Don’t Be A Mug.

This is going on my blog so I have a public record of the interaction with this utter clown, who has once or twice come around to pull a few weeds (at an exorbitant sum, I might add, for the amount of work done.) RSI, and a degree of osteo-arthritis, have prevented me from doing this for myself recently.

This total weapon has occasionally contacted me to ask for money (for no reason) and to request an increase of the amount upon which we’d agreed. Since it was lockdown, I have done my best to accommodate, thinking perhaps I was doing a local bloke a favour. (Anyone who knows me knows how much I’ve struggled with money, so I understand desperation for essentials.) All I was doing, it turns out, is setting myself up as a mug. Transcript of chat follows, which proves that point quite nicely.

Lesson learned.

The ‘fun’ starts on May 9th, earlier comments are left, for context.

I’ve impressed myself by the length of time, and level of frustration, it took me to get sweary and sarky. Knowing myself as well as I do, I think I deserve public recognition for this!

Rowdy sent 28 March

Hi Terri hows your day going I was just wondering did you want the side done of garden for 15 pounds need get some money for electric sorry be pain could cut you little bit of grass out front aswell if helps

You sent 28 March

Sorry, but I can’t afford any more. And the landlord does the front grass regularly. Sorry I can’t help, but I’m struggling myself right now.

Rowdy sent 28 March

It’s okay could you possibly lend 2 pounds at all please Terri? If you could please can you transfer to bank would be really appreciated if you could thankyou

You sent 28 March

I‘m sorry, I struggled to find the extra fiver for you yesterday. Please don’t keep asking.

Rowdy sent 19 April

Hi would you like the garden done today can do the hedge aswell if needed and was you every looking at paint your fence at the back

You sent 19 April

No, thanks, I don’t get paid for a while. The fence belongs to next door, and the landlord does everything except the stony bit and the yard. I’ll give you a shout if / when I’m ready again, and see if you’re free, but cheers for getting in touch anyway.

25 Apr 2021, 11:58

Rowdy sent 25 April

Hi terri would you like the garden done de weeding

You sent 25 April

Not yet, thanks

Rowdy sent 25 April

Okay

9 May 2021, 17:39

Rowdy sent 9 May

Hi there terri I’m around this week would you like the back and side de weeded

You sent 9 May

Yes please. Will you do it for 30? It’s not too bad at the minute.

Rowdy sent 9 May

Yes no problem I can do it today if that’s okay as I’m really struggling for money or could you do what you done last time please transfer the money to my partners account and I will be there first thing in morning after school run please would be so much appreciated

Rowdy sent 9 May

You know I will turn up for the job aswell only live on montacute myself so not far terri could i send you the bank details to transfer the 30 pound if possible

You sent 9 May

Either way is fine by me, I’m working from home next week anyway. Send over the details and I’ll transfer it tonight either way.

Rowdy sent 9 May

Miss — sort code —- acc ——- thankyou ever so much really appreciate it could you do £40 please and I will do a spot on job and get a bottle of weed killer to go over afterwards aswell if that’s fine by you , can you let me know when you yhave done it please terri thanks once again

You sent 9 May

OK, it’s done. 40. You will need to bring a brush, as I don’t have one up to the job

Rowdy sent 9 May

Yeah I remember haha il bring a brush thankyou terri have to transferred the money yeah ?

You sent 9 May

Yes, as I said above.

Rowdy sent 9 May

Okay thankyou

10 May 2021, 09:27

You sent 10 May

Hi. Could you let me know what time you’ll be over, please?

Rowdy sent 10 May

Hi terri I will be over some time around 2pm if that’s okay with you was there anything else you needed doing at all

You sent 10 May

No, thanks. But you did say first thing after the school run

Rowdy sent 10 May

I know sorry had something come up ,

10 May 2021, 15:08

You sent 10 May

are you still coming today?

Rowdy sent 10 May

I’m just doing the school run then il be with you maybe in the morning but will be there to do the job 100 percent

You sent 10 May

Tomorrow’s not convenient I’m afraid. Can you do it today, since I’ve paid already?

Rowdy sent 10 May

I had something cone up this morning so I’ve been busy most the day I’m sorry for the inconvenience I will try get to you this evening

You sent 10 May

ok, thanks

10 May 2021, 21:32

You sent 10 May

How early tomorrow can you come over? I rearranged plans twice today, and it has to be first thing tomorrow as I can’t rearrange again.

10 May 2021, 22:48

Rowdy sent 10 May

Will be around 10am

11 May 2021, 10:38

You sent 11 May

I have plans, as I said, so please have the courtesy to let me know what’s going on? I told you today wasn’t convenient, and that it had to be early today. I feel you’re taking me for a mug because I was good enough to pay you up front. Please confirm you’re not going to mess me about any further.

11 May 2021, 11:03

You sent 11 May

My plans do not involve going out, but I will not be able to answer the door to you.

Rowdy sent 11 May

That’s fine I can just get on with the work

You sent 11 May

When will it be?

Rowdy sent 11 May

I’m not going to mess you around terri I’m just trying to sort few things out I van come and do the work without interrupting you no problem will be in a hour or so will co e to do the job

You sent 11 May

Okay. If it’s going to be any later though, could you let me know this time? It’s only polite.

Rowdy sent 11 May

Yes course I can

You sent 11 May

11 May 2021, 20:31

You sent 11 May

Been waiting all day for an update as promised. You said you wouldn’t mess me about but that’s exactly what you’re doing. Pretty shoddy behaviour, to be honest. It only takes a few seconds to send a DM.

Rowdy sent 11 May

So sorry had alot going on my daughter ain’t well been up hospital I will get to you I promise

You sent 11 May

Sorry to hear about your daughter. You can understand my frustration I hope, when I hear nothing and have no idea whether I’ve thrown away money I can’t afford.

13 May 2021, 08:50

You sent 13 May

Hi. I hope your daughter is okay. I’ve waited, out of respect and courtesy, but now I feel I should ask for a refund if you can’t give even keep me updated with a day and time when I can expect the work to be done. So could you do that please, at least?

13 May 2021, 14:35

Rowdy sent 13 May

I will be you on the weekend due to weather being horrible I will get the job done I’m sorry for letting you down

You sent 13 May

It’s okay, all I wanted was some communication. The weekend will be fine thanks.

Rowdy sent 13 May

No problem see you then

18 May 2021, 12:40

Rowdy sent 18 May at 12:40

Soon as weather clears will be down to do the garden for sorry for the inconvenience

You sent 18 May at 12:46

OK. I appreciate it’s tough finding a dry half hour at the moment! So unpredictable.

19 May 2021, 13:00

You sent 19 May at 13:00

apparently weather is going to be bad again from tomorrow. If you come over I won’t be able to answer the door to you as I’m working from home

19 May 2021, 16:12

Rowdy sent 19 May at 16:12

Yeah that’s no problem il will see you tomorrow or maybe Friday

You sent 19 May at 16:13

ok, but you’ll probably have missed the decent weather window by the end of today.

