Blog Tours Book Features Extract

Blog Tour -Extract: A Summer at the Castle by Kate Lord Brown

Today I’m sharing with you an extract from A Summer at the Castle, the latest book by Kate Lord Brown.

Thank you to Kate for the invitation to take part and providing the extract.


I’ve wanted to write a book set in the south west of Ireland since visiting Kenmare and
Dingle twenty years ago. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and I’ve never forgotten staying
at Dromquinna, where Diana’s fictional castle is set. Here we meet her for the first
time, and get a glimpse of her home, inspired by the real life magical location …


Diana Hughes strode across the gravel driveway of Castle Dromquinna, leading a scrawny black goat with amber eyes with her good arm. The hem of her orange kaftan rode up over Diana’s strong, tanned legs as the goat struggled. She tightened her grip on the cerise pashmina she had tied around its neck. ‘No you don’t, my friend. Let’s get you safely back in the field.’ She dragged the goat onwards, and looked up at the stone crest above the porchway carved with DH, her silver-grey hair blowing in the breeze. Storm clouds scudded across the sky, blocking the sun. Rain, she thought, longing blooming in her chest for golden, sunlit days in Italy. She was counting down the days to her annual holiday.

‘Let me take ’im Mrs Hughes,’ the gardener said, setting down his wheelbarrow. ‘Right handful this one is.’

‘That would be grand, thank you Seán. Check Mephistopheles’ fence again, would you please?’ The gardener scooped the goat up into his arms, and Diana untied her scarf from its neck. ‘You’re a rascal, so you are,’ she said, scratching the goat’s bony head, its ears quivering in pleasure. She adjusted the sling at the back of her neck, her eyes narrowing.

‘You’ve not been swimming, Mrs Hughes? Not with your arm?’

‘Just a paddle with this ruddy thing,’ she said, raising her arm in its plaster cast. ‘I haven’t missed a day since 1988 and I’m not going to start now. The water is gorgeous at this time of the year. Bracing.’ She picked a piece of reed from the goat’s back. ‘I found you down by the bay, didn’t I?’

On the porch she stamped her feet, and swung open the heavy mahogany door to the reception area. At once the familiar smells of the Castle embraced her: the open fire, beeswax polish, the rich incense perfume of the stargazer lilies on the circular table at the heart of the flagstoned hall. ‘Is Darcy here yet?’ she asked the girl behind the desk, pulling off her wellies, and tucking them behind a door marked ‘private’. A white cat with aquamarine eyes jumped down from the red velvet armchair by the fire and wound its way around her bare feet. ‘Hello Kato, have you had your breakfast?’ She slipped on a battered pair of black espadrilles and walked on.

‘Conor’s in the kitchen with your daughter,’ the girl said. ‘Mrs Hughes, someone was—’

‘Not now.’ Diana strode through the hall, stopping to adjust a skew-whiff painting of Kenmare Bay. She knew every inch of the Castle intimately, had chosen every lamp, every rug, every picture herself. The restaurant, and the few discreet rooms above for guests who wished to stay over before driving back to Dublin and beyond, still had the air of a private house. It was classic, artfully shabby. The antiques suited the eighteenth-century architecture and anything newer she had aged. From the derelict bones of an old people’s home awash with avocado bathrooms and safety handles, Diana’s creation had risen like a pop-up page in a glossy magazine. She had added to it over the years, replacing make-do with make-a-statement pieces bought at country house auctions to complement those her husband had collected. At the thought of Kavanagh, she smiled, and paused to look out across the formal garden, the gravel pathways flanked with topiary leading to the walled kitchen garden with its neat brick pathways and raised beds of herbs. We’re a good team, that’s what Kavanagh always used to say. You’ve got the taste and beauty, Di, I’ve got the balls and cheque book. A peacock cried out, stalking across the lawns. Diana brushed a tiny strand of cobweb from the grey-painted moulding of the window frame, blowing it free from her fingertip. She made a mental note to tell the housekeeper to brush down the hand-painted wallpaper, its vines snaking up to the ceiling. You have an eye, my girl, she thought, imagining her husband’s deep voice. You have an eye, for sure.

I feel old, she thought, walking on through the Castle. Her broken arm ached, and her ribs were still mending, bruised from the fall. What would you make of me now, Kavanagh? Where’s the girl you fell in love with in Porto Ercole? She thought of the rugged Tuscan coast, the deep green and peace of the vineyards and olive groves rolling down to the shimmering sea, of her simple whitewashed cottage in the hills. I’ll take a holiday, after this. Her expression softened and her eyes took on a faraway look. Italy was hers alone – there were no demanding customers, no arguing staff to discipline, no TV cameras, no calls from the accountant, no letters from the bank. Perhaps I shall treat myself, book into Il Pellicano for a few days before opening up the cottage. She thought of the hotel’s sunbathing terrace overlooking the endless blue sea, imagined the warmth of the sun easing her bones, the glittering light through her closed eyelids. But there’s work to be done first. Diana took a deep breath, and winced. God, I hope I’ve done the right thing asking Darcy to come home. She pushed open a baize-lined door marked ‘Private’ and strode along the flagstone corridor leading to the family kitchen in the old tower. She could hear laughter up ahead, the deep roll of Conor’s voice telling a story.

‘You didn’t?’ Darcy’s voice, her soft Irish accent melded with west coast American.

‘There you are,’ Diana said, pausing in the doorway. Her daughter stood beside the scrubbed pine table at the heart of the yellow kitchen. The flagstone floor was covered with worn Persian carpets, and faded Liberty print cushions littered the old blue sofa by the stove. The white-painted cabinets and dresser were battered rather than distressed, and littered with pots of utensils. It was a working, homely place, and Diana’s favourite room in the whole Castle. An oil painting of Diana in her prime, her arms full of fresh produce from the kitchen garden, dominated the room, gazing down from the wall between the two floor-to-ceiling sash windows. Darcy stepped towards her mother, her eyes betraying her nerves and joy. Diana tucked a strand of glossy dark hair behind Darcy’s ear, cupped her cheek in her thin, dry hand. ‘It’s good to see you.’ Darcy hugged her mother carefully. ‘There, now,’ Diana said, closing her eyes, breathing in the warm vanilla scent of her daughter. She pressed her lips to the top of Darcy’s head.

‘I was worried about you,’ Darcy said, her voice muffled.

‘It’ll take more than a few broken bones to finish me off,’ Diana said, straightening up as they stepped apart. ‘You do look well. You’ve cut your hair since I saw you last.’ You have the look of your father, she thought, his dark beauty.

‘It’s easier in the kitchen. How’s the arm?’ Darcy said.

‘And the ribs,’ Conor said.

‘I could scream, it’s so frustrating.’ Diana walked to the stove, holding her side. ‘Can’t swim, can’t cook. Shall we make a pot?’ She fumbled with the tea caddy.

‘Here, let me. Sit down, woman,’ Conor said, pulling out a wheelback kitchen chair for her. He filled the kettle, and set it on the stove. ‘Honestly, would it kill you to ask for help?’

‘Yes, probably. You know me,’ Diana said, wincing as she sat down.

‘I was so glad that you called me,’ Darcy said, sitting opposite her.

‘I didn’t want to bother you.’ Diana gestured at Conor, who was sorting through the morning papers. ‘He said it was time for the next generation to take over on the show.’

‘Young blood.’ Conor fished out the Irish Times and took down a pair of tortoiseshell glasses from his hair to read the front page. ‘People have had enough of looking at our faces.’

‘We’ve always assumed you’d take over running the Castle when I retire—’ Diana said.

‘But you’re not retiring yet, are you?’ Darcy said.



Scandal, secrets and strawberries.
A recipe for disaster…

Every summer, Diana Hughes organises a famous baking competition at her beautiful castle in the south west of Ireland, to raise funds for its upkeep. But this year, amongst the bunting and scrumptious cakes, everything is turning out a little differently than planned!

First, her daughter Darcy arrives on the doorstep unexpectedly, after running away to the sunny hills of California with a broken heart a year ago. Then a mysterious stranger tries to sabotage the competition. Diana and Darcy soon find out that the past is quickly catching up with them – and it’s about to turn their lives upside down!…



Kate was a finalist in ITV’s The People’s Author contest, and her novel ‘The Perfume Garden’, which has been published in nine languages, was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2014. She was regional winner of the BBC International Radio Playwriting competition this year, and she holds an MA in Creative Writing. Her books have been top ten bestsellers in the UK, Canada, and several European countries. In 2020 she was highly commended in the RNA Elizabeth Goudge Trophy.

Kate has also written editorial, reviews and regular columns for Traveller, Conde Nast, Good Housekeeping, Blueprint,  The Bookseller, Bookbag, Writers’ News, Arts Business, Gulf Times, Woman, Oryx, the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Express and others. She wrote the first book club column in the Middle East for two years, introducing a host of writers to the region through the pages of Ahlan! After many years living overseas, she has returned to the wild and beautiful south west of England, where she grew up. Kate has two books out in 2021, ‘A Season of Secrets‘ and ‘A Summer at the Castle‘ with Orion, and ‘Die Schritte zu deinem Herzen‘ (Silent Music) was published by Piper Dec 2020. Kate is working on her next novels.



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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Blog Tours Extract

Blog Tour – Extract: The Patient Man by Joy Ellis

Published: June 18th, 2020
Publisher: Joffe Books
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

The Patient Man has been shortlisted for this year’s British Book Awards in the Crime/Thriller Book of the Year category. Joy is the only author from an independent publisher on that list and as a fan of her books, I’m delighted to be sharing this extract from the book with you today.


Chapter 2

Marie walked into his office wearing a deep turquoise silk shirt. Jackman felt relief flooding through him. So much for his dream.

‘Good grief!’ Marie exclaimed. ‘How long have you been in?’ She stared at
the pile of paperwork in his out tray.

‘Oh, a while.’

