From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp comes a shocking new thriller about a group of friends tied together by a game and the deadly weekend that tears them apart.
For five friends, this was supposed to be one last getaway before going their separate ways—a chance to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they’ve been playing for the past three years. But they’re all dealing with their own demons, and they’re all hiding secrets.
Finn doesn’t trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.
When the lines between game and reality start to blend with deadly consequences, it’s a race against time before it’s game over—forever.
MARIEKE NIJKAMPis the #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Is Where It Ends and Before I Let Go. She is a storyteller, dreamer, globetrotter, geek. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, has served as an executive member of We Need Diverse Books, and is the founder of DiversifYA. She lives in the Netherlands. Visit her at mariekenijkamp.com.
Imogen Tolliman never knew her mother. And when an accident robs Immi of her father too, she goes to live with her grandfather, Tollie, in his picturesque lock-keeper’s cottage by the Aysbury marina.
Tollie is the star of the Santa Ahoy Special each Christmas – a festive boat ride along the canal that enthralls both children and adults alike. And as Immi grows up, she starts to appreciate the magical community she is lucky enough to live in.
When Immi meets Gray Adams, she instantly realises he’s someone special. And as their relationship gets serious, they start to plan for the Christmas to beat all Christmases.
But as the day approaches, and the romantic snow showers turn into blizzards, their dream of a Christmas to remember, looks set to be one they’ll never forget – for all the wrong reasons. Can they salvage the festivities, or will old secrets that are finally uncovered turn Immi’s life upside down forever?
Let Lucy Coleman transport you away to a dreamy Cotswolds Christmas full of snowflakes and secrets, log fires, mistletoe, friends and much-loved traditions.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books in return for an honest review.
This is a lovely festive slice of community spirit, friendship and love. Immi has faced a lot of grief in her young life, but she’s showered with love by her grandfather and the community where they live, she feels blessed. Her love life is peachy with Gray except they don’t see each other as much as they like, so she writes a letter to Santa.
The two protagonists are quirky characters, but they are good people and as the story progresses you like them more. This story emphasises the meaning of Christmas, family and coping with what life throws your way, and the result is a heartwarming and ultimately satisfying festive read.
Extract from the book…
I read an article the other day, giving tips on how to manifest the life you want. You begin by writing a letter and… burning it. Whether you want to free yourself of worry, realise a dream, or simply declutter your mind, a well-respected life coach believes that the universe is listening. I’m not sure how I feel about that statement, but I can see how it might be cathartic for some people – assuming they have the guts to do it properly.
What I’m discovering, though, is that being honest with oneself isn’t easy. After almost an hour, most of it spent with a pen in my hand hovering over the piece of paper in front of me, it remains blank. Even though I love the idea of releasing negative energy into the ether, or drawing positive energy towards me, I can’t do it. I’m not ready to bare my soul to anyone. Least of all, myself.
Maybe I’ll write a letter to Santa, instead, and burn that. Start small and work your way up, Immi, I tell myself. As one of my three jobs involves wearing an elf costume every weekend in December, I figure that if I’m not ready to reach out to the universe, Santa is the next best option.
This year I’m hoping Christmas is going to be a truly joyful occasion to make up for the disappointments of last year. When the man you love – your soul mate – is supporting a parent through the big C, life can feel as if it’s on hold. I won’t lie, it’s been tough. My mind and my body ache when he isn’t here with me because I’m simply going through the motions rather than living my life.
Anyway, what harm can it do to honour an age-old tradition? After all, I’m one of Santa’s biggest fans. They say the act of believing makes things happen and I’ve seen that with my own eyes. So here goes:
When I was six years old, I wrote you a very special letter. I handed Dad the sealed envelope and we stood together, hand in hand, as he threw it onto the fire. I watched in fervent anticipation as the wisps of pale grey smoke, tinged with little curls of white, disappeared up the chimney.
Everyone thought I was asking you for a doll’s house, but actually, I asked you to bring my mum back home to us. Dad didn’t understand why I burst into tears on Christmas morning, after I’d unwrapped the wonderful presents beneath the glittering tree. And, at the time, I didn’t understand that I had asked for the impossible.
Every year until I was twelve, when I wrote my last letter, I just asked for toys, books and clothes, as the other kids did. But in my heart there was only one thing I longed to have, because I honestly believed that it would make my life complete.
But I appreciate now how lucky I was, and that the true magic of Christmas was there all along. I was surrounded by love. The love of my dad, my grandparents and our friends. No child could ask for more than that.
This year there is only one thing on my list and it’s to be able to celebrate Christmas with the man I love, Gray, by my side. I need it to reassure me there really can be an us and that life isn’tgoing to cheat me, yet again.