Rowdy sent 19 May at 16:14

Ok

22 May 2021, 11:43

You sent 22 May at 11:43

Any chance of today, before it rains again?

Rowdy sent 22 May at 11:57

I’m working today can do it tomoz

You sent 22 May at 11:58

ok

26 May 2021, 11:19

You sent 26 May at 11:19

Weather is currently clear. When can I expect this work to be done?

27 May 2021, 09:22

You sent 27 May at 09:22

Another good day – I really this to be done now, so if you can’t do it I’m going to have to start asking for a return of my money so I can get someone else to do it. The longer it’s left, the more of a job it’s becoming with all this rain and sun.

Rowdy sent 27 May at 09:32

Il be round later today day off work so can get round to do it

You sent 27 May at 09:32

Thank you. I’m working from home, so won’t be able to come to the door, as before.

27 May 2021, 15:51

Rowdy sent 27 May at 15:51

It’s okay no worries

27 May 2021, 18:34

You sent 27 May at 18:34

What time will you be over?

Rowdy sent 27 May at 18:36

Hour maybe morning 9am

28 May 2021, 09:50

You sent 28 May at 09:50

?

28 May 2021, 11:09

You sent 28 May at 11:09

I don’t want this dragging into another weekend – it’s nearly 3 weeks since I paid you. I’m not well off, I can’t afford to throw my money away.

28 May 2021, 11:36

Rowdy sent 28 May at 11:36

I will be round to do it monday if not will give you the 40 pound back I’m tied up working at the moment been called into work on my day off

31 May 2021, 09:24

You sent 31 May at 09:24

Good morning. Will you be around today, or will you transfer the money back into my account? (or put it through my door, I’m not bothered which.) It will be light until around 10 (again) and it’s an hour’s work at most, so I hope you can fit it in.

31 May 2021, 12:43

Rowdy sent 31 May at 12:43

31 May 2021, 16:12

You sent 31 May at 16:12

That doesn’t tell me what your intention is, and you put it 3 1/2 hours ago – please let me know.

31 May 2021, 21:02

You sent 31 May at 21:02

OK. I’ll expect a refund then. Contact me tomorrow, to let me know how my money will be paid back by weds latest. Perhaps you haven’t seen my messages today? No problem, I’ll post to you in public on the Honicknowle page, just in case.

1 Jun 2021, 20:13

You sent 1 June at 20:13

I’m still waiting. I’d like the money back tomorrow please, I have this whole conversation thread ready to share in case anyone thinks I’m being unreasonable. I have been patience itself, and you have taken me for a soft touch and a fool. I do not appreciate that, but at least you’ve taught me a valuable lesson in trust, and human nature.

1 Jun 2021, 20:45

Rowdy sent 1 June at 20:45

I’m sorry I dont have time to reply straight away to your messages but it’s called working and hhavent got time when in a kitchen working I will refund you the money tomorrow not a problem ..

You sent 1 June at 20:49

I understand working, I have 3 jobs. You were always quick enough to respond if you needed money, or wanted to increase the agreed payment, and I have given you at least a day before chasing.

Rowdy sent 1 June at 20:49

Yeah it’s fine will message when on way

You sent 1 June at 20:51

Thank you.

2 Jun 2021, 19:01

You sent 2 June at 19:01

In case you find it easier: acct no: —– sort code: —–. T. Nixon I’m at work all week.

4 Jun 2021, 12:28

You sent 4 June at 12:28

Again, out of courtesy I have left it a couple of days – but until I get the refund from you I can’t afford to ask anyone else to do this work. I don’t know if you think I’m made of money, but I’m struggling as much as anyone. So I’m going to ask again, please refund the money by the end of today, or do the job today for which I paid you almost a month ago. Many thanks.

5 Jun 2021, 13:18

You sent 5 June at 13:18

I’m going public with this if I don’t hear from you by the end of today – you seem to think that because I was good enough to pay you in advance, I must be rolling in it. If you’d prefer to do the work, just come and do it, no hard feelings. But if you keep messing me about I’m going to have to think very hard about what to do next.

Rowdy sent 5 June at 13:20

Yes that’s understandable I have tuesday off next I cant do much when I’m working early hours till late in evening I’m a chef so long hours I will be there tuesday without fail nd if I dont public it the convo I dont mind I didnt mean for this ti happen I’m sorry for the inconvenience tuesday 100 percent okay

You sent 5 June at 13:27

I don’t want to wreck any chance of work you might want with someone else, which is why I haven’t gone public already. I’m just getting so frustrated and upset with it all. It’s a mess there now, and my landlord is giving me grief over it. Tuesday will be okay, but PLEASE don’t let me down again. Weather looks good that day.

Tues 11:35

You sent 8 June at 11:35

What time today, please?

Tues 12:53

Rowdy sent 8 June at 12:53

4 maybe 5

You sent 8 June at 12:54

ok, cheers

Tues 19:18

You sent 8 June at 19:18

Wow. Give you an inch, you really take a mile and keep running, don’t you? You must be laughing your socks off at how pathetic I am to keep giving you chances. You’d be surprised how wrong you arre though. If you aren’t here in an hour I’d better see that money in my account tomorrow morning.

Tues 19:51

Rowdy sent 8 June at 19:51

The money will be in your account tomorrow I’ve had stuff to deal with and havent had time to reply sorry il forget the job and just pay you back as cant do right

You sent 8 June at 20:04

Fine

Tues 21:53

You sent 8 June at 21:53

Just remember YOU came to ME for this work, and begged me to pay you up front. I’m fucking livid. If you’d been truthful from the start I could have paid someone reliable, but a month of you pissing me about has turned the place into a right mess.I’ll be checking my account first thing.

Wed 11:17

You sent 9 June at 11:17

Just checked my account. Imagine my surprise… 🙄

Rowdy sent 9 June at 11:18

Send me details will do it soon as I’m home

You sent 9 June at 11:18

They’re further up the chat

You sent 9 June at 11:19

In case you find it easier: acct no: —- sort code:—— T. Nixon

Rowdy sent 9 June at 11:19

Okay think I delete the message

You sent 9 June at 11:19

ok

Rowdy sent 9 June at 11:19

Thurs 10:40

You sent 10 June at 10:40

Still waiting. Please pay, so we can forget each other exists.

Thurs 12:46

Rowdy sent 10 June at 12:46

Yes we will I get paid tomorrow so no problem

Fri 18:17

You sent Yesterday at 18:17

Waiting… and broke

08:47

You sent Today at 08:47

Still waiting. I’m just going to keep bugging you until you either pay up, or I take this to small claims (and get you to pay the costs for that, too) I know you’ve seen my previous message.

