Isolation Junction

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?

Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiraling life she so desperately wants to change?

Pre-order Links:

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Isolation-Junction-Breaking-isolation-emotional-ebook/dp/B01LX4HLT0/

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Isolation-Junction-Breaking-isolation-emotional-ebook/dp/B01LX4HLT0/

This  new edition of Isolation Junction publishes on 22nd October, and Jennifer Gilmour would love to invite you to the online launch party on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/events/699087493784429/

Author Bio

Born in the North East, I am a young, married mum with three children. I assist in running a family business from my home-base and I have a large readership of other young mums in business for my blog posts.

From an early age I have had a passion for writing and have been gathering ideas and plot lines from my teenage years. A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, I have amalgamated and fictionalised other survivors experiences alongside my own to write my first novel detailing the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again. I hope that in reading my debut novel, I will raise awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships to seek help for themselves and find the confidence to change their lives.

My turn today to review this wonderful book.

 

BLURB: A quiet life for Aubrey?

After spending several months banged up in Sunny Banks rescue centre, Aubrey, a large tabby cat, has finally found his forever home with Molly and Jeremy Goodman, and life is looking good.

However, all that changes when a serial killer begins to target elderly victims in the neighbourhood.

Aubrey wasn’t particularly upset by the death of some of the previous victims, including Miss Jenkins whom Aubrey recalls as a vinegar-lipped bitch of an old woman who enjoyed throwing stones at cats, but Mr Telling was different.

Mr Telling was a mate…

 

My review

This is definitely a cosy with a difference. Actually, several differences. Not only do we have an unassuming feline sleuth, instead of the usual redoubtable female human, but this is a cosy with a definite hard edge to it. Through Aubrey and his investigations, with assistance from cats and humans alike, we are brought fact to face with some pretty tough social issues, such as poverty, discrimination, murder, naturally given the genre, illegal immigration and bullying. However, the author doesn’t get bogged down in them, merely brings them to our attention in a succinct and telling way as part of the story. Aubrey himself is a rescue cat and as such is himself a comment on people’s tendency to see animals as throwaway items. But at last it seems like he has found his forever home with Jeremy and Molly.

Mr Telling was his back-up plan, however, should things ever go pear-shaped with the Goodmans. Aubrey is nothing if not a realist who has no illusions about how cruel life can be. But he remains upbeat and wryly humorous, and always take the pragmatic view of things. Thus his decision to keep a possible home in reserve should the Goodmans change their minds about him. So when Mr Telling is the next in a series of murders, it’s time for him to stick his whiskered nose in with his characteristic cattitude. He’s quite a force to be reckoned with when he gets going. We just have to hope that curiosity won’t kill this cat!

The author has a lively, witty style that’s hugely entertaining. It’s an ambitious book, since writing for adults from the point of view of an animal isn’t an easy thing to do. Such a project could easily become twee or childish, but not here. Absolutely not. At times you almost forget Aubrey’s a cat as he’s portrayed with such conviction and detail. He quickly becomes our friend and we’re with him all the way as he attempts to get the bottom of this murderous skulduggery. His feline colleagues are a varied and fascinating bunch, all distinctly different with foibles, good and bad. We discover that there’s a lot more to life as a cat than me might imagine.

The human characters are superbly portrayed too, from the gentle Goodmans to the brash Maria. There are some interesting and, I suspect, heartfelt insights into the world of teaching which seems quite the quagmire at times!

I really enjoyed this original, clever story with its challenging depth and broad outlook. An excellent read and one I highly recommend.

 

Book info

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Crooked Cat Books
  • Language: English

 https://www.crookedcatbooks.com/product/street-cat-blues/

 

About the author:  Alison was born in London and spent her teenage years in Hertfordshire.

She has also lived in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

After studying Law she decided to teach rather than go into practice and for many years taught Criminal Law to adults and young people.

Since moving to the south coast, Alison has been involved in qualification and assessment development for major awarding bodies.

When not writing, she enjoys crosswords, walking by the sea and playing Scrabble on her iPad – which she always sets to beginner level because, hey, why take chances?

Alison lives with her husband John and cat Archie.

 

Twitter @alisonoleary81

 

 

 

 

 

An exciting cover reveal for you today at Books Are Cool!

About ‘Strand of Faith’

When the choice is between love and life, how can anyone decide?

A girl and a monk, both with extraordinary mental powers, have compelling reasons not to fall in love.  But those from whom they expect support are manipulating them both because their choices will have consequences for the rest of the world.

