Sunday Serial #13

wine

I’m following a nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray in weekly instalments.
You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.
So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..

As soon as Greg left the cottage Sharon went upstairs for a shower. Afterwards, she returned to the sitting room dressed in a loose top, jeans and trainers and sat pondering what to tell Louise. She knew the child would be bitterly disappointed. Best not to mention then that she hadn’t even told Greg they’d be leaving. But what to say? What excuse could she give for breaking her promise?

Sharon glanced down at the carpet and was immediately reminded of what she and Greg had been doing there earlier. It was the sex which had made it impossible to keep her promise to Louise. It had reminded her that imperfect as the present arrangement was, she didn’t want to give it up. She was happy with the way things were. She’d never expected Greg to leave Pam, but if she told him she was leaving Leefdale he’d assume that’s what she was trying to get him to do. The last thing she wanted was to set up home with Greg and endure all the mess of his divorce; see Pam deprived of her kids at weekends and holidays. All that blame and guilt, who needed it? It wasn’t as if she actually loved him. Or rather, she didn’t think she loved him anymore. Love had been replaced by habit. But habit had its advantages. Right now she didn’t want any radical changes that would drastically alter the balance of forces in her life. The present situation was quite convenient. Besides, she had no intention of leaving Honeysuckle Cottage. To move out would be to acknowledge that her mother and father were actually dead, and even now, at the age of thirty, she wasn’t able to do that.

Sharon looked around the room that contained so many of her mother and father’s possessions. While she remained in these familiar and secure surroundings, mum and dad would always be alive and she’d feel close to them, as she’d always done. She was sure any number of people would tell her it was stupid to cling so obsessively and irrationally to the past. But that was easy to say when you weren’t obsessive and irrational, wasn’t it?

Invariably, such uncomfortable reflections on her circumstances precipitated the opening of a bottle. She stood up, went into the kitchen and returned with a big glass of Australian Merlot. She resumed her seat and took a long sip. That was better! Of course, she knew how desperately unhappy Louise was, particularly with all the taunting from Jade and others about her absent father. It was a horrible situation for the child to be in: living a life of deceit. She was determined to do everything she could to make Louise happy. Everything, that was, except leave Leefdale.

Despite the consolation of the wine, Sharon found she was still vexed. “Never make a promise you can’t keep”. That’s what her father had always said. So why had she made that rash promise to Louise, knowing she’d never go through with it? She struggled to comprehend the thought process that had led her to make such a crazy decision, but could only recall the wonderful feeling of relief when she’d made it. There was no use denying it, a big part of her longed to be free of a situation that was becoming more and more abnormal. She wanted to leave Leefdale just as much as her daughter. That’s why she’d promised Louise she would tell Greg they were leaving. At the time it had seemed the easiest promise in the world to make. But, almost immediately, all the usual doubts had returned along with that inner voice urging her not to tell him.

But why not tell him? It was ludicrous for a woman of her age to be so unwilling to let go. To be paralysed by her fear of change. After all, it was hardly an ideal or desirable situation to cling on to, was it? To be living just down the road from your secret lover, whilst stopping your child revealing to his family that she was his daughter? Surely, if only for Louise’s sake, she should leave? But that would mean conquering her fear of the unknown and she wasn’t up to it. She knew it was unhealthy and preventing her growth as a human being but there was nothing she could do about it. She was comfortable with the person she was. If she left Leefdale that person would no longer exist, and she was terrified of losing that person.

More practically, if she moved away there would be no more popping in by Greg on some gubernatorial or Community Watch pretext. Their relationship would be difficult to sustain. The sex even more impossible to organise. It might even result in discovery. And then what? He’d be forced to choose. She didn’t want to be the one responsible for breaking up his marriage and destroying his family.

How could she possibly explain to Louise all the complex reasons for breaking her promise to her? No, it looked like she’d just have to lie. Perhaps she could say she’d started telling dad they were intending to move, but he’d got so upset and distressed at the thought of it she’d backed off and promised they wouldn’t. She’d no wish to disappoint Louise and upset her, but she couldn’t allow her life to be dominated by the needs of an eleven year old.

After an inner struggle, Sharon succumbed to a second glass of wine; and then, much later, a third. At nine fifty-five the darkness outside her window reminded her that the “Oliver” rehearsal finished at ten and Mrs Henshall had specifically asked that all the children involved be collected from the village hall by a parent or another responsible adult.

Leisurely Sharon went upstairs and slipped on her fleece. She then returned to the sitting room and picked up her car keys from their usual place in the empty fruit bowl. Immediately, remembering the three very large glasses of wine she’d consumed, she threw the keys down again.

‘Fuck!’

She went over to her handbag and rummaged around in it for her mobile. She accessed the number of Louise’s mobile and pressed “Call”. There was a short delay and then Louise’s phone signalled its presence somewhere in the house. Sharon darted up the stairs and into Louise’s bedroom. The unmistakable ring tone was emanating from a wardrobe. Sharon flung it open. Louise’s waterproof was still hanging in its place on the rail. The disturbing noise was coming from one of the pockets. Sharon ended the call and the sound stopped.

Carrying Louise’s waterproof, Sharon ran downstairs to the sitting room. Without the car she was going to be very late. Louise would be the last child to be collected. She visualised Mrs Henshall’s disapproving expression. What kind of a mother would she seem to her? Panicking now, she let herself out of the front door and set off down almost pitch black main street.

The half mile between Honeysuckle Cottage and the village hall had never seemed longer, and she suddenly broke into a curiously inelegant half-running, half-loping trot. As she hurried on past the curtained and lighted windows lining the street, she imagined that behind them the parents who’d already collected their kids from the village hall were self-righteously condemning that appalling Sharon Makepiece who’d sent her poor daughter to the rehearsal without a coat or a mobile phone and hadn’t even bothered to come for her when it was over.

She continued on into the darkness, cursing the refusal of the parish council to erect street lights. Greg and the Major had done their best but in the end had been defeated by the conservatism and intransigence of the other councillors.

Fortunately, ahead of her were the brightly lit windows of The Woldsman. She shivered slightly as she drew near the pub. It was still only April and although the days were warmer, the nights were very chill. Without her coat the poor kid would be freezing. She hoped Louise was waiting outside the village hall, as she’d promised, and not taken it into her head to set off alone. Sharon forced herself on, stealing a quick glance into The Woldsman as she passed, to see if Greg or any of the other parish councillors were in there. But there were only the regular faces around the bar. The meeting obviously hadn’t ended yet.

