Category Archives: Jan’s Posts
I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year and I want to wish everyone all the very best for 2019. For those of you whose Christmas was less than joyous, I send loving thoughts and big supportive hugs.
We had a happy peaceful Christmas day with Mum and Dad. We transported our turkey and all the trimmings up to theirs (including my trusty potato peeler because, unlike Mum, I can’t use a knife as I end up leaving half the spud on it!). Briggy (Mr B) was head chef and I was chief veg-preparer among other things. The dinner, I’m pleased to say, was a triumph.
As you can see, Rudolph had another airing.
Boxing day was just as happy with lots of fun, laughter and games (not to mention food and drink) at super-host sister Sandra’s house. Our dear little great-nephew Henry is crawling now so was enthralled by all things sparkly and bright.
Ali, lovely wife of our equally lovely nephew Andy, also cleverly created some of her fabulous festive cupcakes.
We spent New Year’s Eve with good friends and popped a few corks at midnight while watching the brilliant London firework display. A great night for sure.
I haven’t made any resolutions for 2019, I’ll be more than happy with good physical and mental health and happiness for myself and Briggy and all our family and friends. Throw in to the world mammoth helpings of peace and kindness and this year should hopefully be a good’un. Oh, and prosperity aplenty would be welcome too – thank you.
Before I go, I just wanted to reflect on two books I read pre-Christmas that I’d earlier mentioned, which were Kathryn Freeman’s Oh Crumbs and Jessie Cahalin’s debut You Can’t Go It Alone . Both were a joy to read.
Oh Crumbs features main characters Abby and Doug who couldn’t be more different if they tried. Abby’s been caring for her sisters ever since her mother died and has sacrificed many things including attending university. She starts work as a PA in a biscuit factory to managing director Doug. She is the bubbly and breezy to his seriousness (a lot of which stems from family tensions) and I loved hurdling all the bumps and emotional obstacles they encountered as their relationship developed. I’m a huge fan of Kathryn’s writing and this story is another belter.
You Can’t Go It Alone contains a cleverly created blend of storylines that drew me in, along with the wonderful cast of characters. A myriad of personal dramas are covered, some serious, some poignant, and the setting and community spirit of Delfryn is so well portrayed that I could picture it all in my mind. The author’s passion shone through for me and I look forward to reading more of her work.
May 2019 shine and sparkle for us all.
Much love Jan X
There’s no denying I’m a Christmas superfan, always have been, and enjoy everything about it, from putting up the decorations (or creating the grotto as Mr B calls it ) to sending and receiving cards, to mince pies and mulled wine after some hearty warbling at the annual church carol service.
Then there are our fun-filled family gatherings, lots of laughter and sparkle and shameless overeating.
I do also fully appreciate that both Christmas and New Year can be a very emotional time, sometimes for happy reasons, sometimes for sad, and that not everybody relishes the festive season.
I hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing this Christmas, you find peace and some comfort.
May 2019 be a peaceful, healthy and joyful year for us all.
Thank you all for your ongoing cheerleading for me, my blog and my novel. The sequel is on its way (honestly!) I truly value your support and friendship.
Well, what a glorious summer we’ve had, eh? My flip-flops waved the white flag when it hit 34 degrees. And now in mid-September, between the storms, the sun’s still occasionally flirting with us.
Weather aside, since my last post in the spring it has felt like the ultimate seesaw ride.
We all celebrated Dad’s 80th birthday at the end of April. He wasn’t feeling 100% but did manage to enjoy a slice of cake.
Soon after this, Dad fell very ill and had to spend some time in hospital having a barrage of tests, scans, you name it, the conclusion being that he will need some medical TLC. Fast forward five months and we’re hopefully about to learn when that will actually be. While Dad has had periods of feeling brighter, and will, in time we’re sure, be fighting fit again, it has really brought home to the whole family how much we love and value both him and Mum and how protective of them we all are.
Amidst the fog of concern, June, July and August did also provide a generous dose of family and friends fun and laughter, including our nephew Andy’s 30th birthday drinks, a sunny day trip to Brighton (remind me to never drink double gin and tonics again!) and cheering on an inspired England in the World Cup (“we love you, Southgate, we do …“)
Briggy and I also ventured to Bournemouth and Poole for a couple of days which did us both the world of good. Sunshine all the way, a sightseeing bus tour plus boat trip, plenty of good food and drinks, a mooch round the harbour and potteries and a lovely B&B in which to rest our weary bones at the end of each day. Bliss!