Just keep everything crossed for me, will you? That’s all I ask. And keep up the good work. A lot of people believe in you, regardless of their age. In today’s world that’s both magical and inspiring, because what is life without hope?
With much love, Immi
Lucy Coleman is a #1 bestselling romance writer, whose recent novels include Snowflakes over Holly Cove. She also writes under the name Linn B. Halton. She won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award and lives in the Welsh Valleys.
Theresa Gonzalez, the Baltimore Medical x-ray tech, was in a middle seat in coach silently cursing. She had been up since before dawn to catch an early flight from BWI to Miami. As the morning progressed, her throat was getting scratchy and she was starting to feel chesty.
She wound up saying, rather than thinking one of her “damn-its” and the elderly man in the window seat said, “Excuse me, did you say something?”
“I apologize,” she said, hacking into a tissue. “I’m going on vacation and I think I’m catching a cold.”
The man was pleasant enough. “Don’t you hate it when that happens?”
“I think I know who coughed on me.”
“Well I hope you won’t do the same to me,” he said cheerfully.
“I’ll be careful.”
“Are you staying in Miami?” he asked.
“I’m boarding a cruise there.”
“That’s wonderful. Where to?”
“The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, and St. Thomas. I can’t wait.”
She coughed again but this time she was a little slow with her tissue. He must have felt some spray land on his forearm because he dabbed at it with a napkin.
“I apologize,” she repeated.
The man’s smile faded. He put the armrest down and pressed himself against the window.
The stewardess who handed Gonzalez a can of soda and a bag of chips would fly on to Dallas later in the day to attend a training seminar with flight attendants from twenty states.
That night, the window-seat passenger had dinner in Coral Gables with his three elementary-school grandkids, his daughter, a pharmaceutical sales rep with a busy schedule for the next day, and his son-in-law, an accountant who had an early tee-time in a foursome that included a Delta pilot who would fly to London Gatwick in the evening.
Terry Gonzalez, though a little feverish, had her first on-board meal with eleven randomly assigned passengers from five states, coughing her way through the appetizers and entrée before excusing herself. In the morning she was feeling too ill to leave her cabin, but the rest of her dinner companions disembarked at their first port-of-call in Nassau where some of them had lunch at a café next to a table of Japanese tourists on their next-to-last day of holiday. One couple stopped a Swede on the street on his final day of a business trip to see if he knew how to get to the pirate museum. Another couple asked an Italian schoolteacher to take their photo.
And so it began.
If you catch it, you forget everything. Your only hope is the cure…
He wanted to cure Alzheimer’s Disease…
Single parent and neurologist Dr. Jamie Abbott makes a key contribution to treating Alzheimer’s Disease. But the principal investigator short-circuits the study safeguards, releasing a highly contagious virus that wipes the host’s memories. His daughter is one of the first victims.
As the virus spreads and civil order breaks down, Jamie embarks on a perilous cross-country journey. He needs to reach Dr. Mandy Alexander. She has the other half of a potential cure.
If he fails, he’ll leave most of mankind to the oblivion of total amnesia.
Glenn Cooper is a Harvard-trained infectious diseases physician who became the CEO of a large public biotech company in Massachusetts. He sold his company in 2009, about the time that his first novel, Library of the Dead, was published. He has been a full-time writer ever since, with fourteen top-ten bestselling thrillers published in thirty translations, and seven million copies sold. A TV series based on his first trilogy is in development.
Belinda Marshall’s idyllic teenage life in Brittany, France, fell apart when her parents dramatically separated and her mother took her back to England. Fast forward thirty-five years when Belinda’s world is once again turned upside down. It’s the week before Christmas and Belinda’s employer ‘surprises’ her by asking for her help to rejuvenate their latest investment, a run-down campsite in Brittany. Memories and anxieties that had lain dormant for years suddenly begin to resurface. As secrets from a lost life threaten to overwhelm her, there is a realisation that maybe she wasn’t told the whole truth by her mother all those years ago.
Can Belinda reconcile her emotions and find happiness once more in the place she so loved and called home?
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Belinda has a career she enjoys and excels at but renovating a camping park in Brittany for her employers is not what she wants. Brittany has painful family memories for Belinda, and now she has to confront them. The campsite is a disaster and the antagonistic manager Alain, ramps up the conflict.
The French setting is well-described and lets the reader experience life in Brittany. Friendships, gentle romance and family dramas are all carefully woven into this plot. It’s easy to get lost in this story, and the characters and their lives resonate.
This is a lovely read for a Summer afternoon full of friendship, love and poignancy.
