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Blog Tour – ‘The Waxwork Corpse’ by Simon Michael ~ @SapereBooks @simonmichaeluk

I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off this blog tour along with Steph’s Book Blog and Linda’s Book Bag.  ‘The Waxwork Corpse’ by Simon Michael is the fifth book in the Charles Holborne series.  It was published on the 23rd December last year in paperback and as an eBook by Sapere Books.

I would like to thank Caoimhe O’Brien of Sapere Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour and for my review copy of ‘The Waxwork Corpse’.  I literally cannot wait to tell you what I thought about this book.  First though here’s the blurb.

 

Book Blurb

Charles Holborne is back – with his strangest case to date! Perfect for fans of John Grisham, Robert Bailey, Michael Connelly and Robert Dugoni.

A deadly crime has been dragged to the surface…

London, 1965

Charles Holborne, maverick barrister, will never fit in at the Bar; he is too working-class, too Jewish and too dangerous.

But that makes him the perfect outsider to prosecute a shocking murder case which has already made its way to the press. By chance, a body was found, dumped in a lake.

It had clearly been there for some time, but the conditions in the water have meant that it was nearly perfectly preserved.

The police have managed to match this ‘waxwork corpse’ to a missing woman and if her husband — a senior judge — was the one who killed her, the scandal threatens to rock the British justice to its foundations.

The waxwork corpse is not the only thing to be raised from the past. The investigation also dredges up a violent mistake made by Charles in his youth which, if revealed, could put his own life at stake…

THE WAXWORK CORPSE, based on a real Old Bailey case, is the fifth crime novel in an exciting historical series, the Charles Holborne Legal Thrillers — gritty, hard-boiled mysteries set in 1960s London.

 

My Review

What a superb read this was. I absolutely loved ‘The Waxwork Corpse’. I haven’t actually read the full series yet but that didn’t spoil things for me in the least and I would say this book can definitely be read as a standalone novel.

I found myself engrossed in the story from the very start. It was really quite easy to get into. By the time I read the prologue I was intrigued. I kept trying to work out where exactly it fitted in with the story. I really do like Simon Michael’s style of writing. He was very descriptive throughout and I was actually able to picture things. I loved reading about the Temple and Chambers and wished I could have been there exploring.

This is such an intelligent and thought-provoking legal thriller. I thought the case itself was really quite unusual and was surprised to find that it was actually based on a real one. I was totally gripped during the trial and I almost felt as if I was there sitting in Court with everyone else. I didn’t want to have to put down the book until the verdict was read.

I really like Charles Holborne as a character. He comes across as a really good barrister and I would say nothing much gets past him. He knew when things were amiss. I enjoyed reading about Charles and his family and it was nice to see how things developed there. I could actually see both sides. His father, Harry, is such a lovely man and I’m glad that Charles got to spend some quality time with him.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the Charles Holborne series, but I think the author has surpassed himself with this one and has come a very long way with his writing since then. I am overjoyed that there is going to be another book.

If you are a fan of legal thrillers, historical and crime fiction, I highly recommend that you read ‘The Waxwork Corpse’.

This book gets all the stars from me and is definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far.

 

‘The Waxwork Corpse’ can be purchased from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Waxwork-Corpse-thriller-chilling-Thrillers/dp/1913335836/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1583694598&sr=8-1

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Waxwork-Corpse-thriller-chilling-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B07ZTHJVG3/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+waxwork+corpse&qid=1583696157&sr=8-1

 

About Simon Michael

Simon Michael is the author of the best-selling London 1960s noir gangster series featuring his antihero barrister, Charles Holborne. Simon writes from personal experience: a barrister for 37 years, he worked in the Old Bailey and other criminal courts defending and prosecuting a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy. The 1960s was the Wild West of British justice, a time when the Krays, the Richardsons and other violent gangs fought for control of London’s organised crime, and the corrupt Metropolitan Police beat up suspects, twisted evidence and took a share of the criminal proceeds. Simon weaves into his thrillers real events of the time, the cases on which he worked and his unusual family history in the East End.

Simon was published here and in America in the 1980s and returned to writing when he retired from the law in 2016. The Charles Holborne series, The Brief, An Honest Man, The Lighterman, Corrupted and the latest, The Waxwork Corpse, have all garnered strong reviews for their authenticity and excitement.

 

Links

Website – http://www.simonmichael.uk/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/simonmichaeluk

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/simonmichael.uk/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15798010.Simon_Michael

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Catherine Howard Conspiracy’ by Alexandra Walsh ~ @SapereBooks @purplemermaid25

‘The Catherine Howard Conspiracy’ is the first book in The Marquess House Trilogy.  It was published as an eBook on the 28th March 2019 by Sapere Books and is also available in paperback.  I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour together with a number of other book bloggers and would like to thank Caoimhe O’Brien for inviting me to participate.

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

 

 

Book Blurb

A timeshift thriller that will have you completely gripped! Perfect for fans of Dan Brown, Philippa Gregory, Kate Mosse and Tom Harper.

What secrets were covered up at the court of Henry VIII …?

 

Whitehall Palace, England, 1539

When Catherine Howard arrives at the court of King Henry VIII to be a maid of honour in the household of the new queen, Anne of Cleves, she has no idea of the fate that awaits her.

Catching the king’s fancy, she finds herself caught up in her uncle’s ambition to get a Howard heir to the throne.

Terrified by the ageing king after the fate that befell her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Catherine begins to fear for her life…

Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2018

Dr Perdita Rivers receives news of the death of her estranged grandmother, renowned Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy.

