Friday, 28 August 2015

Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan


Rachel Jenner turned her back for a moment.
Now her eight-year-old son Ben is missing. 
But what really happened that fateful afternoon?
Caught between her personal tragedy and a public who have turned against her, there is nobody left who Rachel can trust. But can the nation trust Rachel?
The clock is ticking to find Ben alive. 
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?




I love finding little debut gems and that is what I have found whilst reading Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan. Every mother’s worst nightmare is their child going missing and so the author has brought a subject to the storyline that will make that awful feeling in the bit of your stomach feel all to real when we follow the story of Rachel Jenner who let her son have a small piece of independence allowing him to run ahead to the swing and in those few crucial minutes when he was out of sight both her and son Ben’s world was ripped apart.

Rachel was such a well formed and remarkable character, every emotion that she went through could be felt with ease through the pages, guilt, worry, desperation and anger and yet whilst trying to deal this heartbreaking situation she is also having to face the utter disbelief that people would assume she would do this to her son because surely no one could have it in them to harm their own son could they?

There are a vast amount of characters in this book and yet each of them were developed extremely well and were easily recognisable without having to have time to get to know who was who which can often be a problem in books like this with so many key characters. The book alternates between Rachel’s point of view and Jim’s point of view who was the DI dealing with the case, this worked perfectly in this book as it gave the reader a view from both sides from the highly emotive and exhausting side and how the family cope whilst the investigation takes place and also from the side of the police where with little evidence and no witnesses they have to try and build a picture and try and fit pieces together to try and solve the case. I love the addition of the chapters with Dr Manelli and also the glimpse of the comments on the blog which all help to form a wider picture of the case.

I loved how unpredictable this book was, the suspense literally had me on edge the whole way through and I was completely shocked when all was revealed as I wasn’t even close to working out who was involved.

If you are looking for a highly charged and action packed book that is fast paced and so captivating that it is literally impossible to put this down as you constantly just have to read one more chapter that soon leads to the next and the next then this book will not disappoint.

This was an utterly breathtaking debut that is flawless throughout and has such a realistic ending that really pulls at the heartstrings. I am excited to see what this author has to offer next.



Paperback              Kindle

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Stirred with Love by Marcie Steele


Sometimes the best friends can be found where you least expect them …

Still grieving after the loss of her beloved husband, Lily Mortimer is determined to do something with the time she has left. After the end of her fairytale marriage, thirty-something Kate is trying hard to mend her broken heart.

Chloe, a young woman with the world at her feet, is struggling to know what to do with her life. When Lily embarks on a new venture in the picturesque town of Somerley, the three women come together to open The Coffee Stop, the most charming café for miles around. But opening a coffee shop is never as simple as it seems, especially when you add neighbouring competition, local heart throbs and heartbreak to the mix.

When tragedy strikes, can the three women pull together to make the new business fly, or will Lily’s last chance disappear down the drain along with yesterday’s coffee grinds?


Having read a lot of intense crime thrillers recently I really felt the need to get back to my preferred genre of romance so Stirred With Love couldn't have arrived on my kindle at a better time.

Kate is going through a tough time in her relationship and when she her friend finds a perfect advert in the paper for her to help with a new cafe come coffee shop it sounds like the ideal solution  for her to take a break and move in a different direction. 

Chloe has come to the end of her exams and now has to make a decision as to what to do next, her dad is keen on her to further her education but Chloe wants a little time out over the Summer and so she answers the advert in the paper for help in a new coffee shop.  

Can Kate and Chloe help owner Lily make another go opening her shop or is it time to let go.

This was a very enjoyable light read that deals in a large does of heartache but forming strong friendships soon helps to heal old and new wounds. I warmed to Kate more but I think that is probably due to her age and so I felt like I could relate to her a little more whereas Chloe still has that immaturity to her but she brings a light tone to the book and also shows a vulnerable side too. Lily was an endearing character and she seemed to take the girls under her wing and give them a few wise words of wisdom!

In some ways the storyline was predictable but there was one twist I didn't see coming which had me open mouthed. It was such a quick and breezy read that I really enjoyed although I don't think it  will be one that will stay on my mind a couple of months from now.

I loved the splash of romance that was weaved around the storyline but for me it was the fun of watching the transformation of the coffee shop and also the trust and bonds develop between the ladies that really had me entertained.  


This sure is a grande read for me!


Kindle

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Mile High by Rebecca Chance


Today it is my stop on the Mile High blog tour where I will be sharing my review of this steamy and scandalous read that is one not to be missed. Be sure to stop by the other blogs on the tour too.

My Review

As soon as Mile High arrived I couldn’t wait to get started and so I put my current read aside and delved into this latest book by one of my favourite authors Rebecca Chance, what I didn’t expect was to finish this hefty book of 482 pages in one sitting! I missed dinner so at least it helped the diet!

This time the storyline is set onboard the brand spanking new Pure Air’s new LuxeLiner which if I am completely honest worried me a little, it is a good job I have faith in this authors books because I coundn’t see how the author was going to create enough drama and tension on board a plane for 482 pages without my interest starting to waiver but once again Rebecca Chance has given us a twisted and dramatic read with her signature steaming sex scenes which had me hooked the whole way through.

We join the crew and VIP’s in first class on the first ever flight on board the new plane and it is clear from the start that this is going to be an eventful flight when we are made aware that singer Catalina is going to be flying with them but she is going through a very disturbing and trying time, a stalker has been getting a little too close but surely they wouldn’t make it onto this exclusive plane with her?

I loved the suspense that the author managed to create surrounding this dark and disturbing stalker, knowing they were on board I thought I knew who it was only then for another chapter to pass which then found me suspecting someone else and when everything was finally revealed I was completely baffled and couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it coming!