She hurried on, consoled by the thought that as she was so late there ought to be no risk of meeting Pam who’d probably collected Jade already. She felt awkward enough in Pam’s presence at the best of times. It made her cringe to imagine them standing outside the village hall chatting mumsily about the advantages of different secondary schools knowing that just a couple of hours ago she’d been shagging the woman’s husband senseless.

Sharon had only gone a few yards beyond the pub when a car appeared in the distance, its headlights flooding the black and unlit street with artificial daylight. The vehicle drew nearer. Oh no! It was one of those owned by Greg and Pam. The driver tooted and pulled up. Sharon peered in. Pam was driving and next to her in the front passenger seat was Jade. Louise was in the back, sitting next to Pam’s younger children. Pam pressed a button and the car’s nearside window slid down. Sharon bent towards the opening.

‘We thought you’d got lost so we gave her a lift,’ Pam trilled in that infuriatingly calm and complacent way of hers that suggested nothing ever mattered or was any trouble. ‘She looked so cold and forlorn waiting on her own, poor thing.’

‘Thanks. I didn’t realize it was so late. And then the car wouldn’t start.’

‘Hop in.’

That’s all I need, thought Sharon. She cursed herself for drinking those extra glasses. ‘Thanks, but there’s no room.’

‘We can squeeze you in.’ Pam turned to the children in the back. ‘Gwen. Ian. Shove up and make room for Louise’s mum. Come on, chopity chop.’

Mindful of the alcohol on her breath, Sharon pursed her lips, opened the rear passenger door and slid in next to Louise.

Pam said, ‘Do you want me to send Greg round to have a look at the car?’

‘No, it’s all right, thanks. I’ve got the AA.’

‘Did he manage to catch you?’

Sharon was never sure how much Pam knew or suspected. That’s why she always examined everything she said for nuances, subtle insinuations.

‘Yes. He got his minutes.’

Louise’s highly sensitive nose immediately detected that her mother had been drinking. So that’s why she hadn’t been there to collect her! The child experienced an inexplicable feeling of apprehension.

‘He’s hardly in the house five minutes before he’s off to some meeting or other,’ said Pam. ‘I told him you don’t have to be on the parish council and the Magnificent Britain Sub-Committee. You don’t have to be chair of school governors and the Community Watch. Give something up. Let someone else do it.’ Pam continued to complain about her husband’s civic commitments at some length. Sharon wondered if Pam was implicitly criticising her for monopolising his time. She often wondered what interpretation Pam put on Greg’s visits to Honeysuckle Cottage, and if in private she harangued him about them.

‘He thinks more about his parish council commitments than he does about his own job,’ said Pam.

How can mum bear it? Louise wondered. Why doesn’t she tell her he comes round to see us whenever he can and I call him dad and he listens to my reading? Why doesn’t she tell her Jade and Gwen are my half- sisters? And Ian’s my half-brother? Why does it have to be like this? I can’t stand it. Thank God we’re leaving. We’ll never have to speak to them again.

‘Did you have a good rehearsal?’ Sharon asked Louise.

‘All right.’

‘She’s been thrilling everyone with her singing and dancing,’ said Pam. ‘And she acts brilliantly too.’ Then, noticing her own daughter’s altered expression, she added quickly,

‘Jade was good as well.’

‘I’m only one of Fagin’s gang,’ said Jade.

‘You do it well, though,’ said Pam.

Jade regarded her mother from beneath resentful brows. ‘How do you know? You weren’t there.’

‘I came in at the end.’

‘It was better with the grown-ups playing,’ said Louise.

‘It’s a difficult score,’ said Pam. ‘It needs experienced players.’

An image appeared in Sharon’s mind of Pam’s husband and herself naked on the carpet.

‘What on earth are we going to do about these two girls?’ asked Pam, driving off.

Sharon said, ‘Yes, I got a letter from Mrs Henshall, too.’

‘It’s very worrying. I mean they used to be such good friends.’

‘Yes.’

‘I’ve asked Jade what it’s all about but she won’t tell me.’

‘No, Louise won’t say either.’

Louise pulled a face and mouthed at Sharon, ‘I did. I did.’

‘Shh.’

‘I did!’

Fortunately, apart from Sharon, no-one heard Louise. The car was a noisy diesel and in need of servicing.

‘It’s so strange,’ Pam went on. ‘I’ve told them they’ve got to make up and be friends again and stop all this silly nonsense.’

‘It’s Louise’s fault,’ said Ian, seizing the opportunity to make trouble. ‘She’s always picking on Jade.’

‘I’m not,’ Louise protested. ‘Jade’s always the one that starts it.’

‘I don’t.’

‘Yes, you do. You’re always saying I’ve got no dad.’

Pam’s equable composure vanished. She was plainly shocked and embarrassed. ‘Do you Jade? Do you say that?’

‘No!’

‘I should hope not!’

‘I don’t. I don’t.’

‘Then why’s she saying you do?’

Jade said nothing. Sharon felt inexplicably sorry for her. Yet she wanted to tell her to stop lying and tell the truth.

‘Louise has got a dad just like you,’ said Pam. ‘He’s not at home that’s all.’

Fortunately, they had now pulled up outside Honeysuckle Cottage.

Sharon could see the conversation was taking a dangerous direction. She quickly opened the car door. ‘Well, we’ll have to see what Mrs Henshall says about it.’

‘Yes, she’ll sort it out,’ said Pam. ‘Six of one and half a dozen of the other, I expect.’

Continue reading with the free preview below.

The beautiful English village of Leefdale seems reassuringly tranquil. But appearances can be deceptive.

#ThrowbackThursday #BookReview Everybody Lies by Julia Hughes @Tinksaid

lies

For several years I wrote a book blog and accumulated reviews of some really good reads.

I saw on Twitter that Renee at It’s Book Talk started using the #ThrowbackThursday meme as a way to share books that are old favourites or have been waiting to be read for a long time.

I decided to visit my old book reviews and re-post my favourites here on 3sixtyfiveblog for #ThrowbackThursday.

So far I’ve included:

An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns

Kings and Queens by TerryTyler

Blood-Tied by Wendy Percival

and Make a Joyful Noise by Jenny Worstall.

This week it’s Everybody Lies, a Detective Crombie mystery thriller by Julia Hughes.

From the Amazon book description:

A conman flees the country after stealing a potentially explosive journal.
A fading rockstar on the brink of a new career as an actor commits suicide.
A talented ballet student boards a train and never arrives at her destination.