Mary inexplicably cut all contact with Perdita and her twin sister, Piper, but she has left them Marquess House, her vast estate in Pembrokeshire.

Perdita sets out to unravel their grandmother’s motives for abandoning them, and is drawn into the mystery of an ancient document in the archives of Marquess House, a collection of letters and diaries claiming the records of Catherine Howard’s execution were falsified…

What truths are hiding in Marquess House? What really happened to Catherine Howard?

And how was Perdita’s grandmother connected to it all?

 

THE CATHERINE HOWARD CONSPIRACY is the first book in the Marquess House trilogy, a dual timeline conspiracy thriller with an ingenious twist on a well-known period of Tudor history.

 

Extract

“She’s not in the least bit ugly,” whispered Catherine to Isabel as they watched the Lady Anne of Cleves disembark from her coach. She looked a little tired, but after weeks on the road, and the terrible delays caused by harsh weather, this was unsurprising. Unconsciously, Catherine’s fingers went to the beautiful silver locket hanging around her neck. Isabel and Edward had given it to her for Christmas. A delicate pattern was engraved on the front and it was set with a perfect diamond at its centre. It was the first piece of jewellery Catherine had ever owned and she was delighted with it.

“Of course, she isn’t,” replied Isabel. “The king can often be unkind.”

“Careful, Issy,” hissed a low voice. “Bess Seymour’s over there. She hears everything.”

Catherine and Isabel glanced around. Sure enough, Lady Elizabeth Seymour, younger sister of the former queen, Jane Seymour, and aunt to the heir to the throne, had moved within earshot of the Howard women. She nodded her greeting and turned her attention back to the events playing out before her.

“Lady Cromwell looks as though there’s a bad smell under her nose,” whispered Lady Rochford, the person who had first hissed the warning to Catherine and Isabel.

“Wouldn’t you look like that if you were married to the grandson of a brewer?” replied Isabel tartly. The two women laughed derisively.

“I thought you said she was Lady Seymour,” whispered Catherine, confused. It was one of the things she had noticed at court; people with titles seemed to have so many different variations on their names that she lost track of who was who, let alone who was married to whom or who was secretly meeting in the dark of the grounds at night.

“She married Gregory Cromwell not long ago,” whispered Isabel.

“And who’s he?” asked Catherine, wanting to join in the joke but finding it hard to believe the aunt to Prince Edward, the future king, had married such a lowly man.

Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, took Catherine’s hand and nodded towards the group of men greeting the queen.

“See the tall one, quite young, good looking?” Catherine nodded; it was the man who had winked at her in the corridor on her first day at court. “That’s Gregory Cromwell, son of Sir Thomas Cromwell.”

“The Lord Privy Seal?” gasped Catherine.

Jane Boleyn nodded.

“Yes, the son of the man who was instrumental in having my beloved husband George beheaded, and our dear cousin accused of so many barbarous things before she, too, had her head chopped off by her insane husband.” Jane’s voice was low and bitter.

“Careful, Jane,” warned Isabel. “The Seymours and the Cromwells are a formidable power.”

Catherine stared at Lady Cromwell in wide-eyed wonder. The politics of court seemed so complex and here was a living embodiment of one of the worst times in the king’s reign. It had been the moment the people around him had realised Henry was no longer the romantic, chivalric prince who had inherited the throne from his father, but that he was slowly becoming a terrifying tyrant.

“What do you think of her dress?” asked Margaret Douglas, changing the subject.

“It’s — er — unusual,” said Jane, trying to be polite.

“The fabric is gorgeous,” sighed Catherine, “I’m sure we can help her with English styles, she’s obviously not aware of our fashions.”

“You’re a sweet thing, Kitten,” said Margaret, smiling at Catherine, who blushed. She turned back to look at the queen, wondering what it would be like to wear a dress made from sumptuous cloth of gold. Would it be heavy? After all, the cloth was made from real metal strands woven with silk. She tried to imagine how it would feel, then mentally shook herself. She was delighted to be wearing velvet and satin. What right did she have to yearn after cloth of gold? Her new wardrobe, supplied by her uncle, Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, and her sister and her husband, still thrilled her. Never before had she had so much choice and never had her clothes been so exquisitely made.

“Yes, Kitty, you’re right,” agreed Carey. “The fabric is beautiful but the style is extremely unflattering. We must try to persuade her into something more elegant.”

“I suppose it must be what they wear in Cleves,” said Jane.

“Yes, but she’s in England now,” said Margaret. “And looking like that, she’s never going to win the king round, especially after their disastrous first meeting.”

“What happened?” asked Jane. “No one seems to know, or if they do, no one’s talking.”

“The duchess of Suffolk told me,” said Margaret. She dropped her voice to a whisper and the Howard girls stepped closer to listen while still half-watching the gleaming parade and displays of welcome for the Lady Anne.

“You know how obsessed the king is with the idea of chivalry and King Arthur?” she began, the others nodded. “Well, he was so in love with the Lady Anne’s portrait, he decided he’d surprise her disguised as a servant, convinced true love would intercede and she would recognise him, so their first meeting would be one of love, honour and mystery.”

“What happened?” gasped Catherine.

“He stormed in dressed as a servant, carrying a gift for the queen,” continued Margaret. “Then, before she’d really grasped what was going on, he grabbed her and kissed her. She was horrified. She pushed him away and began shouting at him in German, ordering he be removed. He was furious. He stalked out of the room and returned in full royal purple, festooned with jewels. She was devastated and threw herself on her knees, but the damage was done. That’s why he’s being so rude about her — no one had told her we’re all supposed to pretend he’s still the handsome young prince who inherited the throne nearly thirty-one years ago.”

