#BlogTour: Bad Sister by Sam Carrington #Extract @AvonBooksUK @sam_carrington1 @sabah_k

 

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Sam Carrington’s brand new novel, Bad Sister and I have an extract from the book to share with you all!

 

Extract from Bad Sister

Connie sat back, forcing her shoulders down into their natural position. ‘So, now he’s dead?’

‘Yes, that’s right. Three days following his escape. His body was dumped outside the prison gatehouse this morning.’

‘Well, that’s unfortunate for him, I guess. So what’s any of this got to do with me? Why are you here?’

‘Well, that’s the interesting part.’

Nothing about the case so far was in the slightest bit interesting as far as Connie was concerned. She didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Her upper body slumped. What the hell was coming next?

‘Eric Hargreaves’ body has been mutilated, the type and detail is not being disclosed for obvious reasons, but let’s just say it’s been done in a . . . particular way—’

‘And you think I can help establish the type of person who would do this, give you some clues as to their motive?’

DI Wade scrunched her face a little and gently shook her head. ‘I’m sure you could help with that, yes, but we’re calling on you for a different reason at present.’

Connie’s stomach dropped. ‘Oh?’

‘You see . . .’ DS Mack took over. ‘On closer inspection it was noted he had something written on his hand.’ He paused, a smile playing at the edges of his mouth. He was enjoying dragging out the details; making Connie squirm. She rubbed at the raised red mark that was still on her wrist. It was stinging. She closed her eyes to block out DS Mack’s smug face. Although she couldn’t remember where she’d seen him before, she hoped after this that she’d never see his face again.

‘Am I meant to guess?’ Her tone sharp.

DS Mack shifted sideways slightly in his seat; his feet kicked the corner of her desk. He reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a see-through evidence bag containing a photograph. He held it out towards Connie between the thumb and forefinger of each hand.

She blinked rapidly a few times, then frowned.

She stared at the words: ‘CONNIE MOORE’ written in black on the palm of the bloody, grey-tinged hand.

Connie’s face tightened.

‘It’s a conundrum for us, too,’ DI Wade said. ‘But we’re hoping you’ll be able to shed some light on it?’

 

About the Book

 

Then

When flames rip through their family home, only teenager Stephanie and her younger brother escape unhurt. Brett always liked to play with fire, but now their dad is dead and someone has to pay the price.

Now

Psychologist Connie Summers wants to help Stephanie rebuild her life. She has a new name, a young son and everything to live for. But when Stephanie receives a letter from someone she’d hoped would never find her, Connie is forced to question what really happened that night. But some truths are better left alone . . .

Gripping, tense and impossible to put down, Bad Sister will have fans of Sue Fortin, B.A. Paris and Linda Green hooked until the final page.

 

About the Author

SamCarrington

 

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband and three children. She worked for the NHS for 15 years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a Psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist.

 

 

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

BAD SISTER blog tour

 

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#BlogTour: Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke @serpentstail

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Attica Locke’s new novel Bluebird Bluebird and I have an extract from the book to share with you.

 

Extract from Chapter 3 of Bluebird Bluebird

He went by his mother’s first, ’cause he’d been promising her he would. She knew he was staying in Camilla, only a few minutes’ drive from her place, and she knew he was staying scarce. Bell Callis lived on the eastern edge of San Jacinto County, down a red dirt road lined with loblolly pines and Carolina basswood, their branches licking the sides of Darren’s truck. Through the trees, he could make out the black tar roofs of his mother’s neighbours, the small lean-tos and shotgun shacks in the weeds. Nearby, somebody was burning trash, the sour smoke from which wafted across the front end of Darren’s truck, a familiar scent of hard living. Past a bend in the road, Darren nodded at his mother’s landlord, a white man in his eighties named Puck, who let Bell rent a snatch of land around back of his place. He gave Darren a wave from his front porch, then went back to staring at the trees, which is how he spent most of his days. Darren made a left turn onto the property, then followed the twin tire tracks in the dirt and wild grass that led to his mother’s trailer.

She was sitting on the concrete steps in front of the mobile home, smoking a Newport and picking nail polish off her big toe. She had a beer at her feet, but Darren knew better. The real shit was in the house. She looked up and saw the silver truck carrying her only son, but there was nothing in her drably indifferent expression to suggest that she’d been calling him nonstop for the past four days.

“You look skinny,” she said when he climbed out of the truck.

“Right back at you,” he said.

She was only sixteen years older than he was, and they shared the same length of bone in their arms and legs—they were lanky, whippet-thin but for the muscle Darren had built up in his torso and legs and the pad of fat around her hips Bell had managed to hold on to when every other inch of her seemed to have shrivelled in retreat, bested by time. He’d never met his father. But his dad’s older brothers, William and Clayton, were barely five feet eight inches tall.

In flesh, at least, Darren was all Callis.

“When was the last time you went to the store, Mama?”

Mama never failed to soften her.

They hadn’t met until Darren was eight years old, before which his curiosity about his birth parents had been limited to stories about his father, the more swashbuckling the better—even though Darren “Duke” Mathews hadn’t done much in his nineteen years besides knock up a country girl he’d fooled around with once or twice and then die in a helicopter accident in the last doleful days of Vietnam. His mother had been a curiosity that felt as removed from his real life as the distant Caddo Indian in the Mathews bloodline. She was Miss Callis for the first few years, then Bell when he got to high school and college. But sometime after he hit forty, the word Mama shot out as if it were a stubborn seed lodged in his teeth all these years that had finally popped free.

“I got some sausage and beans on the stove in there right now,” she said, picking up the can of Pearl lager; you could still buy single cans of it at the bait-and-tackle shop next to the resort cabins on Lake Livingston, where Bell worked as a cleaning lady three days a week. “You hungry? Want me to fix you a plate?”

“I can’t stay, Mama.”

“Course you can’t.”

She stood on her bare feet then, waving off the chivalrous reach of his hand. She downed the beer and turned for the screen door to her trailer. “But you’ll stay for a drink, I know that much.” She wobbled a little on the top step before opening the screen door and disappearing inside. Darren followed, entering the two-room trailer, the floors of which were covered in matted putty-brown wall-to-wall carpeting.

“How many you in for today?” Darren said, glancing at his watch.

If it was more than eight drinks before noon, he’d have to take her car keys and walk them down to Puck’s place for safekeeping, a move that both mother and son would resent, albeit for different reasons. “I’m enjoying myself ” was all she said, sinking into the thin cushion resting on top of the L-shaped banquette that lined part of the living room and kitchenette. She was a fifty-seven-year-old woman who’d been an alcoholic most of her adult life, a fact

that had confused Darren as a teenager and scared the shit out of him as an adult. Bell lifted a little bullet-shaped bottle of Cutty Sark and sucked on it like a nipple. They sold the little airplane size bottles for fifty cents at the bait-and-tackle shop, and Bell had them lined up on the window ledge like a loaded clip of rifle shells.

 

About the Book

9781781257678

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. But when his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders—a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman—have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt. A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD, is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.

