2019, Author Love, Review, Uncategorized

Book Review: When Polly Met Olly By Zoe May

Blurb: Polly and Olly were never supposed to meet…

Polly might spend her days searching for eligible matches for her elite list of clients at her New York dating agency, but her own love life is starting to go up in smoke.

Even worse, she can’t stop thinking about the very person she’s meant to be setting her latest client up with… surely it can’t get any worse!

But then Polly bumps into oh-so-handsome Olly, who heads up a rival agency, and realizes that perhaps all really is fair in love and dating war…

Review: I’ve been championing this lady since devouring Perfect Match – it was a Netgalley read that provided me a new author and friend. I’ve spoken to Zoe so much over Twitter and Instagram and as much as I have championed her she’s also been very complimentary of me and my blogging efforts.

When Zoe went to New York to research for this novel we had chatted loads and loads I felt like I wanted this book long before it had been written. In a way it’s bad form on me for only having just finished it. I’ve been away with my family and I knew it would be the perfect time to get some reading done although I haven’t read as much as I would like I’m so glad to have read ‘When Polly Met Olly’. It’s a perfect feel good read and the ultimate tonic when you need a pick me up or if you’re in a reading slump.

Zoe writes about dating so effortlessly, I’ve been a huge fan of Celebs Go Dating for yonks and if you have ever watched the series I’m sure Olly will remind you of a certain Eden Blackman. I could picture him from the off and for me it added to my enjoyment of the story. I didn’t always like Olly but deep down there was always another side to him and I’m glad that that came into fruition before the story ended.

I loved Polly and everything about her story, seeing her progress in New York. I said to Zoe how real Polly was with her struggles to become a photographer, I’ve known that pain. Having studied New Media Journalism and spent so much of my spare time trying to make something of myself. In reading this book it’s shown me that we do have to go back to why we started and why we loved it. I may not be getting paid to write but I have a blog that I enjoy sharing my passion for books and the written word. I’ve also shared a few of my other passions and lifestyle changes, in starting my new job at the end of September I’m hoping to add some new additions to the blog and I cannot wait.

Zoe May writes a truly engaging novel that keeps you on your toes. I loved the different aspects with the emails and Tinder/Match messages alongside texts and dialogue. I also loved the stark contrast to people in New York with money and those trying to make their way. I also have to mention Gabe I truly loved the friendship between Gabe and Polly, everyone needs that friend who will tell you how it is rather than what you want to hear.

The other resounding message from this novel is looks can be deceiving. In this day and age with social media taking over we’re all obsessed with how we come across and insta and reality are two separate things and sometimes we all need to take a step back. I pride myself on taking people as I find them and Polly’s gut instincts helped her in the end.

A truly enjoyable read that could have been devoured in a solitary sitting if I had had that luxury. A fantastic final read before I head back to reality, back to work for me tomorrow and I still have an audiobook to finish…

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2019, july, Six for Sunday, Uncategorized

Six For Sunday – Books and the Seaside

It’s been forever since I’ve written a Six for Sunday especially since starting Self Care Sunday’s which I’m doing by chilling today. I’m not sure what my week will entail so I would like to rest, get a few things done and organised ahead of my impending holiday at the end of August and I would like to get a fair amount of reading in as I’m truly loving my current reads.

Miranda wrote the most beautiful book based at the seaside. Somewhere Beyond the Sea – is a love story that will stay with me and I shared the story of sea glass with my niece our favourite beach hasn’t had any but we always look now.

After devouring Hannah’s short story I was itching for this I read this whilst on holiday at the seaside last year and I loved every single second of it. I can’t wait to get stuck into another Hannah Pearl novel.

Evie’s Little Black Book

I read these in part and I love love loved devouring this cinema based story. It really did make me think of my Nan who I shared a love of film with.

The Picture House by the Sea

This week the fourth and final part of this novel will ping through to my kindle and I’m excited and sad. I won’t want to say goodbye to Charlie and the gang.

