My Summer Holiday Reading #MiniReviews #20BooksofSummer

Summer holiday Reading

I’ve been away with my family for a couple of weeks holiday and while I was away, managed to find time to read quite a few books. Below are some mini-reviews of what I have read over the past few weeks. Click on the book title to go to Amazon to read the synopsis and order a copy although, of course, most will be available in all good bookshops.

How to Stop Time by [Haig, Matt]

How to Stop Time

I think I am in the minority here, going by reviews I’ve read, but I didn’t really get on with this book. I loved the concept but it just didn’t work for me. Tom Hazard has a condition which means he ages really slowly so he has been alive for over 400 years, yet only looks in his 40s. The book takes us back and forward in time from present day London, to Elizabethan times, Paris in the jazz age, New York and the South Seas. Along the way Tom meets many key figures from history, avoids witch-hunters, loves and inevitably loses. Warned not to fall in love by the secret Albatross organisation which protects people like Tom, in the present day story he begins to learn what it means to live in the moment. I felt the story drifted a bit in the middle though picked up again towards the end.  I can see it working well as a film though and can see why it has already been optioned with Benedict Cumberbatch to play the main character.

The Summer of Serendipity: The magical feel good perfect holiday read by [McNamara, Ali]

The Summer of Serendipity

How lovely a word is serendipity? It means a happy accident and happens to be the name of the main character of this book, although she prefers to be known as Ren. Ren runs a property seeking company and has travelled to Ballykiltara to find the perfect retirement home for her client. She believes she has found this in The Welcome House but it is shrouded in mystery and legend. No-one knows who owns the house but it offers welcome and shelter to anyone who needs it. The Summer of Serendipity was a delightful read full of wonderful characters such as the endearing Kiki who raised more than a few smiles with her way with words, wise Father Duffy who advises Ren to listen to her heart not just her head and Finn, the tall, dark and handsome hotel owner. It’s not just the house which has secrets to be uncovered in this book as both Ren and Finn have sorrows in their past they are keen to keep hidden. I loved this story, in particular following the relationships between the characters as they begin to find contentment. It is charming, very enjoyable and with more than a hint of magic. Perfect summer reading.

Together: An epic love story with a secret you won't see coming by [Cohen, Julie]

Together by Julie Cohen

Together is the emotional, beautifully told story of the great love between Robbie and Emily. They are desperate to keep hidden some great secret from their past and from the off the author had me speculating what it could be. What were they hiding, why was it so bad that Emily’s family had disowned her and the couple considered themselves safer when people from their past died? It is a very cleverly constructed novel, working backwards from the present day, moving through significant periods in their relationship. Each part reveals just a little more of their story, adding understanding to what the reader has founds out before. I admit to being stunned by the final and heartbreaking reveal, I would never have guessed. Together is the first book I’ve read by Julie Cohen and I loved it – it certainly won’t be the last. 

 

The Rome Affair by [Swan, Karen]

The Rome Affair by Karen Swan

I read The Rome Affair while on holiday in sweltering heat in Italy. I wasn’t in Rome, we were staying near Sorrento, but the temperatures certainly made the setting come alive for me. I was gripped right from the prologue and was absorbed in the story from beginning to end. Cesca is a Brit living in Rome, barely managing to scrape together her monthly rent when she is hired by Elena, an elderly Principessa living in a vast palazzo, to write her biography. Cesca begins sorting through Elena’s huge photo collection documenting her life and conversations about them with Elena in the present day, link back to Elena’s memories of her colourful past. Elena is from a very wealthy American family and her story is one of intrigue, glamour and mystery in the high society circles she has moved in. Cesca is a former barrister and not without her own regrets and demons. I was engrossed in this story of secrets and love as Cesca began to suspect she is not quite getting the full picture from Elena. Throw in a romantic interest for Cesca, the discovery of long forgotten tunnels under the palazzo and one handsome though rather annoying Italian man and you have a winning combination for a book I didn’t want to put down. This is a book to lose yourself in while you bask in the sun for a few hours – or, if you’re like me, sit in the shade!

Friend Request by [Marshall, Laura]

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Friend Request is a book which moves between the past and present as it tells the story of Louise, a single mother with a successful interior design business. She is shocked to receive a friend request on Facebook from an old school friend, Maria. It is particularly shocking since Maria died more than 25 years ago and Louise has been racked with guilt ever since, believing she played a part in her death. She discovers a reunion has been arranged for her year and decides to attend to try to uncover exactly what happened on the night Maria disappeared. Through the scenes set in the past we see how Louise was led into doing things by other school friends because she wanted to stay in the popular set. Maria was the unfortunate target of their bullying campaign, although I would say that Louise was also a victim of the bullies. The addition of italicised parts of the novel from the point of view of an anonymous narrator really added to the unsettling atmosphere as I wondered who this person was. Could Maria really be alive after all and if not, who was the narrator? Friend Request is a fast paced read and a real page-turner, particularly towards the end as Louise and her son seem to be in real danger.  Friend Request is a book which will have you checking your social media privacy settings and thinking carefully about what you share!

