#BlogTour! #Extract – The Last Laugh by Tracy Bloom (@TracyBBloom) @Bookouture

The Last Laugh Blog Tour

Happy publication day to Tracy Bloom and ‘The Last Laugh’. Thank you to Bookouture for the blog tour invite. Here is an extract from Tracy’s new book, alongside the all important ‘to buy’ link should you want it!

The-Last-Laugh-Kindle
Jenny discovers her days are numbered at the same time she discovers her husband is having an affair… 

Frankly, her life was tough enough already. Two tricky teenagers, her mother’s constant complaints, friends who aren’t up to the job and a career which has been spiralling downwards since she won ‘Sunseeker Tour Rep of the Season’ twenty years ago. 

And now this: a cheating husband and a death sentence.

Enough is enough. Jenny vows to keep both catastrophes a secret. She takes her life – and death – into her own hands and decides to live as she did when she was happiest… in 1996. She plans a spectacular 1990s themed party in place of a wake that she herself will attend. But will she be able to keep her secrets for long enough to have the party of a lifetime?

Buy now from Amazon

Extract.

Prologue

25th June 1996

Bataria Beach, Kassiopi, Corfu

Somehow our bodies move as one, bouncing up and down to the beat, singing our hearts out, beer sloshing out of stubby bottles, broken plastic glasses crackling under our feet, air guitar solos occasionally breaking away momentarily before being brought back in the fold by hugs and kisses and the joy of feeling as one under the glorious champagne supernova that is the sky. There’s me in the middle of it, high on someone’s shoulders, long sun-kissed hair cascading down my back, smiling inanely down at Mark’s face bobbing up and down below me.

I’m so high.

Not because I couldn’t have dreamed of a better way to spend my twenty-fifth birthday, not even because of the quantity of tequila slammers I’ve inhaled.

I’m just high on life.

At least I managed it once.

Chapter One

Twenty years later… 

‘Table for three?’ asks the waitress, standing guard next to a cardboard cactus at the entrance to the restaurant.

‘No, four.’ I turn around. ‘Where’s Ellie?’ I ask Mark.

‘You really wanted to come here?’ he replies with a look so disdainful I whisk my head back round towards the waitress, ready to apologise for my husband’s rudeness, but she’s busy handing George a colouring-in menu and a pot of crayons.

‘He’s a very short fifteen!’ I say, thrusting my hand out to intercept the handover. It’s not George’s fault he’s still waiting for a growth spurt, but it might help if he didn’t hide his face in the depths of a hoody if he wants to avoid being mistaken for someone in need of artistic distraction during a meal. I am too eager in my protectiveness, however, and send the pot of crayons flying out of the idiotic waitress’ hands and all over the blue and white mosaic tiled floor.

George grunts.

Mark tuts.

The waitress gasps.

No one helps as I bend down to pick up the broken colouring sticks.

‘What’s Mum doing on the floor?’ I hear Ellie say as she emerges from whatever cover she was using to avoid being seen dead with her family.

‘She knocked the crayons out of her hand,’ I hear Mark reply with a sigh.

I can see the yellow one has rolled next to his foot ready to cause a potentially serious incident. I leave it there.

‘Sorry about that,’ I say, standing up and handing over a pile of broken coloured wax into the hand of the waitress. ‘He’s just a bit short,’ I add, pulling George’s hood off his head to reveal the back of his neck, which is bright pink.

‘Would you like to follow me?’ asks the waitress, grabbing four enormous menus as she escapes down the length of the restaurant towards the back.

I chase after her to ask if we could actually sit near the front. I need to be able to see the cactus fairy lights, you see. And I want to be near the bar where it’s livelier. Where I can sit and watch other people enjoying themselves even if I’m not.

‘We’re not actually serving food in that area,’ she replies as she carefully lays the enormous menus on a table in a dark corner with no view of anything.

‘But I would like to sit there,’ I say defiantly, looking round to see if there is any vague chance Mark will step in and back me up. Mark, Ellie and George have not even registered that I have moved, all engrossed in their phones or, in George’s case, his own mortification.

The waitress looks at me and puts her hands on her hips. Yes, her hips.

‘We are only serving food in this section,’ she says.

I stare back at her. Part of me wants to give up now, go home and write the night off as a bad idea. But it’s my birthday. I want to at least attempt an enjoyable meal with my family before… well, before things may never be the same again. Before I break the news to Mark on the twentieth anniversary of us getting together that, well… there might be something wrong with me. Catastrophically wrong with me.

‘I want a table where I can see the cactus fairy lights,’ I tell her with what I hope is an air of authority.

‘Yeah.’ She shrugs.

I realise I am in a stand-off in the back of a Mexican restaurant.

‘You let us have a table at the front or we will leave,’ I demand. My voice wobbles slightly, which may have given her the upper hand. I hold my breath.

She looks at me and sighs – yes, sighs.

‘I’ll have to go and ask the manager if we can open up another section,’ she says, strutting off and leaving me standing on my own.

I quickly gather up the enormous menus and begin a fast walk back up to the front of the restaurant. I’m thinking that if we’re seated before the waitress gets back she won’t be able to do anything about it.

‘What is Mum doing?’ I hear Ellie ask for the second time that night.

In my haste to win the race I have not spotted that the other three members of my family have finally deigned to join me and are walking in the opposite direction down the next aisle.

‘We’re sitting at the front,’ I say, barely slowing up. ‘Quick, this way,’ I shout over my shoulder.

‘But someone might see us if we sit there,’ I hear Ellie cry.

By the time Mark, Ellie and George join me, I’ve bagged, in my opinion, the best seat in the house. Back to the wall, right at the front, facing the bar, I can see everything going on. That is, until we all pick up our menus, blocking all of the view and a big chunk of light.

‘Why on earth did you want to come here?’ grumbles Mark from somewhere behind two layers of laminated card. ‘We could have gone to Sebastian’s. I said I’d treat you all. You don’t even have to book to come here. I can’t remember the last time I went to a restaurant where you could just turn up. Can you imagine if you did that at Sebastian’s?’

I remember the last time I’d agreed to go to Sebastian’s with Mark. It was his firm’s Christmas do. The lack of food (overblown and insipid) and terrible company (men: overblown, women: insipid) had led to an overindulgence in champagne on my part. When I loudly whispered into Mark’s ear that the only way the night could be salvaged was by a visit to a karaoke bar he’d given me a horrified glare followed by a large glass of water.

‘Do not drink any more champagne,’ he’d angrily whispered. ‘This is not the time nor the place to get drunk.’

But it’s a Christmas party, I thought. If there is any time and place to get completely pissed, surely it’s now. I watched as Mark leaned forward over his vanilla and basil posset with a hint of lavender foam to ask the Chairman’s wife about her plans for the holiday season. I leant back, sulked and never said another word. No one noticed.