 

About the Author

Attica_Locke

Attica Locke’s Pleasantville was the 2016 winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. It was also long-listed for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction, and made numerous “Best of 2015” lists. Her first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was short-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her second book, The Cutting Season, is a national bestseller and the winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. A former fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmaker’s Lab, Locke has worked as a screenwriter as well. Most recently, she was a writer and producer on the Fox drama, Empire. She serves on the board of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

(Bio taken from: AtticaLocke.com)

 

Blog Tour|Review & Excerpt: What Happens at Christmas by T. A. Williams

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Today I’m thrilled that it’s my stop on the What Happens at Christmas by T. A. Williams blog tour. I have my review of the book to share with you and also an excerpt from the book. There is also a giveaway as part of this tour to win a copy of one of T. A. Williams other books, What Happens in Cornwall!

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What Happens at Christmas is a gorgeous, feel-good novel that has some real depth to it. Holly Brice has recently found out that her estranged father has died and that she has inherited his cottage in a quaint little village in Dartmoor. Holly makes a trip to the remote village to clear the cottage out to get it ready for selling and it ends up being a real trip down memory lane for her. Holly also discovers that not only has she inherited her father’s home but also his lovely one-year-old labrador, named Stirling.

Holly ends up on a real journey of discovery as she gets to know some of the locals in the village and also as she begins to clear her dad’s cottage out. She discovers that she may not have known the whole truth about her dad and starts to see him in a different light. I found some of the things Holly finds out about her dad incredibly moving. It was lovely to to see how Stirling was so in tune with Holly’s emotions and was always on hand to offer comfort.

Stirling was the star of this book for me, he was such an affectionate dog and so well-behaved that it’s impossible not to fall in love with him. He was a character in his own right and I really loved how an animal could be written into the story in such a big way.

Holly soon meets the desirable men in the village: Jack the handsome and lovely next-door neighbour, who is a bit mysterious; Justin, who is also a very attractive man but who has issues of his own to work though; and Howard who is lovely and just a little flirtatious in a harmless way.

I love that this book was set in the few days leading up to Christmas, it really did make me feel festive. Often with Christmas novels they are set in the months or year leading up to Christmas but there is something really lovely about a novel where the whole book is set in the immediate run up to Christmas.

This novel has everything you could possibly want in a Christmas story! It’s set at Christmas, it’s in a gorgeous location, it’s heart-breaking but more so it’s heart-warming, it has romance, it has crackly log fires, and it has snow!

I rate this book 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a heart-warming Christmas novel.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What Happens at Christmas is out now and available to buy from Amazon.

Release Date: October 22, 2015

Genres: Chick Lit

Publisher: Carina UK

Excerpt copy

She woke up at seven o’clock next morning with somebody trying to strangle her. A heavy weight was pinning her to the pillow, while a muscular arm pressed down upon her windpipe. She opened her eyes, but it was still pitch dark in the house. As the panic began to build, a long, warm tongue began to lick her cheek.

‘Oh, God, Stirling, stop that, will you. And your breath stinks. Get off this minute. Please, Stirling.’ With difficulty she managed to dislodge the dog from her throat and tip him over the edge of the bed onto the floor. He landed with a thud. Staying under the duvet, she shimmied across to the edge of the bed to check that he hadn’t hurt himself. She peered down into the dark. A large back nose appeared right in front of her and he would have licked her again if she hadn’t retreated. She lay there for another five minutes, conscious of the dog’s staring eyes, before accepting the inevitable. She pushed back the covers and climbed out of bed. Reaching for the matches, she lit the candle and looked down at the dog.

‘You’re a pain in the backside. You know that, don’t you?’ Delighted to hear her talking to him, he jumped to his feet and started wagging his tail. ‘God, it’s bloody cold.’ She pulled her jeans and jumper on over the top of her pyjamas and slipped on her warmest shoes; a gorgeous pair of Jimmy Choo ankle boots she had found in the Harvey Nicks sale last January, at less than half price. She took the candle and followed the now very excited dog downstairs into the kitchen. It was equally cold in there, so she put the candle down on the table and set about lighting the stove.

Once she had got a good fire going, she plucked up the courage to go to the loo. As she feared, the bathroom was freezing cold. She came back downstairs, went across to the window and looked out over the back garden. Dawn wouldn’t be for another hour, but it was not totally dark out there. The moon had disappeared, but there was still enough light from the stars for her to be able to distinguish shapes of bushes and trees in the garden. Closer to her, Greta the Porsche was sparkling with frost, the starlight reflecting in the host of ice crystals that covered all the horizontal surfaces. As Holly looked out, she ran her fingers across the inside of the glass. She wasn’t surprised to see them come away with a thin layer of ice on them. She went back over to the stove and packed another couple of logs into it.

‘I’d give my eye teeth for a cup of tea.’ She gazed wistfully at the electric kettle on the worktop, idly wondering to herself what eye teeth were. Stirling was standing beside his basket, unsure whether he should be gearing up for a walk or whether he would be told to go back to bed. Holly gave a little smile as she saw that he had somehow collected her father’s old jumper and brought it downstairs. A grey sleeve was hanging over the side of the basket. She stared at it for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and deciding she had better take the dog for a walk. He was delighted.


Blurb copy

For the perfect Christmas…

When career-girl Holly Brice learns that her estranged father has died, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and find out about the man she never knew. Arriving in the sleepy little Dartmoor village, she’s shocked to discover that she’s inherited the cosy little cottage she remembers so fondly, a whole load of money –and her father’s adorable dog, too!

Head to snow-covered Devon!

And as the first snowflakes begin to fall and Holly bumps into her gorgeous neighbour, Jack Nelson, life gets even more complicated! Men have always been off the cards for high-flying Holly, but there’s something about mysterious writer Jack that has her re-thinking her three-date rule…

A fabulous, feel-good festive read, perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Carole Matthews.


Author Bio copy

TAWilliams

Firstly, my name isn’t T A. It’s Trevor. I write under the androgynous name T A Williams because 65% of books are read by women. In my first book, “Dirty Minds” one of the (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. I couldn’t possibly comment. Ask my wife…

I’ve written all sorts: thrillers, historical novels, short stories and now I’m enjoying myself hugely writing humour and romance. Romantic comedies are what we all need from time to time. Life isn’t always very fair. It isn’t always a lot of fun, but when it is, we need to embrace it. If my books can put a smile on your face and maybe give your heartstrings a tug, then I know I’ve done my job.

I‘ve lived all over Europe, but now I live in a little village in sleepy Devon, tucked away in south west England. I love the place. That’s why you’ll find leafy lanes and thatched cottages in most of my books. Oh, yes, and a black Labrador.

I’ve been writing since I was 14 and that is half a century ago. However, underneath this bald, wrinkly exterior, there beats the heart of a youngster. My wife is convinced I will never grow up. I hope she’s right.

Social Networking Links

Website: http://www.tawilliamsbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrevorWilliamsBooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TAWilliamsBooks

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/GRTAWilliams

Amazon Author: http://www.amazon.com/T-A-Williams/e/B00FDVNVMA/


GIVEAWAY BANNER! copy

what happens in cornwall

As part of this blog tour the organiser Bliss Book Promotions are giving you the chance to win One ebook copy of What Happens in Cornwall by T. A. Williams

Please click the link below to be taken to the competition entry page:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c48fa52743/?