I’m a huge fan of walking and find it really helps with the dreaded anxiety and flat days. I’ve been on quite a few of the guided London tours via Walks.com . No pre-booking, you just turn up at the specified meeting place (always by a tube station exit), hook up with your knowledgeable, friendly guide and away you go. This summer, I did the Little Venice tour and the Swanky Old Mayfair tour, both of which were thoroughly enjoyable.
This summer also saw my publisher Choc Lit celebrate 9 years in business. Proud to be part of such a friendly, supportive, professional (and in my case, patient!) team.
In August came a short visit to see our Uncle in Grantham (or thereabouts) whose house overlooks a huge field where we did some hare-spotting. I never realised they were THAT big or had such massive ears! We were also treated to this spectacular sunset. UFO-like or what?
More recently, my best friend Clare and I stayed overnight in London near Westminster after a day spent being hurled around in our seats (me shrieking and laughing all the way!) courtesy of ThamesJet.com . Donning our waterproofs and life-jackets, a 50-minute ride saw us take in the sights up close and personal, cameras clicking, until we cleared Tower Bridge whereby we zoomed off, twisting and turning, arms raised in excitement (in Clare’s case) me white-knuckled and gripping the hand rail, daring myself to open my eyes. That said, although I was WAY out of my comfort zone doing this, I’m so glad I did as it was well worth it. Our reward afterwards for being so brave was a nice stroll along the South Bank and a hunk of yummy carrot cake. It was great to spend some quality time with Clare. She’s a gem. Much scoffing and quaffing and hilarious reminiscing.
A few pics …
The bundle of absolute joy that is our great-nephew Henry has us not quite believing that he is already six months old. He’ll be walking and talking before we know it.
A summer awash with blooms I’m glad to report.
Not much writing done, sadly, but it’ll come, I know it will. I’m viewing every paragraph written as a few words nearer to submission day.
Books I’ve read include the following:
Take Me I’m Yours (A Wisconsin Love Story) by Lizzie Lamb ~ As ever with Lizzie’s novels, her wonderful words transport me to a magically vivid setting, in this case, the much-coveted Macfarlane’s Landing in Wisconsin, where I meet a gorgeous go-getting, gutsy heroine – one India Jane Buchanan – and a hero who makes the heart pound … Well hello, Logan Macfarlane … Fast-paced, sizzling chemistry, family feuds and past dramas and secrets that contrive to keep India and Logan apart, with a top cast of supporting characters who all want their say. You won’t be disappointed.
Practical Mindfulness – a step-by-step guide by Consultant Ken. A. Verni, Psy. D. ~ An easy to follow book (with illustrations) for anyone looking to embrace a more mindful approach to life. Offers a wealth of supportive, encouraging tips, examples and exercises to help with anxiety and depression. Well set out, interesting and informative. A guide you can return to as and when the need arises. Very calming.
I have two books I’m planning on reading next, one being Kathryn Freeman’s Oh Crumbs , the other Jessie Cahalin’s debut You Can’t Go It Alone . Both novels have some cracking reviews so I’m looking forward immensely to reading both and reporting back.
Until next time,
Love Jan X
I kept trying to pen a news blog prior to this. January and February flew past and as with my novel writing, the will and the want were there but sadly I couldn’t convey any actual words, or at least the right words.
Having finally opened up over the last few months to my loving family and closest friends, my patient supportive publisher and equally supportive GP that I’d been struggling to cope, the relief has been enormous and as much as it sometimes feels a bit two-steps-forward- three- steps- back , the mixture of medication and therapy, including a confidence workshop, has given me some clarity about my priorities going forward. It’s a work in progress as we say in the writing world but one that I’m hopeful is moving in the right direction.
What has been fabulous about 2018 so far is the catalogue of uplifting family events and celebrations we’ve enjoyed.
A special birthday for Mum kicked off the month of March in style and although we were thwarted by the snow and ice that day, we made up for it at the weekend with a lovely family lunch and much cake and fizz.