The authors scandalous and sizzling scenes are back again and I did actually find myself chuckling away in one of the scenes. I love how easy the flow of these scenes are to read, yes they are graphic so if you are not one that likes to read sex scenes then this won’t be the book for you but personally I love it because it fits right in with the storyline and it is what I come to expect from a Rebecca Chance book alongside the Glitz, glamour and scandal.

I personally didn’t feel we needed the part with Justin ( sorry folks can’t say more than that as I don’t want to give a spoiler) especially because he didn’t play a big part in the storyline,I think this part will be easily forgettable as there was already enough drama surrounding the Stalker and Angela’s little stumble but that is just my opinion.

There is a diverse range of characters to get your head around in this book but it doesn’t take long to differentiate between the characters. Catalina is our main focus and she is a little slip of a thing but she seems to have a kind heart and a big talent oh and a strong, dishy knockout of a bodyguard!
I have to admit I am not a fan of the cover of this book, it seems a little bland for the compelling storyline that it holds but then I was always going to be hard to please as the signature shoe covers were always firm favourites of mine and ones that always stood out on the shelves.

This was another fabulous read by Rebecca Chance, dramatic, scandalous and saucy not one to be missed.




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Saturday, 15 August 2015

All That Glitters by Vicky Pattison


Three years ago Issy Jones walked away from her dream because her family needed her. Today, she spends her days working in her mum's salon and her nights going out with her best friend, Molly. Life is good yet Issy can't help wishing for something more. 
When Issy's dad puts her forward for a sensational new reality TV show, no one expects her to actually be selected. With her family urging her to grab the opportunity with both hands, Issy suddenly finds herself surrounded by glamour, fame and celebrities. Full of excitement, Issy embraces it all - it's what she needs to do to achieve her goals. 

But when the reality of what she's signed up for doesn't match the dream Issy is chasing, things begin to fall apart. 
Issy is so close to getting everything she ever wanted - but just how much of herself will she have to sacrifice to get it?


Those of you who follow my blog will know I am always hesitant to read the latest celebrity books so when I was sent All That Glitters which is the first fiction book released by Vicky Pattison to review I can't say it was one I was eager to read and yet straight from the prologue I found my attention was piqued and I soon found myself speeding through the pages of this easy, pacy read.

Issy Jones has a real talent when it comes to hairdressing but after giving up her place on a well established training course when her dad became ill she finds herself years later still working in her mums salon doing the old girls perms and blue rinse! 

Keen for his daughter to follow her dram he enters her into a new reality series and when she is picked she has no idea what lays ahead other than her hairdressing skills will be put to the test but nothing could of prepared her for what she was walking into and the impact it would have on her life!

I am a reality TV fan so the idea of the new show was something that appealed to me in this show and being in a similar industry to Izzy I am all to aware of how relationships can be in the trade and I thought this was portrayed really well in this book. Izzy herself was a likeable down to earth character, she was young and rather naive in a few situations and yet she showed how ballsy she was in other points so she was a well rounded character. I did start to become disappointed in her character along the way but her family and friends were all on hand to try and keep her grounded and I can imagine some of the words of wisdom that Issy had from her father may have been pulled from words of advice given to Vicky Pattison over the years she has had in the limelight.

There were a number of characters to get your head around and it did take me some time especially with the contestants to place who was who and at times I got the boys mixed up but one character who was impossible to get mixed up was the spoilt and rude princess that we call Mia! She sure was a character you love to hate and yet I loved her parts and found myself chuckling away at times especially with the face cream incident!

This is the kind of book I would want to pop in my bag for holiday reading, it is an easy read with a little twist that although I knew something was coming I still couldn't work out exactly what it was. I would recommend this book and in fact my niece has already pinched my copy after I told her that it was not what I was expecting at all. I am pleased I gave this book a chance as it was an enjoyable little read.   





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Thursday, 13 August 2015

What Milo Saw Blog Tour


Today it is my stop on the What Milo Saw blog tour. I read this book last year for the hardback release and I still remember the storyline and dear little Milo as if I had read it last week. So when I was asked to take part in the blog tour for the paperback release of this book I jumped at the chance and I am thrilled to be able to share with you an extract from the book that I am sure will make you want to find out more about little Milo's adventure.




