Genre: Contemporary Fiction

★NEW RELEASE & ARC REVIEW★ TEMPORARY BY SARINA BOWEN & SARAH MAYBERRY

Genres: Contemporary Fiction

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TEMPORARY by Sarina Bowen & Sarah Mayberry

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: 11th September  2017

The most beautiful man I’ve ever seen is the one who can ruin everything…

The first time I lay eyes on Callan Walker, I know he’ll be trouble. With his smug grin, hot Aussie accent and thousand dollar shoes, he’s just the kind of rich guy who always gets what he wants.

And he wants two things: a night of sin, and my cooperation as he outmaneuvers his powerful mother to take control of his uncle’s estate.

I can’t afford either one. I’m the only thing standing between my little sister and the foster care system. He may have money and charm on his side, but I have something even more powerful — pure desperation. This temp job at his mother’s company can become a full time job for me. It has to.

But when Callan’s eyes rake over my body, sometimes I forget my obligations. His piercing gaze finds the fun, optimistic girl I used to be and not the tired person I’ve become.

And it works–if only for a moment. Our night together was a mistake. I can’t afford to get sucked into his high-powered family’s treachery. But the closer I get to Callan, the more layers I find beneath those expensive clothes. Though I can’t forget this is temporary. He’s temporary. I have too much to lose.

Too bad my foolish heart didn’t get the memo…

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★4 STARS★

There’s a new writing duo in Town and they come bearing the gift that is Australia’s hottest export, Callan Walker.

A man like Callan is just the kind of distraction Grace needs, but one she simply can’t afford. She’s desperate to find a stable permanent job in order to support herself and her fifteen year old sister, so when the opportunity arises to do just that, she won’t allow the walking temptation that is Callan Walker to stand in her way.

Grace Kerrington stands in the way of Callan being able to fulfil his beloved late uncle’s last wishes. More content to spend his time Island hopping, Callan has no desire to take his place in the family’s multi-million dollar business. It’s been a bone of contention between himself and his mother and their relationship flits between frosty to non-existent. By default any one employed by his mother is on the side of the enemy, but in order find the information he requires, he needs to temporarily play nice with Grace.

Forced to work together, they have no choice but to come to an uneasy truce. An unease that is made greater by the ungodly amount of attraction they for have one another. As Callan Playboy façade begins to slip, so too do Grace’s career prospects.

I really enjoyed peeling back the layers and getting down under with Callan. There’s a vulnerable boyish charm to him, and seeing that side to him was wholly endearing. Whilst Grace’s social predicament may have been a precarious one, I was instantly enamoured by how resolute she is in making sure she is able to provide for her sister.

I’m really looking forward to more from this duo. Whilst I’m well acquainted with the goodness that is Sarina Bowen, it’s always great to add a new author to the roster as I feel I have with Sarah Mayberry.

 

About Sarina Bowen

sarinakitchen

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont’s Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

In 2016, Sarina became a Rita Award winner! The Romance Writers of America honored HIM by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy with Best Contemporary Romance, Mid-Length.


About Sarah Mayberry:

I grew up in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve pretty much always wanted to be a writer. In pre-school I was always rifling through the craft cupboard, looking for paper to take home and turn into “books”. And I’ve always loved reading. As a teenager, I perfected the art of walking home from school while reading at the same time. (Okay, occasionally I tripped.)

 Sarah is revoltingly happy with her partner of twelve years, Chris, who is a talented scriptwriter. Not only does he offer fantastic advice and solutions to writing problems, but he’s also handsome, funny and sexy. When she’s not gushing over him, she loves to read romance and fantasy novels, go to the movies, sew and cook for her friends. She has also become a recent convert to Pilates, which she knows she should do more often.

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★NEW RELEASE & REVIEW★ GHOSTED BY J.M. DARHOWER

Genres: Contemporary Fiction

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GHOSTED by J.M. Darhower

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: 24th August 2017

He’s a troubled young actor, Hollywood’s newest heartthrob, struggling with fame as the star of the latest superhero franchise. Through scandal after scandal, addiction on top of addiction, a flurry of paparazzi hunt him as he fights to conquer his demons.

She’s a single mother, assistant manager at a grocery store, existing in monotony with her five-year-old daughter. Every day when she goes to work, lurid tabloids surround her, the face of a notorious bad boy haunting her from their covers.

A man and a woman, living vastly different lives, but that wasn’t always the case. Once, they were just a boy and a girl who bonded over comic books and fell in love unexpectedly.