Mid-March saw the arrival of our dear little great-nephew, Henry David, and I know I’m biased but take a look at this beautiful face!
So wonderful for Mum and Dad to become Great Grandparents in their Diamond wedding anniversary year. 60 glorious years. Such an achievement and a congratulatory card from Her Majesty the Queen which thrilled them both. We’re all so proud of them.
Naturally, we celebrated this momentous occasion with a great gathering at my younger sister Karen’s with family and friends, a delicious spread of food, bubbly aplenty and lots of laughter. Mum and Dad received some delightful gifts and cards including a fantastic memory book our niece put together with written contributions and photos from all the family, some funny, some sentimental, but all created with love and gratitude for the influence and impact they have both had on us all.
April brought more excitement with a glorious family wedding to celebrate the marriage of our lovely Nephew Andy and his beautiful bride Alison. What a great day we had. Dressed in our finest threads and willing the weather to be fine, which it was, the venue and setting were superb ~ Surrey National Golf Club ~ and with an evening reception to match, I haven’t danced so much in ages and it was good to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for a while. A triumph of an occasion for sure.
We’ve still some celebrations to come with a big special birthday looming for Dad at the end of April which I shall report back on next time round.
I’ve not done much reading lately but two books I did want to mention, one fiction one non-fiction, are the following:
That Summer At The Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan ~ The title alone made me want to dive into the story. Adrienne’s talent for creating engaging, entertaining characters, some of them warm, some witty, some wonderfully wacky, but all memorable, gets stronger with every book she writes. The stunning Irish setting and grandeur of the family home holds lots of hopes, fears and secrets and the drama, whether recounted from the past or firmly in the present, never lets up as each story thread unravels. Loved it!
Clarity by Jamie Smart ~ A lesson in how to de-clutter the mind in order to reduce stress levels, improve confidence and to think and communicate more clearly. It’s one of those books which I read straight through without trying to analyze every detail as I went and found so inspiring and helpful it really brought home to me how your thoughts can control you and leave you either dwelling on past events you cannot change or pondering the future to the point where you can miss out on appreciating the present. Something about the simple, non-baffling way the writer of this book explained things really resonated with me.
A bevy of blooms I’ve delighted in these past few weeks, some sent to me, some observed, some bought, all of them loved and appreciated …
Well, that’s all for now. I told you lots had been happening.
Until next time.
With much love,
Happy New Year, everyone!
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and that those among us who need an extra supportive hug at this emotional time of year, received some comfort.
Looking back at my diary for December highlighted how dear to me my family and friends are and how their love and kindness has helped me through a difficult few months. I love them with all my heart.
The first week of December’s freezing temperatures made staying in the warm putting up the Christmas decorations, sparkle boots on my feet and a nice glass of fizz in my hand, all the more enjoyable. I was rather pleased with the results too. Nothing like a healthy dose of twinkle & a few festive faces to gladden the soul.
Sparkle Slipper Boots.
A day trip to York with Mr B on the 8th proved to be a magical tonic. Any excuse and I’m there and the good old promotional train tickets via Virgin Trains East Coast came up trumps again. St Nicholas Fair was in full swing, packed with glittering market stalls, the scent of hog roast, mulled wine and cinnamon hanging in the air. It was bitter cold but we had glorious blue sky and sunshine and the few flakes of snow that fell on the cobbles at our feet only added to the already enchanting atmosphere. The only downside was me dropping my phone on the pavement while taking the last of many beautiful photos I’d snapped throughout the day. The screen cracked and the phone went doolally, so much so, I lost all my York pics.
Gutted – definitely – but I refused to let it spoil our day and it’ll give me the perfect excuse to re-visit next Christmas.
This was me before the off, wrapped up, ready to face the chill.
I also spent a fabulous day in Canterbury with my younger sister and two of my lovely nieces – another f-f-f-f freezing cold day but sunny and bright which reflected the mood, – especially as we were bringing the elder of my nieces back home with us from university for the Christmas break. We had a leisurely browse round the shops, the city as shimmering and seasonally scented as York had been. I experienced my first Nandos lunch (yes, I know – where have I been?) which was delicious, and the whole day was a fun-filled triumph.