‘You’ve been reading up on feng shui again, haven’t you, sir? Clear your clutter and promote a tidy mind.’ Marie grinned at him. ‘Or is the super breathing down your neck for results?’

‘Neither, actually. Just couldn’t sleep. And this lot,’ he pointed to the paperwork, ‘was haunting me.’ He returned her grin. ‘How was the day off

‘Brilliant, boss. I took the new bike for a spin. She handles amazingly.’
‘Ah, this one’s a girl, is it? How come?’
‘Well, after Harvey was annihilated, I decided I’d try a new line, if you know what I mean. We went to Cromer, had the best crab lunch ever, and drove back before the traffic got too bad. It was the perfect day.’

‘And her name?’ asked Jackman.

‘Not sure yet, sir. But she’ll tell me when she’s ready. So, I’m all refreshed and raring to get to work. What’s first?’

‘After a strong coffee and the morning meeting, you and I are going to visit a certain Mr Kenneth Harcourt, at a house named Wits’ End. How does that sound?’

‘Wits’ End? Is he some kind of nutter? The coffee sounds good but I’m not too sure about someone who calls their house that.’

‘Well, I hope he’s no nutter, because he owns that private gun club out on
Bartlett’s Fen. Someone attempted to break into it yesterday.’

‘What? The Fenside Gun Club? That’s pretty snobby.’ Marie raised her eyebrows. ‘Actually, very snobby indeed. So, what happened?’

‘Last night there was a break-in at his home. Most likely it was the same bunch of villains who’d failed to get into the club earlier that day.’

‘Okay, I’ll go and get those coffees and you can fill me in on what we know so far.’

Jackman watched her leave, wishing he could shake off the remnants of his nightmare. That feeling of doom. It was like a film clip played on a loop in his head. It just wasn’t like him to be so unsettled by a stupid dream.

He stacked the final reports in his out tray and heaved a sigh of relief. At least they were done. Now they could concentrate on the petty crimes and, hopefully, in a couple of days they would see daylight.

Marie returned with coffee and he told her what uniform had reported following their visit to the gun club and Kenneth Harcourt’s home.
‘Whoever tried to get into the gun club underestimated the security they have there. The CCTV images showed a couple of rough-looking scrotes who obviously had little previous experience of breaking and entering. It’s thought they were chancers who bit off more than they could chew. We’ve got some pretty good pictures, but no faces. As you can imagine, they were wearing the usual hoodies.’

Marie frowned. ‘But we have to assume that they were pretty desperate to get hold of a gun if they then turned their attention to Harcourt’s private address. That doesn’t sound like chancers to me. How did they get hold of his home address in the first place?’

‘He’s well known, has fingers in all sorts of pies apparently. If I were after his address, I’d just follow him home when he left the club, no sweat.’

‘Mmm.’ Marie stared into her coffee, swirling it around like a fortune teller about to read the tea leaves. ‘So, did they get away with a gun?’

‘Two, according to uniform. Both have valid licences. They’ve circulated the type, calibre and serial numbers to all forces.’ Just for a second, the final scene of the dream flashed through Jackman’s mind, Alistair Ashcroft waving to him from across his mother’s stable yard, rifle in hand. ‘I don’t like the thought of firearms here in Saltern-le-Fen.’

‘Me neither, boss,’ said Marie. ‘Especially not in the hands of a couple of low-lives. Although they were probably stolen to order and are a hundred miles away by now. Firearms fetch a high price on the black market.’

‘That’s what I’m hoping.’ He glanced at his watch. ‘Let’s get daily orders out of the way and then go and talk to Mr Harcourt. As a shooting man, he should know better than to leave his guns where they can be stolen so easily. Doesn’t he keep them in locked gun cabinets?’

He had seen it far too often, the casual attitude to guns displayed by people who used them regularly, especially among the upper classes. He’d found them in wardrobes, in umbrella stands, propped up behind doors, in the downstairs toilet and numerous other insecure places. Time after time, people had said to him, “What’s the use of a gun if you can’t lay your hands on it quickly?”

Jackman’s father had taught both his sons to shoot at an early age but although Jackman was a natural and far better than his brother, he’d never taken to it, especially hunting. Target shooting was fine, but as soon as he got a living creature in his sights, he faltered. But at least it had taught him a healthy respect for guns, even air rifles, which were religiously locked away after every use. The laws were in place for a very good reason.

Jackman stood up. ‘Right, let’s go. The quicker we get the morning meeting done, the sooner we can go.’

They turned into the long, straight driveway of Wits’ End. Situated on the outskirts of Saltern-le-Fen, it stood alone among miles of arable fields, which were now a sea of acid-yellow rape, almost too bright to take in. The grounds covered perhaps two acres, part walled and part fenced, filled with all manner of trees and shrubs and carpeted with extensive lawns. Marie saw a small stable block and a greenhouse of Victorian design. The perfect country residence.

‘No comments about the house name, please, Evans. Not the slightest giggle.’ Jackman tried to look serious, but his eyes let him down.

‘As if, sir!’ she said, all innocence.

The house rose up in front of them, tall and elegant. The front door had a
white columned portico and Marie could see heavy, lustrous drapes through the windows. The whole place reeked of money. ‘It should be called something classy, not Wits’ bloody End,’ she muttered.

‘I totally agree,’ said Jackman. ‘It should be a Regency Lodge or perhaps an Enderby. Well, let’s see what kind of man the owner of Wits’ End is.’

They climbed out of the car and mounted the steps to the front door.
Jackman rang the bell. They heard dogs barking and someone shouting.

‘Well, at least they are home,’ Marie whispered to Jackman. ‘Sounds like he’s rounding up the hounds.’

The man who answered the door was tall and straight-backed with a full
head of greying hair and looked every inch the county “squire.

‘Ah, good, the detectives. Come in, come in.’

Marie and Jackman entered a spacious hall, sparsely but tastefully furnished, the walls adorned with a collection of beautifully framed hunting scenes that were definitely not prints.

Harcourt led them through to a large airy sitting room where Marie got a closer look at those impressive drapes. The room had a lived-in feel. It was used, not merely kept as a showplace.

Marie took a seat in a comfortable armchair and had a proper look at Harcourt. He looked familiar somehow, although she couldn’t imagine where she might have seen him before. She was good at recalling faces, but she was struggling with this one.

Jackman asked him exactly what had happened, ‘From the beginning, sir.’

‘As I told the uniformed officers, we were all out, the whole family. I have a brother visiting from South Africa, and we went to the Red Lion for a celebratory dinner. The little bastards took an axe to the kitchen door, hacked off the lock. Wrecked the blasted door.’ Harcourt glowered at them. ‘And before you ask, no, we didn’t set the alarm before we left. We rarely use the alarm. The damn thing is so sensitive a breath of wind sets it off.’

‘You have dogs, sir. We heard them when we arrived. Didn’t they bark?’

‘Probably barked their heads off, but who’s to hear them? As you can see,
we have no nearby neighbours.’

‘The intruders didn’t harm them?’ Jackman asked.

‘No, and they weren’t put off by them either. The dogs were shut in the family room and the thieves didn’t go in there.’

‘So, where were the guns taken from, sir?’ Marie asked.

‘My study. I have a couple of gun cabinets, one a steel shotgun safe with a digital keypad and one that belonged to my father, an antique carved wooden one. That’s the one they trashed. Used the bloody axe on it. Beautiful piece, irreplaceable both in design and personal value. Now it’s matchwood. Your officers have already photographed it and gone over it for prints — what’s left of it.’

‘So they were all locked away?’ asked Jackman.

‘All bar one air pistol that my son uses. That’s in a drawer beneath my desk. It’s still there. It would have taken brains to work out the catch that releases the drawer and these savages were evidently not well endowed in that department. It’s an old desk, and the drawer has a secret compartment especially made to house a service revolver, not that we have one.’

‘Perhaps you’d be kind enough to show us later, sir?’ asked Jackman, more sympathetic now that he knew the guns had been locked away.

‘Certainly, Detective Inspector.’ Harcourt suddenly looked tired. ‘I’m assuming you won’t get them back?’

‘It’s highly unlikely, Mr Harcourt.’ Jackman said. ‘Stolen firearms are usually moved on very quickly.’ He glanced down at his notebook. ‘I see the guns stolen were a target shooting rifle and a shotgun.’

‘Yes, the shotgun is a Dickson & Son boxlock ejector made in the 1930s, a family heirloom like the cabinet, and the target shooter is an Anschutz Super Match bolt action rifle.’

Marie frowned. ‘You had other guns in the cabinet, but they left those?’

Harcourt nodded. ‘Yes, funny that. They could have had another couple, and that’s apart from those in the main steel cabinet. Not that an axe would be any match for that gun safe. But they just took those two, and some ammunition.’

‘Anything else taken or damaged, sir?’

‘Nothing, so I suppose I should be thankful for that. At least they didn’t draw pictures on the walls in excrement.’

‘Very true, sir. Sounds like they knew exactly what they wanted.’
Jackman paused. ‘The other two guns, the ones they left behind, what were they?’

‘Air rifles. Varmint guns.’
‘Sorry?’ Marie said, puzzled by the unfamiliar expression.
‘An American term. They are used to keep rodents and rabbits down.

Basically, they are reliable small calibre guns for pest control.’
‘So, they only took a valuable shotgun and an expensive target rifle?’ She was trying to work out why they would have been so selective.

‘Surely even the “varmint” guns would have had some value?’
‘Not really. They come in at around five hundred pounds each.’
Marie considered that plenty to spend on pest control. ‘And the others?’
It took Harcourt a moment to respond. ‘Well, my father’s shotgun isn’t worth a great deal. It had more sentimental value. I had it valued for insurance purposes about a year ago and they said two and a half thousand. The Anschutz is around two thousand.’

She let out a low whistle. ‘And that’s not a great deal?’

Harcourt laughed. ‘If they’d been able to get into the other cabinet it would have been a different matter.’

‘A Purdey?’ asked Jackman.