When Kennedy Garfield met Jonathan Cunningham back in high school, she knew he had all the makings of a tragic hero. With stars in his eyes, and her heart on her sleeve, the pair ran away together to follow their dreams.

But dreams, sometimes, turn into nightmares.

Now, years later, the only thing they share is a daughter—one who has no idea her father plays her favorite superhero. But Jonathan is desperate to make amends, and at the top of his list is the woman who gave up everything for him and the little girl he hasn’t yet met.

Buy Links: UK | USUK paperbackUS paperback |

★5 STARS★

Ghosted tells the story of one time childhood sweethearts, Jonathan Cunningham and Kennedy Garfield. At Seventeen Jonathan is the moon, the stars, and the apple of Kennedy’s eye. At Twenty seven, he’s Hollywood royalty and deadbeat father to their five year old daughter, Madison.

The world knows him as “Jonny Cunning” but she knew him back when they shared a love of comics and would skip school to go to the movies. Now she knows him as the drunk who shows up once in a while full of apologies and empty promises.

They are worlds apart until an accident on set leaves Jonny unable to work and in need of a place to recuperate. When he thinks of home, he thinks of her, so there is only one place he wants to be. As expected Kennedy is not pleased to see him. More than the hurt his presence dredges up, it’s the fear that he will disappoint their daughter, a daughter who is unaware that her favourite onscreen superhero is her failure of a father.

Ghosted is a triumph. Darhower does not skimp on the rawness of heartbreak nor the fragility that comes with renewed hope. There is a subduedness to this fierce romance and its slow burn that built momentum with every page read. It’s a story of redemption, growth and forgiveness not to mention the comedic element that came with Maddie’s character. I adored her and I love Darhower’s style of writing parent romances.

There are many reasons why J.M. Darhower is one of my favourite authors, but if you need just one, read Ghosted.

 

About the Author:

J.M. Darhower is the USA Today Bestselling Author of paranormal/erotic/romantic suspense novels about the baddest bad boys and the ladies who love them. Fangirl at heart, J.M. is obsessed with books, music, and all things Marvel, especially the glorious Sebastian Stan. She spends her days in a tiny town in North Carolina, churning out words and chasing down Pokémon.

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★BLOG TOUR, REVIEW & GIVEAWAY★ BEARD IN MIND BY PENNY REID

Genres: Contemporary Fiction

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Beard in Mind, an all new standalone in the bestselling, romantic comedy Winston Brothers Series by Penny Reid, is available NOW!

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All is fair in love and auto maintenance.

Beau Winston is the nicest, most accommodating guy in the world. Usually.

Handsome as the devil and twice as charismatic, Beau lives a charmed life as everyone’s favorite Winston Brother. But since his twin decided to leave town, and his other brother hired a stunning human-porcupine hybrid as a replacement mechanic for their auto shop, Beau Winston’s charmed life has gone to hell in a handbasket.

Shelly Sullivan is not nice and is never accommodating. Ever.

She mumbles to herself, but won’t respond when asked a question. She glares at everyone, especially babies. She won’t shake hands with or touch another person, but has no problems cuddling with a dog. And her damn parrot speaks only in curse words.

Beau wants her gone. He wants her out of his auto shop, out of Tennessee, and out of his life.

The only problem is, learning why this porcupine wears her coat of spikes opens a Pandora’s box of complexity—exquisite, tempting, heartbreaking complexity—and Beau Winston soon discovers being nice and accommodating might mean losing what matters most.

TEASER02

She’d taken the sofa, in her own house, and given me the bed. That didn’t make a lick of sense.

I crouched next to her, threading my fingers into the silky hair at her temples. “Honey.”

“Mmm.”

I bent to whisper, “Shelly.”

“Hmm?”

“I’m going to carry you to your bed. I’ll take the sofa.”

“Mmm.”

I grinned at her soft noises, at the untroubled expression on her face, and how her brow—even in sleep—still looked regal and stern.

Sliding my arms under her legs and shoulder, I picked her up. And, unfortunately, that woke her up.

She jerked in my arms. “What are you doing?”

“I’m taking you to the bed.”

“Don’t do that.”

“I don’t mind, I’ll take the sofa.” Our mouths were just inches apart, and hers was distracting.

She squirmed. “Put me down.”

Sighing unhappily, I did. I set her on her feet next to the couch. The blanket pooled at her feet and I stepped back to give her some space. It was dark, but I could see her just fine, and that meant I had to force my eyes to remain above her neck. The woman was wearing two pathetic scraps of fabric as pajamas. A thin little tank top and shorts. That’s it.

