Sunday Serial #17

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

But now it’s time to pack away the serial. I’ve reached the limit of how much of the novel I can share without clashing with the rules of Kindle Unlimited.

If you’ve enjoyed reading the serialisation of Leefdale, it’s time to take the plunge and read the whole book! It’s only £1.99 to download although the paperback version at £20 is rather pricey.

If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, Leefdale is a great read as it’s over 1500 Kindle pages. Or over 300,000 words. A great read for anyone who likes to get lost in a novel for a few days!

If you’ve stumbled on this blog for the first time and would like to try the serialisation its here.

But it’s a lot easier to read the Free Preview on the Amazon site which you can reach via the buttons below.

Here’s a little bit about the novel from the Amazon book description.

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.

 

Sunday Serial #16

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 SIX

‘Have there been any changes in the circumstances at home?’

Sharon considered the head teacher’s question carefully and suppressed her initial response which was to say, “No, of course not. That’s the problem: the home circumstances are as bizarre as they’ve ever been”.

They were in Mrs Henshall’s office and had been discussing Louise for over twenty minutes. Sharon had already been shown her daughter’s behaviour report: this was a little note book that Louise was required to present to her teacher at the end of each session for a signed comment on her behaviour. Louise had been placed “on report” three weeks after the term had begun. The intention behind the system was dual: the child’s behaviour could be monitored on a daily basis and hopefully being “on report” would incentivise them to incrementally inch their way back to a reasonable standard of conduct. In Louise’s case it clearly hadn’t worked. The majority of the comments in her behaviour report were negative. It was a depressing account of Louise’s inappropriate attitudes, and included descriptions of her non-cooperation, swearing and isolated acts of sporadic, low level violence. As punishment for these serious infringements of school discipline she’d forfeited many playtimes and other privileges.

The head teacher had sought to elicit from Sharon reasons for the unexpected decline in Louise’s behaviour. She’d already asked the more obvious questions: had Louise been behaving badly at home? Had she become involved in undesirable friendships outside school, perhaps involving children older than herself? Had she started menstruating? To all of these questions Sharon had answered “no”.

And now Mrs Henshall was asking if the home circumstances had changed; a question which Sharon regarded as an implicit criticism of her own lifestyle. Why didn’t the woman come right out and ask if she’d installed a toy boy in the house? Or if she was shagging a different guy every night? Why be so coy about it? Mrs Henshall’s perceived prurience and moral superiority only increased Sharon’s sympathy for Louise, and she had a sudden and overwhelming urge to smash the edifice of bland respectability that the school represented and expose its hypocritical foundations. How satisfying it would be to outrage this confident, poised, professional woman by revealing the real reasons for Louise’s bad behaviour. You want me to shock you? OK. How’s this? I’ve been fucking your chair of Governors for nearly twelve years now and Louise is his daughter! The liberating effects of even thinking this in front of Mrs Henshall made her feel lightheaded and reckless. But she drew back from such a potentially catastrophic indiscretion. There was too much at stake. If she revealed what was causing her daughter such acute distress it would quickly become staffroom gossip and then the conflagration of disgust would engulf the village. Every household would be discussing Greg Maynard and his two families and wondering how the whole sordid scandal had been kept secret for so long.

‘Do you mean have I moved a new boyfriend in with us? Something like that?’

‘Yes.’ Mrs Henshall looked embarrassed. ‘Have you?’

Sharon smiled. ‘No. No new additions in that department. Look, I really can’t understand why Louise’s behaving as she is. Perhaps it’s something to do with the school. As you know, she was perfectly all right until this term. I think she’s being bullied.’

Mrs Henshall immediately went on the defensive and automatically produced her standard response to such accusations: there was no evidence of anyone being bullied in the school; the children had been told that all bullying incidents had to be reported immediately; teachers had been trained to react sympathetically to alleged victims; the school had an anti-bullying policy which had been commended at the last Ofsted inspection.

Normally, Sharon would have accepted Mrs Henshall’s assurances. But today she was feeling vindictive. She’d suddenly understood precisely what it must feel like to be her daughter, entering this place day after day, crushed by the burden of subterfuge and deception that her parents had imposed on her. Living a lie, unable to reveal who she really was. This act of empathy made Sharon feel guilty and resentful on Louise’s behalf. Why did Louise have to bear the brunt of it? Why should Jade and the rest of her family escape the burden of secrecy and duplicity so easily?