14:27

You sent Today at 14:27

If this is pissing you off, you know what to do.

14:51

Rowdy sent Today at 14:51

Yes pay you when I have a day off as havent got online banking and dont get home till 1pm every night

You sent Today at 14:52

Give me a day and time then, and I’ll stop bugging you.

Rowdy sent Today at 14:56

Friday 2pn

You sent Today at 15:00

Fuck’s sake. Another week? I should be charging you interest on this. Right, if I don’t get it by then I’m taking this further.

As it was paid into your girlfriend’s account, why not repay it the same way? Meantime this is going on my blog so I have a public record of it for when it goes to court.

12 Jun 2021, 16:01

You sent 12 June at 16:01

15 Jun 2021, 07:45

You sent 15 June at 07:45

I’m going to try to recover the money from my bank, using this conversation as evidence you have not provided the service for which you’ve been paid.

Rowdy sent 15 June at 07:45

I know I said I’d stop bugging you, but…. something’s come up and I can’t do that after all.

I’ll stop bugging you tomorrow at 11 am. Promise. (?)

You sent 15 June at 07:45

You sent 15 June at 07:46

Or maybe Friday.

Wed 17:50

You sent 16 June at 17:50

Your mid-week reminder…

Rowdy sent 16 June at 17:52

Yes i know thankyou 40 friday

Fri 15:18

You sent 18 June at 15:18

It’s 3:20… still waiting.

Sat 06:56

You sent 19 June at 06:56

Waiting

Sat 11:07

You sent 19 June at 11:07

Waiting

Sat 11:53

You sent 19 June at 11:53

Waiting

Sat 18:41

You sent 19 June at 18:41

Waiting

Rowdy sent 19 June at 18:42

Be round to do the eork tomorrow or woukd you rather like the money

You sent 19 June at 18:52

The money!!! I messed up my shoulder doing it myself, as it was turning into a jungle and I couldn’t afford to get someone else to do it. I told you that!

Rowdy sent 19 June at 18:53

Okay no problem sorry

You sent 19 June at 18:54

Thank you

Sun 07:51

You sent 20 June at 07:51

Well?

Sun 08:19

You sent 20 June at 08:19

I posted the link to my blog on my profile — people are coming up with some interesting names for you! I expect Twitter will be even more fun. And then there’s Rogue Traders. I’m talking to the bank tomorrow, so you’ve got until 6pm today. Either through the door, or into my account – use your girlfriend’s account if you have to, since that’s the one I paid into.

Mon 08:22

You sent Yesterday at 08:22

Waiting

Mon 11:10

You sent Yesterday at 11:10

Waiting

Mon 16:02

You sent Yesterday at 16:02

Waiting

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Review: A Matter of Love and Death, Caron Albright

I’m delighted to be part of the BFOR Blog Blitz, and I have a beautiful book suggestion for you: A Matter of Love and Death, by Caron Albright. Set in Adelaide, Australia, in the 1930s, this is a cosy mystery with a similar tone to Anita Davison’s Flora Maguire series.

But first, a little about Books for Older Readers:

“The Books for Older Readers facebook group and website was established in October 2017 to promote books (mainly fiction) with older protagonists or themes such as ‘second chances’, which tend to appeal to readers in mid-life or beyond.”

You can find them on Facebook 

And on their website 

And now, without further ado…

 

A Matter of Love and Death, by Caron Albright.

Amazon blurb: 

An absorbing 1930s mystery that you won’t be able to put down

Adelaide, 1931. Telephone switchboard operator Frances’ life is difficult as sole provider for her mother and adopted uncle. But it’s thrown into turmoil when she overhears a suspicious conversation on the phone, planning a murder.

If a life is at risk, she should tell the police; but that would mean breaking her confidentiality clause and would cost her the job. And practical Frances, not prone to flights of fancy, soon begins to doubt the evidence of her own ears – it was a very bad line, after all…

She decides to put it behind her, a task helped by the arrival of their new lodger, Phil. Phil takes her to a nightclub, where she meets charming but slightly dangerous club owner Jack. Jack’s no angel – prohibition is in force, and what’s a nightclub without champagne? But he’s a good man, and when Frances’ earlier fears resurface she knows that he’s the person to confide in.

Frances and Jack’s hunt for the truth put them in grave danger, and soon enough Frances will learn that some things are a matter of love and death…

 

My review.

Right from the very start I was drawn into the atmosphere, and the time and setting, of this story. The town and its inhabitants are described beautifully, really making me feel part of the unfolding drama, and the author uses all the senses to keep her readers fully immersed.

Frances is a down-to-earth heroine, very forthright in her beliefs, and the way her life becomes entwined with that of some mysterious and puzzling characters is believable and well told. Her friendships are endearing and genuine; Pauline, in particular, fizzes her way through the story, the perfect foil for sensible, level-headed Frances. I’d like to find out if she had her own story, I think it would be an interesting one!

 Maggie, Frances’s mother, is caring and selfless, to the point of her own detriment, and Frances is hard pressed to keep her focused on their own family’s needs. Unlike many roles of this nature, she is not merely ‘the mother,’ she’s a brilliant character in her own right, reminding the reader that no-one appears in someone’s story fully-formed, they all have their own value, and their own history that has shaped them. Anyone of a similar age will connect with her instantly, and appreciate that Frances is the well-rounded individual she is because of the way she’s been taught.

It’s refreshing to live a story through the lives of a family not absolutely mired in debt, but still struggling, while taking great pride in their home; very identifiable for most of us, and told with honesty and a gentle humour. The mystery is secondary to the unfolding relationships, but it does keep you guessing, and the resolution is satisfying when it comes. The relationships themselves are portrayed with warmth, and the love the extended family and neighbourhood have for one another is clear; you get the impression they would go through anything together and remain strong.

Overall this was a lovely story, with engaging and sympathetic characters, and I very much enjoyed reading it.

 

Buy this book on Amazon UK

Prosecco and Promises. Guest Post – A.L. Michael

Welcome, welcome! Today I’m thrilled to be sharing this tantalising excerpt of A.L. Michael’s brand new book: Prosecco and Promises

Here’s the cover:

 

p and p

Doesn’t it look gorgeous? And now I’ll hand you over to the author herself, who will introduce the series and give you a sneak-peak at what you’ll find.

 

Prosecco and Promises is book two in The Martini Series. Book one, Cocktails and Dreams, was about Savvy’s journey towards living her life more fully. This book is about her best friend, Mia. Mia’s been given an impossible task – she’s been sent away at the end of her dad’s illness to get to know her Italian family.

I’ve loved writing Mia’s story – she’s fiesty and strong and brash, and everything I wish I had the strength to be. But she’s also vulnerable and needs a little support. The book is set on the island of Ischia, which is a little bit magic.

I really hope you enjoy the excerpt below!