Part one In doing this meme I’ve realised how long this beauty has been on my TBR I really must change this. Although I did read another of Ali’s books whilst last on holiday at the caravan in Dymchurch.

This beauty by Isabelle Broom has me longing for Mojacar I will get there someday….

Then Now Always

Part two Cressida McLaughlin

Part three Cressida McLaughlin

As ever I’ve loved sitting down and penning my thoughts. I love being by the seaside and I still haven’t worked out what I hope to read this year on my travels. I’m loving having my mojo back right must eat breakfast have the soaps on and a book to get back to.

2019, Stacking the Shelves, Uncategorized

Stacking the Shelves – my Netgalley shelf

I’ve been looking for other inspirations for the blog and I stumbled upon this.

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme co hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and Reading Reality. Stacking the Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can add any books that you add to your shelves, whether you’ve bought them been sent them or borrowed them from the library. And then be sure to post your links over on Tynga’s Reviews.

So for my first Stacking the Shelves post this week I am looking at what’s on my Netgalley shelf.

This gorgeous treat has been sat on my Netgalley shelf for a short while I’m itching to read it but I’m trying to time it right, if that makes sense. Not sure whether to save for my holiday at the end of August and first week of September- it’s out whilst I’m away so maybe at the beginning of my time off.

This one grabbed my attention via the Netgalley email although I should have read it already. Hoping to bump it up.

I’ve read a short from Veronica and have been meaning to read more from her. I’ve heard such good things about this one that I simply couldn’t resist hoping to read this after my current read and get it up for publication day if possible.

This is one of those reads that when you start looking at Netgalley you have to have.

Seeing the lovely Harriet from Simon & Schuster at Louise Candlish’s launch she spoke of this and my interest was piqued it maybe my next Thriller.

I love and hate Netgalley I am trying to get better but my willpower isn’t great. I have a few of Tammy Cohen’s on my ever expanding pile this will be the next I read.

I keep checking my shelf to see if I’ve been accepted for this one. I read the first chapter last Sunday and I need it in my life. If I’m not accepted I will be pre-ordering so it comes through on midnight of release day.

Another that I keep checking for on Netgalley – pretty annoyed on this one. I had requested before the email about the first 100 readers and still nothing. I’m a huge fan of Louise’s and I will download if I don’t hear anything.

I hope you have enjoyed my first Stacking the Shelves. I would love to hear what you think I should do next. I’m thinking possibly an audio Stacking the Shelves or a specific author maybe a Daphne Du Maurier….

I’m open to suggestions and cannot wait to hear from you.

2019, Author Love, Publication Day, Uncategorized

As Luck Would Have It By Zoe May

Today is publication day for Zoe May’s latest offering – As Luck Would Have It. Ever since loving her debut novel – Perfect Match. You can read my review here

I’m pretty sure it was a Netgalley find and in doing so I read it really quickly and was eager to see what was next for Zoe. I must admit my ever expanding TBR pile still has a few of hers but I decided that I would make this one a priority this July. Tomorrow I will be flying to Dublin for the weekend and won’t have much in terms of luggage space so I’m hoping to get some reading in on my phone via my Kindle app.

Blurb: One holiday can change your life forever…Natalie Jackson might keep up appearances on Instagram, but in reality her fiancé has just jilted her after the birth of their baby and she’s moved back in with her mum. Life isn’t exactly going to plan!

So when she enters the village raffle for the holiday of a lifetime, she thinks she has no chance of winning. But her name is pulled out – and, as luck would have it, so is a ticket bought by her childhood nemesis: Will Brimble.

Surely a romantic holiday for two is the worst idea ever right?

Seeing as I’m off to Dublin tomorrow I didn’t stay up to see this ping through- good job really as I’m sure I couldn’t have resisted starting it. This morning I needed to get ready and pack a bag as after work I’m off to my friends ahead of Dublin early tomorrow. As I’m walking I’m listening to an audiobook but later on I will be starting this beauty. Have a fantastic day Zoe. You deserve it.