Sharon said, ‘Well, for all that, I think Jade Maynard is bullying Louise. She’s jealous of her and says horrible things about her.’

‘What sort of things?’

‘About her not having a father. That’s why Louise hit Jade and pulled her hair.’

‘I see. Has Jade teased Louise in this way before?’

‘I’d hardly call it teasing!’

Mrs Henshall instantly reminded herself that she was interviewing a touchy parent who was quite naturally protective about her child. More care with her vocabulary choices was required.

‘Perhaps “teasing” is the wrong word. But has Jade made such comments to her before?’

‘Yes. Several times.’

‘You say Jade’s jealous. Why?’

‘She was desperate to play Nancy in “Oliver”. Ever since Louise got the part Jade’s been making her life hell.’

Mrs Henshall’s brown eyes radiated concern. ‘Louise has never complained about Jade to me. Whenever I ask her why she behaves as she does she simply becomes silent and withdrawn.’

‘That’s because she’s embarrassed. Possibly even frightened.’

Mrs Henshall could understand why Louise might be embarrassed to talk about her absent father, but she considered it unlikely that she’d be intimidated by Jade Maynard as she towered a good six inches over her. However, Mrs Henshall’s prudence and tact told her that it might not be politic to mention this. She said, ‘Well, it’s good that she’s at last providing an explanation for her behaviour. I’ll speak to both girls and get to the bottom of all this.’

Sharon became alarmed. Had she said too much? Given the chance, would Louise, in her vulnerable and volatile state, bring down the whole fiction they’d elaborately erected? She felt too weary to protest. ‘Good,’ she said.

But Mrs Henshall was far from mollified. ‘I’m still very concerned about Louise’s general behaviour. Whatever the causes, there’s no justification for swearing at teachers or behaving aggressively. Until recently, I always felt confident that I, at least, could control her. Now, she’s stopped obeying me and is even speaking to me in a most inappropriate manner. I’m afraid that if her bad behaviour continues I’ll have to exclude her for a short period. Which means she’ll lose her role in the school production. That would be a tragedy: we’ve only just started rehearsals but I can already see she’s going to be brilliant.’

‘I’ll tell her that,’ said Sharon. ‘It should bring her to her senses.’

Throughout their discussion Mrs Henshall had been writing notes. She’d acquired this strategy on a course some years ago. The course tutor had explained that taking notes formalised interviews with difficult parents, it made them speak more slowly – less emotionally – and gave them an opportunity to calm down. It reduced their aggression, prevented the interview from escalating into a confrontation, and conveyed the impression that the head teacher was authoritative and in control: that something would be done. Mrs Henshall also found it a useful means of terminating an interview. She always followed the same procedure, which she now repeated with Sharon. She stopped writing and gave Sharon a professional smile. ‘Good. Now, is there anything we haven’t covered? Or are there any other issues you wish to raise with me?’

‘No, I don’t think so.’

Mrs Henshall placed her pen decisively down on the desk. She tore the page of writing from her A4 pad, folded it and put it in an empty wire basket marked “For Action”. She stood and the backs of her legs made contact with the light swivel chair she’d been sitting on, sending it gliding smoothly backwards on its castors. Taking her cue, Sharon stood too.

‘Well, Goodbye. And once again, thank you for coming so promptly.’

‘That’s all right. It had to be sorted out.’

And so they moved towards the door, in the course of which an obvious question occurred to Mrs Henshall.

‘Are you in contact with Louise’s father?’

Sharon was completely thrown. There was a very long pause. Finally, she said ‘No.’

‘But you know where he is if you wish to contact him?’

There was no choice but to continue the lie. ‘No. No, he’s disappeared. I haven’t seen him for years.’

‘Has Louise ever met him?’

Tentatively, Sharon said, ‘No. Why?’

‘I just thought that if Louise could meet him it might help with her behaviour.’

‘I’ve no idea where he is,’ said Sharon.

‘So presumably he doesn’t provide you with any financial support for Louise?’

‘No.’

‘You know there are ways of tracing errant fathers.’

Sharon opened the door of the office and turned back to Mrs Henshall. ‘He’s out of my life. I’ve no wish to contact him again. OK?’

