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Over The Rainbow Book Tour – Extract

Over The RainbowOn the book tour for Katie Flynn’s new book called ‘Over The Rainbow’, which is the third book in ‘The Liverpool Sisters’ series. Sit back and enjoy an extract from the historical fiction tale.

Prologue 1922

Olivia Campbell was watching the dragonflies as they hovered above the surface of the pond when she overheard a boy’s voice from the far side of the privet hedge. He appeared to be having a heated discussion with someone.

Of course, Olivia knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, but he was being so vocal with his thoughts it was impossible not to overhear.

‘The man’s an idiot,’ he said sullenly, ‘a bully and a coward.’

Olivia listened with interest, wondering who it was the boy had such beef with. She waited for the other person’s response, hoping that they would shed some light on the matter, but the boy continued to talk before his companion had a chance to respond.

‘He thinks he can do what he wants because it’s him what pays our measly wages,’ he fumed. ‘The whole thing’s a damned joke if you ask me. The old git gives with one hand and takes with the other, paying us to work for him then taking it back through the rent he charges for his run-down, rat-infested, damp-riddled slums.’

Olivia gently nibbled the inside of her bottom lip. The man he was describing sounded very much like her father. The Campbells were used to disgruntled workers visiting the house to air their grievances, but they normally came on their own.

Her father might be a miserable so-and-so, but he was getting on in years, and two against one wasn’t fair on any man. She frowned. Whoever the boy was talking to seemed unwilling to make a contribution to the conversation. As he drew nearer to the house, she decided to see for herself just how many of them there were. She walked along the length of the hedge until she came to a gap where an old gate once stood.

Crouching down, she peeped through the sparse branches as she waited for the boy to draw level. Much to her surprise, he appeared to be on his own. Not wishing to be caught spying, she quickly ducked back down out of sight, but she was too late. The boy stopped abruptly and turned to face her, then stepped forward and peered through the gap in the hedge.

‘Hello?’ Olivia kept quiet, hoping that he would believe himself to be mistaken and move on, but instead he edged closer to the small gap and looked through. She tried to make herself as small as possible, but in doing so she caught his eye. He pointed at her.

‘I can see you!’ Olivia looked up in embarrassment. ‘I wasn’t spying! I live here,’ she said defensively. She stood up and indicated the house just visible through the trees. He looked past Olivia to the large white house much further up the garden and blew a low whistle. ‘Blimey! You must have a penny or two!’

You can buy ‘Over The Rainbow’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Extract – Dragonfly Girl By Marti Leimbach

Dragonfly GirlOn the book tour for Marti Leimbach’s new book called ‘Dragonfly Girl’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the book.

Click here to read the extract.

If you fancy reading more of ‘Dragonfly Girl’ you can buy it from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Book Tour – Trobairitz the Storyteller Extract

Trobairitz the StorytellerOn the book tour for Celia Micklefield’s new book called ‘Trobairitz the Storyteller’, sit back and enjoy an extract from the book.

I WAS ON THE A9 one October night, just outside of Béziers with a load from Spain. I’d filled up at La Jonquera. Diesel was cheaper over the border as was just about everything else including tobacco and the price of the girls who solicit lines of trucks in fuel queues.

While I was waiting my turn for the diesel pump, a thin, black-haired, dark-eyed woman came up beside my cab. Her skirt revealed knees too old for that length and as she drew nearer I could see her face: haggard, lined, old enough to be the other girls’ mother. She called out to me, first in Spanish then in French.

‘You got time? You got money? What you like?’ I climbed down from the cab and pulled off my cap. Her body language left me in no doubt what she thought of me. She turned on her heels and made for a different line of trucks, swearing all the way. I know how to say shit in so many languages now, you wouldn’t believe. I’ve got the full complement of European expletives. I don’t make a point of swearing regularly but you’ve got to admit there are times when nothing else will do.

‘Hey!’ I shouted after her. ‘I’m just doing my job. Same as you.’ But I was taking up the space of a prospective hot dinner. She’d wasted her time and lost her place in the other line. If she’d hung around I would have given her the price of a meal and saved her the trouble of earning it. Besides, there were things I would have liked to ask her.

I drove the short stretch from the border, cutting through the Pyrenees, following the coast around Argeles, thinking hard. Where do old whores go? When they quit, where do they go? What do they do? Does anybody know?

I pulled in at the Routiers near Béziers in time for dinner and made my night checks on the truck. I grabbed my things and used the showers. Put on a clean pair of jeans and went into the restaurant. The place looked full. Buzzing conversations and clattering cutlery. It’s a popular stopover for both North-South routes and East-West, but that night was my first time there.