“Margaret, be careful, that’s treason,” whispered Isabel, conscious of the fact Elizabeth Seymour had edged even closer.

Margaret glanced over and smiled winningly at Lady Cromwell.

“Nosy old hag,” she murmured under her breath to the others. Catherine stifled a giggle.

“But what about the queen?” asked Catherine, who felt desperately sorry for the poor young woman.

“She doesn’t speak English, so she didn’t really understand what was going on,” whispered Margaret. “Although, today I heard one of the rumours about their meeting confirmed.”

“What?” asked Carey.

“Apparently, the king’s doing everything he can to wriggle out of the marriage.”

“No!” Catherine exclaimed, appalled. She had hoped this suggestion had merely been spiteful court gossip.

“He summoned Thomas Cromwell this morning, told him he had to make this good; find a way out for the king. Lady Cromwell might well be looking smug at the moment, but if her father-in-law can’t find a loophole in the paperwork, Uncle Henry is going to be very, very cross indeed.”

Catherine watched Anne as Henry, dressed in matching finery, led her from the elaborate throne where she had presided over the ceremonies. Her long, dark hair was covered in a blonde wig but underneath it was a sweet, oval face with dark eyes and delicate, pink-tinged skin. She wasn’t ugly, thought Catherine. She was pretty in a similar way to Jane Seymour, but her colouring was different. Although she was smiling, Catherine thought the new queen looked wary and guarded. She may not speak the language, but she was an educated woman and Catherine was sure she must have picked up on the undercurrents. Perhaps she, like the king, was merely playing along and hoping that someone would rescue her before it was too late.

Isabel exchanged a glance with Katherine Willoughby, the duchess of Suffolk, who was standing to one side, ready to lead the procession, then prodded Jane and Catherine in front of her.

“Come along, girls. It’s time for us to join the queen and be officially introduced,” she said and began organising them. Margaret Douglas, the king’s niece, led the way with Katherine Willoughby, the duchess of Suffolk. Catherine Howard moved back to stand with Lady Carey, while Jane and Isabel followed Margaret.

“We are but lowly maids,” sighed Carey as they waited for the great ladies of the new queen’s household to go ahead of them.