 

 

Chapter One

 

‘Babe, I love that we’ve become friends since Savvy jetted off into the sunshine, but I do actually need to work,’ Jacques wiped the bar down, moving my elbow. My arm thunked down on the table, and I let my head rest. There had been four rum and cokes, maybe five. In very short succession.

‘Yeah, sure,’ I garbled, ‘You work. Aren’t bartenders meant to be here to listen to people’s problems?’

‘Nope, they’re meant to make people drinks.’

‘You did that part!’

Jacques raised a perfectly arched eyebrow, ‘Yes, and you’ve repaid me by being an incredibly irritating drunk.’

I pouted, fluttering my eyelashes. ‘Come on, my best friend abandoned me. You’re my only friend in the world.’

‘My sympathies,’ he snorted, ‘give me half an hour and I’ll play agony aunt. But I’ll warn you, darling, it’s bad drag.’

The time passed slowly. I pushed my dark curls over my shoulder and stared down the bar. It was a quiet Tuesday. I’d ended up spending more time at The Martini Club after my best friend Savvy left to go to cookery school in Barcelona. She used to work at the club, and I hung out there partly because I missed her, and partly because I liked having somewhere secret and beautiful to go. A retreat in the centre of the city, where there was no light, you had no concept of time, and everyone was vibrant and alive.

Alive. Right.

A shape shifted to my right and a man slipped onto the bar stool next to me. I could have guessed what he’d looked like before I even turned my head. Carefully coiffed, suit and a smirk to match.

‘Can I buy you a drink?’ Smirky face smirked, so sure of himself.

I blinked to focus on him, ‘Mate, I’m resting my head on the bar. Do I look like I need another drink?’

‘Well, uh-’

‘Well, uh, unless you’re a prowler pervert who wants to get done for trying to coerce a drunk lady, I suggest you slither back in the hole you came from.’

He blinked, then scowled.

‘Bitch.’

‘Darn tootin’,’ I wiggled my fingers at him, ‘Buh-bye.’

Jacques came over not long after.

‘Is that coffee? God bless you!’

‘You’ve got twenty minutes. Hit me with your problems.’

‘Tomorrow I am being put on a plane to an Italian island against my will.’

‘Oh,’ he rolled his eyes, ‘poor you.’

‘Ugh, I wish Savvy was here, she’d understand.’

My best friend was the only person who was there when my dad got sick the first time. She was the one who held my hand when I cried over chemo treatments and sat drinking with me when I didn’t want to sleep incase there was bad news. She was the only one who didn’t lose touch with me when I stopped going out, stopped answering texts, when the world seemed too hard to be anything but the daughter of a man who was dying.

But he got better. He married Marjorie, his girlfriend who was a mere 7 years older than me, which drove me crazy, but he was alive and he was allowed to do anything he wanted as long as he stayed alive. And now…

‘Okay, glibness aside,’ Jacques sat down next to me and placed a hand on mine, his kohl rimmed eyes soft and serious, ‘why are you being sent to Italy against your will?’

I took a breath, ‘My father’s dying wish.’

Jacques looked astounded, and in the few months I’d known him, I’d never seen him speechless. He squeezed my hand. ‘When…did your dad pass away?’

‘He hasn’t…’ I pressed my lips together to try and ignore the irritation that crept up every time I thought about it, the desire not to say the word yet. ‘He doesn’t want me to be here at the end, whilst he declines. We went through it before, and this time…he says it’s a gift. His wish for me. And I need to do what he says, but I am so mad that I could explode.’

‘Do you have to do what he says? Couldn’t you stay anyway?’

‘Ignore the dying man? So that I forever live to regret denying him the final thing he wanted?’ I snorted, ‘Sure, a life of regret along with being an orphan. Awesome.’

I knew this wasn’t fair on Jacques. We weren’t those kind of friends yet. I had hoped we might be. His sassiness complemented mine well, and I’d enjoyed bitching with him about my work at the makeup counter. He was also a keen historian, outside the bar, away from the eyeliner and stage presence. He was secretly a cardigan-wearing dork, and we’d wandered around a few museums whilst I joyfully geeked out, using the long dusty knowledge from my barely used archaeology degree.

That was another point Dad had made. I had come back home in the middle of my first dig after graduating, when he got sick, and I’d never tried again. I worked at the makeup counter in the local department store, staying nearby, moving home so I could be there if anything happened. And now, it was happening, and I wasn’t going to be there.

‘I guess you’re faced with an impossible choice – do what he says, and be mad at him, or ignore his wishes and let him be mad at you.’

‘You think I could let my dad die mad at me?’ I suddenly realised that of course, Jacques didn’t even really know what type of person I was, what family meant. That my dad had been the only person I’d ever had, the only person who’d been there no matter what, and yet, I didn’t really even know him. I knew he liked two sugars in his coffee, and he watched TED talks religiously. I knew he pretended to hate how everyone talked about his much younger wife, but in secret preened and swanned about, joyous at the incredulity of his good fortune. His friends would ask him how the hell he got a girl like Marjorie, and he’d say, ‘Get cancer, does wonders for your love life.’

And before that, before the sickness, he was the kind of dad who would encourage me to climb trees and make mess. One day, not long after Mum died, he presented me with the empty, white wall of our living room and told me we were going to put the colour back in the world. We painted that entire wall with leafy-green handprints, a jungle of fingertips and lined palms. It’s still there, that wall, our fortunes told a hundred times in repeat.

Who was going to help me put the colour back when he was gone?

‘I think you’re the kind of person I’ve known for months, who never once mentioned her dad was sick. You’ve got a control I didn’t think you were capable of.’

I snorted at that, ‘That’s my charm. I seem impulsive and fun, but in fact it’s very tightly reigned in and controlled chaos.’

‘So what are you going to do?’ He left his hand over mine, and I started to feel sweaty and irritable.

‘I’m going to drink my coffee, buy a kebab on the way home, and finish packing my case. And then tomorrow, with the world’s worst hangover, I’m going to kiss my father goodbye, and get on that plane.’

No matter how hard it was.

Buy Prosecco and Promises here.

About the author:

A.L. Michael is hurtling towards the end of her twenties a little too quickly. She is the author of 10 novels. Her most recent collection of books, The Martini Club Series, started with Cocktails and Dreams, to be followed by Prosecco and Promises, and Martinis and Memories.

She likes to write about difficult women. Well, they say to write what you know.
Chosen headshotAndi works as a content writer, as well as a therapeutic facilitator. She has a bunch of degrees in stuff to do with writing, and wrote her MSc dissertation on the power of creative writing in eating disorder recovery. She truly believes stories can change your life.

She is represented by Madeleine Milburn Agency, and you’ll be seeing a lot more from her in 2018.

Website
Twitter: @almichael_
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Visit AL Michael’s Amazon Author Page.