EXTRACT

Milo sat at the computer on the landing listening to the shush-shushing of the firemen’s hose on the drive. The firemen had only just let them back into the house. 
 ‘I want a list of nursing homes,’ said Mum. 
 ‘Can’t Gran stay till Christmas?’
 Gran was Dad’s gran and Milo’s great-gran but everyone just called her Gran. Milo turned his head to look at the fairy lights he’d wound round the banisters leading up to Gran’s room. He’d had the idea when he saw her struggling to find the light switch. Mum guided Milo’s head back to look at her and said ‘No.’
 ‘But . . . ’
 ‘Don’t insist,’ said Mum and then pinched shut her mouth.
 Don’t insist was Mum’s favourite phrase of all time.
 ‘But Mum – the fire was my fault, I should have gone down to check.’ 
 And it was true. Every morning when Gran padded down the stairs from her room under the roof all the way to the kitchen and made her cup of sweet, milky tea, it was Milo’s job to make sure she was okay. He’d lie in bed and listen for the clues: 
 1. The clink of Gran’s tartan mug as she pulled it off the mug tree. 
 2. The suck and pop of the jar with the tea bags. 
 3. The rattle of the cutlery drawer as she took out her favourite teaspoon, the one made of real silver with a kink in its handle. 
 4. The kettle filling up (though usually Milo tried to remember to fill it up the night before because Gran’s wrists were weak and she struggled to hold the weight of so much water). 
 5. The click of the switch on the kettle. 
 6. A pause. 
 7. And then the water heating, steam pushing at the lid, bubbles rolling over each other like a hot sea, and then another click when it was done. 
 8. Sometimes, after step 3, Gran forgot they had a kettle and she’d open the saucepan drawer and fill a pan up and light the stove. 
That was the cue for Milo to swing his legs out of bed and come downstairs. They had a gas hob and Gran wasn’t allowed to use it. Milo didn’t know why he missed the sound of the saucepan drawer that day. He must have been sleepy or maybe Gran was extra quiet, but by the time he felt the flutter in his chest which told him that Gran needed him, and by the time Hamlet was squealing his head off in the garage because he’d swallowed too much smoke, it was too late, the kitchen was on fire.
 ‘It’s not your responsibility to check on your gran,’ said Mum.
 She leant in and kissed Milo’s hair. She was always doing that: telling him off and then kissing him. She smelt of burnt things and sticky perfume and sleep. 
 ‘When all this is over, I’ll let Hamlet stay in the house,’ she said.
 Milo leant under the desk and gave Hamlet a rub between his ears. The only reason he was allowed up here now was because the fire had scared him. Milo hated the fact that Hamlet had to live in the garage all by himself: the garage was cold and damp and didn’t have any windows. No one should live like that. But if Milo had to choose between Hamlet coming out of the garage or Gran getting to stay with them, he’d have to pick Gran. Hamlet would understand. Mum looked over Milo’s shoulder at the computer screen.
 ‘We don’t want anywhere fancy, Milo, Gran wouldn’t like that.’ 
 So Milo tried typing not fancy nursing homes into Google but Google didn’t get it and wrote back: did you mean fancy nursing homes? Once Milo had stationed Gran safely on the drive and once he’d yanked open the main door to the garage and got Hamlet out of his cage and given him to Gran to look after, he’d come back inside and screamed: Fire! Fire! Mum! There’s a fire! Mum had come tearing down the stairs and out of the house, her non-make-up face all pale and puffy. When she saw Gran she didn’t ask how she was and she didn’t say she was relieved that Hamlet was safely out of the garage and she didn’t tell Milo well done for having saved everyone. She just yelled the same words over and over: This is the last straw. This is the last bloody straw. Milo and Gran both knew what the last bloody straw meant: it meant that Gran was going to a nursing home. Mum jabbed a chipped pink nail at the computer screen.
 ‘Those rooms are far too big,’ she said. ‘Gran will feel lost.’
 So Milo did a search for nursing homes with small rooms. But then he thought about all the stuff Gran had upstairs, like Great-Gramps’s bagpipes and his uniform and the boxes of letters he’d written her and her map of Inverary and the picture of her fishing boat and her small radio and how she’d want to take it all with her.
 ‘It’s not coming up with anything.’ 
If Milo made Mum feel it was a hassle, maybe she’d back down.
 ‘Oh, for goodness sake, Milo.’ Mum looked up the stairs to Gran’s room and scratched a red bit on her throat. Then she leant in and whispered,
 ‘Just find somewhere cheap.’ 
 Mum wrote the word CHEAP on the back of an envelope and placed it right in front of Milo so it wasn’t lost in the fuzzy bit of his vision. He ran his fingers over the word; she’d pressed so hard on the pencil that the letters felt bumpy. 
 ‘I’ve got to make the firemen some tea.’ 
 Still in her nightie (the frilly one that looked like the kitchen curtains, or how they looked before they caught fire and turned into black moths on the linoleum floor), Mum rushed back downstairs. Milo heard the cupboard door open and the rustle of the Hobnobs packet. The plastic kettle had melted, so Milo didn’t know how Mum was going to boil water for the tea. Milo wasn’t going to let Mum stick Gran in a nursing home. He’d pretend to go along with it and then Mum would calm down and realise that Gran belonged right here in the small room Dad had converted for her under the roof, and that Milo was the best person to look after her. Then they’d have a proper Christmas, the four of them: Milo, Gran, Hamlet and Mum. Milo scanned down the list of homes on the screen. They all had garden centre names like Acorn Cottage and Birdgrove and Beechcroft Hill and Bird Poo View. He made up the last one. Milo typed: not cheap nursing homes into Google and waited for a new page to load. 
 ‘Found anything yet?’ Mum called up the stairs.
 The burnt smell had crept into the carpet and curtains and walls and was making the back of Milo’s throat tickle. He coughed and called back: ‘Nearly!’
 ‘Well, when you have, give me the phone numbers and I’ll organise some visits.’
 Milo didn’t answer. Above him, the floorboards creaked and then water juddered through the pipes. He hoped Gran would remember to turn off the tap. As soon as he’d finished making this stupid list, he’d go up and tell Gran that there was no way he was going to let Mum kick her out. He’d work out a plan that guaranteed she could stay, and not just for Christmas.

 

You can follow author Virginia on twitter @virginiawrites


My Review

What Milo Saw is about a sensitive and perceptive little 9 year old boy who suffers with a condition called retinitis pigmentosa which basically means that his sight is lie looking through a small tunnel the size of a pin head and eventually he will lose his sight completely. This is a condition I have never heard of before and it is remarkable to see how our little character manages to get around and actually how he manages to see things that others with full sight miss.

Milo is eager to get his dear Gran Lou back home living with his mum, she had to be put in a care home when Mil’s mum started struggling to cope with bills and looking after Lou but Milo has seen is nan deteriorate since she has been in the home and he sees things happening at Forget Me Nots that adults have not picked up on and he is determined to help all the poor old ladies in the home alongside his gran.

I found the loving relationship between Milo and his Gran so endearing, they really had a special bond he really idolises her and it seemed as though Milo was his Gran’s voice whilst she was his eyes. I loved the addition of little Hamlet who was Milo’s pet pig and they make a great little duo and bring a touch of humor to this book.