Harcourt laughed louder. ‘Spot on. It’s the jewel in the crown. But apart from that, I have my best target rifles in there, Walthers, and they are worth four and a half each.’

‘So how many guns do you own, sir?’ Marie asked, having lost count.

‘Well, personal guns would be nine, including the pistol. We also have a small collection for general use in the armoury at the gun club.’

‘And every single one is legal and licensed?’ she asked.

‘Check for yourself, Detective Sergeant. You’ll find all my guns are properly registered. And my gun club is hot as hell when issuing club firearms to members. The armourer is present at all times. They never leave his sight. Most of our members prefer to use their own firearms. We only offer ours if requested, usually to give visitors a feel for the club prior to joining.’ Harcourt turned a hard gaze on her. ‘I take both the ownership and handling of weapons extremely seriously, DS Evans, I always have. I spent my early life in the military, so I know my guns. I also know what they can do.’ Without taking his eyes off her, he rolled up his left sleeve and showed her an ugly scarred area on his forearm. ‘That wasn’t the enemy, Detective, it was a friend of mine whose mind wasn’t fully focused when he was cleaning his weapon. Something like that would instill a lifelong respect for lethal weapons, wouldn’t you say?’

Chastened, Marie nodded. ‘Absolutely, sir.’ Clearly there would be no Uzis in his umbrella stand. ‘Could we see the damage the thieves did, Mr Harcourt? Both to the door and the gun cabinet?’

Harcourt stood up. ‘Of course. Come this way.’
They followed him through the house to the kitchen door at the rear. ‘No
much finesse used on that, was there?’ Jackman shook his head. Marie stared at the deep ragged gouges and the splintered wood around the lock. It looked almost frenzied. A few well-placed blows could have done the job with far less damage.

‘A man is coming to fit a new door,’ Harcourt said. ‘But the damage to the
gun cabinet is irreparable.’ He marched off back through the house, calling out over his shoulder. ‘Come. I’ll show you.’

Marie took careful stock of the house as they moved through it. It was a real family home, obviously well loved. She passed several doors with brightly painted plaques on them — the children’s rooms. Jack’s Room, Keep Out! Kirstie’s Room.

They entered a spacious study with double-aspect windows that looked out over the extensive gardens. The room was centred around a massive antique banker’s desk that put Jackman’s beloved office desk to shame.
Marie almost laughed.

‘Wow! That’s a statement piece!’ he whispered, reverently. Jackman had obviously fallen totally in love with that desk.

‘So was that.’ Harcourt pointed angrily to what remained of the gun cabinet.

Even Marie could appreciate why he was so upset. The ornately carved wood had been hacked at and chopped up like kindling. As with the kitchen door , a huge amount of force had been used. ‘Using a
sledgehammer to crack a nut,’ she murmured.

‘Precisely,’ growled Harcourt. ‘And I’d like to use some of the same tactics on them, the bastards.’

Jackman said nothing and just stared at the wreckage that had once been an elegant piece of furniture.

Marie found it almost embarrassing to see this man so distraught about losing his father’s precious belongings. She felt like she was intruding.

She gazed at the rest of the room. Nice stuff, classy, but once again, well used. There was dog hair on the seat of a winged armchair by one of the windows, and a closer look showed dust and the odd stain on the carpet that looked suspiciously like the remnants of children’s wax crayons. Then she looked at the glorious desk again, saw the leather letter racks and matching pen holders. It wasn’t all museum pieces, though. At one end stood a laptop and a dock for a mobile phone. And a rather lovely modern woodblock photo frame.

Marie almost gasped.

One look at the picture instantly brought realisation of why she recognised Kenneth Harcourt.

The photo showed a young girl, wearing the red-and-yellow football strip of Saltern-le-Fen Juniors Football Club. She was clasping a ball under her arm and looking directly at the camera lens. Kirstie Harcourt, eleven-year-old girl, killed in a hit-and-run the year before. The car had been stolen and the driver had got away. There had been suspects, but no evidence that would hold up in court, and the coroner had found an open verdict. Not the kind of thing that gave closure to a grieving family.
“Kirstie’s Room.” The plaque was still on the door.

Marie backed away from the desk, hoping that Harcourt hadn’t noticed her staring at the photo. ‘I think we need to get back and get some enquiries underway, sir, don’t you?’

Evidently puzzled by her sudden desire to leave, Jackman said, ‘Er, yes, we do. Thank you for your time, sir. We’ll keep in touch.’

Outside in the car, she told Jackman what she had seen.

‘Of course! Why didn’t we recognise that surname?’ Jackman exclaimed.
‘It was all over the papers for weeks.’

‘They always just referred to her as Kirstie, didn’t they?’ Marie said.
‘Kirstie the whizz-kid footballer.’

‘And it didn’t happen on our patch, either. She had been at a friend’s place over Greenborough way, hadn’t she?’

Marie nodded. ‘That’s right. DI Nikki Galena handled it. It wasn’t our case.’

Jackman looked pensive. ‘Not that this break-in will be connected, but I wish I’d realised before we spoke to the poor guy.’

Marie felt the same. She hoped Harcourt hadn’t thought she and Jackman not mentioning it showed insensitivity, that they were dismissive of his family’s tragedy. She turned on the engine but didn’t yet pull away.

‘Sir? Did you notice that Harcourt hesitated when I asked him how many guns he owned?’

Jackman shrugged. ‘Not especially. He does have a lot of them. It’s not surprising that he had to think about it.’

‘I guess so, but . . . forget it, you’re probably right. I just had an odd feeling that he was being, well, very careful as to how he answered.’ Jackman smiled at her. ‘Hold that thought, Marie. You and your intuition.
It’s rarely wrong.’

‘We’ll see. Tell me, Mister Knowledgeable, how much is a Purdey worth?’

Jackman rolled his eyes at her. ‘My father told me this. Would you believe over a hundred and thirty grand?’

‘What?’ Marie exclaimed. ‘How much?’
‘And Purdeys aside, a Peter Hofer sidelock can cost a cool million.’
‘For a bloody gun?’ She tried to imagine what she would do with a million pounds. Buying a shotgun certainly didn’t feature.
‘They are works of art, Marie. They have the most intricate engraving on the handle. Some take years to make.’
‘I guess so. But it’s still a gun, isn’t it, not a life support machine or a cancer research laboratory. A million pounds could save hundreds of lives by supplying clean water to African villages. All a gun does is kill things.’

‘I gather you won’t be purchasing one if you win on EuroMillions?’ said Jackman.

‘Dead bloody right I won’t. I hate the things. I’ve seen what they can do to people.’ Marie glanced across to Jackman and saw an odd look on his face. She was about to ask him what was wrong, but when she looked again, he seemed his normal self. Maybe she’d imagined it. No doubt, Jackman was recalling a particularly bad case he’d dealt with, where someone got shot or, more likely, he was reliving the time he was shot himself.~

Sometimes Marie wished she wasn’t so sensitive to tiny nuances in people’s demeanour. Like that hesitation of Harcourt’s when he was telling her about his guns. Yes, maybe it was simple hesitation, but Marie had seen cogs turning and sensed a tension emanate from the man. As soon as she got back to the station, she would check out those guns and their licences. Otherwise it would keep bugging her.

Jackman was staring out of the window. They were only minutes from town, but the fenland farming area swept right up to the outskirts of Saltern itself. ‘I wonder why such force was used?’ he mused. ‘You hit the nail on the head when you described it as using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. What was all that about?’

‘That bothers me too, boss. I mean, if they did it because they hated the Harcourts and wanted to wreak mega damage, they wouldn’t stop with just those two items, would they? They’d have smashed the whole place up.’


Marie slowed as they entered Saltern-le-Fen. ‘One thing is for sure: they aren’t professional thieves.’

‘And they aren’t crackheads looking for something to sell for drug money or they’d have taken anything they could lay their hands on,’ Jackman added.

‘So what are they?’ she said.

‘I have no idea, Marie, and that bothers me. I like simple and straightforward, not convoluted and tortuous.’

‘If I knew what that meant I’d probably agree with you.’ She stopped at a red light. ‘What’s clear is this. They wanted guns or they would never have tried to get into Fenside Gun Club and then when that failed, Harcourt’s home.’

‘But they only took two. Why leave those other two? Even decent air rifles
are worth something. Why not just take all four?’ Jackman asked.

‘I thought this was a simple break-in. Now I’m well confused,’ Marie said.

‘And you’re not alone.’ Jackman scratched his head. ‘Let’s just get back and see how the others are doing with the petty crime cases, then maybe we can have a campfire. See what they think of our baffling theft.’

‘Good idea, boss.’ They drove the rest of the way in silence, each lost in thoughts of lethal weapons.



Joy Ellis grew up in Kent but moved to London when she won an apprenticeship with the prestigious Mayfair flower shop, Constance Spry Ltd.
Many years later, having run her own florist shop in Weybridge, Ellis took part in a writers workshop in Greece and was encouraged by her tutor, Sue Townsend to begin writing seriously. She now lives in the Lincolnshire Fens with her partner Jacqueline and their Springer spaniels, Woody and Alfie.



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Thank you to Midas PR for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and to Joffre Books for the extract.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

Blog Tours Extract

Blog Tour – Extract: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood

Published: March 18th, 2021
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Fairy Tale, Dark Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Gaslamp Fantasy


Today, I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Shadow in the Glass, and sharing an extract from this retelling of Cinderella.


If anyone caught her, Eleanor would be dismissed on the spot. The house clicked and creaked as it settled into sleep, the heat of the last days of August quietly slipping into the night. Eleanor was the only one awake. On silent feet, she was as insubstantial as a flame. She could drift past cold fireplaces and dust sheets looming like glaciers and all she would leave behind was the faintest stirring in the air.

Candlelight shimmered on the walls as she crept into the library. The dark spines of the books were rows of windows, waiting for the shutters to be pulled back. Open one, and she would know the secrets of Ottoman palaces; open another, and she would gaze across deserts. Granborough House would fade away. Eleanor smiled. Some things were worth risking dismissal for, especially with the master out of the house for the evening.