The atmosphere between us was somewhat frosty for several days afterwards until he announced we were at the point in our marriage where we should no longer bother with Christmas presents. I declared I’d already purchased his and so he begrudgingly agreed we should do it one last time. The next day I went out and bought him a karaoke machine. He bought me a SodaStream.

            The enormous menus effectively prevent any eye contact until a waiter, thankfully not the scowling one, appears to take our order. All that can be heard is Mark huffing at the thought of nachos being the peak of today’s culinary experience. We even place our orders from behind our temporary barriers. I hear Mark ask for a chicken burrito like he’s agreed to eat regurgitated frogs’ testicles. Ellie asks for a taco salad but without the tacos, and the only indication that George has successfully ordered is the lowering of the menu and a wordless jab of the finger at an item, followed by a tremor of panic when the waiter asks how he wants his steak to be cooked.

            ‘Do you want it medium rare?’ I ask George.

            ‘For goodness’ sake, Jenny,’ snaps Mark. ‘Make him ask for it, if that’s what he wants.’

            George doesn’t raise his eyes from the menu but I know he is wounded.

‘Medium rare, please,’ he whispers without looking at the waiter.

            Then suddenly our barriers are whipped from us and we are all caught like rabbits in the headlights from the glare of our nearest and dearest.

            ‘Drinks?’ the waiter asks chirpily. Clearly he’s already completed the course on how to smile at a customer – unlike his colleague.

            ‘I’ll have a lime and soda,’ answers Mark before any consultation can take place.

            ‘I’ll have a large Chardonnay,’ says Ellie.

            ‘You will not,’ cries Mark.

            ‘All right then, a small one,’ she replies.

I smirk.

            ‘It’s a school night and you are seventeen,’ says Mark, looking at me as though I made the request.

            ‘Perhaps we could share a bottle?’ I say.

            He doesn’t say anything, just shakes his head in wonder.

            ‘I mean, you and me could share and perhaps let them have a small bit,’ I say.

            Mark looks at the waiter.

            ‘These two will both have a Diet Coke,’ he says, waggling his finger at Ellie and George.

            ‘I’ll have a margarita,’ I jump in.

            ‘It’s only six o’clock, Jenny,’ warns Mark.

            ‘On the rocks or frozen?’ the waiter asks, looking right at me with a smile. I like him.

            ‘Definitely on the rocks,’ I reply, grinning back. ‘It’s a special occasion.’

            I watch him cast his eyes around our party. Ellie has her elbows on the table, phone held at eye level, the screen illuminating her face as she taps away furiously. George has his head staring down in his lap, the air of concentration giving away the fact he has also turned to his phone for company. Mark is stroking his own phone, which is on the table in front of him, as though to reassure it of his constant presence.

            ‘And what is the occasion?’ the waiter asks, struggling to keep hold of the slippery menus clamped under his arm.

            ‘It’s my birthday.’ I swallow. We share a look. I could burst into tears but I hold them back. I stupidly bought cheap mascara that doesn’t mix well with tears, and I can’t cry yet.

            My gaze goes to the cactus fairy lights above the bar. I love them. They are so stupid and pointless but so bloody happy. How can you not smile at the sight of cactus fairy lights? There’s a couple sitting on high stools sipping fluorescent pink cocktails. Clearly not married. He’s trying really hard to entertain her and she’s trying really hard to be entertained. They are all smiles, hair flicks, body part touching and eye contact. Maybe it’s the promise of potential sex that is the only reason why people make eye contact these days, I think as I pull my eyes back to my fellow celebrators. Or to deliver bad news. I shudder.

I wonder how Mark will look at me when I tell him later that I’ve been prodded and poked to investigate my defects. What will he say when I tell him I need him to come and hold my hand when they deliver the verdict on what they have found? That it could be bad, really bad. They might say the C-word. How will my husband look at me then, I wonder.

            Mark gets up out of his bright green chair and wanders off, murmuring into his phone. George and Ellie… well, you can guess what they are doing.

            The drinks arrive. The margarita looks magnificent. I thank the waiter as he places it in front of me, then thank him individually for everyone else’s drink as they fail to acknowledge their arrival.

Mark takes his seat again and puts his phone face down on the table. It buzzes immediately, its glowing underside making it look like a mini rectangular UFO. Thankfully he ignores it and gulps down half his lime and soda. George and Ellie sip on their Cokes without tearing their eyes away from their screens. Mark picks his phone up again.

I sigh and lift my glass to my lips and mutter,  ‘Happy birthday, Jenny.’


About the author.

Tracy started writing when her cruel, heartless husband ripped her away from her dream job shopping for rollercoasters for the UK’s leading theme parks, to live in America with a brand new baby and no mates. In a cunning plan to avoid domestic duties and people who didn’t understand her Derbyshire accent, she wrote her romantic comedy, NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY. This debut novel went on to be successfully published internationally and became a #1 Best Seller.

You can follow Tracy on Twitter at @TracyBBloom, like her Facebook page on www.facebook.com/tracybloomwrites or get in touch via her website at www.tracybloom.com

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#BlogTour! #Extract from ‘Hotel on Shadow Lake’ by Daniela Tully @legend_press

TWG is delighted to share an extract from ‘Hotel on Shadow Lake’ by Daniela Tully as part of the blog tour organised by Legend Press.

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When Maya was a girl, her grandmother
was everything to her: teller of magical fairy
tales, surrogate mother, best friend. Then her
grandmother disappeared without a trace, leaving
Maya with only questions to fill the void.
Twenty-seven years later, her grandmother’s body is
found in a place she had no connection to. Desperate
for answers, Maya begins to unravel secrets that go back
decades, from 1910s New York to 1930s Germany and
beyond.

But when she begins to find herself spinning her own lies
in order to uncover what happened, she must decide
whether her life, and a chance at love, are worth risking
for the truth.

Buy now from Amazon UK

Extract.

Martha
1990

Martha Wiesberg was a woman of strict routine: Sunday,
church; Monday, lunch with her neighbor; Tuesday, book
club; Wednesday, laundry press; Thursday, aerobics—all at
exactly the same time each week. Even a slight deviation was
destructive to people like Martha. She needed routine like air
to breathe. Only those who knew her very well—and they
were far and few—knew why: it was her way of numbing her
mind, of silencing the past and calming the voices that would
remind her that life could have been so different, if only…
It was four thirty in the afternoon. The sunlight was fading
slowly, the way it does when the cold of early autumn starts to
creep in. Martha had just fixed herself her daily afternoon cup
of coffee (decaf), sat down with her daily crossword puzzle,
and put on the television to watch her daily show. But her show
wasn’t on. Instead, a special program in honor of Germany’s
recently created Tag der Deutschen Einheit, “German Unity
Day,” was airing. Martha immediately switched off the TV.
The silence in the room engulfed her like a dark blanket,
allowing the voices in her head to become louder. This time
it wasn’t simply the interruption of routine that got to her;
it was the most recent milestone in Germany’s history: the
reunification. Most of the population seemed happy about
it, chatting about it in interviews on the TV, about what had
caused the separation in the first place: the war, a dark chapter.

