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‘The School Teacher of Saint-Michel’ by Sarah Steele ~ @headlinepg @sarah_l_steele #BlogTour #Extract

‘The School Teacher of Saint-Michel’ was published by Headline Review on the 17th March 2022 in paperback and is also available in eBook format and Audiobook. As part of the blog tour I have an extract from the book.

Synopsis

My darling girl, I need you to find someone for me . . .’

France, 1942. At the end of the day, the schoolteacher releases her pupils. She checks they have their identity passes, and warns them not to stop until the German guards have let them through the barrier that separates occupied France from Free France. As the little ones fly across the border and into their mothers’ arms, she breathes a sigh of relief. No one is safe now. Not even the children.

Berkshire, present day. A letter left to her by her beloved late grandmother Gigi takes Hannah Stone on a journey deep into the heart of the Dordogne landscape. As she begins to unravel a forgotten history of wartime bravery and sacrifice, she discovers the heartrending secret that binds her grandmother to a village schoolteacher, the remarkable Lucie Laval . . .

Extract

Prologue


In the peaceful pause between day and night, she steps out into the long shadows of the orchard, its treetops brushed with splashes of coral and gold. She weaves around the trees, her basket pressed against her hip, plucking the ripest cherries for her table, as she has done for countless harvests in this little corner of France.
Suddenly, like the deer in the woods beyond the stream, she freezes as dark clouds bubble on the horizon, extinguishing the last of the sun’s rays. Thunderous booms echo across the soft hills as bright flashes of light dance like fireflies in the distance. Yet this strange summer storm will not bring the release of the rain the parched ground craves, nor break the crackling tension in the air. And in the meantime, life must go on, even if it is a shadow of the lives they knew not so long ago. The children must go to school, the fields must be ploughed, meals prepared, livings made, prayers said in the cool, dark church, and the summer harvest collected.
A squadron of planes fly low overhead, shaking the ground as they mimic the annual migration of geese, and she quickly fills the basket before hurrying inside. She glances back, all the grief of the world in her eyes as she searches the darkness
, then pulls the shutters closed against the night. They have survived another day.

Gigi woke suddenly, her frail heart tapping out a frantic rhythm. Even after all these years, long-buried memories of the war still floated to the surface of her dreams as though it were yesterday, urging her not to forget the people she had left behind, and the debt she owed them.
She looked out of the window as a flurry of petals caught the breeze, a candyfloss cloud tumbling along the street, as blossom drifts gathered in gutters and around tree roots that burst up through the grey London pavement. How many springs had she watched the monochrome scene transform itself into a Japanese watercolour? And each spring the blossom awakened the burden that dragged on her like heavy fruit on the branch.
A group of young mothers walked past the wide bay window, babies in pushchairs in front of them and trailing toddlers behind. She watched a little boy stop at the tree outside, spinning around its trunk and laughing, and she was transported again to those long-gone days of her dreams.
She closed her eyes once more, and like an old cine film on a whirring projector, images of her beloved France flickered before her: the sun-bleached orchard and the shallow stream bouncing diamonds of light across its bubbling surface; a couple dancing beneath the trees to the strains of an old folk song whilst children wove around them, gorging themselves on sweet, sticky cherries, as for a brief moment the war raging across Europe was forgotten. This was how she wanted to remember her motherland during those terrible times – the memories of dark woods and dangerous city streets, damp cellars and abandoned buildings were too painful for her old heart to recall.
She looked now at the photographs on the mantelpiece: more than most, she understood the value of family, love, loyalty; knew how far it was possible to go in order to protect those one cared for. She knew too that the ties formed all those years ago had never weakened, and that those she had left behind would always be a part of her.
Again she felt her breath catch. She had become accustomed to this now: her heart was indeed broken, fighting to complete its lifetime’s allocation of beats. Only difficult, invasive surgery could help her now, and she was too tired. She had lived her life as best she could, and there was only one thing left undone, one debt unpaid.
She had waited too long. She could see that now. There would be no more springs, no more time to put things right unless she gave her story to another.
She reached across to the little table beside her, and picked up a photograph of her granddaughter as a little girl. She had been lucky: of course she adored her son, but the easy friendship with dear Hannah that had grown over the years was a gift she cherished. Gigi had passed on to Hannah the arts of perfect pastry and an exquisitely tied silk scarf, the bond between them as close as mother and daughter. And now that little girl had her own life and her own love, her own pain: her dear, kind Hannah who reminded Gigi so much of someone from her distant past, the bittersweet memories of those war-ravaged times tugging at her heart.
Hannah, her petite fille, who understood what it was to live with something that ate away at you, and for whom she prayed this task might offer some balm. Hannah, who might put things right for her.
She eased herself out of the chair, wincing as a pain shot down her arm, and fetched her writing paper and an envelope from the old bureau. Her arthritic hand paused over the tissue-thin paper, ink pooling at the expectant nib of her pen as she searched for the words.
My darling Hannah, she finally began, breaking off only to catch her rapidly shortening breath. And then, within a few short lines, it was done, and she folded the letter inside the delicate lilac envelope. The effort had drained her, and her beautiful copperplate handwriting wavered as she wrote Hannah’s name, the final h trailing across the paper.
She placed the letter beside her on the table and closed her eyes once more, unable to resist the weight of her eyelids and the sleep that overcame her like a sedative, so that dreams and memories were indistinguishable as she once again stood in a shady orchard, smelling the sun-warmed grass as a sudden peace wrapped its arms around her.
She had plucked the heavy fruit from the branch and handed it to one she trusted, and at last her heart was free.