Eleanor set down her candle and surveyed her subjects. Damp equatorial rainforests, steaming in the heat. Versailles, glittering in the dark like an Earthbound star. Verona – Juliet on her balcony, sighing into the darkness. It was a perfect night for poetry: she could stretch out her legs and whisper sonnets into the slow, hot silence. But she would cry, and Mrs Fielding would be able to tell the next morning. Better to keep her face blank, in case the housekeeper grew curious. Eleanor locked the door, slipping the library key back up her sleeve. She’d stolen the key from Mrs Pembroke’s house- keeping chatelaine. Even though the mistress of the house had been dead for more than three years, shame still crawled under Eleanor’s skin when she went through Mrs Pembroke’s things. Not that Mrs Pembroke would have minded. She had spent the last few months of her life propped up on pillows, telling Eleanor how to care for everything she would inherit from Mrs Pembroke’s will.

The weight of the key against Eleanor’s forearm felt like shackles. Mrs Pembroke never would have wanted Eleanor to creep around the house like a thief, just for something to read. The lady of the house had not wanted Eleanor to be a housemaid at all. Versailles, Verona, perhaps even the rainforest – these were all places Eleanor might have visited, if only Mrs Pembroke had lived. A lump crawled into Eleanor’s throat. Mrs Pembroke had been planning to take her on a tour of Europe when Eleanor was old enough to enter Society.
Suddenly it seemed cruel to have so many travelogues spread out in front of her, when she’d once been so close to seeing the places all these men had written of.

Eleanor gave herself a little shake. She’d told herself not to get upset.

She lifted The Fairy Ring off the shelves and felt better the moment it was in her hand. Her own fingerprints from years ago marked the table of contents – smaller, of course, than they were now – the corner of the back cover was fraying slightly, from all the times she’d plucked at it as she read.

Settling into her favourite chair with that book in her hands, the lump in her throat melted away. At seventeen, she knew she ought to have grown out of such things, but it was difficult to set aside a world where trees grew delicate gold and silver branches and strange creatures lurked in cool, clear water. She lost herself on narrow paths twisting through dark woods, yearned to spin straw into gold, and envied the twelve brothers who had been changed into swans. It seemed like a fine thing to be a clean white bird that might fly anywhere it liked.

She put the book back when the clock struck midnight, making sure to replace it exactly where she found it. The chimes were quiet, but the sound dropped through to the pit of Eleanor’s stomach like a leaden weight. An old memory struggled to the surface of her thoughts – she was nine years old and curled into a ball, back pressed against the leg of an iron bed as a cheaper, harsher clock tolled midnight – but she shook it off. It wouldn’t do to think of her own mother now, she’d make herself upset again. Somewhere outside a hansom cab rattled over the cobblestones; she flinched, heart pounding, and almost knocked her candle over. Mr Pembroke was supposed to be dining at his club tonight. What if he’d changed his mind and come back early?

Eleanor listened at the door, forcing her nerves into submission. Nothing from downstairs. If she was quick, no one would even guess that she’d left her room. She crept back up the servants’ staircase and slipped into her little room, trying not to wilt at the sight of the bare boards, the skeletal iron bedframe, her useless scrap of curtain hanging limp over the window. She crawled into bed, ignoring the smell of mildew from the blankets and holding the memory of the fairy stories like hands cupped around a tiny flame. When she slept, she dreamed of vast wings carrying her away, and she could not tell if they were her own.



JJA Harwood is an author, editor and blogger. She grew up in Norfolk, read History at the University of Warwick and eventually found her way to London, which is still something of a shock for somebody used to so many fields.

When not writing, she can be found learning languages, cooking with more enthusiasm than skill, wandering off into clearly haunted houses and making friends with stray cats. THE SHADOW IN THE GLASS is her debut novel.

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Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to JJA Harwood and HarperVoyager for the extract.

Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, Bibliophiles, Emma xxx

Blog Tours Extract

Silence in the Shadows (Black Winter 4) by Darcy Coates

Published: November 1st, 2020
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction, Dystiopian Fiction

I’m delighted to be sharing an extract for the latest book in the Black Winter Series today, which is out next month. Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the invitation to take in the tour and for the extract.


Chapter One

“CLARE? IF YOU’RE THERE, please answer. It’s me. Beth.”
Clare stood at Winterbourne Hall’s kitchen sink as she stared, shocked, at the crackling radio. Gusts of freezing wind howled through gaps in the old mansion’s stone walls. Even wrapped in the cotton dress she’d inherited from one of the manor’s former maids and a fur jacket borrowed from Dorran, the kitchen would have been too cold for her without the fire. The blaze both warmed and illuminated the room, bathing Clare and Dorran in its orange glow.
Dorran stood close enough to touch. He still wore bruises and scratches from the monsters that inhabited Winterbourne, but his dark eyes shone in the candlelight as he looked toward the radio.
“Beth…” Clare’s heart missed a beat, then returned with a vengeance, thumping furiously until her pulse was all she could hear. The last time she’d spoken to Beth, she’d been driving to her sister’s house in an attempt to escape the spreading stillness. That had only been seventeen days before. It felt like half a lifetime. She had kept the radio running constantly since she’d retrieved it from her car, but her hope of hearing from Beth had been whittled down to almost nothing.
Dorran moved first. He strode around the wide wooden table filling the kitchen’s center and snatched the two- way radio off the shelf, then returned and placed it on the table in front of Clare. He didn’t try to speak but bent forward to listen, watching expectantly.
The radio crackled. Clare struggled to breathe. In a flurry of urgent panic, she dropped the dish towel and darted forward, then pressed the button to transmit her voice.
“Beth? Beth, I’m here. It’s me. I’m here.”
She released the button and bent close to the speakers. Her hands were shaking. Her throat was tight, and every nerve in her body felt on fire with a desperate need to hear her sister’s voice again.
Beth, who was the closest thing Clare had to a mother. Beth, who at the vulnerable age of twenty had taken Clare to dental checkups, to netball practice, to school recitals. Beth, who had never stopped worrying about her when she’d moved into her own home.
The transmission was faint and distorted by a weak signal, but the voice was unmistakable. Beth took a gasping, hiccupping breath. “Clare? Is that you? Is it really you?”
She’s still alive. She’s okay. “Yes! I’m here!”
Beth was crying, and Clare couldn’t stop herself from following. She wiped her sleeves over her face as tears ran. At the same time, a grin stretched her cheeks until they ached.
Dorran moved silently. He nudged a chair in behind Clare so she could sit, then a moment later placed a glass of water and a clean cloth beside her. She gratefully used the cloth to wipe some of the wetness off her face. Dorran took a seat on the opposite side of the table. He was tall, towering over Clare, but he moved smoothly and carefully, even his breathing nearly silent. He folded his arms on the table, his dark eyes attentive, his black hair falling around his strong jaw, as he listened to the conversation.
“Sweetheart, are you okay? Are you hurt?”
Beth never called her sweetheart unless she was frightened. Clare guessed, after more than two weeks of no contact, Beth was about as frightened as she’d ever been. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
That was a half- truth at best. She still had red lines running across her arm and abdomen from where the hollow ones had attacked her. She grew tired too quickly. Her muscles ached. A bite on her wrist and thigh still needed dressing every day.
But she was alive. And, if the hollows were as prevalent as they seemed, that was better than what could be said for a lot of the world.
“What about you?” She pulled the radio closer, struggling to make out Beth’s voice under the distortion. “Are you in your bunker? Are you okay?”
“Yes, don’t worry about me. I’m in my bunker and getting thoroughly sick of staring at these four walls.” Beth laughed. “I paid for every add-on I could for this place…air filtration, water filtration, generator, aquaponics system. The only professional I didn’t think to hire was an interior decorator.”
Hearing Beth’s laughter made Clare feel lighter. She couldn’t stop her own grin. “I guess people don’t really think about throw rugs and wall hangings when they imagine the end of the world, do they?”
Beth chuckled, but the noise didn’t sound quite natural. Clare’s own smile faded. For a moment, the only noise in the kitchen was the soft static and a distant drip.
“It’s all gone to hell, sweetheart.” Beth’s voice had lost its color. “Everything. It’s all gone.”
“Yeah.” Clare swallowed. “But you’re okay. And that’s what matters.”
“Are you at Marnie’s? Is she there? Can I talk to her?”
The questions were like being dunked in a freezing bath. Clare closed her eyes. She took a slow breath and tried to keep her voice steady. “I never reached Marnie.” “Oh.”
Clare’s aunt, Marnie, was the third piece of their tiny family. She lived on a farm two hours’ drive from Clare’s own home. On that last morning, Clare had been trying to pick Marnie up on her way to Beth’s. She’d never made it out of Banksy Forest.
“Well.” Beth sounded like she was choking. “At least you’re okay. At least…at least…”
“I’m so sorry.” Clare stared down at the chipped wooden counter and shivered. The kitchen no longer felt as warm as it had a moment before.
There had been very little chance to think about the world outside the forest during the previous few days. But whenever she had, her mind had turned to her family and what might have happened to them. She’d felt sick every time she imagined it.
She felt sick again, knowing that Marnie must have been waiting for her. Beth would have called her to say Clare was on the way. She’d probably been standing by her front door, a suitcase on one side and a cat carrier on the other. Clare could picture her easily. Brown hair that had started to develop streaks of gray. A body that had been made strong by a lifetime of working in the garden but was always a little on the plump side. She would have been wearing floral clothes and a knit cardigan, like she always did. She was a short woman but had a huge smile and an even bigger heart.
Did the hollow ones get her? Was it fast, or painful and slow?
A warm hand moved over hers. She met Dorran’s dark eyes as he squeezed her fingers.
“But you’re okay.” Beth’s voice crackled through the radio again. She seemed to have rallied. “After your phone went out, I tried reaching you through the radio almost constantly. For days. You didn’t answer, and I thought…I thought…”
“I’m so sorry. I left the radio in the car. It took me a while to get it back.”
“That’s fine. You’re alive. I can forgive everything else as long as you just stay alive. Where are you? If you didn’t get to Marnie’s, does that mean you’re in your cottage? It’s not going to be safe— ”
“No, no, I found a new house. It’s in Banksy Forest.”
She could hear the frown in Beth’s voice. “There aren’t any houses inside the forest.”
“That’s what I thought too. But it was well hidden. The owner,
Dorran, is letting me stay with him.”
Again, Beth hesitated. “Is he a good sort of person?”
“Yes, don’t worry. He’s nice. And we have plenty of food— and a garden. Winterbourne was designed to be self- sufficient and it’s hard to break into. I was lucky. Really lucky.”
“Be careful, Clare. Don’t trust him just because he’s friendly.”
Clare looked down at her hand, which was still enveloped in Dorran’s. She followed it along his arm, covered by the green knit sweater, and up to his face. Thick black hair, grown a little too long, framed a strong, reserved face. His dark eyes, shadowed under a heavy brow, smiled at her. She thought there was no one she trusted more.
“He’s good, I promise. You don’t need to worry about me. How are you doing there?”
“Holding up at least.” There was a speck of hesitation in Beth’s voice.
Clare frowned. “Are you sure? Do you have enough food and water?”
“Yes, that’s all fine. But the generator’s out. I’ve been trying to fix it, but it’s been a challenge without the lights.”
A chill ran through Clare. She pictured Beth, sitting in a dark box, having to feel her way through the space every time she needed food or the bathroom or water. There would be nothing to see. Nothing to do. Just her, alone, listening to the seconds tick by.
“I’m doing fine, sweetheart.” Her voice took on the familiar hint of warning she used whenever Clare was doing something she didn’t approve of. “I have a flashlight. I’m using it judiciously— apparently an excess of batteries still isn’t enough— but I’m hardly suffering down here.”
Clare wasn’t sure if she could believe that. But she tried to keep her voice bright for Beth’s sake. “We can talk on the radio as much as you want. I can carry you around with me and keep you company.”
Beth laughed. “Oh, that would be fun. But I think it’s better if we keep our chats short.”
That was unexpected. “Why?”
“Tell me, Beth.”
“Too much noise attracts them.”
Dorran’s fingers laced through Clare’s, trying to reassure her. She barely felt it. Her hands were turning numb. “The hollow?”
“Yeah.” Beth’s voice cracked. “I was the only person on my street who had a bunker.”
Clare understood. Without shelter, all of Beth’s neighbors would have been affected by the stillness.
Under the static’s crackles and her own too- fast breathing,
Clare thought she heard another sound. The noise had dogged her for weeks, following her even into her sleep, and every fiber of her being revolted against it. Fingernails, digging. Clawing.
Scratching. They were at Beth’s bunker door.
They’d heard them. They were hungry.