For her part, Martha had moved on, or so she liked to think. But
of course, there were the memories. Her mind was just about
to dive deeper into that muddy lake of painful remembrances
when the doorbell rang and jolted her from her thoughts.
Martha opened the door and stared into the face of her
postman, who had been delivering the mail to her for over ten
years. The setting sun was breaking through the heavy clouds
one last time, providing a backlight that gave him an almost
ethereal appearance.
“Grüß Gott, Frau Wiesberg,” he said with a nervous smile.
Martha had never liked that salutation. Greet God? Okay!
She sang to herself, I will when I see him! She had always felt
a bit out of place in Munich. She was a Zugereiste, after all,
an “outsider” not born there.
“This is for you,” the postman said with outstretched arms.
Martha had never been too fond of him, partly because she
suspected that he was reading her mail, as letters would often
arrive torn open on the side. His curiosity, too, had become a
staple in her diet of routine.
Martha took the letter, wondering why the man had
bothered to ring the doorbell rather than simply leave the
letter in her mailbox. She was about to close the door when
he gently tugged her back.
“Yes?”
“Well, in the name of the German Federal Postal Services,
we would like to apologize very much for the delay.”
Confused, Martha studied the envelope, which had been—
or appeared to have been—ripped open by the transport, the
letter sticking out one side. Adolf’s face in the upper right
corner looked out at her sternly. She brought the envelope
closer to her eyes. The postmark read December 27, 1944.
“Are you joking?” she asked, and looked up at him.
“No, Frau Wiesberg, believe me, you are not the only one.
There are a couple of others who have also been affected.”
She gazed down again at the envelope, chills running up
her arms. “Affected by what?”

“The wall?” he said, surprised. “This letter was held up,
and,” he started to explain, “now that the wall has come
down, it finally found its way to you.”
Martha was still staring at the letter when it slowly began
to dawn on her.
“The German Post will of course not charge you any
delivery fee.” He giggled, and Martha glared at him.
“I mean the German Post stopped charging so little postage
a long time ago,” he went on.
“I understood that the first time. I just don’t find it at all
funny,” she told him.
The grin on his face died suddenly, and he shuffled his
feet nervously. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Martha asked impatiently.
“No, no. Have a great day.”
He was about to turn around when Martha heard him
mumble something else.
“What now?” she barked.
“Who is Wolfgang Wiesberg?” Martha slammed the door.
Leaning against the inside of the door, she shut her eyes.
She felt like a huge wave was breaking over her. Memories
were flowing back into her mind, making her dizzy.
She stared at the handwriting on the envelope. Wolfgang
Wiesberg. Her twin brother. How she had suffered when she
and Mother had been informed of his death, when the war
had ended. Yet she and Wolfgang hadn’t been close at the
end. In fact, she had probably wished his death at some point.
What was there to say, forty-six years later? Whatever was
in that letter couldn’t turn back time, couldn’t bring back the
love that life had held in store for her only to have cruelly
snatched it away.
I don’t want to remember, I don’t want to remember, I don’t
want to remember, she told herself over and over again, like
a mantra. Martha started to tremble uncontrollably. She had
always known that the secrets were only sleeping. Now they
had finally woken up and come back to haunt her.

 

#BlogTour! #Extract – A Year at Meadowbrook Manor by @FaithBleasdale @AvonBooksUK

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It’s TWG’s turn to host Faith Bleasdale and ‘A Year at Meadowbrook Manor’ today! Unfortunately I didn’t quite have time to read the book to review for my stop today (but do watch this space!)! However, I am delighted to share an extract from Faith Bleasdale’s book! Hope you enjoy!

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One divided family, one life-changing year…

Harriet Singer hasn’t been home in ten years. When her beloved dad dies suddenly, she races to be there for her estranged siblings, despite the memories it brings back.

Then Harriet learns that all four Singer siblings must live together for one year, caring for their dad’s Animal Sanctuary, or forfeit their inheritance.

Living under the same roof could make or break the family, but it’s time Harriet stopped running and faced her past. Especially when her first love turns up…

Extract.
Extract 3 – Chapter 14, 162-163

Harriet studied her youngest brother. They were all aware, since moving back to Meadowbrook, how much Freddie was drinking but normally only in the evening. Yes, she had caught him passed out by the swimming pool that one time, but he was Freddie. The partying, fun one of the family. And although she thought, privately, that he drank too much, she had put it down to his business falling apart and losing Dad. After all she had been through, she wanted to drink herself into a stupor most nights, so she could hardly blame him. But he clearly was using drink as a crutch and something would need to be done about it if he continued this way.
‘Why? Why would you do that?’ Pippa asked, she still sounded annoyed, in the sweetest way. 
‘Things are getting a bit on top of me, to be totally honest. Moving here, losing Dad, feeling lost, and then Loretta . . . She wants me to settle down a bit and when she says that it freaks me out.’
‘But why?’
‘I don’t know, I can’t explain it, I just feel out of my depth. But, I promise I’ll drink less, and I’ll apologise to the fête committee. I’ll do everything properly but don’t try to make me make sense of it because I can’t.’ Freddie put his head in his hands and his body shuddered; he was crying. Harriet couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen him upset, even at the funeral he’d been cracking jokes.
‘Oh, Fred, I’m sorry.’ She sat next to him and put her arms around him.
‘I miss Dad. He always knew what to do and I never listened to him, but if he was here now, I would.’
Tears filled Gwen’s eyes, they streamed down Pippa’s cheeks, Harriet felt emotions choking her. It was all such a mess still. And they were all grieving, sometimes she forgot they were in the grip of grief, but then there were the ugly reminders.
‘It’ll be OK,’ Harriet said, and she fervently hoped it would be.

Buy now from Amazon UK

#BlogTour! #Review & #Extract – Games with the Dead by James Nally (@JimNally) @AvonBooksUK

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I am so excited to be able to share my review of James Nally’s ‘Games with the Dead’, with you all today!! Big thanks to AvonBooksUK for the blog tour invite, as well as a copy of the book. The blog tour bus stops with me, TWG, today as I not only share my review with you, but an extract of the book as well! I hope you are as excited as I am!

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Irish runaway. Insomniac. Functioning alcoholic.

Life is about to get complicated for DC Donal Lynch.

 When a young woman is kidnapped, Donal is brought in to deliver the ransom money. But the tightly-planned drop off goes wrong, Julie Draper is discovered dead, and Donal finds his job on the line – a scapegoat for the officers in charge.

But when Donal is delivered a cryptic message in the night, he learns that Julie was killed long before the botched rescue mission. As he digs further into the murder in a bid to clear his own name, dark revelations make one thing certain: the police are chasing the wrong man, and the killer has far more blood on his hands than they could even imagine.

What does TWG think?

