chick-lit · Content posts · romance

*BLOG TOUR* Coming Home to Hope Street – Marcie Steele (EXTRACT)


Step across the cobblestones, pull back the curtains and peek behind the doors in the second instalment of The Hope Street Series. Catch up with old friends and fall in love with new ones in a story of friendship, second chances and new beginnings.

Livvy has no choice but to return to Hope Street, the childhood home she left over twenty years ago. Along with her sixteen-year-old daughter, Pip, she turns up on the doorstep, hoping for forgiveness from her sister.

Hannah thought she’d never see Livvy again. She’s overwhelmed with emotion but locks away her real feelings. How could Livvy stay away without any contact? And why has she come back now?

It isn’t long before the charm of the market town of Somerley begins to work its magic. Hannah is opening a book shop in the square, adjoining The Coffee Stop, and Livvy’s offer to help out brings the sisters closer together.

But when someone from Livvy’s past arrives unannounced too, he threatens everything she’s built up since her return. Can Livvy convince her sister, and her new friends, that her intentions to return were good ones? Or will her dreams of settling down and being happy again become nothing but a closed book?

Author Bio;

Marcie Steele is the pen name of Mel Sherratt. For as long as she can remember, she’s been a meddler of words. Born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, she’s a romantic at heart and has always enjoyed writing about characters that fall in and out of love, have good friends to hang around with, and live in communities with great spirit.

She can often be found sitting in her favourite coffee shop, sipping a cappuccino and eating a chocolate chip cookie, either catching up with friends or writing on her laptop. Whether she writes crime or women’s fiction, she loves making up things for a living.

You can find more about Marcie Steele on Mel Sherratt’s website at Twitter: and at Facebook


One Month Ago

Livvy Perkins let out a dramatic sigh. Working at Pizza Palace wasn’t the jazziest of jobs, but it was a good fit for her circumstances. She’d worked there three nights a week between six and ten p.m. for the past six months, as well as working part-time during the day in a local café. It meant her daughter, Pip, nearly sixteen, wasn’t alone often, and not for too long. And if she did need her mum, Livvy was always on the end of the phone.

Livvy looked forward to, as well as dreaded, her last shift of the week. Fridays would always find the staff in the takeaway rushed off their feet, orders coming in rapidly and Roberto, the owner, expecting her to deliver everything on a Fast and Furious basis that she could never do to his satisfaction.

Pizza deliveries seemed to have become the new going out. Not that Livvy knew anything about that anymore. All her days, weeks, and months were rolling into one at the moment.

She pressed the handle down on the door and went inside, the smell of grease, garlic, and a hint of burning hitting her immediately. Pizza Palace was your typical takeaway, a few plastic tables and school-type chairs at the front and a high counter with a fridge showing drinks and salads to accompany the meal at the far end. A large board on the back wall listed everything they served, and the ovens to her right were already churning out a good heat alongside the first orders of the evening. Above everything, she could hear Roberto yelling.

‘They asked for two medium cheese and pepperoni and one large mushroom. Not the other way round. You need to listen more on the phone!’ He turned to Livvy, rolling his eyes as if to say, ‘I might as well do it myself.’

She couldn’t help but shake her head in jest. Honestly, if Roberto employed a manager rather than trying to do everything himself, and failing dismally, he wouldn’t look like a stress ball all the time. Now his arms flapped around, his dark hair was messy and there were sweat patches underneath both arms on his T-shirt.

‘Livvy,’ Roberto cried. ‘Come and sort this rabble out, will you?’

‘I’ll do my best once I’ve done a few deliveries.’ Livvy reached up for a pile of order slips. There were four, all within a mile of the shop. Quickly, she routed them out in her head. If she left now before Roberto collared her, she could be there and back within forty minutes.

A scooter was the best solution for the small and narrow streets of Manchester. Roberto provided them, but they were all old and decrepit.

The traffic was light as she made her way along the main road. Pizza Palace covered most of the area and had the monopoly on lots of other takeaways. Luckily for Roberto, his establishment had a reputation as one of the best.

Livvy parked outside the first address, knocked on the door, and only waited a few seconds for an answer. The next stop was a few streets away, and after pressing the doorbell twice, that too was delivered.

As she walked up the driveway of the third address, the door was opened by a woman in her thirties, heavily made-up, wearing heels and a black dress. Lucky her, Livvy sighed. She couldn’t even recall the last time she’d been anywhere that entailed dressing up so special.