After a stormy youth, Brother Prospero has found comfort and fulfilment in the monastery.  That is, until he discovers something that forces him to reconsider his whole vocation.  To follow his heart, he’ll have to face his demons again, outside the security of the monastery. Is it worth the risk?  Can he beat them this time? Or will they finally destroy him?

Orphaned and mistreated, Leonie has found sanctuary and safety at the abbey.  All she wants is to learn how to manage her unusual abilities so that she is not a danger to those around her.  When she comes into contact with Prospero everything threatens to spiral out of her control.  Whether she leaves or whether she stays, how can she possibly avoid destroying – yet again – those she has come to care about?

Abbot Gabriel is faced with an impossible choice.  He can do nothing and watch the world descend into war.  Or he can manipulate events and ensure peace – at the cost of two lives that he is responsible for.  He knows what he has to do but is he strong enough to sacrifice those he loves?

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strand-Faith-Choices-Consequences-Book-ebook/dp/B07GKZT8LF

http://www.books2read.com/strandoffaith

 

And here’s the remarkable cover:

 

Author Bio

Rachel J Bonner is the author of the four book Choices and Consequences series, the first of which, ‘Strand of Faith’, is due out in November 2018.

Getting a degree in engineering, followed by a career in accountancy is probably not a conventional path to becoming an author, particularly in paranormal romance.  Rachel says that, although accountancy isn’t anything like as boring as everyone thinks, writing is a lot more fun.  When not writing, she can be found walking in the beautiful countryside near where she lives, which has influenced much of the scenery in her books, or shooting things with her local archery club.  Target shooting only, honest.  Nothing to worry about.

She also enjoys swimming, eating chocolate chip cookies and growing aromatic herbs, especially thyme and rosemary.  It’s no coincidence that her heroine likes the same things.

You can find out more about her books and sign up for Rachel’s newsletters at www.racheljbonner.co.uk.

https://twitter.com/RachelJBonner1

Cover Designer’s Social Media

www.oliverpengilley.co.uk

www.facebook.com/pengilleyart

@oliverpengilley  

www.patreon.com/oliverpengilley

www.etsy.com/uk/shop/oliverpengilley

 

An extract from ‘Deck the Halles’, which is coming very soon, promise! It’s the sequel to Fa-La-Llama-La. 

Noelle’s pre-Christmas preparations aren’t going as planned. She’s been called in at the last moment to find a venue for a national llama show, and has already had to deal with two family crises. And now here’s a third: 

I had just turned the heat under the pan right down to leave our meal keeping warm until Mum reappeared when the phone rang. I automatically turned to grab my phone off the table, where I usually left it. But of course, we’d tidied up in honour of Mum’s visit. The table was forlornly bare of everything except three empty mugs. Where had I put my phone? I couldn’t for the life of me remember. However, the ring tone was coming from somewhere close by, and sounding slightly muffled. Of course, I’d shoved it in my handbag, along with three notebooks (I’m a notebook junkie), several pens, two pegs, a clean sock and a packet of tissues as part of the cleaning process. I rummaged through these and the bag’s other contents and found the phone. I squinted at the number. It was a call from the UK, but from exactly which one of its residents I had no idea.

Only one way to find out.

“Hello?”

“Hi, sweetheart,” came Dad’s voice in reply.

I was so stunned at hearing his voice that I had to sit down. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d spoken to my father on the phone. Mum handled that side of things, and merely relayed messages to and from my other parent. I wasn’t even aware he had his own mobile.

Dad’s voice was faked breeziness.

“Sorry to bother you, dear, but I, er, can’t seem to find your mother.” Not ‘my wife’, note, but ‘your mother’. Like Mum he was good at unfairly apportioning blame. “You don’t happen to know where she might be, do you?”

You’d have thought we were talking about a mislaid pair of glasses.

I decided to torment him a bit. Well, he did deserve it.

“When did you last see her?” I asked.

“Hmm, I’m not entirely sure.” I began to feel lots more sympathy for Mum. “Either Thursday night or Friday morning. Before I left for a weekend with Pop.”

“One of your war re-enactment events?” I suggested, knowing darn well it was.

“Yes.” Dad’s tone suddenly became all enthusiasm. “It was really excellent. Pop and I loved it. We went—”

“But about Mum,” I interrupted firmly.

“Oh yes.” The eagerness left his voice. “Well, she wasn’t here when I got back. Only an unfinished note.”

“Unfinished?” That sounded odd, even for my annoyed mother.