 

A Tooth For A Tooth

Hello, and thanks for joining me! Today I’m offering this little bit of festive silliness, written as part of a writing forum challenge about a million years ago, and the ideal length to read over a quick tea break. The challenge was to take a well-known fictional (?) character, and drop them into a Christmas setting. Enjoy!

A Tooth for a Tooth

A festive short story

by Terri Nixon

 

 

It had been doomed to failure from the start. I knew it, we all knew it, but would they listen? Then, when it all kicked off, guess which mug was called in to sort out the mess. Which was how I found myself, on Christmas Eve, hanging on by my fingertips for dear life , with sweat trickling into my eyes and the hands on the church clock across the road marching mercilessly towards the twelve.  I let out a groan; I wanted it to be exasperation and it was… partly. But the bigger part was pure scaredy-cat whimper.

Where the hell was she?
To take my mind off the enormous lump of nothing beneath my swinging feet, I allowed my mind to scamper back over the path that had led me here. I must have been mad to take the job on to start with, but I’d been desperate – why else would I have been stupid enough to sign up as corporate troubleshooter to a bunch of shiny-faced over-achievers like The Directors?  They threw buzzwords around like confetti and made all the proper, concerned noises about their Investment In People, but I’d lost count of the times they’d driven out the best qualified person and replaced them with one of their own inside contractors.
This case was a prime example: Tania Featherfly – even her initials suited the job – had been the best tooth fairy in the business, but, like so many other small franchises she’d had to increase her prices to maintain those high standards. I remembered the board meeting and hearing the words: ‘Economic Downturn,’ and ‘Credit Crunch’ bandied about, but all it really boiled down to was: “My Lot Are Cheaper, You’re Fired.” And bingo – tooth fairying was farmed out to a pool of corporate suits with as much sense of tradition as a brick.
Tania had, quite rightly, been somewhat annoyed at being laid off so close to Christmas – from Hallowe’en onwards, a lucrative time for the collection of enamel– so she’d decided to do something about it. But did she go to the administrators and offer to work at lower cost? No. Not her style. She thought it would be far more entertaining to follow the new contractor on his rounds, and start removing perfectly healthy teeth while they were still in the mouth.

And there was certainly no money being left in return for these filched fangs.

That was when I got the call. Luckily, the only person to wake during one of Tania’s dubious ‘extractions’ had been the chairman of the board who’d fired her, and only then because she’d really gone to town on him; quite the revenge-seeker is our sweet little Tania.
I still remember him trying to talk through a mouth that had only one tooth left in it.  “Joe, it’s vital you get every single one of those teeth back where they belong, before midnight.”
I took a moment to decipher what he was saying, then asked, “Why midnight?”
“Come on, you know this is a special night.”

“Christmas Eve, sure. But what difference does that make?”
The chairman sighed. “Midnight GMT, Christmas Eve? Think about it.” With exaggerated patience, he quoted: “If there be mischief abroad in The Netherworld at that time, all magic will cease to have effect.”  When I didn’t answer, he growled, “The guy in the red suit?”
“Ah.”
“Yes, ‘Ah.’ The Human World will be thrown into turmoil, there will be no belief in anything anymore. And that means?”
“Err, no teeth left out for collection?”
“The penny drops. Now get onto it. And, Joe?”

“Yeah?”

“I hardly need remind you which teeth are top priority.”

 

So I’d collected a copy of the evening’s itinerary, and set out. First I had to find Tania and talk her into coming with me, which might be difficult. Not the finding her part, that was easy;  I just started at the end of list and worked backwards through the as-yet unvisited kids, all sleeping happily with sugar plums dancing on their heads … or whatever.
Eventually I ran into the new operative. I didn’t think there was any point telling him what was going on, he didn’t look the type to cope well under pressure, so I just nodded as he sidled past on the window sill. He gave me a nervous look, obviously aware of my position within the company.
I smiled. “Nothing to worry about, Brian, you’re doing a great job.” I kept smiling and nodding while he slipped off into the night, looking over his shoulder, suspicion still furrowing his brow.
I glanced at my list – how far behind was Tania? Was it worth trying to beat her to the previous house or should I just wait here til she arrived? I didn’t have to ponder long; she’d followed so closely on Brian’s heels it was a miracle he hadn’t seen her. Actually no, it wasn’t: Tania was good.
I stepped into her path as she alighted on the sill. “Hey, Tania. Thinking of pitching for the Santa franchise next year?”
She gave a helpless little squeal, then glared at me, dropping the pretence.“Oh, it’s you.”
“Nice to see you too. Look, you have to stop what you’re doing.” I tried to sound understanding, but Tania’s glare intensified, and she held up her pliers.
“Get out of my way, Joe, I’m busy.”
I dropped reasonable, and launched into pleading. “You have to help me put this right.”
“After what they did to me? They can kiss my fairy ass! Now move, I’ve got a lot to do tonight.”
“Look, it won’t work. You’ll just end up destroying us all!” I said, my voice rising in frustration . “Please, Tania, we’ll sort this and then go to the board together. Try to work something out.”

I gestured at room beyond the window. A red and green woollen stocking lay draped across the foot of the bed, and the boy’s face reflected that curious mixture of utter peace, yet enormous potential for mischief, that only a sleeping child can convey.
“Don’t mess it up for them,” I said, and I knew I’d succeeded in chipping through her layer of betrayed fury. She hadn’t become the best tooth fairy in history by accident; she genuinely liked her customers – under normal circumstances.
“We don’t have time,” she said, and I was relieved to note a touch of regret in her voice.
“We will if we work together. Come on, we’ll go back the way you came.”

And so, with Tania back on side, albeit accompanied by mutinous muttering, we’d started back along the path of destruction she had laid. In each room I prised open the child’s mouth, while Tania consulted her own list then selected the proper tooth from her gilt-embroidered bag.
Some of the kids were awkward little sods. They’d turned over onto their fronts, making it nigh on impossible to get a good grip on their jaw, and one or two opened sleepy eyes and blinked a few times while Tania and I stood dead still, so tense we could hear each other’s heartbeats.
In the fourth house we re-visited, I was holding open a little girl’s lips while Tania shoved the tooth back into the socket, when the girl spoke in her sleep; “Don’t want no coal …”
I gave a yell and jumped out of the way just as the girl’s hand flopped out of the covers to brush at her mouth. Her finger caught the back of my head and sent me tumbling onto the pillow, where I floundered in a mass of blonde curls.
“Well that’s one kid with a new wobbly tooth tomorrow,” Tania said. “I’m not going back up there to glue that one in place.”
“At least you can fly,” I grumbled.

