Five French Hens sounds like an absolute hoot of a book and one I am disappointed not to be able to fit into my December reading list. I am delighted, though, to be able to share an extract from the novel with you today, thanks to the publishers Boldwood Books. The author Judy Leigh has also kindly answered my Author in the Spotlight questions so it’s a bumper post for you today! First of all, let’s hear from Judy.
First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
My name is Judy. I live in the South West but I’ve lived all over the UK. I have the best job in the world, writing novels. I have two children in their twenties who are doing their own thing and three cats who enjoy writing with me so much they often walk over the keyboard and press on the printer to print out pages with their bottoms.
What inspired you to start writing?
My mum brought me up to write books. She was an inspiration. I always wanted to write and it is sad that she’ll never see any of my books in print. She’d have danced on the table with joy!
Tell me about your journey to publication
I scribbled and wrote all sorts of things: moody poems as a teenager, plays and monologues as a theatre teacher and then, when my kids went to uni, I decided I’d fulfil my dream and I did a Masters in writing which was very good at explaining the pathways and the skills needed to write. Now I write full time.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
Five female friends of a certain age. One is getting married. They all go on a wild hen party to Paris and get up to mischief. The trip puts their lives back home in a new light. It changes their perspectives when it’s time to come home. In a small nutshell, it’s about grabbing life.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
There are five of them. They go on a hen part. To France… Hey presto!
How do you plan to celebrate publication day?
My partner plans a night out with my friends and I pretend I don’t know anything about it until I arrive. Then I have a wonderful time. My son is in Lima so I’ll miss him this time.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
Oh yes, I’m always a book or two ahead.. I’m editing my next novel and I’ve just finished writing the one after that. I have so enjoyed creating the new characters…
What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!
Oh, it’s so difficult. I read all sorts of things. I recently read Sally Rooney’s book Conversations with Friends and Kamila Shamsie’s Salt and Saffron. I loved them both.
What are you reading just now?
I’ve just started Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
I’d be a smuggler and take lots. But if I had to pick one, it would be Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. A genius of a book, that makes me laugh, cry and feel glad to be alive.
Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?
I’ll let you into a secret…when I write my novels, I always imagine them as films. I’d love to cast the Hens with Julie Walters, Helen Mirren, Celia Imrie…I could go on…
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
I have a Facebook page and Twitter and BookBub. I always try to reply to everyone. I’m so grateful for kind comments. One gentleman has even suggested a role for himself in a future novel…
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I’d have to be either Catherine Earnshaw or Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Tragedy, passion, gothic setting. Mmmm. In reality, I’d probably be Hermione Granger…
Now, more details about the book
The best days of your life might be still to come…
When 73 year old Jen announces that she is going to marry Eddie, a man she met just a few months previously on a beach on Boxing Day, her four best friends from aqua aerobics are flabbergasted.
The wedding is booked and, when the groom decides to have a stag trip to Las Vegas, the ladies arrange a hen party to beat all others -a week in the city of love, Paris.
From misadventures at the Louvre, outrageous Parisian cabarets, to drinking champagne with a dashing millionaire at the casino, Paris lives up to all their hopes and dreams. But a week can change everything, and the women that come home have very different dreams from the ones who got on the plane just days ago.
Funny, fearless and with a joie de vivre that reminds you to live every day like it’s your last. Judy Leigh has once again written the perfect feel-good novel for all fans of Cathy Hopkins, Dawn French and Fiona Gibson.
Now read on for an extract from the part of the book when Jen tells her friends she’s getting married
The table in the café was a mess: Rose wouldn’t have allowed the polished wooden one in her dining room to get in such a state. Tess covered her lips as she smiled – there were cake crumbs, paper wrappings, slops of coffee across the plastic surface. She imagined Alan’s face if he came home and their oak table was in such a state of disarray. Della swept crumbs into her hand. Pam was more concerned with finishing the contents of a second bottle of sparkling water and, when she dumped the empty container back on the table, it toppled over on its side, spattering little puddles in its wake. Rose wondered if Pam’s house was as untidy. She supposed since Pam had always been single, as far as she knew, no one had been around to complain about untidiness. But then, Pam had never had anyone to keep the house nice for either, she thought. Jen was unusually quiet, staring at her fingernails.
Della dabbed her mouth with a paper napkin and dropped it on her plate. ‘That was such good cake. Nearly as good as I make myself.’
Pam sank her teeth into her slice. ‘We deserve a treat.’ She thought for a moment. ‘It’s a shame we haven’t got a bottle of wine or two. I haven’t had a good celebration in ages.’
‘Are you thinking of a girls’ night out?’ Tess chewed at a fingernail. ‘What a lovely idea. We could get all dressed up, go somewhere nice…’
‘Dancing…’ Della suggested.
‘Clubbing,’ Tess offered. ‘There are some really great places for a rave-up in Exeter.’
‘Rave-up?’ Pam spluttered, wiping her mouth. ‘What decade are you in, Tess?’
Tess winked. ‘I don’t care as long as there are plenty of drinks flowing and some fun to be had.’