‘The School Teacher of Saint Michel’ is available to buy from:-

Amazon UK

About The Author

Sarah Steele is the author of USA Today bestseller THE MISSING PIECES OF NANCY MOON and THE SCHOOLTEACHER OF SAINT-MICHEL, published in 2021.

After training in London as a classical pianist and violinist, Sarah joined the world of publishing as an editorial assistant at Hodder and Stoughton. She was for many years a freelance editor, and now lives in the vibrant Gloucestershire town of Stroud.

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Blog Tour – ‘Dear Emmie Blue’ by Lia Louis ~ @TrapezeBooks @LisforLia

Congratulations to Lia Louis whose new book, ‘Dear Emmie Blue’ was published yesterday the 6th August 2020 by Trapeze Books in paperback.  It is also available in eBook and Audiobook formats.

It really is a pleasure to be taking part in this blog tour.  I would like to thank the publisher for inviting me to participate.

You will find out in a minute what I thought about ‘Dear Emmie Blue’.  In the meantime here is the book blurb.

 

Book Blurb

Emmie Blue has a secret…

A long time ago, Emmie Blue released a red balloon with a secret message hidden inside – and against all odds, across hundreds of miles of ocean, it was found on a beach in France by a boy called Lucas.

Fourteen years later, on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, Emmie hopes that Lucas is finally about to kiss her. She never expected him to announce that he was marrying someone else!

Suddenly Emmie’s dreams are shattered and the one person in her life she can rely on is slipping through her fingers. But what if Lucas isn’t her forever? What if her love story is only just beginning…

Don’t miss the love story that everyone is talking about this summer! Perfect for fans of Beth O’Leary, Josie Silver and Cecelia Ahern.

 

My Review

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Dear Emmie Blue’.  I thought it was beautifully written and well presented.  This was a deliciously gorgeous story.  It took me a little while to get into it though, but after that I just wanted to carry on reading non-stop.

I really liked the plot.  It sounded like such fun which was why I was eager to read this book.  The idea of a balloon with a secret message being released to be found by someone else was just wonderful.

There were some great characters in this story.  Ones I won’t forget.  I warmed to Emmie straightaway.  She came across as such a genuine and lovely person who had had a bit of a rough deal.  I felt bad for her and what she had been through as a youngster.  I also really liked Rosie and Fox.  It was nice that the three of them got on so well together.  Lucas and his brother were really nice as well.  It was nice for Emmie that she formed a good solid friendship with someone she could rely on.  Someone who could make life that little bit more bearable for her.  And then there was Louise.  Such a dear and wonderful lady.