DI Crombie is determined to find the missing schoolgirl, who disappeared along with a mysterious Scandinavian youth. But as concerns grow for the kids’ safety, Crombie uncovers a web of intrigue and a family secret that someone is determined to keep – no matter what the cost.
Luckily Crombie’s got a new side-kick – and rookie McKay punches well above her weight!

My Review from Indie Bookworm

The first thing to say is that Everybody Lies is a really good novel and a most enjoyable detective story.

I like Julia Hughes’ writing but I think she’s written her best book so far with this one.

DI Crombie is a wonderful character. He first appears in the author’s Celtic Cousins’ Adventure series where he alternately helps and hinders the cousins in pursuit of their goals.

He’s taciturn, down-to-earth, idiosyncratic and totally authentic and when I met him in A Raucous Time I knew he had the potential to develop into a real star.

Next I read Crombie’s Christmas where Crombie appears centre stage in his own short story. It’s a quick read which includes some new aspects to Crombie’s character and more back story about his home life. Crombie’s Christmas ended with a hint from the author that there were more Crombie stories in the pipeline. And now there is! A full length Crombie novel which is really good.

A missing teenager, a disappearing conman and a suicidal rock-star are a huge challenge for Detective Inspector Crombie when he is given the job of investigating a complex web of family secrets and deceit.

The tricky plot is full of twists and red herrings that keep the reader guessing right to the end. There’s a great sense of reality with sharp, entertaining dialogue and an attention to detail that makes Everybody Lies a gripping page-turner and a thrilling whodunnit.

Everybody Lies has a strong supporting cast and some particularly good female characters on both sides of the law. Written in a light-hearted, easy-reading style, from start to finish the book is humorous and entertaining.

A great full-length first novel for DI Crombie and another good read from Julia Hughes.

Click the Free Preview button below and start reading straightaway!

 

Sunday Serial #12

oliver twist

I’m following a nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray in weekly instalments.
You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.
So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..

CHAPTER FIVE

Louise had been both thrilled and apprehensive when Mrs Henshall had announced that, in order for the adult musicians to rehearse with the children in the school orchestra, there were to be extra rehearsals of “Oliver” in the village hall on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Louise had known that the grown-ups would be joining them for rehearsals at some point but hadn’t expected it to be quite so soon; and she’d desperately wanted her performance as Nancy to be perfect before exposing it to critical eyes. Now, she was wondering why she’d been so worried. She was having a wonderful time! The addition of the adults and their instruments had transformed the thin and scraping noises usually made by the school’s ten and eleven year old musicians into a wondrously full and sonorous sound. It seemed to ascend from the floor of the village hall, buoying her up and up on a musical thermal while the lyrics poured effortlessly out of her. It was truly magical, and she knew she’d never sung “As Long As He Needs Me” better. And then, when it had finished the whole orchestra had started applauding. All the kids in the cast and the choir had applauded too; even Jade, who’d looked really jealous. Then Mrs Henshall had called a short break. While they were all queuing up in the back room to get their coffees and orange squash some of the grown-ups had said really nice things about her acting and singing. Even old Mrs Phillips and Mr Rawson who’d come along to make the drinks had told her she had the best voice they’d ever heard. They said it was better than Kathy Kirby and Helen Shapiro put together, whoever they were. Still, it made Jade look even more sick. So that was all right.

Now she was watching Mrs Henshall rehearse the scene in which the Artful Dodger attempts to steal Mr Brownlow’s handkerchief and Oliver Twist gets caught and arrested for it. Eddie Arkwright, who was playing the Dodger, and Tim Bainton, who was Mr Brownlow, were both terrible actors, and she felt frustrated because Mrs Henshall didn’t stop them often enough to improve what they were doing. Mr Evans, the drama teacher at the youth theatre in Sandleton wouldn’t have let them get away with so much: he’d have been much harder on them. But she didn’t mind. Even though she wasn’t acting in the scene it was nice to sit and watch the rehearsal. Somehow it made her feel she belonged. It was great to feel part of this amazing thing they were all making. It made her feel normal, as though it was what she’d been born for and there was nothing else more important in the world.

But she couldn’t really concentrate much on what the other actors were doing because her mind kept twisting and turning like a swallow in flight. She kept thinking about all the work she’d just done in rehearsal; going over the bits she’d got right and delighting in her execution of the moves and the business, worrying about her timing and the things she’d failed to bring off successfully; for like all artists, young or old, she was a perfectionist and her curse was that she could never be satisfied. And yet, into all these stimulating thoughts an even more delicious one kept intruding: the thought that at last everything was going to change. Mum was going to tell dad they’d be leaving and going far away, never to return. And then they’d be free of Leefdale and all the lies and the pretending. The dreadful burden of secrecy would be lifted from her forever. This rare certainty made her feel gloriously happy and she was sure that everything was at last going to be wonderful.

How she loved the thought of change and the excitement of the new! That’s why she wanted to be an actor. You didn’t stay in one place: you toured with the play or musical and if you were a movie actor you filmed all over the world. She knew it was true because of the play on the radio. It was set in the olden days, in the Tudor period. All the other kids thought it was weird to like listening to plays on the radio. She didn’t care. It was lovely listening to the radio because you could make up your own pictures. There was nothing nicer than being alone in your own room, lying on the bed and listening to the different voices of characters that seemed to come from outer space. They changed in tone ever so slightly every time they spoke so that you knew exactly what they were thinking and feeling. The play on the radio had seemed as real to her as anything that had ever happened. A band of travelling players were going from place to place and every night they’d perform at another village or remote farm. It was lovely listening to the sound of the actors’ voices and the noise made by the wheels of the carts and the horses’ hooves as they travelled along from place to place. But the best noise, and the one she remembered most, was the sound of the footsteps crisply crunching over the ground when the actors arrived at a new place and made their way to the barn or the yard of the inn where they were going to do their show. Just listening to those footsteps made her feel wonderful things were going to happen. And all the time there was the strange Tudor music being played on instruments that sounded like recorders and drums but weren’t really proper recorders and drums at all, and were slightly off key and muffled. Travelling players! That’s what those actors were called and that’s what she wanted to be. Her whole life would be like that, now mum had promised to tell dad they were leaving. They wouldn’t go right away, of course. She’d do her part in “Oliver” first. But then, at the end of the term they’d be off. She’d leave Leefdale and never come back. She had to get away from Leefdale. Not just because of the secrecy and having to hide who you really were, and having to be careful all the time not to let on that Jade’s dad was your dad too and he secretly came round to see you and mum. She had to get away because only then would life change. She could feel the new life beckoning, tugging her off to endless possibilities. She was so glad mum was going to tell dad they were leaving. At last life was going to change for the better and she was going to be happy forever and the bullying would stop.