The Secret of Orchard Cottage: The feel-good number one bestseller by [Brown, Alex]

The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown

I was up to date with my July reading list so thought I’d sneak in an extra book before starting on my August list. I thoroughly enjoyed this book set in Tindledale village. It’s the third set there I believe and although I hadn’t read the others it didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book at all – and I now want to read the others! It’s mainly about young widow April who has gone to look after her frail elderly great aunt Edie, as she is is getting a little forgetful. Edie keeps confusing  April with her sister Winnie who left Tindledale in WW2 and never returned. April decides to try to find out what happens to Winnie to try to help her aunt. It’s such a lovely book which, as well as following April as she tries to solve the mystery, also looks at grief, second chances, finding happiness again, dementia and bullying. The village setting was wonderfully portrayed with so many caring and supportive residents that I wouldn’t mind moving there myself! The focus is mainly on the women in the story and I was very taken with the dedication – “For all the ordinary women everywhere, doing extraordinary things.”  The women of Tindledale may just have been ‘ordinary women’ and that’s what made the book so readable, but there were certainly more than a few doing ‘extraordinary things.’

Anatomy of a Scandal

This is a very short teaser review as the book isn’t out until January next year. I was fortunate to be given a very advance review copy of this book which focuses on a scandal affecting a high-flying politician. It looks at how this affects his marriage, goes back to his privileged life when at school and uni, and also follows the court case and the barrister determined to bring him to justice. This is an outstanding book, wonderfully written and a sensitive portrayal of an all too topical issue. Deserves every one of the five stars I’ve awarded it and should be huge when it’s published.

So how is my #20BooksofSummer challenge coming along? Pretty well actually. I have read 16 of them so far with another one I just couldn’t get into. So only three left from my list: Broken Branches, The Heart’s Invisible Furies and The House of Secrets. Should manage that by September I would think! I’ve also read a few more I wasn’t planning to so I have actually read 20 books so far this summer.

What about you – what have you been reading this summer or what is going in your suitcase with you if you haven’t been away yet? I love to hear what people are reading. Just don’t give me any more ideas for my to-be-read list!

I am Missing by Tim Weaver #minireview and #giveaway @michaeljbooks

I Am Missing: David Raker Missing Persons #8 by [Weaver, Tim]

I’ve got a great giveaway for you today – a copy of the latest in Tim Weaver’s David Raker series. If you haven’t read any of them before – and I hadn’t – you need to know that David Raker is an investigator looking into missing people cases. I was really fascinated by the concept that the person missing in this book wasn’t really missing at all. What was missing was his entire memory of who he actually was and this was the challenge for Raker – discover who ‘The Lost Man’ really was and why no-one seemed to know him when appeals were made in the media. The idea that without a fixed identity you really were no-one was really interesting to me. With no proof of who he was Richard couldn’t get a National Insurance number and therefore couldn’t work, couldn’t access the NHS, couldn’t get a passport – so many things that we take for granted. When Raker started investigating, the plot took so many really dark twists that I couldn’t possibly have imagined! 

I Am Missing is published by Michael Joseph Books today, Thursday 27th July. If you’re not lucky enough to win my giveaway, you can order a copy online here and it will, of course, be available in all good bookshops.

If this sounds like the kind of book you would like to read, then enter my giveaway by clicking the link below. It’s open to UK residents only and you have until midnight on Saturday to enter. I’ll contact the winner within 24 hours and your prize will be sent directly from the publishers.

Click here to enter the giveaway

From the back of the book

When a young man wakes up bruised and beaten, with no memory of who he is or where he came from, the press immediately dub him ‘The Lost Man’. 

Naming himself Richard Kite, he spends the next ten months desperately trying to find out who he is. But despite media appeals and the efforts of the police, no one knows him.

Richard’s last hope may be private investigator David Raker – a seasoned locator of missing people. But Raker has more questions than answers.

Who is Richard Kite?

Why does no one know him?

And what links him to the body of a woman found beside a London railway line two years ago?

Could Richard be responsible for her death – or is he next?

The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond #review @ldiamondauthor @panmacmillan @gracejbaird

The House of New Beginnings by [Diamond, Lucy]

I’m pleased to introduce you to my first guest reviewer today – my daughter Grace! Grace read The House of New Beginnings on holiday and enjoyed so much I suggested she write a review for the blog. So over to Grace for her first blog review. I know I’m biaised but I think she’s done rather well!

