chick-lit · romance

*BLOG TOUR* After The One – Cass Lester (Extract).


Blurb; What happens… after The One?
April 16th is always one of Charley’s worst days of the year.

It’s her husband’s birthday, a painful reminder of his death four years ago.

So naturally, her car breaks down.

She nearly gets run over trying to catch the bus.

And then she’s made redundant.

Her friends see the redundancy as a chance for her to start again and live the life she always wanted, but since being widowed Charley has clung to familiarity and avoided change like the plague. Then, out of the blue, her mother-in-law Pam pitches up in need of a place to stay after walking out on her 40-year marriage.

Together, Charley and Pam find themselves at a crossroad. It’s not easy to move on after The One, but they can’t stand still forever.

A gorgeously heartwarming and feel-good story for fans of Libby Page and Nicola Gill.

Extract; At the weekend, the delivery of the new bed forced Charley to brace herself and deal with Josh’s things in the spare room. She’d leant the flat-packed frame and the double mattress against the wall, but if she wanted space to actually build the damn thing, she’d have to clear the bags and boxes cluttering the middle of the room – it was as simple as that. She made herself a mug of tea, knelt on the floor, pulled the nearest bag to her and began to empty it onto the carpet. Out tumbled the tokens of their lives together… the blue knot cufflinks she’d bought him for their anniversary… a tangle of festival wristbands… his phone and GameBoy (for crying out loud), and then his wallet. The wallet had been her first birthday gift to him. She opened it and her face stared back at her, a few years younger but still very much the same – her slightly self-conscious smile, framed by a mass of unruly curls tumbling down over her shoulders.
She took a deep, shaky breath. She was only halfway through the first bag and she was already struggling. So when the doorbell rang about ten minutes later, although she wasn’t proud to admit it, she was thankful for the interruption.
A woman in cropped slacks and a long T-shirt, with greying hair and a cabin-size wheelie-bag, stood on her doorstep, looking vaguely distressed.
‘Pam?’ Charley’s mind raced frantically. Her mother-in-law never arrived unannounced or without an invitation. What on earth was she doing here, completely out of the blue without so much as a phone call or a text and, crucially, with a suitcase?
‘I’ve left Geoff!’
‘What!’ gasped Charley.
‘He’s having an affair.’
‘Bloody hell, Pam!’ The expletives escaped before Charley could stop them, but beyond that, she was utterly speechless so, picking up the suitcase, she ushered her mother-in-law indoors.
‘Tea?’ she suggested, leading into the kitchen.
‘I was hoping for something a bit stronger. Quite a lot of something a bit stronger, actually,’ replied Pam, flabbergasting Charley for a second time in a minute.
Charley didn’t have ‘anything stronger’. She never kept wine in the flat, worried that she’d be tempted to drink alone, and that was a slippery slope she wasn’t going to risk even putting a toe on.
‘Make yourself at home, and I’ll nip out and get something,’ she said.
‘Oh, don’t go out just for me,’ Pam protested politely.
I’m not, thought Charley. After a bombshell like that, I need a drink.

Nipping to the mini supermarket around the corner, Charley grabbed a bottle of Prosecco then, thinking about it, changed it to a bottle of Pinot, in case it looked like she thought that Pam leaving her husband was something to celebrate. Then, thinking about it even more and remembering Pam’s request for ‘quite a lot of something a bit stronger’ she picked up a second bottle. Then she added a couple of frozen pizzas to the basket, partly to mop up the booze, but also because, judging by the suitcase, Pam had apparently come to stay the night and, as usual, there was bugger all in the fridge.
Ten minutes later, sitting on the sofa with glass of wine in hand, Pam seemed surprisingly unruffled. Only the speed with which she knocked back her drink and held the glass out for a top-up gave anything away – that, and the fact that the total transformation of the living room had utterly escaped her notice.
‘I feel so stupid… such a fool! He’s been seeing this… woman, sleeping with this woman,’ she corrected herself, ‘for years! Years!’
Charley was lost for words, which wasn’t, as it turned out, a problem, since her mother-in-law ploughed on, emitting a steady flow of words fuelled, no doubt, by a much-needed release of tension.
‘Of course, all the time he was working I never knew – he’d get held up in the office or have to go to a work do or something and he’d get home late, and I’d be full of sympathy for him having worked such long hours, when all the while he’d been… having it off in some… some hotel room or whatever.’
Charley took a gulp of wine. Hearing the ins and outs of her father-in-law’s sex life, as it were, and from her mother-in-law, was all a bit… hideously embarrassing, really.
‘How did you find out?’ she ventured, when Pam briefly stopped in her rant to take another glug of wine.
‘Hah! After he retired, he got careless… no, greedy. He couldn’t resist a bit of… afternoon delight’ – she spat the words out viciously – ‘and I caught him at it.’
Charley choked on her wine. ‘You caught them having sex?’ she spluttered.
‘No! I caught him with the other woman.’

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chick-lit · Christmas

*BLOG TOUR* Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe – Jessica Redland *EXTRACT*

Blurb;

Cosy up with a mug of hot chocolate for some festive sparkle from bestseller Jessica Redland.