2019, Author Love, ebook, New Author to me, novella, Short Story, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Cornish Cream Tea Bus – Part One – Don’t Go Baking My Heart By Cressida McLaughlin

Blurb: Baking fanatic, Charlie Quilter, is surprised when her late uncle bequeaths his vintage bus to her in his will. Charlie thinks it will be the perfect mobile café for afternoon tea, and when her friend, Juliette, suggests Charlie comes to stay with her in the picturesque Cornish village of Porthgolow, she’s thrilled at the chance of a new start.
Charlie and her cute dog, Marmite, make new friends wherever their bus stops – except for the attractive but reclusive owner of the posh spa up on the hill, Daniel Harper, who isn’t very pleased that her bus is parked outside his lovely hotel.
Has Charlie’s Cornish dream developed a soggy bottom? Or can she convince Daniel that her bus could be the start of something wonderful for the little village – and for them?

Review: So I’m going to just say it. I have a few of Cressida’s novels on my Kindle but part one of the Cornish Cream Tea Bus – Don’t Go Baking My Heart is the first I have read, which makes me feel bad but wow what a treat and what a starting point.

I’ve on/off been reading but yesterday I managed to finish part one and I thought it was best to pen my thoughts before diving into part two. These shorts are aiding my reading alongside my hardback – which annoyingly isn’t on Audible yet as I found out yesterday to my dismay.

From the start I really warmed to Charlie and her story. Her connection to her late uncle really made me think of my grandparents – our stories weren’t nowhere near the same but I shared a love or reading with my grandad and a love of film with my Nan. My do I miss them and books like this are heartwarming and nostalgic.

I loved how she wanted to keep her uncles Gertie alive but did so in a way that was part of her. Old and new – keeping her uncles pride and joy and introducing her passion to reinvent the bus and for her to be able to make it work. I loved seeing how taken she was with the task and seeing if she could make it happen. The first event was an eye opener but I loved her can-do spirit when she stepped back from the situation – I honestly believe this is something we should all do from time to time – and this is definitely a lesson I should be listening to and taking note.

I haven’t been to Cornwall in a long time and I have never visited Porthgolow but wow I loved the way Cressida described the town and I think there are probably many seaside towns that need that revitalisation. I regularly visit Dymchurch in Kent with the family and that’s looked tired at times it’s always nice to see new businesses pop up and renovations to happen when we return most years. I also adore Salou in Spain I haven’t been for a few years and sadly it doesn’t look like I will get there this year. At times that’s also needed a boost and a refresh – although for me they are always places I feel at home and calm so I will always visit but there needs to be change to see tourism boom.

I don’t have enough me time but Charlie sure is something else. When she relented and took her best friends advice I was chuffed for her. Charlie getting to Cornwall sure was a journey and some feat. The characters she encounters in Porthgolow are something else although I can’t work out Daniel and I’m pretty sure most people will say the same thing – as I believe that is part of Cressida’s thought process too.

There have been some bumps along the way in inheriting Gertie but wow what a journey in part one. One event that was eventful and then the trip to Porthgolow where Gertie undertakes a major transformation I love all the little things that have been put into the bus really giving it a touristy and nostalgic feeling. It’s like she’s thought of absolutely every trick in the book even down to mementos.

Part one ended with Charlie feeling extremely positive and upbeat for her Summer and for her future with Gertie a major part of it. I finished this part giddy to know more as it was left making me wonder but I knew I had to get my thoughts in order before I continued on this seaside journey.

One thing I will say is in devouring part one I want all the cake and I could murder a hot scone and a good coffee. In reading this you will get hungry, you have been warned.

2019, Author Love, Cover Reveal, Me, TeamSparkly, Uncategorized, update

Miranda Dickinson’s Sparkly news plus an update.