“The House of New Beginnings” was the first book I have read by Lucy Diamond. It will, however, most certainly not be the last! This is the story of three women making a new life in Seaview House on the coast in Brighton. In Flat 1 is Rosa; recently running away from a disaster in her previously perfect London life, she is pursuing her dream of becoming a chef. Flat 3 is where Georgie lives; she followed her boyfriend Simon down to Brighton where he has been offered an architecture job. Georgie decides to try her hand at journalism and is soon faced with a mixture of new adventures and disaster! Flat 4 nurses a grieving Charlotte; she has lost her infant daughter and with that loss her life became turmoil so she too has run to Brighton to start over. What with Jo and Bea in Flat 2 and the fabulously eccentric (and French!) Margot on the top floor, there’s bound to be enough drama to make a book full of fun! (SPOILER: there is plenty drama and it is definitely fun filled).

One of my favourite things about “The House of New Beginnings” is how relatable all the characters are. Hearing about their woes is just like having one of your girls (or guys!) phone you up to have a little moan. The character development is really amazing as you get to watch these three women come out of their shells and reveal interesting personality traits that were previously quelled. My favourite character was Margot on the top floor. She was, in a word, vivacious.  A genuinely inspiring character. She makes you think about life, the chances you take and the way you react to the obstacles that are placed before you. The plot may not be a thriller or a gripping crime but still I found myself yearning to know more of the goings on of Seaview House.

Now this may seem a touch melodramatic but reading this book rekindled my love of reading (I did my exams this year so school got in the way of a lot of things). Within a day of finishing “The House of New Beginnings” I went out and bought three new books. If that doesn’t show how fabby this book is I don’t know what will! Now, if you like my mum’s blog at all and want to make me a very happy bunny, please, please, PLEASE go and pick yourself up a copy of “The House of New Beginnings”. Seriously, it’s just a teeny trip down to your closest Asda*! You won’t regret it!

*Other supermarkets probably stock it too if they know what’s good for them!

The House of New Beginnings was published by Pan in January and is available as a paperback and e-book. You will find the book in good bookshops and in supermarkets or you can order a copy online here: The House of New Beginnings

From the back of the book

One life-changing summer . . .

In an elegant Regency house near the Brighton seafront, three tenants have more in common than they know . . .

A shocking revelation has led Rosa to start over as a sous chef. The work is gruelling but it’s a distraction . . . until she comes up against the stroppy teenager next door who challenges her lifestyle choices. What if Rosa’s passion for food could lead her to more interesting places?

Having followed her childhood sweetheart down south, Georgie is busily carving out a new career in journalism. Throwing herself into the city’s delights is fun, but before she knows it she’s sliding headlong into all kinds of trouble . . .

Nursing a devastating loss, Charlotte just wants to keep her head down. But Margot, the glamorous older lady on the top floor, has other ideas. Like it or not, Charlotte must confront the outside world, and the possibilities it still holds.

As the women find each other, hope surfaces, friendships blossom and a whole new chapter unfolds for them all.

 

The Ludlow Ladies’ Society by Ann O’Loughlin @annolwriter @BWpublishing

The Ludlow Ladies Society by [O'Loughlin, Ann]

Although I’ve been aware of Ann O’Loughlin’s previous novels and was sure I would like them, somehow I haven’t got around to reading any before this, her third novel. And I’m so pleased to say I was right: I loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

The storyline revolves around three women and Ludlow Hall. Connie is a New Yorker who has suffered unimaginable loss and has fled to Ireland to live in the run-down Irish mansion her husband had bought without her knowledge. Eve is the former owner of the house who was unceremoniously thrown out due to her husband’s debts. Finally, Hetty owns the local B&B and is the widow of Barry, who was very much liked and respected in the local community. The Ludlow Ladies’ Society used to meet in Ludlow Hall and is a crafts group made up of lots of local women. They are desperately in need of a new home with lots of space to work on their latest project – memory quilts which they hope will lead to them meeting Michelle Obama as winners of a festival competition.

The first thing to say about this book is that it is a very emotional read. All three of the women have lost their husbands and are coping – or not – in different ways. The three main characters all had suffered loss and so much sorrow. It is hard to imagine how they could come to terms with what had happened in their pasts but their shared stories helped them to bond and support each other. There were many secrets they didn’t want to reveal because they were too painful, too humiliating or too private. But by opening up to each other, they begin to heal through the non-judgemental, accepting friendship they offered. The author’s beautiful way of writing made feeling all the emotions along with her characters inevitable.

This is also a book about memories, treasuring the happy times and learning to live with unhappy memories. Reading about Eve’s button box brought back memories of my Gran’s button box which I used to love to play with. I imagine that many people will have similar happy memories. In those buttons were the memories of all the garments they belonged to. In the same way, the fabric used in the memory quilts made by the Ludlow Ladies held memories of people, places and events precious to the individual members and the community. 

Towards the end of the book came revelation upon revelation. Some I had guessed at but others took me by surprise just as much as the characters. Yet nothing seemed out of place or unbelievable. All the parts of the story came together flawlessly to create whole in much the same way as the diverse pieces of fabric came together to make a completed patchwork quilt. The characters seemed very real to me and I shared in their pain, their laughter, their hopes and their healing.