The run-up to Christmas was busy, so it was nice to have a peaceful, cosy Christmas day, just me and Mr B. And, of course, the turkey, the Christmas pud, the odd chocolate or five, mince-pies, turkey sandwiches, glasses of sherry, port, fizz … you get the picture.
We received some gorgeous gifts too.
Here are some of mine.
Boxing Day, by contrast, was a riot of family laughter, noise and games and one “slightly” merry husband and equally merry brother-in-law and nephew having a sing-off in my older sister’s kitchen. Food, drink and high spirits aplenty.
December blooms still reign supreme, from my perky Poinsettia to the fabulous Christmas Eve winter bouquet I received from a good friend, to my lovely holly and berries.
I finished reading Sue Fortin’s latest psychological thriller The Birthday Girl which I’d previously reported I was really enjoying. I love Sue’s writing and think this novel is her best yet. Friends Carys, Andrea and Zoe accept an invitation to join their friend Joanne in a remote cottage for a weekend who has implied it will be full of adventure in celebration of her 40th birthday. All sounds good until the three guests arrive and quickly realise that Joanne’s invitation isn’t quite what it seemed. Packed with secrets, mystery and sinister happenings, the pace of this book doesn’t let up and just when you think you’ve sussed who is guilty of what, another twist sends your thoughts on a U-turn.
A five-star read. Can’t wait to see what Sue writes next.
May 2018 be a happy, healthy, peaceful, prosperous and productive year for us all.
I confess I love all things Christmas, from the festive foliage, to the decorations, to the advent calendar (no, you didn’t read that wrong!) to the carols and good cheer our family get togethers always bring.
I also fully appreciate that both Christmas and New Year can be a very emotional time, sometimes for happy reasons, sometimes for sad, and that not everybody relishes the festivities.
I hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing this Christmas, you find peace and some comfort.
May 2018 be peaceful, healthy and filled with love & laughter for us all.
Thank you all for your wonderful support for me, my blog and my novel this year. I truly value it along with your friendship.
A new month and the health and wellbeing road to recovery marches on with continued appreciation of how lovely, kind and supportive people can be. It saddens me that I’ve been unable to complete my second novel as yet, but that little inner spark of creativity and passion remains, and reading back through what I’ve so far produced of my sequel to As Weekends Go, keeps the flow and gives me great heart that my confidence will return and it’ll all come good.
Now, I’m not even going to attempt to disguise the fact that I adore Christmas. I equally appreciate and respect that it can be a sad time for some people so I hope you’ll forgive me for indulging my love of all things festive. The moment I turned over the calendar and saw this gorgeous feline face staring back at me, I remembered the 1st of the month also meant that I could unveil a calendar of an altogether different type 😉
Big kid? Who me?
November brought lots of family and friend catch-ups which was lovely. As much as I value these get-togethers, I also think it’s important to have 1-2-1 chats as you can more fully discuss topics and news and sometimes open up a bit more.
As Weekends Go featured in a couple of promotions mid-month which resulted in a welcome mini-spike in sales and some wonderful feedback. I also donated a paperback copy in aid of Children in Need via Paddy Heron (known as Fundraiser Paddy on Twitter) who, for the third year running, kindly organised a fabulous author auction showcasing books of all genres for people to bid on. I was proud to support such a worthy cause.
It was a joy to appear again on the brilliantly supportive Jessie Cahalin’s blog. If you’ve not yet visited Jessie’s blog, you’re in for a real treat. She has fun and factual posts and features of all varieties – a real mixture to suit all readers’ tastes. I thoroughly enjoyed creating this piece and a special postcard to present to the readers along with a short extract from As Weekends Go which you can read here ~ BOOKS IN MY HANDBAG BLOG Many thanks to Jessie.
November blooms came courtesy of a dear friend who sent me a stunning festive display of lilies and winter berries. My gem of a sister also bought me a glorious Poinsettia which has pride of place on my Christmas sideboard display. I also wanted to post some gorgeous snaps I took whilst out walking. Nature really is a thing of beauty, eh?!