I set my jaw and turned to the side, waiting for her to walk past.

“Where are you?”

I glanced at her and realized she couldn’t see at all. She didn’t have a hand out, but the way her eyes were moving about the room gave away her blindness.

“I’m here.” I didn’t touch her, because if I did, I wouldn’t want to stop.

Shelly turned her head in my direction and took a deep breath. Still she didn’t reach for me. I didn’t know the specifics of what to expect after her Friday session, but I recalled Dr. West saying something about Shelly doing self-guided ERP exercises over this week.

“Can you see?” She licked her lips, her voice sandpapery. “Because I can’t see at all. It’s so dark.”

“I can see.” Unbidden, my eyes dropped to her body, to the swell of her breasts, the panel of bare stomach, the curve of her hips. Pinpricks of heat raised over my skin and I curled my hands into fists.

She shuffled forward and I caught her before she bumped into me, setting my hands gently at her waist.

“Let me take you to your room.” My voice was rough, for obvious reasons.

Saying nothing, she brought her hand to my forearm, her body gently colliding with mine. And then her hand on my arm slid up my bicep to my shoulder.

“Shelly.” I was running out of breath.

“I like this.”

“What?”

“Touching you.”

Oh fuck.

I held still and endured her hands moving over my body, down the front of my shirt, stopping at the hem, then pushing it up.

“Take this off.”

I did. I pulled the T-shirt over my head and let it drop to the floor.

We stood there, facing each other in the dark, not touching. Despite the session on Friday and the progress that had been made, I realized she wasn’t quite there yet. Dr. West was right, Friday was just a step, the first step. Shelly wasn’t able to initiate contact. Not yet.

Her hands balled into fists and she swayed forward, her breath struggling little puffs.

If anything was going to happen tonight, I had to initiate it. I had to be the one to touch first.

God, how I wanted her. How I wanted her above me, beneath me, surrounding me. But how could I?

“I know why I hesitate,” her voice was breathless, “but why do you hesitate?”

“Lots of reasons.”

“Give me one.”

“I don’t want to you use you.”

“I wish you would.”

That pulled a laugh from me, just a small relief from the mounting tension. My eyes moved over her body, an undeniable impulse to devour the sight of her, her legs, stomach, chest, then up her neck to her lips.

“You asked me on Saturday if sex was a big deal for me, or if it was you. The answer is both.”

She held very still, and I got the sense she was holding her breath, straining to listen.

“You are a big deal to me. I don’t want a fling. I don’t want a flirtation. I want promises.”

“What can I promise you?”

That you’ll love me. That I’ll be your priority.

She shifted her weight from foot to foot. A spike of anxiety that she might leave me like this had me acting without forethought. I lifted my hands to her waist again and immediately, her fingertips skimmed over skin of my lower stomach in response, making my muscles tense in hot anticipation. She grew more assertive as she caressed my sides, abdomen, ribs, chest, shoulders, and then back down.

Shelly stepped closer, a hint of thrilling contact between her breasts and my torso, and all the words and worries melted from my mind, died on my tongue, suffocated by the feel of her body, and the possibility of this moment.

Her finger hooked in the waistband of my jeans. “Take these off.” Her hand turned, her fingers and palm cupping me over my zipper.

Instinctively, I pressed myself into her touch even as I grabbed her wrist.

“Beau, I promise—”

She didn’t get to speak, because I kissed her, hard and wild, unbuttoning and unzipping my fly with one hand and bringing her palm inside my boxers with the other.

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★4 STARS

At first glance it’s easy to peg Beard in Mind as an Enemies to Lovers romance.  Shelly Sullivan is the newly employed mechanic to the Winston family run auto shop and immediately clashes with Beau. He’s affronted by her hostility to not only himself but to the shops customers. He’s a genuinely easy going individual but there’s something about Shelly that raises his hackles.

Speaking of Shelly, it would take me a while to think of the last time I came across a character as complex as herself. Credit to Penny, she took care and attention with her in the way she was written. In some ways I think she used Beaus character as a device to ask the questions I as a reader and person wanted know.

The revelations in this story are not Shelly’s alone; Beau too experiences some life changing moments and in these moments of Beau’s vulnerability, it’s wonderful to see Shelly blossom and showcase personal develop.

I’m in awe of Penny’s ability to write a swoon worthy romance whilst concurrently tackling serious current issues. Beard in Mind is conscientious and thought provoking romance which was nicely balanced by its comedic value and heart fluttering feels.

I can’t get enough of this band of bearded brothers and am looking forward to what’s in store next.

 

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Enter the Giveaway!