Darcy is the USA Today Bestselling author of Hunted, The Haunting of Ashburn House, Craven Manor, and more than a dozen horror and suspense titles.She lives on the Central Coast of Australia with her family, cats, and a garden full of herbs and vegetables. Darcy loves forests, especially old-growth forests where the trees dwarf anyone who steps between them. Wherever she lives, she tries to have a mountain range close by.



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Blog Tours Extract

Whispers in the Mist (Black Winter 3) by Darcy Coates

Published: August 1st, 2020
Publisher: Poison Pen Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction, Dystiopian Fiction


Chapter 2

Beth wrapped one arm around Clare’s shoulder as they moved back towards the minibus. Clare frowned, trying to understand what her sister had said. “The hollows?”
“Yeah. I parked here because it’s the closest haven to the city. The light keeps the hollow ones at bay. But they’ll only stay on the outskirts for so long before the hunger gets the best of them.”
Clare squinted at their surroundings and took them in properly for the first time. The parking lot stretched around them in all directions, empty except for a handful of overturned shopping trolleys. The lights above them flooded the area for a hundred feet in each direction. But, if she stared at the shadows on the edges of the asphalt, where the light was thinner, she thought she saw bulb-like eyes glowing in the bushes.
The shopping centre stood not far behind them. Single-story, designed in a long boomerang shape, she guessed it would house at least eighty stores. She’d thought the windows and doors were dark, but as she looked again, she realised they’d been boarded up. Through the planks and sheet metal, she thought she saw spots of light. “Beth… are there people in there?”
“Should we—”
“No.” They were at the bus’s door, and Beth pushed the handle to open it. With the windows covered, barely any light reached inside the vehicle, and Clare had to blink as her eyes adjusted.
The minibus had probably been used for tours at one point. Six rows of seats, made of mottled blue and grey fabric, ran either side of the aisle. Metal baskets suspended above them were full of luggage. It wasn’t exactly luxurious, but it was modern and clean.
Dorran still stood in the aisle, one hand braced on a chair for support, shivering as his clothes dripped onto the floor. His expression was unreadable, which Clare had learned was a defence mechanism when he felt uneasy.
“Hey,” she called, injecting some brightness into her voice. “We’re all good. Beth, do you have towels by any chance?”
“In the basket to your right.” Beth dropped into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition. Lights flickered to life above them and the door slid closed, muffling the rain.
Clare found a black plastic bag full of towels in the storage compartment Beth had indicated to. She pulled two out, checking they were clean, and passed one to Dorran. She couldn’t stop herself from glancing back at the door as she squeezed water out of her hair. “Uh, Beth was just saying that there’s someone in the shopping mall back there. And I’m really hoping she’ll tell me more about that.”
Beth sat crossways in her seat, one arm leaned on the dash, facing Clare as she peeled off her gloves. More fresh, barely-sealed cuts marred her hands. “I stopped here before travelling into the city. They call it a safe haven. There are a few dozen havens just like it dotted around the country. Survivors who have found a place to hole up, somewhere with resources and adequate protection. Shopping malls are popular. Especially the more modern ones that have implemented anti-terrorist precautions. There are larger safe havens in the country. Some that boast actual democracies, though I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“They live here?” Clare wiped water out of her eyes. “How many?”
“About twenty in that centre. They advertise their presence; I heard about them from a traveller on the road. It’s the closest shelter you can get to the city centre. They run the lights constantly to keep hollows away and welcome travellers… as long as you have something to trade.”
“What do they trade for?”
“Things they have a finite supply of. Food, water, fuel. In return, they’ll let you spend the night there and you can take any non-necessities from the other stores. I traded four litres of fuel for as many clothes as I could carry.” She pulled a face. “Starting to regret it, to be honest. Fuel will be in short supply in the coming months.”
Clare leaned close to the door, trying to glimpse the centre through the rain. She caught sight of movement near one of the loading docks. It was impossible to tell whether it was human or hollow. “And you don’t want to stay there again tonight?”
“No. They’re a bit too zealous for my tastes. A lot of surviving bands are. They set up their own rules, their own hierarchy, their own little kingdoms. I know the cliché is survival in numbers, but in this kind of environment, I think we’ll be safer off just the two of us.”
“Three of us,” Clare said. “Don’t forget Dorran.”
“Hm.” Beth’s eyes narrowed as she glanced at their silent companion. He ran the towel through his hair, tousling it, but kept his eyes on the floor.
She’s just wary because he’s a stranger. She was always over-protective like that. She needs some time to get used to him.
But the cautious part of her mind warned that this new Beth was different. The days of fretting over curious boys was over. This Beth was focussed on survival.
“What have you been doing since we last spoke?” she asked Beth. “I want to know everything. How did you get out of the bunker? Where have you been? And your scars—”
“Later, maybe.” Beth rubbed her neck, shaking droplets of water off her chin, as she levelled a cold gaze at Dorran. “So, you’ve been keeping my sister company these last few weeks, huh?”
He blinked, but didn’t meet her eyes. “Ah—yes.”
“Well, I guess I owe you some thanks for that.”
Good. Good. Clare glanced between then, hopeful.
“And I want to give you something to show my gratitude,” Beth continued. “You’re probably ready to get some agency back, right? Name a location. I’ll drop you off there and set you up with good supplies.”
“Hey,” Clare snapped. “We agreed he was staying.”
“We agreed he could leave if he chose to.” Beth didn’t take her eyes off Dorran. “Look, you’ve travelled a long way, and you’re obviously tired. Clare and I might be on the road for a while before we settle down. Pick somewhere to stay and I’ll give you supplies to last. What do you say?”
“Let him answer.”
Dorran allowed the towel to fall around his shoulders. His dark, deep-set eyes barely flickered, and Clare wondered if Beth could pick up on the quiet panic that was setting into him. His voice remained steady, though, even as he struggled to phrase himself diplomatically. “That is a kind offer. But I would be grateful for the opportunity to accompany you further. I hope I can continue to assist yourself and Clare.”
Beth’s lips twitched down. “I’ll let you take some of our fuel. It’s worth more than gold these days.”
“Stop it.” Clare stepped forward, planting herself between Dorran and Beth. “He’s not going anywhere. We’re a team.”
Beth huffed. She didn’t look happy, but she rolled her shoulders in something like a reluctant shrug. “All right. Fine. You said he’s tired, right? He can sleep in the back of the bus. There’s a bed set up there. But get some dry clothes on first. They’re stored in the racks above your heads.” Beth swivelled to face the dash and put the bus into gear. The engine rumbled as she eased them back towards the street. “We’re far enough from the city that we don’t have to rush, but we can’t afford to sit here all day, either. The hollows get antsy around nightfall and I want to be in the country by then. So you better figure out how to sleep while I drive.” “That’s fine,” Dorran said.
“Clare, get changed, then sit up front with me. I’ll need you for navigation.”
“Okay.” Clare, relieved that Beth had let the argument drop, turned towards the racks and began looking through them. They held not just clothes, but cartons of fuel, water, and cardboard boxes full of long-life food, as well as a rack of weapons suspended near the bus’s rear. She pulled stacks of clothes down as she found them. Most of the outfits were small sizes that would fit the sisters. She had to dig to find clothes large enough for Dorran.
Beth had been sensible about the outfits she’d brought, though; there were extra-thick, insulated shirts and jackets, along with rain-proof overcoats and sturdy leather footwear. Most still had their pricetags attached, which identified them as coming from a high-end hiking store.
“Try these,” Clare murmured, passing shirts and pants to Dorran. She snapped the tags off clothes for herself and sat in one of the seats to change. Her hair was still damp but there wasn’t much she could do for it, so she tied it into a messy bun as she approached Beth at the bus’s front.
“You’re looking better.” Beth remained facing the road, but her eyes flicked up to the rear-view mirror to watch her two companions. “We can’t afford to waste fuel to heat the bus, but there are blankets in the basket under your seat.”
Clare pulled the fleece bundle out, then settled into the chair beside the driver’s console. It had been set back a little to make room for the door, but kept her close to Beth and allowed an unobstructed view of the twisting road ahead. She glanced behind. The row of seats at the back had been converted to a bed, stacked high with pillows and blankets. Dorran sat on its edge, and gave her a small smile. He looked better wearing proper thermal clothes and with his hair brushed back, but the greyness hadn’t left his face. Clare motioned for him to relax. He settled back in his seat, legs crossed ahead of himself, but didn’t seem ready to sleep.