Mrs Henshall registered the aggressive tone and remembered that she was no longer taking notes. ‘Of course,’ she said. ‘I quite understand.’

To read more, click the buttons below.

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

Sunday Serial #15

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 …..

Sharon’s first instinct was to drag Louise downstairs and force her to pick up the biscuits. But she knew from experience that giving the girl ultimatums only made her more stubborn. She decided she’d leave the tin and the biscuits on the floor and see how long Louise left them there.

Sharon winced as she moved her right arm to see if it hurt. She pulled down her top to expose her shoulder. It wasn’t bruised but if the tin had caught her on the face it could have given her a nasty injury. She wouldn’t allow Louise to forget that in a hurry.

Sharon poured herself a glass of Australian red, went into the living room and sank into an armchair. She would wait and see if Louise came down and apologised. How hateful the girl was when she was in one of her moods. Although this was the first time she’d actually been violent at home. That was worrying. Such an ungrateful little cow. Always thinking of herself. Yes, her situation was horrible but why did she have to keep going on and on about it? She was no fool though. She’d seen through the lie. And lying to her had only made things worse. Why couldn’t she just have accepted there hadn’t been time to tell him, and left it at that? Yes, it was difficult for her: it was difficult for all of them. But it wasn’t as though she’d just been told. It never seemed to bother her before. Must be the part she was playing. Playing Nancy had turned her into a drama queen.

The more Sharon considered Louise’s reaction the more resentful she became. At least Louise had a mum she saw every day, and a dad who popped in a couple of times a week. How many kids could say that? Or adults, for that matter? Sharon would have given anything to see her parents again: hug them, kiss them, ask their advice; which was why she considered Louise a very selfish, ungrateful little girl. If they moved away she’d hardly ever see her father at all. Was that what she wanted? And where would they find a house as nice as Honeysuckle Cottage? The state of the market was such that even if she got her price she’d need another hundred grand to find anything comparable. And the last thing she wanted was to live on some horrid little estate in Luffield or Sandleton.
Sharon knocked back the remaining wine in her glass and went for a refill. Forty minutes later, when Louise had still not made an appearance, Sharon decided she could wait no longer. She went upstairs to Louise’s room. Unusually the door was closed. Evidence that Louise was still in a strop.

Sharon knocked and when she received no answer, opened the door and entered. Louise was playing with a game on her computer. She didn’t look up.

Sharon said, ‘Don’t you want to know if that tin hurt me?’

Louise said nothing. Her eyes remained riveted on the computer screen.

‘No, of course you don’t. Well, I was lucky. It could have taken my eye out. Don’t ever do that to me again.’

Sharon waited for a reaction. None came. All of Louise’s attention was directed at the game.

‘I’ve left the tin and the biscuits where they are. They can stay there until you pick them up.’

Again, there was no reply from Louise.

‘I suppose it’s a waste of time expecting an apology.’

Sharon continued in this vein for several minutes but failed to elicit the slightest response. Eventually she admitted defeat. ‘For God’s sake!’ She turned and moved to the door.

‘Wait, mum!’ cried Louise.

Sharon stopped and turned back. Louise had lifted her face from the computer. The puffiness around the girl’s eyes and the streaks on her cheeks showed she’d been crying.

She got up and came towards her mother. ‘Your arm. Does it hurt?’

‘Quite a bit,’ lied Sharon.

Louise launched into a profuse and tearful apology.

‘Oh, Louise!’ Sharon placed her arms on Louise’s shoulders and pulled her into a hug.

‘I was sure you’d tell him you see,’ Louise let out, between sobs. ‘I was so sure we’d be getting away from here.’

‘I know you were.’ Sharon was stroking the girl’s heaving shoulders: solacing away her sorrow.

‘I can’t stand it anymore.’

‘I know. I know how hard it is for you.’

‘It was horrible being in that car with them. It’s always like that when I’m with Jade.

Knowing and not being able to tell them.’

‘I know.’

‘But it didn’t matter because I thought we were leaving. And then you said we weren’t.’

She sobbed again.

‘I’m sorry.’

‘That’s why I threw the tin. I didn’t want to hurt you.’

‘It’s all right, Lou. But you must try to control your temper. It’ll get you into trouble.’