“Yes. She’s just written ‘George, I’ve left you’.” That sounded fairly complete to me, but obviously my parent thought otherwise. “No accompanying ‘some dinner in the oven’ or ‘clean socks in the top drawer’ or ‘a shopping list pinned to the fridge’ like there usually is,” Dad continued his explanation. “I’m worried her memory’s going, Noelle. Looks like she wandered off halfway through writing this note. Do you think I should call the police?” Before I could answer, he did so himself. “I should, shouldn’t I. Yes, I’ll do it at once. I’ll call you back in a moment and—”

“Dad, don’t call the fuzz,” I told him sharply. “Mum’s fine. She’s here. With me.”

“What, in France?” Dad sounded shocked. “Whatever is she doing there? Did you invite her?” He sounded slightly peeved at being left out.

“No, she invited herself,” I informed him. Then I took a deep breath. “And… and that note isn’t unfinished.”

“What do you mean?”

Had Dad always been this slow on the uptake?

“I mean, she’s left you, as in… left.” Bother it, where was my usual command of language when I needed it?

“Left?” Dad echoed faintly and still puzzled.

My patience ran out and at last my brain flipped into gear. “Left as in deserted, absconded, gone away, exited, vamoosed, departed, run off. Also as in not coming back.”

“Not coming back?”

“Well, just to get her stuff at some point I expect,” I shrugged, “but not to stay.”

“Not to stay?”

There was a long pause.

“She’s left me?” Dad sounded pathetic. “But why?” Now he sounded indignant.

I sighed. Why was I having to do Mum’s dirty work for her?

“Dad, all I know is that she’s fed up of you disappearing off with Pop all the time.”

“Well, why didn’t you say something before?” he challenged.

“Me? I didn’t know!” I riposted, and mostly truthfully. I’d only known a few days ago. “And it’s not my job to sort out your marital issues,” I pointed out, now very annoyed.

“Leaving me is going a bit over the top,” muttered Dad.

“Is it, Dad? You’re quite happy to swan off with Pop over Christmas and sit in a muddy trench and pretend to be a soldier—”

“Stetcher bearer,” Dad corrected me, priggishly.

“Whatever,” I snapped. “You’ll do that and leave Mum all on her own for Christmas when you know she loves family Christmases. And you wonder why she’s mad at  you?”

“I thought she’d appreciate not having to do all the usual cooking and stuff for a change,” Dad attempted to defend himself, feebly and rather sexistly. “Put her feet up instead.”

“Oh, give me strength” I exploded. “You know as well as I do that Mum isn’t a ‘put her feet up’ sort of person. You’re being a selfish old git, plain and simple. Bye Dad. I’ll tell Mum you rang.”

It’s a shame you can’t slam receivers down on mobile phones, because that’s what I felt like doing. I had to make do with jabbing the end call button ferociously instead. Not nearly as satisfying. Still loaded with adrenalin, I tossed my phone furiously into my handbag, forgetting it was stuffed full. It bounced straight back out and landed glass first down on the floor with a loud thunk and an unmistakeable cracking sound.

“Drat!” I swore.

I retrieved my phone with its now shattered screen and stared at it dumbly.

“At least I know what to get your for Christmas now!” quipped Nick, coming up behind me and slipping his arms round my waist.

I leaned back against him. “I think I hate my family,” I sighed. I was only half-joking.

 

There are many more muddles to come but everything will work out fine for Noelle, Nick and the others, as you’ll soon see!

Blurb

For some people, retirement dreams can consist of comfy slippers and gardening. Not so David and Helene, whose dream was of adventure. They presented Audley Travel with the challenge of exploring the history, landscape, wildlife, people and food in fifteen countries over ten months.

Fortunately, they were up to the task so David and Helene traded their slippers and gardening gloves for 53 flights, 30 trains, 8 boats, 3 cruise ships, 1 light aircraft, I hot air balloon, a motorbike and sidecar, countless speedboats, taxis, tuk-tuks, cyclos and bicycles. And a disobedient horse.

Turning Left Around the World is an entertaining account of their adventure, often intriguing, frequently funny and occasionally tragic. Share their adventure, enjoy the surprises and meet some fascinating people along the way.

The book is published by Mirador Publishing.

My review

This is a truly impressive and inspiring travelogue.

At an age when some people might consider putting their feet up after a busy career, David sets off to see those places in the world he’s always wanted to. He’s given a gentle prod – or maybe it’s more like a shove, at least to start with  – from his partner Helene, who sounds to be one of those wonderfully organised and energetic people that many of us wish we were, but never quite find the energy! They take in the places Helene’s longed to see too.