‘Pizza delivery!’ Livvy put on her best sing-song voice.

‘That’s more than obvious,’ the woman snapped, almost snatching the box out of Livvy’s hand. She thrust a note at her and waited impatiently for change.

Livvy handed it to her, knowing it was useless making small talk.

She took it all and closed the door in Livvy’s face.

‘Thank you, and have a nice evening,’ Livvy replied, with the heaviest hint of sarcasm.

She was back on the scooter, helmet in hand, ready to head to the last stop when the woman came out of her house, screaming obscenities at her.

‘What is wrong with you people?’ She pushed the box at Livvy. ‘I ordered a plain cheese, but this has mushrooms.’

Livvy’s shoulders dropped. ‘I’m so sorry, let me check the other order to see if I’ve got them the wrong way round.’

‘I’m not giving my children anything that you’ve had your hands all over.’

‘I won’t have to touch it.’ Livvy couldn’t stop herself from answering back. ‘I just need—’

‘Save it.’ The woman put up a hand as if to dismiss her, then held it out. ‘Give me my money back. I’ll have to pop some chicken nuggets in the oven now, which means I’m going to be late. And it’s all your fault.’

‘Chicken nuggets. My favourite,’ Livvy enthused. But the woman wasn’t having any of it.

Her fingers curled greedily around the money Livvy gave back to her and then, turning on her pretty stiletto heels, she marched off.

Livvy could see from the state of the box that the pizza had been handled and shoved back in. Even if it was someone else’s order, it would have to be remade.

She tried to start the scooter up, but it wouldn’t kick in.

‘Useless thing,’ she protested, just as the woman from the house came out again and got into her car. She glared at Livvy as she reversed out and then was off in a screech.

Livvy looked at the woman’s house, her car, and had a guess at her lavish style. She reckoned she’d never had to work hard to make ends meet. And even then, she didn’t need to be that rude.

A tear rolled down her cheek, quickly followed by one on the other side of her face. She wiped at her eyes.

With resignation, she rang Roberto to tell him she wasn’t going to make order number four and the fate of order number three. Then she took a handlebar in each hand and began the mile-long walk back to the shop with the scooter.

Why was life so unfair? She was working two jobs but was in debt up to her ears, yet she grafted as hard as she could.

Bloody Kieran. This was all his fault.

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Content posts · Historical fiction

*CONTENT POST* The New Achilles – Christian Cameron.

Book Blurb;

Alexanor is a man who has seen too much blood. He has left the sword behind him to become a healer in the greatest sanctuary in Greece: he has turned his back on war.
But war has followed him to his refuge at Epidauros, and now a battle to end the freedom of Greece is all around him. The Mediterranean superpowers of Rome, Egypt and Macedon are waging their proxy wars on Hellenic soil, turning Greek farmers into slaves and mercenaries.

Greece needs a champion.

When a wounded soldier is carried into his temple, Alexanor believes the man’s wounds are mortal. But he is not destined to die. But Alexanor must face his own daemons before he can help the hero face his.
Because this is the new Achilles. His name is Philopoemen.

This is Greece’s champion. The last hero. He is the new Achilles.

Exclusive extract;

North coast of Crete and Eastern Peloponnese228 bce

The Rhodian grain ship Arktos had endured a bad night, the last and worst of a three-day blow. She wallowed in the swell, her oars taken in, her broken mainmast still wrapped in her fallen cordage over the side, her crew struggling to cut it free in such a way that it could be saved. A relentless wind from the north drove her towards the coast of Crete, just a few stades away under a bright grey spring sky.

She only had a crew of eight and another thirty or so rowers, most of them slaves. None of them were citizens except the captain, who had given up bellowing orders from the foredeck and was now in the water, using a knife to cut the tangled shrouds one by one while his most trusted mate watched the water below him for sharks.

The ship’s passengers lined the starboard side rail, watching the repairs with varying degrees of interest. The Spartan aristocrat, his red cloak flapping in the freshening wind, sneered.

‘A touch of the whip would make them move,’ he said. ‘By the gods, what a useless lot.’

There were two women, from Kos, prosperous enough to have a slave to attend them. They were heavily veiled, their linen and wool forced against their bodies by the wind.

‘You are an expert sailor, perhaps?’ asked the older woman.