Good luck!

Review & Extract: Written in the Scars by Mel Sherratt

It’s publication day for Written in the Scars by Mel Sherratt! I was very lucky to be sent an advance copy of this book so I’ve already read it and I absolutely loved it. I have my review to share with you today, and also an extract from the book.

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My review

Written in the Scars is the fourth book in The Estate series, and although it can absolutely be read as a standalone I highly recommend reading the whole series purely because it’s brilliant and you don’t want to be missing out!

Donna Harvey is a hard-working mum to two grown up children, Sam and Keera, and still spends most of her time running around after them. She also frequently checks in on her elderly mother, Mary who has dementia and is living in a care home. Her life is hard and she feels very down-trodden so when she meets Owen and he lets her know he’s interested in her she is flattered and can’t wait for life to be more exciting and fun.

Lewis Prophett has been out of the army for two years but is still suffering with anger issues and flashbacks due to undiagnosed PTSD. As a result of his unpredictable behaviour he’s had to move out of the home he shared with his wife, Amy and their son, Daniel and is now back living with his mother. I commend Mel for how she portrayed this character, she absolutely got the presentation of PTSD right and really gives readers an insight into this terrible condition. I have personal experience of PTSD and it’s not often that it gets portrayed as well as it has been in this book.

Megan is a hard-working young woman who juggles her caring and her cleaning jobs along with caring for her mum, who is suffering from Osteoarthritis. She’s a lovely girl, and very pretty; she’s always pleasant and chatty with the people she looks after. Megan is hiding her own scars though. She has hidden herself away from the life she could be living as her scar has led to a real loss of confidence and she finds it hard to make friends.

Thank goodness that Josie Mellor still works on the Mitchell Estate, I was so pleased to see her in this novel. Josie has featured in all of the Estate books so far, and I love how her recurring appearances help tie the books together. It’s like catching up with an old friend, I actually do now feel like i know her! I love how she really cares about the people on the estate, she’s always fair and gives people a chance where she can but she doesn’t suffer fools and can be tough when it’s absolutely necessary.

I think this is my favourite of the Estate books, even though I’ve loved them all. The title is brilliant and absolutely sums up the theme of the book; the scars that all of these characters have tell the story of what they have been through, or are going through still. It’s great that scars were represented in so many different ways throughout this novel and after finishing reading it I was pondering on how actually every single character in this book, even the more minor ones have been damaged in their lives yet not all these characters openly seemed damaged. It shocked me to realise this and it really does give you something to think about.

The Estate series as a whole is so good, it’s gritty but with real heart and compassion. I hope there will be many more books to come!

I’m rating Written in the Scars 10 out of 10, it’s brilliant!

Written in the Scars is published today and available from Amazon.


First scene of Written in the Scars

With a minute to spare before her shift was due to start, Donna Adams rushed into Shop&Save. She ran into the staff room at the back of the building and slipped her green overall over the top of her summer dress. Already she could feel sweat forming, although the glorious hot spell they were enjoying was supposed to break later.

‘Made it by the skin of my teeth,’ she sighed, joining her work colleague and supervisor, Sarah Hartnoll, behind the counter. ‘Bloody hell, it’s as hot in here as it is outside.’ She glanced at the clock. ‘Sorry, I would have been here earlier but I’ve had trouble with Mum not wanting me to leave. She was holding onto my arm for dear life, convinced that someone is trying to kill her again.’

Donna’s mum, Mary, had been living in a self-contained flat for a few years since Donna’s dad had died. More recently, she’d been diagnosed with dementia. After wandering off in the night, setting off the alarm to the front door, and being brought home by the police on three separate occasions, Donna had made the heart-breaking decision to move her into sheltered accommodation, where there would be someone to keep an eye on her all the time.

Sarah shook her head in sympathy. ‘Never a dull moment in your life, is there?’

‘Never.’ Donna logged into the till and then looked up at the television monitor that was split into quarter views of the area in front of them. There were a few customers but thankfully no one was after their attention, and if she wasn’t mistaken, Darren, their youngest member of staff, was stacking shelves in the far right corner.

The shop had four aisles, all covered by cameras, but it was well known amongst a certain group of people for being easy to steal from. Many a time she and Sarah had left someone to it rather than risk either a tongue-lashing or a hand raised to them. They had both learned the hard way over the years not to interfere with some customers.

‘I still feel guilty every time I go and see Mum,’ Donna added. ‘But even if I had the time, I just don’t have the energy to give her what she needs.’

‘You should get Keera to do more.’

Donna stared at Sarah, before smiling at the elderly man who was walking towards them. ‘Chance would be a fine thing with my lot,’ she replied, helping him to fill his shopping bag before handing it back.

Donna had two children. A son, Sam, who was twenty-two and nineteen-year-old Keera, who had recently returned from a short time working in Ibiza.

Sarah held up a hand. ‘I’d much prefer to hear all about the hen party on Saturday. Did you enjoy yourself or did you feel like the oldest swinger in town?’

Donna rang the money through the till. ‘You might be laughing on the other side of your face when I tell you what happened.’ She paused for dramatic effect once the customer had gone on his way. ‘I met someone.’

‘No!’

‘Yes! His name is Owen, his eyes are so sexy – and his body is mmm-mmm.’

Donna smiled even more as she thought back to Saturday night. The hen party Sarah was referring to had been for a woman that Donna used to go to school with. About a month ago, Susan Parker had popped into Shop&Save by chance as she’d been driving through the estate. They’d been really good friends at school but had lost touch when Susan had moved out of the area. Once they’d recognised each other, they had got chatting and Donna had found herself invited to the night out. She’d declined at first as she wasn’t sure she would know anyone else who was going, but Susan had mentioned a few names of women she knew, and said it would be great to catch up again.

In the week before the hen do, Donna had still had doubts about whether to go or not, but Keera persuaded her that she might have a bit of fun. And how glad she was of that now.

‘How I got his attention is beyond me,’ she continued. ‘There must have been lots of women his age that he could—’

‘Wait!’ Sarah held up a hand. ‘How old is he?’

‘Thirty-five.’ Donna dropped her eyes momentarily. ‘He’s too young.’

‘No, he isn’t.’

‘I’m forty-two.’

‘Don’t say it like it’s a disease!’ Sarah scoffed. ‘Besides, aren’t we supposed to be as young as we feel? And at least you look after yourself. Half the women on this estate walk around in their pyjamas and slippers.’

‘I suppose.’ Donna sighed loudly. ‘I’m not seeing him again, though.’

‘Oh! He didn’t want a second date?’

‘Technically that wasn’t a first, but yes, he did ask if he could take me out tomorrow night.’

‘And you said no?’ Sarah’s tone was one of incredulity.