The couple do things thoroughly and hire guides when they arrive at their various far-flung destinations so as to get an insider’s view of the place. They thus glean every interesting nugget of information possible, which the author then shares with us. The whole book is a rich tapestry of snatches of their interactions, historical and geological background facts, social commentary, people-watching and detailed observation of the cultures they immerse themselves in. It’s totally absorbing and immensely readable. There’s no overwhelming or impersonal info-dumping. The author has a wonderful flowing style that is so easy to take in. I can’t remember absolutely every fact he shares, but I’ve stored a lot of them away and hope to drop them smugly into those conversations that begin with ‘Did you know…?’!

David and Helene travel to an astounding assortment of fascinating places in Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia (the only spot on their itinerary that I’ve been to!), Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, China and Japan. And that’s possibly just for starters since Helene asks where they’re planning to go next. Maybe this wasn’t the once-in-a-lifetime trip David thought it was!

There are emotional ups and downs to match the physical ascents and descents they make, muddles, a few shocks and frustrations, but the overall mood is of excitement and optimism. They bump into all sorts of people, from quirky to downright scary! Truly never a dull moment.

Their massive undertaking is an inspiration, and a reminder that life is for living to the full. Hats off to David and Helene for having the courage and determination to go for their dream, and I can’t wait to see if there’ll be a sequel…

 

About the author

David owned and managed a London marketing agency for 15 years, creating advertising campaigns to promote iconic international brands including Mars, Kellogg’s, Disney and Coca-Cola. Following the sale of his agency in 1999 he became one of the leading Consultant Marketing Directors in the UK, steering business in the launch or re-launch of their consumer brands including B&Q, Direct Line and RBS. David lives in Berkshire with his wife Helene. www.davidcmoore.author.com

 

Book blurb

When a stranger leaves step-sisters, Victoria and Ness, a half-share in a house in Holland, they think it must be a mistake.

But there’s no mistake when Ness goes missing.

Desperate for the truth, Victoria heads to Holland to find out what happened to her. Has she, as her texts show, embarked on a whirlwind romance? Has someone abducted her or even worse?

But there’s someone watching, and that person wants her dead.

Can Victoria find out the truth before it’s too late?

 

Pre-order on Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07H3TH4HT

So here’s that cover…

Isn’t it eye-catching! I think it’s very inviting and intriguing.

Here’s a sample from the novel:

Prologue

I died yesterday, or so I’ve been told.

Yesterday is the day my life changed but how or why is still a mystery. There are things I know and there are things that they’ve told me but I can’t seem to trust any of it.

I know I’m a woman but I don’t know my age. I know how to hold a cup in the same way I know it’s rude to stick the end of a knife in my mouth. So, somewhere along the way, someone cared enough to drill manners into me. Those are the things I know, the things I can trust but as for the rest…

They tell me I’m in Holland but can I believe them? I don’t remember if I’m Dutch but I also don’t remember if I’m not. I can’t speak Dutch. I’ve been trying all morning but can one lose a language overnight? I seem to have lost everything else. Who knows? Maybe I took the wrong train or something and just rolled up in the wrong city. That would make sense except that it’s not just my sense of place that’s missing. It’s my sense of everything. I have no name, no age and no identity. Yesterday I died and today I’m still here.

 

They’ve left me alone now while they try to puzzle out what to do and in the meantime I’m going to try to remember stuff. I don’t know how long they’ll leave me alone but I need to take this opportunity to come up with some answers to all the questions they’ve been throwing at me like who the hell I am.

Slipping out of bed I recoil as bare feet meets cold tiles, but that’s not going to stop me. Pulling the back of the hospital gown closed in an effort to retain some degree of dignity, I shuffle over to the bathroom and then the mirror only to stare into the face of a stranger.

It doesn’t matter what I look like or that I’m suffering from the worst case of bed-head known to man. It doesn’t matter that my eyes are green or that my hair is that shade of nondescript mouse that keeps colourists in business. The only thing that matters is my reflection, which holds no clues as to my identity. I’m a stranger to them. I’m a stranger to me.

My body holds a clue though – just one.

I push up my sleeve again to stare at the tattoo on my arm. The tattoo puzzles me. It’s not me, or part of me or who I think I am and yet it’s there, a large indelible letter V.