Now I’ve been a pretty rubbish blogger and I’ve been meaning to pen a post for a while. Since my last review I have finished another Thriller and a gorgeous love story but I’ve also had a lot on with work, exams and generally overdoing it.

Yesterday I was covering in another store which was crazy to say the least but this gorgeous lady revealed the cover of her next book. Without further ado I give you Miranda Dickinson’s sparkly news here is the quite simply gorgeous cover of The Day we Meet Again.

I’m a huge fan of Miranda’s and during my blogger experience she’s been nothing short of amazing, saying that she happens to be one of my favourites that I still haven’t met although we have had so many conversations via social media. Her books always take me away from whatever life is throwing at me at that time and they always give me so much hope for the future. I don’t always do her books justice but with this one I’m going to do my utmost.

The title makes me instantly think of my Nan she’s been gone for a good few years now but she will forever be one of my greatest female inspirations. By the end she was a shell of the woman she once was buy always such a fighter. If I’m half the woman she was when my time is up I will go happy.

I’m sorry to whatever I’m reading when I get my hands on this book as you will be shelved until I’ve devoured these pages. Just look at that rose gold….

2019, Author Love, Blog Tour, ebook, Review, Uncategorized

Blog Tour: A Year At Castle Court By Holly Hepburn – win a copy of this beauty.

Blurb: Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Her best friend from childhood, Cat, is burned out from working long hours as a chef in Paris. In need of a change, they decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester’s bustling streets.
 
They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn’t think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there’s support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in Seb‘s cocktail bar on the third floor!

Review: Ever since I discovered Holly Hepburn I’ve been mesmerised by her writing. What I love about devouring one of Holly’s novels is that I’ve instantly escaped whatever mundane worries I have for a short time at least. Her novels feature kick ass women and men to die for as well as those we love to hate. I must admit her latest set of instalments I’m a tad behind on as I’ve been studying but I’m in the midst of getting my studies, reading and my life in general more organised.

Anyway today I’m pleased to be a part of the gorgeous blog tour for A Year At Castle Court. I’m one of these people who originally took forever to get to e books but then it seemed like the best of both worlds. I read this beauty when it was originally released in four parts and as with any Holly book I was eagerly left wanting more after each instalment, so much so I had pre-ordered each part and had kind of forgotten until they pinged though.

From the off I was taken with Sadie and Cat very different women but simultaneously very good friends. Their friendship and partnership was a joy to read. These girls sure did go on an emotional rollercoaster ride but what was always paramount was their bond – even when they didn’t really agree or like what the other was doing.

As I said I read this beauty in stages and I was hooked from the get go my thoughts are all here.

https://hayleyreviews10.wordpress.com/2017/12/20/book-review-snowy-nights-at-castle-court-by-holly-hepburn/

https://hayleyreviews10.wordpress.com/2018/01/17/book-review-frosty-mornings-at-castle-court-by-holly-hepburn/

https://hayleyreviews10.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/book-review-part-three-stormy-weather-at-castle-court-by-holly-hepburn/

https://hayleyreviews10.wordpress.com/2018/05/02/book-review-starry-skies-at-castle-court-by-holly-hepburn/

Be sure to check out all the other stops on this truly fabulous tour. I’m also giving one lucky UK person the chance of winning this treat.

Tell me why you would love to delve into Holly’s Castle Court? And what your hopes are for 2019.

2018, audible, Blogtober, event, Uncategorized

A Spark Of Light – Jodi Picoult event

On 27th June 2018 I didn’t hesitate I booked a ticket to a live podcast with Jodi Picoult in conversation with Emma Gannon. I hadn’t worried too much about whether I would get the day off work but thankfully I did. I haven’t heard of Jodi being in the UK since I had become a fan so I really didn’t want to miss this opportunity and thankfully I didn’t.