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Meet Penny Reid:

Penny Reid is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Winston Brothers and Knitting in the City series. When she’s not immersed in penning smart romances, Penny works in the biotech industry as a researcher. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

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Connect with Penny:

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★RELEASE BLITZ & EXCERPT★ ROYALLY ENDOWED BY EMMA CHASE

Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romantic Comedy

ROYALLY ENDOWED by Emma Chase

Series: The Royally Series Book 3

Release Day: August 14th 2017

 

Logan St. James is a smoldering, sexy beast. Sure, he can be a little broody at times—but Ellie Hammond’s willing to overlook that. Because, have you seen him??

Sexy. As. Hell.

And Ellie’s perky enough for both of them.

For years, she’s had a crush on the intense, protective royal security guard—but she doesn’t think he ever saw her, not really.

To Logan, Ellie was just part of the job—a relative of the royal family he’d sworn to protect. Now, at 22 years old and fresh out of college, she’s determined to put aside her X-rated dreams of pat-downs and pillow talk, and find a real life happily ever after.

The Queen of Wessco encourages Ellie to follow in her sister’s footsteps and settle down with a prince of her own. Or a duke, a marquis…a viscount would also do nicely.

But in the pursuit of a fairy tale ending, Ellie learns that the sweetest crushes can be the hardest to let go.
***
Logan St. James grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, in a family on the wrong side of the law. But these days, he covers his tattoos and scars with a respectable suit. He’s handsome, loyal, brave, skilled with his hands and…other body parts.

Any woman would be proud to bring him home to her family.

But there’s only one woman he wants.

For years he’s watched over her, protected her, held her hair back when she was sick, taught her how to throw a punch, and spot a liar.

He dreams of her. Would lay down his life for her.

But beautiful Ellie Hammond’s off-limits.

Everybody knows the bodyguard rules: Never lose focus, never let them out of your sight, and never, ever fall in love.

Buy Links: AMAZON | AMAZON UK | AMAZON AU | iBooks | B&N

Prologue

Logan

Some men think with their cocks.

You know the type. Quick smooth-talkers, shifty eyes always scanning for a nice pair of legs, a set of full tits, or a tight arse they can pant after.

Other blokes think too much with their brains. You know that type too. Annoyingly careful, slow-moving, constantly parsing their words like they already know whatever they’re saying is going to come back and take a bite out of them.

I’m not either of those.

I always go with my gut. When it clenches with a warning, I act—no hesitation. When it tugs and nudges, I pause and reevaluate. When it twists and writhes, I know, guaranteed, I’ve cocked up big-time.

My gut is my best friend, my conscience, my most lethal asset.

And it has never let me down.

It’s my gut that drags me to her door. That roots me in place as I knock. That gives me the words—pleading, unfamiliar remorseful words—I’ll gladly say to make this right.

To get her back.

Because while my gut is brilliant, sometimes I can be a real fucking idiot.

Yesterday was one of those times.

“Ellie. It’s me—open up, we need to talk.”

I sense movement on the other side of the solid oak door—not in sounds or shifting shadows beneath it, but more of an awareness. I can feel her in there. Nearby and listening.

“Go away, Logan.”

Her voice is tight, higher-pitched than usual. Upset.

“Ellie, please. I was a twat, I know . . .” I’m not keen on begging from the hallway, but if that’s what it takes . . . “I’m sorry. Let me in.”

Ellie is difficult to anger, quick to forgive; she just doesn’t have it in her to hold a grudge. So her next words fall like an axe—cutting my legs right off from under me.

“No, you were right. The princess’s sister and the East Amboy bodyguard don’t make sense—we’ll never last.”

Did I actually say that to her? What the fuck is wrong with me? What I feel for her is the one thing in my life that makes sense. That matters.

But I never told her that.

Instead . . . instead, I said all the wrong things.

I brace my palm against the smooth wood, leaning forward, wanting to be as near to her as possible. “Elle . . .”

“I’ve changed my mind, Logan.”

If a corpse could speak, it would sound exactly like my Ellie does now. Flat, lifeless.

“I want the fairy tale. I want what Olivia has . . . castles and carriages . . . and you’ll never be able to give me that. I would just be settling for you. You’ll never be able to make me happy.”

She doesn’t mean that. They’re my words—the insecurities I put on her—that she’s hurling back in my face.

But God, it fucking hurts to hear. Physically hurts—stabbing deep into the pit of my stomach, crushing my chest, grinding my bones. I meant it when I said I would die for her . . . and right now, it feels like I am.