Extract from A French Affair – Jennifer Bohnet
It was late afternoon on the last Friday before Christmas and Belinda Marshall, roving manager and chief troubleshooter for the Milton chain of Devonshire-based hotels had just been given some bombshell news from Nigel and Molly Milton, her employers. She’d been wondering why she’d been called into the inner sanctum so late in the day. Now she knew.
‘You’ve bought a new business in France? We’re finally expanding into Europe? That’s great news. I know you had a couple of holidays in France this year, but I thought they were just that – holidays for you both. You didn’t mention you were even looking at places,’ Belinda said, leaning against the filing cabinet as she accepted the champagne Nigel had insisted on pouring. ‘Cheers.’
‘It came up unexpectedly,’ Molly said. ‘In truth it’s all been a bit impulsive.’
‘Anyway, we both know the place and we’re thrilled with it,’ Nigel interrupted. ‘Molly can’t wait to spend time there when it’s all been rejuvenated. Bit run-down at the moment. Which is where you come in, of course.’
Belinda sipped her champagne before saying, ‘So come on, you two, put me out of my misery. Where is our new hotel? Which particular part of France? Biarritz? St-Tropez? Paris?’
Nigel laughed. ‘I know we run a successful company, Belinda, but prices for places like that are way out of our league. No, Camping dans La Fôret is in—’
‘Hang on – did you just say, Camping dans La Fôret?’ Alarm bells began to ring in Belinda’s head. ‘That’s a funny name for a hotel.’
‘It’s not a hotel. It’s a boutique campsite in Brittany, Northern France. Finistère, to be precise. Huge potential, but we’re going to need your expertise to drag it into the twenty-first century. Bring it up to standard so that more people can enjoy the Milton Hotel experience,’ Molly said.
Belinda looked from Nigel to Molly and back at Nigel again, stunned. ‘But we’re in the hotel business not camping, not even glamping.’ It had taken her three years of studying and hard work to be awarded her 2.1 in Hotel Hospitality Management. Not once had running a campsite, even a boutique one, ever crossed her path. Let alone one in Brittany.
‘Camping has just become our business,’ Nigel said. ‘It’s all the hospitality business. All about people. Making sure guests enjoy the experience of staying in a Milton hotel – and now a campsite. No difference really.’
‘But Finistère – isn’t it always raining there? Who in their right mind would want to camp in the damp? Morbihan maybe, but not Finistère. Not surprised it’s run-down.’
‘Don’t exaggerate. It’s an urban myth it’s always raining there,’ Nigel said. ‘And with global warming and the movement of the jet stream, the weather is improving there every year. It could soon be The Breton Riviera!’
Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 14 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and A Riviera Retreat. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.
Emily Adams has reached a breaking point. Her boyfriend pushed her down the stairs, breaking her arm, and now she’s found herself in an unfamiliar city with fifteen cents in her pocket and nowhere to go. She’s decided that all that’s left for her, is to take matters into her own hands and put an end to her misery…
Until an encounter with a magic man in a dress changes everything.
In a story full of humor and heart, The Very Real World of Emily Adams shows that there is hope in darkness, triumph in tragedy, and the moment when things are at their worst is when you hold on the hardest, because you never know what good things are waiting for you on the other side of despair.
The Very Real World of Emily Adams by Samantha Rose
The first thing I noticed was the silence. It wasn’t the sort of silence we’d had in our conversation on the drive there, where it wasn’t really silence—there’d been the background noises of air rushing past us, of the fan, the engine. This… this was a different kind of silence. There were no crickets. There was no wind. It was the kind of silence I imagined falling over the funeral of a horrible person who’d died a horrible death, where the few in the audience were too shocked and disturbed to shed a single tear, and the pastor had no words of solace to give.
Then there was the darkness. I couldn’t see anything beyond the still blades of grass and the figure of the farmhouse touched by the headlights. Off in the distance, I thought I could see the very first violet rays of morning, but other than that…
Nothe wrung his fingers a little. A faint, uneasy emotion radiated from him. “You know, maybe you should stay in the truck.”
I remembered what had happened the last time I’d done that. I grabbed the notebook and pen, saying, “That’s okay. I’m here to help and take notes, so yeah! Put me to work.”
He looked as though he were about to argue against this, but then he brightened. “Well, okay then. If you insist.” He popped open the door and got out. I did likewise, meeting him in the glow of the headlights. We stared up at the quaint, country style house. It had a porch lined with chipped, white columns that wrapped all the way around the eastern corner. It would’ve been a darling home that reminded me of my grandma’s, if not for the darkened windows and the feeling of gloom that weeped from them, and the smell of dead, decaying things that permeated the air.
Nothe said cheerfully, “Let’s start with the house.”
My eyes widened. “Why? I thought we were trying to avoid the farmers.”
