www.carolinejamesauthor.co.uk

Twitter: @CarolineJames12

https://www.facebook.com/carolinejamesauthor

Giveaway

To win an ecopy of Jungle Rock AND a £10 Amazon gift card click HERE.

Extract – Melody Bittersweet and the Girl’s Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French

I am very excited to be able to share with you an excerpt of the fabulously funny Melody Bittersweet and the Girl’s Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French.  Out on Thursday 14th July 2016, you can pre-order your copy now .

To read my review click here.

So grab yourself a cuppa (and possibly a cake!), sit back and enjoy!!!

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Chapter One

‘So, what do you do with your spare time, Melody?’
I look my date square in his pretty brown eyes and lie to him. ‘Oh, you know. The usual.’ I shrug to convey how incredibly normal I am. ‘I read a lot . . . Go to the movies. That kind of thing.’
I watch Lenny digest my words, and breathe a sigh of relief when his eyes brighten.
‘Which genre?’
‘Movies or books?’ I ask, stalling for time because, in truth, I don’t get much in the way of spare time to do either.
‘Movies. Action or romance? No, let me guess.’ He narrows his eyes and studies me intently. ‘You look like a sucker for a rom-com.’
‘Do I?’ I’m genuinely surprised. I’m five foot three and look more like Wednesday Addams than a Disney princess. Maybe Wednesday Addams is over-egging it, but you get the idea; I’m brunette and my dress sense errs on the side of edgy. I don’t think anyone has ever looked at me and thought whimsy. Maybe Lenny sees something everyone else has missed, me included. I quite like that idea, mainly because everyone who knows my family has a head full of preconceptions about me, based on the fact that my family are all crackers.
‘Four Weddings?’ He shrugs hopefully.
I nod, not mentioning that the only part of that particular movie I enjoyed was the funeral.
‘The Holiday?’
Again, I try to look interested and hold my tongue, because I’m sure he doesn’t want to hear that I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than ever watch an over-optimistic Kate Winslet drag some old guy around a swimming pool again.
I’m relieved when the bill arrives and we can get out of there, because so far Lenny has turned out to be a pretty stellar guy and somehow I’ve managed to convince him that I walk on the right side of the tracks. Maybe this time, things will be different.
Lenny pulls his dull, salesman’s saloon into the cobbled cartway beside my building and kills the engine. I don’t mind dull. In fact, my life could really use a bit of dull right now, so I shoot him my most seductive smile, cross my fingers that my mother will be in bed, and invite him in for coffee.
Oh, just when it had all been going so well. Why couldn’t I have just given him a goodnight kiss, with maybe the smallest hint of tongue as a promise, then sent him on his way? He’d have called for a second date, I’m sure of it.
But no. I got greedy, pulled him by the hand through the dark back door, placing my finger against my lips to signal he should be quiet as we tip-toed past my mother’s apartment and up the old wooden staircase to my place.
He rests his hand on my waist as I turn the key, and a small thrill shoots down my back. Look at me, winning at this being-an-adult thing today! Dinner with an attractive man, sparkling conversation, and now back to mine for coffee . . . and maybe even a little fooling around. It’s not that I’m a virgin or anything, but it would be fair to call my love life patchy of late. By ‘of late’ I mean the last two years, ever since Leo Dark and I called things off. Well, by Leo and I, I mean Leo called things off, citing conflict of interests. Ha. Given that he was referring to the fact that my mad-as-a-bag-of-cats family are the only other psychics in town besides him, he was, at least in part, right.
But enough of Leo and my lamentable love life. Right now, all I want is for Lenny not to know anything at all about my peculiar family, to keep seeing me as a cool, regular, completely normal girl, and then to kiss me.
‘You remind me of Clara Oswald,’ Lenny whispers behind me at the top of the stairs. ‘All big brown eyes and clever one-liners. It’s very sexy.’
Lord, I think he’s just brushed a kiss against the back of my neck! My door sticks sometimes so I shoulder it open, aiming for firm and graceful but, I fear, ending up looking more like a burly police SWAT guy ramming it down. Thankfully, Lenny seems to take it in his stride and follows me into my apartment. Then I flick on the table lamp only to discover that my mother is standing on my coffee table in a too-short, too-sheer, baby-blue negligee with her arms raised towards the ceiling and her head thrown back.
‘Shit!’ Lenny swears down my ear, clearly startled. He isn’t to blame. My mother’s a striking woman, ballerina-tall and slender with silver hair that falls in waves well beyond her shoulder blades. It isn’t grey. It’s been pure silver since the day she was born, and right now she looks as if she’s just been freshly crucified on my coffee table.
I sigh as I drop my bag down by the lamp. So much for me being normal.
‘Err, mother?’
Slowly, she takes several heaving breaths and opens her eyes, changing from crazy lady to almost normal human lady. She stares at us.
‘For God’s sake, Melody,’ she grumbles, taking her hands from above her head and planting them on her hips. ‘I almost had the connection then. He’s hiding out in the loft, I’m sure of it.’
I risk a glance over my shoulder at Lenny, who sure isn’t kissing my neck anymore.
He lifts his eyebrows at me, a silent ‘what the hell?’ and then looks away when my mother beckons to him like a siren luring a fisherman onto the rocks.