I quickly fell into this storyline and it was an easy read that had a great pace to it until about three quarters of the way through when it did start to slow a little but I still managed to carry on reading and luckily the ending was tied up perfectly and made me forget about the little lull in the storyline.

This author has managed to create a storyline full of wonderful well rounded characters but both Milo and Hamlet make this book a truly enjoyable read.


Be Sure To Check out the other stops on the blog tour.
Paperback              Kindle



The lovely team at Little Brown have supplied two copies of What Milo Saw, so enter the giveaway below to be in your chance of winning. This is a UK and Ireland only giveaway this time.


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Wednesday, 12 August 2015

My Sister's Secret by Tracy Buchanan


Everything you’ve built your life on is a lie. 
Willow’s memories of her parents are sun-drenched and full of smiles, love and laughter. But a mysterious invitation to a photographic exhibition exposes a secret that’s been buried since a tragic accident years ago. 
Willow is forced to question everything she knew about Charity, her late mother, and Hope, the aunt she’s lived with since she was a child. 
How was the enigmatic photographer connected to Willow’s parents?
Why will Hope not break her silence? 
Willow cannot move forward in her life without answers. But who can she really trust? Because no one has been telling the truth for a very long time.


Having not read Tracy Buchanan’s debut The Atlas of Us I was not sure what to expect from this book but I do like to find new authors so I was looking forward to reading My Sister’s Secret especially after reading rave reviews of the author’s debut.

The storyline alternates between the present day with Willow who has been raised by her Aunt Hope after her parents died when she was 7 in a tragic accident at Sea, then we fall back on the story to the past with Charity who is Willows mum. Willow has grown up with happy positive memories of her parents but everything changes when Willow comes across and invitation for her to attend a famous artists exhibition questions start to arise and it soon becomes clear there are secrets being concealed and Willow is determined to get to the bottom of them.

What a thoroughly addictive read. The author has such an easy writing style to follow, she manages to pull you right in to the storyline straight from the prologue and manages to great the perfect pace to the book which keeps your mind whirling over various scenarios the whole way through.

I love reading books where I find out about a topic that I know very little or nothing about and in this book I discovered submerged forests, the authors writes in beautiful, informative detail about these forests and this really piqued my interest and I soon found myself googling away trying to find pictures of these fascinating forests, the author must have done a fair amount of research on this topic.
I have to admit that as the storyline progressed I thought I had worked out what the twist was going to be and so I thought the book was a little predictable but then what I thought was going to happen did but then another twist happened that came to bite me on the bum!

There was a diverse range of characters all of whom were developed well. Willow was a very determined and direct character who was not going to give up on trying to uncover the secrets even if it meant finding out something that would change her life completely. Charity was my favourite character and her story was a hard and devastating one and at times I wanted to try and help her choose the right path only remembering after that it was too late.


I really enjoyed this book and after being so absorbed in the storyline with its twists and turns, intriguing subject matter and hidden secrets I now can’t wait to go to town and pick up the authors debut book. 


Kindle                     Paperback

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Cherry Tree Cafe Blog tour


Today it is my stop on The Cherry Tree Cafe blog tour which I am thrilled to be a part of as I have been watching Heidi Swain's journey to publication and it was great to finally get to read her first
 e-book baby ( I still hope one day it will grace our shelves so don't forget to tweet #paperbackcampaign #TheCherryTreeCafe )
If you missed my review for The Cherry Tree Cafe you can check it out by clicking HERE

I am pleased to be able to share with you now the first two chapters of The Cherry Tree Cafe which I am sure will get you hooked.


 Chapter 1 
When I was growing up I used to hate my birthday. What use was a birthday two weeks after Christmas? But now, bowling headlong towards my early thirties with Mr Right to snuggle up to, it didn’t seem so bad. No, now it wasn’t too bad at all. I sighed and stretched out in the luxuriously large bed, then rolled over to snuggle up to his perfectly toned torso for a few more minutes, only to discover that he wasn’t there. 
No matter, I smiled to myself, as I imagined him sauntering back into the bedroom with a laden breakfast tray and wearing little more than his most seductive smile. Just what, I couldn’t help wondering, had he got planned for my birthday, which coincidentally was the same day as our anniversary? Two blissful years since fate had blown him through the doors of the Mermaid pub and into my waiting arms.
 Bored with life in Wynbridge, the small East Anglian town where I’d grown up, I was looking for a distraction, anything to stave off the monotony of pulling pints and justifying still living at home, when in breezed Giles Worthington. He introduced himself as a jilted groom, a broken soul in need of a little ‘r and r’, which I was only too willing to offer. I had him back on his feet in no time and in return he swept me off mine and carried me away to his castle, well, penthouse flat actually. 
It wasn’t until a few weeks down the line that I discovered that he had actually been the one largely responsible for the jilting, but his fiancée was long gone by then, already seeing someone else (so he said) and I was living the life of a princess, not that any of that really mattered to me. All I cared about was love, head over heels, heart slamming against the ribcage love. I was a firm believer in destiny, fate and all that malarkey and I just knew that Giles Worthington and I were meant to be together, forever. 
‘Giles,’ I purred lustfully, ‘hurry up, the bed’s getting cold.’ 
No response. I sat up, shook my red curls away from my face, wrapped the sheet tightly around me and tiptoed to the door to call again. Still nothing, I shuffled back to bed and spotted an envelope propped up against the phone. 