I scanned the room: the regular set up. Serve yourself buffet bar; specials written up on a chalkboard. Wipe- clean tablecloths and bud vases with real sprigs of greenery on the tables.

Fresh and clean. Lighting too bright. No greasy overalls allowed. I made my selection and spotted an empty table near the side entrance.

Three drivers were talking about La Jonquera. When I took my tray and sat down near to them they stopped.

‘Don’t mind me, fellas,’ I said. ‘Maybe if there’d been a cute hunk at the filling station, I’d have been tempted myself.’

One invited me to join them. He was the oldest of the group, tidy, stocky, grey short hair and old-fashioned polite. Told me his name was Raymond. He briefly introduced the other two.
They didn’t look too pleased but he ignored them and started asking me the usual questions. Why would a woman be interested in long- distance haulage? What did I do before? Where did I come from?

I don’t answer that kind of question. I refuse to give personal details. They never ask outright about my age but I know they wonder. Why do they need to know I’m forty-two? I wear size 12 U.S. 14 UK. That translates to something like a 44 in European sizing but I don’t buy much here. Take one look at the petite average woman in this part of France and you can see why I get most of my stuff online. My hair is naturally curly, still dark brown. I wear it loose or stuffed under a baker-boy cap when I’m driving. I like Dire Straits and Rachmaninov.

I speak French, English, Spanish and Italian. I play guitar and I’m teaching myself mandolin.

I’m a passable Mezzo. I read everything and I’m blessed with a good memory. But I don’t tell truckers any of this. It’s nobody’s business but mine.

All I said in response to Raymond’s questions was ‘I like driving.’

Raymond got up to fill his water glass at the cooler. At the same time another driver came in from the parking bays to join the group. He looked freshly showered and he smelled of the garrigue heathland, green and herby. His damp hair curled around his ears. Maybe a few years younger than me, his skin had a healthy outdoors glow. He filled his T-shirt very nicely. He greeted everybody except me and I know the reason for that. Drivers assume that any female present is somebody’s bit on the side, along for the ride. They wait to be introduced. He hurried through the handshakes and seemed anxious to tell them something.

‘Just parked next to a new Volvo FH16,’ he said, searching the drivers’ faces for a reaction, ignoring me. ‘Classy, black livery. Somebody gone over to Trans- Angelus? Anybody we know? Who got lucky?’

‘That’ll be me,’ I said, keeping my eyes on my plate of faux filet.

You could taste the testosterone around the table. Without looking up I knew that hackles were raised, muscles clenched, jaws stiffened.

You can buy ‘Trobairitz the Storyteller’ from Amazon.

The Smugglers Wife – Extract

The Smugglers WifeIf you’re a fan of historical fiction, you’re in for a treat as I’ve an extract from Evie Grace’s new book called ‘The Smuggler’s Wife’, the latest in ‘The Smuggler’s Daughter’ series.

It was all very well Louisa warning her off. Grace’s eldest sister had her best interests at heart, but she didn’t know that she had a fancy for Isaiah so strong that she couldn’t eat or sleep.

Not only was he a Deal boatman who could be relied upon to go out in the fiercest of storms, risking his life to save others whose vessels foundered on the Sands, he was landlord of the Rattling Cat pub and a notorious smuggler. He was a loner – Grace often saw him walking along the beach with his grey longdog at his heels – yet he was leader of a gang, capable of inspiring respect and loyalty. The contradictions intrigued her, and it helped enormously that he was also dark and handsome and at least as tall as her, she thought, smiling to herself

‘Where do you think you’re going?’ Louisa stepped across the hall and stood between Grace and the front door as she tied the laces on her boots.

‘Back to the market before it closes – I forgot to buy the bread.’ It wasn’t a lie exactly – she had accidentally on purpose forgotten to pick up a loaf with the rest of the shopping.

‘Haven’t I told you before to take a list with you?’

On many an occasion, Grace wanted to say, but she managed to bite her tongue just in time.

‘I don’t feel so good, having been staring at the accounts all morning. Maybe a breath of fresh air will perk me up. Why don’t I come with you?’

‘You look well enough to me,’ Grace said, standing up. Tall, slender and blue-eyed, they were peas from the same pod, except that Louisa was five years older than Grace and an inch shorter, and her hair was a dark brown while Grace’s was the colour of ebony.