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.
But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely.
With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.
But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

Extract;

A rattling of metal stirred me from my sleep. Rolling onto my back, I lay still for a minute or two, steadily transitioning from the world of dreams into the world of reality.
The rattling started again and I smiled. ‘I can hear you, Hercules. I’m on my way.’
My two-year-old Flemish Giant house rabbit was more effective than any alarm clock I’d ever owned. At 6 a.m. every morning, without fail, he nudged the door of the huge dog crate where he slept at night and kept rattling it until I got up and let him out.
Peeling back the duvet, I paused for a moment and my stomach sank as I registered what day it was: Christmas Eve. Great. Sighing, I pulled on my slippers and a fleecy top, then made my way to the crate.
Hercules wiggled his scut as soon as he spotted me, just like a dog wagging its tail. I swear he identified as dog rather than rabbit. The moment I opened the door, he bounded out of his crate for cuddles, then followed me into the bathroom, eager for more attention. It wouldn’t surprise me if, one morning, he rolled onto his back so I could tickle his belly.
After I’d put some fresh food and water out for him, I took a shower, the powerful flow helping to ease the tension in my shoulders. It was nearly over. There was just today to get through, then tomorrow, then Christmas was done for another year. Of course, I wasn’t out of the woods at that point. There was still New Year’s Eve to face – the worst day of all – but one step at a time. One difficult step at a time.
Christmas Eve used to be my favourite day of the year. Even as a child, I preferred it to Christmas Day. My dad pulled out all the stops to make Christmas Eve exciting and magical. In the morning, our house would be filled with the tantalising aroma of gingerbread as the pair of us mixed the dough then rolled out the shapes needed for our construction project. When the gingerbread was ready, we’d build and ice a house and Mum would help me decorate it with sweets. Sometimes she only had the energy to manage a few minutes up at the table but even the smallest amount of time meant the world to me.
Dad and I would spend the rest of the day making Christmas crafts while seasonal music played. When dusk fell, we’d wrap up warmly and wander up and down the local streets, looking for the best-decorated house. I’d take a notepad and felt-tip pen with me and we’d award scores out of ten for how pretty they were. The winner was treated to a home-made congratulations card and a bar of chocolate through their letterbox ‘from Santa’s Elves for the prettiest house ever’.
As bedtime approached, Dad and I would go outside and bang a wooden ‘Santa stop here’ sign into the middle of the front lawn – or into the flowerbed if there’d been a heavy frost – while Mum made hot chocolate with marshmallows.
We’d each open a Christmas box containing a book, new PJs, a pair of slippers and, in my box, a teddy bear. Wearing our new gifts, we’d finally watch a family Christmas film – just the three of us plus my new teddy – snuggled on the sofa together. Perfect.
‘So, my little Pollyanna,’ Dad would say as we prepared drinks and snacks for Santa and the reindeer after the film, ‘do you think Father Christmas will remember to visit this year?’
I always giggled when he called me Pollyanna, after the main character in the children’s book of the same name. ‘My name’s not Pollyanna. It’s Tamara.’
‘But you’re just like Pollyanna, aren’t you? A little ray of sunshine and positivity in our lives.’
Then he’d hug me tightly and tell me how much he and Mum loved me and how lucky they were to have me, especially when ‘the black cloak’ wrapped itself round Mum and she struggled to see the sunshine through the darkness.
‘Promise me you’ll always be like Pollyanna,’ he’d say.
‘I promise.’
And it wasn’t hard back then, despite Mum’s situation. An eternal optimist, just like Pollyanna, I could find the good in anyone and any situation, no matter how dire. I believed in the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas. I believed that friends and family were people who loved you unconditionally and would never hurt you. I believed that people were good and told the truth.

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crime · Detective · mystery

*BLOG TOUR* Dead Woman Crossing – J.R. Adler *EXTRACT*

Blurb;

She threw open the door, running to the crib. When she looked inside, she gasped. The world around her went silent. Inside, there was nothing but a small stuffed elephant. Where was her baby?

When young, single mother Hannah is found murdered by the banks of a twisting Oklahoma creek, her one-year-old daughter sleeping in a stroller near her body, the small town of Dead Woman Crossing reels in horror.
Detective Kimberley King, recently relocated from New York to Oklahoma, with her young daughter Jessica, can’t ignore the similarity of Hannah’s death to the case of Katie James, the woman that the town of Dead Woman Crossing is named after. Katie was murdered in front of her small daughter in 1905, on the banks of the same creek, and it seems that someone is drawing inspiration from the crime. Could this killer be a copycat?
But as she interviews suspects, Kimberley is met with blank faces and closed lips. In a small town, people won’t talk and when she pursues a promising lead, her own family turn their back on her. Kimberley isn’t afraid to ask questions, but when she receives a threatening note, she realises that, as a single mother to a young daughter, she might be putting herself dangerously in the killer’s sights …

A gripping, atmospheric crime thriller inspired by true events, about a town on the edge of collapse and a murder that shakes the community. Dead Woman Crossing is perfect for fans of Rachel Caine, Lisa Regan and Jane Harper.