Donna shook her head. ‘You know I don’t have time – what with looking in on Mum and getting to work and then there’s Sam, who couldn’t look after a flea without—’

‘The world won’t fall apart if Donna Adams doesn’t come to its rescue.’ Sarah folded her arms. ‘You should let that family of yours fend for themselves once in a while.’

‘Leave everyone to their own devices?’ Donna shuddered at the thought. ‘It would be carnage!’

A young woman with the brightest of red hair came towards the till, and while Sarah served her, Donna stood staring into space. If truth be told, she hadn’t thought of much else apart from Owen since Saturday evening. She could still recall the taste of him on her lips as he’d dipped his head to give her a long, lingering, goodnight kiss. A delicious shiver pulsed through her body.

‘Earth to Donna, hello!’ Sarah waved a hand in front of her face.

Donna giggled. ‘Honestly, though. It’s been such a long time since anyone’s been interested in me, I just keep thinking that maybe it was too good to be true.’

‘Will you listen to yourself? You haven’t had a good seeing to in months – just get in there and bang him one if you get the chance.’ Sarah picked up two mugs from beneath the counter. ‘I’ll make us a brew. And then I want to hear everything.’ She glared at Donna. ‘And I mean everything.’

Donna kept one eye on two teenage boys who had just walked in whilst Sarah went off to the staff room to make the tea. Sarah was just a few months older than her. Her hair fell to her shoulders, and she showed off pretty blue eyes below a blonde fringe. She wasn’t particularly overweight for her height of five foot four but she did have a tendency to wear tight clothes that emphasised, rather than complimented, her shape.

Donna wished she had curves like Sarah’s, but she was thin to the point of being scrawny. Most of the time she put it down to all the stress that came with her life, but a lot of it was to do with her erratic eating patterns and the fact that she was always on the go. Add that to the long-limbed build of a marathon runner and sadly she was never going to be as voluptuous as Sarah, no matter how much she would like to be. And, being a woman in her early forties, things had begun to sag that were beyond Donna’s control.

Still, she could dream. Owen had made her night a lot more fun than she had thought possible.

Moments later, Sarah passed a mug of tea to her.

‘I wish I’d been invited too,’ she said, wistfully. ‘You seem like you had a great time.’

Donna glanced up at the CCTV monitor again. The teens had been and gone with a couple of chocolate bars and a can of pop. There were only two customers in the shop at the moment, and they were in the middle of an argument. She turned to Sarah.

‘It was one of those perfect nights where you don’t expect anything to happen and then—’ She was interrupted by the ring of her phone, rolling her eyes when she saw who it was. ‘What’s up, Sam? Oh – but you have his phone?’ Donna looked confused as she spoke to the person on the other end. ‘Yes, I’m his mother, his next-of-kin.’ She gasped. ‘What do you mean— is he okay? He what? Oh, no. I’m on my way.’

‘What’s wrong?’ Sarah was already at Donna’s side. She touched her lightly on the arm.

Donna took a few deep breaths, trying to keep her panic at bay. ‘Sam’s had an accident involving a chainsaw.’ Her eyes glistened with tears. ‘He’s been rushed to A&E.’


The Estate by Mel Sherratt

If you want to catch up on the previous three books in The Estate series, they’re currently on offer in an Amazon Kindle boxset for £4.99. 

Guest Post, Extract & Int Giveaway: Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson

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Today is the first day of Bookouture Christmas I am very lucky to have a guest post from none other than Sue Watson, whose fabulous new book, Bella’s Christmas Bake Off, is out today! As today is publication day it seemed a perfect chance for to Sue to share  how she celebrates this special day.

Over to you Sue…

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I wish I could tell you that on publication days I am drenched in champagne and Ryan Gosling takes me out and toasts me with champers to celebrate the release of my latest tome. Sadly that’s not the case because by the time publication day comes around I’m already writing the next book and busy at my desk… alone (which is why Ryan doesn’t take me to lunch…and it’s the ONLY reason).

When Bella’s Christmas Bake Off emerges golden and warm from the Bookouture oven on 22nd October I will probably celebrate with a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, and get back to writing the next book. Once everyone’s home from school and work I do receive cards and pressies and as this will be my seventh novel we have developed some ‘publication Day’ traditions. My husband always gives me flowers and a bottle of my favourite fizzy pink stuff and my daughter gives me a box of ‘book day Maltesers,’ which are my favourite (but you have to eat them by the box, bags are for wimps).

On the evening of the release on 22nd October – by coincidence – I happen to be giving a talk at ‘Mim’s Book Club in Cannock, Staffordshire. If you don’t live too far away everyone is welcome, coffee and cake is available and it doesn’t cost anything to come along. I will be talking about my life as a BBC Producer, how I became a writer and I’ll also be signing copies of my books. Then and only then, will Ryan Gosling turn up and take me out for a champagne dinner to celebrate the release of Bella’s Christmas Bake Off!

Thank you so much Sue! And a VERY happy publication day to you once again!


bella's christmas bake off

And here is the very first chapter of Sue’s brand new book Bella’s Christmas Bake Off for you all to read now! Keep reading to the end as there is a wonderful International giveaway giving you the opportunity to win a copy of this very ebook!

Extract Banner copy

Chapter One

Naughty Custard and Severely Whipped Cream

I was icing the Christmas cake when he told me.

‘Amy…I have to talk to you,’ he said.

I lifted the palette knife to create a snowy effect on the soft, mallow frosting and stood back, then turned to him.

‘What?’ I was gazing at my beautiful frosty white cake. ‘Silent Night’ played on the iPod, and it was just three weeks before Christmas. I glanced up at Neil standing next to me, and the look in his eyes scared me so much I put down the palette knife.

‘What is it? Are you ill…has something happened?’

He nodded, slowly, his eyes still cold, like they belonged to someone else.

‘I was going to leave it until after Christmas to tell you, but I’ve…I can’t go on like this. Amy, I’m sorry but it feels like a charade to go through the whole Christmas thing and…I’ve met someone.’ He was standing in front of me now, making eye contact, ensuring the message was clear and there was no room for misunderstanding. My mind went blank. The pink tie I’d bought for him was loosened at his neck. He’d just come home from work.There were pork chops in the oven.

‘Is this a joke?’ There were no words for this. I’d sometimes imagined a scene where we parted, but it was usually the other way round and me telling him I was going. I wasn’t ready for this, now –ever.

‘Why?’

‘Because I can’t live a lie any longer, Amy,’ he said, his speech obviously well prepared, learned by heart. I could see by his set jaw and steady gaze he was damn well going to say every word without interruption from me.

‘You’ve been so busy with work, you’ve got your friends and your life and I feel like there’s no room for me…’ he started.

‘Oh no, Neil. You sleeping with someone else is not my fault, so don’t even try to pull that one,’ I snapped, moving swiftly from shock to anger, aware I was spitting in his face– not pretty…or festive.

‘I’m sorry, I’m not blaming you, but I just…I want to be with her. She loves me, she cares what happens to me, asks me about my day…I’m sorry, Amy…’ He stood there, ashen-faced.

‘So after twenty years you’re just walking out on your marriage because some other woman asks if you’ve had a nice day?’ I was becoming irrational, but who could blame me? ‘Perhaps I should have made more like an American waitress and said ‘have a nice day,’ when I ‘served’ you your evening meal.’

