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We Met In December Book Tour – Extract

We Met In DecemberOn the book tour Rosie Curtis’ stunning new book called ‘We Met In December’, enjoy an extract from the first chapter of the Christmas story.

Jess
22nd December, 15 Albany Road, Notting Hill

I pause for a minute outside the house and look up, still not quite believing that this terraced mansion is home. It’s huge, slightly shabby, and has an air of faded grandeur. Six wide stone steps lead to a broad wooden front door, painted a jaunty red that is faded in places and chipped away to a pale, dusky pink. Each window on the road is topped with ornate stuccoed decorations – the ones on our house are a bit chipped and scruffy-looking, but somehow it just makes the place look more welcoming, as if it’s full of history.

Next door on one side is freshly decorated, the black paint of the windowsills gleaming. They’ve got window boxes at every window, crammed full of pansies and evergreen plants. I can see a huge Christmas tree tastefully decorated with millions of starry lights, topped with a huge metal star. There’s a little red bicycle chained to the railings and a pair of wellies just inside the porch. This must be the investment banker neighbours Becky talked about. The mansion on the other side has been turned into flats, and there’s a row of doorbells beside a blue front door.

I rush up the steps and lift the heavy brass door-knocker.

‘You don’t have to knock,’ Becky says, beaming as she opens the door. ‘This is home!’

‘I do, because you haven’t given me a key yet.’ I love Becky.

‘Ah.’ Becky takes my bag and hangs it on a huge wooden coat hook just inside the door, which looks like it’s been there forever. There’s a massive black umbrella with a carved wooden handle hanging beside my bag.

‘Used to be my grandpa’s,’ she says, absent-mindedly running a hand down it. ‘This place is like a bloody museum.’

‘I can’t believe it’s yours.’

‘Me neither.’ Becky shakes her head and beckons me through to the kitchen. ‘Now wait here two seconds, and I’ll give you the tour.’

I stand where I’ve been put, at the edge of a huge kitchen-slash-dining-room space, which has been here so long that it’s come back into fashion. It’s all cork tiles and dangling spider plants and a huge white sink, which is full of ice and bottles of beer.

I think Nanna Beth would be impressed with this. With all of it. I’ve taken the leap.

‘Life is for living, Jessica, and this place is all very well, but it’s like God’s waiting room,’ she’d once said, giving a cackle of laughter and inclining her head towards the window, where a flotilla of mobility scooters had passed by, ridden by grey-haired elderly people covered over with zipped-up waterproof covers. The seaside town I’d grown up in wasn’t actually as bad as all that, but it was true: things had changed. Grandpa had passed away, and Nanna Beth had sold the house and invested her money in a little flat in a new sheltered housing development where there was no room for me, not because she was throwing me out, but because – as she’d said, looking at me shrewdly – it was time to go. I’d been living in a sort of stasis since things had ended with my ex-boyfriend Neil.

Weirdly, the catalyst for all this change had been being offered a promotion in the marketing company where I worked. If I’d taken it, it would have been a job for life. I could have afforded to buy a little house by the sea and upgraded my car for something nice, and I’d have carried on living the life I’d been living since I graduated from university and somehow gravitated back home when all my friends spread their wings and headed for the bright lights of London, or New York, or – well, Sarah ended up in Inverness, so I suppose we didn’t quite all end up somewhere exotic.

But Nanna Beth had derailed me and challenged me with the task of getting out and grabbing life with both hands, which is pretty tricky for someone like me. I tend to take the approach that you should hold life with one hand, and keep the other one spare just in case of emergencies. And yet here I am, an hour early (very me) for a housewarming party for the gang of people that Becky has gathered together to share this rambling, dilapidated old house in Notting Hill that her grandparents left her when they passed away.

‘I still can’t believe this place is yours,’ I repeat, as I balance on the edge of the pale pink velvet sofa. It’s hidden under a flotilla of cushions. The arm of the sofa creaks alarmingly, and I stand up, just in case it’s about to give way underneath my weight.

Becky shakes her head. ‘You can’t? Imagine how I feel.’

‘And your mum really didn’t object to your grandparents leaving you their house in their will?’

She shakes her head and pops open the two bottles of beer she’s holding, handing me one. ‘She’s quite happy where she is. And you know she’s all property is theft and that sort of thing.’

‘True.’ I take a swig of beer and look at the framed photographs on the wall. A little girl in Mary-Jane shoes with a serious face looks out at us, disapprovingly. ‘She’s keeping her eye on you: look.’

Becky shudders. ‘Don’t. She wanted me to come to Islay for a Christmas of meditation and chanting, but I managed to persuade her that I’d be better off coming when the weather was a bit nicer.’