If you haven’t read anything by Ann O’Loughlin before – and even if you have – I really recommend you get yourself a copy of The Ludlow Ladies’ Society. I will definitely be making time to read the author’s previous novels and will be looking out for any future books.

My thanks to Sophie Goodfellow for my copy of the book. The Ludlow Ladies’ Society is published by Black and White Publishing and is available now in paperback and as an e-book. You can buy at good bookshops, from B&W’s website or on Amazon where at the time of writing the Kindle version is an amazing 98p (though please do check before buying).

From the back of the book

Connie Carter has lost everyone and everything dear to her. Leaving her home in New York, she moves to a run-down Irish mansion, hoping to heal her shattered heart and in search of answers: how could her husband do the terrible things he did? And why did he plough all their money into the dilapidated Ludlow Hall before he died, without ever telling her?

At first Connie tries to avoid the villagers, until she meets local women Eve and Hetty who introduce her to the Ludlow Ladies’ Society, a crafts group in need of a permanent home. Connie soon discovers Eve is also struggling with pain and the loss of having her beloved Ludlow Hall repossessed by the bank and sold off. Now, seeing the American Connie living there, the hurt of losing everything is renewed. Can these women ever be friends? Can they ever understand or forgive?

As the Ludlow Ladies create memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface. But can Connie, Eve and Hetty stitch their lives back together?

The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters by #excerpt Jaimie Admans @HQDigitalUK @be_the_spark @neverlandBT

The Chateau of Happily-Ever-Afters by [Admans, Jaimie]

I’m pleased to be able to share an excerpt from The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters by Jaimie Admans. It was published on 7 June by HQ Digital and at the time of writing is only 99p. You’ll find buying links as well as information about the book and the author following the excerpt. There is also a fantastic giveaway right at the very bottom of the post so don’t miss out on your chance to enter that.

Excerpt

The room is at the front of the château and gives me a perfect view of the driveway. There are trees on either side of the courtyard and their leaves wave in the breeze, overgrown reeds bending over and dragging their tips through the water of the moat, and somewhere nearby, birds are chirping at each other.

It’s so peaceful here.

No sooner than the thought crosses my mind, a noise reaches my ears. A car engine. The booming thump of a radio playing too loudly. Squealing brakes as it takes a corner too fast. And then I see a flash of red between the trees. It’s getting closer. This cannot be a good thing.

I watch from the window as the car turns in, speeding down the driveway towards the château. Any semblance of peace is shattered as the music thumps out, loudly enough to shake the entire building. The car is a sleek sports thing with the top down, and I squint to get a look at the driver. Long-ish dark hair tamed with product and a pair of sunglasses far too big for his head. Oh no. I’d know the smirk on his face anywhere. It’s the bloody nephew-git.

I should have known. Why didn’t I guess he’d come here too? Of course he would. Men like him are all the same. Money, money, money. He’s got no interest in Eulalie or the château, other than what it’s worth, no doubt. But he’s heard the word treasure, hasn’t he? I should’ve known after all that unfair advantage stuff the other day.

The shiny red car squeals to a halt in the courtyard with a spray of gravel, and the noise finally stops.

‘Yeah, yeah, you’ve got a small willy. No need to advertise it any louder,’ I mutter.

I watch as he gets out of the car and stretches muscular arms, his shirt riding up at the movement, showing a hint of tight stomach, and I shouldn’t feel so disappointed when he pulls it back down again. I can’t tear my eyes away from how low down the buttons lie on his chest – not until he pushes his sleeves up, anyway, easily redirecting my attention to his tanned forearms. He slides his sunglasses off and tucks them into his pocket, pointing his keys over his shoulder as he walks away from the car. The beep-beep of his car locking brings me back to my senses. Bloody hell, what is wrong with me? The French sunshine must’ve gone to my head. Anyone would think I was ogling the enemy. That pretentious knob with his roofless poser car. No way would I ogle him. As if.

He stands in the courtyard and looks up and I jump back from the window. He must’ve seen me. Bollocks.

What am I going to do? I don’t want him here. This doesn’t belong to him.

He’s going to come in here. I can hear gravel crunching under his feet as he walks towards the house.

And I’ve left the door open.

I slip across the landing and half-slide down the stairs in my rush to get to the front doors. I nearly fall out of them rather than close them. As I stumble to right myself, I look up and meet his eyes for one split second as he’s walking up the steps, then I heave the doors together and slam them shut. I twist the key too fast and it makes such a severe grinding noise that I expect it to come out in two pieces. I lean against the doors with a sigh of relief.

I don’t even realise what I’m doing until he bangs on the other side. ‘Oi! What are you doing? Let me in!’

I squeeze my eyes shut and shake my head, hoping he’ll go away.