The panic was rising in my chest, I couldn’t deal with people leaving, the thought of being on my own scared me. Things hadn’t been great for a long time between us, but he didn’t have to go and throw it all away– not now, just weeks before Christmas. I glanced through the living room door at the Christmas tree, the lights twinkling, gifts from relatives and friends already underneath.This was a time for being together, for rekindling love and family, not abandoning it.

‘I don’t understand?’ I asked, trying to calm down and not to bare my teeth like a wild animal. I didn’t know how I felt about Neil, but I wasn’t ready for this and I didn’t want him storming off into the night and leaving me alone. I needed to keep everything on an even keel, especially myself.  ‘I know we’ve had our problems Neil, but all marriages have problems, we just have to work at them.’

‘That’s what I thought too, but…she’s special.’

‘Special? More “special” than the woman you married, who you’ve been with for over twenty years,’ I snapped, losing any chance of staying calm at this.

‘No…of course you’re special too, but we both want different things, Amy.’

‘Yeah, you want someone else.’

‘It’s not like that…I care about her.’

So this really was it? After several years of our relationship hanging by a thread, one of us had finally decided to do something to end it, but now it was finally here I felt sick. I was about to throw up, but swallowed hard to prevent it. Whatever I might think about him, I didn’t want my husband’s last moments with me to be infused with the sight and smell of me vomiting noisily in the kitchen.

‘Who is she?’ I heard myself croak.

‘Someone at work, she works in the Legal department…you don’t know her.’

‘Well I do now, don’t I?’I started. ‘Because it looks like this woman who I “don’t know”has been playing quite a big part in my life without me even realising …’

He just stood there with his head down like I was reprimanding him. He reminded me of one of the teenagers I taught at school who’d been found smoking or downloading porn on their iPhone.

‘Neil, the kids will be home from Uni in three weeks…and I made a cake…’ I gestured towards the snow-topped, perfectly iced confection like it would make a difference to his planned departure. Three minutes ago this beautiful fruit cake had, along with the Christmas Tree, been the centre and beginning of my pre-Christmas world. We both stared at the cake as though it held the answers and if we stared for long enough all the bad things would go away. But they didn’t, and when I looked back, the eyes staring out of my husband’s face were a stranger’s eyes.

‘When are you going?’ I asked, trying to bring myself round.

He shrugged, ‘Tomorrow…?’

I suddenly couldn’t bear another minute of this and as another wave of anger engulfed me, I called his bluff. ‘How about now? Go now,’ I said.

‘You think I should go now?’ He looked almost relieved, which hurt and angered me even more.

‘You can’t wait to leave, can you?’ I spat incredulously.

‘No, no… I don’t want to upset you…neither does Jayne; she’s so upset and feels terrible about everything.’

That did it.

‘Oh poor, poor Jayne is upset? Why didn’t you say? You must go to her, how selfish I am thinking only of me when she’s the one who’s devastated…I feel awful for keeping you.’

He made an awkward move towards me and I picked up the palette knife in a threatening manner like I’d seen crazy people do in crime dramas on TV. In that moment, with the panic rising in my chest, I felt just as mad as those wild murdering types, slashing around with a cleaver. It was just as well my weapon of choice was only a round-edged, blunt decorating tool and not a big, sharp chef’s knife,especially when I started waving it at himaggressively.

He edged back along the kitchen wall like the wimp he was, flinching as I punctuated my harmless but dramatic palette waving with swearing and ridiculous threats.I couldn’t stop and the more he cowered, the more I flailed my ‘weapon’ around while starting on a detailed personality assassination. As therapeutic as this was,I had to stop because I was reaching volcanic levels and could feel a panic attack coming on. I stood back, put down the knife and leaned against the kitchen unit to get my breath back. Just as I put my head in my hands and he thought I wasn’t looking, the little coward made a bid for freedom. He weaselled his way out of the kitchen and ran upstairs to pack his pyjamas and toothbrush, without even asking if I was okay.

‘I could have died,’ I yelled at him as I heard his tentative steps on the stair carpet before he put his head round the door like a rabbit in the headlights.

‘I’m going to go now, because I think you need to calm down and me being here might just make things worse,’ he said, like he was dealing with a petulant child.

Too late. I had a brown paper bag over my mouth (which I always kept at hand in the event of a panic attack) whilst continuing to ladle a thick layer of snowy frosting on the cake on auto-pilot like a woman possessed. In my state of shock all I heard was him mutter something about calling me ‘tomorrow’, and as he walked out of the front door I cracked, picked up the cake and blindly chased him down the hall. Halfway down the drive he turned back and I saw the fear in his eyes as he spotted my frosty confection coming straight for his head accompanied by my season’s greetings;  ‘Happy bloody Christmas’, I screechedalong with other non-festive expletives I would rather not repeat. He ducked of course, but as the cake frisbeed past him and across the street the whole thing was witnessed by Alfie Mathews, the son of my neighbour, who also happened to be a pupil of mine. There was frosty icing everywhere, a large cake sliding down the garden wall, me standing in the doorwayscreaming like the madwoman in the attic …and one of my pupils filming the whole spectacle on his mobile.

It was all very surreal and I was so distressed and disorientated I couldn’t face tackling the film-maker sojust staggered back indoors.

Once inside I slammed the door, sat down on a chair, and marvelled at how in less than thirty minutes my life had melted like snow in hot hands. Everything I thought I had, everything I’d thought I was,had gone in a whirlwind…along with the now smashed Christmas cake.

Eventually, I stirred and picked up the TV remote without moving from my seat in the kitchen, and turned on the TV.

‘Ooh you have to have squidgy ones,’ the voice purred from the screen on the wall. Neil had put it up there a couple of years ago because I liked to watch cookery shows in the kitchen, particularly Bella Bradley’s shows, and the ‘squidgy ones’ to which she was now referring were chocolate brownies, which as always looked perfect – but then she had no need to throw them at anyone did she? I stared at the screen numbly. It seemed as though as my life was collapsing, while Bella’s was going from strength to strength. Each year she and her lovely home seemed to be glossier, more expensive, her Christmas cakes more ornate, her tree taller. Bella’s eyes glittered from her fairy lit kitchen, colour matched in red and green with a hint of classy sparkle. The long dark hair, luscious red lips and happy marriage made her look at least ten years younger than she was and despite loving her show I couldn’t help but sometimes feel a twinge of resentment. I wished my life had been as glamorous and successful as Bella’s and felt the envy and regret even more keenly after what had just happened. I found vague comfort in watching Bella add mixed spice to a bowl, stirring vigorously, causing the reindeers on her tight red ski jumper to frolic across her full bosom. I wondered for the millionth time what it would be like to have Bella’s Christmas, her marriage – her life.