My day ran exactly as Giles planned it to. No snuggling up on the sofa guzzling Prosecco and watching old movies for me this year. Instead I was polished and preened at a lavish country house spa and trying my best to enjoy it, despite feeling out of place amongst the glossy, groomed goddesses who, unlike me, were clearly accustomed to such indulgent treatment. 
Giles, always so generous, loved to shower me with surprises: lavish bouquets covering my desk at work, exquisite jewellery hidden in boxes of chocolates and last-minute minibreaks, but what I loved best was the time we spent together, just the two of us, snuggled under the duvet with our phones turned off and eyes only for each other. The whole birthday spa experience, although indulgent, just wasn’t me. Mindful of appearing ungrateful, however, I plastered on my best smile and thanked my lucky stars that at least I had a man who actually remembered my birthday. 
I spent the entire day wrapped in a soft fluffy robe, my every whim catered for before heading to the salon to have my locks straightened whilst a taxi waited on standby to drive me to my favourite rooftop restaurant for dinner with my dream man. 
In the run up to the big day I’d become increasingly convinced that Giles was poised to propose, and my hours of intense pampering only served to satisfy the fantasy that endless clandestine conversations with my best mate, Jemma, had fed. I was so close to securing my happy-ever-after I could almost taste it. 
‘Good evening, Miss Dixon.’ The restaurant manager bowed when I arrived. 
 ‘Good evening, James,’ I blushed.
 I still wasn’t used to the way people treated me now I was Giles’s girlfriend. Wherever we went, everyone knew my name. I knew my mother would have been in seventh heaven to have people falling over themselves for her, but to me it felt weird. I guess deep down I still felt a bit of a fraud living the city high life. 
Before Giles whisked me away I was just a barmaid from a small town with no idea of ‘how the other half lived’ but now I was treated like the Queen of Sheba simply because I happened to grace the arm of Giles Worthington. Talking of whom, where was he?
 ‘Mr Worthington will be arriving shortly,’ James the manager said, as I glanced around apprehensively. ‘Would you care to follow me to your table?’ 
I had barely sat down when I saw Giles arrive. I smiled to myself as I watched every woman in the restaurant discreetly shifting in their seats to ensure they secured the best view of the thick dark hair, mahogany eyes and impeccably cut suit that was heading towards my table.
 ‘Lizzie,’ he said, bending down and brushing my cheek with the briefest kiss. ‘You look gorgeous. How was your day?’
 He took the seat opposite mine and dutifully acknowledged the female diners who were still panting for a word from him. I breathed in the lingering scent of his aftershave and tried to draw my mind away from thoughts of getting him back to the flat, loosening his tie and recklessly tearing open the buttons on his designer shirt. 
‘My day has been utterly sublime,’ I breathed, ‘but I think tonight is going to surpass it.’ 
Ordinarily when I made a comment like that Giles would wink or caress my leg under the table and I would know there was no way he was going to wait until we got back to the flat before he would ravish me, but he simply threw me a fleeting smile and picked up his menu.
 ‘Is everything all right?’ I ventured.
 It wasn’t like him not to play along.
 ‘Yes, sorry. It’s just been one of those days, you know?’
 ‘Actually I can’t say I do,’ I tried again, ‘because thanks to you I’ve had the best possible day ever.’ 
I knew I was pushing the truth a bit too far and that Jemma would shake her head at such gratuitous lying, but I wanted Giles to know how much I appreciated the day he had arranged for me. However, he just nodded vaguely and clicked his fingers to catch the attention of the maître d’. 
Two courses later and I was struggling to steady my nerves and keep my frustration in check. 
‘Can’t you just leave it this time,’ I begged. 
It was the third time Giles’s mobile phone had disturbed our meal and it seemed less and less likely with every passing mouthful that he was going to propose and even if he did, I wasn’t sure I’d have the good grace to accept, given the filthy mood I’d fallen into as a result of the constant interruptions.
 ‘Surely whatever it is can wait until we’ve finished our afters.’ I whispered.
‘It isn’t “afters”,’ Giles snapped, standing up and noisily dropping his spoon, ‘this is sweet or pudding or dessert, but not “afters” and no, I can’t just leave it.’ 
Sudden tears stung my eyes as I watched him march across the restaurant. I furiously tried to blink them away and ignore the pang of embarrassment I felt as a result of his harsh words. He’d never corrected anything I’d said before. The Brothers Grimm, as Jemma had named them, Giles’s brothers Edward and Charlie, might have done, but not Giles. In the two years I’d known him he’d never been cruel.
 I thought back to all the times he’d sat around my parents’ dining table enjoying his ‘afters’. What the hell was wrong with him? I couldn’t believe that he would have gone to all the trouble of arranging the spa and sumptuous meal for my birthday, our anniversary, only to have it all sabotaged with phone calls from work. 
‘We need to talk,’ he said quietly when he finally came back to the table, his expression grave.
 ‘What is it?’ I asked, reaching for his hand and feeling determined to make everything better. ‘I know there’s something wrong, Giles. We’ve never argued like this before and today of all days.’ 
 I willed myself to forgive his waspish comment and smooth over the cracks in what was supposed to be the happiest moment of my life but there was something in his expression that suggested that today was just another day to him, nothing special at all. Surely he hadn’t really forgotten? 
‘I’m sorry, Lizzie,’ he stammered, ‘I’m just not feeling myself. It’s been a very long day.’
 ‘It’s OK,’ I soothed.
He looked at me for a second then withdrew his hand and took a deep breath. 
‘Look,’ he said, ‘there’s something I have to tell you.’
 I sat back in my chair, ran a pristinely manicured hand over my sleek, straightened curls and tried to return his gaze. This was it. This was the moment he was finally going to ask me. He was just nervous and annoyed that we’d been interrupted.
 ‘So, what is it?’ I smiled. ‘I’m sure whatever it is can’t be that bad.’ 
Just for a second I was panicked by his unfathomable expression and looked down at the table, then I realised he was fumbling in his pocket for what I presumed was a ring box. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves and looked back up. He was pushing something across the table towards me. Tentatively I stretched out my hand to take it, but it wasn’t a ring box or a ring. It was a key. It was Giles’s flat door key. I dropped it clumsily back onto the table as if its touch had seared my skin. 
‘Lizzie, I’m so sorry.’ He frowned, his words barely audible.
 ‘But I have to tell you, I’ve decided I’m going to marry Natasha after all.’ 
I don’t really remember the finer details of what happened after that. I sat and stared, dumbstruck, as Giles’s mouth opened and closed and snatches of some of what he said reached me from what felt like light years away.
 ‘I’ve never really stopped loving her,’ I heard him say, ‘I know now that when I met you I was just scared of the commitment she and I were about to make.’
 ‘But what about me, Giles?’ I stammered, bile rising as I refused to acknowledge the voice in my head warning me that the universe was gearing itself up to play an exceptionally cruel hand. ‘When we first got together you told me that you and Natasha weren’t meant to be. You said that you felt lucky that you got out when you did and that what you felt for me was nothing like what you felt for her. You said you were in love with me!’
 ‘No,’ he shrugged, ‘I thought I was, but I wasn’t. Looking back, I think I just got scared of the thought of being with one person for the rest of my life and I panicked. I should never have split up with Natasha, let alone asked you to move in with me. I just got carried away, and if we’re being honest, Lizzie, even you’ll admit our relationship has never really worked, has it? I mean, you’ve never really settled into life here, have you?’ 
 I sat open-mouthed, too stunned to move and too shocked to respond. I had left my job, my family and all my friends in Wynbridge to move to London so I could be with this man. I was crazy about him, would walk through fire for him and I had thought he felt the same about me. Countless times he told me that he loved me, that I was a breath of fresh air, that he’d never met anyone else like me . . . 
‘Excuse me,’ I murmured, pushing back my chair and praying that I’d make it to the ladies before off-loading the contents of my stomach. 
I stared at my reflection in the mirrored wall but didn’t recognise the person looking back at me. Where had Lizzie Dixon gone? I teased a few of the tortured and tamed curls free and felt heavy tears gathering. I swallowed hard, took a deep breath and splashed my face with cold water to try and temper some of the heat in my flushed cheeks. 