Louise stopped crying and looked her mother full in the eyes. ‘I never thought you’d break your promise. You always say never make a promise you can’t keep. That’s why I believed you.’

‘That’s right, you shouldn’t. And now you can see why. Because when you break a promise it makes people very unhappy. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done it.’

‘So tomorrow you’ll tell him we’re leaving?’

Sharon realized she could evade the truth no longer. ‘No. I can’t do that. I can’t leave Leefdale.’

Louise stared at her, dumbly.

‘I’m too frightened.’

‘Frightened?’

‘Yes. I’m frightened to leave here and start again somewhere else in a strange place with people I don’t know. I’ve lived here all my life. I don’t want to leave.’

‘So we’re going to have to stay here forever?’

‘Not forever. But at least for the time being.’

‘I knew it!’ Louise cried, bitterly. She shrank from her mother’s embrace and took several steps back.

‘You’re asking too much of me, Louise! I don’t want to leave here. I love your dad and I love living here and I don’t want to leave. I know it’s hard for you and it’s not what you want to hear, but that’s the way it is.’

‘But I thought you did want to leave?’

‘Well, in a way I do. But not yet. It’s very complicated. You’re too young to understand. I can’t give up my whole life. Think what it would mean. We’d lose our lovely cottage and we wouldn’t see dad.’

‘At least I wouldn’t have to see Jade anymore.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous. Think how hurt dad would be. He loves us. It would kill him if he couldn’t see us.’

Louise’s expression became suspicious. ‘I bet you did tell dad we were going and he talked you out of it.’

‘No, honestly, I didn’t. I never said a word to him about it. I couldn’t.’

Louise looked confused. ‘You said you didn’t tell him because there wasn’t time.’

Sharon cursed herself for the slip. ‘That’s right. I lied.’ Gently, she added, ‘Only because I didn’t want to disappoint you. If I’d realised how important it was to you, I’d never have made the promise. It was wrong of me to raise your hopes like that. I’m sorry.’

Louise lowered her eyes and said nothing. Her face was completely impassive. She was obviously very affected by what her mother had said but it was impossible to guess what she was thinking. She was so sensitive; felt everything so deeply. Suddenly she said, ‘You’re lying about the car too, aren’t you? There’s nothing wrong with it, is there? You didn’t drive because you were drunk.’

‘I wasn’t drunk. I had a couple of glasses of wine. It would have been irresponsible to drive.’

‘If you hadn’t drunk the wine you could have collected me and we wouldn’t have had to come back in Pam’s car.’

‘Yes. I’m sorry about that.’

‘It’s awful when we’re with them. It always feels wrong.’

Sharon didn’t quite know what to say. The situation had never been foregrounded in this way before. Their bizarre existence as an adjunct to Greg’s legitimate family was something that was never articulated, never alluded to overtly, even though it had been an accepted fact of their lives for years. It was a secret so shocking it could only be normalised by never being mentioned. For years, Sharon and Greg had managed to prevent Louise from ever openly talking about it, until tonight.

Louise said, ‘So we’re never, ever going? We’re staying here forever?’

‘Well, I don’t know about forever. Who knows? Certainly for the foreseeable future.’ Sharon suddenly saw a way of reconciling Louise to the situation. ‘Look, I know Jade’s being horrible, but all that will change soon. You only have to put up with it for a couple of months and then it’ll be the summer holidays, and after that you’ll go to secondary school. Things will be a lot better then.’

‘No, they won’t. Jade’s going to Luffield too. We’ll be in the same classes.’

‘There are other schools, you know. I thought we might try and get you into one in Sandleton.’

‘Sandleton?’

Encouraged, Sharon went on, ‘There’s the Girls’ High School. Or the comprehensive. You could drive in with me to Luffield, take the train, and come home on the bus.’

Louise’s face fell. ‘I’d still have to come back here.’

‘But you wouldn’t see so much of Jade.’

‘You don’t get it do you? I hate it here. I don’t understand how you can put up with it.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Seeing dad only now and then.’

‘It’s better than nothing. At least we see him. I’d love to see my dad again. And my mum. But they’re dead, so I can’t. You don’t know how lucky you are. I’m sure your friend Roger would love to see his dad.’