I grab the doorknob to walk inside, to see her face. To see that she doesn’t mean it.

“Ellie—”

“Don’t come in!” she screeches like I’ve never heard her before. “I don’t want to see you! Go away, Logan. We’re done—just go!”

I breathe hard—that’s what you do when pain wrecks you, breathe through it. Then I swallow bile, straighten up, turn around and walk down the hall. Away from her. Just like she wants, like she asked. Like she screamed.

My brain tells me to move faster—get the hell out of there, cut my losses and lick my wounds. And my heart—Christ—that poor bastard’s too battered and bloody to say anything at all.

But then, just over halfway down the hall, my steps slow until I stop completely.

Because my gut . . . it strains through the hurt. Rebels. It shouts that this isn’t right. This isn’t her. Something’s off.

And even more than that . . . something is very, very wrong.

I glance up and down the quiet hall—not a guard or a maid in sight. I look back at the door. Closed and silent and still.

Then I turn and march straight back to it. I don’t knock, or wait, or ask for permission. In one move, I turn the knob and step inside.

What I see there stops me cold.

Because whatever I was expecting, it sure as fuck wasn’t this.

Not at all . . .

Buy Links: AMAZON | AMAZON UK | AMAZON AU | iBooks | B&N

About Emma Chase:

Emma Chase is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the hot and hilarious Tangled series and The Legal Briefs series. Emma lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children and two naughty (but really cute) dogs. She has a long-standing love/hate relationship with caffeine.

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★NEW RELEASE & EXCERPT★ THE LAVENDER HOUSE BY HILARY BOYD

Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Published by Quercus

The delightfully warm and witty new novel on risking everything for a second chance at love, for fans of Kathryn Hughes, The Letter.

THE LAVENDER HOUSE by Hilary Boyd

Release Date: 8th August 2017
Publisher: Quercus

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Nancy de Freitas is the glue that holds her family together. Caught between her ageing, ailing mother Frances, and her struggling daughter Louise, frequent user of Nancy’s babysitting services, it seems Nancy’s fate is to quietly go on shouldering the burden of responsibility for all four generations. Her divorce four years ago put to rest to any thoughts of a partner to share her later years with. Now it looks like her family is all she has.

Then she meets Jim. Smoker, drinker, unsuccessful country singer and wearer of cowboy boots, he should be completely unsuited to the very together Nancy. And yet, there is a real spark.
But Nancy’s family don’t trust Jim one bit. They’re convinced he’ll break her heart, maybe run off with her money – he certainly distracts her from her family responsibilities.

Can she be brave enough to follow her heart? Or will she remain glued to her family’s side and walk away from one last chance for love?

Prologue

Nancy was in the kitchen preparing supper, listening to The Archers on the radio, drizzling olive oil over some summer vegetables for roasting, when her husband, Christopher, walked in and told her he was leaving. The July evening was breezy and cool, but the doors to the garden were open, the tortoiseshell cat from next door prowling around the tubs on the flagstone patio, rubbing his body luxuriously along the smooth earthenware sides of a pot of lavender.

Christopher stood across the room, the island worktop between them. He was dressed in jeans and his navy sweater, the high zip-neck brushing his chin, although the zip was partially undone. Thin, small and tidy, tanned from his endless walks in the Suffolk wetlands, his gray hair short, almost monk-like, he seemed determined, almost fierce, as he clutched his brown leather holdall in his left hand.

“Where are you going?” Nancy asked, holding up her oily hands, like a surgeon ready to operate, as she paused in her task of tossing the onions, zucchinis, peppers and baby tomatoes. “It’s nearly supper time.” She reached across to turn the radio off, using her elbow to press the green knob: Christopher hated The Archers.

“I’m going to see Tatjana.”

“Now? Why?”

Tatjana was the newest member of the Downland Singers, a small madrigal group Christopher had set up nearly thirty years ago. From Latvia, she had auditioned when Gillian Perry—Christopher’s protégée—had left because of her husband’s cancer. Christopher had been very enthusiastic about her, said she had an extraordinarily pure soprano voice. Which obviously—as Nancy was about to discover—was not her only asset.

Not answering her question, her husband said, “I won’t be back tonight.”

Nancy frowned, not getting it.

“I won’t be back,” he repeated.

“Won’t be back? Why not?”

“I’m staying with Tatjana, Nancy.”

And when Nancy, still baffled, continued to look blank, he added, by way of explanation, “We’re in love.”