We worked well together, in fact, and even managed to sort out the chairman’s revolting teeth and replace them in pretty good time. All purloined premolars were soon firmly back in their rightful mouths. When we got to the second-to-last house, I thought Tania looked a bit troubled.
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, come on, let’s get this one done.” She caught at my arm to lift me into the room, where the boy lay flat on his back, his mouth obligingly wide open. I grinned at Tania, celebrating our luck, but she still didn’t look pleased.
I chose not to say anything, and a glance at the bedside clock told me we’d better hurry to get the last house done in time. A sense of great achievement filled me; I’d done it again! Troubleshooter Extraordinaire saves the day! I might even get a pay rise out of this one.
We landed on the last window sill and I turned to Tania, rubbing my hands. “Come on then,” I said. “We’ve got a few minutes spare but let’s not take it down to the wire.”
“Joe, there’s a problem.”
“Problem?”
“There are no more teeth left in the bag.”
“What?” A cold feeling wormed its way through me and I could feel my grin dropping away like a shed skin. All my happy thoughts sank into my feet and started seeping out of my boots.
“I thought so at the last house, and now I’m sure; that was the last one.”
“But it can’t be!” I grabbed the bag – it was one of those bizarre ones that has endless depths when it’s full, but when it’s empty, it’s empty. “There’s nothing there,” I said dully, turning it inside out.
Tania bit her lip. “No, there isn’t.” Then her face lit up. “Oh! I know where it is!”

Relief banished my scowl, but only until she spoke again. “I threw it in the pond.”
“What?” I stared at her, incredulous. “Tania, you –”
“I was angry! This was the first house I’d done, and I just threw it away when I came out of the room. I saw it land in the pond.”
“And this helps us how?” I snarled.
“I can get it back. There are water nymphs in that pond.” And without another word she jumped into the air and was gone – leaving me stranded on the windowsill of a fourth floor room, the church clock slowly ticking towards the destruction of everything.
I sat down. There was little point in wearing a path in the wood by pacing up and down, and at least if I kept my back to the night I wouldn’t have to look at those mercilessly marching hands as midnight crept ever closer.
A sound made me look up hopefully. Tania back already? But it wasn’t her. Instead there was a rushing of air and I closed my eyes against the dust and bits of leaves that blew into my face. When I opened them again I was just in time to see the current Santa Claus franchise holder leaping back into his sleigh.That guy was fast! I was lost in admiration for a moment, but as the sleigh took off again the downdraught hit and, suddenly numb with fright, I found myself sliding towards the edge of the window sill.  There was enough breath left for me to yelp as my feet lost contact with the solid surface, and somehow I twisted and caught at the edge of the sill.

And that’s how you found me. Hanging on, blinking sweat out of my eyes and almost able to hear that church clock ticking away my last hope.
“Tania!” I yelled. “Hurry up!”  My hands were slipping, and my heart pounded harder than it ever had before – it occurred to me I could actually die here. I felt sick and my arms started trembling with the effort of holding on, my fingertips burning against the rough wood.
Finally, blessedly, I heard her land on the sill. “Got it!” she beamed, holding up the missing tooth. Then she gave me an impatient look. “Well, come on, we haven’t got all night.”

I managed a glower. It was quite a good one, considering my situation, and even as I put all the force of my fury into it I could appreciate the way it must have burned her. Or it would have, if she hadn’t turned her back and ducked into the bedroom. I took a deep breath and tried to imagine I was doing pull-ups at the gym. I never went to the gym.

My fingers were slipping again, and this time I had no hope that Tania would swoop in and grab me at the last second, because she was already gone. Another slip, maybe half an inch but felt more like a foot, and my fingertips were on fire now.

“Tania!” I gasped, close to blind panic now. “Hey!”

“Oh, for goodness sake,” she said, and swooped in to grab me at the last second.

I’d known she would.

Thinking it over, safe and warm in my bed on Christmas morning, I decided I’d been quite the action hero, and I allowed myself a smile of satisfaction. Tania would have some explaining to do, but we’d work something out – at least she’d helped put it right and I could relax again, knowing I’d saved the Netherworld from a terrible fate.
The phone rang. I picked up, still smiling.  “Merry Christmas!”
“Joe? We have a problem: we just had to fire Santa and he’s not happy …”

 

The End.

Merry Christmas!

 

© 2011 Terri Nixon. (updated 2016)

Unbroken – Personal.

Lately I’ve been struggling with some difficult memories. For the sake of my family I’ve tried to to keep a lid on them, but I’ve come to realise that the only way I’m going to find any kind of peace is to let them out. I hope, if any of those I love see this and feel this is wrong, that they’ll forgive me, and try to understand. None of them knew anything of it, until several years later, and for the most part they have supported me, and not pushed me away.

I will not publicise this blog, but neither will I hide it – I’ve been doing that for far too long. It might be best if I was more open, anyway, as it might explain some things about me and my personal choices.  **UPDATE** in the light of the #MeToo revelations, and the need to raise awareness of the scale of this issue, I am going back on this decision not to share the blog. I wrote it several weeks ago but it feels like it’s time now.

I have lost some family over this; I was in a strange and difficult place, and I said something that was the truth, though I regretted immediately and have apologised, but it was too late; one third of my family has withdrawn from me, and is set on punishing me for the rest of my life, but there’s nothing more I can do about it. Nothing more I want to. I’ve moved on. So here is something I wrote when I finally realised too much of my life has been sacrificed to the looming spectre of one person. I’ve  lifted the lid, and last night I slept really well; the only bad guys in my dreams were zombies, and I can deal with that.

 

Unbroken

Man of the people, everyone’s friend. I was about three when you came. You smiled, you waited. When I was nine, you struck.
But you did not break me.
You sculpted my youth to the shape of your twisted mentality.
You created a Hell for me in your secret hideaways. Those who loved me remained outside, oblivious.
You wielded your threats like serrated blades, carving your lies. I obeyed; I deserved it, you said so.
But you did not break me.

And as I grew, your darkness grew with me; your violence followed me; your hatred poisoned me.
You writhed your way into every part of my life: my play, my friends, even my job.
You were behind every door. Your cold brown eyes found me in my innocent laughter and froze it in my throat.
You said others would come, that you’d invited them, that I should be grateful; I lay wide awake and nauseous in the dark, waiting.
It did not break me.

You proudly showed me the weapon and ammunition you said were my fate; the place outside the workshop, beneath the wet fallen leaves, where you laughed and said you would bury me. Where no-one would look. More empty threats to plague my sleep, and taint my waking hours. I was a child, you controlled me, but you did not break me.
And when you finally left this Earth a better place for your passing, you reached out from your stinking grave and painted me the demon, the liar, the destroyer of illusions.

But I have fought and beaten stronger things than you.
You will not break me.

 

 

 

 

 

© Terri Nixon 2017

 

 

Blog Tour – A Knightsbridge Scandal, by Anita Davison: Excerpt

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Anita Davison’s latest Flora Maguire mystery: A Knightsbridge Scandal.  

