2018, Author Love, Blogtober, Book Snippet, Guest Post, Uncategorized

Guest Post: Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s By Pernille Hughes

Thank god its Friday I don’t always get to use this phrase and soon I probably won’t get to but this week I’m off after today. I plan to have as chilled a weekend as I can after doing something to my back earlier in the week. I’ve missed all my classes this week and I’m not happy about it but the hot water bottle is helping loads.

Today I am pleased to share a gorgeous snippet of Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s. I haven’t had the chance to read this yet but it’s definitely on that ever increasing TBR. Over my weekend I hope to get some organisation to my life some reading, TV and some work for my up and coming exercise course.

Not only do I have a bit of the novel to share I also have a brief explanation from Pernille on her inspiration for Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s.

So here is Pernille…..

It took me a while to find where my writing voice lay. I tried children’s novelty books, picture books, Teen books and Young Adult. Randomly I spotted a regular column in a Sunday paper of short holiday romances and spent a little while dissecting it. I thought I’d have a go and sent one off for the fun of it. They actually bought it. And then they bought thirty five more over the next two years. During that time I saw a tweet for a writing competition, which was offering three story slots in an anthology to sit alongside a raft of known romance writers’ holiday-themed short stories. I wrote one, entered and came runner-up. At that point, I realised that perhaps Romance was where my writing voice lay. (Yes, yes I know, I am slow…)

So I started thinking about writing a full length romance novel. But where do you start? I noticed many Women’s Fiction titles are film or song titles, or puns on film or song titles. I happened to see a trailer for Breakfast At Tiffanie’s on the TV and wondered what a pun on that could be. Sweatpants At Tiffanie’s popped into my head and then I sat thinking what that story might be about. After that there was much scribbling of notes and much much later I now have a book. I wanted to write a story with a modern woman, ordinary but eventually strong, who wasn’t clumsy or ditsy. And I wanted her to be in a scenario which wasn’t necessarily what the reader would be expecting given current trends; it’s not about cosy cottages, or baking or Cornish coves (which are all great, by the way, just not what I can write). Of course that meant that some publishers didn’t really know what to do with my story, and weren’t willing to take a chance on it, but Harper Impulse did– Hurrah!

In the book, Tiffanie gets dumped by Gavin her boyfriend on their 10th anniversary, and she finds herself both heartbroken and homeless. She holds onto the fact that she still has her job, bookkeeping at a vintage boxing gym. Only, Blackie, the owner, drops dead the next day. (He’s having a bad week too…) To top it all off, Mike ‘The Assassin’ Fellner, world-champion boxer and Tiff’s previous ex rocks up at the wake and they are sparring from the off, leaving Tiff properly rattled and highly annoyed she didn’t get her roots done, because the last thing you want is to look ropey when your famous first love is in town, looking all smart, successful and bulging biceppy.

To Tiff’s shock Blackie leaves her his gym in his will and Tiff, who is neither fit nor sports-inclined, has to decide whether she can take it on, especially when others are telling her she isn’t capable. She isn’t totally unsupported though, Tiff’s best friend Shelby is a powerhouse of positivity and tough love and merrily kicks her through any self-pity. (God bless sympathetic friends like that…)

As she grapples with the gym, Tiff gets to examine the life she’s been living in a safe but dependant relationship, and learns that she’s the one who decides what she’s capable of and what her limits are.

Here’s the first two chapters. I really hope you enjoy them!

It took balls to dump someone on your anniversary, but that was one of the things Tiffanie had always admired about Gavin: his single-mindedness and determination (not his balls as such, because he’d recently developed a thing for all-over waxing and she’d never been quite sure).

‘So today felt like the right day to draw it to a conclusion, Tiff,’ he said, scoping his eyes over his plate, the steak still steaming from the skillet. Usually she liked the smell of steak, tonight it made her want to hurl. ‘Closure, you know? Neat and tidy. So when you look back on it you’ll know it was ten years exactly.’ Tiff couldn’t quite work out why that would be relevant, but it seemed logical to Gavin.

‘What about when you look back on it?’ she asked, totally dazed and not a little confused. She’d been delighted when he told her they were going to Lorenzo’s; their usual table booked in the bay window. She’d bought herself a new dress to mark the occasion. Ten years. Many marriages didn’t last that long.

Marriage. That was where Tiff thought the night might head, as she’d given him a handmade card that morning and a new watch. He’d simply thanked her, kissed her forehead and deposited the box on the bedside table. She figured he’d wear it later to the restaurant where he’d give her Forever in return. That’s what she’d thought.

‘Me?’ he asked surprised, as if the notion of recalling their relationship after tonight hadn’t occurred to him. ‘I’ll think we had a decent innings. A neat ten-year package.’ He popped a chunk of steak into his mouth, and she watched as his delight at the taste crossed his face.

‘But why?’ she asked, at a loss. Gavin was her Everything. ‘Why does it need to be a package? Why can’t we carry on?’ While he saw some neat package, all she could see was her world unravelling and changing. In Tiff’s experience, change was rarely a good thing.

Gavin sighed deeply. He took his time chewing the meat. Gavin had always been a keen masticator.

‘We’ve been over this, Tiff.’ He’d been talking for some time, calmly and persuasively, but she’d zoned out approximately when, instead of saying ‘I love you and will you do me the stupendous honour of being my wife?’, he’d pronounced the words, ‘Tiff sweetheart, we’ve had a good run, I think we should call it a day.’ Everything thereafter was a foggy haze.

‘We’re going different places, Tiff. You’re happy where you are, but I’ve got ambitions I need to realise, and it’d be unfair to drag you through all the stress I’m going to face. You’ll be happier without all of that.’

‘You’re dumping me, so I can be happier?’ This did not make any sense. Despite a disrupted education, Tiff had always thought herself quite a bright, logical thinker and this sounded bonkers.

‘Not dumping, Tiff,’ he insisted, throwing an eye-roll in for her apparent crassness. ‘More like setting free.’

‘You’re setting me free like some orphaned animal?’ She pinched herself, in case it was a hallucination. Nope. Maybe if she stabbed her thigh with her fork…

‘Hmm, okay, no,’ Gavin conceded, ‘maybe more like protecting you from pain to come.’ He seemed happier with that analogy and took another mouthful of the steak. Tiff looked down at her lasagne. Never had comfort food looked so unappealing.

‘But Gav, I’m willing to support you through any stress. That’s what being a couple is about. Supporting each other, right?’ She needed to understand how he saw this as sensible, before she could suggest how nonsensical it truly was. Breaking this down to basics seemed the logical way to go. She wasn’t used to this, the disagreeing with Gavin. He was a born leader and she’d always considered it a blessed part of their relationship. She didn’t know where she’d be now – in life that is, not this bizarre conversation – if it hadn’t been for that.

‘’Course it is, and we’ve done that, haven’t we? I’ve supported you through all the stuff with your parents, but I couldn’t put you through more. I need to do this alone, for your sake.’

Honestly, Tiff couldn’t make head nor tail of it. She was fighting an awful lump in her throat and her eyes were rather stingy.

‘For my sake?’

‘Definitely,’ he nodded and attacked his food again.

She didn’t want hers anymore. Lorenzo’s lasagne was epic and she always chose it, even though she’d known it wasn’t the smartest idea. The dress she’d splashed out on was a snug fit. Shops had obviously started changing their sizing again.

‘After ten years together, Gav,’ she asked carefully, keen not to offend, ‘are you really choosing tonight and here, where we had our first date, to tell me you want to end it?’ Putting it as plainly as that, surely he’d see how ridiculous it was? And if not ridiculous, then at least appalling. Tiff was confused; he’d never been either of those two things before. In Tiff’s world Gavin was simply the best thing since sliced bread.

‘Start on our new paths,’ he corrected, underlining it with a gesticulation of his knife. Tiff watched the splat of horseradish sauce land on her wine glass.

‘New paths,’ Tiff repeated, ‘which are in opposite directions.’

‘Well, more like mine is moving forward,’ Gav said, giving it due consideration, ‘and you’ve already reached where you want it to be, I think. That’s probably quite lucky, you know. Reaching your point of equilibrium. I’m still searching. I may never find it, Tiff, all I know is I need to try.’ Tiff had never gone looking for her equilibrium before, least of all assessed its status. She looked down at her lap, where she’d twisted her napkin to the point of fully wrung-out. It matched the feeling in her chest. Lorenzo’s choice of melancholy violin music wasn’t helping.