Read on with the free preview below.

The beautiful English village of Leefdale seems reassuringly tranquil. But appearances can be deceptive.

Sharon guards a dark family secret.

Barbara is fighting to save her marriage.

Zoe is trying to sort her life out.

Louise is desperate to be recognised for who she truly is . . .

Unaware of the profound effect it will have on her and the rest of the village, estate agent Sharon Makepiece arranges the sale of Leefdale’s Old Rectory to Dylan Bourne, an art therapist and professional artist.

The Old Rectory is the finest house in Leefdale. Its renowned gardens are crucial to village plans for winning the Magnificent Britain Gardening Competition for the fifth consecutive year.

Barbara Kellingford’s father, Major Howard Roberts, is chairman of both the parish council and the Magnificent Britain sub-committee. While Barbara struggles to hang on to her husband, a top Tory politician, her father is embroiled in a bruising struggle of his own with the new people at The Old Rectory.

Zoe Fitzgerald is a drama therapist. Her role is to change lives, yet it’s her own life which needs to change most.

Louise Makepiece is determined to realise her dreams. But first she has to force her mother to leave Leefdale!

Dylan Bourne’s new job is killing his Art. And his romantic obsession seems to be affecting his judgement.

Barbara Kellingford knows that time is running out to save her husband’s political career.
Meanwhile, the tabloids are circling.

Leefdale. A story of inclusion and exclusion; local and national politics; press intrusion; the healing power of Art and the complex nature of love.

#Throwback Thursday #BookReview Make a Joyful Noise by Jenny Worstall @JennyWorstall

For several years I wrote a book blog and accumulated comments on a wealth of really good reads.

I saw on Twitter that Renee at It’s Book Talk started using the #ThrowbackThursday meme as a way to share books that are old favourites or have been waiting to be read for a long time.

I decided to visit my old book reviews and re-post my favourites here on 3sixtyfiveblog for #ThrowbackThursday.

So far I’ve included

An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns

Kings and Queens by TerryTyler

and

Blood-Tied by Wendy Percival

This week it’s Make a Joyful Noise by Jenny Worstall, a romantic comedy with some unusual twists.

From the Amazon book description:

‘Make a Joyful Noise’ (Sing with the Choir Book 1), is the sparkling tale of a choir preparing for a very special Christmas performance of “Belshazzar’s Feast”.

We meet a host of characters who are mercilessly sent up by the author: Lucy the staggeringly trusting young music teacher, Tristan the lecherous anti-hero, Miss Greymitt the ageing and slightly arthritic choir pianist, Steve the handsome and trustworthy bass, Claire the shameless and scheming temptress, and singers with nothing but resonance between their ears.

Just as all does not run smoothly for King Belshazzar or the inhabitants of Babylon in Walton’s music, so the characters in the novel suffer from hopeless yearnings, romantic misunderstandings and the unfortunate consequences of their own misguided actions.

All is sharply and wittily observed in a delightful mix of romance, music and humour.

My Review from Indie Bookworm

This is an ideal holiday book and I read most of it sitting in the garden in the sunshine enjoying the sound of the bees in the honeysuckle and a glass or two of chilled white wine.

Lucy is a newly qualified secondary school music teacher who is struggling with her classes; she is also struggling to establish her social life in a new town. She has been introduced to the local choral society and has fallen for ageing Lothario, Tristan, the choir conductor. Meanwhile fellow choir member and history teacher, Steve, has fallen for her. A typical love story triangle which is developed to a fairly predictable ending.

What makes the book different and interesting is its background in the choir. They are working on a special piece for the Christmas concert: Belshazzar’s Feast by William Walton. The author has cleverly used lines from the text of the piece (mainly The Book of Daniel and Psalm 137 put together by Osbert Sitwell) to head up the chapters of the book. I hadn’t listened to Belshazzar’s Feast for years and downloaded it from iTunes; I’d forgotten what splendid music it is. It was very fashionable back in the seventies to use some of it for “inspiration” in school drama classes and with justification. In places it is loud, rumbustious and raucous but thoroughly enjoyable. It has a complicated score and poor Miss Greymitt, the choir’s rehearsal accompanist, understandably struggles with it.

I read on her Author page that Jenny Worstall is a teacher and this shows in her understanding of poor Lucy’s struggles in the classroom. However I’m not sure that these days there would be so much understanding of her difficulties by senior management; Lucy’s department head is kind, considerate and supportive and constantly making allowances for her poor performance. But this “niceness” epitomises the book and makes it a charming read. If you’re fed up with the current trend to place young women into sexually submissive, sado-masochistic, fetish fantasy scenarios you’ll really enjoy Make a Joyful Noise. Lucy is actually shocked when Tristan says “damn” and gives her a full frontal peck on the cheek and the worst insult she comes up with is to call her rival for Tristan’s affection, Miss Custard Cream.

As well as Miss Greymitt there’s a full cast of supporting characters ranging from Lucy’s absentee mother, her bossy older sister and cute ballet dancing nieces to slightly acerbic flatmate and staffroom soulmate Julia.

I enjoyed reading Make a Joyful Noise; it’s pleasant and easy to read and if it happens to be more typical British summer weather and you want something to take your mind off cold, wet and miserable then this book would be just fine.

Click Free Preview below to start reading straightaway!

 

 

Sunday Serial #11

I’m following a nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray in weekly instalments.
You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.
So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..

Zoe picked up Parker and Lund’s property details and scanned them to remind herself why she’d previously objected to the rectory. Suddenly, on the back she saw something she’d missed before: Dylan’s sketch of Sharon Makepiece. Zoe held it up for Dylan to see.

‘Who’s this?’

The shock of seeing Sharon’s image in such incongruous surroundings made Dylan start.

‘It’s the estate agent who showed me round.’

‘I hope it’s not the reason you prefer The Old Rectory?’

Everyone laughed.

Zoe returned her attention to the property details. ‘Yes, I can see why you like it. In some ways it’s just what we want.’

Dylan leaned forward in anticipation of her qualification. ‘But?’

‘It’s right in the centre of a village!’

‘What’s wrong with that?’

Zoe sat back and folded her arms. ‘Don’t you see it as a potential source of conflict?’

‘No. Why should it be?’

‘Come on! This place Leefdale is an up market village full of smug little Englanders who think they’re the bees’ knees because for years they’ve won some poxy gardening contest. They’re hardly going to be delighted when we fill their exquisite rectory with inner city yobbos.’