Catherine nodded, but in the midst of all the political crosscurrents, she was happy to be a lowly maid, invisible, insignificant and unimportant.

~~~~~

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  ‘The Catherine Howard Conspiracy’ is available to purchase from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Catherine-Howard-Conspiracy-gripping-conspiracy-ebook/dp/B07ML4LN96/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1557772309&sr=1-1-fkmrnull-spons

 

About Alexandra Walsh

From tales spun for her teddies when she was a child (usually about mermaids) to film scripts, plays and novels, Alexandra Walsh has always been a storyteller. Words are her world. For over 25 years, she has been a journalist writing for a wide range of publications including national newspapers and glossy magazines. She spent some years working in the British film industry, as well as in television and radio: researching, advising, occasionally presenting and always writing.

Books dominate Alexandra’s life. She reads endlessly and tends to become a bit panicky if her next three books are not lined up and waiting. Characters, places, imagery all stay with her and even now she finds it difficult to pass an old wardrobe without checking it for a door to Narnia. As for her magical letter when she was 11, she can only assume her cat caught the owl!

Alexandra’s other passion is history, particularly the untold tales of women. Whether they were queens or paupers, their voices resonate with their stories, not only about their own lives but about ours, too. The women of the Tudor court have inspired her novels. Researching and writing The Marquess House Trilogy (Book One: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy) has brought together her love of history, mysteries and story telling.

 

Links

Website: http://www.alexandrawalsh.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/purplemermaid25

Blog Tour – ‘An Abiding Fire’ by M. J. Logue ~ @SapereBooks @Hollie_Babbitt

I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for ‘An Abiding Fire’ by M. J. Logue, the first Thomazine and Major Russell Thrillers book, published in paperback and as an eBook by Sapere Books.  I would like to thank Caoimhe O’Brien for inviting me to take part.

I have an extract for you to read, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

 

Book Blurb

How do you solve a murder when you are one of the suspects?

1664, London

Life should be good for Major Thankful Russell and his new bride, Thomazine. Russell, middle-aged and battle-scarred, isn’t everyone’s idea of the perfect husband for an eligible young woman but the moment Thomazine set eyes on her childhood hero, she knew they were destined for one another.

But Russell, a former Roundhead, now working for the King’s intelligence service, was never going to have a simple life in Restoration London.

Unable to shake suspicions of his Parliamentarian past, someone seems hell-bent on ruining his reputation — and his life.

Whispers about his sister’s violent murder follow him and accusations of treason abound.

When more deaths occur Russell finds himself under suspicion.

He is ready to escape from the capital, but Thomazine is determined to find the truth and clear the name of the man she loves.

But who is the real killer and why are they so keen to frame Russell? More importantly, will they succeed?

And has Thomazine’s quest put them all in mortal danger?

 

Extract

Prologue

Four Ashes, Buckinghamshire, England

November 1663

She looked up as he entered the room, her eyes narrowing to see him in the gloom of a few meagre tapers. A paltry display for such a family, and on such a bitter midwinter night. It gave him enough light to see her clearly, though, and he was astonished at the change in her: but then it had been ten years and they had not been kind years for Fly-Fornication Coventry.

She had always been for the King, during the late wars, and it must have gone hard with her to have had a brother who was not only a most notorious rebel and subversive, but who had narrowly escaped being executed for his political beliefs with a pack of fellow Dissenters and horse-thieves calling themselves the Levellers. And he had not had the grace to slide into obscurity after his grudging pardon, but instead had gone on to serve quite conspicuously in the Army of General Monck after the King was restored.

It must have been bitter as wormwood for her to know that he was still out there in the world, that those sins of which she had spoken, at such length, with such contempt, had gone unpunished and that he was still unrepentant.

Bitterness had withered her. Her hair was hidden by the same stiff starched cap, untouched by fashion or flattery, but her eyebrows were as dark and uncompromising as ever. She was not an unattractive woman for a widow in her late fifties. She was as tall and slender as her brother and her shoulders were straight. He found himself quite admiring her, actually. Not as a woman, but as a fierce thing of beauty, like a falcon or a well-made sword.

“Well,” she said. And that was all.

He bowed with as much ostentation as he could because he had been on the peripheries of court these four years and more and he had learned the weapons of vicious courtesy. “I am glad to see you well, Mistress Coventry. After so long absent.”

“As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly. Should I say I am as glad to see you? Well, I won’t.” She smiled, which was unexpected. “I do not lie, sir. I am not in the least glad to see you. Prinked out in your degenerate finery — ‘For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness.’ Do you seek to impress me, you nasty, womanish thing?”

“Good lord, no,” he said mildly, and she lowered her head and glowered at him.

“Less of your blasphemy. This is a godly house. What do you want?”

She had not invited him to sit or offered him hospitality and he was glad of that. She still made him nervous, for all he had not set eyes on her in ten years, though she had no power over him because for all her malice she was no more than a woman, and a thin, bloodless, bitter one at that.

“I wanted to assure myself of your continued good health,” he said and dropped his eyes to hide that particular lie.

“Did you. Well. I wonder why, since you never did before when you were drinking and whoring all over the county, keeping your low company?”

“They say hereabouts that you are grown … odd, mistress. That you grow overly zealous, even more than you were previous, and that none of your servants will stay longer than a few weeks with you, for your harshness. That you can be cruel and whimsical in your ways.” He took a deep breath and went on, “That you are often alone in this house at night, for such staff as can bear your intolerance will not stay under the same roof. Is that true?”

Her dark eyes, ringed about with tender blue shadows, lifted to his face. “True? What concern is it of yours?”

He was still on his feet. It was easy to go and stand over her and set his hands on her shoulders. Such slight, narrow shoulders, for all their straightness. Her bodice, close to, was shabby: a little shrunken at the seams, unevenly faded, as if it had been remade from another garment and covered by an old-fashioned linen collar that had a darn at the fold. A fine darn, but a darn, nonetheless. “There is not the money here to pay a servant’s hire, is there, mistress?” he said gently. “You have lost all, since the wars. Have you not?”

She almost rose from her seat, an unlovely blush mottling her cheeks and her neck. “How dare you, sir —”

And he put his hands about her slight throat and snapped her neck, as simply as that. Like snapping a coney’s when it was snared, and with as little emotion.

She was not expecting it and she did not struggle, after that initial convulsion; she only hung between his two hands with her dark eyes blank and staring at him and her mouth slightly ajar.

He was not as frightened as he thought he would be. She was dead and it had been easy. He did not feel anything, apart from a slight repulsion as a sliver of saliva drooled from her lolling mouth.

Such little bones. So frail. Not like her brother, not at all like her brother, in the end. For Thankful Russell was still alive and Fly was distinctly dead.

~~~~~

‘An Abiding Fire’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

http://getbook.at/AnAbidingFire

 

About M. J. Logue

M. J. Logue (as in cataLOGUE and epiLOGUE and not, ever, loge, which is apparently a kind of private box in a theatre) wrote her first short novel on a manual typewriter aged seven. It wasn’t very good, being about talking horses, but she made her parents sit through endless readings of it anyway.

Thirty-something years later she is still writing, although horses only come into it occasionally these days. Born and brought up in Lancashire, she moved to Cornwall at the turn of the century (and has always wanted to write that) and now lives in a granite cottage with her husband, and son, five cats, and various itinerant wildlife.

After periods of employment as a tarot reader, complaints call handler, executive PA, copywriter and civil servant, she decided to start writing historical fiction about the period of British history that fascinates her – the 17th century.

Her first series, covering the less than stellar career of a disreputable troop of Parliamentarian cavalry during the civil wars, was acclaimed by reviewers as “historical fiction written with elegance, wit and black humour” – but so many readers wanted to know whether fierce young lieutenant Thankful Russell ever did get his Happy Ever After, that the upcoming series of romantic thrillers for Sapere Books began.

Get in touch with MJ

She can be found on Twitter @Hollie_Babbitt, lurking on the web at asweetdisorder.com, and posting photos of cake, cats and extreme embroidery on Instagram as asweetdisorder.

Blog Tour – ‘Girlfriend, Interrupted’ by Patricia Caliskan ~ @SapereBooks @Caliskaniverse_

‘Girlfriend, Interrupted’ is being published as an eBook and in paperback on the 28th June 2018 by Sapere Books.  I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour and would like to thank the lovely Caoimhe O’Brien for inviting me to take part.  This sounds like such a fun book.

I have something very special for all of you today.  First off an extract and, wait for it, a chance to win 1 of 3 x copies of this book.  Before all that though here’s what ‘Girlfriend, Interrupted’ is about.

 

Book Blurb

Brown-eyed, brunette, 25.