‘Have you been watching those life coaching DVDs again, Gav?’ She didn’t know why he was so addicted to them. He’d brought more home this week, with some cap-toothed tosser in a sharp suit evangelising about ‘finding your path, pursuing it with tenacity and fortitude and casting off the deadwood from your life’. Not for a second had Tiffanie considered that she might be the deadwood.

Gavin abruptly stopped chewing. ‘They talk a lot of sense, Tiffanie,’ he said, affronted and treating her to a rare view of his semi-chewed food, ‘They teach you to focus. If I want to attain a state of contentment like you, then I need to focus, and not get distracted.’

‘You … you think I’m a distraction now?’ How had she gone from partner to distraction in the matter of fifteen minutes? At this rate she’d be rendered a fleeting acquaintance by dessert. The sense of her life evaporating before her made her sway.

‘Sweetheart,’ he smirked, ‘you have always been a distraction…’ Momentarily, Tiff’s heart fluttered. If he still desired her then …, ‘But I need to be stronger now. For both of us.’ He punctuated the sentence by wolfing his last morsel. Breaking up clearly wasn’t affecting his appetite.

‘What makes you think I’ve reached the end of my path?’ she suddenly asked. ‘What makes you think mine isn’t the same as yours?’

‘It isn’t,’ he stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the history of obvious things.

‘It might be,’ she said, hoping he’d reconsider. ‘How would you know?’

‘You’ve settled, Tiff,’ he said, looking at her intently. He came across, she had to admit, as utterly sure. ‘You’re comfortable, and you’ve stopped striving. And that’s great for you. It really is. I’m delighted for you.’ His benevolent smile supported every word he said. ‘But I need to go on. I haven’t found my place yet.’

‘You’re leaving?’ she whispered. Was this really what he was saying? Really really? ‘You don’t mean we have a break while you follow this path?’ Even the thought of a break left a wrecking ball-shaped dent in her lungs, but she was scrabbling around in damage-limitation mode. Everything was coming apart at the seams.

‘No, sweetheart. Never go backwards. You know that. I walk slowly but I never walk backwards, Tiff. Abe Lincoln.’ He took the moment to refill his wine glass. Tiff had hardly touched hers, but was suddenly overcome by the need to neck the entire glass in one. It still left her mouth feeling dry. ‘And,’ he added gently, ‘technically the flat is mine, so…’ It was enough to make her choke.

‘You want me to leave?’ she heard herself squeak. Her head was swimming now. Tiffanie felt she was a reasonable woman. She’d generally been realistic about life since she’d moved out of her mum’s at seventeen. All things considered, she could easily have gone off the rails. But she hadn’t; she’d found herself maths-tutoring jobs to fund herself through college, she’d got her bookkeeping qualifications, and she’d managed to build up her tiny but loyal roster of clients. That said, she’d only ever lived at home and then with Gavin. GQ-handsome estate agent Gavin, who had been her knight-in-shining-armour and saved her. He, their flat and work were her life. With such a focused world, how exactly had she missed it going pear-shaped?

‘I knew you’d understand,’ he nodded, mopping his plate with a tear of bread. ‘But look, I’m on that residential thing next week, so you’ve got time to find somewhere new or Shelby’ll have you, I’m sure.’

‘But Gavin,’ Tiff started, now utterly desperate, ‘I love you. Yes, I’m happy, because I’m where I want to be – with you.’

Gavin nodded gently along. ‘Sure.’

‘Sure what?’

‘Sure, that’s the place where you’re at. Contentment. That’s what I’ve been saying.’

‘But then what’s to change, Gav? Isn’t that what people strive for? Happiness. Contentment. Being with the person they love?’

‘Yes.’

And then it hit her like a frying pan in the face.

‘Oh. So what you’re saying is, you don’t love me. All this stuff about setting me free, is you saying you don’t love me and you want me gone.’ Her voice had gone up a couple of decibels and octaves, as the full horror set in. If he didn’t want her, then where did that leave her? It wasn’t just the rug he was pulling out from under her, but the entire planet. Everything she now was, was down to him.

She was aware other diners were beginning to discuss them, their furtive looks not nearly as subtle as they thought. Lorenzo’s was one of those quiet intimate restaurants, all subdued lighting and discretion. Not the appropriate venue for a heart-wrenching meltdown.

‘Of course not, Tiffanie. Calm down. I’ve loved you for a long time – still do – and that’s why I can see we need to end. I haven’t fulfilled myself yet and I need to. I can’t take you on this journey.’

‘You can’t mean that, Gav,’ she gulped down with a sniffle, the tears now threatening to get the better of her. ‘That can’t be right.’

‘That’s the truth, Tiffanie, and being honest, I’m rather disappointed you aren’t wanting me to be happy and content like you.’

‘I’ve always wanted the best for you, Gav,’ she said, as one fat tear broke over the rim of her eye, rolling morosely down her cheek and into her Béchamel sauce.

He laid his hand on hers and gave it a brisk squeeze. ‘Then I know you’ll agree to do this calmly and rationally. We shouldn’t fight about this, we’re above that, aren’t we?’ It was true, they didn’t fight. Never had. She’d always followed his lead, confident he knew best. Which had her so conflicted now, on top of the abject misery and disappointment.

In the end, what depleted any resistance she might have had was the recognition that when you stripped it all down, he didn’t want to be with her, and given his presence of mind, he’d known this for some time. Essentially, Gavin had been clearing his path for a while, and she’d missed all the signs.

‘Is there someone else?’

‘No, there’s no one else, Tiff,’ he sighed wearily.

‘You simply don’t want me.’ Her shoulders wanted to let her head hang, but fear of being an embarrassment forced her to hold her chin up.

‘I simply know our journey has come to an end.’

Looking at him now across the table, she knew he was decided. After precisely ten years, everything she had depended on, gained security from, was over. And while he thought he was offering her closure, in fact she felt only loss, exposure and pain underlined by one key question; what would she do – what could she do – without Gavin?

The flat felt odd as soon as she walked in. Nothing tangible was different and yet everything had changed. It was no longer their home. Everything would be divvied up as either his or hers. While she currently moved like a shell-shocked automaton, soon they’d be tiptoeing around each other, being cordial. Only it wouldn’t even be that, seeing as he wouldn’t be there. His course started in the morning.

Smoothly sliding off his jacket, Gavin headed straight for the bedroom. Tiffanie stood in the lounge unsure what to do. She urgently needed to bury herself under her duvet, armadillo into a ball and sob her heart out. She figured she’d wait while he got his pillow from their bed. There was a chenille throw over the sofa-arm he could use; surely, as the injured party she got first dibs on the duvet?

‘Look, we’re both grown-ups, we’ll share the bed tonight, won’t we?’ Gavin called from the bedroom. ‘I’m up early tomorrow, so I’ll need the sleep and the sofa won’t cut it.’ He stuck his head back around the door. ‘Unless you want the sofa tonight? The bed’s all yours for the rest of the week.’

Tiffanie eyed the sofa. It was Gavin’s pride and joy; a long black leather monstrosity, all cubey and no comfort. He believed it made the space look like a loft, but it was the pits for curling up and watching telly. Even Newsnight wasn’t meant to be watched sitting bolt upright.

‘One night,’ Tiff told herself. ‘You can do this.’ One night next to the man she loved who apparently didn’t want her anymore. One night holding back the sobs racking around inside her body. She could manage that, she reckoned. Silently she walked into the bedroom, grabbed her PJs and changed in the bathroom.

Normally they’d lie sprawled loosely around each other. She liked it best when he had an arm or a leg thrown over her. It made her feel safe; anchored in life. Until now he’d been her point of stability. Tonight Gavin lay on his back, arms draped easily across his chest, having fallen asleep with insulting ease.

Tiff itched to have some contact with him, but felt she couldn’t when his mind was so made up. She could see the silhouette of his suitcase. He’d obviously packed it knowing when he left the following morning, he’d be walking away from their shared life.

Mind churning in the dark, she suspected she hadn’t put up much of a fight. She’d instinctively recognised his persuasive It’s a done deal frame of mind. She’d seen it so many times; furniture, restaurants, brands, and essentially, if it was important to him, then it was important to her. After all he’d done for her, she valued his happiness above all else, so what did one swanky venue matter over another? One snazzy chair was probably as good as the next. (Except for the sofa. That bloody thing had always been a mistake.) The conclusion she came to, as she lay staring at the ceiling at 02.42, was she hadn’t sufficiently defended their relationship.