Shutting him out was a silly, childish thing to do. I know that. But I also know he doesn’t belong here. Eulalie wouldn’t want a complete stranger turning her house upside down because of some silly riddle about treasure.

About the author

Jaimie Admans
Jaimie is a 32-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, watching horror movies, and drinking tea, although she’s seriously considering marrying her coffee machine. She loves autumn and winter, and singing songs from musicals despite the fact she’s got the voice of a dying hyena. She hates spiders, hot weather, and cheese & onion crisps. She spends far too much time on Twitter and owns too many pairs of boots.
She will never have time to read all the books she wants to read.

She is the author of chick-lit romantic comedies The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters and Kismetology, and she has also written young-adult romantic comedies Afterlife Academy, Not Pretty Enough, and North Pole Reform School.

Author links

http://www.jaimieadmans.com
http://twitter.com/be_the_spark
http://facebook.com/jaimieadmansbooks

The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters – buying links
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06Y69QZGP
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y69QZGP
Will also be available from all other ebook retailers.

From the back of the book
Where dreams come true…?

Wendy Clayton stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago. Instead, she has a ‘nice’ life. Nice job. Nice flat. Absolutely no men. Until her life is turned upside-down when her elderly neighbour, Eulalie, passes away and leaves her the Château of Happily Ever Afters!

But there’s a catch: she must share the sprawling French castle with Eulalie’s long-lost nephew, Julian. And no matter how gorgeous he is, or how easily she finds herself falling head over heels, Wendy needs to find a way to get rid of him…
Because surely happily ever afters don’t happen in real life?

Escape to beautiful France this summer with this uplifting romantic comedy. Perfect for fans of Kat French, Caroline Roberts, and Holly Martin.

Giveaway

Giveaway Photo
For you chance to win all the goodies in the photo (which are also listed below), click on the Rafflecopter link.

French-themed stationery goodie bag.
1 x Paperchase Paris notebook and pen
1 x The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters notebook
1 x little Eiffel Tower model
1 x Eiffel Tower bookmark
1 x The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters magnet
1 x Signed postcard

Click here to enter the giveaway

 

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard #extract @bookouture @helenpollard147

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse: A feel good novel to read in the sun (La Cour des Roses Book 3) by [Pollard, Helen]

I read the first in The Little French Guesthouse series last year and loved the feel-good romantic story which has such a great setting. You can read my review of that here. I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet but that gorgeous cover has me totally in the holiday mood and once again wanting to visit France! 

I am delighted to be able to share a lovely long extract from the very beginning of the book with you today. If it whets your appetite, and I’m sure it will, you can buy a copy here:  UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2qaUH61  US 🇺🇸 http://amzn.to/2ozh0Cy

Chapter One

The pounding on the guesthouse door sounded like a battering ram.

Throwing myself out of bed with much toe-stubbing and cursing, I glanced at the clock on the dresser. Five thirty a.m. What the …?

I scrabbled in my cluttered top drawer for the key of the door that linked my quarters to Rupert’s – only to be used in emergency – but when the next onslaught began, I gave up, grabbed a hoodie and staggered out through my private entrance and around the outside of the building. Believe me, gravel is not an ideal surface for bare feet. I would have gone back for flip-flops, but I was desperate to stop the violence on the door.

My heart stuttered in my chest as I rounded the corner to see that the racket was being perpetrated by a gendarme.

What was wrong? Who had been hurt? Had I only imagined hearing Rupert’s return from the UK late last night? Had something happened with that wretched ex-wife of his? Had he been in an accident?

I looked across the courtyard and whooshed out a sigh of relief when I saw his estate car, although I wasn’t sure why it had a tarp thrown over it.

The gendarme’s fists were raised, ready to knock again.

Arrêtez, s’il vous plait!’ I waved madly at him as I painfully ooched and ouched my way towards him, eventually stepping blissfully onto the smooth doorstep.

‘Can I help you?’ I asked in my best French. Despite living in France for almost a year now, I’d had little experience with gendarmes – but I presumed it was best not to mess with them.

He was middle-aged and portly, with a poker face that fell by degrees as he took in my shorty-pyjamas, bed hair and bare feet, then glanced at the corner I’d appeared from. No doubt he was wondering why I hadn’t opened the door like a normal person and saved my feet from laceration.

At that time in the morning and that stage of caffeine intake (nil), my French wouldn’t stretch to explaining.

In rapid French, he began to interrogate me. Who was I, why I was there, did I know Monsieur Rupert Hunter and, if so, where was he?

Alarmed, I tried to formulate a coherent response, but I was mercifully saved when the door opened and Rupert stuck his head out.

He looked dishevelled – unshaven, his wavy silver hair uncombed, a bathrobe half-thrown on over boxers.

‘Emmy. What’s going on?’

The gendarme didn’t wait for me to reply but repeated his interrogation, and when Rupert confirmed that he was indeed the hunted party, the diatribe lengthened.