Enjoys walking barefoot across shards of broken home. Likes loaded silences, resentment and insomnia. Dislikes romantic weekends, lie-ins and any chance of future happiness.

Former GSOH. Developing PTSD.

Ella Shawe was undomesticated, unattached and uninhibited.

Until she met Dan. Sexy, charming and funny, Dan ticked all the right boxes and Ella threw herself head-first into the whirlwind romance.

But now she’s moved into his family home, complete with two demanding children and a hyperactive dog.

Throw in Dan’s impossibly perfect ex-wife, Ella’s interfering sex therapist mother and the snooty and dismissive mother-in-law from Hell, and Ella is almost ready to throw in the towel.

But, ready or not, Ella is part of the family now, and getting it right for Dan’s kids means getting it right for everyone. She just needs to figure out how to include herself in the mix…

Girlfriend, Interrupted will have you laughing-out-loud, gasping in embarrassment and rooting for Ella all the way.

 

Extract

Chapter One: Capital Punishment

It hadn’t occurred to me that the love of my life would turn out to be somebody else’s dad. If I’d thought about it long enough I’d have realized, the best thing that happened to me ended up being the worst thing that happened to Dan’s kids. Well, at least since the divorce anyway. And, if it was any consolation to them, I got a second-hand romance. It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing you’d look out for in a dating profile:

 

Brown-eyed, brunette, 26.

Enjoys walking barefoot across shards of broken home.

Likes loaded silences, festering resentment and insomnia.

Dislikes romantic weekends, sexy lie-ins and any chance of future happiness.

Former GSOH. Developing PTSD.

 

But, as with all great love affairs, it hadn’t started out that way. Those two, very separate worlds had slowly collided. We never really talked about what that meant. I mean, how could a man love you if his children didn’t even like you? You’ve probably already guessed, but that was exactly the question I’d been trying to avoid lately as I made my way into the office Friday morning. Only a few hours ahead of being utterly useless around the children for yet another weekend. Although, I thought, glancing over at reception, it was a far better option than falling in love with somebody else’s husband…

‘I am going to leave her, Karen!’ Harry Collins, Head of Digital, was leaning over the reception desk. ‘I promise I will, but it’s not that easy. I’ve got three children to think —’ He flinched at my footsteps. ‘So, those er … those staples? We’ll need at least another two boxes up there…’

Suddenly scrutinizing her to-do list, Karen-From-Reception, all blow-dry and diamante earrings, rearranged her cardigan. Scribbling everything down with a professionalism bordering on the provocative.

‘And those A5 notebooks, please, like we said.’ He pretended he’d only just noticed me. ‘Not the A4.’ He raised a hand. ‘Ah, morning Ella!’

‘Morning, Karen. Harry…’

The three of us exchanged polite smiles as I carried on towards the stairs, avoiding the lift in case I ended up stuck in there with him.

Steen & Heard Communications was located on the second floor of a listed building on Hanover Street. Sunlight streaked through the blinds as I fixed my jacket onto my chair and opened my first email of the day:

 

URGENT!

FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION.

ACCOUNT DATA FOR PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS!!!

 

This was a typical greeting from Heather Constantine, Public Relations Manager extraordinaire. I’d found the best way to deal with her emails was to pretend they were computer-generated by a machine too primitive to know any better. Although, the ‘Read Receipt’ she included on every message was particularly annoying. Especially when she sat close enough to accept my offer of a Smint without leaving her seat.

I glanced over at her, peering behind her bifocals. Her short, sharp, red hair, hinting at her short, sharp disposition. She scrutinised her screen, searching out juicy worms of commission fit for the taking. First thing in the morning, her lack of hello, eye contact, please or thank you, had the same effect as having a jug of iced water poured over your head. In fact, I’d have chosen the ice bucket challenge every time.

Heather Constantine was the reason I dreamt about being sacked the way other people dreamt about winning the lottery.

Initially, I had worked for James Steen (who was really posh and semi-retired, which is what really posh people aged around sixty seemed to do), and his partner, Audrey Heard, as a copywriter. I was initially hired to write press releases, manage website copy, oversee editorial pieces for our clients, that kind of thing. But within weeks, Heather made me into her unofficial personal assistant and psychological punch bag. Nowadays, I took care of her admin, weekly diary and, on one occasion, a furious outbreak of cystitis, rather than becoming some kind of capable business protégé to her wise mentor-figure, the way Audrey seemed to think it worked.

‘Morning, Ella!’

Leah, Office Support, walked in behind Harry. Her neon-painted grin brightened the shadow of Heather, looming permanently over the rest of our day.

‘Morning, Heather…’

The typing continued.

Leah hung up her coat and straightened her skirt.

‘Would you like a cup of tea, Heather?’

Heather glanced at her watch.

‘Ten minutes ago. I trust you’ll be deducting the time from your lunch hour?’

I gave Leah a sympathetic look. Heather classed five-past-nine as unforgivably late. The only time she’d left the office for anything other than a meeting was when she gave birth to her son.

‘Would you like a coffee, Ella?’

‘I’d love one, please.’ I was deliberately perky. I hoped Heather might pick up on more pleasant ways to interact with other human beings. ‘Thanks for asking. Hey, Leah — we made it! No matter what happens, they’ll never take Friday away from us…’

‘Make sure you use my almond milk.’ Heather’s fingernails clawed at high-speed across her keyboard.

Almond milk? I’d never heard of it. I wondered if they made it especially for people like Heather, who must have problems with turning the regular stuff sour.

‘Will do.’ Leah smiled, not wasting another minute. She paused briefly at Harry’s desk to take his order as he fired up multiple screens on the digital bank.