Show him what he’ll be missing, she thought, knowing he wouldn’t be budged by any argument. Show him how good we are together.

Slowly, veeery slowly, she began to wiggle her PJ bottoms off. Getting the long-sleeved T over her head wasn’t hard, given how stretched out of shape it was. She froze as Gavin emitted a low snore, but used the next one to cover her rustling as she shimmied down the bed to his feet.

She kissed the ball of his ankle. Feeling emotionally frail already, his toes felt beyond her capabilities tonight. There were limits.

Gavin didn’t flinch as she continued with fairy kisses around his ankle, then up his calf to his knee, where she noted his skin, if not his mind, was beginning to sense something was afoot. Emboldened by this, she continued in an enthusiastic upward projection.

Sex had never been one of the areas in which Tiff felt particularly proficient. She’d met Gavin having only had one partner, which had primarily been teenage fumblings culminating in a highly-orchestrated and disproportionately-brief losing of virginities. At the time, she’d thought this one-off event was a sound base on which to build what could become an epic repertoire. Circumstances had altered that course.

Gavin, in contrast, was experienced; he knew what to do and what he liked. Feeling she wasn’t in any position to critique, Tiff had embraced the positive opinion that by following his lead she’d side-step a lot of awkward experimenting and possible faux pas. Over the last decade, their moves had been firmly cemented. Surely that was a good thing, knowing what worked? ‘Dull routine,’ Shelby called it, but then her best friend had dated, bedded and graded most of Kingsley.

Tonight though, Tiff was going to have to give Gavin something to think about while he was away. She was going to give him the proverbial ride of his life.

God, she wished she’d had more to drink.

She woke to the front door shutting. Nothing dramatic, but hardly closed with any worry of disturbance. A note lay on the other pillow. She smiled dozily. He wasn’t sliding out without a goodbye. Her efforts hadn’t been in vain. The smirk stretched across her face as she recalled snippets of the night; how she’d reached his groin to find that clearly the idea of sex with her was still a point of interest on his supposed path. When she’d felt his fingers threading through her hair encouraging her on, something in her had flipped, sending her into overdrive, as she employed every move she could remember him ever requesting.

On other occasions she’d woken up feeling self-conscious, but not this morning. Emotional rollercoaster as the previous evening had been, with the sun now streaming in through the window onto the mussed bed, Tiffanie felt brave and vindicated, slightly slutty and bloody good about herself.

‘You were a vixen, Tiff, a sex minx,’ she told herself. She’d fought her corner, she’d shown her man what he’d seriously considered passing up. She’d excelled herself. She didn’t quite know where it’d come from, but more importantly, though the whole event had happened without a single word, Tiff knew they’d understood one another implicitly.

Intrigued, she slid her hand up to snag the note with her fingertips. Obviously he wouldn’t be apologising, that wasn’t his style at all – shows weakness, Tiff, weakness gives others opportunity. He’d most likely gloss gracefully over the whole thing, tell her when he’d be home, and she could return to life before dinner last night. Flopping over onto her back, she unfolded it.

Didn’t we go out with a bang?!

That was the perfect closure.

Thanks and all the best.

Gavin.

2

‘He’s an arsehat, Tiff,’ Shelby stormed down the phone when Tiff, through snot-bubbling tears, explained why she wasn’t heading to work. They usually chatted on their respective ways in, insisting it was multi-tasking. But chatting had been dropped this morning, in lieu of Tiff’s keening account of what had occurred at Lorenzo’s, followed by Shelby’s barked orders to get up, get dressed and get moving. Tiff and Shelby were ardent advocates of tough-love. Judging people on reality TV had taught them that. Which was fine when each of them was comfortable in their own lives. Right now though, huddled under the duvet, phone clutched limply in hand, Tiff wasn’t feeling the benefits.

‘I … I can’t,’ Tiff sobbed, proper ugly-crying. She felt like an empty shell. An empty shell covered in lashings of humiliation.

‘You can and you will, babes,’ Shelby insisted, and hung up. Next thing Tiff knew, there was an insistent banging on the front door, which revealed a mission-set Shelby, work-ready in her beautician’s uniform. Brooking no argument, Shelby frog-marched her through the dressing process until Tiff was vaguely presentable and moving along the street. ‘No man, especially that one, is going to bring your life to a halt. It’s a principle thing.’

Shelby had always thought Gavin was a tosser. She had, in fact, been very concise and consistent about this since Tiff had first introduced them. Tiff put it down to an extreme personality clash. Shelby, with her magenta hair, had a fairly extreme personality.

‘I hate to say I told you so, babes…’ Shelby started, as she pulled Tiff along.

‘Then don’t. You’d be one of those mean, small-minded people.’

‘Fair enough,’ Shelby agreed. ‘Some things don’t need actual saying.’

‘That’s just as bad, Shelb,’ she sniffed. Perhaps telling Shelby had been a mistake. Not talking about it at all – bottling it up to fester inside her and make her bitter and twisted until years of expensive therapy finally released it – suddenly held more appeal. ‘Best mates do sympathy.’

‘You don’t need sympathy, Tiff. You can’t see it yet, but this is the best thing that’s happened to you in ages. Since you met me, probably. You need support. That’s what I’m here for.’

‘Gavin was my support,’ Tiff moaned, the tears starting again. ‘He’s been my rock.’

‘Still an arsehat,’ Shelby stated. ‘I don’t know why you can’t see it, Tiff. It’s like you have a blind spot where he’s concerned.’

‘No, Shelby. You just don’t like him. You never have and you refused to try. You see him through mean hole-picky glasses. He loved me. He sorted my life out, made it stable,’ Tiff insisted. ‘He saved me, Shelbs.’

‘Pff, he fancied you and you were a trophy.’

Had she had any spirit left in her, and had they not already been swimming in salty tears, Tiff would have rolled her eyes at that. It was years since she’d felt like any kind of trophy. The local lads had been interested in her looks in Year Eleven, but she’d been devoted to her sixth-former boyfriend at that point, so they didn’t stand a chance. Then, that summer, everything had turned to crap and she’d gone from queen bee to hitting rock bottom. Miraculously, Gavin had swept her off her feet, helped her escape, shaped and nurtured her and the rest was history. Right until now when, as it turned out, it was Tiff who was history.

She couldn’t cope with this. The tough-love was proving too much. ‘Shelby. Shelby, please. Be nice.’ It was a truly pathetic, but heartfelt plea, which nature chose to dramatise by turning on the rain.

That was typical weather for the town though. Kingsley was one of those forgotten towns, wedged between hills, bypassed by newer roads and shielded from the buzz and prosperity of bigger neighbours. Although within visual range of the coast on a fair day, it lay beyond the thrill of the seaside; too far to smell the salty air, but close enough for seagulls to come a-crapping when the sea got choppy. Looking in either direction there was an air of ‘Look what you could have had’ for the residents.

Shelby stopped in her tracks.

‘Oh babes. I’m sorry.’ She enveloped Tiff in a hug. ‘I really am. It kills me to see you like this.’ Tiff realised how in need of a hug she was. Could they spend the whole day like this? ‘You’re like some ghostly, wraithy shadow of your true self.’ That was exactly how she felt. Wraithy. Shelby stepped back but held onto Tiff’s arms to look at her. ‘And now, having totally repressed you, Gavin drops this bullshit on you, to top it off. It sucks. But I promise we’ll get you through it and bring back the real Tiff.’

‘Enough Shelby!’ Tiff snapped, pulling away to start walking again. Why couldn’t Shelby see Gavin had been good for her? Ten years of good.

‘You can stay at mine, obvs,’ Shelb offered, catching her. Tiff pulled her hood over her head so Shelb couldn’t see her almost break down anew. Shelby’s studio flat was the size of a stamp and the thought of living away from Gavin threatened to bring her to her knees.

‘Thanks Shelbs,’ she said, trying to control her emotions and look less deranged to passers-by, ‘but I can’t share a bed with you. You talk dirty in your sleep.’ She wasn’t joking. Humour was way beyond her.

‘The futon?’ Shelby suggested, neither insulted, nor denying it.

‘Yes, if I can’t find somewhere before he’s back.’ Tiff knew that futon. It was a back breaker. Maybe with copious wine to numb her senses…

‘Why didn’t you come straight over last night? Arsehat. Him. Not you. Obvs.’

‘It was late. I thought perhaps I could convince him.’ Tiff cringed at the memory.