She stared at him. From a man of sixty-nine, the words sounded made up, fatuous. Genuinely unable to take them in, she lowered her hands and reached for the kitchen roll, wiping the oil from each of her fingers one by one. “Well,” she said, “if that’s the case, you’d better get off, then.” Her gaze was fixed on his face and she saw his shock, almost bewilderment, at her reply; shock that must mirror her own.

“I’m sorry,” he said, looking away.

And she thought that he probably was, in his own way. Not a man to emote, nor someone who seemed to care much about anything in life except his music, Christopher de Freitas nonetheless considered himself to be a decent person. And a brilliant musician—although not all would agree. An Early Music specialist, he had studied classical guitar at the Royal College, then the lute. His madrigal singers were internationally famous among Early Music enthusiasts.

Nancy had met him when he came to the Royal Northern College of Music—where she was studying piano—to give a lute master class. Not that she was interested in the instrument as such, but her fellow student, Oliver, was, and she was interested in Oliver. But he was quickly forgotten as Nancy became mesmerized by Christopher’s penetratingly blue eyes—which lighted frequently on her as if he had singled her out for special attention—his mastery of the instrument, his fluent exposition of Renaissance music and madrigal forms. By the end of the two hours, she was hypnotized. Afterward she had gone up to thank him.

He had given her his card. “If you’re ever in London, look me up. I have a concert at the Cadogan Hall in June. I can get you tickets, if you like?” It was posed as a question, although she felt he assumed she would “like.” His confidence was absolute.

“You could have told me earlier,” she said now, as if she were speaking from outside her body, looking down on the middle-aged pair in their tidy, middle-class kitchen. No shouting, no drama, all perfectly polite, as she added, “I wouldn’t have bothered with supper.” Her body was screwed so tight, she seemed capable only of such inanities as she waited for him to go.

“Right . . .” her husband muttered, still hovering, as if he were reluctant to leave, whereas the exact opposite must be the case, Nancy thought. He must be desperate to get this scene over with, to escape his intolerable guilt. Desperate to lie with relief against Tatjana’s ample bosom.

That was the last word spoken in their thirty-four-year marriage.

Better than a note on the kitchen table? Nancy wondered, after three-quarters of a bottle of Rioja on an empty stomach, gazing at the vegetables still sitting forlornly on the work-top—like her, rejected, deemed not fit for purpose. Numb with shock, she didn’t cry. And after the whole bottle of wine and a couple of large shots of Christopher’s Glenfiddich, she realized through the drunken haze that she’d known for some time, like a painful bruise she couldn’t touch, what was going on between her husband and Tatjana Liepa.

Chapter One

Four years later

What the hell are you supposed to wear for a line-dancing evening in a Brighton pub? Nancy asked herself, as she flicked through the rail of clothes in her cupboard, vainly searching for an outfit for her friend Lindy’s sixtieth. Lindy had not been helpful.

“Oh, doesn’t matter, wear jeans and boots or something,” she’d said airily. But Nancy’s jeans were M & S jeggings—not even distant cousins to authentic Levi’s—her black boots better suited to a day’s work in a building society office than stomping the boards to a Dolly Parton song.

All the clothes that used to fill her wardrobe when she was still Mrs. Christopher de Freitas—sleek dresses and velvet jackets, black evening trousers, silk tops and beaded handbags—were long gone to the charity shop in Aldeburgh, and she didn’t miss them one bit.

I’ll look like someone who’s wandered in from one of Mother’s bridge evenings, she thought, ripping off a frumpy light-blue cotton shirt she’d tried on because it was sort of denim-colored. In fact, I dress more like my mother with every passing day. Which thought had her slamming her wardrobe shut and running downstairs, out of her cottage, across the gravel to the bigger house.

“Hiya.” Ross, her son-in-law, grinned as Nancy came into the kitchen, a curved, two-handled blade poised in his hands, the chopping board in front of him covered with a mound of bright green herbs. Beside him was a bowl of uncooked gray prawns, another of broccoli stems, a smaller one with chopped garlic, a bottle of soy sauce and a shiny red chili. Nancy smiled back, wondering if she ever saw him when he wasn’t attached to a knife and surrounded by ingredients. He had his own restaurant, the Lime Kiln, three miles away, and even when he wasn’t there—like today, Sunday—he still did nothing but cook every moment he was awake.

“How’s it going?” he asked, turning to skim the sharp metal blade back and forth at high speed across the herbs. Overweight, broad-shouldered and around six feet in height, he had shaved the last vestiges of his hair, leaving a gleaming dome, which seemed to heighten the beauty of his huge brown dark-lashed eyes, the fullness of his mouth and his strong, jutting chin. Pale from too much time indoors, if he wasn’t handsome he was charismatic, with a loud voice and a ready smile. Nancy liked him a lot.