The Spartiate ignored her.

An Athenian merchant frowned. ‘If I was younger,’ he said, to no one in particular, ‘I’d get in the water and help.’

The Spartiate glanced at him with contempt.

There was one more passenger. He’d kept very much to himself since Rhodes, and now he stood amidships, looking out into the flat glare of the clouded Mediterranean day under his hand. He was looking south, over the port-side rail, at the north coast of Crete.

‘Is that Knossos?’ asked the younger woman. She was at an age to find lonely young men attractive.

‘I think so,’ the young man said, his voice dull, as if only courtesy forced him to reply. Then he frowned. ‘I think . . .’

He stepped up on the rail, balancing like an acrobat. He glanced back at his fellow passengers, uncertainty written on his features. Then he grabbed a shroud, looked again, jumped back down and crossed the empty benches and the central catwalk to lean over the side where the navarch was sawing away at what he hoped was the last of the movable stay that, in better times, had raised and lowered the mast.

‘Navarch!’ the Rhodian called. His voice was suddenly sharp and military.

‘Soon, citizen,’ the captain called, his voice full of the oil he needed to keep his fractious passengers at arm’s length.

‘There are three boats coming off the shore,’ the Rhodian called. ‘And we’re going to touch on the beach if we keep drifting at this rate.’

Every head turned. Four sailors ran across the deck and the little galley rolled slightly in the water.

‘Pirates!’ yelled a sailor.

The captain swore. ‘I need another man,’ he called. ‘Kephalos, get the boat-sail mast set. The artemon!’

Kephalos waved, and the navarch dived below the wreck of the mast.

The passenger who kept to himself dropped his chiton on the deck, drew a small bronze knife from a sheath at his neck and leapt into the water. His chest was criss-crossed with scars.

The women were watching the Cretan shore now.

First one boat came off the beach, and then a second, full of men. A third boat was being readied.

‘Lady Artemis protect us,’ said the younger woman.

The older woman took a deep breath, but she released it without speaking. Her hands were trembling.

The Spartiate laughed. ‘Perhaps they’ll give this tub a tow,’ he said.

Suddenly the deck began to vibrate like a living thing, and the whole ship seemed to shudder. Then the mast and its attendant wreckage of torn sail and trailing ropes exploded out of the water like the very Spear of Poseidon.

Now the mast floated clear of the wreck. The captain’s head appeared, and he swam powerfully along the side of his ship, ducked under the mast, and looked back.

The passenger surfaced behind him.

The captain reached up, caught the low rail, and hauled himself on board.

‘Get the fucking mast aboard, you whoresons,’ he shouted. ‘You, and Kephalos! Set the artemon. I told you already, you rabble.’ He pointed at another man. ‘Throw the weighted line. Tell me how much water we have under the keel.’

The ship was now moving more rapidly in with the land. The dragging submerged mast had been like an anchor, and free of it, the current moved the ship all the faster.

‘Get that mast aboard!’ he roared.

Then he leapt across the amidships platform, but he could already see the three low shapes pulling towards them, oars flashing as they left the water in perfect unison.

‘Fucking Knossos,’ the captain spat.

‘King Cleomenes has a treaty with Knossos,’ the Spartiate said. ‘I’ll see that we come to no harm.’

‘See how you feel about that when some Cretan’s pole is up your arse,’ the captain said. ‘Sailors, arm yourselves!’

The Spartiate stepped back before the navarch’s vehemence, and the man turned as red as his cloak with anger. He put a hand on the sword he wore.

‘No one speaks to me that way,’ he said.

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Content posts · suspense · thriller

*Content Post* Deadly Secrets – Gordon Bickerstaff.

Book blurb; The truth will out…

Gavin’s life will be turned upside down when he joins a company to work on a product that will revolutionise the food industry. His initial gut instinct is to walk away until he discovers one of the company directors is the former love of his teenage life.

The financial implications are global and incredible. Powerful individuals and countries are prepared to kill as they compete to seize control of the company. Corruption at high levels, a deadly flaw in the product, and the stakes jump higher and higher.

Against overwhelming odds, Gavin must rescue his former love from the hands of an evil cult as they prepare her for a living nightmare.