“Well, I think if they were home, they’d have seen us pull up, don’t you?”
“Yes. Let’s make things worse by spying on them through their windows.”
“Oh, no. That won’t be necessary. The front door is wide open. See?”
He pointed to the wall where the porch ended. I wasn’t sure how I’d missed it, but he was right. The door was wide open, leading into black emptiness. I swore, for the briefest moment, I saw two, glowing yellow orbs peering out from the edge of the doorway before disappearing from view.
I blinked. I rubbed my eyes, my face. That’d just been a trick of the light, right? I hadn’t actually seen… what I thought I saw…
I looked up at Nothe. It might’ve been my imagination, but I thought he looked a little paler and slightly more serious than he had the last time I’d glanced at his face. I asked him, “Did you see that, too?”
Samantha Rose is a forever-student at Utah State University, who will one day have her Masters Degree in Psychology. She wrote her first novel in permanent marker on her sister’s vanity chair when she was three-years-old. It wasn’t well received.
She currently resides in the mountains, in a little house full of toys, where she’s enjoying her happily ever after with her Prince Charming and three adorable, little bears.
When Crystal’s pimp, protector and former lover, Gilly, dies of a drugs overdose Crystal is bereft. She refuses the paid protection of a rival pimp, determined to go it alone. But a vicious beating from a client leaves her feeling vulnerable and angry.
Meanwhile, Crystal’s daughter, Candice, is asking difficult questions about her job. Crystal decides it’s time to make some changes, and, when a high-profile judge offers her payment to keep schtum about his nefarious activities, it gives her an idea. Perhaps other clients will also pay for her silence…
Crystal engages on a revenge mission to rob, blackmail and expose her most depraved clients. But some of these men are highly dangerous and, if Crystal wants to exact her plan of revenge, she must accept the risks that go with it.
Heather Burnside is back with this breath-taking, heart-racing series
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus -Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The third book in the gritty and gripping working girls series features Crystal. Addicted to alcohol and drugs, Crystal reaches an all-time low when her partner and pimp Gilly dies. It’s decision time for Crystal. She chooses to fight against her addictions and take revenge against her worst clients. Blackmail forms the basis of Crystal’s exit strategy from her old life, but she fails to see the inherent dangers.
Crystal’s significant character development makes the ending positive in this story of redemption and revenge. Characterised by a pacy, twisty plot and positive female protagonists working girls is an addictive series worth reading.
Crystal – Heather Burnside – Extract
Ruby was becoming irritated as she listened to Crystal defending Gilly. ‘I know he had a temper but I never f**kin’ saw him lose it big time with anyone else,’ she snapped. ‘You were the one that was always on the receiving end and don’t forget that you were the one he beat unconscious as well.’
‘No, he didn’t just lose it with me,’ said Crystal. The guilty expression had returned and Ruby knew there was something more.
‘Go on. Who?’
Crystal swallowed and without further encouragement she came out with it. ‘He killed a man.’
Ruby sprang back in her seat. ‘You’re f**kin’ joking!’
The words hit her like a thunderbolt. It wasn’t only the revelation; it was because it brought home to her that she too was a killer. But, despite prompting Crystal to confide in her, there was no way Ruby was going to share her own secret. Too many people knew already; her partner, Tiffany, and her cousins who had helped her to dispose of the body.
Ruby’s mind drifted back to the scene when Kyle, her childhood nemesis, had tried to take advantage of her. Then she thought of her own callous treatment of him and stifled a shudder of revulsion. Although she was ashamed of how far she had gone, she refused to feel guilty for the piece of shit that was Kyle Gallagher. He was another one who deserved everything that happened to him. And, at the end of the day, she had only paid him back for what he had done to her.
Not content with scarring her for life as a child, Kyle had then moved on to her business, a city centre brothel, where he’d collected protection money and manhandled her girls. But when he’d tried to manhandle her it had been a step too far. There was no way she was going to submit herself to him so he’d had to die.
‘What happened?’ she asked, quickly shifting the focus back to Crystal and blocking her memories but not before she had subconsciously run her finger over her facial scar.
‘He didn’t mean to,’ said Crystal.
Ruby held back her irritation again as Crystal went on to describe how Gilly had made it his mission to punish a client who had abused her. When they’d eventually tracked him down Gilly had driven him to a secluded place, intent on retribution. But the man had retaliated fiercely, forcing Gilly to take desperate action to stop him.
‘He did it for me,’ Crystal added. ‘He felt really bad about it afterwards. He never meant to kill him.’ She paused and took a deep breath before adding, ‘So we went back and buried the body. It was on the news about the man disappearing. But we just kept quiet. Gilly didn’t want anyone to know.’