‘Where is your sympathy for your hardworking sister? Let me put my ledger away and fetch my bonnet. It’s a lovely day. We can walk along the beach afterwards.’

‘Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to go and have a liedown?’ Grace suggested, but Louisa had made up her mind.

Her plot foiled to see Isaiah again, Grace reached for the willow basket on the shelf, at which a pair of green eyes peered over the top.

‘Oh Kitty,’ she said.

‘What’s that creature doing, lazing around in there when she’s supposed to be earning her keep?’ Louisa grumbled lightly

‘She’s done her work for today – tell me when you last saw or heard a meaker?’

‘Not for a while,’ Louisa admitted.

‘Mrs Witherall next door says she’s overrun with them while we have none, proof of Kitty’s prowess.’

‘I’ll suggest she gives her board and lodgings then – on a permanent basis.’

Grace’s exclamation of protest sent the fluffy black cat leaping out of the basket on to the floor.

‘You wouldn’t? I couldn’t bear it!’ Grace noticed the alteration in Louisa’s expression. ‘You are shamming me?’

‘I am indeed. Although I was very annoyed when Isaiah pressed you into having her, she’s turned out to be rather endearing.’ Smiling, Louisa looked down to where Kitty was winding herself around her legs, then glanced back up. ‘Hark. Do you hear that?’

Straining her ears, Grace listened for the faint medley of sound coming from the distance. Gradually it grew louder, and she began to distinguish the individual parts: the voice of the town crier; the steady beat of a drum; cheering and laughter; a piper’s merry hornpipe; a troupe of fiddlers scraping their strings. The church bells pealed, and the ships’ bells clanged relentlessly from the roadstead.

‘What is it? Has the world come to an end?’ She pushed the front door open. Kitty dashed outside and shot back in again

‘Miss, miss, ’ave you ’eard the news?’ One of a gaggle of shore boys who were half running, half walking along the alley stopped outside Compass Cottage. Fourteen-year-old Cromwell’s face was as brown as a nut, his eyes alight with excitement.

You can buy ‘The Smugglers Wife’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Christmas For The Shop Girls – Extract

Christmas For The Shop GirlsOn the book tour for the fourth book in ‘The Shop Girls’ series by Joanna Toye, sit back and enjoy the first chapter from the book called ‘Christmas For The Shop Girls’

Chapter 1

April 1943

‘Look at it!’ said Lily. ‘You’d think the bomb had dropped yesterday!’ Ladies’ Fashions, Model Gowns and Suits and Coats were in uproar.

Gladys darted her friend a look – only Lily could say that! Gladys wouldn’t have dared, in case it brought that awful night flooding back. But Lily had been so strong, coming back to work when the memories must still have been so vivid and evidence of the destruction was still all around. Now, though, three months later, it looked as though the demolition squad was in again.

The first floor was in chaos – and all because there was going to be a fashion show.

Harassed porters were assembling a catwalk under the supervision of the Model Gowns buyer: beside them the store’s carpenters sawed and hammered. In the middle of it all, the buyers from the other two fashion departments were taking dresses and suits on and off a rail, evidently in dispute over what should make the final cut. Juniors scurried to and fro offering more garments for inspection, which were scrutinised and mostly rejected. If not, they scuttled off again to iron out the sort of creases visible only to a buyer’s eye.

A potted palm wove its way uncertainly towards them and beneath it, Lily recognised Jim’s suit trousers. Along with Peter Simmonds, the first-floor supervisor, Jim had been charged with getting the store back on its feet after the bomb and the fashion show was going to act as a sort of relaunch for Marlow’s as well as highlighting the new spring and summer Utility styles. There was no doubt about it, Jim was on the way up. He was also – the thought still made her smile, inside and out – Lily’s boyfriend of a few months’ standing.

‘Jim!’ She hissed him over. ‘How’s it going?’

‘Let me put this thing down.’

Lily helped him to rest the pot on a little plinth where a plaster baby was displaying a smocked romper suit and waving a rattle. Jim’s tie was askew and his shirt untucked, not the sort of appearance Marlow’s usually required of Mr J. Goodridge, second sales on Furniture and Household.

‘If you really want to know,’ Jim began, ‘it’s hell. Suits and Coats and Ladies’ Fashions are at each other’s throats over who gets to show more items and Model Gowns is sulking because she wanted her stuff to go out all in one block – a “tableau” she calls it – and not mixed in with the others.’ He gave a despairing sigh. ‘And they say never work with children or animals. I could add to that!’