What made the contrast in our very different lives so painful was that Bella Bradley used to be my best friend. We’d once shared everything, from secrets to perfume to clothes, we’d been best friends from our first day at school and watching her now on screen I found it hard to reconcile this well-groomed, accomplished woman with the crazy, funny friend I used to love. When we were kids Bella was the one who took risks while I stood on the sidelines watching in awe, and sometimes horror, while she got herself into the most horrific scrapes. Throughout her school days she had been involved in smoking, playing truant, swearing and writing obscene words on the gym wall – yet still she seemed to charm her way out of it all. I didn’t have her charisma or her daring; I suppose that’s why Bella’s a TV star and I’m a maths teacher, I thought, absently watching her whisk up a batch of chocolate brownies with the kind of noises one would associate with an orgasm.

‘Ooh that’s very, very naughty,’ she was saying, her eyes looking into the camera, a tight close-up of just her tongue licking chocolate-covered fingers I assumed were her own. Mind you, from the sounds she was making one had to wonder if her delicious husband was somewhere off camera reaching into her red-lipsticked mouth. Who knew what was going on behind that soon to be batch of warm bad boys?

Just thinking about Bella’s husband reminded me of my own, or sudden lack of – making my stomach churn. I tried to shake the thought of Neil having sex with another woman from my head while pacing around the house, wondering what to do, asking myself so many questions. Had I known, or at least suspectedhe was having an affair? Had I become lazy and complacent, not necessarily wanting Neil around, but not brave enough to make any changes? There were times when I’d doubted if Neil and I would make ‘forever’, but they were just blips weren’t they? Didn’t everyone go through times when they wondered if they’d married the right person? You just got on with it, which is why I was so surprised to find myself suddenly single. I wandered into the living room and stared at the Christmas tree I’d put up the previous week. It had been decorated with hope and anticipation for the season ahead. I’d hung each bauble imagining the four of us sitting round a glistening turkey on Christmas day lit by the glow of that tree. But looking at it now, days later, I felt nothing–just sad and disappointed.

It was an ancient white tree, and even the sparkly white fairy now looked less like a sparkly young girl and more like Miss Haversham, the ageing bride whose groom had left her on her wedding day.

I couldn’t take it in, I looked at the sad fairy seeing myself reflected back – Neil had gone and my Christmas was over before it had begun. Then my eye caught the icy blue bauble we’d bought together on a trip to Paris one Christmas. Carefully plucking the bauble from the tree I held it, feeling the cool Christmas roundness in my palm. There was a raised hand-painted picture of a glittery, snow-covered Eiffel Tower, a lovely memory I hung every year and went straight back to the French Christmas market where we’d bought it. Holding the bauble, watching it sparkle,I was on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées,more than twenty years before, a cold wind was swinging the lights on the stall and heavy rain splashed our faces. Neil and I had been so young and in love back then we only saweach other in the twinkle of fairylights in the rain. It was bustling with noise, festive music played and the air was heady with Christmas as we held hands and chose our special souvenir of our first holiday together. I was eighteen. Looking into the bauble now, watching the glitter change from white to pink to blue as I twirled it I felt sad for what we’d lost. Then I remembered with a jolt how later on that evening we’d argued about something trivial and Neil stormed out of the hotel. He came back very late and quite drunk and I cried all night while he slept soundly next to me. We barely spoke to each other all the next day, despite it being Christmas Day, and my dreams of Christmas in Paris floated off down the Seine. Funny how I’d forgotten about that, perhaps Neil’s leaving had made me more cynical, more aware of what we were, and not what I’d wanted us to be? I should have known then we wouldn’t last; if a couple fall out in the city of love on Christmas Eve then cupid’s trying to tell them something. We were such different people, Neil and I, and in those early days I’d naively thought he would change, but he never did.

I thought of all the Christmas Eves since then that the kids and I had waited for him to come home.They always wanted to wait for Daddy, but he was usually ‘caught up at the office,’ and I was so busy making Christmas for them I didn’t have the time or the energy to worry where he was. I did everything without him, not just Christmas,  but days out, barbecues in the garden, even parents’ evenings – it was usually just me and the kids. I lived like a single mum, with Neil working away, late at the office or on a golf course somewhere (though there were times I queried his ‘night golf’ sessions, which went on way too late for my liking). Suddenly, it dawned on me, perhaps he wasn’t busy or golfing – perhaps he just didn’t want to come home to me? While I was imagining pitch black golf courses and heavy late night meetings he was ‘going home’ to Jayne from the legal department. As my thoughts drifted back over my marriage to Neil, I realised I had stripped the Christmas tree until it was bare and everything was packed away. All trace of Christmas gone.

I was now alone, I had no husband and all I could think was ‘How will I tell the kids?’ My only consolation was that the twins were now both away at their respective universities and though the break-up of their parents’ marriage would hurt, it wouldn’t impact on their lives as it might have when they were younger. Resentment rose in my chest and I was glad Neil wasn’t there with me because I had a whole block of kitchen knives and who knew what might have happened? Neil and I didn’t have an idyllic marriage, we didn’t ravish each other passionately every night of the week, life got in the way. Neil needed new friends, sparkly objects and flashing lights in his life – whereas I was happy with the status quo and a nice cup of tea.

I returned to the kitchen, my Christmas was over, but Bella was still on the TV creating a Christmas heaven in her home.

‘People laugh when I put bananas in my trifle,’ she was saying, making her eyes wide, her mouth forming a soft O. ‘But I implore you, if you do nothing else this Christmas –have a go with a big banana.’ This was breathed into the lens rather than actually spoken, and was pure cooking porn. ‘Whisky soaked, damp with alcohol, crushed nuts, a scattering of sour cranberries to cut through that icky-stickiness and snowy peaks of cool, white, severely whipped cream. Oooh,’ she was now dipping her finger in the cream, eyes closed, licking slowly, she was no doubt engaging more viewers than just the country’s amateur chefs. Every straight male and gay woman in the UK must have been transfixed by Bella’s culinary Christmas spectacle. I bit my lip, she was too much. Even Nigella would baulk at ‘severely whipped cream’ to describe a bloody trifle.

‘Bella’s Christmas Bake Off’ always started in early December and for years had prepared me and the rest of the country for the culinary season ahead. Bella basted beautiful, golden turkeys, cooked crispy roast potatoes, baked magnificent cakes and biscuits, causing power surges throughout the country as people turned on their ovens and baked. She would sprinkle lashings of glitter, special olive oils, the latest liqueurs and all in a sea of Christmas champagne bubbles.

Bella’s style was calm, seductive, and gorgeous. Her very presence on screen made you feel everything was going to be okay and Christmas was on its way. She didn’t just stop at delicious food either – her tables were pure art and her Christmas decorations always the prettiest, sparkliest, most beautiful. Bella Bradley had an enviable lifestyle and she kept viewers transfixed all year round, but her Christmases were always special. Her planning and eye for detail was meticulous, from colour-matched baubles to snowy landscapes of Christmas cupcakes and mince pies – and soggy bottoms were never on her menu.