‘So you kept it secret for him?’ asked Ruby. ‘As well as helping him to bury the f**kin’ body!’
‘Yes,’ Crystal whispered before finding renewed vigour as she continued. ‘But, like I said, he did it for me so it was the least I could do.’
Ruby shook her head but Crystal wasn’t finished yet. ‘I feel really bad about that too. Now that I’ve lost Gilly I realise what that man’s family must have felt like. I think I should tell the coppers everything.’
‘What, and take the rap for what Gilly did? Are you off your f**kin’ head? You keep schtum about the f**kin’ lot, Crystal.’ Ruby looked at her friend who had now bowed her head low and was sobbing again. ‘Are you listening?’
‘Yes,’ Crystal mumbled.
Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.
British doctor Lea Holm has come to New York to work in her chosen field of emergency medicine. She loves her new life in this exciting city and can’t wait to get started with her research project. The last thing she needs are distractions.
But then she meets famous actor Ricco Como in her building – a distraction if ever there was one. He’s gorgeous and sweet, and there’s an immediate connection between them. Lea tries to resist temptation, but when he comes to her for help dealing with his steadily worsening migraine she can’t turn away from his plight.
As Ricco’s health takes a turn for the worse, their lives become more and more entwined. But can their growing attraction withstand the strain of his ill health, and can he let Lea be more than just his doctor?
**This novella series contains detailed descriptions of long-term health conditions, cheating and a bereavement.**
The series is set in New York City and was written before COVID-19. It makes no reference to recent events.
Character Interview with Dr Lea Holm By Cecilia Fyre
We had the rare opportunity to catch up with Dr Lea Holm, the new girlfriend of actor Ricco Como. Lea is a doctor at Bellevue Hospital. She’s originally from London, England.
Hi Lea, thanks for agreeing to talk to us. I don’t think you’ve given many interviews like this so far?
No, this is my first, actually. I’m quite nervous.
No need, we won’t ask you anything incriminating. [Lea laughs nervously.] Now, do you want to tell us a little about yourself?
Let’s see. There isn’t much to tell. I recently moved to New York, from London. I work in an ER in the city, and as a researcher on a pain study. That’s why I came to Bellevue Hospital in the first place, to work on that study.
Is this your first time living in Manhattan?
I don’t actually live in Manhattan now, I moved to Queens. This city is insanely expensive, even worse than London! [laughs] My little flat is cute, but even out there it’s expensive. But yes, to answer your question. I’ve never lived in the States before.
So, let’s get to the juicy details, the questions our readers are eagerly awaiting: How did you and Ricco meet?
Well, when I first moved to New York I did live in Manhattan. I knew someone who knew someone who wanted a lodger for a few months. That guy lives in Ricco’s building, and I met Ricco in the hall one day.
Was it love at first sight?
Not really. We had coffee soon afterwards, though. So I guess we at least liked each other.
What is it like being with someone famous? Is it harder than dating normal people?
Oh yeah! [laughs again] It’s a lot harder, because so many people are interested in Ricco’s private life. So we kind of try to stay out of the spotlight, you know? But it’s also hard for other reasons. He works really long hours, and is often away for work. And I work long hours too. So we don’t always see each other as much as we’d like.
I bet that sucks especially. Being with a guy like Ricco and not being able to see him much?
I’m used to people who are passionate about their work. Doctors are like that as well, so we have that in common, which helps, I think. And when we do get to spend time together it’s really special. We try and make the most of it.
Okay, let’s do a few quick-fire questions to close off the interview. One word answers only!
Is Ricco a good kisser?
Who does the dishes, he or you?
The dishwasher! [she claps her hand to her mouth] Sorry that’s two words.
Are you messy or neat?
Ricco – neat. Me – not!
Who gets to choose the TV station, or the Netflix show to watch?
Me! Always, always me! [laughs]
And that’s the end of the interview. Thank you so much for taking the time for us, and all the best to you two!
Lea stepped out of the elevator and heard a weird, humming sound. No, not humming. Purring. Looking around her she spotted a black cat in the crevice under a nearby radiator.
“Hey, who’re you?” she murmured.
Big, green cat eyes stared at her out of the gloom, the jet-black body obscured in the shadows.
“Are you running away?” She crouched down and held out a hand. For a moment the cat looked like it was going to hiss at her. But then it slunk over, belly close to the marble floor. It was still purring.
Truth be told, Lea wasn’t really a cat person. She preferred dogs. Or maybe, in the tiny New York apartments, a cockatiel would be nice. Though this kitty was pretty cute. Its coat was fluffy, and it was a little on the chubby side. Well cared for, certainly. Of course, it would be, in this swanky Little Italy apartment building where the cheapest unit cost well over three million dollars. And whoever the cat belonged to was probably looking for it. So Lea braced herself and picked it up.