‘So long as it was just talking,’ Shelby said. ‘Remember my cousin Simon? Ditches his girlfriend on a regular basis cos he reckons she ups her game in bed to claw him back. Works every time. She’s such a sap.’ Tiff knew cousin Simon, the guy was a douche.

Turning out of Grange Road she saw her destination with relief. If she wasn’t allowed to nurse her devastation in bed, then at least she might be able to hide in her numbers. Numbers were stable. You knew where you stood with them. That’s why she loved her work, which was a good thing, as currently it was all she had.

‘Laters Shelbs.’ Feeling every inch the sap, Tiff kissed her goodbye before Shelby could say more about cousin Simon. She had put it all out there for Gavin and he’d put it firmly back in its box. Argh, thinking about it made her want to curl up and die. She was going to look up ‘humiliated’ and ‘mortified’, to see which best applied. What must he think now? Sweat bloomed at the thought; on her league table of fears, ridicule was securely in the medal spots.

Blackie’s Gym was Tiffanie’s favourite client, by virtue of being her first client and because of Blackie himself. Knocking eighty now, he’d been a friend of her late grandparents. He’d given her a break when she needed one, and she’d always be grateful for that. Plus, they genuinely got on well for the three days a week where she did his books in the office above the gym.

Blackie’s wasn’t your modern kind of gym, with treadmills and MTV on monitors. Blackie’s was a vintage-throwback boxing gymnasium, out on the Eastcote Road. Firmly in the rougher edge of town, the gym sat on a small commercial estate, most of which was rundown and scheduled for development. Not Blackie’s though. Local nostalgic sentiment, underpinned by Blackie’s obstinance, meant the place was as good as listed. The three-storey building, which could only be described as an ugly black block, had been getting scallies off the streets and into the sport for generations. Blackie’s view was if lads were going to fight they might as well do it with rules and dignity. There wasn’t a grandad or dad in town who hadn’t set foot in Blackie’s ring at least once in their youth.

‘Morning B,’ she sighed as she passed his desk, pausing only to drop him a kiss on his bald pate. Crying exhausted her. This marathon of tears had her depleted.

‘Morning love,’ he answered in his rasping voice, the result of shouting at errant youths since his thirties. ‘What’s making you sigh this morning? Weather?’

‘Hardly,’ she mumbled. ‘Takes more than a little rain to get to me.’ She’d hoped she could deflect him, but he was having none of it.

‘That man of yours?’ Blackie wasn’t a fan of Gavin; another one who wasn’t, but then no-one else knew him like she did, knew what he’d done for her. Loyalty aside, she couldn’t help but let her shoulders sag. Her entire body wanted to follow suit.

‘He’s not my man anymore, Blackie. He ended it last night. Said we had different paths in life.’

Blackie fixed her across the small office with a long stare, assessing the situation. ‘What a prat,’ he finally pronounced.

Tiff turned away, busying herself at her desk, thankful it faced the wall. Blackie wouldn’t see the wave of panic as she felt the need to weep again.

‘How long’s that been?’

‘Ten years. Exactly.’ She plumped into her seat and with shaky fingertips touched all her things on the desk, checking them, owning them, showing herself some things at least, were constant. Soon this would be the only space she belonged to.

‘Jesus,’ he muttered. ‘That’s longer than my marriages.’

The first Mrs Black had been a decent woman, though a force to be reckoned with. She’d given Blackie the kick up the backside to establish the gym in the first place. Had a bus not felled her, she would have defied any illness life threw at her. His marriage to the second Mrs Black wasn’t a resounding success, but knowing the gym to be a lucrative business, she’d done her utmost to cling on.

‘Still, you’re young,’ he went on, ‘and you’ve no bairns, Tiff. You can move on, find someone who’ll appreciate you. Like I do,’ he added, with a chortle, which became a wheezing fit.

On auto-pilot, Tiff fired up the computer. While it churned itself on, she stared at the screen trying to contain the impending wail in her throat. It was way too early for the ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ speeches. It was also too soon to hear how everyone always considered Gavin a prat, though she’d been unable to prevent that too. For once it made her stand up for herself.

‘Gavin is a brilliant guy, Blackie,’ she said, without turning around. She couldn’t do this face to face. ‘He’s driven, hardworking and focused. He looked after me, gave me a home, loved me, and sorted my life when I needed it. I could depend on him. He helped me grow as a person, he was always suggesting ways I could improve myself. And while he might not believe in flowers, cards or Valentine’s Day,’ Tiff paused only to gain her breath, but it was long enough to catch Blackie’s audible gasp behind her, ‘he’s always remembered my birthday, which was more than Mum’s done for the last decade. So please Blackie, just for this week, could you not say anything about moving on or about how I can do better?’

The room was filled with silence and Tiff knew he’d taken her words on board. She could feel the contriteness behind her. Blackie didn’t offer an apology, but then she loved him and she didn’t require one. She felt better for having said her piece. He might not judge her so harshly for being with Gavin. After all she had Shelby for that.

They spent the next hours in silence, as Tiff stared at the subscription fees, trying to reconcile the figures and sort the tax, but failing in all of it. Nothing seemed to go in and the cogs had ground to a halt. Normally this was child’s play to her. Blackie was a stickler for his tax, insistent he’d pay his dues to the Queen, and never owe a penny. Tiff regularly wished others closer to her had shared the same principles. How different her life might have been…

At eleven o’clock she gave up. She figured the silence between them had gone on for long enough, and it was time for a truce.

‘Cuppa tea, Blackie?’ she asked, turning in her chair.

Blackie was staring at her, but there was no recognition in his eyes.

She was across the room in seconds. Holding his already cold hand as she knelt by his chair, she tried not to think about how long he’d been sat there, lifeless, behind her.

*

‘D’you think sunshine is technically possible at funerals?’ Tiff asked, distracting herself from Shelby’s outfit. It was more of a Friday night clubbing dress, but at least it was black.

‘Dunno. It’s always been this lame drizzle at the ones I’ve been to. How hard can it be to commit one way or the other?’ The dove-grey sky over the church perfectly complemented Tiff’s inner status: ‘bleak with a risk of downpour’.

Kingsley being a small town, Tiff knew the majority of the congregation. Shelby knew at least half of them intimately and enthusiastically greeted them all, even snapping selfies with a few. Everyone, it seemed, had wanted to give Blackie a good send off. Considering he had no blood relatives, Tiff felt Blackie would’ve been chuffed to bits with the turnout, although he wouldn’t have been convinced by Shelby’s Instagram and Twitter coverage.

Despite being barely inclined to pull a brush through her hair that week, Tiff had managed most of the arrangements herself. He’d left clear instructions with his solicitor and oldest mate Eric Leonards, who stood with them at the graveside. Blackie had pre-paid for everything, including the after-do at the Pig & Whistle down the street from the gym.

‘Well, he knew what he wanted and he got it, I think,’ said Leonards. They’d all sat together in the left-hand front pew. The second Mrs Black and her scowling son had taken residence in the front right. To all intents and purposes she’d acted as if there’d never been any divorce, let alone a screaming train-wreck such as theirs.

‘She looks like a mafia widow,’ Shelby had whispered for at least four rows to hear.

‘I doubt those tears are real,’ Tiff said more discretely out the side of her mouth. Personally, she wasn’t sure she herself had any left, such was the near-constant outpouring in the recent days. If she wasn’t weeping as she sorted Blackie’s arrangements, she was sobbing over Gavin. It was tear tag. Fake tears would’ve been handy.

‘Not a chance. Pure crocodile – to match her shoes.’ Tiff sneaked a glance. They looked expensive and spikey. Much like their owner.

Tiff had met her before when she appeared in the office demanding advances on her spousal allowance. Tiff failed to see what Blackie had been thinking getting involved with her, but then as Shelby had noted, he probably wasn’t thinking, at least not with his head. She was, whilst being bereft of any virtuous qualities, in possession of a mind-boggling set of boobs. Well, thought Tiff benevolently, Blackie was only human.

‘You’ve done a sterling job, Miss Trent. He’d have been over the moon with all the people who’ve come,’ Leonards now said to Tiff, rubbing the remnants of grave soil off his hands.

‘Well, by his age he’d met enough,’ Shelby pointed out, ‘He’d had a decent innings.’ Tiff hated that phrase this week; Gavin’s words echoed constantly in her ears. ‘Right, who’s for the pub?’ Shelby said, clapping her hands together. ‘I am gagging for a drink.’ She headed towards the cars.

‘God, I hope there’s enough money behind the bar,’ she muttered. Leonards chuckled behind her.