I have no idea what it stands for. Oh, I’m not stupid or anything or, at least I don’t think I am. I can’t quote which exams I’ve passed or if indeed I’ve ever attended school but I do know V stands for victory. But what does it mean to me? Am I victorious? Am I making a statement about something? It must be important because it’s the only tattoo I have. It’s also the only clue.

I’m tired now. My eyelids collapse over my eyes even as I struggle to shift them upwards as I remember the cocktail the nurse told me to swallow like a good girl. I want everything to go away. I want to hide under the blankets and forget. I’ve already forgotten…

 

Author bio

Jenny O’Brien was born in Ireland and, after a brief sojourn in Wales, now resides in Guernsey.
She’s an avid reader and book reviewer for NetGalley in addition to being a RoNA judge.
She writes for both children and adults with a new book coming out every six months or so. She’s also an avid collector of cats, broken laptops, dust and happy endings – two of which you’ll always find in her books.

In her spare time she can be found frowning at her wonky cakes and even wonkier breads. You’ll be pleased to note she won’t be entering Bake-Off.

Readers can find out more about Jenny from her blog: https://jennyobrienwriter.wordpress.com

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JennyOBrienWriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ScribblerJB

My cosy mystery / romcom ‘Haircuts, Hens and Homicide’ is currently on tour. For seven days various wonderful book bloggers will be hosting my novel. Do please call by and see what they have to say about my novel.

Here’s the running order:

It’s got off to a great start with some lovely reviews today 🙂 Books, Life and Everything says: “With plenty of humour and laugh out loud moments, the story proves to be an entertaining read and is nicely set up for a sequel.”

Katie’s Book Cave says: “Haircuts, Hens and Homicide is a fun and entertaining riot of a read that will have you laughing away as you follow the adventures of Megan and co. It’s well-written and set in a gorgeous place, I loved my trip to France via this book! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.”

And Julie Palooza says: “Although the mystery aspect of the book is relatively light, its main joy is seeing Megan settle into small-town French life – avec des poulets – and meeting its cast of, variously, huge, handsome, haughty, homicidal, charming, clumsy and coiffure-ly-challenged residents.”

I hope those reviews have tempted you. If so, call by getbook.at/HHH to get your copy!

Synopsis

As if it weren’t enough to be cheated on by her husband of ten years, Yorkshire lass Hannah Davis is losing her beauty salon business too. Luckily, her big sister is there to pick up the pieces, but Hannah is desperate to find some independence.

Impulsively, Hannah applies for a spa job…on a cruise ship! Christmas in the Caribbean, springtime in the Mediterranean, what’s not to like? But, despite being in her thirties, Hannah has never done anything on her own before, and she’s terrified.

As the ship sets sail, Hannah has never been further from home…or closer to discovering who she is and who she wants to be.

 

My review

This book makes for lovely, lively reading. The opening is quite brutal though, as we find Hannah just recovering from what’s pretty much a total breakdown after her husband of many years suddenly leaves her. She’s neglected her business for too long to save it so things look very bleak. Her stalwart of a sister, Jen, is there for her and helps her start to find her feet her again.

An expected nail-mending job introduces Hannah to the idea of working in a cruise ship, which Jen encourages her to do. So Hannah courageously decides to take this career leap, and with her we travel to many locations, deal with frustrations and tribulations, and possible heartache.

Hannah is a great character. She’s fun and feisty, but flawed in that, as her sister says, it’s a crisis if she misses her favourite TV soap. In this novel she faces a real crisis, and while it floors her to start with, she does cope, and with humour and fortitude. You can’t help but like and admire her.

The author has a lively sense of fun too, and creates some great people, places and happenings to entertain us. She gives both sides of the coin when it comes to the cruise ship – it’s not all excitement and glamour, in fact, there’s a lot more drudgery and rule-following.

This is an easy and enjoyable read, light but not without sharp comment here and there, and a super book to while away a few hours.

 

Purchase linksmybook.to/TheHolidayCruise

Author bio

Victoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and travelling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, ‘The Secret to Falling in Love,’ in 2016

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaCookeAuthor/

https://twitter.com/VictoriaCooke10

https://www.instagram.com/victoriacookewriter/

 

My sequel to ‘Fa-La-Llama-La: Christmas at the Little French Llama Farm’ will soon be ready.

‘Deck the Halles: Next Christmas at the Little French Llama’ sees our heroine Noelle called on at the last minute to help organise a national llama show in the local agricultural halles, so her partner, famous Australian author Nick, decides to profit from this by launching his latest book there. With just days to go, a stream of visitors turn up on their doorstep with assorted tales of woe and all needing somewhere to stay.