The elevator servicing the apartments on this floor was hidden away in a nook at the end of the hallway. As Lea stepped out from that little space now, the cat hanging relaxed in her arms, the door at the opposite end of the hallway opened. A man peered through it. “Carl? Man, if you slipped out, I’ll…sh*t…oh.”
He spotted Lea and opened the door wider. She felt foolish asking since he had pretty much confirmed it. “He yours?” She nodded at the cat in her arms, who had wriggled onto his back, head lolling, looking at her with those weird, slitted eyes.
“Yeah, he is,” the man said. “Little f**ker… sorry.”
She hid her smile as the color rose in his face. “Did he give you the slip?”
He nodded. Lea walked the length of the hallway, taking the opportunity to study him. Brown hair to just over his ears, tousled and standing up in places like he’d just woken up. His eyes were very blue, slightly slanted, and returning her gaze openly. Nice cheekbones that gave his features a certain finesse. He had boyish good looks that could only be helpful in his line of work. He wore a black T-shirt and grey sweatpants, and despite his handsome face, his smile was a little shy and very ordinary. Lea already knew who he was.
Despite what she might have said to Carmine about not caring for the famous people living in his building, now that she found herself face to face with one her heart jumped in her chest and her hands that were still clasping the cat began to sweat.
When she reached him, she held out her arms, uncertain of what to do. He smiled again, then disentangled the furry creature from his cozy spot.
“Thanks a lot.”
Lea returned his smile. “No problem.”
He wrestled for a moment with the cat, who was trying to crawl onto his shoulder. Once the cat had settled, looking very much at home, he extended his hand. “I’m Ricco.”
Lea was about to say, I know, but then decided against it. She shook his hand. “I’m Lea. Nice to meet you.”
Ricco gestured behind himself. “D’you wanna come in for a coffee? Thanks to you my afternoon won’t be wasted looking for this monster now.” He patted the animal, who purred.
Lea shook her head. She could’ve kicked herself. “I’m sorry, I can’t. My shift starts in less than an hour.” She glanced at her watch. She’d rushed out to run some errands she’d forgotten about all week and was running late now.
“Oh, okay… maybe another time.” He seemed disappointed, but Lea found that hard to believe. Why’d he care one way or another?
She banished the cynicism. “Definitely.”
Ricco was still looking at her, and the intensity of his gaze made Lea feel uneasy. He seemed to notice and lowered his eyes, retreating into his doorway. Lea turned to retrace her steps to the door furthest from his.
“See you later,” he said. Lea glanced around and he gave her a one-handed wave. She waved back and began to dig in her bag for the house keys. His door fell shut. Lea inserted her key into her own door, then stopped and glanced back down the corridor. Her heartbeat rather fast and her hands shook. She couldn’t understand why that should be so. She’d never cared a fig about celebrities.
Cecilia Fyre is the pen name of a romance author trying out something new.
She likes sunny, crisp autumn days. Cups of hot cocoa with little marshmallows floating on top. The roaring of the sea. Laughing until your face hurts. The silence when you curl up with a good book.
Her stories are about people. Some of them are strange, some think they’re boring. They all have secrets, they’re all scared sometimes. Cecilia writes about life, about love. About how hard it is to do it right. Usually, there’s a happy ending, or at least there might be one, someday.
But life’s not all sunshine and roses, and that’s why Cecilia tells her stories.
The five novellas are: Book 1 – Heart and the City Book 2 – Unexpected Truth Book 3 – Been There Before Book 4 – Wish The Pain Away Book 5 – A Thousand Little Pieces
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Giveaway Link above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
Maddie Brown has spent most of her life putting everyone else’s needs above her own. But with her marriage crumbling and her nest scarily empty, she realises it may be time to spread her own wings and fly.
In with the… ex?
At a university reunion, Maddie meets Greg. He was the love of her life – and the one that got away. Some things never change, and neither of them can deny the feelings that linger between them. But there are so many reasons they can’t be together… not least the massive secret she has been keeping from him all these years.
Maddie is SO ready for a brand new start. But what do you do when the past just won’t stay in the past?
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A multi-generational story about life, love, romance and friendship. Maddie regrets her choices made twenty years ago. Can she be the person she is inside? Maddie is a relatable character, easy to empathise and like. Essentially this is a journey of belated self-discovery, it retains its grip on reality because Maddie doesn’t shy away from her responsibilities, but realises she deserves to do things for her too.