Darcy is the USA Today Bestselling author of Hunted, The Haunting of Ashburn House, Craven Manor, and more than a dozen horror and suspense titles.She lives on the Central Coast of Australia with her family, cats, and a garden full of herbs and vegetables. Darcy loves forests, especially old-growth forests where the trees dwarf anyone who steps between them. Wherever she lives, she tries to have a mountain range close by.

Website |Twitter


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Blog Tours Book Features

Extract: Under the Camelthorn Tree by Kate Nicholls

Published: August 6th, 2020
Publisher: W&N
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Biography, Autobiography, Travel Literature

Today I’m delighted to share with you an extract from this book as part of the blog tour to celebrate paperback publication. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and W&N for the extract.


Gomoti Camp, Botswana 2001
The distant chugging of a car struggling through deep sand aroused a certain nonchalant curiosity, most likely it would continue on towards the Gomoti River –nevertheless all ears in camp casually attuned to the engine.

I was concentrating on the barefoot boys high above me in the spreading branches of the camelthorn acacia tree. During the night, a funnel of wind had blown down the radio mast, and Pieter and the boys were reattaching the antenna. Relaxed andNfocused on their task, they were moving easily among the thick branches, while I imagined them lying in crumpled, lifeless heaps at my feet.

‘It’s not fair,’ grizzled seven-year-old Oakley, ‘I’m the best climber. Why aren’t I allowed to do that?’

‘Because you are my favourite child, and thus indispensable.’

‘I heard that, Mum,’ Angus laughed, wrapping his arm around a gnarled branch for support, before leaning out precariously to hand the rope up to Pieter who was reaching down from the branch above.

‘You concentrate on what you’re doing,’ I snapped. Watching my tousled blond boy dangling forty feet above me made my bones ache.

The tree was coming into flower, a smattering of soft, mimosa- yellow blossoms releasing an earthy sweetness. She was an old tree: she must have been producing seeds for many decades, for the elephants had learned her ways, and came from far and wide to feast on her grey-velvet seedpods. Usually, I shooed the huge animals out of our unfenced camp by shouting and banging a wooden spoon on a saucepan, but when the seeds ripened the beasts would gather under the wide umbrella of our tree and browse undeterred by my Betsey Trotwood vehemence. Four years ago Oakley had renamed the irresistible pods ‘elephant Smarties’, and annually we declared a pachyderm truce until the last crescent had been hoovered up.

Maisie was sitting cross-legged on the roof rack of the Land Rover, observing her older brothers and drawing the action in a notebook. It was a late-winter morning, and she had a blanket wrapped lightly around her thin shoulders, but the sun was moving up in a clear sky and soon she would be as warm as her sweaty siblings. Her animated, delicate face was already smeared with grey Kalahari sand, and when her dusty, unbrushed hair fell over her eyes she carelessly tied it back in an untidy knot in the nape of her neck. Briefly she tipped her head in response to a new sound –
the gears of the distant car had shifted down a tone.

‘They’ve turned into the palm scrub,’ she remarked, ‘are we expecting anyone,

‘Nope. It’s probably the wildlife department,’ I replied, looking up and briefly catching Pieter’s eye. Maybe there would be some news. Our life was precariously rooted – a thin slip of paper could puff us away. I had grown used to pinpricks of anxiety spiking my bloodstream – fear keeps you alive in the wild. But the fear of losing home sat in a deeper place – its movement through my body was whittling and wearing.

‘Whoever it is can’t drive,’ Travers commented wryly, lying out- stretched along a branch with the radio antenna dangling from a wire in his hand, ‘did you hear those gears grinding, Pete?’ I hadn’t got used to my sixteen-year-old son’s man voice, it still had the lilt of youth but the androgyny had gone.

‘Will all of you stop drivelling, and get that bloody antenna up? I can’t stand the tension,’ I barked, marching to the kitchen tent to put the kettle on. If my progeny were going to fall to their deaths I didn’t want to witness it, and whoever was coming to see us would need some sustenance. Bush etiquette was simple in the Okavango: help those in trouble, and offer food and drink to new arrivals.

Maybe the wildlife department was coming to tell us about a problem lion killing cattle on the other side of the buffalo fence, or maybe they’d found another poisoned lion. I looked at Sauvignon’s skull, bleached salt-white by the sun, lying on the sand beside the campfire. A month ago Pieter had found the female’s desiccated body beside a pool of water – her cubs’ carcasses scattered nearby – and all around lay dead vultures that had nibbled on the lions’ toxic flesh.


Born in London, into a theatrical family in 1954, Kate Nicholls has lived her life energised by her favourite quote.“An unexamined life is not worth living.”

She is insatiably curious and self-educated. She left home, and school, age sixteen to pursue a successful career in the theatre. Age twenty-one she had her first of six children. Now, she has five children, and three grandchildren: with another on the way. She gave up her acting career age thirty-nine to study biology.

In 1996 she moved to Botswana with her children and worked for an NGO Women Against Rape. Later she became co-principal researcher at the Okavango Lion Conservation Project– where for eleven years she studied lions–raising and home-schooling her children under a tree.

In 2010 she returned to the UK where she continued educating her youngest son and started her home-school business. Her children all graduated into top Universities in the USA and the UK. She moved to Rome, Italy in 2015 where she wrote her first book Under the Camelthorn Tree. 

Passionate about educational reform, and integrated learning, she continues her business devising bespoke programmes for individual students.

She is writing her second book.


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Blog Tours

Extract – A Death in Mayfair by Mark Ellis


Published: November 21st, 2019
Publisher: Accent Press Ltd
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction

Today I’m sharing an extract from the latest installment in the acclaimed DCI Frank Merlin series. Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the invitation and extract.


Friday December 5th 1941

It was an hour before dawn when the officers gathered at the street corner. Their target was ten doors down the terrace. Clouds of frozen breath trailed off into the darkness above them. Across the way a parked cart stank of the horse manure stored under its tarpaulin covers. A cat wailed in the distance.
They were seven. Merlin and his men, Johnson and Cole, and four uniformed constables from the local East End station. Merlin examined faces with his torch. Everyone was tensed for action. He raised his right hand. They all knew the drill and moved silently down the road towards the house.
The two stockiest constables carried a compact battering ram, a heavy iron tube with a large rounded end. They waited for a whispered ‘Yes’ from Merlin before smashing it into the front door. After four blows the policemen were able to clamber into the unlit hallway. There they were met by panicked screams, shouts, and the sound of frantic footsteps. In the midst of this came the unmistakeable noise of gunfire. One of the constables fell to the ground, and the other policemen took cover. More shots lit up the air but none hit home. When the firing stopped, Merlin’s torch picked out several shadowy figures racing up the stairs.
“Inspector Johnson, take Cole and one of the constables and follow. You two others search the ground floor. For Christ’s sake be careful. I’ll check on the lad here.” Merlin knelt down to the stricken constable who was conscious but clearly in pain.
“It’s my arm, sir.”
Merlin found the wound a couple of inches above the elbow. “It looks like it’s just a flesh wound, lad. I’ll tie something around it. We’ll call the medics as soon as we can.”
Merlin made a makeshift tourniquet with his handkerchief, squeezed the man’s hand then headed up the stairs. The first and second floors were clear. On the third and final floor the stairs opened onto a large space, unfurnished save for a heavy metal bedframe in the middle of the room. Two unhappy-looking men were standing handcuffed to the bed under the gaze of a constable.
“That was quick work, officer.”
“They tripped over each other, sir, and fell flat on their faces. We were right on them so it was easy, really. Two others got out onto the roof, though.” There was a noise from behind and Merlin turned to see Cole climbing out of a window with Johnson about to do the same.
Merlin followed his men out onto the roof and found them with his torch scrambling along the gables to his right. The street terrace was a long one with interconnected roofs. They were not steeply cambered but the surface was icy and treacherous. Gunshots suddenly rang out from somewhere and Merlin ducked and braced himself against the wall beneath the window. A bullet whizzed past his ear and thudded into the window
casement. He waited a moment then edged carefully along the brickwork. The moon came out from behind some clouds and he saw his men lying flat twenty yards ahead. There was another shot and, to his surprise, he saw one of his men rise and return fire. Someone screamed and a heavy clattering sound followed. Merlin’s heart was pounding as he skidded from his cover to a chimney pot ten yards further along. He shone his torch again and saw a man racing away in the distance with his officers in pursuit. A loud animal cry from below made Merlin jump; he went to the roof edge and pointed his torch down. A motionless body was spreadeagled in an alleyway and something was crawling over it. He had little religious belief these days but by reflex he made a sign of the cross. Then Johnson was shouting for him, and he turned and hurried on.
His men were on the roof of the furthest house, looking down. “It’s no good, sir” said Johnson. “He’s hopped it down the drainpipe. Cole here wanted to follow him down but I said it was too dangerous.”
“I’m sure I can manage it, sir. He looked like he was limping before he went down. If I go now, he won’t have got far.”
Merlin edged forward and saw the drainpipe. “Sorry, Constable. The Inspector is right. It’s not a risk worth taking. We’ve bagged two of them, at least. The other fellow you were chasing has had it. From your bullet or the fall I’m not sure. Where did you get the gun?”
“One of those two inside was carrying and I pocketed it” answered Johnson.
“Good thing you did, or one or both of you might have copped it. There’ll be some tedious questions to answer but you were clearly within your rights to fire.”