So in an attempt to forget my own life and fill myself with something like Christmas cheer,I watched Bella now, as she poured the whipped cream on ‘naughty’ custard. Oh if it were only the custard in my life that was ‘naughty,’ I thought as sheadded edible pearls for decoration, fingering each one as she pushed them firmly into the cream. I sat in my little kitchen just waiting for the Christmas sparkle to land on me, the frisson of Christmas baking, the preparation, the anticipation that always came with the first ‘Bella’s Christmas Bake Off.’ But this year I just couldn’t get excited by her baking or her beautiful, twinkly home or her magnificent tree. She had everything – and I had nothing…which had always been the case, but now I didn’t even have a husband anymore.

Bella’s husband, Peter Bradley, or the Silver Fox, as Bella affectionately referred to him, was gorgeous. He was a foreign news correspondent who, when he wasn’t making ‘impromptu’ appearances in Bella’s busy kitchen during the show, could be seen on battlefronts across the globe. He’d wander into Bella’s kitchen all five o’clock shadow and war-weary as she iced her voluptuous buns or titivated her tarts. He always looked quite out of place in this domestic idyll after doing a piece to camera in a war-torn city, but he was obviously happy to support his wife’s career by just being there. Unlike my husband, he hadn’t left her alone at Christmas for another woman – he’d stayed by her side, happy to brush the flour from her décolletage and stick his finger in her buttercream.

‘The Silver Fox loves my plump, tasty breasts,’ she was now saying while tearing at tender white turkey flesh with a knowing look. Peter was there in all his war-torn glory, taking her proffered morsels with a twinkle in his pale blue eyes, a crinkly smile on his well worn features. He was so handsome, fit for his late forties, and no doubt, given his career, very strong, intelligent and brave. He was the perfect accessory to Bella, bringing just the right amount of rough masculine charm and good looks to her glossygirlishness. And as a delicious bonus, the Silver Fox wasn’t afraid to show his feminine side judging by the previous year’s Christmas special, when he’d flown in from Iraq to whisk cream in nothing but combats and a tight vest. I was transfixed – trust me, Christmas had come early!

Bella was now informing us that we had to rehearse for Christmas Eve. Rehearse? As if one Christmas stress-fest wasn’t enough? She was wearing silk pyjamas and a girly grinwhich, given my current state, seemed to me like she was bordering on smug.

‘So, imagine it’s Christmas Eve – the turkey has soaked in something fabulous, and so have I, and now I’ve put my jim jams on,’ she giggled, shaking her breasts for no apparent reason – she did that a lot.  I noted with envy how her chocolate brown eyes matched the chocolate brown silk of her pyjamas and considered my own nightwear, a pair of frail pyjamas, once pale pink now edging towards grey after too many washes. If I needed any proof that her life was completely different to mine – it was all there in those ancient pyjamas.

‘Me and the Silver Fox just love a pyjama party at Christmas,’ she twinkled, a little wink and a sip from the crystal flute.‘But then, don’t we all?’

‘Speak for yourself,’ I said, turning off the TV and finishing the last of a bottle of cava I’d found in the fridge. Oh yes, Bella Bradley had always been the lucky one, even when we were kids – but it didn’t stop me loving her – she was my best friend. Then, when we were eighteen I did something stupid which affected her life so profoundly she left the area where we lived and I hadn’t seen her since. I tried not to think how our friendship had been destroyed by what I’d done all those years ago. I still felt guilty about what had happened and longed for her forgiveness. Watching her on screen was the nearest I would ever get to her, and despite the odd twinge of envy I found it therapeutic to see her in a wonderful new life, knowing she was okay… even if I wasn’t.


Blurb copy

Two best friends. One big lie. The best bake off EVER.

Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials.

But this year things are going to be different.

For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever.

Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off…

After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember…

A hilarious, heart-breaking and feel good read about best friends, baking and the magic of Christmas.

Bella’s Christmas Bake Off is out today and available from Amazon.


Author Bio copy

Sue-Watson-Author-pic-120px

Sue Watson

Sue Watson was a journalist on women’s magazines and national newspapers before leaving it all behind for a career in TV. As a producer with the BBC she worked on garden makeovers, kitchen takeovers and daytime sofas – all the time making copious notes so that one day she might escape to the country and turn it all into a book.

After much deliberation and copious consumption of cake, Sue eventually left her life in TV to write.  After a very successful debut novel, Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes, Sue signed with Bookouture and has gone on to write four fabulous books.

www.suewatsonbooks.com


XMAS BC GIVEAWAY copy

Bookouture have very kindly allowed me to run an international giveaway for one lucky winner to win an e-copy of this fabulous book. Please enter here and good luck! I will be running more giveaways throughout Bookouture Christmas week so please stop by each day for your chance to win!

Please click this RAFFLECOPTER LINK and it will take you to their page where you can enter my giveaway! Good luck!

Over the course of Bookouture Christmas week I’ll be posting reviews, Q&As, guest posts, extracts and giveaways all to do with these fabulous books!

BC BOOKS BANNER (MINE) copy

The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

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It’s publication day today for Rebecca Raisin’s fabulous new book The Little Bookshop on the Seine and I’m so lucky to have an excerpt from the book to share with you today! I’m part of the blog tour for The Little Bookshop on the Seine so my review will be up on my blog on Monday 2nd November. I can tell you that I’ve already started reading this book and it is completely and utterly wonderful!

The Little Bookshop on the Seine

La Vie En Rose

Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has been offered the opportunity to exchange bookshops with her new Parisian friend for 6 months! And saying yes is a no-brainer – after all, what kind of a romantic would turn down a trip to Paris…for Christmas?

Even if it does mean leaving the irresistible Ridge Warner behind, Sarah’s sure she’s in for the holiday of a lifetime – complete with all the books she can read!

Imagining days wandering around Shakespeare & Co, munching on croissants, sipping café au laits and watching the snow fall on the Champs-Élysées Sarah boards the plane.

But will her dream of a Parisian Happily-Ever-After come true? Or will Sarah realise that the dream of a Christmas fairytale in the city of love isn’t quite as rosy in reality…

A deliciously feel-good Christmas romance perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Julia Williams


EXCERPT

My email pinged and I dashed over to see who it was from. That’s how exciting my life was sans Ridge, an email was enough to make me almost run, and that was saying a lot. I only ran if chocolate was involved, and even then it was more a fast walk.

Sales@littlebookshop.fr

Sophie, a dear Parisian friend. She owned Once Upon a Time, a famous bookshop by the bank of the Seine. We’d become confidantes since connecting on my book blog a while back, and shared our joys and sorrows about bookshop life. She was charming and sweet, and adored books as much as me, believing them to be portable magic, and a balm for souls.

I clicked open the email and read.

Ma Chérie,

I cannot stay one more day in Paris. You see, Manu has not so much broken my heart, rather pulled it out of my chest and stomped on it. The days are interminable and I can’t catch my breath. He walks past the bookshop, as though nothing is amiss. I have a proposal for you. Please call me as soon as you can.

Love,

Sophie

Poor Sophie. I’d heard all about her grand love affair with a dashing twenty-something man, who frequented her bookshop, and quoted famous poets. It’d been a whirlwind romance, but she often worried he cast an appraising eye over other women. Even when she clutched his hand, and walked along the cobbled streets of Paris, he’d dart an admiring glance at any woman swishing past.