Here’s the latest arrival, an early morning one. (Ivy and Franklin, referred to here, turned up yesterday and are staying in the tiny guest cottage, which Noelle’s mum was in but has vacated for a couple of days. She’ll be coming back, though. Truffle is the stray dog Nick and Noelle have given a home to.)

 

We decided we deserved a half-hour lie-in this morning. But ten minutes in there was a knock on the door. Truffle, who’d slept on a rug I’d put down for him just outside our bedroom door, gave a little growl. So did Nick.

“I thought we’d given Ivy and Franklin everything they needed for breakfast,” he grumbled.

“We did,” I confirmed. “But I think Franklin’s still asleep.”

“How on earth can you know that?” asked Nick.

“I can hear him snoring.” It was true. Even though the cottage was a good ten metres from the house, and both buildings had thick stone walls and double-glazed windows, we could hear an intermittent rumbling sound. I’d been aware it during the night at odd moments when I’d been awake. “Or maybe that’s Ivy?”

“Nah, she’s not big enough to make that colossal racket. Streuth, how can the poor woman sleep through that?”

“It’s probably her at the door then,” I deduced. “Wanting earmuffs, or refuge.” I reluctantly sat up, pushed back the covers and swung my legs out of bed. “I did tell them just to come on into the house any time they needed to. I said we didn’t lock the door.”

“Maybe they’re a bit wary of Truffle. Or me,” grinned Nick.

I grinned back. “Yes, they might be worried you’d think they were intruders and batter them with a boomerang.” There was a conveniently-placed, oversized one hanging in our hallway. “Time to get up anyway.”

I shrugged into my dressing gown and stuffed my feet into my slippers and shuffled off, closely followed by Truffle. He overtook me on the stairs, but waited dutifully until I was head of him again in the hallway. I don’t think he was convinced this was officially his territory yet, or maybe he was a bit of a coward and preferred me to confront strangers on the doorstep. That was fine, as I didn’t want an aggressive animal, all bared teeth and raised hackles. I was perfectly capable of playing that part if necessary.

I plastered a smile on my face and pulled the door open to let Ivy and Franklin in. Only it wasn’t them. Two very tall men were on my doorstep, in matching Tommy Hilfiger skiing jackets that oozed class. They also sported those fur-lined earflap hats, and scarves. It therefore took my as yet uncaffeinated brain a few seconds to crank into gear. Then, from the few facial features I could discern, I worked out this overdressed pair was my cousin Joe and his partner Caspar. Talk about surprise. I thought they were at home in New York city.

I launched myself at Joe and hugged him as best I could through all his bulky layers. Truffle took upon himself to be welcome committee to Caspar and looked up at him adoringly, wagging his tail. Any friend of my new family is a friend of mine, he was saying.

“Come on in,” I invited, after hugging Caspar too. “But what on earth are you guys doing here?”

“Long story short, rats,” summarised Joe, peeling off his jacket, and, after looking around the hallway and not seeing anywhere to hang it up since all hooks on the coat rack were already occupied, handing it to me to deal with as appropriate. And the hat.

“Yes, rats,” agreed Caspar, doing the same with his hat and coat.

I saw now that the boys were wearing matching stylish, as in designer label, yet tasteless Christmas jumpers with lurid designs in garish colours.

“Rats?” I echoed, slightly muffled by the heap of tog rating now filling my arms.

“Hundreds of them. No, more like thousands,” declared Caspar.

“Thousands?” That was me. Being a parrot was all I could do until I could make sense of what was going on. I dumped the jackets and hats on Nick’s chair as we entered the kitchen.

“Definitely thousands,” confirmed Joe, plonking himself down at the table. Caspar followed suit.

“Definitely?”

Both men nodded, so I nodded too.

“But where?” I demanded, still none the wiser.

“Paris,” Joe informed me.

“Ghastly place,” added Caspar.

Well, I could have told them that. True, it had the world’s most stunning architecture, but it was just a city – noisy, polluted, frantic, expensive, full of sour faces, lonely souls, pickpockets and, distressingly, every other phone box sheltering homeless, hopeless people.

At this point Nick padded into the room. Three pairs of eyes regarded him appreciatively; unshaved and with tousled, bedroom hair he did look gorgeous. The still-lingering, post-flu pallor brought his dark hair and eyes into sharper focus and gave him the air of a tragic, unsuccessful poet or starving artist.