‘I know this must be one hell of a shock,’ Giles whispered, as I rejoined him after a wobbly walk back to our table, ‘but I couldn’t let it drag on any longer. When I spotted you looking at rings before Christmas, I said to Natasha . . . What?’
 ‘Exactly how long have you been back with her?’ I gasped, horrified. 
Giles shook his head. ‘I don’t know, a few months maybe.’ 
I couldn’t bear to hear another word. Jemma’s voice was screaming at me to tip his drink over his head and dump his ‘afters’ in his lap, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I suddenly realised that this whole meal was a charade and that Giles had pinned all his hopes on me going quietly and not making a fuss and apparently I was going to, but only because I was too shocked to do anything else. 
‘Can we go please?’ I said, standing back up again and clumsily pushing my chair away, ‘we’ll talk about this at the flat.’
 ‘I’m not coming back to the flat, Lizzie.’ 
‘What?’
 ‘I moved my stuff out today.’
 ‘You sneaky bastard,’ I choked, anger threatening to race ahead of shock.
 ‘I just thought it would save a scene. You can stay on there as long as you want. I can even have the lease changed to your name if you want.’
 ‘Oh thanks,’ I laughed, sitting back down with a thud, ‘you really are all heart!’
 ‘Don’t be like that. I’m trying my best to make this as painless as possible.’
 ‘For who, Giles? You know I won’t be able to pay the rent on my own. I’ll have to move out, and what about work? You set me up with that job. Do you really expect me to be able to walk back into that office and carry on as if nothing has happened? I thought you loved me.’ 
‘I’m sorry.’ 
 ‘So am I. I’m sorry I ever set eyes on you, but credit where it’s due, this is certainly one birthday I’ll never forget!’ 
And apparently neither would Giles. One fleeting glance at his handsome face confirmed that he hadn’t remembered it was my birthday or our anniversary at all. 

 Chapter 2
 Jemma began ringing soon after eight the following morning. Giles allegedly played squash with a colleague around that time and she knew I’d be home alone. I lay and listened to her breezy answerphone messages which to me, her oldest friend, belied the desperation she felt because I hadn’t picked up. I could all too easily imagine the texts backing up on my mobile would be nowhere near as polite.
 ‘Hi guys! It’s me again. I guess you aren’t in because if you were, you would have picked up by now, wouldn’t you?
 If it wasn’t all so tragic, I would have laughed. As the morning wore on her tone became increasingly frustrated, but I still couldn’t muster the courage to answer.
 ‘Anyway, I’m just popping out to take Ella to her ballet lesson and check on things at the Café,’ she gushed airily. ‘I’ll try and reach you later on your mobile, Lizzie. Hope you’re both OK and had a fab evening. Lots of love . . . OK, bye.’ 
 I slumped back down under the duvet, determined not to have to face the real world for a little while longer and thought about the exciting times Jemma and her husband Tom were enjoying. Unlike me they had never felt any desire to leave Wynbridge. The place was their past, their present and now their future. They had recently bought a business, the Cherry Tree Café, and were deep in renovation and repair mode. 
The Café had been an absolute bargain, according to Jemma. The council were in the throes of regenerating the town centre and consequently willing to let some of the smaller shops go for a song. They were pulling out all the stops to tempt the locals away from the out of town retail park, (which had seemed like such a good idea a few years ago), and back to the market square before the place lost its charm and became overrun with pound stores. According to Jemma, ‘shop local’ were the new buzz-words on everyone’s lips. 
The Café had been the place to be seen when we were growing up and now it was poised to flourish again and provide Jemma with the perfect space to expand her baking empire. 
I wrapped myself a little tighter in the covers feeling thoroughly ashamed of the pang of jealousy I felt when thinking about Jemma’s perfect life and good fortune. She had a husband who loved her, an adorable daughter and now her dream business; the Café was going to be the cherry on her cupcake. 