I shot off a quick reply, telling her to Skype me now, if she was able. Within seconds my computer flashed with an incoming call.

Her face appeared on the screen, her chestnut-colored hair in an elegant chignon, her lips dusted rosy pink. If she was in the throes of heartache, you’d never know it by looking at her. The French had a way of always looking poised and together, no matter what was happening in their complex lives.

“Darling,” she said, giving me a nod. “He’s a lothario, a Casanova, a…” She grappled for another moniker as her voice broke. “He’s dating the girl who owns the shop next door!” Her eyes smoldered, but her face remained stoic.

I gasped, “Which girl? The one from the florist?”

Sophie shook her head. “The other side, the girl from the fromagerie.” She grimaced. I’d heard so much about the people in or around Sophie’s life that it was easy to call her neighbors to mind. “Giselle?” I said, incredulous. “Wasn’t she engaged – I thought the wedding was any day now?”

Sophie’s eyes widened. “She’s broken off her engagement, and has announced it to the world that my Manu has proposed and now they are about to set up house and to try immediately for children –”

My hand flew to my mouth. “Children! He wouldn’t do that, surely!” Sophie was late-forties, and had gently broached the subject of having a baby with Manu, but he’d said simply: absolutely not, he didn’t want children.

The doorbell of her shop pinged, Sophie’s face pinched and she leaned closer to the screen, lowering her voice. “A customer…” She forced a bright smile, turned her head and spoke in rapid-fire French to whoever stood just off-screen. “So,” she continued quietly. “The entire neighborhood are whispering behind their hands about the love triangle, and unfortunately for me, I’m the laughing stock. The older woman, who was deceived by a younger man.”

I wished I could lean through the monitor and hug her. While she was an expert at keeping her features neutral, she couldn’t stop the glassiness of her eyes when tears threatened. My heart broke that Manu would treat her so callously. She’d trusted him, and loved him unreservedly. “No one is laughing at you, I promise,” I said. “They’ll be talking about Manu, if anyone, and saying how he’s made a huge mistake.”

“No, no.” A bitter laugh escaped her. “I look like a fool. I simply cannot handle when he cavorts through the streets with her, darting glances in my bookshop, like they hope I’ll see them. It’s too cruel.” Sophie held up a hand, and turned to a voice. She said au revoir to the customer and spun to face me, but within a second or two, the bell sounded again. “I have a proposal for you, and I want you to really consider it.” She raised her eyebrows. “Or at least hear me out before you say no.” Her gaze burned into mine as I racked my brain with what it could be, and came up short. Sophie waved to customers, and pivoted her screen further away.

“Well?” I said with a nervous giggle. “What exactly are you proposing?”

She blew out a breath, and then smiled. “A bookshop exchange. You come and run Once Upon a Time, and I’ll take over the Bookshop on the Corner.”

I gasped, my jaw dropping.

Sophie continued, her calm belied by the slight quake in her hand as she gesticulated. “You’ve always said how much you yearned to visit the city of love – here’s your chance, my dear friend. After our language lessons, you’re more than capable of speaking enough French to get by.” Sophie’s words spilled out in a desperate rush, her earlier calm vanishing. “You’d save me so much heartache. I want to be in a place where no one knows me, and there’s no chance for love, ever again.”

I tried to hide my smile at that remark. I’d told Sophie in the past how bereft of single men Ashford was, and how my love life had been almost non-existent until Ridge strolled into town.

“Sophie, I want to help you, but I’m barely hanging on to the bookshop as is…” I stalled for time, running a hand through my hair, my bangs too long, shielding the tops of my eyebrows. How could it work? How would we run each other’s businesses, the financial side, the logistics? I also had an online shop, and I sourced hard-to-find books – how would Sophie continue that?

My mind boggled with the details, not to mention the fact that leaving my books would be akin to leaving a child behind. I loved my bookshop as if it were a living thing, an unconditional best friend, who was always there for me. Besides, I’d never ventured too far from Ashford let alone boarded a plane – it just couldn’t happen.

Please,” Sophie said, a real heartache in her tone. “Think about it. We can work out the finer details and I’ll make it worth your while. Besides, you know I’m good with numbers, I can whip your sales into shape.” Her eyes clouded with tears. “I have to leave, Sarah. You’re my only chance. Christmas in Paris is on your bucket list…”

My bucket list. A hastily compiled scrappy piece of paper filled with things I thought I’d never do. Christmas in Paris – snow dusting the bare trees on the Left Bank, the sparkling fairy lights along the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Santa’s village in the Latin Quarter. The many Christmas markets to stroll through, rugged up with thick scarves and gloves, Ridge by my side, as I hunted out treasures. I’d spent many a day curled up in my own shop, flicking through memoirs, or travel guides about Paris, dreaming about the impossible…one day.

Sophie continued: “If you knew how I suffered here, my darling. It’s not only Manu, it’s everything. All of a sudden, I can’t do it all any more. It’s like someone has pulled the plug, and I’m empty.” Her eyes scrunched closed as she fought tears.

While Sophie’s predicament was different to mine, she was in a funk, just like me. Perhaps a new outlook, a new place would mend both our lives. Her idea of whipping my sales into shape was laughable though, she had no real clue how tiny Ashford was.

“Exchange bookshops…” I said, the idea taking shape. Could I just up and leave? What about my friends, my life, my book babies? My fear of change? And Ridge, what would he have to say about it? But my life…it was missing something. Could this be the answer?

Paris. The city of love. Full of rich literary history.

A little bookshop on the bank of the Seine. Could there be anything sweeter?

With a thud, a book fell to the floor beside me, dust motes dancing above it like glitter. I craned my neck to see what it was.

Paris: A Literary Guide.

Was that a sign? Did my books want me to go?

“Yes,” I said, without any more thought. “I’ll do it.”


The Little Paris Collection:

The Little Bookshop on the Seine

The Little Antique Shop under the Eiffel Tower

The Little Perfume Shop off the Champs-Élysées

Also by Rebecca Raisin

The Gingerbread Café trilogy:
Christmas at the Gingerbread Café
Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café
Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café

The Bookshop on the Corner
Secrets at the Maple Syrup Farm

Amazon  UK http://amzn.to/1LfJJzO

Amazon US http://amzn.to/1KR2Wck

iBooks https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/little-bookshop-on-seine-little/id1022785186?mt=11

Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-little-bookshop-on-the-seine-rebecca-raisin/1121263193?ean=9781474030786

Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-little-bookshop-on-the-seine-the-little-paris-collection-book-1-1

Sainsbury’s

https://www.sainsburysentertainment.co.uk/ebooks/The-Little-Bookshop-On-The-Seine-The-Little-Paris-Collection-Book-1-/Rebecca-Raisin/9781474030786


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Rebecca Raisin

is a bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in various short-story anthologies, and in fiction magazines, and is now focusing on writing romance. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous men who have brains as well as brawn is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships, and, most importantly, believe in true, once-in-a-lifetime love.

Follow her on twitter @jaxandwillsmum

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRaisinAuthor

Website rebeccaraisin.com