Harry headed up a team of three almost identical lads. They all wore beards, checked shirts and sprayed-on jeans. As far as I knew none of them had any interest in harvesting trees, but you’d’ve sworn they’d just trekked back from an Alaskan Lumberjack convention. Either that or been knitted as a matching set by someone’s well-meaning grandma. I’d tried striking up conversation with them in the past, but they only communicated in instant messages. And, while the rest of us lived on the stuff, none of them drank tea or coffee, even though it was the lingua franca of our offices. Maybe there’d been some sort of technological advancement, I thought. Apple had launched the iRefreshment while the rest of us still stood around, boiling the kettle.

‘Is almond milk good for you?’

Heather caught my eye, standing to unlock her filing cabinet.

‘Well, obviously.’ She inhaled a laugh, combing through an assortment of colour-coded files. ‘I wouldn’t be drinking it if it were bad for me, now would I?’

I wasn’t sure if she was trying to make a joke or not.

I’d never learned to speak fluent Dictator.

‘It’s vegan friendly. Cholesterol and lactose-free. Those things are bad for you,’ she explained as if talking to a three-year-old. ‘So, yes. It is.’

She shut the metal drawer with a thunk!

Heather was vegan? I was surprised. You’d have imagined most vegans being quite nice to the people they worked with, considering they were so kind to animals.

‘Good morning!’

All heads turned as Audrey Steen, lady boss and agency owner, walked in, looking chic as ever. All curled lashes and nude lip gloss. Wearing my favourite outfit of hers, the grey trilby and pastel pink trench combo.

Audrey was utterly fabulous. One of those gorgeous, older ladies who crystal and diamonds cried out for, rustling up timeless glamour every morning.

‘How’s everything going, Heather?’ She cast a brief smile of hello my way. ‘Apollo doing well?’

If we hadn’t already worked out Heather had a messiah complex, she’d humbly named her first-born after a Greek god.

‘He’s doing brilliantly.’

‘Good to hear it. Did I tell you Peter’s wife’s expecting in the next few weeks?’

‘You must be thrilled.’ Heather still managed to look glacial despite the baby talk.

I’d tried mentioning Dan’s kids, Grace and Ethan, to Heather once. She’d looked at me as if I’d been clipping my toenails at my desk. I’d decided to drop the topic indefinitely.

‘We are. We are.’ Audrey smiled. ‘Listen, we really must have that catch-up. I’ve been meaning to put some time aside, see where we’re up to.’

‘Everything’s back on track.’ Heather squinted at Audrey with what I think was meant to be a smile, unless the sun was in her eyes. ‘I’d like to schedule in a meeting with you today if that’s convenient, Audrey? Four o’clock?’

‘Right-o!’ Audrey said. ‘Well, nothing pressing springs to mind…’

‘Ella?’ Heather rearranged her desk. ‘Could you update my diary?’

‘Of course, Heather.’ I wished I could schedule her in for a routine personality transplant while I was at it.

‘And, by the way.’ Audrey took off her hat, running her fingers through her perfect hair. ‘It’s great to have you back, Heather. Oh.’ She glanced at Leah’s desk then looked my way. ‘Have I missed the first brew of the morning?’

‘Coffee?’

‘Please. Do you mind? I’m always in need of a complete transfusion by the end of the week.’

I noticed a faint sneer from Heather as I walked past her desk, possibly because I wasn’t taking IMMEDIATE ACTION on compiling her account data. Instead, I made my way into the staff kitchen and found Leah standing against the counter, mobile in hand.

‘What’s the matter?’

‘I’m fine.’ She put her phone inside her pocket and took a teaspoon from the drawer. Then stopped, eyes flooding. ‘I split up with my boyfriend.’

‘Oh. That’s not good.’

‘But then we got back together.’

‘And that’s bad?’

‘He’s just messaged saying he thinks we should leave it tonight. And.’ She checked her reflection in the mirror. ‘I just can’t handle Heather today. Urgh.’ She wiped inkblots of mascara from the corners of her eyes. ‘I missed the early train, doing my makeup. Now it’s ruined and I’m not even seeing him…’

‘Here.’ I grabbed another cup for Audrey. ‘You go and get yourself fixed up. I’ll finish the drinks.’

‘You sure?’

The kettle clicked to a halt as I busied myself at the counter.

‘Thanks, Ella. Oh.’ She paused on her way to the door. ‘Make sure you use her special milk, whatever you do. Heather’s almond milk’s in there. Bottom shelf. She’s labelled it.’

Of course she has, I thought. Even though everyone else in the office shared the same two-litre carton, it obviously wasn’t good enough for the Constantine constitution. Almond milk. I stared at the weird, peachy liquid. It didn’t look all that bad, but it definitely smelled a bit funny. Sod it. If Heather was going to stress us all out, the least she could do was lower our Cholesterol. I gave us all a free sample.

Back at my desk I found another email lying in wait to sabotage my happiness:

 

URGENT: FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION.

Re: SUBJECT HEADING.

Re: Previous email: Account data for previous 12 months!!!

 

I couldn’t help but look over again.

Not a flicker.

Working with Heather was like catching a virus. You started slightly off-colour and ended up wanting to crawl under the covers, slayed by a highly contagious case of her utter misery. I found the files on the system and opened a new document. It was so bad that the thought of meeting mum for lunch formed an emergency raft in my mind that saw me safely through to half-past twelve.

 

Competition

I really hope you enjoyed the extract.  Now for the competition.