 

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About the book:

1903 London is bustling and glamorous. With troubling secrets simmering, and worrying signs of war, Flora Maguire must solve a deadly mystery which leads right to the heart of the corridors of power.

Flora Maguire has escaped the country to enjoy some time in fashionable Knightsbridge, London. Extravagant shops, exuberant theatres and decadent restaurants mean 1903’s London is a thrilling adventure, but there are dark secrets threatening from the continent.

When the body of a London socialite, and leading light of the burgeoning women’s movement, is found outside The Grenadier public house, Flora can’t resist investigating. Mysterious letters are discovered in the victim’s belongings, strange links to the foreign office and why do the clues keep coming back to the assassination of a Baltic king?

As Flora closes in on the killer, it soon becomes clear she is no longer safe in London, but will her husband Bunny be able to get to her before it’s too late?

An excerpt from the novel: 

Flora alighted onto the platform into clouds of white smoke from the steam engine that hissed beneath the massive iron and glass canopy of Waterloo Station. Porters darted between travellers pushing squeaky-wheeled trolleys loaded with luggage towards the line of hansom cabs that waited beside the platform; the odours of hot horseflesh wet leather and manure mixed with the sweet fragrance of dried lavender from the flower seller’s stalls.

Flora handed her maid a portmanteau, then followed in the wake of the porter who had careened off with their luggage, her neck craned to keep him in sight. Disembarking passengers jostled on the platform as Flora carved her way through ladies in wide hats and harassed looking nurses holding dawdling children by the hand. The soot smuts on their faces reminded her of childhood train journeys spent with her head stuck out of the window, eyes narrowed against the wind as it tugged at her hair; something every child should do at least once.

Sally hurried along the platform beside her, the bag hefted on one hand and three hatboxes bouncing like balloons on their strings in the other.

Suitcases bumped Flora’s shins, their owners making no effort to move aside, reducing her progress to a series of shuffling steps and starts. Spotting a gap in the crowd, she dodged between two slow-moving matrons, only to collide with a man in a black homburg hurrying in the opposite direction. He barely paused to apologize, simply lifted his hat an inch before disappearing into the crowd.

Flora glared at the miscreant over her shoulder, muttering at his lack of manners as her turn arrived at the barrier.

The guard clipped their tickets with a machine hung around his neck, releasing them into the arched cathedral roof of the main hall. Coming to an uncertain halt as the crowd disbursed into the vast expanse of the station, she glanced up at the monochrome, four-sided clock that hung from the ceiling,

‘He said he would be here to meet us.’ She bit her lip as the first pangs of anxiety gnawed at her. ‘Our train arrived on time, so where is he?’

What if he had forgotten her? Would she be able to find his apartment unaided?

‘He must have been held up.’ Sally transferred the cumbersome bag to her other hand, flexing her fingers with a grimace. ‘Don’t fret, Miss Flora, I expect he’ll be here directly.’

‘I’m not fretting.’ Flora fidgeted, irritated at having been so transparent. ‘I’m merely surprised he isn’t here waiting for us.’ For the tenth time since leaving Richmond, she wondered if it had been wise to agree to this visit on her own; misgivings her husband had dismissed.

‘I would accompany you, my love, but I’ve a complicated legal case on at the moment. After all, William is hardly a stranger; you’ve known him all your life.’ His reasoning had not acknowledged her anxiety at all.

‘Perhaps.’ Though not as my father, a voice inside her head reminded her. The last time she had seen William, her behaviour had been less than cordial. When the truth of her parentage had come to light, she had laid the blame squarely on him, fairly or not. Circumstances had kept them apart since then, though his invitation to stay at his London apartment came as no surprise, but one Flora had thus far avoided. Now she would have to prepare herself to face him all over again.

‘Where’d that porter go?’ Sally dropped the portmanteau at Flora’s feet with a relieved grunt. ‘I’ll have something to say if he’s run off with our luggage.’

‘I very much doubt that. He has a job to do, and not everyone is disreputable.’

‘You weren’t dragged up in Flower and Dean Street,’ Sally muttered darkly. ‘Can’t trust no one down there.’

Flora pretended not to hear, immune to Sally’s tendency for drama and a belief that lurid stories of a childhood in Whitechapel gave her notoriety among those who had led more affluent lives; a judgement made on virtually everyone. Flora raised herself on tiptoe, her eyes narrowed in an effort to locate the porter’s face among the noise, smoke, and clamour of the busy station that had begun to make her head pound.

‘There it is!’ Sally pointed to where Flora’s elephant grey trunk with its military style fastenings sat on a trolley, their porter idling in conversation with the news seller, apparently confident of his fee.

Sally hurried towards him, her voice raised in protest as she heaved the bag she carried onto the trunk, piling the hatboxes on top. The largest tumbled off again and rolled across the concourse floor. With a theatrical groan and slump of her shoulders, she gave chase and after a tussle with an urchin boy who got there first, grudgingly parted with a coin before stomping back to the trolley and returned the box to the pile.

‘Mrs Harrington?’ An unfamiliar voice drew Flora’s attention from the comic sight of her annoyed maid to where a man stood a few feet away; a bowler hat held in both hands at waist level.

‘Yes, I’m Mrs Harrington.’ She gave the concourse a final, swift glance in a last effort to locate William, then turned to the young man. ‘May I help you?’

She judged him to be somewhere in his mid-twenties, and definitely someone she had never met before. Standing an inch or two taller than she, with a compact, but substantial build. Symmetrical features sat beneath arched brows with startling eyes so dark, the pupils looked the same colour as the irises.

‘And who might you be then?’ Sally stepped between Flora and the stranger, her chin lifted in challenge.

‘My name is Peter Gordon.’ He took in Sally’s belligerent expression with a wry smile of amusement. ‘I’m an associate of Mr William Osborne; he sent me to meet you.’

Flora had expected him to have an accent to go with his Mediterranean looks, but his diction was pure Home Counties.

‘Can yer prove it?’ Sally demanded.

‘Sally,’ Flora warned, sotto voce. ‘Although my maid does have a point, sir. I was not expecting to be met by a stranger.’ Despite her uneasiness, there was something compelling about him.


My review of A Knightsbridge Scandal can be found here.

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Anita’s earlier novels are set in 17th Century England, with a family saga set in Exeter during the Monmouth Rebellion and a biographical novel about Elizabeth Murray during the English Civil War in Surrey. Her fascination with the revival of cosy mysteries made her turn to the early 1900’s for inspiration where she found Flora Maguire lurking. The series of five novels was taken up for publication by Aria Fiction, a digital imprint of Head of Zeus Publishing.


LINKS:

Flora’s Secret is available here  and Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey is here. 