Oh my goodness me, where has this author been hiding!! I am SO annoyed that it has taken me long to get stuck into James Nally’s ‘PC Donal Lynch’ thriller! That said, I realised whilst reading this book that there have been two other books in the series – HELLO BINGE READING!! I wasn’t even 60 pages through ‘Games with the Dead’ when I found myself online, buying the first book in the series! Seriously! I didn’t even put the book down to do that either – are you impressed?!

Just to clear up any concerns, whilst ‘Games with the Dead’ is the third book in the ‘PC Donal Lynch’ thrillers, I found it totally fine to be read as a standalone so do not panic if you haven’t read the other two books beforehand. However, if you’re anything like me, this book will hook you like fish before you’ve even had chance to make an imprint of your backside on the sofa.

At first I dislike PC Donal Lynch quite a bit. His arrogance rubbed me up the wrong way something chronic, and there were moments when I wanted to reach into the book, give him a good shake and go ‘GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR….’. But obviously, I didn’t. Clearly. I really did think his character would put me off reading anymore of the book but, weirdly enough, it actually did the opposite. Donal Lynch’s attitude seem to pull me further into the storyline because of my sheer curiosity. I wanted to know why Lynch was walking around with a stick up his….ahem, why he seemed to have an issue with the world, and why a brewery was his best friend. Despite Lynch’s shocking personal life, he seems to be exceptionally good at his job!

You are in for an absolute treat with this book. The storyline is incredibly complex and full of life (and death), it’s hard not to put yourself amongst the hustle and bustle, trying to work out the ifs, buts and whys of every scenario the storyline highlights.

‘Games with the Dead’ had me on the edge of my seat the entire way through – I absolutely flipping loved this book and I really cannot recommend this book enough. If you like fast paced, intense, complex and utterly chilling novels – James Nally might just be your ticket to an addictive new read. What a book!

‘Games with the Dead’ can be bought now in both e-book and paperback formats from Amazon UK.

Thanks Avon.

If you’re not convinced just yet, here is an extract from ‘Games with the Dead’. Enjoy!

Extract Six: Chapter 5, pp.40-41

My eyes are drawn to the far corner of the graveyard and a pair of all-business ravens.
They’re patrolling a candy-striped bundle under a creaking oak. As I get closer, I see it’s a
pink-and- white striped sheet trussed up with green cord. The sheet ends are tied together and stained dark. The rope winds about the package three times widthways and once lengthways.

‘Expertly wrapped,’ says Fintan.

‘Got anything sharp?’

‘Try these,’ he says, handing me the car keys.

I tear a strip in the sheet. The stench knocks us backwards. A black cloud of flies descends.

‘What is that?’ screams Ellen.

‘It’s Julie,’ I say, turning to her and, despite my best efforts, failing to suppress a smile. But what I’ve just smelled means I’m not responsible for her murder. ‘Looks like she’s been dead for at least twenty-four hours. Thank God,’ I sigh, shaking my head out of sheer relief.

Fintan leans in close: ‘I think we’d better make an anonymous call.’

We turn to see Ellen jabbing at her mobile phone.

‘No wait,’ I say, but she’s already spilling to a 999 operator.

I look at Fintan. ‘How the hell are we going to explain this?’

‘Games with the Dead’ can be bought now in both e-book and paperback formats from Amazon UK.

 

#BlogBlitz! #Extract from Jungle Rock by Caroline James @carolinejames12 @Rararesources

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Happy book birthday to Caroline James’ ‘Jungle Rock’! I am super excited to be helping Caroline James celebrate her book birthday with today’s blog blitz. Alongside an extract from ‘Jungle Rock’, I also have a giveaway for you all!

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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 in the jungle, into 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…

“If you’re looking for a highly entertaining story, look no further.” Linda’s Book Bag
“Another really good book from Caroline James.” Rachel’s Random Reads
“A fun romantic read – 5 stars!” My Chestnut Reading Tree
“Fans of ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ will love this book!” Nikki Ashton, best-selling romcom author

Purchase Link – http://mybook.to/JRF

Extract.

We join Jo and Hattie as they prepare to watch Zach’s arrival in the Jungle…

“Come on Jo, it’s started!”
Hattie had arranged a sofa in prime position in front of the large screen in Jo’s lounge and sat on the edge as she waited for Jungle Survival to begin. The opening credits had rolled and the presenter was gibbering on about the new series and the celebrities entering the jungle.
“Bleedin’ hell, she’s thin.” Hattie studied the screen. “What’s with the drop-crotch jeans?”
Hattie held her head to one side and studied Ava’s outfit. “She looks ridiculous.”
Jo dashed into the room and flung herself on the sofa. “Be quiet!” she said and sat forward.
“They’re about to announce a contestant.”
The camera switched to an aerial shot and a helicopter came into view. On board, another camera was fixed on the pale and terrified face of Zach, as he sat on the edge of the open- doorway and stared with horror at the view beneath.
“Oh, my gawd!” Hattie covered her face with her fingers. “He’ll die before he’s even got there!”
Jo had her eyes closed and she gripped Hattie’s arm. They listened to the shrill voice of Ava as she explained that Zach was attached to an experienced parachutist who wouldn’t begin their descent until Zach gave the word.
“Jump!” They all yelled, chorusing from Marland and mid-air. Jo and Hattie opened their eyes and watched with horror as Zach leapt from a chilling height.
“He hates heights,” Jo whispered as they watched Zach’s face fill with fear. “He wouldn’t even sit on a stool when he was little.”
As Zach fell at terrifying speed they held their breath. A remote camera attached to his helmet recorded his contorted expression and rapid descent. Suddenly a parachute opened and Zach seemed to bounce before slowing to a glide. His eyes were wide and tear-stained as he gazed around and, realising that he was safe, began to hoot with joy as they came to a gentle landing on the soft brown earth below.
“Did you enjoy that?” Ava asked as Zach scrambled to his feet and an instructor reached over to unhook Zach from his flying kit.
“I want to do it again!” Zach cried and he grabbed the host in a bear hug.
“Blimey,” Hattie said.
“Thank God.” Jo sank back into the sofa.
They watched Zach begin to make his way on foot into camp and, as the camera panned away and an advert break began, both let out a sigh.
“I need a stiff one.” Hattie stood and poured two large brandies. “We’ve got three weeks of this, I’m not sure I can stand the tension.”
“That’s if he makes it to the final.” Jo took a gulp of her drink.
“Oh he will,” Hattie said. “Old Wonder Boy will sail through the tasks and the public will love him.” She sat back on the sofa. “Just you wait and see.”

Giveaway!

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Giveaway – Win a £20 Amazon Voucher

Sign up to Caroline James’ mailing list to be entered into a draw to win a £20 Amazon voucher. Giveaway open internationally and closes 30 th November 2017. Winner will be announced by Caroline via email.