Extract from Take a Look at Me Now – Kendra Smith
They sat at separate tables. Maddie picked at her food and allowed her glass to be refilled several times, and eventually emerged from the fuggy hall, where the fog of drinks, steam and aromas of the four-course dinner came up against the sharp evening wind outside.
It was dusky, the horizon swallowing up the smear of crimson streaked across it, like a watercolour painting turning dark at the edges. Maddie looked around as she inhaled the air heavy with the scent of honeysuckle. She could see him standing at the bottom of the steps, his face glowing in the eerie white light of his mobile phone. Then he was taking a call, his shoulders hunched over. She pulled back and waited by the doorway, unsure of her place.
She swayed slightly on her heels, knowing she’d had too many drinks. Whatever the conversation was, it was heated. He was gesturing with his free hand towards the grass, as if conducting his own private, invisible orchestra. After a minute, he spun around and jammed his phone in his pocket. Then he saw her, walking slowly down the steps. She pulled her wrap around her shoulders tightly as she got to him.
‘I have to go,’ he muttered, and jerked his head to the left.
Like the last time, Greg? she wanted to ask. But instead she calmed the butterflies in her stomach, as the wave of emotion overwhelmed her and forced a smile. Theirs was a story from the past.
They used to miss lectures on a Friday as they both only had one – they’d stay in bed most of the day. He’d wander around her tiny bedsit in not much more than a towel tied around his waist after a scalding-hot shower. In fact, she realised with a shudder, that’s what she missed the most: the easy intimacy. He used to wash her hair sometimes, with gentle hands on her scalp, circling the back of her neck with his strong thumbs. He’d sit her down in front of the basin and gently wet it all, pour over shampoo then put on honey-scented conditioner and comb it through.
It was wonderful and so relaxing. Sometimes it had led to something more… but normally he’d wrap her hair in a towel and they’d sit, watching her tiny TV, and she’d feel like the luckiest girl in the world. And now, here he was, in a dinner jacket and black tie, standing right next to her. Stony-faced. She bit her lip, tasted the blood, so she could focus on the present.
And with that he walked briskly away.
She watched him. Watched as he strode across the concrete courtyard, heels clicking, like he did all those years ago. Perhaps she’d been stupid to come, to open up all those old wounds again. She folded her arms across her chest and shivered.
‘Maddie!’ It was Ellie, weaving her way towards her in purple slingbacks, clipping on the hard surface. ‘There you are! C’mon, we’re all going to the Student Union bar for Snakebites! Maddie, c’mon!’ Ellie had stopped by one of the pillars and was fiddling with her shoes.
‘Looks like you need some help with your footwear!’ She took Ellie by the arm as they made their – slightly wobbly – way to the bar.
As she licked the traces of blood from her lips, she was thankful that at least it would take her mind off the nagging question that was building up in her mind.
Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space but quickly made the leap to editorial – and went on to work on several women’s magazines in both Sydney and London. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.
AMY PIPER IS A LOSER. SHE’S LOST HER CONFIDENCE, HER MOJO AND HER WAY.
But one thing she has never lost is her total love for her thirteen-year-old son Joey, and for his sake she knows it’s time for a change. But first she has to be brave enough to leave the house…
What she needs are friends and an adventure. And when she joins a running group of women who call themselves The Larks, she finds both. Not to mention their inspiring (and rather handsome) coach, Nathan.
Once upon a time Amy was a winner – at life, at sport and in love. Now, with every ounce of strength she has left, she is determined to reclaim the life she had, for herself and for Joey. And who knows, she might just be a winner again – at life, sport, and love, if she looks in the right places…
Uplifting, funny and unforgettable, Beth Moran returns with a joyous tale of friendship, love and facing your fears.
It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t get woken up by my phone alarm blaring, spring out of bed and decide today was the day. I didn’t open up Facebook and one of those irritating quotes – embrace the rain if you want to dance under the rainbow – actually inspired someone for the first time ever to change something. After cajoling my son, Joey, out of bed, I didn’t gaze at his beautiful face as he poured a second giant bowl of cereal, raving about the school football match coming up, and in a surge of love and regret suddenly experience the pivotal moment in a decade of non-moments.
In fact, apart from the invitation that arrived in the morning post, most of the day went precisely as expected. Which was, in summary, exactly the same as pretty much every other weekday. I waved Joey off to school, reminding him to hand in the form about the meeting that evening and cleared away the breakfast dishes. I worked at my desk in the kitchen, breaking the monotony of writing about corporate social responsibility policies by swanning off to eat lunch in the living room, because that’s the type of wild and crazy woman I am.
I rescued Joey’s football kit from festering on his bedroom floor and stuck it in the wash, because despite telling myself on a daily basis that it’s time he learnt the hard way, circumstances dictate that I also live with an extra-large pile of parental guilt, so I make life easier for him where I can.
