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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.

Butterfly In Frost By Sylvia Day

Butterfly In Frost”Butterfly In Frost’ By Sylvia Day is the latest book by Sylvia Day.

Once, I would never have imagined myself here. But I’m settled now. In a place I love, in a home I renovated, spending time with new friends I adore, and working a job that fulfills me. I am reconciling the past and laying the groundwork for the future. Then Garrett Frost moves in next door. He’s obstinate and too bold, a raging force of nature that disrupts the careful order of my life. I recognize the ghosts that haunt him, the torment driving him. Garrett would be risky in any form, but wounded, he’s far more dangerous. I fear I’m too fragile for the storm raging inside him, too delicate to withstand the pain that buffets him. But he’s too determined…and too tempting. And sometimes hope soars above even the iciest desolation.

It’s been a while since I read a book by Sylvia Day and her new one was an interesting change from the string of thrillers that I’d been indulging in recently.

In this book, the narrative is seen solely from the eyes of Teagan Ransom, a successful cosmetic surgeon who literally runs into her neighbour Garrett Frost. A handsome man with an attitude and as much as Teagan tries to avoid his advances, there’s no denying that there’s chemistry between the pair of them and they embark on a tentative yet passionate affair.

Like I was saying, it’s been a while since I read one of Sylvia’s books and she’s whisked me off on an exotic and erotic adventure and the intensity of this story certainly blew me away as the passion between Teagan and Garrett seemed to ignite from the pages.

As much as there was an erotic element to this story, there was a sweet and humorous side to the story as the couple got to know each other and tried to fix each other, particularly in the final chapter of the bittersweet tale.

At only 180 pages, this book can be consumed in one sitting and that’s exactly what I did. An intense and romantic love story that will take your breath away and includes characters from Sylvia’s previous novels which make a lovely surprise, ‘Butterfly In Frost’ is an emotional rollercoaster that will sweep you off your feet.

You can buy ‘Butterfly In Frost’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Once, Twice, Three Times An Aisling By Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

Once, Twice, Three Times An AislingThe fabulous Aisling is back for a third time with the latest book by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen called ‘Once, Twice, Three Times An Aisling’.

What the back cover says –

Aisling is thirty, flirty and frazzled.

But – just when she should finally be feeling all grown-up – she’s floundering.

Because when you’re recovering from a broken heart as well as struggling to keep your café as sizzling as your award-winning sausages, it’s hard to feel you’ve really made it as an adult.

Which is just the moment for the unexpected to strike and complicate everything.

Now is not the time for a delicious new man to show up, her best friend to demand the hen do of the century and a surprise celebrity appearance.

But Aisling, never one to worry about having too much on her plate, rolls up her sleeves: she’s got this.

Until she discovers that being a proper grown-up means you can’t do everything.

Sometimes you will let someone down.

But will it be those she loves, or herself?

Can’t wait to see the return of our favourite Irish heroine!

You can pre-order ‘Once, Twice, Three Times An Aisling’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 19th September 2019.

Off-Island By Marlene Hauser

Off-Island ‘Off-Island’ is the latest book by Marlene Hauser.

Krista Bourne has always been surrounded by the strength, love and wealth of her family and their homes in New York City and Martha’s Vineyard. She has never had to think for herself. Living with boyfriend Michael and her elderly grandfather, she can also summon up the comforting ghosts of her beloved father and grandmother. In vivid dreams she flies with her pilot father, and when awake remembers idyllic childhood holidays spent with her bohemian grandmother. When Krista impulsively walks out on her career as a professional dancer, it is the beginning of a new chapter in her life. She feels unsettled and excited by the sense of imminent change around her. This feeling turns to panic, then fear when she realises that she is pregnant and is uncertain whether or not she wants to keep the baby, bringing her and Michael to a crossroads in their relationship. Adamant that she alone must deal with the situation, Krista rejects all offers of support from him, isolating her at a time when she most needs help. Krista’s journey and emotional upheaval take her back to her summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, where she is surprised to find out that she does not know her family history quite as well as she imagined…

Although I found this book to be an interesting tale, I found it sometimes to be an unsettling story as the lead character battled with emotions and morals as she decided to have an abortion. A difficult decisison to make, we follow the young woman called Krista as she disappears to try to clear her head whilst talking to the dead people in her life, including the baby. As Krista returns to her childhood home, we reflects on times that were much easier and didn’t require the responsibility that she’s suddenly faced with.

The story is quite short, at only 166 pages long could be considered more of a novella than a novel and was easy to consume in one sitting. I found Krista to be quite a complex character, she excludes those close to her and still has never really recovered from the sudden death of her father and all the emotions seem to come flooding back to her as she deals with the abortion and the what if of life.

‘Off-Island’ is a beautifully written and descriptive story giving the reader a clear mindset into Krista’s mind. An emotive and claustophobic tale of loss and grief, this book is a reflective story of the consequences of decisions and the actions you make in life.

You can buy ‘Off-Island’ from Amazon

Living My Best Life By Claire Frost

Living My Best Life‘Living My Best Life’ is Claire Frost’s debut novel.

Recently dumped by her boyfriend of ten years, Bell is struggling to move on with her life – and surrender the fleecy pyjamas she’s been living in since January. Haunted by #blessed on social media, she can’t help but compare her life to those she follows online, wondering where she is going wrong. In the world of social media, Millie is the successful online influencer @mi_bestlife. But in real life she’s just a regular single mum trying to make ends meet, while fending off the younger competition and tenacious internet trolls. Her Instagram feed is far more #BestLie than #BestLife, and soon Millie begins to wish her life was more like her filters. It isn’t until Bell and Millie’s paths cross that they begin to realise what they’re both missing. Can Millie prove to Bell that life online isn’t always what it appears to be? And in return, can Millie learn that she needs to start living for the moment and not for the likes?

I adored this book, it was a lovely story to curl up with. I met Claire at a Books and the City event earlier this year and she was warm and bubbly and her personality really shone through in her characters.

After suddenly finding herself single after the end of a ten year relationship, Bell finds questioning her place in life and signs herself up to a photography class where she meets new friends Laura and Ben and finds herself growing in confidence when she becomes the spokesperson for the local community hall. When she befriends local influencer and single mother Millie, the pair of them become strong friends as they deal with the realities of life.

I really liked the characters in this book and their new friendship was a joy to observe. As well as focusing on new beginning of life, the stress of motherhood, this book also concentrates on the negative impact of social media and how much pressure there is put on society for the perfect post and life.

With fantastic characters, adorable children and riddled with humour, this book is cleverly written that really pulls the reader in.

Deliciously heartwarming and fun, ‘Living My Best Life’ is a fantastic debut from Claire Frost. Filled with humour, warmth and relatable characters, this book shows the powerful portrayal of social media and the challenges of starting over.

You can pre-order ”Living My Best Life’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 5th September 2019.