I totally loved the humour throughout.  The reference to avocados which Emmie made really tickled me.  I thought Rosie was a real hoot.  Some of the things she came out with.  She was just hilarious!

There was a lot of meaning to this story I felt.  Definitely a lesson or two to be learnt.

I have to say I had an inkling about what would happen, but it still made for an incredibly good read.

‘Dear Emmie Blue’ is a sweet, tender and heart-warming story.  If you love romance, then I recommend that you read this book.  You will be left with a big smile on your face.  I will definitely be reading more by this author.

 

‘Dear Emmie Blue’ is available to purchase from:-

Waterstones – https://www.waterstones.com/book/dear-emmie-blue/lia-louis/9781409184218

hive.co.uk – https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Lia-Louis/Dear-Emmie-Blue–The-gorgeously-funny-and-romantic-love-s/24955513

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dear-Emmie-Blue-gorgeously-everyones/dp/1409184218/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1596703900&sr=8-1

 

About Lia Louis

Lia Louis is a writer from Hertfordshire where she lives with her partner and three young children. In 2015, she won ELLE magazine’s annual talent competition with her contemporary love letter, #RelationshipGoals. Lia’s fascination with letters doesn’t stop with her writing: she also has a varied collection of old letters which are a source of inspiration to her. SOMEWHERE CLOSE TO HAPPY is her first novel.

 

Links

Twitter – https://twitter.com/LisforLia

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18604096.Lia_Louis

 

Blog Tour – ‘Sky’s the Limit’ by Janie Millman ~ @DomePress @ChezCastillon

‘Sky’s the Limit’ was published on the 2nd August 2018 in paperback by The Dome Press and is also available as an eBook.  I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour and would like to thank Emily Glenister for inviting me to participate.

I have an extract from the book for all of you.  First though, here’s what it is about.

 

Book Blurb

Sky is devastated when she finds that her husband is in love with someone else, even more that it is her oldest friend, Nick. She has lost the two most important men in her life and can’t ever trust either of them again.

To escape, she goes alone on a dream trip to Marrakesh and meets Gail, on a mission to meet the father of her child, a man she loved but thought did not want her.

In Marrakesh, Sky and Gail both find unexpected joys – and surprises. For Sky, these lead to France, to a beautiful Chateau and a family whose relationships seem as complicated as her own.

With a rich cast of characters, beautiful locations and an ending that will make you smile, this is the perfect summer read.

 

Extract

‘You’re going off with Nick, “the person who makes you feel complete”. While I’m left with my world crumbling around me.’ My breathing was ragged and I felt as if I was drowning. ‘You know what really hurts the most? The fact that you didn’t even talk to me about it.’

‘I had no idea what the hell was happening to me! One moment I was a happily married man and the next moment I was having feelings for your closest friend, the nearest thing you have to a brother, what the hell could I have said?’

‘I don’t know, but you could have tried. We always said we would try to be honest with each other.’

‘It wouldn’t have made a difference.’

‘You don’t know that, do you?’ I couldn’t bear his calm certainty. You don’t know that because you didn’t try, you were too bloody scared. You didn’t trust me. We could have tried to work things out.’

‘You’re right. I was scared.’ He threw up his hands in defeat. His left cheek was still bright red. ‘I was absolutely terrified and I still am.’

There was another silence. A deafening silence. We glared at each other, like boxers in a ring. I was waiting for the next punch.

‘What hurts most, Sky?’ he finally asked me. ‘The fact that I am leaving you, or the fact that I am leaving you for another man?’

‘I honestly don’t know.’ I really didn’t know, my head was spinning. ‘Maybe I should be grateful that you aren’t leaving me for a young blonde with big tits, but then again maybe I should have cut my hair short, left off the facial waxing and grown a moustache.’

‘Oh, Sky.’ Miles grinned ruefully.

‘What really hurts is that the two men I love most in the world have been suddenly taken away from me.’

‘We are still here for you. We both love you so very much.’

‘How can you be here for me?’ I was incensed by his insensitivity. ‘How can you possibly be here for me when you’re there for each other?’