Mark Ellis - author photo


Mark Ellis is a thriller writer from Swansea and a former barrister and entrepreneur.

He is the creator of DCI Frank Merlin, an Anglo-Spanish police detective operating in World War 2 London. His books treat the reader to a vivid portrait of London during the war skilfully blended with gripping plots, political intrigue and a charismatic protagonist.

Mark grew up under the shadow of his parents’ experience of the Second World War. His father served in the wartime navy and died a young man. His mother told him stories of watching the heavy bombardment of Swansea from the safe vantage point of a hill in Llanelli, and of attending tea dances in wartime London under the bombs and doodlebugs.

In consequence Mark has always been fascinated by WW2 and in particular the Home Front and the fact that while the nation was engaged in a heroic endeavour, crime flourished. Murder, robbery, theft and rape were rife and the Blitz provided scope for widespread looting.

This was an intriguing, harsh and cruel world. This is the world of DCI Frank Merlin.

Mark Ellis’ books regularly appear in the Kindle bestseller charts.

He is published by Headline Accent, an imprint of Headline.

He is a member of Crime Cymru, the Welsh crime writing collective, and of the Crime Writers Association (CWA).

His third book, Merlin at War, was on the CWA Historical Dagger Longlist in 2018.

The new Frank Merlin book, A Death In Mayfair, came out in November 2019.




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Blog Tours

My Pear-Shaped Life by Carmel Harrington – Extract

Final Pear Shaped Life Cover

Published: April 16th 2020
Publisher: HarperCollinsUK
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Humourous Fiction

Today I’m delighted to share an extract from this heartwarming and uplifting novel as part of the blog tour.. Thank you to Anne from Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.


Chapter 1

Greta walked into the kitchen rubbing her eyes. She smiled her thanks to her mam, Emily, who placed a mug of dark brown tea in front of her. The Gales all drank their tea the same way – brewed or, as some might say, stewed.

‘Sleep OK?’ Emily asked.
‘Like a baby,’ Greta replied.
‘You didn’t take any more of those sleeping pills, did you?’ Emily’s forehead wrinkled in a frown.
‘Give over, Mam. I only take the odd one when my insomnia gets out of hand. I keep telling you that,’ Greta said. Her mother worried way too much. Greta had taken one the previous evening, as it happened, but there was no point worrying her mam admitting that. When it came to her parents, some things were better on a ‘need to know’ basis.
Greta opened her phone and flicked through Instagram.

‘Oh Mam look—’ Greta began, but was silenced with a shush and a wave at the TV screen. Mark Cagney, the main anchor of her mam’s favourite breakfast TV show Ireland:AM was speaking. Emily always denied that she had a crush on him, but when he spoke her face softened, and she hung on his every word.

Only when Mark had finished talking did Emily answer, ‘What’s that love?’

Greta pointed to a photograph of Dr Greta Gale, her famous namesake.

In the photo, Dr Gale was sitting on a red-brick wall, with the backdrop of a green ocean behind her, smiling to the camera. ‘Doesn’t she look beautiful?’

‘How does she get her hair to look like that?’ Emily asked, smoothing down her own shoulder-length bob. ‘Maybe I should grow mine out a bit.’

‘She probably has a glam squad at her disposal twenty- four/seven,’ Greta replied. ‘What do you think she means by being the same personally as well as privately and publicly?’

Drgretagale Be the same person privately, publicly and – most importantly – personally. Can I get a hell yeah? #inspirationalquotes #drgretagale #inspire #mindfulness #strong #whatsinyourcupboard

Emily put her glasses on to read the post beneath the photograph. ‘I don’t know. Half the stuff she posts is a load of mumbo jumbo if you ask me.’

‘Mam!’ Greta loved Dr Gale and wouldn’t have a word said against her. And that wasn’t just because they shared the same name – although that was part of it. It was more because Dr Gale epitomized everything that Greta wished she could be herself. Dr Gale was successful, beautiful and loved. She was living her best life. She represented hope for Greta. Maybe one day she too could have everything that Dr Gale had. There wasn’t a single post that Greta had not read. And with each new double tap of love, she felt her connection to her grow stronger.

Greta would lie in bed, late at night, knowing she should be at least making an attempt to sleep, but somehow unable to take her eyes off Dr Gale’s Instafeed. She would lose hours googling books, food, art and restaurants that Dr Gale tagged in a photo. She followed accounts that Dr Gale followed. Last year she bought a green kaftan similar to the one that Dr Gale wore to a beach party, but that had not ended well. On Dr Gale the kaftan looked very boho chic. On Greta it looked as if she’d eaten all the pies.

More than how Dr Gale looked, lately her Instagram posts felt as if they were speaking directly to Greta. Every word seemed like a secret message just for her, as if Dr Gale had looked into Greta’s mind and knew exactly what to say to help her, support her, advise her.

Carmel Author Pic


Carmel Harrington is an internationally published novelist from Co. Wexford, where she lives with her family. She has been shortlisted twice (2016 & 2017) for an Irish Book Award and won both the Romantic eBook of The Year and Kindle Book of The Year in 2013. Her books, all regular chart-toppers, have captured the hearts of readers worldwide and are translated into eight languages to date, sold into eleven territories. My Pear-Shaped Life (Harper Collins) will be published in April 2020. Other books include the number one Amazon and Irish Times bestseller A Thousand Roads Home  (Harper Collins), the official ITV novel Cold Feet The Lost Years (Hodder & Stoughton) and The Woman at 72 Derry Lane (Harper Collins). She is a co-founder of The Inspiration Project, a coaching writing retreat and was Chair of Wexford Literary Festival from 2015 – 2018.  Carmel is represented by Rowan Lawton of the Soho Agency.

Her other bestsellers include The Things I Should Have Told YouEvery Time A Bell RingsThe Life You Left and Beyond Grace’s Rainbow.




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She Came To Stay by Eleni Kyriacou -Extract

champagne this one-1

Published: March 5th, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Genre: Historical Fiction

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing an extract from a exciting new author and her historical fiction debut.


London, 1952…

Dina Demetriou has travelled from Cyprus for a better life. She’s certain that excitement and adventure are out there, waiting – if only she knew where to look. At the seedy Pelican Revue bar, she meets stylish, mysterious Bebba and the two become firm friends. With her bleached-blonde hair and an appetite for mischief, Bebba is like no Greek Dina has ever met before and the two women take on Soho. But Bebba has a secret. And as thick smog brings the city to a standstill, the truth emerges with devastating results.


After bolting the door behind her, Bebba slipped out of her pointed-toe shoes and placed them neatly against the wall. Then she walked to the battered wardrobe, put her finger under the metal filigree handle and pulled. There it was. She leaned over the grey suitcase and let her fingertips stroke the sturdy, hard shell. Suddenly she was aware of a gnawing sensation in her stomach. Maybe she should eat? But she looked at the loaf of bread on the counter and couldn’t bring herself to start cutting and toasting now. And anyway, the baklava and kaffe had left her jittery and a little nauseous.

Grabbing the crocheted blanket, she lay down and wrapped herself tight in its multi-coloured squares. God, being Bebba exhausted her; all that perkiness, all that sparkle. She could never go back, she knew that. As sleep pulled her in tightly, she heard a soft, long wheeze. She sat up with a start. The wardrobe door had swung open and there sat the suitcase, watchful. She slid back down.



Eleni Kyriacou is an award-winning editor and journalist. She has worked in various roles across publishing and her writing has appeared in the Guardian, the ObserverMarie ClaireGraziaYou, Stella and Red, among others. Eleni was the Editor of national magazines New Woman and Looks and has also worked in digital media.

The daughter of Greek Cypriot immigrant parents, Eleni has never felt completely British nor Cypriot, but has always felt a Londoner. She was born and grew up in Camden, then Elephant & Castle, Finsbury Park, Tottenham and now lives in Ealing. She has lived north, south and west. East London is another country to her. Every year, she has long conversations with friends and family about leaving London but probably never will.

Eleni is now freelance so knows where all the plug points are in London cafés. She Came to Stay is her first novel.


Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: @elenikwriter



Blog Tours

Extract – Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson

Today I’m delighted to be sharing an extract from Mix Tape as part of the blog tour, which is one of my #EmmasAnticipatedReads for January 2020.

Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Jane Sanderson and Bantam Press for providing the extract.

MixTape3Published: January 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Bantam Press.
Format: Hardcover, Kindle.
Genre: Romance, Contemporary.


You never forget the one that got away. But what if ‘what could have been’ is yet to come?

Daniel was the first boy to make Alison a mix tape.

But that was years ago and Ali hasn’t thought about him in a very long time. Even if she had, she might not have called him ‘the one that got away’; after all, she’d been the one to run.

Then Dan’s name pops up on her phone, with a link to a song from their shared past.

For two blissful minutes, Alison is no longer an adult in Adelaide with temperamental daughters; she is sixteen in Sheffield, dancing in her skin-tight jeans. She cannot help but respond in kind.

And so begins a new mix tape.