It occurred to Sharon that she’d drunk rather too much wine. Normally, she would never have used the death of Roger’s father as some sort of emotional blackmail. Or spoken so frankly about her own feelings of bereavement. But the extraordinary thing that Louise said next, put all thoughts of this out of Sharon’s mind.

‘Roger’s the lucky one. His dad’s dead. It might be better if my dad was dead.’

‘Louise! How can you say such a thing? How could you?’

‘I don’t care if I never see him again.’

‘You know you don’t mean that.’

‘I do, I do! Why can’t we be like normal people? Wouldn’t you like to see him every day? Have him living with us all the time?’

‘You know that’s not possible.’

‘Why not? Why can’t he leave them and come and live with us?’

‘Don’t be silly. Think what people would say.’

‘If we moved away he could come and live with us. It wouldn’t matter then.’

Sharon was alarmed by Louise’s attitude. She obviously thought that was what her mother wanted. One day she’d make it clear to her that it had never been her intention to set up home with Greg. But not yet. Louise was too young, and she didn’t know how to put it to her. Her feelings were so conflicted about the situation: pitching and tossing all the time.

Sharon said, ‘I know you want dad all to yourself but you’ve always known we have to share him.’

Louise shook her head vigorously. ‘I don’t care about sharing him. I just want people to know he’s my dad too. I’m sick of hiding it all the time.’

Sharon placed her hand on Louise’s shoulder. ‘That’s never going to happen, Louise. You’d better get used to it, otherwise you’ll only give yourself grief.’

Louise nodded gravely. ‘It was horrible in Pam’s car. I can’t stop thinking about it.’

‘Yes.’

‘Don’t you feel funny when you’re talking to Pam? I do. There’s this great, big terrible secret there all the time. That’s how it is when I talk to Jade and Gwen and Ian. It makes me feel horrible. Doesn’t it make you feel horrible? That’s why I want to move away.’
Sharon couldn’t bear to look into her daughter’s eyes: they were so full of unhappiness and reproach. But she said nothing. The conversation was leading her further and further on to that disturbing terrain she’d always managed to avoid. ‘I’m going to get your supper,’ she said. ‘Hot milk and chocolate biscuits OK?’

‘All right.’

Sharon left the room and went downstairs feeling a lot happier. Her mood was completely altered and she was sure it wasn’t just the effect of the wine. She felt that on the whole she’d handled it rather well. Telling the truth had been the right thing to do. It had enabled her to say what she really felt, and put all thoughts of leaving out of Louise’s head. She was sure that once Louise started going to school in Sandleton she’d feel much more positive about things.

Want to read more? Click the buttons below ….

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

#ThrowbackThursday #BookReview The Heartfelt Series by Adrienne Vaughan @adrienneauthor

heart

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

Make a Joyful Noise by Jenny Worstall

Everybody Lies by Julia Hughes

and Boot Camp Bride by Lizzie Lamb.

This week it’s the Heartfelt Series by Adrienne Vaughan.

The Heartfelt Series is a trilogy of romantic novels each one of which is difficult to put down!

From the Amazon book page of Book 1, The Hollow Heart

This heartrending mystery thriller is the story of Marianne Coltrane a feisty, award-winning journalist who uncovers a devastating travesty of justice involving the sale of babies by the church in Ireland.

Fighting her corner in the male-dominated world of newspapers she witnesses a terrorist attack that changes how she thinks about her future and what she really wants.

Taking herself off to the wilds of the west of Ireland to re-evaluate her life, she encounters the soon to be world-famous actor Ryan O’Gorman, to her mind the most conceited, infuriating man in the world. He in turn loathes journalists, especially female ones. One thing they do have in common is they both think their chance of true love has passed them by.

As they both begin to fall in love with Innishmahon, their spiritual home, they discover the very fabric of the island is threatened and as the islanders find themselves in grave danger, Marianne and Ryan join forces to save that which they hold most dear.

But the road is rocky for this fiery, opinionated pair … and when Ryan discovers his ex-fiance is carrying his child, things take a turn for the worst. Can he talk his way out of this one? And will Marianne even care, when she unwittingly reveals the most devastating secret of all, the truth behind her past and her own parentage.

Sexy, moving and funny, this heart-warming duo and cast of colourful characters will stay with you, long after the last page leaves you smiling.