I managed to get through the rest of the torturous weekend with the comfort of my other two best friends, Ben and Jerry, and I can honestly say it was no sickie that I was planning to pull the following week. My ice cream consumption had reached epic proportions and I was in danger of succumbing to a severe sugar overdose. 
Jemma had eventually stopped ringing, probably on the assumption that Giles and I were engaged and consequently otherwise engaged in a marathon weekend shag fest. Which unfortunately we weren’t, well, he probably was but with the perfectly pristine Natasha, rather than the frayed around the edges me. 
Disconcertingly my mother had also rung a couple of times. Her messages were left in the voice she saved especially for Giles and his family, painstakingly pronouncing every syllable, and along with her nauseating tone there was the added concern that she hardly ever called. Her life was a blur of Wynbridge WI meetings and coffee mornings for orphaned orangutans. I hoped Jemma hadn’t bumped into her and said anything about not being able to get hold of me, but that was highly unlikely. The pair hardly moved in the same social circles.
 I finally managed to get to sleep on Sunday night and unfortunately I stayed asleep. The cunning but face-saving Ferris Bueller style message I’d spent hours devising didn’t quite pan out. Blagging myself a few sick days would have given me enough time to compose myself and return to work looking confident, over Giles and with the world at my feet but unfortunately, fate it seemed, wasn’t quite finished with me yet.
 ‘It wasn’t all me,’ I groaned, increasingly convinced that this torturous hell was my comeuppance for so readily forgiving Giles when I discovered that he had been the one who left Natasha at the altar, not the other way round. 
Elizabeth Dixon!’ I cringed under the duvet as the voice of my usually calm and kind-hearted boss Henry Glover echoed around the walls of the flat. ‘Where the hell are you? In case you’ve forgotten, you are supposed to be heading up the sales meeting this morning! You have all the data on your computer and no one else can access it! Hurry the fuck up will you, everyone’s waiting!’ 
Reluctantly I shuffled out of bed, knowing I couldn’t put it off any longer. 
‘Sally,’ I sniffed into the receiver, trying to sound more fluridden than heartbroken. ‘Hi, I’m not going to make it in for a few days. Can you tell Henry for me? I don’t think the message I left yesterday got picked up.’ 
OK, so it was a lie, but given the circumstances, surely I was allowed just one?
 ‘Oh Lizzie, bless your heart. I was hoping you’d ring.’
 I swallowed hard but couldn’t rid myself of the lump that had recently taken up residence in my throat. Sally, Henry’s secretary, knew everything. I could hear it in her voice. If I’d been genuinely ill she would have been sympathetic but brisk. I couldn’t stand it. If she knew, then so did everyone else. All the people it had taken months to win over when I first moved in with Giles would now switch allegiance again, wouldn’t they? I couldn’t say we were ever bosom buddies, but I hated the thought of going back to work and not having anyone to talk to.
 ‘Can you tell Henry that I’m sorry? I think it’s just a bug,’ I lied, struggling to stop my voice cracking. ‘I think I must have picked it up over the weekend.’ 
Sally sighed.
 ‘If it’s any consolation, love, no one blames you. It’s Giles, the little shit; he’s always wanted what he shouldn’t have.’ 
The tension in my shoulders had only just begun to loosen its vice-like grip, when the phone rang again. This time it was Jemma, and I knew I couldn’t put off talking to her any longer. It wasn’t fair. I took a deep breath, braced myself for the impending storm and answered.
 ‘Finally!’ she laughed. ‘I was beginning to think you’d left the country! Now, don’t tell me, Giles whisked you away to some boutique hotel for the weekend, spoilt you rotten and now you’re wearing a princess cut diamond as big as your hand!’ 
 ‘Not exactly,’ I murmured.
 ‘Oh, it’s a Lady Di sapphire, is it?’
 ‘Look Jemma, if you’d just shut up for two seconds.’ 
‘What is it? Oh god, don’t tell me you eloped! Ella will never forgive you if she’s missed the chance to be a bridesmaid! Give me all the details, quick!’
 ‘Well,’ I winced, ‘the day began with a trip to a country house spa.’
 ‘A country house spa!’ Jemma scoffed. ‘What was he thinking? You hate that kind of thing! Then what?’
 ‘Then back to the city for dinner.’
 ‘Yes,’ she snapped impatiently, ‘I guessed there would be food at some point. Jesus, Lizzie, just cut to the good stuff, will you?’
 I took a deep breath and forced the three little words I’d been dreading saying aloud out of my mouth and into the world. 
‘And then . . . he dumped me.’ 
‘What?’
 ‘He moved out while I was at the spa and he’s gone back to Natasha. They’re getting married.’ 
Silence, then quiet sobbing filled the space that had only seconds before been occupied by my best mate crooning about my future prospects. 
‘Oh god, don’t cry!’ I begged. ‘I haven’t got the energy to try and make you feel better.’
 ‘I’m not. I’m sorry. It’s just so horrible.’
 ‘I know. I almost threw up all over the table when he told me.’ 
I don’t know why I was trying to make it sound funny. It certainly didn’t lessen the pain or the embarrassment. For weeks Jemma and I had been fantasising about the moment Giles would propose and now I had to explain that what I assumed were nerves about popping the question were actually mass desertion tactics. 
‘You’re not seriously telling me the bastard told you over dinner?’ Jemma seethed.
 ‘Yep,’ I nodded, unable to stop now I was on a roll, ‘but in his defence, it was a very nice dinner even though I did almost end up seeing it in reverse!’
 ‘How can you be making jokes, Lizzie? This is awful!’