Sapere Books are kindly giving away 1 of 3 x eBook copies of ‘Girlfriend, Interrupted’.  To enter just leave a comment telling me what you thought of the extract and why you want to read this book.

 

Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd July 2018.

The winners will be chosen at random within 7 days of the closing date and their details will be passed on to Caoimhe O’Brien of Sapere Books.

 

About Patricia Caliskan

Following a childhood spent writing her first books, most notably, Our Book about Jesus – a self-help guide for fellow young Catholics, and, The Sleepover – a compelling tale of a midnight feast, shockingly intercepted by fictitious parents with badly drawn hands, Patricia Caliskan always liked to play with words.

Patricia first saw her name misspelt in print aged 17, interviewing hungover rock stars and illegible actors for an Arts and Entertainment magazine. After graduating from the University of Liverpool, Patricia joined Trinity Mirror Newsgroup, working as editor across a portfolio of lifestyle magazine titles.

Patricia likes a good pair of boots, wearing perfume with her pyjamas, and laughter. Lots of laughter. Because without it life feels far too grown up for her liking. Told with mischievous humour, Patricia’s stories explore family dynamics, office politics, and the divergent roles of women throughout their lives.

Girlfriend, Interrupted is Patricia’s second novel: her first, Awful by Comparison, will be reissued by Sapere Books this summer.

 

Links

The eBook of ‘Girlfriend, Interrupted’ can be pre-ordered from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZVC2YF?tag=geolinker-21

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Girlfriend-Interrupted-twenty-something-mother-two-ebook/dp/B07BZVC2YF/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530001026&sr=1-1-spons&keywords=girlfriend%2C+interrupted&psc=1

 

Patricia Caliskan can be contacted via:-

Website – https://patriciacaliskanauthor.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Caliskaniverse_

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/patriciacaliskanauthor/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15574926.Patricia_Caliskan

 

Blog Tour – ‘Dead Ernest’ by Frances Garrood

‘Dead Ernest’ is being published as an eBook tomorrow the 1st March 2018 by Sapere Books.  It is also out in paperback.  I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off this blog tour today along with two other bloggers.

I have an exclusive extract from the book for all of you to read, but first here’s what its about.

 

Book Blurb

No one had expected Ernest to die, least of all Ernest…

Ernest Bentley was a pillar of the community. But when he suddenly dies of a heart attack his wife Annie refuses to have the words ‘beloved husband’ added to his gravestone. Their son, Billy, is exasperated with his mother and worries about how she will cope on her own. Unwilling to take time out of his own busy schedule to take care of her, he enlists the services of the local vicar, Andrew, to keep an eye on her.

Before she knows what is happening, Annie finds herself telling Andrew things she has kept hidden for years. Dark secrets that had plagued her sixty-year marriage to Ernest. When Annie’s estranged granddaughter, Ophelia, turns up for a visit, the two bond over their mutual contempt for Billy and his controlling behaviour. But when Ophelia meets Andrew, the unhappily married vicar, things start to get very complicated…

What is the truth about Ernest? Why is Annie behaving so strangely now that he is dead? And how can Andrew reconcile his growing feelings for Ophelia with his respect for his marriage and his religion?

Spanning from the Second World War to the present day, Dead Ernest by Frances Garrood is a poignant, moving and, at times, very funny look at what really goes on behind closed doors in the ordinary lives of ordinary people.

 

Extract

CHAPTER ONE 

Dead Ernest

No one had expected Ernest to die, least of all Ernest. He prided himself on coming from tough, Yorkshire stock, and had often told Annie that he would easily outlive her. So, when he had his heart attack, Annie’s feelings were at first of surprise rather than anything else.

“Are you sure?” she asked the policewoman, who was making tea in the kitchen. (How odd that it was always the police who were sent to break bad news; almost as though dying in the street were an offence against the law). “Are you sure he’s dead?”

“Quite sure. I’m so sorry, dear.” The policewoman handed her the tea (much too sweet, and not hot enough) and put an arm around her shoulders. “It must be a terrible shock. Is there anyone you’d like us to contact?”

“Billy. My son Billy. You’ll need to contact him.”

Because, of course, Billy must be told. Strangely, Annie had rather wanted to keep the news to herself for a while; to taste it and think about it on her own before sharing it with anyone else. But Billy would think it odd if she didn’t tell him at once, and besides, there would be things that would need doing. Annie had only the vaguest idea of what those things were, but she was sure Billy would know how to deal with them. Billy was good at that sort of thing.

“How do you know it was a heart attack?” Annie asked. “How can they tell?”

“Well, they can’t tell. Not for certain. But that’s what it looks like. There’ll have to be a post-mortem, of course.”

“Ernest wouldn’t like that,” Annie said, remembering Ernest’s dislike of being touched and even greater dislike of anyone seeing him in a position of disadvantage. A post-mortem, she could see, was going to place him in a position of considerable disadvantage.

“It has to be done, dear. It’s the law. Because he didn’t die in hospital.” The policewoman poured herself a cup of tea, although Annie hadn’t invited her to have one. Death, it would seem, muddled up all the rules of normal behaviour.

Ernest would have hated dying in the street like that, with everyone watching. Dying in hospital would have been acceptable, with dignity and nurses and clean sheets. But then Annie might have had to sit with him while he was doing it, and she wasn’t sure she could have managed that. Perhaps, after all, it was a blessing that he had died in the street.

“Where was he?” she asked. “Where did Ernest die?”

“Outside the fish and chip shop.”