My review from Indie Bookworm

The Heartfelt Series by Adrienne Vaughan comprises three novels which together tell the romantic story of Marianne and Ryan who have more ups and downs in their relationship than you can even begin to imagine.

Set on the beautiful west coast of Ireland the three books are a charming and delightful escape into a world of intrigue and mystery as well as romance.

Book One – The Hollow Heart

I really enjoyed reading The Hollow Heart and especially liked the main character, Marianne. The story line is great and the ups and downs of her relationship with Ryan makes it a really engaging read.

I read Book One almost without stopping and was straight onto Book Two, A Change of Heart.

The main character, Marianne, continues to develop and there are ever more ups and downs in her relationship with Ryan. It’s a really entertaining and exciting read filled with glamour, mystery and intrigue from start to finish. The characters develop well and the plot is nicely complex ensuring a high level of reader engagement. Naturally, I was straight on to Book Three to find out what was going to happen next.

The final part of the Heartfelt Series is Secrets of the Heart.

Finally free to be together on the remote Irish isle of Innishmahon, Marianne Coltrane and Ryan are looking forward to life away from the bright lights of Hollywood and the constant pursuit of the paparazzi.

However, when nature conspires to keep them apart and Ryan puts both his own and his son’s life at risk, Marianne finally realises how determined he is they should be a family. She now needs to put aside her own, deep rooted fear of commitment and come to terms with the sinister secrets buried within her family history.

Yet when Ryan’s own devastating secret is revealed, and their world is turned upside down, Marianne has to call upon more than determination to see them through. She has to believe in love with every fibre of her being, because if she cannot, it could mean not only the end of their relationship, but even life itself.

Doesn’t Secrets of the Heart sound compelling?

And it really is a can’t-put-it-down book.

I enjoyed all three books in the series and this final installment brought the trilogy to a great ending.

I liked the way the author recapped some of the characters who reappeared as the story evolved.

The main characters are well developed and there’s a large cast of fascinating minor characters too.

The island setting is lovely and beautifully described.

The plot is a mix of romance, adventure, mystery and glamour and keeps you in suspense for the final outcome right to the very end. Very enjoyable!

Click the Free Preview button below to start reading the Heartfelt Series straightaway!

 

Sunday Serial #14

mum

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 …..

They’d only just entered the cottage when Louise burst out, ‘Well? What did he say?’

Sharon didn’t reply immediately. She was moving around the room switching on the lamps. When she’d finished she went back to the light switch by the front door, turned the overhead light off and started taking off her fleece.

‘Come on, mum. What did he say?’

Louise gazed at her mother beseechingly. Her whole being was animated. Her hazel eyes radiated optimism. Her expression overflowed with the prospect of good news. She looked supremely happy and sure of herself, confident of the anticipated happiness her mother was about to deliver. This visible evidence of her daughter’s blind, innocent trust hurt Sharon more than anything. More than her own weakness; more than her cowardly and cruel betrayal.

‘I didn’t tell him,’ she said.

For Louise this had never been a possibility. For several seconds there was complete silence.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I didn’t tell him we were leaving.’

The significance of what her mother had said began to spread across Louise’s features. ‘You didn’t tell him?’

Sharon flung her fleece on to the sofa. Casually, she said, ‘No. There wasn’t time.’

Louise’s face was a rictus of incredulity. ‘But you promised!’

‘I know. But there wasn’t time. He had to get to his meeting.’

Sharon set off for the kitchen. Louise immediately followed her. She had a strong suspicion she was being lied to. ‘You had loads of time. His meeting wasn’t until eight o’clock.’

Sharon began filling the electric kettle. ‘He had to be there early to talk to Major Roberts.’

‘What about?’

Sharon returned the kettle to its stand and switched it on. ‘I don’t know.’

Louise was now sure her mother was lying. ‘You could have told him. It would only have taken a minute. “We’re leaving Leefdale and we’re not coming back”. See! You could have told him. You only needed a couple of seconds.’

‘Don’t be silly, Lou. I couldn’t just say it like that.’

‘Why not? I just showed you. It’s easy.’

‘That’s because you’re a child. You don’t understand. It’s hard to tell people things like that. It takes more than a few seconds. For Christ’s sake, he’s not a stranger. He’s your father. Now, what do you want for your supper?’