“Not well,” she said, shifting Bob, the cat—female, but her granddaughters had insisted on the name—and flinging herself down on the faded green sofa, strewn with a bright and diverse set of cushions. “Is Louise upstairs? I need to find an outfit . . . I’m going line dancing.”

Ross’s eyes widened and he guffawed. “Line dancing? You’re kidding me. Wouldn’t have thought that was your thing, Nancy.”

“It isn’t, but it’s Lindy’s sixtieth birthday party. What can I do?” In fact it wasn’t the dancing that bothered Nancy—she loved dancing on the rare occasions when she got the chance. It was the party itself, any party, that wasn’t Nancy’s “thing.” Unlike her ex-husband, who seemed able to enter a room full of complete strangers and instantly bond with them, Nancy found socializing like pulling teeth, the low-grade panic never quite going away. And she’d barely been out in the years since the split. At first after Christopher’s defection she’d retreated, shut the doors of their white-painted Suffolk farmhouse on her friends and made endless excuses, which became increasingly implausible, to avoid their company, until they’d given up trying. Then, when she’d moved to the cottage just north of Brighton, three years ago now, teaming up with Louise and Ross, she had known no one with whom to party.

Before Ross had time to answer her, there was a shriek from the TV room. Hope, nine, and Jazzy, six, came barreling into the kitchen with shrieks of “Nana, Nana!” and threw themselves into her arms.

Clutching a large glass of Pinot, pressed upon her by Ross, some salted almonds inside her, Nancy plunked herself down on her daughter and son-in-law’s bed. Hope was already eagerly rummaging in her mother’s drawers and cupboards.

“Look, Nana,” she exclaimed, her large brown eyes—inherited from her father—alive with the drama as she reached on tiptoe and yanked down a shimmery gold knitted bolero jacket that would have been better suited, in Nancy’s opinion, to one of Hope’s Barbies than either her or Louise. “This is perfect for a party.”

“Umm . . . Maybe a bit . . . shiny?”

Louise chuckled at her mother’s expression. “Impulse buy,” she said, tossing a fringed leather jacket in butter-colored suede at her. “Perfect, no?” She turned to rummage along the rail again. “I’ve got some denim dungarees here somewhere . . . but maybe that’s a bit more farmhand than cowboy.”

Jazzy pulled her thumb out of her mouth. “Nana can’t wear dungarees to a party,” she said, her tone shocked. She was sitting beside her on the bed, watching operations carefully with her round blue eyes.

“What about these?” Louise, nodding agreement, brandished a pair of jeans. “These are better. They should fit and they’re real Levi’s.”

Her daughter took after Christopher in appearance: small-boned, slim, with well-defined, almost sharp features. She was shorter than her mother by about two inches, very like her father, with his deep-blue eyes. Only Nancy’s thick, previously dark-brown hair seemed to have survived the genetic inheritance, and Louise didn’t make the most of it, pulling it back in a short, severe ponytail. But she had a sort of gamine quality that Nancy knew men found attractive, and a charming smile that instantly softened her darting, nervy expression.

“Go on, try them on,” Louise was urging.

“Now? Maybe I’ll take them home . . .” Nancy was embarrassed in front of the girls, who were gazing disapprovingly at their mother’s choice of garments.

“No, come on. I want to see what you look like. Shoo, girls, let Nana change. I’ll call you when she’s ready.”

Once the girls had gone—she could hear them giggling outside the door—Nancy undressed to her T-shirt and knickers and pulled on the jeans and jacket. The jeans were a bit short and a bit tight around her post-menopausal midriff, but the jacket fitted perfectly. She eyed herself in the long mirror on the bedroom wall, Bob rubbing against her legs as she stood there.

“See? You look brilliant.” Her daughter grinned at her from the other side of the bed. “Very C and W.”

“C and W?”

“Country and western, Mum. Get with the program!”

“Ha! Of course.” She twisted sideways in the mirror, twitching her fringe on her forehead, her pure silver-white hair falling in a thick bob to just past her chin, accentuating her strong cheekbones and wide gray eyes. For a second she had a tantalizing glimpse of her younger self as she twirled in her daughter’s clothes. “I had a panic earlier that I was beginning to dress like Mum.”

Louise laughed. “Could be worse. Granny always looks incredible.”

“Yes, but she’s eighty-four! I have the exact same M & S jeggings as she does.”

“You and half the country.”