By the time Joey came home at four, I had spoken to no one since he left, unless you count talking to myself. Oh, and to the enormous spider who appeared out of nowhere and started edging across the kitchen while I debated whether to have another chocolate cookie or the bag of seeds I’d bought precisely to avoid eating a whole packet of cookies.
‘I’d get out of here if I were you. While your impressive size might earn you respect in the spider world, my son doesn’t take kindly to home invasions by anything with more legs than him, and he’ll be home any minute. Go on, shoo. Or else I’ll have to squish you.’
Too late. While the spider was weighing up whether to heed my advice, Joey burst through the front door, in his usual whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm.
‘Hey, Mum. I’m starving, are there any of those cookies left?’
I clicked save and pushed my chair back to face him. ‘Hi, Joey, and yes, I had an okay day, thanks. How was yours?’
‘Oh. Sorry, yeah. It was good, actually.’ He paused, mid-search of the snack cupboard, to offer an apologetic smile. ‘We did this experiment in science where we had to heat up this white stuff, and— WHAAAAAAT!?’
In an instant, my strapping thirteen-year-old reverted to a frightened child, leaping up to sit on the worktop, cookie packet hugged protectively to his chest.
‘How long’s that been there?’ he shrieked.
‘Why didn’t you tell me the biggest spider in the universe was right behind me?’
It was a pointless question. We had been through this too many times before. Joey knew that the reason I hadn’t told him was because of what would inevitably happen next.
And, in line with the rest of the day’s predictability, it did. After a brief negotiation about Joey’s phobia, the value of the spider’s life and what I was willing and able to do about both these things, given that I didn’t think it was quite worthy of calling either the police or pest control, I ended up scooping the monster arachnid in both hands and facing my own worst nightmare.
‘Ready?’ Joey looked at me with solemn eyes as he gripped the door handle. He tried to keep his voice steady, but the rise and fall of his chest betrayed his terror.
I nodded, aware that my own eyes, while the exact same light brown as my son’s – caramel, his dad used to call them – were darting wildly like two wasps caught in a Coke bottle.
Before I had time to take another wheezing, shallow breath, Joey flung the door open and ducked behind it. I threw myself forwards, crashing against the door frame, eyes now firmly squeezed shut, and flicked my hand outside. A sudden gust of wind sent me reeling back in panic.
‘CLOSE THE DOOR!’ I gasped, clutching at my heart as it careened about my ribcage and stumbling back into the middle of the kitchen.
‘Is it gone? Are you sure it’s gone?’ Joey garbled back.
‘Yes! It’s gone. CLOSE THE DOOR, JOEY, NOW!’
I heard the door slam, took another two calming breaths and forced my eyes to take a peek. ‘Oh, please.’
The spider levelled me an ironic gaze from the welcome mat. It was so humungous I could see the lazy challenge in each of its eight eyes.
‘What? What? What is it? Is it still here?’ Joey spoke from where he’d scrambled behind me.
‘It may have blown back in and now be sitting on the mat.’
Beth Moran is the author of three previous books, including Making Marion. She regularly features on BBC Radio Nottingham and is a trustee of the national women’s network Free Range Chicks. She lives on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest. Beth’s first novel for Boldwood, Christmas Every Day, was published in September 2019
Frankie Keegan is struggling. While she tries to make strides in her career, life at home is slowly unravelling as she is haunted by the secrets of her past.
SOMEONE ELSE REMEMBERS…
As the dark nights draw in, the anniversary of the loss of her brother looms and Frankie is drawn back to the memories of that fateful night 20 years previously. As she descends into a guilt-ridden state, she begins to suspect that someone else is also remembering that night and they are determined to terrify her…
Can she confront her past before it’s too late?
From the international bestselling author of The Daughter In Law, a gripping psychological thriller about family, secrecy and grief – with a twist you won’t see coming.
I stood at the top of the stairs and held my breath as my anxiety spiked and my heart pounded in my throat. But I could no longer hear the noise that had drawn me there. As I stood, my foot perched ready to take the first step, I wondered if perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me. Maybe the events of the last few days had finally caught up with me. But faces were hovering in front of me. Those people I had trusted. And those who I had hurt.
All those years ago I was trying so hard to make a difference in any way I could. But I was young. And I was foolish. I knew the past would never be able to bury itself, and I had not been able to rest for twenty years because the horrors of that day would stay with me until I took my final breath.
But now it was time to face the past head on. I tightened my grip on my weapon and began the descent to the kitchen. I knew I was now in grave danger. I knew that I had to protect my children and face the person who had found their way into my home.
Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.