‘Sky, please, we can work this out. Think of everything we’ve been through together, think of everything we’ve shared.’

‘And now you’re sharing with each other.’ I couldn’t face hearing another word. ‘I want you to go now.’

‘But…’ He reached out to touch me.

I couldn’t bear to look at him. I turned around and stood still. ‘Now, Miles.’

 

After the door had closed I sank to the ground. My legs simply couldn’t support me anymore. I couldn’t move a muscle. I stared at the floor tiles, willing the tears to come, but my eyes stayed resolutely dry. I have no idea how long I sat slumped and motionless on the floor. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours. I think I wanted to die then, I think if an angel had come offering me oblivion I would have accepted. But no angel appeared. Instead the telephone began to ring, bringing me slowly out of my trance. I heard the answering machine kick in. I knew exactly who it would be.

‘Sky, it’s me. I know you’re there.’ I heard the intake of breath as Nick inhaled his cigarette.

‘Skylark, I love you.’ I winced at the use of his pet name for me. ‘Jesus, I don’t know how the hell this happened, but it has and we’ve got to get through it. I’m not losing you, Sky. You mean too much to me.’ He paused. ‘We have to talk whether you want to or not…’

‘No, we don’t!’ I yelled. I staggered to my feet and the room swayed dangerously. I grabbed the phone. ‘I never ever want to speak to you ever again, never.’ Flinging the phone to the floor I ground it beneath my feet. ‘Never, never, ever again, never ever…’

I collapsed onto the floor as, from deep within, a keening noise erupted, a sound I didn’t recognise as being my own. And then the tears started. Oh boy, did they start. They seemed to flood from every orifice: they poured from my eyes, my nose was streaming, and bubbles were coming out of my mouth. I wondered briefly if it were possible to drown in your own tears.

 

Nick stared helplessly at the phone. It was, of course, the reaction he had expected. He could hardly blame her. It was al his fault. Christ, what a mess. What a bloody awful mess. He stubbed out his cigarette and immediately lit another.

He could picture her now, her lovely face white and bloodless, the freckles standing out on the bridge of her nose and her dark blue eyes wide with shock. She could be hugging her arms to her chest with her face turned to the wall as if to shut out the world. He wanted nothing more than to rush over, pull her into his arms and comfort her as he had so many times before.

They had met on their first day at primary school and he could remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday, this tiny young creature standing alone, shy and uncertain. He had thought she looked like a fairy. He had walked towards her, held out his hand and said, ‘Let’s go in together.’

She had placed her small hand trustingly in his and smiled, her whole face lighting up with joy.