Nancy sighed. “I think I panicked because the other day she pointed out that I’m the same age as she was when Daddy died. And I thought she seemed so old at the time.”

“You’re not old, Mum. Sixty is the new forty,” Louise said briskly, shutting down Nancy’s worries as she always did. Her daughter spent a lot of time in a state of anxiety herself, and perhaps couldn’t cope with it in Nancy too. Nancy found it disconcerting sometimes, but perhaps it was better not to dwell on things she couldn’t change. It was just the creeping fear, new to her, that the rest of her life was already mapped out, that she would follow her mother’s example of safe, female company—notwithstanding Dennis, a septuagenarian fancy-man her mother’s friend had recently taken up with—filling the time left with bridge and Noël Coward, fancy cakes, cruises and Marks & Spencer, en route to the grave. Because although Frances had an enviable life for someone of her age, she seemed permanently discontented, disappointed at the way things had turned out.

“Found them!” Louise, who had been scrambling in the bottom of her cupboard, waved aloft a pair of ankle boots with small heels and pointed toes in light-brown suede, metal studs decorating the zip line. “These are almost cowboy.” She handed them to her mother. “They don’t quite match the jacket, but no one will notice that.”

“Will they fit?”

“Have a go. I’ve worn them a lot so they’re quite stretched.” She watched Nancy struggle into the boots. “Fantastic. Come in, girls, come and look at Nana.” She eyed her up and down. “You’re so classy, so elegant, Mum. You look good enough for any line-dancing party.”

New York • London

© 2016 by Hilary Boyd

First published in the United States by Quercus in 2017.


Praise for The Lavender House:

“Warm-hearted and with a beady eye, Boyd gets under the skin of her characters to show that falling in love isn’t limited to the young.”  — Sunday Express

“A warm-hearted story of families, trust and second-chance love.” — Sunday Mirror

“Hilary Boyd in her inimitable fashion has told the story yet again of mature love which, like an excellent vintage wine, is just waiting to burst out of its barrels.”— My Weekly    

“Boyd hits the bullseye with this story that will resonate with all women.”— For The Love of Books

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hilary Boyd trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, then as a marriage guidance counselor. After a degree in English Literature at London University in her thirties, she moved into health journalism, writing a Mind, Body, Spirit column for the Daily Express. She published six non-fiction books on health-related subjects before turning to fiction and writing a string of bestsellers, starting with Thursdays in the Park. Hilary is married to film director/producer Don Boyd.

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ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:

QUERCUS publishes under the imprints Quercus, MacLehose Press, Quercus Children’s Books, and Jo Fletcher Books. We publish a range of high-quality commercial, literary, and translated fiction, as well as nonfiction, science fiction, fantasy, horror, young adult, and juvenile titles. Quercus is a Hachette company.

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★NEW RELEASE & ARC REVIEW★ ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETLEY FINE BY GAIL HONEYMAN

Genres: Contemporary Fiction

Buy Links: Amazon UK |  Amazon US

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Genre: Contemporary Fiction | General Fiction

Release Date: 18th May 2016

A stunning debut about a girl who has learned how to survive – but not how to live.

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is fine. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except sometimes, everything.

No-one’s ever told Eleanor life should be better than fine. But with a simple act of kindness she’s about to realise exactly how much better than fine life can be.

Buy Links: Amazon UK |  Amazon US


5 STARS★

I’ve been taken by Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine from the moment I first came across it’s synopsis. It’s a novel that has captured my complete and utter attention from it’s first page to it’s very last, and I can honestly say, I will miss Eleanor sorely now it’s over.

When we’re first introduced to Eleanor, it would be a fair statement to make in saying her life is nothing short of mundane. In a world of isolation; regimented routine and structure are a comfort to her. She is a very unique individual and it quickly transpires her behaviours reach far beyond the realm of being labelled “quirks”

A day that begins like any other is interrupted by an incident that would become an coming of age story for our Eleanor. I became her protector and her champion, and felt everyone of her emotions alongside her. Peeling back the layers revealed an astute woman with a devilish sense of humour, who like all of us wants to find her place in the world.

Gail Honeyman’s story telling and characterisation are at the very least sublime. Her ability to convey Eleanor and her experiences were at times simply breath taking. She quite literally brings to life the character of Eleanor Oliphant and I’m filled with absolute elation to have been lucky enough to have met her.


About the Author:

While Gail Honeyman was writing her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress. It has subsequently sold to almost thirty territories worldwide, and it was chosen as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the Year for 2017.

Gail was also awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award in 2014, and has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. She lives in Glasgow.

 

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