Eric grinned and affected shock. ‘They’re not yobbos!’

Zoe sighed patiently. ‘Of course, they’re not. We all agree on that. But that’s how they’d be seen by the inhabitants of Leefdale.’

Toni wrinkled her eyebrows satirically. ‘That’s very defeatist of you. Why should these Leefdale people be insulated from reality?’

‘Ordinarily I’d agree. But by basing ourselves in the rectory I think we’d be giving ourselves and the kids unnecessary grief.’

‘So, to avoid that we have to hide them away. Is that what you’re saying?’ said Charles.

‘No, I’m not!’

‘Yes, you are,’ said Dylan. ‘That’s why you prefer Cold Dale Farm. It’s isolated and off the beaten track. The perfect place to hide them away!’

Zoe sighed and treated him to one of her “I’ve been unjustly misunderstood” looks. ‘I don’t want to hide them away. It’s just that I don’t want them put under any unnecessary pressure. They’ve all had crap experiences one way or another. The time they spend with us should be a period of relative tranquillity.’

‘Tranquillity yes. Isolation no!’ said Dylan. ‘Of course we want to provide them with a secure environment. But security isn’t just about feeling safe. It’s about having the confidence to go out and deal with the world as it is.’

‘I quite agree,’ said Charles, who had to be at Heathrow at 7.30am. ‘If they don’t get involved with a community how are they going to have any sense of social inclusion?’

‘I’m sorry. Did I get something wrong here?’ said Eric. ‘I thought the idea was that through art we were putting them on the path to being healed.’

‘Sure,’ said Dylan, ‘that’s part of what we’re trying to do…’

‘A big part, I hope!’ said Eric. He threw Zoe a look.

‘Yes. A very big part,’ said Dylan. ‘But not the only part. There’s also a social dimension to the work we do. Look, the people I met in Leefdale seemed very reasonable. I don’t think they’ll give us a problem. Anyway, I’m sure we can pre-empt any antagonism by involving the clients in the Magnificent Britain Competition.’

‘Now, that’s an excellent idea,’ said Charles.

‘I think it’s crap,’ said Zoe ‘Why should we let these Leefdale people dictate our agenda?’

‘Because we want the clients to feel included,’ said Dylan.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Zoe, ‘I still think Cold Dale Farm is much more suitable.’

Eric shook his head. ‘It’s very small.’

‘Nonsense. It’s got tons of land,’ said Zoe.

‘It has. But the house itself is tiny. We don’t need lots of land but we do need a good-sized house. And Leefdale’s rectory is huge.’

Zoe gave him a sharp look. ‘You weren’t interested in the rectory until Dylan suggested it.’

Eric looked slightly sheepish.

‘But Eric’s right,’ Dylan said. ‘I’ve seen the accommodation at Cold Dale Farm. There’s not much space for art and drama studios.’

‘But with all that land surely we could build an arts block?’ Zoe persisted.

Dylan shook his head. ‘Not unless we can talk the price right down.’

Eric laughed. ‘Would they come down a hundred thousand?’

‘That’s what they’d have to do,’ said Charles. ‘Otherwise, it’s way beyond our price limit. After all, I have to ensure that the Trust gets value for money. I’m sorry Zoe, but at that price I don’t think we’d be able to afford purpose-built studios. We need to just move in.’

Zoe grimaced. ‘It’s such a shame. The kids would love a big open space like that. They’d experience a real sense of freedom. And we could build a huge sculpture park.’

Dylan and Charles exchanged a knowing look. The creation of a sculpture park was Zoe’s obsession. Unfortunately, none of the units she’d worked in had ever possessed sufficient land to make her dream a reality.

‘Leefdale rectory’s back garden is big enough for one,’ Dylan told Zoe, helpfully.

But Zoe was adamant. ‘There’s not as much as land there as at Cold Dale Farm.’
Persistence was in Zoe’s genes. It had brought her great grandparents out of Poland at the height of the Pogroms when all their neighbours were telling them it was a mistake to leave. Their foresight had saved themselves and their descendants from Auschwitz, and ultimately enabled Zoe to be born. Zoe’s Catholic great grandparents had fled Northern Ireland for America in the 1890s but had pledged to return, and, indeed, had done so when the Irish Free State had been established. Zoe had told Dylan all this when they’d been lovers. He reflected on it now.

‘Cold Dale Farm’s too isolated,’ said Toni, who was impatient for a decision.

‘I agree,’ said Dylan, again surprising himself. Hadn’t he always said he preferred isolation?

‘All right,’ said Zoe. ‘You’re obviously not having Cold Dale Farm. But I do think that before we make a decision on any of these properties we should all be given the opportunity to go and view them.’

‘I don’t think we can do that, Zoe,’ said Charles.

‘Why not?’

‘You know very well why. We promised all the interested parties we’d be up and running by the summer. By the time we’ve viewed all the properties separately the one we finally decide on might have been sold to someone else. We need to make a decision now.’

‘But how can we make a decision if we haven’t seen the properties?’

‘We agreed to delegate the task to Dylan,’ said Toni. Behind her glasses her light grey eyes regarded Zoe scornfully. ‘I was perfectly OK with that. He is, after all, our team leader and he seems to have gone into everything very thoroughly. We must trust his judgement.’

Zoe was a drama therapist and an expert in assertion techniques. Reasonably but firmly she said, ‘I don’t mistrust Dylan’s judgement, but as we’re the ones who’ll be working there I do think we’re entitled to see what the conditions are like for ourselves.’

‘You could have come up to Yorkshire with me,’ said Dylan. ‘I invited all of you.’

Zoe’s expression became slightly tense. ‘I explained in the clearest terms why I couldn’t possibly do that.’

Dylan said, ‘That’s right. You did.’

But had it really been so impossible for her to renege on her speaking engagement at the drama therapists’ conference? He doubted it. Actually, in the circumstances he couldn’t understand why Zoe was going to be working with them at all. It was several months since he’d engineered the ending of their affair. His handling of the break-up had been clumsy and callous and it had come as a devastating shock to Zoe who, until then, had been completely unaware of his disenchantment with their relationship. In the months afterwards, although they’d continued as colleagues they’d barely spoken; and when Dylan was promoted team leader and assigned to establish the new East Yorkshire Inclusion Unit, he’d assumed they would never work together again. He was therefore staggered when Zoe applied for a place in his new team. What kind of a person after a break-up applies to work alongside their ex? It was so unusual he’d wondered if she’d done it deliberately to provoke him. At Charles’ insistence (and against his own better judgement) he’d agreed to appoint her. Of course, Charles may have taken a different view if he’d known that she and Dylan had once been lovers and of the acrimony with which they’d parted; but it wasn’t even suspected, by him or anyone else within the confines of their professional world. Yet why was Zoe kicking up such a fuss about the properties now, at this late stage? Could it be she was having second thoughts about working with him and was trying to wriggle out of her commitment to the new unit? He hoped so.