Rupert looked shell-shocked, but I watched as enlightenment dawned. Thank God he knew what this was about. All I could gather was that something or someone had been abandonné.

Rupert invited our visitor in, took him into the kitchen and got to work at his state-of-the-art coffee machine to placate him with a strong espresso.

It did the trick. The law-upholder thawed with each sip as Rupert launched into a lengthy explanation, something to do with the car and tyres. I didn’t tax my brain by trying to follow, since I intended to get the English version shortly. Rupert propped his broad frame – leaner nowadays – against the counter as he spoke, occasionally scrubbing at his close-cropped grey beard as he sought an explanation that would soothe, rather than inflame.

Seemingly satisfied, our uniformed friend departed with stern words.

I rounded on Rupert. ‘What was that all about? Why did you get home so late last night? Why are we being visited by a gendarme?’

Ignoring me, Rupert set to again at the coffee machine, delivering the goods into my shaking hands and slurping his own as though his life depended on it. We sat at the large pine table and I gave him a questioning look.

‘We had an incident on the way home,’ he declared.

‘What kind of incident? Did you crash the car? Why is it covered up?’

He glared balefully at me. ‘Are you going to continue firing questions at me, or are you going to listen?’

‘Sorry.’

‘The trailer had a tyre blow-out. We had to limp it along to a layby.’

‘I told you that trailer’s too old.’

‘And I told you that Bob and I thoroughly checked it over. Just because something’s getting on a bit doesn’t mean it’s no use to anybody, Emmy. We overloaded it, that’s all.’

‘Didn’t you have a spare?’

‘We did. We changed it, but it must have had a leak we hadn’t noticed.’

‘What about breakdown cover?’

‘It turns out I’m not covered for towing. Only for the car.’

I closed my eyes. ‘You didn’t think to check before you set off?’

‘Checked the insurance. Didn’t think to check the breakdown cover.’

‘So where’s the trailer now?’

‘That was what our friend came about. We had to leave it where it was.’

‘You abandoned a trailer in a layby halfway between here and Calais?’

‘Didn’t have any choice. Couldn’t have got a tyre at that time of night for love nor money. The car was already stuffed full, so we loaded what we could onto the roof rack and tied it down. The least valuable items are still in the trailer, trusting to luck and the honesty of our fellow man. The idea was to get a tyre this morning, drive back and change it. But it’s already been reported and traced to me. Hence our visit from the gendarme.’ He sighed. ‘I need to get it sorted by midday, or I’m getting fined or arrested or something. Will you be okay on your own? I know it’s not convenient.’

You’re telling me!

Saturday was gîte changeover day, and since it was the height of summer, that meant all three to clean out and get ready for arrivals. And a departure and a set of new arrivals for the guesthouse. And a guest meal to cook.

‘I’ll be fine,’ I lied, taking in the bags under his eyes. ‘You look tired, Rupert. All that driving and hoicking furniture about. Argy-bargying with Gloria – which I shall enquire about later.’

‘Can’t be helped. I’d better phone Bob, poor bugger, and tell him we need to get off. By the time we’ve found the right size tyre and driven back to the trailer, we might be pushing the gendarme’s deadline. Leave the welcome baskets for the gîtes till last, Emmy. I might be back in time to do those, at least.’

‘Have you had your meds? Will you eat something before you go?’

‘No, but I will. Yes, if you throw something together while I have a quick shower.’

He staggered off, and I sorted out fruit and yogurt and toast for him.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Bob, our local hippie biker and soon to be my wedding photographer. The poor sod had already given up his time to drive and lift and carry and referee between Rupert and his very-nearly-ex-wife. That bloke deserved a good friend award.

The dog had begun to whine in Rupert’s lounge. Since neither of us had time to walk her, I let her out into the small orchard at the side of the house to do whatever a dog needs to do, grimacing as I watched her crouch, then sighing as I grabbed a plastic bag and trudged out to pick up after her. I wasn’t sure that was on my official job description. Not that I had an official job description.

The daft black Labrador was off, slaloming around the trees, the morning sun slanting through the leaves, the grass beneath her paws green and lush and dew-speckled, and I whistled for her to come back in. I refused to call her name as a matter of principle. I honestly believed that Rupert’s decision to call her Gloria in a moment of irony was the worst idea he’d ever had. Nowadays, the dog seemed able to distinguish between when Rupert used the name Gloria to refer to her and when he was referring to the human Gloria, perhaps due to the differing intonation – joyous enthusiasm for his pet and weary resignation for his ex-wife. But as far as I was concerned, she was ‘sweetie’ or ‘the dog’, and, fairly frequently, ‘that bloody dog of yours’… Although one look from those woeful eyes always made me melt, and I couldn’t resist burying my face in her soft fur when we were lounging together.

When I saw her emerge from a tall hedge and streak towards the house, safe in the knowledge that she would settle in her basket in the hall, I went into the kitchen to lay out breakfast. Heroically forcing my hand away from the pains aux raisins, I grabbed a banana and gulped it down as the first guests appeared.