Louise was standing stiff and sullen. ‘You’re changing the subject.’

‘No, I’m not. I’m asking you what you want for supper.’

The child’s voice swooped in sudden insight. ‘You were never going to tell him, were you?’

‘Of course I was.’

‘No, you weren’t.’

‘It wasn’t the right time, Lou.’

‘But you promised!’

‘I know. I’m sorry. There wasn’t time. Really, there wasn’t.’ Sharon felt the need to offer Louise some hope. ‘But when there’s time, I’ll tell him.’

‘You’re a liar!’ screamed Louise. She looked around wildly. On one of the kitchen surfaces was a round biscuit tin. She picked it up and hurled it at Sharon.

Sharon was so astonished she had no time to react. The tin caught her on the shoulder and ricocheted. When it hit the floor the lid flew off and several biscuits spilled out.

‘I hate you!’ cried Louise.

She ran past Sharon and up the stairs to her room.

Click the free preview button below to continue reading.

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

#ThrowbackThursday #BookReview Boot Camp Bride by Lizzie Lamb @lizzie_lamb

boots

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

Make a Joyful Noise by Jenny Worstall

and Everybody Lies by Julia Hughes

This week it’s Boot Camp Bride by Lizzie Lamb.

Boot Camp Bride is romantic novelist Lizzie Lamb’s second book but it was the first of her stories I read.

And I enjoyed it so much I read her first novel, Tall, Dark and Kilted – and everything she’s written since.

From the Amazon Book page

Take an up-for-anything reporter. Add a world-weary photo-journalist. Put them together . . . light the blue touch paper and stand well back!

Posing as a bride-to-be, Charlee Montague goes undercover at a boot camp for brides in order to photograph supermodel Anastasia Markova.

At Charlee’s side and posing as her fiancé, is Rafael Ffinch award winning photographer and survivor of a kidnap attempt in Columbia.

He’s in no mood to cut inexperienced Charlee any slack and has made it plain that once the investigation is over, their partnership – and fake engagement – will be terminated, too.

Soon Charlee has more questions than answers.

What’s the real reason behind Ffinch’s interest in the boot camp? How is it connected to his kidnap in Columbia?

In setting out to uncover the truth, Charlee puts herself in danger … As the investigation draws to a close, she wonders if she’ll be able to hand back the engagement ring and walk away from Rafa without a backward glance.

My review from Indie Bookworm

You can tell by the cover of Lizzie Lamb’s Boot Camp Bride that it’s going to be funny and you’re not disappointed.

Charlee Montague is an aspiring reporter who is looking for a big break. As a high flying graduate, she speaks several languages including Latin and the book is peppered with references to her braininess. She’s a feminist and intent on carving out a career for herself. As the romance evolves she is determined to keep her independence and her cool.

After a seemingly chance encounter with seasoned photo-journalist Rafael Ffinch. (and no that’s not a typo that really is his name) Charlee is on course for a scoop.

The Boot Camp of the title is situated in the Norfolk marshes and is the destination of choice for celebrity brides preparing for the big day. I’ve rarely heard of anything so ridiculous (and think Charlee would agree) but this provides the back-drop for a plot which from time to time makes you snort with laughter.

I really liked Charlee. I thought she was believable and down-to-earth and I particularly enjoyed her smart, sassy dialogue. Rafael, the fake fiancé, is full of his own importance to start with but improves as the novel progresses.

There’s a cast of well written cameo characters notably Charlee’s friend Poppy, Poppy’s father Sam and Russian model, Anastasia Markova. However the star of the subsidiary characters is Rafa’s re-furbed VW camper van with the souped up Porsche engine.

Charlee’s relationship with Rafa goes through a whole series of highs and lows and author Lizzie Lamb manages to create lots of romantic atmosphere as the tale unfolds. Right until the end the temporary nature of the fake engagement is sustained and the reader is kept on tenterhooks throughout.

Boot Camp Bride is a well written and very amusing romance novel which would be ideal for a holiday read or a long winter night in front of the fire.

Hot off the press

I recently finished Lizzie Lamb’s latest novel, Take Me, I’m Yours. I haven’t written my Amazon review yet, but it’s definitely five stars from me.

Click the Free Preview button below to start reading Boot Camp Bride straightaway!

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.