‘It’s all taken care of. The landlord will pass on the bill if there’s a shortfall.’ He paused, then said gently, ‘You should relax now, Miss Trent. It’s been a difficult few days.’

Tiff nodded. It had indeed, on the grand scale of pants, been a steaming pile of a week. Aside from grieving for Blackie, lamenting Gavin, forcing herself to visit her two remaining clients and overseeing the funeral at super-fast speed under Blackie’s instruction of ‘get me sorted quick as billy-oh’, she’d been trying, unsuccessfully, to find somewhere to live.

All the rental properties she’d had details for looked shocking. Maybe she wasn’t desperate enough yet. A week on Shelby’s futon would sort that no doubt, but for now she allowed herself to procrastinate; crawling into her own bed for the final few nights and blubbing uncontrollably. She’d think about the future tomorrow.

Leonards squeezed her shoulder as they passed through the gate. ‘I need to see you, Miss Trent, regarding the will. Is Monday morning 9 a.m. convenient?’

‘Me?’ Tiff asked, surprised, but then she supposed it made sense; there’d be the financial records to hand over to whoever inherited the gym. Would it be very bad form to offer her continued services to the new owners? What was the etiquette on touting for business at will readings?

‘Miss Trent?’ Leonards interrupted her thinking, making her feel guilty. What sort of a person thought about scoring work out of their dead friend? A bad one, she answered herself. An imminently skint and homeless one, she countered herself back.

‘Yes, of course. I’ll be there,’ she said and tried not to groan. Pulling the paperwork together would easily consume the hours she’d allowed for flat-hunting. But handing over a decent report was the least she could do on Blackie’s behalf, and who knew, they might ask her to stay. She chided herself again for the profligate thoughts. This wasn’t who she was. She hoped she could attribute it to the lack of sleep; she was so tired she could hardly walk straight.

‘Yes,’ Leonards continued, ‘Blackie recognised the support you’ve given him. It shouldn’t be a surprise he’s left some words for you. Just look,’ he gestured at the dispersing crowd, ‘you did that. For him.’

Tiff’s eyes followed his hand. She’d only done what anyone would have done for an old man who didn’t have any family to speak of. Well, maybe not the second Mrs Black, but anyone else. For all her posturing in the church, she’d briskly detached herself from any organising when Tiff had called her, asking only to be informed of where and when. It sent a chill down Tiff’s spine how someone could behave like that. Pulling her jacket closer, her eyes came to rest on a figure standing to the side of the church porch.

Tall and broad-shouldered, the man stood with his hands clasped reverently in front of him. Next to him, on the most gravity-defying heels Tiff had ever seen, stood a younger blonde woman with her hair hanging loose, almost down to the hem of her skirt, which ended just under the curve of her bottom. It was safe to say Blackie was no longer the focus of the crowd’s attention.

But Tiff’s eyes were on the guy. The way his head was cocked slightly to one side, looking at her, appeared deliberate. At first, she hoped he’d remove his sunglasses to give her a better look at his face, work out why he was gazing so intently at her, but as she focused on his features; his shaved dark hair, his tawny brown skin, she realised he wasn’t in fact wearing any. He was simply sporting two shockingly-fresh black eyes. A couple of the other boxers wore a bruise or two from recent bouts, but nothing as severe as this. The way he stood, totally still, made an already exhausted Tiff anxious. It’d been a tough day already and now this.

Realising she was staring, Tiff dropped her gaze and started making her way beside Leonards.

‘Tiff! I’m dying here,’ Shelby shouted from the car, oblivious to the disapproval from other mourners. ‘My mouth’s as dry as a corpse.’

Much as she would’ve preferred to look away and disown Shelby at that precise moment, the alternative was to look back at the man. Something about him was bothering her, but the punched eyes convinced her she didn’t want to know what that was. Local economy being what it was, Kingsley wasn’t without a criminal element and Blackie’s Gym hadn’t always turned out the most upstanding characters. Some had, Blackie was sad to say, been beyond reformation and gone onto careers in less salubrious or legitimate fields. What with everything else, Tiff felt she had enough on her plate and scuttled on.

Thank you Pernille for joining me today I cannot wait to read this in full.

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2018, Blog Tour, Book Snippet, extract

Blog Tour: Josie James and the Teardrops Of Summer By Lily Mae Walters

So you don’t hear from me for what a week, and then I come at you with two posts in a day. That’s just how I role sometimes.

So without further ado….

Blurb: Josie James is an ordinary 13 year old until something extraordinary happens during her summer holidays.

Whist staying at her Great Grandmother’s cottage in the country she finds herself swept into the cursed world of Suncroft where it is perpetual winter.

Her new friends believe she could be the Chosen One who it is foretold will lift the curse, but there are more pressing matters.

The Teardrops of Summer – magical crystals that render the owner immortal – have been stolen.  Along with her telepathic husky-dog Protector Asher and her new friends, Josie must race to find the
Teardrops and prevent catastrophe for their world.

http://mybook.to/Teardrops

Now I have an extract to share:

The village of Suncroft is where Josie finds herself in the first book.  It is a small village, cursed to live forever on a winter’s night.  Here Josie discovers the village and some of its people.

Josie could not believe her eyes. It was like looking at a Christmas card scene. Everything was covered in crisp white snow; while tall black gas lamps flickered and spat. Haphazard buildings stood in a square creating a courtyard with what looked to be a small park in the middle. But what surprised Josie the most was the people. Everywhere there were people. She hadn’t really thought about who might actually live in Suncroft, that it was actually a real village with real living people, but here was the proof right in front of her. All around her, people were going about their daily lives all wrapped up against the cold in long coats and boots. There was no denim, no trainers, no Nike or Adidas, no designer clothes, and no bright colours. Everyone wore brown, black or grey in varying shades of bleakness.

As they walked into the courtyard, Josie could see that the buildings were shops. They passed Rose’s Greengrocers with its green and white shade pulled out over the wooden shelves that stood neatly outside. Potatoes, onions, carrots, marrows, apples and pears were piled high inside the shelves.

“This is owned by Elder Rose and his family.” Filan waved to the two ladies who were behind the counter. “That’s Lorna and Gwen, who run it.”  

Josie was finally able to put faces to the voices she had heard from the secret garden that day. They were of a similar height, both with dark hair, although one wore it long and the other short.  

“Twins, you know.” Josie couldn’t see them clearly enough through the glass to know if they were identical but got the feeling that somehow they would be.

Next door was Tubbs’ Bakery; the aromas from the shop made Josie’s stomach growl. She could see bread of all shapes and sizes behind the counter, and in front were biscuits, buns and cakes. Filan stepped inside and came out seconds later with two gingerbread men. They had currants for eyes and buttons, not Smarties like Josie was used to at home. She thanked Filan then proceeded to bite its arms and legs off. She gave the head to Glider before polishing off the body.

“That’s a very barbaric way to eat a gingerbread man,” Filan said.  

Hattie’s Watchmakers and Jewellers was next, followed by Millie’s Book Shop and Kellie’s Tea Rooms. Outside Periwinkle’s Sweet Shop, Filan stopped to talk to three young boys who had been staring in the window, their faces and hands pressed up against the glass.

 Be sure to check out the rest of the tour…

And if you want to know more about the author…

Lily Mae Walters chose her pen name in honour of her beloved grandparents who also stare in the Josie James series.

She is married with two teenage children, and two huskies that are the inspiration behind Murphy and Asher in the books.

Lily Mae lives in Nuneaton, England and finds herself using local  places and even her old school in her stories.

Family and friends mean the world to Lily Mae and many will find themselves popping up throughout the series.

Lily Mae also writes for adults under the name of Florence Keeling.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/josiejames100/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/lilymaewalters/

Twitter- https://twitter.com/LilyMaeWalters1

2018, Blog Tour, Book Snippet, extract, Uncategorized

Blog Tour: Madam Love, Actually By Rich Amooi

So sorry for the lack of updates on Hayley Reviews it’s been quite a crazy week in terms of my life. Works been chaotic to say the least and I’m an auntie to two more beauties. That’s enough about me although there will be a post that may seem like moaning, rambling but I think that it’s now came to a time when I need to make some changes to my blog and my well-being.

Today on Hayley Reviews I’m pleased to share with you an extract from Madam Love Actually.

In this scene, the radio host is trying to talk Madam Love and Lance into getting together for a reading to find him his soulmate.