I mentioned in my previous post that I’d been reading Rose McClelland’s THE YEAR OF NO RULES which I’ve now finished and can report is a sparkling read which very much portrays the joy and importance of recognising and appreciating your self-worth. I loved main character Sasha and rooted for her throughout especially given how manipulative and controlling her boyfriend Kirk could be. Enter lovely, sweet-natured, dependable Sam, a million miles away, personality-wise, from Kirk, who seems the perfect love match for Sasha, but … life’s never quite that simple is it? This book touched my every emotion and deals with some raw, deep and delicate issues but also made me smile and laugh out loud at times. It’s so well written and expressive. I look forward to reading more from this talented author. Enjoy!
I’m currently reading Sue Fortin’s latest thriller THE BIRTHDAY GIRL and a thriller it is too. Halfway through and loving it. More to follow in my next post.
If you love your festive reads I must say Choc Lit have some super choices available. Look at these beauties!
It’s been a couple of months since my last blog. I haven’t been feeling well and September was all a bit of a struggle for one reason or another, so it’s nice to reflect on how busy October has been and to acknowledge all the love and support I’ve had and continue to have from family, friends and colleagues.
The first week of October saw Mr B & I celebrate 14 years of marriage. Crazy where the time has gone, but I’m seeing that as a positive and there isn’t a day goes by where my lovely husband doesn’t make me laugh. Here’s to many more wonderful years together.
On Friday 6th, I boarded a train from St Pancras to Leicester where I met my gem of a buddy & fellow Romaniac blogger Celia Anderson for a coffee and a mini catch up before we headed off to the Belmont Hotel to attend the monthly meeting of the Belmont Belles, a group of writers at all different stages of the process, who get together once a month to discuss their progress and any snippets of news. The group is successfully run by two other lovely writing buddies of mine, Lizzie Lamb and June Kearns who it was so good to see again, along with Adrienne Vaughan, Mags Cullingford & Anne Williams, plus I got to meet a few new faces. I’ve been wanting to visit for ages and it was great to spend time with them all. Cracking fish & chips lunch too, (and a sneaky glass of red!) before a few of us went back to Lizzie’s beautiful house for tea and cake. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. Thank you for having me, Belmont Belles, and for your hospitality afterwards, Lizzie.
We had a top family day at my youngest nephew’s fab new house which he and his lovely girlfriend recently moved into. They are expecting a baby in March next year, and we’re all thrilled. I will be great aunt Janners!
My birthday was on the 9th. It was a bit of a dank old Monday morning, brightened by a lunch date with older sister Sandra. We went to the THE WHITE BEAR near Warlingham, and had a yummy lunch (there may also have been dessert!) and by the time we ventured outside, the sun had come out for us and it was blue skies all the way. I had some beautiful gifts and cards.
Mum, Dad, younger sister Karen and I went to see Motown the Musical in London’s West End on the 19th of the month. What a fab show! We had a really good deal, great seats plus coach travel there and back which was a boon as it was chucking it down with rain. We had a good old sing to all the tunes and the dancing (the performers, not ours) was spectacular. I can definitely recommend it. A real feel good fest! MOTOWN THE MUSICAL
I seem to be on a winning streak with writing-related competitions lately and my luck continued with this fabulous prize of 4 A5 prints with Haiku-inspired poems, plus some stationery all from EMERALD AND LIME whose products are divine. I won the comp via LOVE BOOKS GROUP . Here are my goodies. Aren’t they gorgeous?
A special mention to my dear best friend Clare in this blog post who celebrated an equally special birthday this month. I’m looking forward to seeing her very soon for a post-birthday hug and a catch up. I’ve had a beast of a cold which prevented me from seeing her on the actual day, so extra big hugs are in order.
I rounded off the month with a delightful treat of afternoon tea at the DoubleTree by Hilton at London Victoria, courtesy of my lovely eldest niece Jo. It was very thoughtful of her and nice to have some 121 time with her. The venue and service were great and the food (including some mouthwatering honey-covered crumpets) and teas were delicious. We had a glass of bubbly too. Well worth a visit! DoubleTree By Hilton Afternoon Tea
Blooms of the month saw a variety by way of a stunning birthday bouquet I received from a good friend.