Becky’s mum had been a mythical figure to all of us at university. She’d been a model in her youth, and then eschewed all material things and moved to an ethical

living commune on the island of Islay when Becky was sixteen. Becky had stayed behind to finish her exams with a family friend, and horrified her mother by going into not just law, but corporate law of all things. Relations had been slightly strained for quite a while, but she’d spent some time in meditative silence, apparently, and now they got on really well – as long as they had a few hundred miles between them.

I look at the photograph of Becky’s mum – she must only be about seven. She looks back at me with an intense stare, and I think that if anyone can save the planet, it’s very possibly her. Anyway, I raise my bottle to her in a silent thank you. If she’d contested the will, Becky might not have inherited this place, and she wouldn’t have offered me a room at £400 a month, which wouldn’t have got me space in a broom closet anywhere else in commutable distance of King’s Cross, where my new job was situated.

‘Just going to get out of this jacket,’ Becky says, looking down at her work clothes; then she disappears for a moment and I’m left looking around. The house is old-fashioned, stuffed full of the sort of mid-century furniture that would sell for vast amounts of money on eBay – there’s an Ercol dresser in the sitting room and dining chairs that look like they’ve come straight out of Heal’s. I take a photo of the huge potted plant that looms in the corner like a triffid, and then I wander into the hall. It’s huge and airy, with a polished wooden banister that twirls round and up to the third floor where there’s a skylight – dark just now, because it’s midwinter, but I bet it fills this space with light in the middle of summer. There’s a huge wooden coat stand with a mirror by the interior door, and a porch with ceramic tiles worn through years of footsteps passing over them. The place must be 150 years old, at least. And – I push the sitting room door open – there’s enough space for everyone to collapse on the sofas in a Sunday-ish sort of way. The paintings on the walls are draped with brightly coloured tinsel and fairy lights, and there’s a Christmas tree on the side table, decked with multi-coloured lights and hung with a selection of baubles, which look—

‘Hideous, aren’t they?’ Becky’s voice sounds over my shoulder. ‘I couldn’t resist. They’re from the pound shop so I just went to town a bit. If you can’t be tacky at Christmas, when can you?’

‘I love it,’ I say, and I do. Becky disappears back into the kitchen and I can hear the sound of her warbling out of tune to Mariah Carey and the clattering of plates and saucepans. I stand in the hallway and look at this amazing house that I couldn’t afford in a million years, and I think back to about two months ago when I saw an advert for my dream job in publishing come up and wondered if I should take the chance and apply. And how Nanna Beth had said, ‘Nothing ventured, lovey – you never know what’s around the corner . . .’

If you liked the sound of this book and would like to read more, you can pre-order ‘We Met In December’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 3rd October 2019.

A Postcard From Italy By Alex Brown

A Postcard From Italy‘A Postcard From Italy’ is the latest book by Alex Brown.

Grace Quinn loves her job at Cohen’s Convenient Storage Company, finding occasional treasure in the forgotten units that customers have abandoned. Her inquisitive nature is piqued when a valuable art collection and a bundle of letters and diaries are found that date back to the 1930’s. Delving deeper, Grace uncovers the story of a young English woman, Connie Levine, who follows her heart to Italy at the end of the Second World war. The contents also offer up the hope of a new beginning for Grace, battling a broken heart and caring for her controlling mother. Embarking on her own voyage of discovery, Grace’s search takes her to a powder pink villa on the cliff tops overlooking the Italian Riviera, but will she unravel the family secrets and betrayals that Connie tried so hard to overcome, and find love for herself?

It’s been a well since I read a book by Alex Brown and I forgot how lovely it is to curl up with one of her stories and how they can transport you off to another land and forget about all your worries.

In her latest book we meet gentle and kind Grace, who’s been taken for a ride by her domineering and horrible mother called Cora and her possible boyfriend Phil, letting people walk all over her and tell her what to do, she finds solace in her job where she gathers information in a storage company. One day, she’s given the task of sorting out a storage unit belonging to a glamorous woman called Connie and she finds herself on a mission to find out what became the infamous Connie. This journey takes Grace on an adventure to Italy, where she not only uncovers Connie’s life but also finds herself looking at her own life as well, along with the help of the handsome Ellis.

I loved this book, the combination of the exotic location as well as the endearing characters made this a really good book to get stuck into. I loved Grace and often sympathised with how people treated her but as the story progresses we see her blossom and grow in confidence which is really lovely reading.

The story is seen from the perspective of both Connie and Grace which gives the story an interesting slant. Connie is wonderfully glamorous and the Italian setting adds an exotic element to the tale.

Wonderfully written and vividly picturesque, ‘A Postcard From Italy’ is romantic and heartwarming story about life discoveries and starting over. I adored it!

You can buy ‘A Postcard From Italy’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Truth Or Die By Katerina Diamond

Truth Or Die‘Truth Or Die’ is the latest book by Katerina Diamond.