Zoe turned to Eric. ‘Don’t you think we should go and see for ourselves what these places are like?’

‘Hey, I’m cool,’ said Eric. ‘I was happy to leave it to Dylan.’ He wiggled his finger archly at Zoe in a faux reprimand. ‘So you can leave me out of this.’

Zoe grinned and tapped him lightly on the thigh.

Zoe and Eric? Dylan thought. Zoe and Eric? Surely not?

‘Look, I’m going to the states tomorrow, remember?’ said Charles. ‘I’m sorry but we’ve got to make a decision tonight.’

Their discussions continued until well after midnight. Eventually, Lord Sandleton, an experienced chairman and committee man, persuaded everyone to reduce the properties to a short list of two, which was then put to the vote. The Old Rectory at Leefdale received Dylan and Toni’s votes. Predictably Zoe voted for Cold Dale Farm. Dylan found it significant that Eric did too. Lord Sandleton exercised his casting vote in favour of The Old Rectory. It was decided to make an offer of £495,000 for the property.
Dylan, Eric, Toni and Zoe left the apartment together. In the street, all four lingered briefly around Dylan’s motorcycle. Toni offered Zoe a lift home.

‘No thanks,’ said Zoe. ‘Eric’s giving me one.’ She said goodbye, turned to go and then turned back to Dylan. ‘Well, you got what you wanted, as ever. I just hope it turns out all right. I’ve got a really bad feeling about it.’

Read on with the free preview below.

The beautiful English village of Leefdale seems reassuringly tranquil. But appearances can be deceptive.

Sharon guards a dark family secret.

Barbara is fighting to save her marriage.

Zoe is trying to sort her life out.

Louise is desperate to be recognised for who she truly is . . .

Unaware of the profound effect it will have on her and the rest of the village, estate agent Sharon Makepiece arranges the sale of Leefdale’s Old Rectory to Dylan Bourne, an art therapist and professional artist.

The Old Rectory is the finest house in Leefdale. Its renowned gardens are crucial to village plans for winning the Magnificent Britain Gardening Competition for the fifth consecutive year.

Barbara Kellingford’s father, Major Howard Roberts, is chairman of both the parish council and the Magnificent Britain sub-committee. While Barbara struggles to hang on to her husband, a top Tory politician, her father is embroiled in a bruising struggle of his own with the new people at The Old Rectory.

Zoe Fitzgerald is a drama therapist. Her role is to change lives, yet it’s her own life which needs to change most.

Louise Makepiece is determined to realise her dreams. But first she has to force her mother to leave Leefdale!

Dylan Bourne’s new job is killing his Art. And his romantic obsession seems to be affecting his judgement.

Barbara Kellingford knows that time is running out to save her husband’s political career.
Meanwhile, the tabloids are circling.

Leefdale. A story of inclusion and exclusion; local and national politics; press intrusion; the healing power of Art and the complex nature of love.

#Throwback Thursday #BookReview Blood-Tied by Wendy Percival @wendy_percival

I saw a good idea on Twitter a couple of weeks ago. Renee at It’s Book Talk started using the #ThrowbackThursday meme as a way to share books that are old favourites or have been waiting to be read for a long time. I saw the idea first on a blog I read regularly: Between the Lines – Books ‘N’ Stuff and thought it was great.

For several years I wrote a book blog and accumulated thoughts on a wealth of really good reads. So I decided to visit my old reviews and re-post my favourites here on 3sixtyfiveblog for #ThrowbackThursday.

I started with An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns and last week it was Kings and Queens by TerryTyler.

This week my book for #ThrowbackThursday is

Blood-Tied by Wendy Percival, a family history mystery.

Book description from Amazon

A thriller based on murder and family secrets.

“A desperate crime, kept secret for 60 years… but time has a way of exposing the truth…”

Esme Quentin is devastated when her sister Elizabeth is beaten unconscious, miles from her home. Two days later Esme discovers that Elizabeth has a secret past. Desperate for answers which the comatose Elizabeth cannot give, Esme enlists the help of her friend Lucy to search for the truth, unaware of the dangerous path she is treading. Together they unravel a tangle of bitterness, blackmail and dubious inheritance, and as the harrowing story is finally revealed, Esme stumbles upon evidence of a pitiful crime.

Realising too late the menace she has unwittingly unleashed, Esme is caught up in a terrifying ordeal. One that will not only test her courage and sanity but force her to confront her perception of birth and family.

My Review from Indie Bookworm

Two sisters are very close until one learns that the other has a secret past. Unable to get answers from Elizabeth because she is in a coma, Esme sets out on a search for the truth aided by her best friend Lucy.

What makes Blood-Tied really enjoyable are the special circumstances in which the novel is placed. Esme is a researcher with a passion for family history and Lucy works at the County Records Office and is a professional archivist.

Anyone who has an enthusiasm for family history can’t help but love this book. Meticulous detail combined with a cleverly constructed plot provides the reader with a completely fresh take on a traditional mystery tale.

Author Wendy Percival uses her knowledge of history, genealogy and research methods to give this novel a great feeling of authenticity in both the family story that is at the heart of the plot and Esme and Lucy’s efforts to unravel it.

A cast of well-drawn, interesting characters lead the reader through a complex story with its roots in the past and its consequences right up to the present day. A tangle of family relationships is revealed between siblings; parents and children; grandparents and off-spring; aunts, uncles and cousins; in-laws and out-laws; husbands and wives. Add to the mix nannies, housemaids, gardeners, police officers, architects, neighbours and friends: all helping to confuse and illuminate sometimes at the same time.

Highly readable with a clear, direct, no-nonsense style; good pace; interesting and unexpected twists and turns and a very satisfying ending: Blood-Tied is a really good read and highly recommended.

Click the Free Preview below and start reading Blood-Tied today!

Thanks for visiting my blog today and hope your day is going well.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Serial #10

I’m following a nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray in weekly instalments.
You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.
So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..