Deadly Secrets extract;

Prinsengracht, Amsterdam

The boat had disgorged all of its tourists, except for Mascarri. He sat stiff and erect, staring at the back of the boat and leaning against the seat window.
The Captain found no signs of life and assumed the poor man had suffered a stroke or heart attack. His face, cooled by a crisp wind on the canals, had turned pale as snow and his lips a deep purple.
The silver cup the woman handed to Mascarri contained fifty milligrams of enhanced neurotoxin from the blue-ringed octopus.
The toxin had spread rapidly in his blood, blocking nerve transmissions and had progressively shut down his organs. Groups of muscles locked in place when his neuromuscular nerves froze.
A blue-ringed octopus isn’t much bigger than a golf ball. It isn’t designed for fast pursuit. It can’t go swimming after its prey so its toxin is fast-acting. One octopus carries sufficient venom to kill twenty adult humans in a few minutes. Or one man in a matter of seconds.
When sensations of pins and needles surged down his legs, Mascarri didn’t suspect anything. In fact, with cool air blowing through the boat, he didn’t notice the onset of paralysis.
When he realised that he couldn’t move his arms, he also discovered he couldn’t move any muscles in his face. He felt rage when the woman glanced at her watch, reached over and jabbed a sharp pencil into the back of his hand.
She had peered into his eyes, winked, and smirked at him. His brain and eyesight remained functional when she retrieved her envelope from his jacket pocket.
He watched her transfer the contents of his briefcase to her bag and saw her place bottles of an orange liquid and a handful of wraps in his briefcase.
Then, she wedged his briefcase between his waist and the edge of the table to prevent his body slipping to one side.
The hustle of tourists jostling for position to take snaps of the Skinny Bridge had given her a perfect distraction for her activities.
When he realised he’d been drugged, he wondered how long it would take for the drug to wear off. He thought of excuses he would have to make to police and paramedics when the boat reached its berth. Each time he blinked, his eyesight deteriorated further.
Despair followed when his vision became speckled, like looking through black metal mesh. Seconds later, a myriad of fragile stars in a night sky extinguished in waves of blue-white death flashes as the rod cells in his eyes progressively stopped working.
In darkness, he pleaded for his life. Many times, he confessed and apologised profusely. He pledged his money, his time for church work and his love.
He promised no more thieving, no more prostitutes and no more beatings for his wife, Theresa. The same guilt-driven pleadings for forgiveness he’d made many times before.
He promised to return the money stolen from Alzheimer patients he’d targeted, even though he knew most of them had since died penniless.
He pledged to help the family of a client who committed suicide when his business failed because Mascarri had stolen too much from the accounts. He begged and begged for another chance to make things right.
Mascarri’s final seconds were dark and silent while paralysis swept relentlessly through his body. In the black void, he waited anxiously for the forgiveness he believed would come, and for the white lights to guide him into heaven.
The woman had sentenced him to forty seconds and now his time was up. The toxin had reached the pacemaker deep in his heart muscle. His heart stopped beating and Theresa became a widow.
The woman walked confidently through Dam Square with a spring in her step. Mascarri would still be alive if he’d been more careful with his words. He would have received the bonus he craved, not with her but with a prostitute.
He made one fatal error. A stupid threat, which she took seriously. She believed he would double-sell the SeaPro report, and she couldn’t allow him to do that.
The SeaPro report, which Mascarri should have handed to Jim Patersun was now in the hands of Gyge’s Ring. Ruthless people, desperate to take control of SeaPro’s new process, no matter the cost. Mascarri’s greed put an end to his life and now everyone associated with SeaPro faced imminent danger.
While she waited at a taxi rank, her head and shoulders filled the viewfinder of a long-range camera as it clicked through a dozen frames.
The photographer tugged his baseball cap, and allowed his camera to hang on his neck while he spoke into his mobile phone. He watched the woman’s taxi drive away and reported what he’d seen to his Ring Leader.
The Dutch police had little to work with. They believed his clothes were British but couldn’t decide if he resided in Amsterdam or not. His fingerprints weren’t on record.
In his briefcase, they found six one-gram wraps of amnesia haze (strong cannabis), and two bottles of orange-coloured krokodil.
The scene had all the hallmarks of a drug deal gone bad. The police concluded he’d been poisoned by krokodil, which is a concoction designed to convert codeine pills into desomorphine.
On the street, crude conversion of codeine is done in the bottle with a cocktail containing petrol, iodine, hydrochloric acid, phosphorus and paint thinner.

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