‘Celebrations at the Chateau’ is the latest book by Jo Thomas, so sit back and enjoy an extract from the story.
â€˜Itâ€™s like . . . Hogwarts!â€™ I say, peering through the early- morning autumnal mist. At least, I think itâ€™s me who says it out loud.
Tiredness and shock has mashed my brain and blurred my vision. But Iâ€™m pretty sure itâ€™s what weâ€™re all thinking, for once, all on the same page, as we sit inside the hire car.
â€˜Iâ€™m waiting for Frank-N-Furter to come and meet us,â€™ says my eldest sister Nellie, short for Elinor, but no one calls her that and she doesnâ€™t mind.
â€˜Who?â€™ I ask, questions whizzing round my brain, like eggs in a blender, turning to froth.
â€˜Never mind, youâ€™re too young!â€™ says Lizzie, my middle sister, short for Elizabeth, but no one calls her that and, yes, I think she does mind.
â€˜Er, not that much younger than you!â€™ Nellie reprimands.
â€˜Itâ€™s fine,â€™ I say. â€˜Letâ€™s just find out where weâ€™re sup- posed to be and whatâ€™s going on.â€™
And they both close their mouths, like bickering children who have been silenced.
â€˜And Hogwarts is a lot bigger,â€™ says Nellie, but quieter. She would know, bringing up three boys.
â€˜But just as creepy,â€™ says Lizzie. â€˜This is . . .â€™ She carries on staring at it from behind the steering wheel, through the big metal gates.
â€˜This is a joke, right? Someoneâ€™s idea of a practical joke! Wait until I find out whoâ€™s responsible for this!â€™ Nellie shakes her head.
But who would do that? Especially not now, not with our grandfather only just buried. Tears, which seem to have been constantly ready to spill for the last month, prickle again.
â€˜Or someoneâ€™s got their facts wrong, which is more likely!â€™ Lizzie likes to have facts and answers. She works on logic. â€˜An overnight ferry crossing, on choppy waters, then driving on the wrong side of the road for over an hour in a hire car for a wrong address!â€™ she says, sound- ing fearsome. I just know that someone is going to be in big trouble if this turns out to be the case.
We sit in the car, the heaters blowing on our cheeks, looking at the listing iron gates and the long tree-lined drive to the left, covered with fallen late-autumn leaves. And beyond that, shrouded in mist, is what I can only describe as . . .
â€˜Itâ€™s a castle.â€™ I say what weâ€™re all thinking.
â€˜A chaÌ‚teau,â€™ Lizzie corrects.
â€˜Yes, a chaÌ‚teau,â€™ I agree. â€˜Iâ€™ve seen one on television with Dick and Angel.â€™
â€˜Who?â€™ Lizzie asks.
â€˜Daytime telly,â€™ Nellie confirms.
Lizzie tuts and purses her lips.
Neither of us says any more. Lizzie doesnâ€™t do day-time TV. In fact, I donâ€™t think she does telly of any sort. She just works and she isnâ€™t happy about taking time off to be here. We all sit and stare through the gates.
Lizzie grips the steering wheel. â€˜Check the satnav again,â€™ she instructs, jabbing a short painted fingernail at my phone.
I do as Iâ€™m told. â€˜You have arrived at your destination. You have arrived at your destination,â€™ it repeats, grating on our nerves.
We all look around and behind us, but thereâ€™s nothing else. Just these gates, the long tree-lined drive, a field of brown and white cows to the right of it and a farm- house with lights on. And, beyond the gates, this building, glowering at us with a Gallic glare. Suddenly, there is a flickering of lights from a window in the turret closest to us â€“ thereâ€™s one on each side of the building. Again they flicker and go out, flicker and go out.
We look at each other nervously.
â€˜Are you sure we own this?â€™ I ask again, hoping thereâ€™s been a big mistake.
You can buy ‘Celebrations at the Chateau’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.