CHAPTER FOUR

After parting from Sharon outside her office in Luffield, Dylan Bourne set off for his immediate destination which was York. In this ancient, walled city the Station Hotel had served as his base for the past six days. It was from here that he’d ventured forth every morning to motorcycle all over North and East Yorkshire searching for potential properties; and every evening he’d returned, having left behind him several happy estate agents, each one under the impression that they’d definitely be receiving a cash offer from him for one of their overpriced pieces of real estate. Unfortunately, he’d never possessed the authority to make such a promise: the decision to purchase a property required the agreement of his colleagues. But Dylan was one of those people who wanted others to be happier than reality usually permits them to be.

He arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon and headed straight for the lounge where he settled in to a comfortable arm chair and ordered a cream tea. Whilst waiting for it to arrive he again studied the property details for The Old Rectory and indulged himself in a pleasant recollection of Sharon Makepiece’s memorable eyes and her other undeniable attributes. Later, after scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream washed down with two cups of Earl Grey, he went up to his room where he showered, changed his clothes, packed his few belongings and checked out. He then drove the Ariel Red Hunter back to London via the A1 and M11, at times approaching speeds slightly in excess of seventy miles an hour, and arrived at the outskirts of the capital just after nightfall.

His destination was a luxury riverside development in Narrow Street, Limehouse. This was the home of Charles Reynolds, who, after his elevation to the peerage by New Labour, was now known as Lord Reynolds of Sandleton-on-Sea. The popular East Yorkshire fishing resort had been chosen by Charles as the territorial designation for his title because in 1951 he’d been born there into a family of hotel keepers. His all-consuming ambition in youth, however, was not to be an hotelier but a painter. In order to realize his dream he’d deeply antagonised his parents. On his eighteenth birthday, they’d been shocked when their gift of a fourteen bedroomed hotel had been ungratefully rejected in favour of a place at The Slade. Sadly, in the years following graduation, Charles discovered that a combination of rejection and lack of material comforts was vitiating what little single-mindedness of purpose he possessed for the creation of Art. Five years and dozens of unsold pictures later, he humbly returned to Sandleton to claim his birthright, and then rapidly achieved the material success his parents had always wished for him. His first fortune had been made from property; his second from buying and selling Old Masters. These early, seminal experiences gave him an ineluctable faith in the transformative power of Art, and the unshakable conviction that in a civilised country no-one should ever be denied access to decent accommodation. Which is why, in 1995, he’d broken with decades of family tradition and joined the Labour Party. It was also at this time that he’d established The Sandleton Trust, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to using art and art therapy to transform the lives of young people who’d been excluded from mainstream education because of their anti-social behaviour.

Charles opened the door of his penthouse apartment and greeted Dylan warmly. He then ushered him into the main reception area where a man and two women were sitting drinking white wine. Their names were Eric, Toni and Zoe. Eric was in his late twenties: his caramel skin tone, springy black hair and light blue eyes indicated a lineage rich in racial diversity. He was smartly but casually dressed in a white open necked shirt, brown leather jacket and beige chinos. His long hair would have suggested non-conformity if it hadn’t been so stylishly cut. Toni was several years older than Eric. She wore a navy blue cardigan over a pink blouse and her grey skirt was knee length. Blue tights and navy blue high heeled shoes completed her outfit which was vaguely redolent of school uniform. Her fair hair was cut short and her rimless spectacles gave her a slightly severe look which vanished on better acquaintance when you saw that her face was actually radiating kindness and integrity. By contrast, Zoe was dressed fashionably but sportily in white trainers, white joggers with a drawstring waist and a pastel blue T shirt. She wore only one piece of jewellery, a necklace in blue coral. These colours perfectly complemented her long titian hair and cobalt blue eyes that glinted with unusual lights. Her hair and skin had the wholesome glow of those who spend as much time as they can in the open air. Her face was striking and had a perfect balance of features but was prevented from being conventionally beautiful by a slight twist of pugnacity about the mouth. She’d studied drama at university and had acted professionally for a while. Like many actresses her face was unusually expressive: so sensitive an instrument for conveying mood and emotion that she appeared to feel things much more keenly than others; and often did. Charles was dressed formally in the businessman’s standard uniform of light grey suit, blue shirt and red silk tie. He was a man in his late forties, of medium height and with closely cropped greying hair. Only his stylish Italian spectacle frames prevented him from appearing completely stuffy and boring, and indicated the possibility of a slightly more intriguing hinterland. In this smart company, Dylan, who was wearing his unwashed grey T shirt and faded blue jeans, looked somewhat under-dressed. Yet, despite his recent long journey, he appeared to be the only one who was completely at his ease.

Eric waved a greeting and smiled. Toni said, ‘Hello.’ Zoe nodded coolly. Then Toni and Eric started to bombard him with questions.

‘Hang on!’ said Dylan. ‘I’m dying to go to the loo.’

When he returned he found bowls of chilli con carne and salad had appeared. Charles offered wine. Dylan declined and asked for mineral water. They started to eat and the questions began again, polite banal questions: how had he enjoyed York? What had he done in the evenings? What had the traffic been like on the motorway? Dylan’s responses were perfunctory because he was not only tired but disorientated. Outside the penthouse, dark, warm night had fallen. The Thames was winding luminously between canyons of post-modernist apartment buildings, its flat surface iridescent with the reflected light from thousands of domestic light bulbs. Downstream the aircraft warning light on the roof of Canary Wharf was pulsing with mesmeric regularity. But the built environment was competing for attention with much more compelling images in Dylan’s mind: the Yorkshire landscape and Sharon Makepiece. He was surprised to find himself yearning for both.

‘So, what have you got for us?’ asked Charles. The meal was over; coffee served; the real business of the meeting had begun.

Dylan opened his canvas duffle bag and took out the details of properties he’d identified as suitable for the establishment of the first social inclusion unit in Yorkshire. He placed them on the coffee table. ‘As I told Charles on the phone, there were an enormous number of properties in the target area which met our criteria and fell within budget. I’ve managed to reduce them to a shortlist of six.’

The estate agents’ descriptions were passed around and scrutinised while Dylan gave his personal impressions of the six properties he’d identified as potential purchases. He was then subjected to rigorous questioning about them and the advantages and disadvantages of each property were discussed in full. Disagreements were aired; positions taken up; opinions began to harden like cement.