They seated themselves at the scrubbed pine table under the sloping roof of the kitchen extension, away from the business end of the kitchen, to enjoy the late July sunshine pouring through the large window and patio doors, and to peruse the breakfast goodies.

When I asked if they would like eggs (laid by Rupert’s own chickens) and how they would like them cooked, I carefully omitted the fact that, with Rupert absent, they would get a much-inferior version. Despite his careful tutelage, eggs and I still did not get on from a culinary point of view.

Hopefully, any disappointment in the egg department would be offset by the array of fresh pains aux raisins, croissants, pains au chocolat, chopped fruit, yogurt and local-made preserves, to which our guests helped themselves as I brought coffee and tea to the table.

Breakfast was a busy time of day and meant a very early start, but I could hardly complain with the sun shining, the view of the garden through the patio doors so appealing, the table laden with goodies, the guests in a good mood and ready to start their day, happily chatting with each other and swapping sightseeing tips. With Rupert not available this morning, they turned to me for advice and I readily supplied answers to their questions, pleased that my knowledge of the area had improved so much over the past year.

For the zillionth time, I thanked my lucky stars that I’d found this place – and that I’d found the courage to take up Rupert’s offer to live and work here. I didn’t regret it for a single moment. I may not have thought it at the time, but my now-ex-boyfriend Nathan had done me a substantial favour by sleeping with Rupert’s wife while we were on holiday at La Cour des Roses last year. If he hadn’t, I never would have stayed behind to help Rupert through his illness, fallen in love with his home and business, made such a good job of looking after him and La Cour des Roses that he offered me a permanent position here, made a new life for myself away from the rat race, and made a bunch of fantastic new friends while I was at it. And, of course, met the man I was due to marry soon.

My morning idyll was shattered by an ear-splitting shriek.

When I’d recovered my wits, I streaked into the hall to find Abigail Harris clutching her chest in a dramatic manner, her husband Brian patting her arm.

‘What’s the matter?’ I asked, thinking my heart might need massaging, too.

Abigail pointed shakily at the dog, who was curled up peaceably in her basket, cuddling her blanket and … something else.

I peered closer. Her velvety head lay next to what at first glance looked like a well-chewed soft toy but upon closer inspection was a rabbit carcass. An ancient rabbit carcass – nothing more than a frame of bones, with mangled fur dangling off it here and there.

Ugh.

‘Gloria, you bad girl!’ I wagged a finger at her, forgetting my aversion to her given name.

She gazed back at me with those adorable big eyes of hers, but I wasn’t in the mood.

‘Out!’

She stared back defiantly.

I tugged at her collar. ‘Out, you naughty mutt!’

She settled further into her basket, lovingly nuzzling her prize. It turned my stomach, to the point where the banana threatened a comeback.

I turned to Abigail and Brian. ‘I’m so sorry. I didn’t see her bring it in. I’ll deal with it immediately. Please go through to breakfast. I’ll only be a minute.’

As they left the scene of the crime, I gave the dog a stern glare, but she wasn’t budging. With a frustrated sigh, I opened the door to Rupert’s quarters and resorted to lifting the basket with dog, rabbit carcass and all. She weighed a ton, but I carried her through to Rupert’s lounge where we could fight over possession in peace.

The dog won.

I figured all I could do was wait for her to go to sleep and then sneak the offending – and offensive – item away from her.

Just another day at La Cour des Roses.

From the back of the book

Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?

This summer, escape to the rolling vineyards of France for an utterly uplifting read. Fans of Jenny Colgan, Debbie Johnson and Nick Alexander will want to join Emmy for a pain au chocolat in the sun-drenched garden at La Cour des Roses.

Author in the Spotlight @MoiraMcPartlin @fledglingpress

moira mcpartlin

My author in the Spotlight today is Moira McPartlin whose latest novel, Wants of the Silent, will be published on 31st July. If you are in Edinburgh there is a launch event at Blackwell’s on 1st August followed by an event at Central Library, Stirling on the 9th August and Waterstones, Argyll Street Glasgow on the 10th. The book will be available to buy at Blackwells, Waterstones and other good bookshops as well as online.

First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?

I was born in Edinburgh due to a technicality but my family are from Galashiels.  As a family we moved to Fife when I was five, so I regard myself as a Fifer. I married young and had a family before deciding to get an education.  After my divorce I studied sociology and business studies at night school. During this time I held down a full time job and was a single mother to two teenage boys. This was tough but it paid off because I went on to secure a fantastic job with Shell and my boys are now settled with families of their own. Being a granny is the best job in the world.

What inspired you to start writing?