“G’day gents,” he said genially, unaware he was being openly ogled by everyone else in the room, apart from Truffle, and managing not to wince at the overdose of Christmas jumper that assailed him. “You must be Noelle’s cousin Joe.” He identified him from the many photos of Joe I’d shown him on Facebook. He duly shook his hand. “And you’re Caspar. Good to finally meet you. Coffee?”

Joe and Caspar nodded eagerly.

“Oh my goodness, you’re probably starving too!” I realised, jumping up. “Breakfast?”

More eager nodding. “Oh, yes please. We were going to stop at a café somewhere for coffee and croissant, but nowhere was open,” said Joe mournfully.

Given the hour, that wasn’t surprising. It was barely eight o’clock now.

I busied myself shoving slices of bread into the toaster. “So, what happened exactly?” I asked.

Nick placed coffees in front of everyone, moved the jackets onto the sofa and sat down in his place, all ears.

“Well,” began Caspar dramatically, “this was meant to be our fairytale Christmas.”

“Fairytale,” verified Joe.

“A week in the City of Light, walking along the Champs Élysées, visiting Versailles, Notre Dame, Montmatre, all those iconic places.”

“Iconic,” agreed Joe.

“So we booked what we thought was a nice hotel, but oh my gosh.” Caspar pulled a face. “It was terrible.”

Nick and I couldn’t stop ourselves glancing at Joe for the inevitable “Terrible.”

“Rats everywhere.”

“Everywhere.”

“Everywhere? Streuth.” That was Nick, if you hadn’t guessed.

“Well, outside, but still everywhere,” clarified Caspar.

“We saw at least three,” nodded Joe.

I frowned. Only moments ago it had been ‘thousands’.

“The fact we spotted some means there are actually loads and loads and loads, even though you can’t see them all,” explained Joe quickly, seeing my scepticism.

“Thousands?” I suggested.

“Probably,” he said darkly.

I’d heard that the floods the city had experienced in the spring had caused a surge in rat sightings and that lots was being done to get the numbers down. But rats are resourceful and people are dirty, discarding litter all over the place, a lot of it with edible scraps attached. Of course they’ll move in if there’s a food source.

“We’ve got rats in our barn,” said Nick brightly but not massively helpfully.

“That’s different,” said Caspar dismissively, to my astonishment. “You expect that on a farm. And they’re not running down the drive or over your garden, are they?”

“No, they’re not,” I said firmly. “Our cats would be too ashamed to allow that to happen.”

“Well, we couldn’t stay at that hotel,” Joe went on. “Not with rats so close by.”

“No. I mean, one might have come up the toilet or something,” added Caspar, and shuddered.

Nick caught my eye and raised an eyebrow. I managed not to smile.

“I’d have thought that would be pretty unlikely,” I said carefully, “but it wouldn’t have been much of a fairytale holiday if you were constantly worrying about it.”

Nick was more direct. “Yup, getting bitten on the butt while sitting on the crapper would really suck.”

Joe and Caspar nodded seriously.

“Didn’t you think of going to a different hotel?” I asked.

“Oh no, not after that. We’ve gone right off Paris,” said Caspar.

“Yes, right off.”

“Not only the rats, but people there said horrible things,” Caspar went on.

“Horrible,” ratified Joe.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” I exclaimed, genuinely upset. Why couldn’t people just live and let live? My cousin had been at the receiving end of a lot of ignorant hatred over the years simply because of his sexuality.

“Oh, I don’t mean gay bashing,” Joe explained quickly.

“Worse than that.” Caspar looked mortally offended. “I overhead some snooty couple saying our jackets were cheap knock-offs.”

“So cruel,” tutted Joe.

I just sat there.

“So I suggested we pop here, to see my favourite cousin,” Joe smiled sycophantically. “Can you squeeze us in somewhere?”

“We-ell,” I replied cautiously. “Mum’s here for Christmas.”

“Oh, how is Aunt Mary?” gushed Joe.

“She’s…” I couldn’t go blabbing about her having ditched Dad. “She’s dyed her hair,” I said evasively.

“Good for her,” approved Joe.

Dying their hair clearly meant someone was in good form.

“She’s popped over to see Eve for a couple of days,” I continued.

“Oh, is your sister living in France too?” asked Joe. “Goodness, I’m out of touch.”

“She’s on holiday here at the moment, that’s all,” I explained concisely. “And some friends of ours, Ivy and Franklin, turned up out of the blue last night. They plan to be here at least a few days.” I hoped the boys would get the hint, but no.