‘It’ll be fine!’ Lily tried to reassure him. ‘It’ll all come together at the last minute, you’ll see.’ His eyes were deep-set and brown; his hair was sticking up where he’d pushed his hands through it in the way Lily loved and she had to stop herself from reaching up to smooth it down. Her boss on Childrenswear, Miss Frobisher, tall, blonde, and ever-elegant herself, was a stickler for smartness in appearance, but even on a day when the usual rules didn’t apply, Lily didn’t think she’d approve.

Jim pushed his fingers through his hair again, making it stick up even more.

‘I don’t see how. I knew we should have got more done last night – at least got the catwalk built!’

‘Hah!’ Lily retorted. ‘You and I stayed late to finish off the Christmas grotto, didn’t we, and look what happened!’

Gladys winced, but that was Lily for you, and the measure of Lily and Jim’s relationship. They struck sparks off each other, but they both seemed to thrive on it. As if in proof, Jim was grinning and Lily was smiling at him with a sort of ‘Well? I’m right, aren’t I?’ expression. Even so, Gladys tactfully jumped in.

‘Are the models here yet?’

Before the war, Marlow’s had had its own models, but now they were in the WRNS or turning out shells in a factory somewhere.

The models for today had been booked through an agency in London, and to Gladys were invested with an air of almost filmstar glamour. ‘That’s another thing.’ Jim looked at his watch. ‘They should have been here three-quarters of an hour ago.’

‘You know what the trains are like.’

‘That’s why I wanted them to come yesterday, but would You Know Who hear of it? Decided to scrimp on expenses.’

You Know Who was Cedric Marlow, the store’s owner, notoriously careful with money.

‘It doesn’t really matter, does it?’ Lily pointed out. ‘There’s nothing for them to prance up and down on yet.’

‘Thanks for reminding me.’

In a further reminder, there was a monumental crash as a tower of gilt chairs tumbled from a trolley and hit the half-built catwalk.

‘I’d better get over there.’ Jim moved to pick up the palm, but before he could, Mr Simmonds approached. Tall and spare, he always moved at a lick, but this was speedy, even for him. He nodded to the girls and addressed Jim.

‘They’ve had a telephone call upstairs – the models haven’t left London yet. And I’m not sure they will.’

‘What?’

‘There’s an unexploded bomb at Harrow-on-the Hill. No trains leaving in our direction at all. I think we’d better face it, they’re not going to get here.’ Mr Simmonds sounded remarkably calm, but then he was ex-Army, invalided out with a dodgy shoulder. ‘We’re going to have to regroup.’

‘What does he mean, regroup?’ asked Gladys.

Miss Frobisher had sent them both off to dinner early, saying she’d square it with Mr Bunting, Gladys’s boss on Toys.

‘Think of something else, I suppose,’ shrugged Lily. ‘I don’t know.’ Gladys looked worried. Lily persevered with her rissole but chewed cautiously: bits of bone weren’t unknown. ‘Maybe the salesgirls from Fashions could model them, they know the clothes.’

‘They’re all so old though!’

It was true: with all women between nineteen and forty-three conscripted into some kind of war work, Marlow’s, like other shops and stores, was staffed by younger girls like themselves and, to put it politely, the middle-aged. ‘Salesgirls’ was a courtesy title: many of them had been brought back out of retirement.

‘There’s always the juniors.’

Gladys didn’t look convinced.

‘I can’t see the juniors on Fashions swanking up and down a catwalk – they’re like frightened rabbits! I’d be the same with their bosses.’

That was true as well: the fashion buyers were a fearsome bunch. Miss Wagstaff of Model Gowns was a tightly permed, tightly corseted martinet. Miss Drake (Dresses), petite and pretty, looked more approachable, though anyone who’d ever witnessed her beating down a wholesaler on price would have swiftly reassessed that opinion. Miss McIver of Suits and Coats was originally from Aberdeen and was a chip off the old block of that so-called granite city. All in all, Fashions was known to be the toughest department in which to work: Miss Frobisher had started there and survived, which was one of the reasons Lily admired her so much.

‘Anyway, it’s not our problem.’ Gladys pushed her plate away and pulled her jam turnover towards her. Lily was quiet. It was still a setback for Jim. His problems were her problems; she’d help him if she could. In fact, she often intervened when her help wasn’t required – or desired.

‘Gladys!’ she exclaimed suddenly. ‘It is! We’ve forgotten about Beryl!’

If you liked this wee taster of the book, you can buy ‘Christmas For The Shop Girls’ from Amazon and is available to buy from other good bookshops.