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Author Bio –

Caroline James has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality
industry – a subject that features in her novels. She is based in the UK and spends her time writing, climbing mountains and running a consultancy business. Caroline has a great fondness for the Caribbean and escapes to the islands whenever she can. She is a public speaker, reviewer and food writer and loves cooking and baking, especially cake. Her next novel, The Best Boomerville Hotel is coming soon…

Amazon: Caroline James Author
Twitter: @CarolineJames12
Facebook: Caroline James Author
Website: http://www.carolinejamesauthor.co.uk/

#BlogTour! #Extract – Only One Woman by @Jane_Risdon & Christina Jones (@bucolicsfrolics)

Apologies for my post being late in the day, however, I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for ‘Only One Woman’ by Jane Risdon and Catherine Jones. For my post today I have an extract to share with you.

9781783757329_FC
Two women, one love story.

June 1968. Renza falls head over heels for heartthrob guitarist Scott. But after a romantic summer together they are torn apart when Renza’s family moves away.

December 1968. On the night she believes to be her last, Stella meets Scott at a local dance. He’s the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and if this one night is all they have, she’ll take it.

As the final colourful year of the sixties dawns, the question is: can there be only one woman for Scott?

Pre-order now from Amazon UK

Extract.

Renza’s Diary
May 24 th 1968 – late

What a flipping nightmare of an evening. I really thought I’d never get home in one piece.

Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Someone up there hates me I’m sure.
If only Selina hadn’t lost her handbag at the Top Rank, I’d have caught the last bus back
from Reading and I would’ve been home on time. Instead I’d gone back with the others to look for it – thankfully it had been handed in at the cloakroom and nothing was missing.
Luckily I had just enough money for the train, which I’d had to run for. Selina’s dad took the others home in his brand new car as arranged, and there wasn’t room for me as well. I reckon he could’ve taken me but Yvette refused to let me sit on her lap in the front, in case I ripped her Mary Quant stockings. Sometimes I really want to do her a mischief.
They’ve got to do something about our local station, it’s just too creepy for words. Steam
from the train almost suffocated me as I crossed the bridge to the exit on the opposite
platform; all very ‘Brief Encounter’ I remember thinking, in an effort to stop my mind
wandering off into ‘Hitchcock-land.’ Talk about cough myself silly, and my eyes stung
something rotten as I tried to find my way in the pitch black; the two over-head lamps didn’t help much, they should do something about those flipping lights, I could’ve broken my neck, or even worse, tripped over in my new pink kitten heels and broken one of them.

I slowly took the steps down to the lane beside the station, glancing around me all the
while – I admit it, I was a little freaked out. It’s always deserted, and you can never be too
careful. Not long ago a dangerous prisoner escaped from the nearby asylum and hid in the waiting room for days before being recaptured. Hardly anyone uses the station since the cut- backs by that old idiot, Beeching, and the trains are a bit hit and miss since they messed with the timetable, so the convict was able to wait for his twisted ankle to mend without much danger of discovery. For all I knew, another Jack the Ripper could’ve be lurking in there waiting for me to pass, that’d just be my flaming luck.
I was in so much trouble. Forty minutes later than agreed. She’d never believe me about
the bag, but no other excuse came to mind as I walked down the lane. I was going to be so dead.

Oh God!

I had such a fright. Something or someone, made a noise behind me, so I stopped and
listened, but I really felt like running. Some sort of night creature, silly girl, I decided as I
walked on. But there it was again. Was someone behind me?
I turned and peered into the pitch dark – I’m still shaking as I write this. I told myself it
sounded like a hedgehog – had to be. Don’t panic, no-one comes down here at night I
reminded myself. Oh cripes, that lane, I hate it. Anyone could jump out to get you, seriously, I’ve often wondered, who’d hear you yell? No-one that’s who. There aren’t any lights or houses down there.
I must remember – next time the girls ask me to the Top Rank – to leave early and get the
bus on time. Next time, who am I kidding?
I’m going nuts – I hope no-one ever reads this, I’d die, but I started singing quietly to myself – I do that sometimes when I’m feeling a bit nervous – well seriously spooked actually. I turned on to the main road relieved no-one had grabbed me, and headed for our house.
That’s when I heard him…
‘What time do you think this is?’
Well, I nearly died of fright. I actually jumped. I couldn’t work out where the voice was
coming from. It seemed to echo all around me in the dimly lit street. Someone had followed me, that’s what I kept thinking. I hurried past the bus stop when I heard him again. What to do? Should I run? If I screamed, bringing Mum and half the village outside, Mrs Digby would just love that and if I got murdered, well, it didn’t bear thinking about. All this went through my brain at a rate of knots as I tried to work out where the voice was coming from. Would I make it to the gate? Bloody Selina and her stupid bag. I was going to die all because of her stupid bag.

Pre-order now from Amazon UK

The blog tour has only just begun so make sure you follow the blogs listed on the graphic below, if you wish to keep up to date with the tour.

oow blog tour

#BlogTour! #Extract from ‘Shadows’ by Paul Finch (@paulfinchauthor) @AvonBooksUK

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Thrilled to be taking part in Paul Finch’s blog tour today! I am delighted to be able to share with you an extract from his new novel; ‘Shadows’. Enjoy!

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[Extract 7 from Chapter 8, pp.66-67]

‘He attacks late at night, and not many people are likely to go out to a cashpoint late at night unless they feel relatively safe. These particular cashpoints, because they’re out in the open, will probably be deemed safer than most.’
‘So, if he hangs around these, there’s basically more chance he’ll get lucky,’ Blake said.
‘That’s my reading of it, ma’am, yes.’ Lucy’s finger roved further across the street map. ‘These points also benefit from having getaway routes everywhere. A side passage through to a pedestrianised shopping mall, from where there are half a dozen other points of egress. A subway . . . An overpass that leads to a housing estate. Plus, and this could be very important, they’re all in close proximity to free on-street parking.’
‘You think he’s mobile?’ Blake said.
Lucy shook her head. ‘I don’t know, ma’am. You dress up like a lunatic, pick someone at random, cut them down with a sword and just run off into the night, in most cases leaving them alive to shout for help. . . you’d normally be asking for trouble. I mean that wouldn’t just draw attention to the scene of the
crime, but to you and to whichever route you’ve used to get away. That would normally be the trademark of a disorganised attacker who’s doomed to get nicked pretty quickly. Unless, as we’ve already said, it’s a part of an act, the purpose of which is to conceal the fact he’s actually a very organised offender indeed. I mean, while the cops are running around looking for a grinning maniac, he’s removed his disguise and miraculously become an ordinary citizen again, happily driving home to his house in the
suburbs . . . or something like that.’
Blake contemplated this.
‘Of course, he’s not going to leave his motor on an actual car park,’ Lucy added. ‘I mean, they’re covered much more intensively by security cameras than on-street, and that would reveal his VRM.’
‘You’ve really done your homework on this, haven’t you?’

‘Shadows’ by Paul Finch is available to buy now from Amazon UK

#BlogTour! #Extract – ‘If Only You Knew’ by Cynthia Clark (@cynthiaNYC) @Aria_fiction

ARIA_Clark_IF YOU ONLY KNEW_E
A wife, a mother, a killer.