In discovering Jodi I have been blown away with Small Great Things and The Storyteller. Most people have watched My Sisters Keeper – which so I was told is totally different to the book and not really one of Jodi’s favourites. It’s one I’ve been meaning to read but cancer related stories are always a proper hard one for me to actually stomach. As I’ve seen the sadness first hand in my own experiences and in my work capacity.

Saturday 27th October I was lucky enough to be in the presence of Jodi. Listening to her speak was so inspiring- I didn’t ask a question but listening to the other participants was awe inspiring especially when Small Great Things was mentioned a lot. This is still one of my favourite and most thought provoking books I have ever read. I listened to that on many walks to and from work and I really did miss this tale. Jodi writes controversial stories so well, in listening to her speak she really does go all out to get each and every side of the story. I loved the question someone asked about how Jodi manages to make you feel empathy even with the bad guys and I totally also felt that with Turk.

A Spark Of Light – in hearing how much Jodi went through in regards to research and that her usually three paged outline was actually forty eight pages long just shows how in depth she went. This novel has been written and it will be read also in reverse I’ve read a little and I’m looking to get to it after finishing this post.

I may have to read this book part physical book and part audible as it’s a gorgeous hardback that I’m not going to want to carry around this could be a first for me.

I told Jodi that listening to her is inspiring although I did get a little tongue tied. I’m so grateful to have attended the event it was everything I could have wanted and more.

They say don’t meet your favourites I totally disagree. Thank you for your time Jodi I look forward to devouring more of your books and hope to chat to you again someday. A Spark Of Light is out now and I know it’s going to be a ground breaking book.

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.

2018, Author Love, Blogtober, Six for Sunday, Uncategorized

Six for Sunday: Best Debut Books

I’m such a fan of Six for Sunday but of late I’ve had other stuff to do and just no time. In trying to attempt Blogtober I’m trying to be organised when I can so here I am with this weeks effort. Sorry for another late post as much as today was my day off I ended up helping out at home had a gorgeous brunch with a friend and then I ended up at work for a bit. I did manage some reading which I will be getting back to shortly.

I stumbled across Zoe May through Twitter I believe and I devoured this beauty quite quickly so much so I had eagerly pre-ordered her second book. Which I haven’t read yet thanks to damn blog tours but I promised not to moan about them any longer. I am however embracing more of what I want to read. Let’s face it that’s why I blog to talk about books I love.

Perfect Match – Zoe May

Darren O’Sullivan has to feature in this list. Our Little Secret saved me when I was at my lowest. Being off work due to my ankle trouble this tasty thriller had me hooked and Darren is such a legend and true to his word. When it was published in paperback he hand delivered it to me and we had a coffee. That was a thrilling feeling for a blogger and since then I inhaled his second novel he just does creepy so so well.

Our Little Secret

Now my review of this will follow this week. The blurb sucked me in and the main character is called Hayley. Now for those of you that have known me a while I keep telling authors to cast me into their novels. Be careful what you wish for.

My namesake is nothing like me she’s extremely disturbed and she likes to blame others rather than take responsibility of her actions. In her defence she’s had a weird upbringing and has suffered a great deal because of it emotionally and mentally. The reviews for this one have been pretty marmite but I’m interested to see what Susan does next and I’m hoping to do a Q&A with her at some point. So if you’ve read it and have a burning question leave it in the comments box please.

As yet I haven’t penned my thoughts on this one but what I will say is this was another fantastic recommendation from Fabbookfiend aka Catriona and once again it didn’t disappoint I listened to this and loved every second I will be devouring the second one very soon.

Now this book just had me from the get go and now I will always instantly purchase a Ruth Ware novel.

I still haven’t got around to devouring Hollie Overton’s second novel but I loved listening to Baby Doll.

Audible Review: BabyDoll by Hollie Overton

Hoping to have a review for you tomorrow although do shout if there’s something else you would rather see.