“Not Ivy of the pet-sitting booking?” exclaimed Joe, referring to the events of last Christmas. My wily cousin had led me to believe I’d be minding guinea-pigs, not eleven normal llamas and one hugely pregnant one. Good job he had, though, as I might not have taken on the job and thus never met Nick. But you’ll know all this if you’ve read ‘Fa-La-Llama-La’.

“My goodness, what a houseful!” enthused Caspar. “I love big gatherings, don’t you?”

Not when we didn’t have enough space for everyone.

Or enough food. We’d done what we thought was our final Christmas food shop a week ago, before it started getting crazily busy at the supermarket. With all these extra mouths to feed that kept materialising, we’d have to make another trip, today or tomorrow. That was the last thing we needed on top of all the llama show and book launch-related activities already scheduled in.

I responded to Caspar with a non-committal, strangled sort of noise.

“So, what are your plans between now and Christmas?” asked Joe.

I stared at him. I was sure I’d told him about the forthcoming camelid show and my key involvement in it, but maybe not. So I quickly filled him in.

“Oh, how marvellous!” cried Caspar. “I know I shall love every minute. Do you need any extra judges or anything?”

I was touched by his enthusiasm, especially as I wasn’t sure if he knew the front end from the back end of a llama.

“That’s all covered by the association running the show,” I assured him. “But an extra pair of hands will be useful here in the preparations. Sir Winter will need lots of grooming.”

“I’ll be brilliant at that,” promised Caspar, unhampered as ever by modesty.

“Brilliant,” nodded Joe.

“Help yourself to more coffee and food,” I told them, getting up. “I need to go and get dressed.”

“Me too,” smiled Nick. “See you in a few.”

We hurried upstairs. I shut the bedroom door behind us then leant against it and groaned.

“What are we going to do?”

Hooray, my turn to take part in the blog tour for this excellent book!

Synopsis

Sylvia Blackwell is tired. Her grandchildren are being kept away from her, and the expected inheritance that might finally get her middle-aged son to move out has failed to materialise – thanks to her mother’s cat. It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain composed. On a romantic clifftop walk for her 47th Wedding Anniversary, an unexpected opportunity leads to a momentous decision that will irretrievably change the course of her life.

The Craft Room is a darkly comic tale of sex, crepe paper, murder and knitting in a sleepy Devon town, with a ‘truly original’ premise and genuinely jaw-dropping moments. What would you do if unexpectedly freed from bondage you never knew you were in? How would your children cope? How far would you go to protect them from an uncomfortable truth? You can only push a grandmother so far…

 

My review

This book is wickedly funny, absolutely dark comedy at its best. All Sylvia wants is her own craft room so she can outdo her nemesis Maureen at the local craft fairs. Now that Robert, her son, has moved out for the second time, having come to terms with his separation from his wife Alexa, she’s got his old room earmarked.

However, she’s temporarily distracted by her mother’s death, an event which doesn’t come as a surprise to Sylvia. Also, the fact her mother has left her next to nothing since she’s gambled it away or promised it to cats takes her focus for a while. Husband Ron swoops into the empty room before she knows it. He annexes it for a golf swing training room. Now, that really is going a bit too far. But he’s not a nice person, someone who delivers encouraging sarcasm and withering looks, and has always belittled their son. Robert moves back in for a while.

Another death in the family, that again doesn’t surprise Sylvia, and neither does the next one, which sees the demise of Ron’s mistress. Cops Frank and Don see the coincidence but rule kind old granny Sylvia out, although suspect she’s covering for someone. They therefore keep an eye on her nearest and dearest, the remaining ones…

The action intensifies from here on, with complications sneaking in. Will Sylvia ever realise her dream of a fully equipped craft room?

This is hugely entertaining. Once you start reading, you can’t stop. The dark humour is wonderful, and addictive! Sylvia is a brilliant heroine, one you can sympathise with – although perhaps you shouldn’t really. She’s larger than life, yet down to earth. She’s great. Robert, insipid at first, comes into his own as the story progresses, and other characters we meet entertain and fascinate.

The physical and social settings of the novel come over well, and contribute towards making this a remarkable and memorable read. I loved it!

Purchase Linkhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Craft-Room-Dave-Holwill/dp/1973974673

Author Bio

Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.

His debut novel, Weekend Rockstars, was published in August 2016 to favourable reviews and his second The Craft Room (a very dark comedy concerning death through misadventure) came out in August 2017. He is currently in editing hell with the third.

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