And now he had hurt her, his precious Sky, his soul mate, his fairy queen. He put his hands to his head and screamed.

~~~~~

Hopefully the extract has left you needing to read this book now.  If that’s the case then you can purchase it from Amazon UK – https://amzn.to/2Mowep6

 

About Janie Millman

Janie Millman is an actress, writer and co-owner of Chez Castillon.

She met Mickey, her husband, playing romantic leads in a summer season of comedies at The Little Theatre, Sheringham, on the Norfolk coast. Both actors for more than twenty years, their roles have ranged from Ninja Turtles, to acting in Olivier Award-winning stage productions and working on-screen with Hollywood stars.

Although still acting, Janie is now concentrating on writing. Her debut novel, Life’s A Drag, was published first in July 2015 by Accent Press and went on to receive highly acclaimed reviews.

It was then rebranded by The Dome Press and republished in February 2017.

Janie’s next book with The Dome Press, Sky’s the Limit, will be published in August 2018.

 

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChezCastillon

Website: www.chez-castillon.com

 

Book Launch – ‘The Perfume Muse’ by Alex Johnson

The Perfume Muse

‘The Perfume Muse’ is Alex Johnson’s new book.  It is out on the 2nd April 2015.

 

Book Blurb

The Perfume Muse is the sequel to Alex Johnson’s debut novel Run Away: this first story is about the break-up of a family and how Julie, the protagonist, copes with life as a single mother and her wayward teenage daughter. Julie falls in love with gorgeous French perfumer but must decide whether he can offer the future she longs for.

The Perfume Muse sees Julie and Olivier move to Grasse, the French perfume capital, but her dreams are dashed when, almost straightaway, he accepts a job in New York. Their relationship is tested by long periods apart and Julie finds comfort in a budding friendship with the intriguing and sexy Jean-Jacques.

Both men, both acclaimed perfumers, vye for Julie’s affections through perfume: each create romantic, sensual perfumes inspired by and especially for her. How can she possibly choose between them?

Julie’s resolve is further tested by the unexpected arrival of Olivier’s son, Michel.

What were his reasons for Michel turning up out of the blue?

Can the disappearance of the perfume formula Olivier invented for Julie be connected?

And to top it all, it looks like Michel is falling in love with Julie’s daughter, Lisa.

Julie must get to the bottom of this.  She flies out to New York to confront Olivier about the son he’s never mentioned and to determine whether her future lies with him or with Jean-Jacques.

 

‘The Perfume Muse’ can be pre-ordered on Amazon – http://amzn.to/1BLJXF0

‘The Half-Life of Hannah’ by Nick Alexander

The Half-Life of Hannah

I got myself a copy of ‘The Half-Life of Hannah’ for my kindle when Black and White Publishing were doing an Amazon promotion.  This is the first of two novels, ‘Other Halves’ being the sequel.  Having heard a lot about this book I really wanted to read it for myself.

Hannah is thirty-eight years old, happily married to Cliff and is the proud mother of eleven year old Luke who means the world to her.  Its summer and they are on their way to the south of France for a two week holiday sharing a villa with Hannah’s younger sister Jill and her daughter, plus Jill’s good friend Tristan who is gay.

Hannah is really looking forward to relaxing with her family for a couple of weeks.  Little does she know that a ghost from the past is about to come back into her life.  Hannah makes some shocking discoveries about Cliff and realises that for years he has been deceiving her.  She ends up questioning everything.  Is it time for her to live the other half of her life?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘The Half-Life of Hannah’ and really didn’t want to put it down.  It’s one of those books that you just can’t wait to get back to.  This novel has been beautifully written and it has a good mixture of characters.  I really liked Hannah and felt bad for her.  Though her life wasn’t bad it could have been so different.

Tristan being a chef enjoyed cooking for the others throughout the holiday.  Some of the descriptions of the food he made were mouth-watering, even the salads.

Now that I’ve read this book I will most definitely be reading ‘Other Halves’ as I really want to know what happens next.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

For this and other great books from Black and White Publishing click on this link:-

http://www.blackandwhitepublishing.com/

To find out about Nick Alexander’s previous novels and what he’s up to now visit his site here:-

http://nick-alexander.com/

‘Wake’ by Anna Hope

Wake

‘Wake’ is Anna Hope’s debut novel and it was published by Doubleday on 16th January 2014.  I was very kindly sent a proof copy to review by Alison Barrow at Transworld.

This story is set in November 1920 and it takes place over five days.  The body of an unknown soldier begins his journey home from France to be greeted by mourners at the Cenotaph.  In the meantime three women are each overcoming the aftermath of the war in their own way.  They all have a story to tell.  These women are strangers to each other, they’ve never met but in one way or the other they are connected.

Hettie dances for a living at the Hammersmith Palais earning sixpence a waltz.  Evelyn comes from a rich family but chooses to work in the Pensions Office.  Ada is a housewife who hasn’t got over the death of her son and keeps catches glimpses of him in the street.  As each woman struggles to move on with their lives, a shocking wartime mystery begins to unravel.

I knew from the very first page that I was going to enjoy ‘Wake’.  I found myself wanting to savour every single minute of this wonderful novel and ended up taking my time to read it.  Beautifully written, Anna Hope has done a very good job of portraying what life must have been like in those days and just how horrific the war was.

This year marks the 100th anniversary since the Great War began and this incredible story is a very fitting tribute.  I think ‘Wake’ would make a very good TV drama.

I hope there will be more books from Anna Hope soon.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

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