“Welcome back! I’m Elaine Stewart and we’ve been talking with bestselling author Lance Parker about his new book Your Soulmate Doesn’t Exist. We also have Madam Love on the line with us. She’s a fortune teller who specializes in finding her clients’ soulmates. Are you still with us, Madam Love?”

“I’m here,” Madam Love answered.

“Great. Before the break I was chatting with Lance about the possibility of visiting Madam Love for a consultation to find his soulmate. He doesn’t believe in them, but Madam Love is confident he does have one. They both said it was a bad idea. Funny, but our listeners disagree with both of you.” Elaine scrolled down the page on her computer monitor. “We have a poll on Facebook and Twitter asking if Lance should visit Madam Love. So far, ninety-nine percent of our listeners say yes!”

Lance let out a nervous chuckle. “Out of how many people? Three?”

“Over four thousand people have weighed in so far.” She kept her eyes on the monitor. “Hang on . . . it’s up over five thousand and climbing.”

What the hell?

Peter scribbled DO IT! on a piece of paper and handed it to Lance.

Lance pushed the paper aside and mouthed no to Peter.

“Madam Love, you mentioned there was a soulmate waiting for Lance at this moment,” Elaine said. “How sure are you?”

“I’m certain,” Madam Love answered, then laughed. “Hard to believe, right?”

“Not funny,” Lance grumbled.

“The truth hurts, darling,” Madam Love shot back.

Elaine was watching her monitor. “We now have over twelve thousand listeners who want Madam Love to give Lance a reading and find him his soulmate. That’s ninety-four percent of those polled.”

“Twelve thousand people?” Madam Love said.

“Yes,” Elaine answered. “Amazing, considering the poll hasn’t been up on Facebook and Twitter long. Wait, we’re up to almost fourteen thousand listeners in favor.”

“I’ll do it,” Madam Love blurted out. “I’ll take the challenge.”

Thank you once again Rachel for including me and to Rich Amooi for this fabulous extract. Be sure to check out the rest of the tour.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C9RYRHY

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07C9RYRHY

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07C9RYRHY

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07C9RYRHY

Author Bio –

Rich Amooi is a former radio personality who now writes romantic comedies full-time. He is happily married to a kiss monster imported from Spain. They live in San Diego, California with their very hairy daughter, a mini goldendoodle puppy. Rich believes in public displays of affection, silliness, infinite possibilities, donuts, gratitude, laughter, and happily ever after.

Social Media Links –

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.richamooi

Twitter: https://twitter.com/richamooi

2018, Blog Tour, Book Snippet, Uncategorized

Blog Tour: Blind Justice By Alex Tresillian

Today I am pleased to share an extract from Blind Justice thanks to the lovely Kelly Lacey at Love Books.

Blurb: Superstar Paralympian Fiona Mackintosh Green retires from the track to set up Forward Roll, a charity helping disabled people achieve self-respect through sport. But is she all she seems? How is her charity spending its money?

Niall Burnet, visually impaired journalist, is sent in undercover to find out. What he discovers is a trail of illegal performance-enhancing drugs that leads from the charity to its major backer, global pharmaceutical giant Prince Rajkumar.

All too soon, Niall finds himself surrounded by key players who will stop at nothing to protect their interests. When a former athlete is found dead, he knows that one wrong move could be his last…

Without further ado I give you the extract.

@THEBLINDBOXER tweeted: Domestic bliss: not all it’s cracked up to be.

The Blind Boxer regularly tweeted aphoristic statements about life and the state of the world. He also sporadically wrote a blog, but across the two platforms he had few followers. Some- thing about pearls and swine came to mind. Niall Burnet had been completely blind from the age of ten, but he had never boxed. He had lashed out. Connected with numerous walls and the occasional idiot who riled him, but he had walked into more people than he had knocked out. But, he had always loved “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel; completely irrationally identi ed himself with the guy in the lyric; and he felt that metaphorically he boxed against life. Life had put him on the canvas more than once, and each time he had got back up and carried on ghting. And once in a blue moon he felt for a while that he was winning.

As he had felt six months ago when he was close to exposing a fraud that had caused a suicide and relieved innocent members of the public of money donated to charity in good faith; a quest that had become personal when Hugo, Niall’s long-suffering guide dog, had been left with half his skeleton shattered in a hit-and-run. Hot on the trail and love blossoming, he had envisioned a golden future. So often life attered to deceive. He had winged the fraudsters but not destroyed them, and the contribution that he had made to the reporting of the story in The Mirror had been well paid for but had not kick-started his freelance journalism career as he had hoped. Now he was back in the small garden at in Telford he had been determined to escape, drifting from day to day collecting disability bene ts and tweeting to a world that wasn’t really interested.

But he still had the girl. Blossoming love had become domestic bliss. Which (as aforesaid) wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Not that it was Miranda’s fault. Not that he didn’t still really love and fancy Miranda. It was just – well – living with someone. Who was a girl. Who could see.

And, of course, that was really ironic because when he met her she had been blind. She had been about to undergo the world’s rst complete binocular eye transplant. Blind, she had fallen for him, and once she could see she had stubbornly refused to use her eyes to see through him. She had clung to him and especially Hugo when her new eyesight started to fail, and he had clung to her because it was the deliberately engineered failure of the transplant that was the fraud he was investigating. Then he was her hero for saving her eyes and she had left her family home in Surrey to move in with him in sunny Shrop- shire, a stone’s throw from his thankfully unprotective mother.

They had had problems with sex from the get-go: she was a virgin and hung up about the whole business; he was inex- perienced and apparently inept. They managed to force their way through the barriers of their combined incompetence but it always felt routine rather than great, and they neither of them showed any inclination to talk about it.

For the rest, Niall found it really frustrating that everything could be ne one minute and then unravel the next because of something he had unguardedly said or done. If there was one thing he was really good at, it was the un-thought-through tact- less remark. But the point was that he never meant it, and she should know that and be able to get over it once he apologised and admitted he was a total boor. He also felt that his inde- pendence was being compromised because Miranda’s instinct, now being sighted, was to do everything. To cook (abysmally), to tidy, to clean; to turn his bachelor pad into something like a presentable home. She was loving playing house and that was sweet but sometimes he longed for the opportunity to make a mess or blow the roof of his mouth off with a hot and spicy pizza delivery.

And then there was the whole business of seeing. Once upon a time, he had been able to see. He had (he thought) come to terms with the fact that he couldn’t; but when he had rst met Miranda and they had both been blind he had been able to introduce the idea of seeing to her, to persuade her – when she was very unsure – that the sighted world was one she would want to inhabit. Now she did inhabit it, had become very comfortable with it, almost, he thought, took it for granted, as if her blind life had belonged to somebody else. And looking after him, as she now did, felt patronising and had stood their relationship on its head.

But she was kind and funny and loving and loyal and none of it was her fault. On balance they were doing OK. Only he was feeling emasculated and a failure. He trailed to the fridge and counted the cans of Guinness on the top shelf. Four. That wasn’t going to get him through more than one day. He was drinking more now than he had at any time since he left school, and he knew it wasn’t good for him but at this moment he found it dif cult to care. Miranda was off swimming with his mum. The two of them had become great pals. Niall thought his mother probably took Miranda out to give her a break from him: from toxic conversations about the future and what they were both going to do with their lives. For all that she was in her twenties, Miranda had been able to see for less than a year. Prior to that her life hadn’t been going in any particular direc- tion, largely thanks to parents who thought it didn’t matter.

If that’s left you itching for more then follow this link and get stuck in. Blind Justice

2018, Blog Tour, Book Snippet, Uncategorized

Blog Tour: The Soldier’s Home By George Costigan

Happy Thursday. Today I am pleased to share an extract from The Soldier’s Home thanks to the lovely Kelly at Love Books Group.

one 1988

EARLY MAY. Friday evening. Just gone four-thirty. Or ‘almost five and twenty-to- five,’ as both her parents would have said.

At the bus-stop with five teenaged stragglers. Four girls, one shuffling lad.

Enid didn’t teach any of them, knew no names.

Netball practice? Dawdlers. Detention?

No. Unlikely any of us teachers would volunteer to monitor that

of a Friday evening… Perhaps these were the latch-key kids? Or those with neither desire nor impetus to rush home. One way to find out and Enid was not going to do that.

They ignored her. The ancient teacher, invisible.

She listened not to their conversation but to their language, their use and gleeful abuse of it. Slang. Was that derived from slung, she wondered. Words thrown?

Enid listened for examples of it, but their chatter was coded so as to all but forbid her entrance. Fine. at suited, too.

eir bus appeared in the distance, Worsley to Swinton. en on, for her, to Pendlebury.