Author Bio; Originally from Wisconsin, J.R. Adler currently lives in Ithaca, New York with her husband, Drew, and her English Bulldog, Winston. When not writing, you can find her reading, playing board games, travelling, and binge watching The Office for the umpteenth time.

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Extract;

CHAPTER ONE

As the tires slammed onto the hot asphalt, Detective Kimberley King instinctively positioned her arm in front of her sixteen month-old daughter, bracing her. Her sleeping child did not wake. Having been born and raised, thus far, in New York City with its constant squealing sirens and blaring car horns, it would take more than a rough plane landing to wake her resting cherub. A few of the passengers toward the back of the plane clapped when the tires were firmly planted on the runway. Kimberley couldn’t help rolling her eyes and shaking her head. Simpletons, she thought, but she quickly had to remind herself… simple was her life now. These were no longer the plain inhabitants of the flyover states, but rather they were now her neighbors, her new people. She would no longer be Detective Kimberley King, NYPD, but something quite different. In New York, she worked homicide, the worst of the worst cases, the things nightmares were made of, but where she was going, murders would be few and far between she presumed given the size of the town. As soon as she stepped foot off the plane, it would be official; she would now be the newest chief deputy of Custer County, residing in Dead Woman Crossing—a town named for its grizzly history of an unsolved brutal homicide. Perhaps Kimberley would feel more at home there than she thought she would. She believed she’d always be a New Yorker at heart and would cling to that as long as she could, but that wasn’t her identity anymore. She was now an Oklahoman. “Please be careful when opening the overhead bins as items may have shifted during flight. We hope you enjoyed your flight, and we thank you for flying American Airlines,” the flight attendant announced via the intercom. Immediately, most passengers rose from their seats as if the stewardess had given a powerful sermon rather than simple disembarkation instructions. Kimberley turned toward her daughter and unbuckled her. Jessica stirred awake, rubbing her sleepy eyes. Her face began to crumple as she adjusted to the unfamiliar surroundings, but Kimberley acted quickly. She knew that look, the look that signaled Jessica was about to throw a tantrum. Her daughter had seemed to learn in recent weeks that crying could be used as psychological warfare against her mother. Kimberley planted several kisses on the top of her soft head and pulled Jessica into her lap with a hug, quickly soothing her, before she erupted like a volcano full of tears. She had woken her daughter earlier than usual and opted not to put her down for a nap, all to ensure the plane ride had gone smoothly and it had. “Jessica, baby, we’re here,” Kimberley said, bouncing her little girl. Looking at her daughter was like looking in the mirror; she was the spitting image of Kimberley. Rich dark brown hair, vivid blue eyes, and pouty lips. Kimberley was thankful her daughter had taken after her and not her ex, Aaron, who looked like the poster boy for the Aryan race; blond hair, light eyes, fair skin. He was no longer in the picture. If she was being honest, he was never really in the picture, so she was happy Jessica didn’t serve as a constant reminder of him. She hoped she’d get her strong personality as well, instead of her father’s, who was more concerned about working out in the gym than taking care of his own child. When she told him she was moving out of state and that he could see Jessica as much as he wanted but would have to travel, he had responded with a shrug as if she had asked him something as simple as do you want bacon or sausage with your eggs? Motherhood had changed her, but fatherhood hadn’t changed Aaron. When she first had Jessica, Kimberley developed almost a sixth sense. It provided more than any police training had ever done for her. The instinct, many called maternal, translated well into her detective work. It made her notice everything, sense danger. Every situation, she could look at it and find a hundred different ways something could go wrong. Jessica changed Kimberley for the better. But with Aaron, fatherhood shone a light on his true colors: selfish, childish, and narcissistic. Kimberley quickly brushed the memory from her mind before it affected her mood, the roots of her life left behind trying one last time to pull her back into despair. She tied her long hair into a ponytail, readying herself to trek off the plane with half of everything she owned. Kimberley stood from her seat and lifted Jessica, her little legs wrapping around Kimberley’s petite, yet strong body. She was used to handling everything by herself, so grabbing her luggage from the overhead bin, Jessica’s diaper bag, and her tote bag all the while holding her daughter looked like a magic act to the untrained eye, but to her it was easy. Jessica tightened her arms around her mother’s neck and laid her head against her shoulder, letting out a soft coo. Kimberley smiled and kissed the top of her head while edging her way into the aisle. A middle-aged man with a bald spot the size of a grapefruit on the back of his head stood in front of her. He turned around and gave Kimberley and her juggling act a once-over. “Do you need help with any of that?” he asked, pointing to her bags. Kimberley’s eyes widened and her brow creased. She wasn’t used to others offering their help, especially coming from Manhattan. In New York City, people are just too busy to stop and help. They’ve got places to be, traffic to get through, subway rides to make, lines to stand in. Everything there is go, go, go. They’re not mean. They just don’t have the time to be nice.

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