Anita’s Blog

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Review -A Knightsbridge Scandal by Anita Davison

a-knightsbridge-scandal
Having read and loved the first two titles in this series, I was naturally delighted to be asked to review the third Flora Maguire novel: A Knightsbridge Scandal.
Once again, the indomitable Flora launches herself into a world of intrigue and deceit, lies and danger… this time becoming embroiled in the conflicting worlds within the Women’s Suffrage movement, and the discovery of the body of one of its leading lights. Flora’s powers of deduction are at full stretch on this one; dark alleyways contrast with the glitz and glamour of high society, but danger lurks equally in both.  Clues are not always what they seem, and characters keep you guessing right to the end.
The descriptions in this book are fully as beautifully written as in the previous two; Ms Davison’s deft touch with a verbal paintbrush is evident in everything, from the weather to a fine china cup. Food leaps off the page and into your hands; the damp fug of the street leaves its smell in your hair; and the chilly air of a pre-Christmas London brushes your skin. You are absolutely in the moment.
 With the delightful, and often amusing, addition of her maid, Sally, Flora’s newest adventure becomes a sparkling and witty two-hander. The men lurk pleasantly enough in the background, offering sage advice and trying not to get in the way, while the women just straighten their shoulders  and get on with the job.
I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear of Mrs Harrington, nee Maguire, and I very much look forward to reading her next adventure!
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Review – Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey by Anita Davison

Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome Anita Davison. Anita is the author of the brilliant Flora Maguire Mysteries, published by Aria Fiction.

First, a little background, from Anita, to book one:

Flora’s Secret by Anita Davison (Book 1 in the Flora Maguire Series)

Flora Maguire is a twenty-two-year old governess to Edward, the son of Earl Trent. Raised by her father, Riordan Maguire, the head butler on the earl’s Gloucestershire estate, she is used to watching the lives of the aristocracy from the side-lines.

After a family wedding in New York, where Flora has been included as part of the family party, the earl and countess decide to extend their holiday, thus Flora is entrusted with the task of escorting Edward home to England to attend school. Conscious of her status as an upper servant among a complement of only first class passengers, she avoids the dining room on the first night and meets the charming Bunny Harrington on deck, who catches her peeking under the canvas at his new automobile.

The next morning, Flora finds the body of a man at the bottom of a companionway, a death pronounced accidental by the ship’s doctor. Flora’s doubts about what happened prompts her to have the man’s death acknowledges as deliberate, and to do that she has to find the killer.

She enlists the help of Bunny, who is at first sceptical, but after a burglary, a near drowning during a storm and a second murder – the hunt is now on in earnest for a killer as the Minneapolis approaches the English coast.

Book 2 in the series, Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey is out now, followed by Book 3, A Knightsbridge Scandal, due for publication in early in 2017, with two more stories scheduled for later in the year.

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About Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey:

Even the most glamorous stately houses hide secrets and lies from the past…

For fans of Downton Abbey, a thrilling and romantic mystery set in the glorious Cotswolds landscape.

Flora Maguire is now happily married to Bunny Harrington and living in Richmond when she receives an alarming telegram informing her of her father’s tragic death in a riding accident at Cleeve Abbey.

Heartbroken, she and Bunny return to her former home, where she was Governess to Eddy, Viscount Trent, and her father was Butler to Earl Trent.

Flora’s intention was to bury him next to Lily, her mother, who sadly passed away when Flora was a small child.

Mystery surrounds the final resting place of Lily. No-one is willing to talk and, with her father now dead in a suspicious accident, Flora must once again strive alone to uncover hidden family secrets.

My thoughts:

I remember writing a review for the first in this series, Flora’s Secret, and being bowled over by the captivating writing style, and the fresh voice of the main character, Flora Maguire. I clearly recall hoping we would meet Flora again at some point. I also remembered the unfolding story, and how it was so beautifully structured, and the great sense of everything being exactly as it should be, by the end.
What I hadn’t fully remembered, until I came to read Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey, was the author’s ability to describe everything – from the ornate beauty of a well-appointed room, to the glorious simplicity of a perfectly-fried egg – with the kind of immediacy that puts you in that room, (or poises your fork above the egg!) and makes you feel such an integral part of the story you forget where you actually are.
This second book in the series is no less evocative than the first in any of those respects; from the very outset – when we are with Flora on a sticky hot day, and feeling her slightly grumpy discomfort – right the way through until the end, we can see, taste and smell everything. And we can feel the gradually building tension as Flora investigates, and unravels the mystery behind a seemingly-accidental death on the hitherto-familiar estate where she spent her childhood.
This death, in contrast to the slightly detached fascination of the previous incident on the Minneapolis, hits much closer to home. Flora’s emotions are tugged in all directions as she learns family secrets that have been shared by people she has always trusted, and struggles to keep the clear head she needs if she is to see justice done.
As with the descriptions of physical sights, sounds, and other everyday occurrences, we are gently but skilfully drawn into the very heart of Flora’s fears and dilemmas. Again, the viewpoint is third person, but limited to Flora, so we discover things at the same time, react in much the same way, and rejoice in every small triumph.
The secondary characters in this book are as well-drawn as those in the first; the contrast between social classes is clearly marked, without resorting to stereotypes, and the kind of family dynamics that favour no class or situation, shine through the dialogue and little ‘asides.’

I very much look forward to the next outing with Flora… Although, feeling so much part of her world, I just hope I’m not the one she’s investigating next!

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Guest Post – Jennifer Wells

Welcome to another of my occasional guest posts, this time by the wonderful Jennifer Wells, who gives us an insight into the theme of motherhood in her new book, The Liar.

First, here’s the stunning cover. Beautiful!

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The Liar – A Story of Mothers and Daughters

‘A mother’s journey as she tries to find out what really happened to her daughter – a journey that unearths secrets from the past and ends in obsession.’

When I started to write The Liar, I imagined it as a simple mystery but, as the characters started to emerge, I found that another theme was developing – the relationship between mother and daughter.

The mother-daughter relationship is something that we all experience, even if what we are feeling is the absence of that bond.

The story actually features two mothers – Emma who idealises motherhood but has little experience of what it is really like, and Maud, who struggles with the reality of motherhood and would risk the love of her children just to make ends meet. Ruby, the little girl they appear to be fighting over, is torn between them. One of the women is her real mother – but which one?

As I was writing I started to think about, not only my own mother, but the relationship that I will develop with my infant daughter, and I started to question where my inspiration for the characters had come from.

So, am I Emma? In some ways, yes. I am fortunate enough never to have lost a child but, as a parent, I have a constant fear of losing my children and, when I think too deeply, I can feel Emma’s loss.

So, am I Maud? Well, like all mothers, I struggle day-to-day, work hard so that they can be fed and clothed and, as a consequence, neglect them at times.

But good mothers and perfect relationships do not inspire good stories and, as I work on my next novel, I find that new characters are emerging. They are very different from Maud, Emma and Ruby…but again, they are mother and daughter.

 

 

Buy The Liar at Amazon UK, here.