The butchered body of a professor is found in a private office of Exeter University. It is the first in a spate of horrific murders that shakes the city to its core. Who would target a seemingly innocent man, and why? DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles turn to his students for answers, but their investigation turns up no leads. Someone must know more than they’re letting on. As the body count rises, the police have to look into the past to uncover the person responsible before it’s too late. But are they brave enough to face up to the truth?

When I received a copy of ‘Truth Or Die’, I didn’t realise it was latest book in the Imogen Grey and Adrian Miles, as the branding and cover was different, so when I got stuck in, I was delighted to see their return in this dark and gruesome tale.

In their newest case, the duo are investigating the horrific murders of university professors and students and as the death toll rises so does that extremity of their deaths. But as well as trying to catch the serial killer, the pair of them are trying to work out the new shift in their relationship, as they have been the only constant in each other’s lives over the last number of years.

I read this book over the weekend and if life hadn’t gotten in the way, I may well have read it in one sitting. Katerina has a knack of cleverly writing disturbing and gruesome tales that really pull the reader in until they reach the final page and ‘Truth Or Die’ was no different.

I love Imogen and Adrian, as a crime duo they are fascinating to read as they piece the pieces together to solve the crimes but also on a personal level, we see them tentatively become closer as they consider taking their friendship to another level but are worried that it will jeopardise things. Their interactions are sweet and entertaining.

Atmospheric from the very beginning, I really enjoyed this book. It’s thrilling and written at a fast pace that leaves the reader guessing throughout. With complex and suspicious characters plus the reappearance of old faces, ‘Truth Or Die’ is a deliciously dark and twisty story that will grip the reader until the final page.

You can pre-order ‘Truth Or Die’ on Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 11th July 2019.

A Random Act Of Kindness Book Tour – Extract

A Random Act Of KindnessOn the book tour for Sophie Jenkins’ sweet new book called ‘A Random Act Of Kindness’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the story.

I’ve never had to shop for clothes for Enid; she’s not the kind of woman who needs a second opinion. Enid’s taste in clothes is conservative but feminine. One thing we both agree on is that trousers on a woman over seventy are invariably unflattering and unnecessary – unless, of course, one is a farmer; we’re not unreasonable people.

She knows what she likes. Her clothes are well-made. They’ll ‘see her out’. I listened to her saying that phrase in dismay. I wanted to buy her something worth living for, but it’s a tall order, to buy something to raise the spirits of a woman who’s unwell.

When I arranged the appointment with Fern Banks, I began by looking at everything through Enid’s eyes, by getting into Enid’s head. I can’t say I started out with a vision of what I wanted; it just gradually formed in my mind by a process of the elimination of what wasn’t suitable. It had to be special! Exciting! Evocative of a time when life was full of expectation. Oh, that frock was elusive!

Meeting Fern Banks in Carluccio’s meant leaving Enid for a second time and telling her more lies. I said I was going to the golf club and although I don’t go there much since Stan died, Enid didn’t question it.

When Fern showed me that blue dress, I knew immediately that it was the one! I felt alive again. I was tingling with excitement that I hadn’t felt in a long time! It turned the clock back!

You can buy ‘A Random Act Of Kindness’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Sinner Book Tour – Extract

SinnerToday I’m hosting the book tour for Jacqui Rose’s new book called ‘Sinner’ and I’ve an extract from the book for you to enjoy.

It was a joke. He was a joke, and the shame of it all sat on his shoulders like a weighted barbell. And besides, even if he wanted to tell Franny, what would he actually say to her? How would he say it? And how could she look at him afterwards with any kind of respect when he told her he was afraid? Afraid of the calls. Afraid of a letter. A flipping four-line letter. It was pathetic because after all when it came down to it, he was the great Alfie Jennings, the same Alfie Jennings who’d put fear into so many men over the years and the same Alfie Jennings who’d taken on gangs and notorious crime families to become one of the biggest faces there was. Yet here he was trembling like a girl over a poxy note, which this time had been left on the window of his car. But then, it wasn’t just any note, was it? Because the note wasn’t from just anybody, was it? No, because he was certain he knew exactly who the note was from.

Shaking and with his thick, dark hair stuck to his sweating forehead, Alfie glanced down again at the letter.

Screwing it up tightly and throwing it into the flames, Alfie rested his head against the fireplace.

The letters had been one of the reasons he’d moved back up to Soho from Essex; it made him feel safe, or rather he’d hoped it would’ve done. He’d thought the familiarity of the place, seeing the people he’d grown up with and throwing himself back into his old ways would make him feel better, make him forget. But he hadn’t. Not one little bit. He was still looking over his shoulder, still drinking more than he should to stay as sharp as he would’ve liked to, and still taking too much coke, all behind Franny’s back.

If you liked what you read, you can buy ‘Sinner’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.