Tickets, passes, coins were found and rubbed. Primed.

Something about a Friday.

Odd but she now recalled some man called Fordyce, or similar, announcing, if she remembered correctly, ‘ the weekend starts here.’ ‘Ready Steady Go!’ In her very early thirties. When people danced. Shook. For a brief moment there was Dusty Spring eld. Making black and white television feel as though it were in colour.

The bus squealed to a stop and the small scrum gathered impatient and spuriously excited, then opened to o er her – the ageing ‘Miss’ – to get on rst, a practised display of ‘respect’, and when she demurred, it clattered chaotically upstairs. As though it had never ever done such an exciting thing before…

Enid sat downstairs, beside an exhausted woman obliterated by what Enid presumed was weekend food shopping. For a small platoon.

Nine stops – let thought loose. Loosen.

Anniversary of father’s death, soon. Tend their grave. at sweet ritual.

You have, like J.B. Priestley, been here before. Anything make tonight any di erent? No… Well, I have never shared a bus-seat with someone with quite so much shopping.

Papers to mark, essays to read, lessons to plan. Much Ado About My Life. Church on Sunday. Back Monday, ve past nine, urging a comprehension of the di erence between metaphor and simile into fourteen-year-olds. One of the young ladies careened down the stairs, called, ‘Night, Miss,’ and swung o the bus, running and swearing at her friends upstairs.

So many things you never did, Enid.

I hope we reach my stop before this poor woman has to negotiate her way past me and off. I don’t want to watch, witness, struggle; and if I offer to help I’ll needs go all the way to her house.

Ye Olde Pendlebury Offie.

A banal contradiction in terms, but what is life without the detail? O.

‘Under New Management’. Well, let us believe they will still sell

my Vendredi Vouvray.

She pushed at the door.

‘Barp-Klack.’

Enid was shocked, harshly, out of her routine.

No soft tinkle of a bell on a spring.

It had said, and it repeated itself lest she be in doubt, as she let the door close, ‘Barp-Klack.’

A hideous noise. An unnecessarily loud, metallic, somehow inhuman, noise.

The lay-out of the shop had been modernised. Making its title yet more idiotic. The wines now separated by country of origin. ere were scattered half-barrels containing ‘o ers’. A sprinkling of sawdust on the oor. Really? Were people likely to spit? Or bring their horses in here, perchance?

She located her ritual tipple, then spotted the same in a new glass-doored fridge. O. en saw a chilled Chablis.

For once, Enid… And for no good reason. Beyond a warm, thinning, memory.

Pleased, she headed towards the young man, reading at the counter, his hair languishing seemingly off only one side of his head. Indeed, the other side of his head appeared to have been recently shaved. Odd. When he looked up (and almost smiled) he had a ring in his nose. Someone new pushed at the door.

‘Barp-Klack.’

If the extract wasn’t enough then here is the blurb.

Blurb: ‘The Soldier’s Home’ is the stunning sequel to the bestselling debut, ‘The Single Soldier’, by renowned actor and writer George Costigan.

The war is over and his home was re-built … but a home is just a set of empty rooms without people and love. After surviving the war under German occupation, can a community now rekindle their lives, and rediscover their reasons for surviving?

As the soldier waits for the return of his love, the world keeps moving, threatening to leave his hopes and dreams behind.

History, secrets and painful truths collide in his troubled soul until peace arrives finally from a very unexpected source …

2018, Author Love, Book Snippet, Uncategorized

A Monday treat featuring Heidi Swain….

Happy Monday lovelies I hope it’s a productive and positive week for us all. Yesterday I was off work and I had managed to read and sort a few of my blog posts/ ideas. Then I decided it’s high time I read Heidi’s blog posts (which you can find Here) as she has put up the prologue and the first few chapters for her newest book Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square which is released on 31st May and can be pre-ordered Here.

I must admit I’m a huge lover of Heidi’s yet I haven’t fully read anything from her (tut I know, I started a Crimbo read and then it was January in the blink of an eye). This all changes with this gorgeous treat the prologue and first two chapters have blown me away. Nightingale Square sounds like the perfect place for a wander and a coffee and I cannot wait to read more of Kate’s story and to see what else Lisa has in store. I urge you to go and read the chapters now you will not be disappointed. I will be joining the virtual tea party on the 8th June. There’s still time to join that too…

Blurb: Kate is on the run from her almost-divorced husband who is determined to have her back, and she has found the perfect place to hide… a little cottage on Nightingale Square in Norwich, far away from her old life in London. But the residents of Nightingale Square don’t take no for an answer, and Kate soon finds herself pulled into a friendship with Lisa, her bossy but lovely new neighbour.

Within a matter of days Kate is landed with the job of campaigning the council to turn the green into a community garden, meanwhile all the residents of Nightingale Square are horrified to discover that the Victorian mansion house on the other side of the square has been bought by developers. But when all hope is lost, the arrival of a handsome stranger is sure to turn things around!

I hope that gives you a taster now go and read the chapters….

2018, A thought? A question, Blog Tour, Book Snippet, Off Topic

Blogging, blog tours and reading what I want…

First off if you follow my Twitter account HayleyTOfficial you would have already seen me talking with a few friends about reading for pleasure and reading for a time frame.

Now I wasn’t going to post this as I didn’t want to just sound like I’m moaning. As many of you who know me will be aware I have had a crazy work life and I haven’t been very well which has limited my reading time. In lieu of that I have left certain books to last minute thinking I would be able to get them read and it’s felt like a chore. I sat up until the small hours finishing a book and making sure the review was up because I absolutely hate letting people down. This week I’ve had a few social days catching up with friends and seeing theatre and on Wednesday when I was lucky enough to meet up with Catriona aka Fabbookfiend I had a headache for most of that day because I had pushed myself. Later that night I knew I should have read something for a tour but Catriona has simply said read for you and it truly did make me smile.

This is not me saying I won’t be doing blog tours as I love finding books and authors that I would never have come across. This is me saying I will do my best to honour my commitments but I want to read more of the books that I’m itching for.

Like right now I want to read Darren O’Sullivan’s Close Your Eyes I have read the prologue and a snippet and yes it’s awesome. I want to read Paige Toon’s Five Years From Now I have read the sampler and it left me wanting more….I have the next instalments of Victoria Walters Random Acts Of Kindness and having heard a snippet of the Sunday Lunch club I’m also desperate for more.

I just want to say I really do appreciate the bloggers who run and organise tours and because you guys are awesome I love to help but as it stands I don’t want my love of reading and blogging to die because I’m reading to demand and not for actual want. To lighten my blog later on there will be a second post featuring Anita Cassidy. Watch this space..

2018, Author Love, Book Snippet, Netgalley, Review

Sampler: Five years from Now By Paige Toon

Blurb: What happens if you meet the RIGHT person at the WRONG time?

Nell and Van meet as children when their parents fall in love, but soon they are forced worlds apart.

Five years later, they find each other. Their bond is rekindled and new feelings take hold, but once again they have to separate.

For the next two decades, fate brings Nell and Van together every five years, as life and circumstance continue to divide them. Will they ever find true happiness? And will it be together?

‘One day, maybe five years from now, you’ll look back and understand why this happened…’

Sampler Summary: Firstly I have to mention I haven’t had Paige’s writing in my life for long but each story has left me longing for more. I know I have been slack on some of her reviews. Usually because I have had a book hangover after. Leaving me distraught and unable to do her fantastic writing the justice it deserves.

So...Five Years from Now.…how truly gorgeous is the cover. I said that when I first saw it but I was sharing another cover reveal and knew I would have a chance to mention it. The line ‘What if you met the right person at the wrong time?’ Was a massive clue in the fact I knew this will be a book I fall headfirst in love with.

Then Paige puts up that Netgalley have a sampler, when I saw this it was late at night I managed a page or two but as I say my work/life balance is well and truly messed up right now. So this morning whilst drinking a few cups of tea with my cornflakes I devoured these pages.

Paige you have a way of me connecting with each and every character and in terms of the sampler. I did not see the drama coming and I’m still clueless to how bad it is. It ended so dramatically I physically cannot wait for more. Roll on 17th May – yup that’s the date that this bad boy is out. Pre order now I do think I’m going to end up with the ebook and an actual book as this lovely lady will be coming to Bluewater on the 19th also.