One wrong decision, one terrifying night, leaves student Elizabeth with a stark choice – kill or be killed. And the consequences of that choice will shape her whole life.

Now a wife, a mother, and a lawyer, she must find a way to out run her past, protect her family and live with her secret. But is it really possible to live a happy life with such a huge shadow cast by the past? And as it becomes clear that someone else knows her secret and is hunting her down, time is running out for Elizabeth to keep her family safe.

In the bestselling tradition of Clare Mackintosh and Jenny Blackhurst, Cynthia Clark has written a heart-stopping story about the choices we make and how far we’d go to protect our families. Even if it means deceiving the people we love most…

Buy links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fnvZvH

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2xz8jeP

iBooks: http://apple.co/2xksqO0

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2wLIV19

Extract.

Hello, I’m Elizabeth and I’m a killer.

I’ve dreamed about saying those words. I’ve always thought that it would be a relief to finally say them out loud, to stop suppressing the one secret that haunts me every single night. Every single day. Every single second of my existence.

You see, secrets have a way of repressing your being, making you feel stifled, as if you’re not yourself any more. And the longer you keep a secret, the more it crushes your soul, making you want to scream, scratch at your skin, tear your hair out. It’s the desperation of being alone, of knowing that nobody else can be told, that you can’t share your secret with anyone, allow them to help you carry the burden. Because, after all, who would understand? You know that instead they would just see you as a monster. I know that’s what people would think about me if I ever dared to tell them.

Because it doesn’t matter why I did what I did. The bottom line is that I took a life. That was someone’s child, someone’s neighbour, someone’s friend.

I’ve thought about being able to tell at least one person what I’ve done. Test the waters and hope that they would understand. I’ve come close on a couple of occasions. But in the end, fear has always taken over and I’ve backtracked, my resolve to share my deepest, darkest confession shaken to the core. I’m too scared that the life I’ve built for myself will be shattered. I’m terrified of having to face the consequences of my actions, carried out in the heat of the moment.

No, I cannot tell anyone. I need to remain the sole custodian of the truth. My scary reality. Nobody can know that I’m Elizabeth and I’m a killer.

Chapter 1

2014

I’m clearing the remnants of this morning’s breakfast from the kitchen when my work phone rings, stopping me in my tracks. I see my assistant’s name flashing on the screen.

“Hi Jennifer, what’s up?”

“There’s this girl.” Her voice is coming in rapid pants. “She’s going to be slaughtered by the prosecution unless you take over her case.”

Cradling my phone between my ear and shoulder, I rinse Coco Pops from a cereal bowl. There’s no time to waste; I’m already running late. “Ok, I’m listening.”

“I got in early to file the Preston paperwork. I was waiting for the clerk to come in and heard Sarah, from the public defender’s office, talking about this case.”

Jennifer pauses for breath.

“So, what is it about?” I urge.

“There’s this girl, Chloe. She’s fifteen and is being charged with attempted murder.”

“What did she do?” Moving my phone to the other ear, I carry on clearing the kitchen, mentally urging her to give me the whole story rather than scraps of information.

“She ran over this guy and fled the scene.” Her voice is tinged with excitement.

“Hold on, how come she was driving? You said she’s only fifteen?”

“Yes, she is. She got into his car and reversed over him.”

“How did she get the keys? Did she steal them?”

“I’m not sure…” Jennifer’s voice trails off.

“Ok, we can find out later. Is he injured?”

“Oh yes.” She is suddenly animated. “He’s still in hospital. Both of his legs are broken, he has a couple of fractured ribs, a punctured lung, and severe internal haemorrhage. Doctors aren’t sure if he’ll ever walk again.”

“Ouch,” I wince; shuddering as I try to freeze out images of the unknown man’s wounded body.

“Sarah suggested running the case by you, to see if you have time to take it on,” Jennifer continues.

Taking a deep breath, I mentally run through my current workload. “I don’t know. You know how busy I am right now.”

“Yes, but you’re always looking to help young women, girls who don’t have anywhere else to turn. And you haven’t taken a pro-bono case in a few months.”

Jennifer’s right. Cases where the accused has a tough story, where others would have run a mile, always get to me and make me work my hardest.

“Are you still there?”

“Yes, yes,” I quickly answer, jolted back to reality. “I don’t know. It’s a hit-and-run. Is it worth the effort?”

“Well, it’s not like the usual cases you tend to take on. But just because she’s not the victim of abuse doesn’t mean that she doesn’t deserve a solid defence.”

“And you know how busy the public defenders are,” she presses. “Sarah is juggling eighteen other cases. She has no time to provide a proper defence. This girl is doomed.”

Something about Jennifer’s description of the case doesn’t tally. There’s a small voice inside me warning against wasting time, telling me to move on. “Can’t her parents find a good barrister?”

“I don’t know, but if she’s been referred to a public defendant, that’s probably her only choice. Just guessing.”

Despite my reservations, I’m intrigued. “Can you ask Sarah for the case file?”

“I got you a copy already. It’ll be on your desk when you get in.” A smile creeps onto my face. Jennifer’s extraordinary organisational skills allow me to focus on what really matters – defending clients.

IF YOU ONLY KNEW blog tour (1)

#Extract from #TheSecretMother by Shalini Boland (@ShaliniBoland) @Bookouture

Fans of Bookouture already know that when the team set their mind to something, by golly do they achieve it! I am super excited to be one (of many) bloggers helping to fill social media with Shalini Boland. Not literally of course – that would be mean!

Hmmmmmmm, how else could we do that…

Oh! I know! Extract from Shalini Boland’s upcoming novel #TheSecretMother perhaps?

Shalini Boland - Author Pic
What readers are saying about Shalini Boland:


‘Read in one sitting from 9pm last night until 2:15 am. I literally could not put it down!!!! The story line and the twists and the way it’s written just draws you in completely and you have to know where it’s going I couldn’t read fast enough… absolutely addictive and brilliant and an end I didn’t see coming. This is one book you have to read and it gets 5 huge stars from me!!!!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

‘What can I say? Just wow. I’m usually never surprised by an ending, but this one blew me away. I am totally in shock and think I’ll have a hangover from this book for a while. A great read that keeps you on your toes until the very last word.’ Stacey Harrell, Goodreads 

‘If anyone can have me reading until 2am and finishing a book in less than 48hrs in the school holidays it’s this author… massive five stars from me.’ Sarah Mackins, UK Crime Book Club, 5 stars

‘The ending of this book blew me out of the water, you won’t be able to put this down.’ For the Love of Books, 5 stars

‘The plot is gripping and once you’ve started reading, you have to keep on reading, you need to know how the story will end.’ Bits About Books, 5 Stars
 
… one of the most chilling reads of the year for me.’Ajoobacats Blog, 5 Stars

‘This book should come with a warning… make sure you have enough time to read it in one-sitting because as soon as you’ll pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down!’ Bookishly Ever After, 5 stars
 
‘This is a brilliant psychological thriller. In fact, it’s one of the best I’ve read. It is full of suspense and has more twists and turns than a fairground ride.’ Jackie Roche, UK Crime Book Club, 5 Stars

‘I thought I knew the direction this story was going go. Then the jaw dropping moment happened!… unputdownable!’ Goodreads Reviewer, 5 Stars

‘Once again, Boland has managed to blow my mind with all the twists and turns… an outstanding explosive read!’ Mello and June, 5 Stars

‘Great book. I read it in less than 24 hours. I was unable to put it down. The story was fast paced and intriguing.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

Pre-order ‘The Secret Mother’ now!