While I worked at Shell I was required to travel all over the world. I spent many hours alone in airports, planes and hotels. It was then that I started writing. Observing all these different people, cultures and experiences was very inspirational – I couldn’t not write. It also helped to pass the time.  I signed up for some Creative Writing night classes at Strathclyde University and although I missed many of the classes due to work, I still made my assignment deadlines and learned to use the tools of this craft. Soon the writing took over my life and I resigned my Shell role in 2005 to write full time.

Tell me about your journey to publication

I read early on in my writing career that perseverance is the greatest gift a writer can have. This is very true.  I had a huge professional CV when I left Shell and I knew I would have to build a writing CV from scratch. I began writing poetry and short stories before I started my first novel.  After I’d spent hours editing and polishing my short pieces I sent them into competitions and magazines.  Many rejections came flying back to me, but each time I received a rejection I would send the work straight out again. Eventually my list of published work grew. While I wrote my novel I continued to send short work out and every success gave me an extra boost of motivation. The first novel I wrote, Torque, still sits on my hard drive. It was rejected by everyone I sent to. My next novel, The Incomers, received many encouraging rejections so I knew that I had something good. It took about a year of sending out to publishers and agents before Fledgling Press accepted it. They published it in 2012.

In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?

Front cover

My latest book, Wants of the Silent is part two of The Sun Song Trilogy. The trilogy is set in the year 2089 where the world is divided between two classes, Privileged and natives. The protagonist, sixteen year old Sorlie, is Privileged but has an intriguing family history. In part one, Ways of the Doomed, he finds himself out of depth in this divided world. Wants of the Silent continues Sorlie’s quest for truth about his identity and the strange society he lives in. Although the trilogy is set in the future it contains many themes that resonate with the political and ethical issues surfacing in today’s world. It is a sort of cross between Kidnapped and The Handmaid’s Tale.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I am a member of a Facebook Global Reading Salon that specialises in reading epics. While I was reading Milton’s Paradise Lost I noticed the appearance of all the titles in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials within the text. At the time I thought ‘that’s clever’. A couple of reads down the line was Icelandic Epic, The Poetic Edda. A short way into a section called The Song of the Sun I was struck by how many phrases made great book titles. I began to underline them. By the end I had a list of about twenty five phrases. The feel and tone of the poem worked with my trilogy themes and I was astounded when near the end of the poem the name of my protagonist appeared; the name was spelt ‘Sorli’ but it was still a spooky moment. I took this as a sign and chose three titles that work best.

How do you plan to celebrate publication day?

I am having three Scottish launches (Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow) and possibly one in London. I invite all my friends from all over and we normally have cake at the launch. Everyone loves cake so I think I will do the same again.

Do you have a work in progress just now?

Yes, I have just started working on part three of the trilogy which will introduce new characters and new societies into the future world Sorlie inhabits.  I also have a series of short stories I’m working on based on all the antic my sons got up to when they were teenagers.

What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!

I am a voracious reader. The best books I’ve read in the past month are Wonder by RJ Palacio, a heart-breaking tale about a boy with a genetic condition that has disfigured his face.

Wonder by [Palacio, R J]

Dalila, by Jason Donald is an insightful and horrific story about an asylum seeker in Glasgow and just to show that I also read light hearted stories, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon is a hilarious tale about suburban paranoia.

Dalila by [Donald, Jason]

What are you reading just now? 

I always read one fiction and one non-fiction book at the same time. I find reading non-fiction is really inspiring for me as a writer and this is where I get the sparks for my imagination. I’m currently reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X. He was a charismatic civil rights activist in the 1960s and this is a fascinating read. My novels are about civil liberties so this is very relevant to what I am writing.

My fiction read of the moment is the winner of the Bailey Women’s Prize, The Power by Naomi Alderman. It is set in an imagined future where women have this strange new power.  I’m enjoying it so far.

The Power: WINNER OF THE 2017 BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION by [Alderman, Naomi]

If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

This is a bit of a cheat but I would take The Complete Works of Robert Louis Stevenson. It has everything I need; novels, short stories, poetry and travel writing. I love his work.

The Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson: 30 Books and Short Stories (Unexpurgated Edition) (Halcyon Classics) by [Stevenson, Robert Louis]

Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?

I would love to see my debut novel The Incomers made into a film. It is very cinematic and is a story that needs to be told to a wider audience. I would cast the wonderful writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as main character Ellie, because she is a strong feminist and also very beautiful, just like Ellie. For the two gossips, Isa and Bella, I would cast my friends Kay and Fiona. They played these roles at my events when the book was first published and were brilliant. You can see them in action on You Tube here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moeW3Irgjs0

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?

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

Twitter:                @moiramcpartlin

Instagram:           moiramcpartlin

Blog:                      www.moiramcpartlin.com

And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?

It would be Portia from The Merchant of Venice.  I still remember the moment I read this at school and of being gobsmacked that a woman could be so strong and clever. I am from a very traditional family and until then I had no idea women could take on such a role. It was a real eye-opener and was probably the beginning of my own minor rebellion.