Rose pulled a thoughtful face. ‘What about a birthday? Who’s next? I’m not until December.’
‘A girls’ night out would be fab.’ Pam drummed her fingers on the table. ‘Do we need an excuse?’
‘We could just go out and party – without any excuse at all.’ Della chuckled.
Jen took a breath. It was time. This was her cue. She held out her left hand to reach for a slice of cake, wiggling her fingers exaggeratedly. Light caught the diamonds and they winked, shooting flashes of rainbow colour. Della sat up straight. ‘What’s that on your finger, girl?’
Three voices trilled at the same time. Tess leaned forward. ‘Oh my God, no! Tell me she hasn’t…’
Della sighed. ‘It’s a diamond ring. How beautiful…’
Pam screeched. ‘When did that happen?’
Jen’s face broke into a wide smile she couldn’t hold back. ‘Two days ago. Valentine’s night. Eddie asked me… and the next day, I said yes.’
Rose frowned. ‘It’s a bit quick, isn’t it? You’ve only known each other since Christmas. It takes me longer than that to decide which cut to get at the butcher’s.’
‘I think it’s lovely,’ Tess breathed. She was thinking of the emptiness of her own life when Alan was at golf, and how the walls held cold silence in them every day.
‘Congratulations.’ Pam banged a fist on the table. ‘Well, here’s our excuse for a night out.’
Della grabbed Jen’s hand. ‘What a wonderful ring. The diamonds are huge. Where did you buy it, Jen?’
Jen waved her hand for all to examine. ‘Eddie chose it. He just sprang it on me. He came in for coffee…’
‘Coffee…’ Della laughed.
‘I bet he did.’ Tess snorted.
‘… and he asked me to marry him and produced the ring. Of course, I did the sensible thing and asked for more time to think about it.’ She wiggled her finger again. ‘Then the next morning, I said yes and Eddie took me to breakfast to celebrate. It was really lovely.’
Pam leaned back in her seat, stretching out long legs in jeans. ‘Well, how exciting. Congratulations, Jen. So, when’s the big day?’
Jen giggled. ‘We’ve been talking about it. Eddie thinks we should get married in six weeks or so. Late March, early April. A spring wedding…’
‘I hope we’re going to be your bridesmaids,’ Tess butted in.
‘Oh, we’ll probably just have a simple do. No fuss. A few friends – you’re all invited – and a quiet meal somewhere – probably the Olive Grove. Eddie wants us to live in my house. He said he can rent out his place and we’ll get a good income from it. He’s written all the figures down on a piece of paper.’
‘He sounds like a sensible man.’ Rose thought for a moment. ‘But there’s no fun in maths – what about the exciting bits like the honeymoon?’
Pam fluffed her short hair, making it stand up. ‘Eddie certainly sounds like he has it all worked out.’
‘And how do you feel, Jen?’ Della leaned forward. ‘Are you all excited?’
‘It’s like being caught up in a whirlwind…’
Tess grimaced. ‘Oh yes, it’s like that at first. All lovey-dovey. Then after a year or so, it’s smelly socks to wash and “the chops are a bit tough, Tess” and golf clubs in every corner of the room.’ She noticed Jen’s anxious expression and laughed, too high. ‘Oh, but that’s just Alan. I’m sure your Eddie will be completely different.’
‘Does he snore?’ Della asked, wrinkling her brow.
Jen pouted. ‘I’ve no idea. We haven’t…’
‘You haven’t sampled the goods yet?’ Tess giggled. ‘Is that a good idea?’
‘Eddie’s very proper… and respectful,’ Jen insisted. ‘We talked about a honeymoon. A long weekend in Lyme Regis. We’ll wait until then.’
‘Oh, I’d want to know he was man enough for the job before I married him.’ Tess winked.
Della’s face was serious. ‘I think you’re all missing the point.’ She met everyone’s eyes in turn, then she smiled at Jen. ‘It’s a wonderful thing. Our friend Jen is getting married. And we should all rejoice for her.’
Rose nodded. ‘Yes, congratulations, Jen.’
‘To years of happiness,’ Pam murmured.
‘I’ll drink to that.’ Tess nodded. ‘And that means a party.’
If that has whetted your appetite, you will find buying links on the publishers website here: Five French Hens. My thanks to Megan at Boldwood Books for inviting me to take part in the blogtour. Five French Hens is available now in ebook and paperback and the audiobook will be released next week.
About the author
Judy Leigh has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset. After teaching theatre, writing lyrics for a punk band and setting up Shakespeare Festivals, she completed an MA in Professional Writing. Her most recent novel, Five French Hens, is available from December 2019. Her debut novel, A Grand Old Time, and her second novel, The Age of Misadventure celebrate the ups and downs of life and the belief that everyone has a second chance at happiness.
She is a prolific writer, but when she is not at her computer you will find her on the beach, walking, doing yoga or splashing in the sea. She is also a Reiki healer, a vegan and an animal lover. She has three black cats and she enjoys live music, theatre and football.
Follow on Bookbub at: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/judy-leigh