Amazon UK
Amazon US

EXTRACT!

THE SECRET MOTHER
By Shalini Boland

 Chapter One

The street lamps flicker, illuminating the grey pavement mottled with patches of dirty snow and slick black ice. Slushy puddles hug the kerb, cringing away from the hissing, splashing car tyres. It takes all my concentration to keep my balance. My hands would be warmer if I jammed them into my coat pockets, but I need them free to steady myself on walls, fences, tree trunks, lamp posts. I don’t want to fall. And yet would it really be so terrible if I slipped on the ice? Wet jeans, a bruised bum. Not the end of the world. There are worse things. Far worse things.

It’s Sunday: the last exhale of the week. That uncomfortable pause before Monday, when it all starts up again – this lonely pretence at life. Sunday has become a black dot on the horizon for me, growing larger each day. I’m relieved now it’s almost over and yet I’m already anticipating the next one. The day when I visit the cemetery and stand above their graves, staring at the grass and stone, talking to them both, wondering if they hear my inane chatter or if I’m simply talking into the empty wind. In burning sunlight, pouring rain, sub-zero temperatures or thick fog I stand there. Every week. I’ve never missed a Sunday yet.

Sleet spatters my face. Icy needles that make me blink and gasp. Finally, I turn off the high street into my narrow road, where it’s more sheltered and the wind less violent. A rainbow assortment of overflowing bins lines my route, waiting for collection tomorrow at some ungodly pre-dawn hour. I turn my face away from the windows where Christmas tree lights wink and blink, reminding me of happier Christmases. Before.

Almost home.

My little north London terraced house sits halfway along the road. Pushing open the rusted gate, I turn my face away from the neglected front garden with its discarded sweet wrappers and crisp packets blown in from the street, now wedged among long tussocks of grass and overgrown bushes. I thrust my frozen fingers into my bag until they finally close around a jagged set of keys. I’m glad to be home, to get out of the cold, and yet my body sags when I open the door and step into the dark silence of the hall, feeling the hollow of their absence.

At least it’s warm in here. I shrug off my coat, kick off my boots, dump my bag on the hall table and switch on the light, avoiding my sad reflection in the hall mirror. A glass of wine would be welcome about now. I glance at my watch – only 5.20. No. I’ll be good and make a hot chocolate instead.

Strangely, the door to the kitchen is closed. This strikes me as odd, as I always leave it open. Perhaps a gust of wind slammed it shut when I came in. I trudge to the end of the hall and stop. Through a gap in the bottom of the door I see that the light is on. Someone’s in there. I catch my breath, feel the world slow down for a moment before it speeds back up. Could I have a burglar in my house?

I cock my ear. A sound filters through. Humming. A child is humming a tune in my kitchen. But I don’t have a child. Not any more.

Slowly I pull down the handle and push the door, my body tensing. I hardly dare breathe.

Here before me sits a little boy with dark hair, wearing pale blue jeans and a green cable-knit jumper. A little boy aged about five or six, perched on a chair at my kitchen counter, humming a familiar tune. Head down, he is intent on his drawing, colouring pencils spread out around an A4 sheet of paper. A navy raincoat hangs neatly over the back of the chair.

He looks up as I enter the room, his chocolate-brown eyes wide. We stare at one another for a moment.

‘Are you my mummy?’ the little boy asks.

I bite my bottom lip, feel the ground shift. I grasp the counter top to steady myself. ‘Hello,’ I say, my heart suddenly swelling. ‘Hello. And who might you be?’

‘You know. I’m Harry,’ he replies. ‘Do you like my picture?’ He holds the sheet out in front of him, showing me his drawing of a little boy and a woman standing next to a train. ‘It’s not finished. I haven’t had time to colour it in properly,’ he explains.

‘It’s lovely, Harry. Is that you standing next to the train?’

‘Yes.’ He nods. ‘It’s you and me. I drew it for you because you’re my mummy.’

Am I hallucinating? Have I finally gone crazy? This beautiful little boy is calling me his mummy. And yet I don’t know him. I’ve never seen him before in my life. I close my eyes tight and then open them again. He’s still there, looking less confident now. His hopeful smile has faltered, slipping into a frown. His eyes are now a little too bright. I know that look – it’s the one that precedes tears.

‘Hey, Harry,’ I say with false jollity. ‘So you like trains, huh?’

His smile returns. ‘Steam trains are the best. Better than diesels.’ He scrunches up his face in disgust and blinks.

‘Did you come here on the train? To my house?’

‘No. We came on the bus. I wish we did come on the train, the bus was really slow. And it made me feel a bit sick.’ He lays the sheet of paper back on the counter.

‘And who did you come with?’ I ask.

‘The angel.’

I think I must have misheard him. ‘Who?’

‘The angel brought me here. She told me that you’re my mummy.’

‘The angel?’

He nods.

I glance around, suddenly aware that Harry might not be the only stranger in my house. ‘Is she here now?’ I ask in a whisper. ‘Is there someone else here with you?’

‘No, she’s gone. She told me to do some drawing and you’d be here soon.’

I relax my shoulders, relieved that there’s no one else in my home. But it still doesn’t help me solve the problem of who this little boy is. ‘How did you get into the house?’ I ask, nervously wondering if I might find a smashed window somewhere.

‘Through the front door, silly,’ he replies with a smile, rolling his eyes.

Through the front door? Did I leave it open somehow? I’m sure I would never have done that. What’s going on here? I should call someone. The authorities. The police. Somebody will be looking for this child. They will be frantic with worry. ‘Would you like a hot chocolate, Harry?’ I ask, keeping my voice as calm as possible. ‘I was going to make one for myself, so—’

‘Do you make it with milk?’ he interrupts. ‘Or with hot water? It’s definitely nicer with milk.’

I suppress a smile. ‘I agree, Harry. I always make it with milk.’

‘Okay. Yes, please,’ he replies. ‘Hot chocolate would be lovely.’

My heart squeezes at his politeness.

‘Shall I carry on colouring in my picture,’ he says, ‘or shall I help you? Because I’m really good at stirring in the chocolate.’

‘Well, that’s lucky,’ I reply, ‘because I’m terrible at stirring in the chocolate, so it’s a good thing you’re here to help me.’

He grins and slides off the stool.