“Outside the fish and chip shop,” Annie repeated, surprised. It seemed such an odd place to die. She wondered what he had been doing there. The fish and chip shop was the wrong end of town for the barber’s, which was where Ernest was supposed to be, and he’d only just had his lunch, so he couldn’t have been hungry. But now she would never know. Nobody would ever know what Ernest was doing before he died outside the fish and chip shop.

Annie was aware of the policewoman watching her, waiting to see how she would behave. “What do people usually do?” she asked, suddenly interested.

“Do?” The policewoman looked bemused.

“Yes. When someone dies. You must see a lot of them. When you tell them, what do they do?”

“Everyone’s different of course,” said the policewoman carefully. “They cry, of course, and some people even scream. And sometimes they’re just shocked and quiet. Trying to understand what’s happened.”

“And what am I?”

“What are you?” The policewoman’s teacup paused, trembling, halfway to her lips.

“Yes. How would you say I was taking it?”

“I would say,” the teacup returned firmly to its saucer, “I would say that you were being very brave. Perhaps it hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” she added gently. “It’s a terrible shock for you.”

Was it? Was it really a terrible shock? A surprise, certainly, but a shock? Annie wished the policewoman would go away and let her think. She needed time to sort herself out; to get to grips with what had happened. Ernest was dead, and she didn’t feel anything much at all. Not sad, not happy, not anything. Was she normal? Was it okay to feel like this?

“Ernest is dead.” She tried the words to see what they felt like. “Ernest — is — dead. It sounds so strange.” She paused. “He had this little joke he used to tell: ‘Once upon a time there were two worms fighting in dead Ernest.’ I never thought it was funny, and Billy didn’t like it, but it always made Ernest laugh.”

The policewoman smiled.

“Did he have a sense of humour then, your Ernest?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Ernest only had the two jokes, and I’ve forgotten the other one.”

“Would you like another cup of tea?” the policewoman asked.

“No thank you. I think I’d like you to go now,” Annie said.

“But we can’t leave you here on your own. Not at a time like this. Is there a neighbour who might sit with you? Just until your son gets here.”

Annie thought of her neighbours. Of odd, secretive Mr Adams, a tiny man of indeterminate age who lived alone and who hoarded things. Annie had only once been inside his house and had been left with an impression of disturbing smells and what appeared to be wall-to-wall jumble and bric-a-brac. The piles were neat and appeared to be in some kind of order, but the impression was not welcoming. On the other side lived a young couple, with a frog-faced toddler who screamed a lot. Annie certainly didn’t want to involve them, and she quite definitely didn’t need the toddler.

“I don’t really have much to do with the neighbours.” She stood up. “I want to be by myself now. I don’t need anyone else.”

After the policewoman had gone, Annie locked and bolted the door. Then, because it was getting dark, she drew the curtains and turned on the gas fire. Ernest would be home any time now, and wanting his tea. Ernest was very particular about his tea. He always had it at six o’clock on the dot, the same time as he used to have his meal when he got home from work. Ernest liked routine and order, and because it was easier to do what Ernest wanted, Annie had always gone along with it. Yes. She must get Ernest’s tea ready. A nice piece of fish (it was Friday) and some mashed potatoes and cabbage. Annie thought it was odd to have cabbage with fish, but Ernest had read a book about green vegetables being particularly good for you, and recently he had insisted on having them with everything.

But Ernest is dead, she realised again. Ernest is dead. He isn’t coming home for his tea. The green-vegetable book came too late to save him. He won’t be coming home at all; not ever. His heavy tread on the gravel (a slight limp because of his bad hip), his key in the door, his voice calling her name as he hung up his coat and cap. None of these things would ever happen again. The coat and the cap were — where? At the hospital, presumably. And Ernest himself; where exactly was he? Lying somewhere, cold, waiting for the post-mortem. Annie shivered. At least she wouldn’t have to go and identify him. Billy would see to that. She couldn’t understand why anyone had to go and identify Ernest, when he’d been carrying his pension book.

~~~~~

‘Dead Ernest’ can be purchased in paperback from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Ernest-behind-closed-doors/dp/1912546019/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1519756569&sr=8-1 

The eBook can be pre-ordered – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Ernest-behind-closed-doors-ebook/dp/B077Y1R7PP/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1519756569&sr=8-1

 

About Frances Garrood

My main career was in nursing, but I also trained and worked for many years as a relationship counsellor with Relate. Widowed in 1992, I re-married and now live with my husband in Wiltshire, where I enjoy riding my horse in the beautiful Pewsey Vale, reading, writing, singing in our large church choir and keeping up with my grandchildren. I also write regularly to a prisoner on Texas Death Row and do local voluntary work with homeless and vulnerable adults.

I first started writing as a child; mainly poetry, but there was one horrific novel (mercifully, never finished) in which a woman gives birth to a hideously deformed child in a thunderstorm. While I was bringing up my four children, I began writing and selling short stories to magazines before the enforced immobility following a fractured spine gave me the time to tackle my first novel, Dead Ernest.

All my books are very strongly relationship-based. My writing has also been affected by my widowhood and my experiences with my Relate clients, and my books sometimes include issues of death and bereavement. Strangely (and not by design) they all seem to include pet animal funerals (not a subject which normally occupies my mind!).

 

PRAISE FOR FRANCES AND HER BOOKS

“Frances Garrood is a magnificent writer.” — thebookbag.co.uk

“Dead Ernest is remarkably well written, well constructed.” — Grumpy Old Bookworm

“Light-hearted, heartwarming and enjoyable.” —writers-online.co.uk

 

Links

Website – http://www.francesgarrood.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FrancesGarroodAuthor/

 

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