 ‘Because if I don’t, I think I’ll go under completely,’ I admitted, ‘and I can’t do that. I won’t give him the satisfaction of knowing how much I’m hurting.’ 
‘What are you going to do?’
 ‘What do you mean?’
 ‘Well, you can’t stay there, can you? Have you any idea how excruciating work is going to be?’
 ‘Yes, it had crossed my mind.’
 ‘And what about the rent? You can’t possibly manage it on your own.’
 ‘Yes, OK thanks, Jemma,’ I grumbled. 
 Ever since I’d planned to phone in sick, my thoughts had been of little else but I didn’t need someone, especially someone I loved, telling me what a struggle my life was going to be from now on. I needed Jemma’s support as well as her sympathy.
 ‘I’m sorry,’ she sniffed, sounding more like her practical old self. ‘It’s just such a shock, that’s all. Maybe you should come home to Wynbridge for a bit.’
 ‘What?’
 ‘Just for a break, until you get your head straight. Come to us if you can’t face your mum . . . oh . . . ’
 ‘What?’
 ‘Nothing.’ 
‘Don’t lie to me, Jemma. What is it?’
 ‘Well, I kind of ran into your mum in town last Friday.’
 I slumped down on the sofa, the last of my spirit heading for the door.
 ‘So?’ I asked, trying to sound unconcerned. 
More silence.
 ‘Jemma, you didn’t mention anything about Friday night, did you?’ I already knew the answer, courtesy of the answerphone messages. 
‘I might have mentioned that you were having a birthday treat and that Giles had something special up his sleeve.’ 
‘Oh god,’ I groaned.
 ‘I’m so sorry.’ Jemma started to cry again. 
 ‘Look,’ I shrugged, ‘don’t worry about it, at least you didn’t lie.’
 ‘What do you mean?’
 ‘Well, he did have something up his sleeve, didn’t he? Just not what we were expecting, that’s all.’ 
I hung up, knowing I couldn’t hold back the tide any longer. I was going to have to telephone home and keep everything crossed that Dad, not Mum would pick up. I forced myself to eat a bowl of cereal, then had a shower and washed my hair. There was no point going into battle halfarsed. Where my mother was concerned, you needed all your armour intact before advancing. 
‘Hello, Dad?’
 ‘Hello, darling . . . oh hang on, your mother wants to talk.’
 ‘No, Dad, wait!’
 The sheer relief I had momentarily felt at hearing Dad’s voice evaporated as I heard Mum snatching the phone from his grasp and installing herself on the sofa for a cosy chat. 
‘Lizzie!’ she gushed, ‘where on earth have you been? I’ve been trying to get hold of you for days!’ 
‘Mum—’
 ‘Now, tell me. Where did that gorgeous man take you for your birthday? I bumped into Jemma in town and she told me he had something special planned, that’s why I didn’t ring on the day. Do you know, she had Ella with her and her behaviour was quite appalling?’ 
 I blessed my goddaughter and her ability to shock my mother. I was grateful for anything that would distract her from her current course of interrogation. 
‘Anywho,’ she laughed, ‘that’s all by the by. When are you both coming home? Can we expect a big announcement?’
 I could hear Dad frantically trying to shut her up in the background and the way her voice started cutting in and out suggested that she was wafting him away with a duster much the same as she would a fly.
 ‘We’re not,’ I said firmly, drawing myself up for the moment of impact, ‘and no.’
 ‘Pardon?’ She stalled. 
‘We’re not coming home and no, there is no announcement, well, other than that Giles and I are no longer a couple.’
 ‘Sorry, Lizzie,’ she murmured faintly, ‘I don’t understand.’ 
‘Then let me spell it out for you,’ I sighed. ‘On my birthday Giles moved all his stuff out of the flat while I was at a spa and then in the evening, he took me out to dinner and told me that he didn’t love me and that he was getting back with Natasha, his former fiancée and marrying her.’ 
I stopped to draw breath. It was the first time I’d said the whole thing so plainly and the words tore my heart in two. I still didn’t want to believe it had happened.
 ‘Oh, Lizzie!’ Mum sobbed. ‘Are you absolutely sure?’
 I took another deep breath. 
 ‘How on earth has this happened?’ She sniffed.
 ‘What do you mean?’
 ‘Well, had you been fighting? Had you fallen out with his mother or one of the brothers?’ 
Sometimes I thought, as I tuned out my mother’s disapproving prattle, it would be cool to have a brother or sister. Someone else to conspire with, share the heat and hassle. But then I realised that knowing my luck I’d end up playing second fiddle; I’d be Monica Geller not Ross and that would be undoubtedly worse, wouldn’t it? Constant comparison to a saintly sibling was not a comforting thought. Perhaps I should start pinning my hopes on Dad trading in who I’d ended up with for a mother for a kinder, less sharply edged model. 
‘Lizzie!’
 ‘What? I mean, pardon?’
 ‘I said, are you listening?’
 ‘Of course I’m listening!’
 ‘Then tell me, what did you do?’
 ‘What do you mean, what did I do?’
 ‘Well, you must have done something? Giles wouldn’t have just decided this was his only course of action if your relationship was all tickety-boo, would he?’
 ‘Why is everything always my fault?’ I retaliated.
 ‘And who is this Natasha person? I had no idea Giles had been engaged before!’ 
 Ah, I’d forgotten about that. Dad and I had decided it would be better all-round if Mum was kept in the dark about that one. When Giles and I first got together we considered it all best left unsaid; shame I hadn’t remembered our little plan before I phoned home, really. To be honest, it was a shame that I’d gone along with his little plan at all. My grandmother had always maintained that we reaped what we sowed in life and I was just beginning to understand what she meant.






The Cherry Tree Cafe is available in ebook now 





Be sure yo follow the tour, tomorrow's stop will be with the lovely Alba

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