Although he thought Cold Dale Farm probably came nearest to meeting their needs, Dylan didn’t attempt to promote the purchase of any particular property. He simply described the merits of each and was happy to answer questions and provide further information whenever it was appropriate. Otherwise, he was content to rest his aching limbs and relax as best he could on Charles’s uncomfortable minimalist furniture. He’d have given anything to have gone straight home to bed but he knew that wasn’t an option. Charles was flying out the following day to Washington. He was part of a delegation of members of the Upper House who were touring the United States researching the work of social inclusion units. He wouldn’t return for three weeks. A decision on the property had to be made that night.

Charles removed his glasses and fixed Dylan with an unnervingly myopic blue stare.

‘Well, Dylan. We seem to have reached an impasse. You’ve had the opportunity to view all of these properties. Which one do you think is the most suitable?’

Dylan smiled and was astonished to hear himself say, ‘The one that’s made the least impact on you all: Leefdale rectory.’

Read on with the free preview below.

#ThrowbackThursday #BookReview Kings and Queens by TerryTyler @TerryTyler4

Last week I wrote my first #ThrowbackThursday #BookReview about An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns.

Renee at It’s Book Talk started using the #ThrowbackThursday meme as a way to share books that are old favourites. I first saw this idea on a blog I read regularly: Between the Lines – Books ‘N’ Stuff and thought it worked well.

For several years I wrote a book blog and accumulated reviews of some really good books. So I decided to visit my old blog and re-post my favourite reviews here on 3sixtyfiveblog for #ThrowbackThursday.

Today it’s Kings and Queens by Terry Tyler, a clever hybrid of contemporary and historical fiction.

Published in 2014, Kings and Queens was Terry Tyler’s seventh novel. With 66 four and five star reviews, the novel has pleased many other readers just as much as myself.

On my book blog I wrote:

Kings and Queens is a really well written family saga based on the fortunes of a property development company. Lanchester Estates is inherited in the 1970s by young, charismatic Harry Lanchester on the death of his father. The story recounts the ups and downs of Harry’s business life along with the ups and downs of his love life.

Each chapter shifts the viewpoint to a different character although Harry’s life-long friend Will Brandon returns to narrate more of the story from time to time. This structure works very well and the strongly developed characters, crisp and lively dialogue and highly engaging plot provide the reader with an excellent “can’t -put-it-down” novel.

However, Kings and Queens has a twist because Terry Tyler has cleverly mirrored the story of Tudor King Henry the Eighth and his six wives in the development of her novel. This is not in any way an historical novel but everyone who knows the story of “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” will enjoy the parallels explored here. In addition the contemporary characters reflect what we know from history and historical fiction about Henry, his wives and other significant Tudor personalities.

The events in Kings and Queens often track the events in the historical saga although the author hasn’t over-worked this and she allows contemporary realities to take precedence where necessary. But it’s a nice puzzle to try and work out the historical references.

I really enjoyed reading Kings and Queens and was delighted to read the sequel, Last Child.

The story of the Lanchester property empire continues into the next generation after the death of Harry Lanchester, the charismatic protagonist of Kings and Queens.

Harry’s legacy is passed on to his children. Thirteen year old Jasper views the directors of Lanchester Estates as Harry Potter characters, and finds out that teenage love affairs are no fairytale. Isabella, the eldest daughter, is lonely and looking for love and returns from a holiday in Spain with more than a suntan. Impulsive, independent Erin dreams of the continuation of her father’s work.

Once again the narrative is passed between the main characters giving a different viewpoint in each chapter which moves the plot strongly forward. The opening pages concisely summarise events thus far which serves as a good reminder for readers who don’t continue straight on from Kings and Queens or as an introduction for any readers who’ve decided to start reading here.

Actually, I couldn’t put this book down and kept snatching quick reads every time I had to do something else. The device of using historical personalities and events as the framework for the novel works really well once again. If the reader is familiar with the era this creates dramatic irony which really enhances the plot. However anyone reading the novel who doesn’t have these insights won’t be short-changed as it’s such a well written and engaging family saga.

The author has used the Tudor history really effectively but makes adjustments where necessary to avoid the contemporary plot becoming strained and contrived. This has been done especially well at the end of the novel where there is a surprise every few pages and the conclusion leaves the reader making their own decisions about what might happen next.

I loved the way the relationships between various characters were explored and evolved. The author has used her trademark reality style to make her characters come alive and zing. The writing is clever, original and compelling and the whole saga is a totally enjoyable read.

If you’re stocking up your Kindle for summer holidays, this two book saga is perfect.

Click the free preview below and start reading today!!!!

 

Thanks for visiting my blog today and hope your day is going well.

 

 

Sunday Serial #9

Leefdale

I’m following a nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray in weekly instalments.

You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.

So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..

‘Are you going to stay there all night?’ Greg asked.

Sharon was lying on the carpet, naked, watching him as he hastily dressed. She’d been lying in this position ever since he’d extricated himself from her. Her blouse was scrunched up between her legs absorbing the last residue of fluids. She wanted only to stay like this for a while, staggering her return from that far, far shore on to which she’d been transported by the crashing waves of her orgasm. Why was he talking to her? She wanted only to be quiet and still and facilitate her soul’s reunion with the material body from which it had partially and rapturously separated; a body that was still registering faint yet unpredictable aftershocks of indescribable pleasure. They were only an echo of their former intensity but she’d no wish for these exquisite little tremors and shivers to cease. She couldn’t bear the last vestiges of ecstasy to vanish, restoring her again to the plane of the ordinary. Yet how difficult it was to sustain the thrill of that orgasm: to maintain her tenuous hold on those ineffable sensations. She wanted those feelings to last forever. She wanted to lie still and quiet and think only of the sex; she wanted to postpone all thoughts of that broken promise to Louise. She wanted to forget that, yet again, sex had made her her own gaoler.

She watched Greg putting on his underpants. Those same underpants that Pam had probably washed and ironed. Don’t go there, Sharon, she told herself. Better to recall the way he’d stared at her bare breasts in rapt admiration: how he’d spread his fingers wide and stroked both of them, lightly at first, so she could feel nothing but the tantalising brush of his hands over her soft, bare skin. And then his tongue going and making quick, urgent licks and kisses all over her breasts and in the cleft between them before taking each nipple between his teeth, gently bringing his teeth together over it and then the nipple going deeper into his mouth, his tongue flicking and agitating it into hardness. The memory made her nipples swell and grow hard again. She felt a faint renewal of the blind, moist welling up from the depths of her.

She smiled at him and said, ‘I’ll get up in a minute. Just coming down to earth.’

He looked conceited. ‘It was that good, eh?’

‘No, it was terrible,’ she said, and laughed. He laughed too, but afterwards the look he gave her was uncertain.

Read on with the Free Preview below.