I will love re-reading the beginning of Nell and Van’s story. The innocent love of childhood friendships and how truly innocent and heartwarming children are. The little things that seem like a big deal and the love of being kind. I’m pleased to say both of my beautiful nieces are truly kind and full of such love – it also helps that they are already bookworms.

I love how even at the dramatic anticlimax that Netgalley has left me with both Nell and Van didn’t want to go through that alone. It well and truly melted my heart. I know this novel will be devoured in a quick time frame and it will stay with me. This is going to be one hell of a hangover without a single drop of alcohol.

I have only read the sampler but this book will have you taking trips down your own memory lane and it will truly get under your skin. I need to know now!!!!

Author Love, Book Snippet, Cover Reveal, Uncategorized

Cover Reveal and info Close Your Eyes By Darren O’Sullivan

Firstly how truly thrilling is the cover. This came up yesterday and I was like 👀 it’s simply stunning. I already had two posts organised for yesterday but today I thought this had to be shared. As some of you may remember last July I was completely bowled over by Darren’s debut Our Little Secret – and it came at a time when I truly needed it, as was during the early stages of ankle gate. As it stands my ankle is a lot better and I’m back to my walks to work but I do keep a closer eye now.

If you’re not the sort of person who will buy a book based on it’s cover then I have the blurb for you and I literally read it and pre-ordered my copy Here.

Blurb: He doesn’t know his name. He doesn’t know his secret.

When Daniel woke up from a coma he had no recollection of the life he lived before. Now, fourteen years later, he’s being forced to remember.

A phone call in the middle of the night demands he return what he stole – but Daniel has no idea what it could be, or who the person on the other end is. He has been given one warning, if he doesn’t find out his family will be murdered.

Rachael needs to protect her son. Trapped with no way out she will do anything to ensure they survive. But sometimes mothers can’t save their children and her only hope is Daniel’s memory.

If you haven’t read Darren’s debut that had me on the edge of my seat and even made me stop and think the next time I was a a train station, then give my review a read Here

My copy is on order and I will be making sure that on the 5th May I am ready to start devouring as soon as this pings through to my Kindle.

Book Snippet, New Author to me, Publication Day, Uncategorized

Neil White From The Shadows paperback is out today and here’s a sneak peak…


Here’s an extract of From The Shadows….

One year earlier

It was almost one in the morning. The house was in darkness, the curtains closed. He was wearing just a light sweatshirt and jogging bottoms but he didn’t feel the cold. His nights were about silence, not warmth, and the more he wore, the more noise he made.

He waited. He wasn’t sure what for at first, because he’d stood there before, long hours as he waited for a sign that the time was right, but it had been too still.

This time, it was different. He felt them. A light ruffle of wind through his hair, and movement under his feet like soft rumbles in the ground. Whispers behind him. He whirled round but there was no one there, just a fence that shielded him from the houses behind.

He closed his eyes, just to make sure, because sometimes there were false alarms, small teases that made him move too soon. It felt right, though. His breaths were shorter and his arousal made his tongue flick to his lip.

She had her routines to keep herself safe, but they were her weakness, because all he had to do was keep watch. He slipped into her stride as she’d walked home, or he was the man sitting three rows behind her on the bus, or in the queue in the local shop with that bottle of wine to get her through the evening. She loved her Thursday nights; he’d seen her relief as she clutched the bottle and a long week at work became just one more day to get through. He knew what sandwiches she bought at lunchtime and how she would sit outside if she could, when the weather was good enough.

Habits made her feel safe, because then she’d never forget to do something, like checking that everything was turned off or locked up. It was just the opposite, because all he had to do was learn her patterns.

Her lights gave her away, the same order each night. The television went off first, and then the flickering candles. The light for the stairs went on and then her face would appear at the back door, distorted through the glass, checking the door was locked. He was watching and waiting, just a shadow amongst the leaves.

Patience brought its rewards. There was always a way. Some people are casual about their keys. Others forget to lock their doors when they go to bed, or fall asleep drunk on the sofa. All he ever had to know was how to get in.

She never left the key in the back door. Always the front. He’d guessed why: so she could open the front door quickly if she had a delivery or something, rather than rush round for the keys. People are forgetful though, and she kept a spare back door key under a flowerpot.

Habits are dangerous.

The stair light first, followed by the landing light. Her bedroom was next, although that was harder to see, because the bedroom was at the front, so the light was not much more than a glow. There was always a delay, when he imagined her getting undressed and slipping into her nightclothes. Usually pyjamas, but in summer it was just knickers and an old T-shirt.

The bathroom came next. It was the middle window at the back of the house, frosted, with a blind she didn’t always close. He’d watched the movement of her arm as she brushed her teeth. Two minutes. Always two minutes, as if she timed herself. Then it was the toilet. Her back to the window, bending over as she pulled down her knickers, before disappearing from sight. Such a private thing but it was his view. Her secrets became his secrets.

Her garden was long and dark. He’d been in the undergrowth for an hour. Dressed in black, he was invisible. The cloth mask moved in and out as he breathed. Black and made from thin nylon, eyeholes the only bright spots. He’d passed her in the street and she hadn’t known him.

He’d waited a long time for a dry, moonless night. The winds got faster, the tremors under his feet made him unsteady. The whispers were small words of encouragement. It was time to move.

He pulled the branches of the laurel bush that grew in a corner to one side. His footsteps were light. No rustles, no noise.

There was no security light as he stepped on to the patio. He reached under the flowerpot for her spare key. The pot scraped on the paving slab. He paused as he looked out for a light in one of the windows, but they stayed dark.

The key was there.

He crept to the back door, staring through the glass as he hunted for a sign of movement inside, but it stayed dark and still. He turned the key slowly, letting out a breath at the slight clunk of the lock. The door opened silently, as he knew it would. She didn’t know that he’d oiled the hinges. The back door, and all the rooms in the house, so that he could move silently. He’d been in there before, when she’d gone out, learning his way around the house. He knew the weak points, the creaks and the groans. Avoid the third step.

He moved quickly, his breaths getting faster under the hood. He tried to concentrate but the ground moved beneath his feet, the whispers in his head like chants. He passed the doorways to the other rooms, the streetlight at the front providing a half-light in the hallway until he reached the bottom of the stairs.

He stared upwards. It seemed darker up there. A droplet of sweat ran into his eye, making him blink.

He kept to the edge of each step, striding over the third one, his clothes brushing the wall. He paused at the top. The voices stopped as if holding their breath. The earth stayed still. Now he was in control.

Her bedroom was large, with the streetlight outside the window. Her bed faced the door, so this was the most dangerous time. If she heard a noise, or just sensed his presence, she’d see him, but only as a shadow, a vague outline. Darkness was his friend, but he couldn’t afford to be caught.

He listened out for the creak of the mattress as she moved, or the sound of her feet on the carpet, investigating the noise. Nothing. Her bedroom door was ajar and the only sound was the steady tick of a clock.

He pushed at the door. It opened slowly, silently. He remained still, to see whether she moved or opened her eyes. He could leave and she might think it was a dream.

As his eyes became accustomed to the gloom, the faint glow of the streetlight made her silky bedcover gleam.

He knew how it felt; he’d lain on it when she wasn’t there, took in her aroma from the pillows, stale perfume and warm sleep. He’d looked through her drawers, run his hands through her underwear, relished the silkiness.

His mouth was open as he stepped into the room, his breath coming too quickly. Stay in control. She was under her covers, lying on her side, facing him, the sound of her sleep so gentle. If he closed his eyes for a moment, he could smell her.

He knelt by the bed. Her face was inches away. Her lips, soft and full, her hair over her cheek, her fingers slender over the duvet. He reached out but stopped. Not yet. He’d always promised himself. Not that.

He closed his eyes again. The voices were back, the chants like a rolling rhythm, the wind blowing through the bedroom, the voices now like drumbeats, tempo increasing, his heartbeat racing.

He took long slow breaths to calm himself and let the voices fall silent. The drumbeat stopped. All he had left were the race of his heartbeat and the rise and fall of his chest.

He opened his eyes and gasped. Her eyes were open too.

Her arm moved quickly. He tried to move backwards, panicking, but he was kneeling down, so his toes jammed into the floor.

He saw the lamp just before it connected. Small but made of brass and with a narrow edge. She brought it down hard.

The last thing he remembered was the loud clunk when it struck his forehead and the blinding flash of pain. Then there was nothing.

You want more it is now available on paperback and EBook you can find it Here I haven’t read it yet but the EBook is a steal at 98p. 

If you have already devoured this treat do let me know but I don’t take kindly to spoilers.