Ali and Dan exchange songs – some new, some old – across oceans and time zones, across a lifetime of different experiences, until one of them breaks the rules and sends a message that will change everything…

Mix Tape Cover


23 December 1978

There they go, at the beginning of it all, their younger selves, walking through the dark, winter streets of Sheffield: Daniel Lawrence and Alison Connor. He’s eighteen, she’s sixteen, it’s Saturday night and they’re heading together to Kev Carter’s Christmas party, and nothing much has been said since he met her from the bus, but each is achingly conscious of the other. Her hand in his feels too good to be only a hand, and his presence, by her side, makes her mouth feel dry, and her heart beat too quickly, too close to the skin. They walk in step with each other along the pavement, and there isn’t far to go from the bus stop to Kev’s house, so it’s not long before a throb of music fills the silence between them, and he glances down, just as she looks up, and they smile, and he feels that pulse of pure longing he gets when Alison’s eyes alight upon him, and she  . . . well, she can’t think when she’s ever felt this happy. 

Kev’s front door was wide open to the night, and light and music spilled out on to the weeds and cracked flags of the garden path. Kev was Daniel’s friend, not Alison’s – they were at different schools – and she hung back a little as he walked in, so that Daniel seemed to be pulling her into the room after him. She enjoyed that feeling, of being led into the room by this boy, so that everyone could see she was his, he was hers. There was Blondie on the tape deck, ‘Picture This’, playing too loud so that the bass distorted, vibrated. Alison liked this one, wanted to shed her coat, get a drink, have a dance. But then almost at once Daniel let go of her hand to hail Kev across the room, shouting over the music, laughing at something that Kev shouted back. He nodded and said, ‘All right?’ to Rob Marsden, and nodded and smiled at Tracey Clarke, who grinned back knowingly. She was leaning on the wall, on her own, by the kitchen door, as if she was waiting for a bus. Fag in one hand, a can of Strongbow in the other, dirty blonde hair with Farrah Fawcett flicks, plum lipstick, and kohl-lined eyes that cut a cool, considering gaze at Alison. Tracey took a long drag on her cigarette and sent the smoke out sideways.

‘You going out wi’ him?’ she said, tossing her head in Daniel’s direction. Tracey, older and wiser, no longer a virgin schoolgirl, money in her purse and a boyfriend with a car. Alison didn’t know this girl and she blushed – couldn’t help herself – and said yes, she was. Daniel was just out of reach now, so Alison just stared hard at the back of his dark head and willed him to turn around. Tracey raised one eyebrow and smirked. Smoke hung in the air between them. Alison’s shoes were killing her.

‘You want to watch him,’ Tracey said. ‘He’s in demand.’ There was a beat of silence when Alison didn’t reply, then Tracey shrugged and said, ‘Drinks in there.’

She meant the kitchen behind her, and through the open door ahead Alison saw a great crush of people around a green Formica table, and a mess of bottles and crisps and plastic cups. She slid away from the vaguely malevolent attentions of Tracey and pushed her way in, thinking Daniel could’ve got her a drink. Should’ve got her a drink. But, look, he’d been commandeered by all these people that he knew, and she didn’t. Now Jilted John was on the mix tape, so suddenly people were singing but nobody was dancing, and behind Alison there were even more people pressing into the tiny room. She didn’t recognise a soul, although there must be somebody she knew here, because the place was packed out. She edged through to the table of booze, aware of a strong smell of cigarettes and cider, and, suddenly, Old Spice.
‘All right, Alison?’
She looked round and saw Stu Watson, all cockiness and swagger in his denim jacket with an upturned collar and Joe Strummer’s scowling face on his T-shirt. Pound to a penny he couldn’t name a single song by The Clash, but anyway she was glad to see a familiar face. Stu’s quick, narrow eyes swept over her with bold appreciation.
‘You look all right, anyway,’ he said.
‘Right, well, you look pissed, Stu.’
‘Just got here?’
‘Obviously,’ she said, pointing at her coat. ‘But you’ve been here a while by the look of you.’
‘Early bird, me,’ Stu said. ‘What you drinking?’
‘Nothing yet. Martini, I suppose.’
Stu grimaced. ‘How can you drink that shit? It tastes like fucking medicine.’

Alison ignored him. She was too hot but she didn’t know what to do with her coat in this unfamiliar house, so she let it drop a little way down her back and Stu’s eyes wandered down to the newly exposed skin of her neck and throat. Alison looked behind her for Daniel and she could see him, still in the living room, not looking for her, but talking to another girl. Mandy Phillips. Alison knew her from the school bus. Tiny like a child, henna curls, pixie nose, tipping her face up towards Daniel’s and all bathed in light by his attention. His arms were folded and there was a space between him and Mandy, but from what Alison could see, his eyes were all over her. As Alison watched them, Mandy reached up and pulled Daniel by the shoulder towards her, cupped her sweet hand, said something into his ear. Daniel gave her his trademark smile: hesitant, a half-smile really. His hair was dark and longish, falling into his eyes, and Alison wanted to touch it.

Stu was looking in the same direction. ‘I’m Mandy, fly me,’ he said. ‘Fuck me, more like.’
‘Oh, piss off, Stu,’ Alison said. She spun away from him and lifted a bottle of Martini Rosso from the table, sloshed a generous measure into a cup and took a deep drink. He was right, it was kind of disgusting, bitter, but also very familiar, so she took another swig, then wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, ditched the cup on the table and took her coat off, slinging it on to a chair. She was wearing Wranglers that she’d worn in a hot bath to shrink them down to a second skin, and a new shirt that looked good, looked bloody great; she should know, she’d spent long enough staring at herself in the bedroom mirror. It was white, looked and felt like slippery satin, and she’d opened one more button since leaving home. Stu couldn’t take his eyes off her but she didn’t even glance at him as she took back the Martini, had another swig and edged her way through the bodies, out of the kitchen.

Alison was talking to Stu Watson, a fucking wily ferret, a creep with hungry eyes, arms like wandering tentacles. Daniel could see them both in the kitchen, and he was stuck here with Mandy Phillips, whose own manipulative eyes were filling with tears as she told him Kev Carter had finished with her, tonight, at his own party, the bastard. This was what happened to Daniel.
Girls cleaved to him and spilled their souls. He didn’t have to encourage them; they just sensed something about him, even he didn’t know what it was, and they talked and talked. Only . . . Alison Connor didn’t. He’d asked her to go out with him and she’d said yes, but in the day or two since then she’d hardly spoken to him in the brief times they’d been together, and yet he wanted her by his side, knew it was right, knew there was something about her. But she’d already said more in the kitchen to Stu sodding Watson than she ever had to him. Meanwhile Mandy was on the second telling of the same sad story and he knew it was all leading to a come-on, a why-not, a kiss and a promise. Kev was busy clowning around, catching his eye, giving him the thumbs up, as if Daniel might need his cast-offs. Life was just a big game to Kev Carter; of course he’d dumped Mandy tonight  – he liked a bit of drama, and where was the fun in knowing whose knickers you’d be getting into later?

Now ‘Night Fever’ was blasting out through the speakers and Mandy was starting to move her shoulders in time to the music. There was a line of girls in the middle of the room working their Travolta moves, a line of boys watching them and arsing around, trying to copy. Mandy tugged on Daniel’s shoulder and he leaned into her so she could cup a small hand round his ear.

‘Do you wanna dance?’ she whispered, her breath warm.
He didn’t hear, pulled back and smiled at her. ‘What?’ he said.
‘Do you wanna . . . ?’ She paused and smiled. ‘Y’know . . . dance?’
She cocked her head and said ‘dance’ in a way that suggested much, much more. No tears now. Kev was ancient history.
‘No,’ Daniel said, and stepped back. He looked towards the kitchen for Alison, but he couldn’t see her now, or Stu. He should’ve stayed with her, taken her coat, fetched her a drink, and he cursed himself for being drawn into Mandy’s crisis.
‘What?’ Mandy said, loud enough now to be heard over the music without breathing in his ear.
Daniel was distracted by Alison’s absence and he cast his eyes round the room, but at the same time he said, ‘No, Mandy, course I don’t want to bloody dance with you.’ He was panicking, wondering if Alison was even still here, at the party. She might have bolted. He wished he knew her better, knew how her mind worked.

‘You’re a bastard, Daniel Lawrence,’ Mandy shouted, and she slapped him across the cheek, ineffectually because she was drunk, but still, her nails grazed his skin.
‘Fuck’s sake, Mandy,’ he said, looking down at her in disbelief.
She burst into easy, meaningless tears and turned away, looking for another shoulder, and Daniel touched his cheek where it stung. Christ Almighty. And he hadn’t even had a beer yet. Some fucking party. He moved towards the kitchen and, as he did, the Bee Gees came to a brutal halt because Kev ripped the tape out of the deck and put another one in, so suddenly the room filled with the insistent drum and bass opening of ‘Pump It Up’, and Daniel was rooted to the floor, waiting reverentially for Elvis Costello’s voice to weave its way into his head.

And oh God, Alison, there she was. She was dancing, alone, in the crowd. She’d kicked off her shoes so she was barefoot, and she was dancing with her eyes closed, and she didn’t move her feet at all, although the rest of her body was caught up in the music, and her arms made wild, wonderful shapes above her head. She danced like nobody else. She danced in a way that the others tried to copy, but each time they almost got it she changed, shifted, did something different, but her feet didn’t leave the floor. Daniel watched her, completely transfixed. He’d never seen anything so beautiful, so uninhibited, so fucking sexy, in all his life.

Jane Sanderson Author

Jane Sanderson is a writer and journalist. She has worked as a producer for BBC Radio 4, first on the World at One, and then on Woman’s Hour. She lives with her husband and children in rural Herefordshire.

Jane has poured much of her own story into this book; from the boyfriend who gifted her a mix tape introducing her to the likes of Van Morrison, to the carefully curated playlist (featured in the book) which includes songs that have helped to shape her life and pay homage to her own youth.




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