‘Your hand, please, young man.’
‘No!’ I almost yell, but Lenny is already across the room with his hand out to help her down. My mother eyes me slyly as she steps from the table, keeping a firm hold of Lenny’s hand.
‘Long lifeline,’ she murmurs, tracing her red talon across Lenny’s palm.
‘Mother,’ I warn, but my somber, cautionary tone falls on her selectively deaf ears. I expected nothing else, because she’s pulled this trick before. Admittedly, the standing-on-the-table thing is a new twist, but she’s got form in scoping out my prospective boyfriends to make sure they’ll fit in with our screwball family from the outset. Not that her romantic gauge is something to put any stock in; Leo passed her tests with flying colours and look how that ended up. I got my heart broken and he got a spot on morning TV as the resident psychic. Where’s the justice in that?
Look, we may as well get the clanky old skeleton out of the family closet early on here, people. It’s going to come out sooner or later, and despite my attempts to pull the wool over Lenny’s eyes, there’s never any running away from this thing for long.
My name’s Melody Bittersweet, and I see dead people.
It’s not only me. I’m just the latest in a long line of Bittersweets to have the gift, or the curse, depending on how you look at it. My family has long since celebrated our weirdness; hence the well-established presence of our family business, Blithe Spirits, on Chapelwick High Street. We’ve likely been here longer than the actual chapel at the far end of the street. That’s probably why, by and large, we’re accepted by the residents of the town, in a ‘they’re a bunch of eccentrics, but they’re our bunch of eccentrics,’ kind of way. What began as a tiny, mullion-windowed, one-room shop has spread out along the entire row over the last two hundred years; we now own a run of three terraced properties haphazardly knocked into one, big, rambling place that is both business and home to not only me, but also to my mother, Silvana, and her mother, Dicey. Gran’s name isn’t actually Dicey, it’s Paradise, officially, but she’s gone by Dicey ever since she met my Grandpa Duke on her fifteenth birthday and he wrote Dicey and Duke inside a chalk heart on the back wall of the building. He may as well have written it on her own racing heart.
‘Silvana!’
Speak of the devil. Does no one go to bed around here?
I open my door to find Gran on the threshold with her hand raised, poised to knock. I guess I should be glad she’s slightly more respectably dressed, if a floor-length, purple shot-silk kimono, bearing huge technicolor dragons could be considered as such. Her usually pin-curled gold hair is piled elegantly on her head and she wears a slash of fire-engine-scarlet lipstick for good measure. Most people couldn’t carry the look off, but thanks to her poise, confidence and couldn’t-care-less attitude, Grandma Dicey wears it with artful success. She glides past me without invitation and gazes at my mother and Lenny, who are still hand-in-hand on the rug.
God.
First thing tomorrow morning, I swear, I’m going to look for a new place to live, somewhere, anywhere, that is not in the same building as my mother and my gran. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a charming old place and I love my family dearly. It’s not even as if I don’t have my own space here, because, theoretically at least, I do. Mum and Gran have the ground floor apartment behind Blithe Spirits, and I have the smaller flat upstairs, at the back. In lots of ways this makes me fortunate; I get to have a nice little home of my own and stay close to my family. It would all be fine and dandy, were it not for the fact that my family are officially bonkers and liable to come up and let themselves into my flat – using the spare key I gave them for dire emergencies only – and embarrass the shit out if me.
‘Why is Silvana entertaining a man half her age in your flat?’ Gran looks from me to my mother. ‘You should have said you were expecting company, darling. I’d have gone out.’ She touches her hand lightly against her hair. ‘Put a towel on the doorknob or something, isn’t that the modern way to signal these things? Don’t come a knockin’ if the caravan’s rockin’?’
She looks spectacularly pleased with herself, and one glance at Lenny tells me that he knows he’s way out of his depth with these two and is in the process of writing me off as the worst date he’s ever had. His eyes slide from me to the door, and I can almost hear him begging me to let him go unharmed.
‘He’s not mum’s date, he’s mine. Or else, he was,’ I mutter, and then I’m distracted as a beer-bellied pensioner in a soup-stained shirt slowly materialises through the ceiling, his flannel trousers not quite meeting his bony ankles. Stay with me; I see dead people, remember? As do my mother and my grandmother, who also watch him descend with matching expressions of distaste.
‘Finally,’ my mother spits, dropping Lenny’s hand so she can round on the new arrival. ‘Two hours I’ve been chasing you around this bloody building. Your wife wants to know what you’ve done with the housekeeping she’d hidden in the green teapot. She says you better not have lost it on the horses or she’s had it with you.’
Grandma Dicey rolls her eyes. ‘I rather think she’s had it with him anyway. He’s been dead for six weeks.’
‘You’re a fine one to talk, given that you still sleep with your husband twenty years after he died.’ Mother flicks her silver hair sharply. Touché.
Lenny whimpers and bolts for my front door, turning back to me just long enough to splutter ‘something’s come up, gotta go,’ before he hoofs it out and down the stairs two at a time.
I listen to the outside door bang on its hinges and wonder what came up. Probably his dinner.