What am I doing? I need to call the police right now. This child is missing from somewhere. But, oh God, just give me ten minutes with this sweet little boy who believes I’m his mother. Just a few moments of make-believe and then I’ll do the right thing. I reach out to touch his head and immediately snatch my hand back. What am I thinking? This boy has to go back to his real mother; she must be paralysed with worry.

He smiles up at me again and my chest constricts.

‘Okay,’ I say, taking a breath and blinking back any threat of tears. ‘We’ll do the chocolate in a minute. I’m just going to make a quick phone call in the hall, okay?’

‘Oh, okay.’

‘Carry on with your drawing for a little while. I won’t be long.’

He climbs back up onto the stool and selects a dark green pencil before resuming his colouring with a look of serious concentration. I turn away and pad out to the hall, where I retrieve my phone from my bag. But instead of dialling the police, I call another number. It rings twice.

‘Tess.’ The voice at the other end of the line is clipped, wary.

‘Hi, Scott. I need you to come over.’

‘What? Now?’

‘Yes. Please, it’s important.’

‘Tessa, I’m knackered, and it’s hideous out there. I’ve just sat down with a cup of tea. Can’t it wait till tomorrow?’

‘No.’ Standing by the hall table, I glimpse Harry through the doorway, the curls of his fringe flopping over one eye. Am I dreaming him?

‘What’s the matter?’ Scott says this the way he always says it. What he really means is, What’s the matter now? Because there’s always something the matter. I’m his damaged wife, who’s always having some new drama or make-believe crisis. Only this time he’ll see it’s something real, it’s something not of my making.

‘I can’t tell you over the phone, it’s too weird. You have to come over, see for yourself.’

His sigh comes long and hard down the phone. ‘Give me twenty minutes, okay?’

‘Okay. Thanks, Scott. Get here as soon as you can.’

My heart pounds, trying to make sense of what’s happening. That little boy in there says an angel brought him. He says I’m his mummy. But he’s not mine. So where on earth did he come from?

I take a breath and go back into the kitchen. The air is warm, welcoming, cosy. Nothing like the usual sterile atmosphere in here.

‘Can we make hot chocolate now?’ Harry looks up with shining eyes.

‘Of course. I’ll get the mugs and the chocolate. You open that drawer over there and pass me the smallest pan you can find.’

He eagerly does as I ask.

‘Harry,’ I say. ‘Where are your parents, your mummy and daddy?’

He stares at the pans in the drawer.

‘Harry?’ I prompt.

‘They’re not here,’ he replies. ‘Is this one small enough?’ He lifts out a stainless-steel milk pan and waves it in my direction.

‘Perfect.’ I nod and take it from him. ‘Can you tell me where you live?’

No reply.

‘Did you run away from home? Are you lost?’

‘No.’

‘But where’s your house or flat? The place you live? Is it here in Friern Barnet? In London? Close to my house?’

He scowls and looks down at the flagstone floor.

‘Do you have a last name?’ I ask as gently as I can.

He looks up at me, his chin jutting out. ‘No.’

I try again, crouching down so I’m on his level. ‘Harry, darling, what’s your mummy’s name?’

‘You’re my new mummy. I have to stay here now.’ His bottom lip quivers.

‘Okay, sweetie. Don’t worry. Let’s just make our drinks, shall we?’

He nods vigorously and sniffs.

I give his hand a squeeze and straighten up. I wish I hadn’t had to call Scott. And yet I need him to be here when I ring the police. I can’t deal with them on my own, not after what happened before. I’m dreading their arrival – the questions, the sideways glances, the implication that I might have done something wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong, though. Have I?

And Harry… he’ll be taken away. What if his parents have been abusive? What if he has to go into foster care? A thousand thoughts run through my mind, each worse than the one before. But it’s not my place to decide what happens to him. There’s nothing I can do about any of it, because he’s not mine.

I don’t have a child. Not any more.

 

#BlogTour! #Extract from ‘The Note’ by Zoe Folbigg (@zolington) @aria_fiction

THE NOTE blog tour
It’s TWG’s turn to host Zoe Folbigg and her debut novel, ‘The Note’. For my post today I am delighted to share an extract with you. Enjoy!

9781786698070
As featured on ITV’s ‘This Morning’…

Based on Zoë Folbigg’s true story comes an unforgettable romance about how a little
note can change everything…

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

But the beautiful man on the train always has his head in a book and never seems to
notice Maya sitting just down the carriage from him every day. Eventually, though,
inspired by a very wise friend, Maya plucks up the courage to give the stranger a note
asking him out for a drink. Afterall, what’s the worst that can happen?
And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness
where you least expect it.

The Note is an uplifting, life-affirming reminder that taking a chance can change
everything…

Buy links:
Amazon // Kobo // iBooks // Google Play

Extract.

Chapter One

May 2014

Maya has done it. She has delivered three sentences and a friendly sign-off, and now
it is out of her hands. She struggles to walk the incline of the seemingly uphill train
carriage because her legs are shaking, her mouth is dry, and putting one foot in front
of the other takes effort and focus her racing heart isn’t capable of at the moment.
Her legs buckle as Maya slumps into a seat on the other side of a grubby internal
door. Which is just as well because she wanted to linger with the last straggles of
bedraggled Train People disembarking reluctantly; to make herself invisible to all the
commuters she just embarrassed herself in front of. So, Maya lies low with the sleepy
people. The people who can’t stand their jobs. The people who are lost in someone
else’s life, frantically turning or swiping pages to find out if the girl got the guy, the
adventurer made it back to London or the heretic was burned at the stake.

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

When Maya’s legs buckled and she fell into a dusty seat, she put distance between
where Train Man had been sitting, where she had awkwardly stood over him, and into
this sanctuary of a cringe-free carriage. Catching her breath, she waits for three
minutes until she, Maya Flowers, is the last of the stragglers. Hot face. Thumping
heart. I did it!
In the empty carriage, Maya’s legs stop shaking and she flattens her wavy hair in
an attempt to regain composure for no one’s benefit. She takes long deep breaths and
calms herself by putting her fingertips against her ribcage to feel her lungs fill slowly.
A tall man in a bright blue short-sleeved shirt that sits pleasingly against Somali
skin steps on and starts to throw newspapers into a sack before passengers board the
train that will take them north. Maya stands and tries to stride with Train Man’s purpose. She knows she won’t catch him up today, to see whether he is clutching her note to his heart, whether it’s crumpled in his pocket, or whether he tossed it into a bin. It doesn’t matter for now.
What matters is she did it.
Spring sunshine looks down gently and tempers rise noisily in the gridlock of an
underpass, but all Maya can hear among the birds and the horns are the words of an
American woman in her head.
‘What’s the worst that can happen?’
Maya smiles proudly as she passes a bin and gives a cursory glance into it.

About the author

Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001
and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK,
Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style, and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the- world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She has since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. This is her debut novel.

Follow Zoe

Website: http://www.zoefolbigg.com/
Twitter: @zolington
Facebook: @zoefolbiggauthor