Reading-wise, I’ve not managed to get much done, but have recently started the new novel by Rose McClelland, entitled THE YEAR OF NO RULES I’m four chapters in and thoroughly hooked on the story, so I shall report back in more detail next month.
Writing-wise, I’m pleased with my sequel to As Weekends Go and how it’s coming along. I think I’ve said before how I wish I could write faster, but I’m getting there.
To round off, I hope those of you who are into Halloween, had a suitably spooky one.
This Facebook post of mine from Halloween four years ago made me smile all over again when FB prompted me to remember it:
“I have my spooky themed sweets & little cakes ready for the trick or treaters who always come calling. I’m expecting a few Zombie costumes this year. Last year I opened the door to two pumpkins, Count Dracula, and three vampires, one of whose fangs fell out as he shouted, “Trick or Treat!” bless him! “
Pondering. I love that word. August saw me doing my fair share of it too; thinking about what’s really important to me, how I’ve changed and about certain things I’ve shied away from facing up to. All sounds a bit deep, I know, but it’s put a few things into perspective.
It’s been a real family & friends month which has helped – various celebrations from birthdays to anniversaries to retirement cheer.
We had a lovely Mum & daughters lunch – my two sisters and I took Mum to a local carvery (cracking roast potatoes!) and laughed and chatted about things you might not otherwise get around to discussing in a bigger gathering. I’ve always been more of a 1-2-1 or small groups person, so really treasure these times. We have Dad/daughters lunches too (in case you thought we leave him out – bless him!).
I also met up with my youngest niece for a bite to eat and a chat which was lovely. Again, it brought home how fast the years have flown. I still think of Jess as being the age in the photo on the left. Instead of that she’s about to head off to college.
A family gardening day at Mum and Dad’s mid-month was a roaring success (if I do say so myself!) although my marathon weeding stint did leave me walking like a robot for two days. My chest muscles just about recovered for the Bank Holiday weekend, which saw us all gather together once again, along with some family friends, at my older sister’s house. Blue sky and sunshine meant we could spill out into the garden. With food aplenty and Sangria on tap, a good time was had by all.
I featured on two fab blogs in August, firstly as a guest of Louise Ross (L.J. Ross) author of the international bestselling series of DCI Ryan mystery novels, who, via her LoveSuspense blog, introduces authors in various genres. Here I am ~ LJ Ross Q&A
Secondly, I’m proud to say I now also appear in the Books in Handbags Gallery which is one of several superb features on Jessie Cahalin’s gem of a website ~ JessieCahalin Jessie is super-supportive of other authors and I’m delighted to be included.
Still badgering away with my sequel/standalone. I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with it and have been sad and disappointed with myself that it’s taking me this long, but I feel re-connected with it and really want to finish it and submit it. I’m enjoying spending time with my characters again and meeting some new ones (good and naughty!). I’m also really excited as Dave and I are off to York for the day in December (promo train tickets – absolute bargain!) As you know, York’s the main setting in As Weekends Go and a city I adore, so I can’t wait to get back there – especially as all the Christmas lights will be up and twinkling. VISIT YORK
Blooms of the month continue with the gladioli theme (or glads as I call them!) I think I’ve bought them in every colour this year.
Get a look at these beauties.
The month ended on a high note when I found out I’d won a bundle of Edinburgh book festival goodies put together by Kelly of LoveBooksGroupBlog and Joanne of PortobelloBookBlog Needless to say there will be photos to follow. Thank you, ladies. So thrilled to have won. 🙂
I only managed to read one book this month but boy was it well-timed. Shelley Wilson’s How I Changed My Life in a Year – is an inspiring, motivational, entertaining, sometimes poignant, sometimes comical, month-by-month account of how, having reached a crossroads in her life where she knew she had to make some changes, Shelley set herself twelve challenges over a year. This variety of challenges included everything from getting fitter to learning new creative tasks to facing her fears. I dipped in and out of the book with ease and it certainly left an impression on me. Well written and thoroughly engaging. An absolute pleasure to read.
Before I go, look at this gorgeous sunset I snapped earlier this week …
I’m a huge fan of Evonne Wareham’s writing and with the holiday season in full swing, there is no better time to read this exclusive extract from her latest novel, Summer in San Remo
It’s a gem of a story. Fun with a hint of mystery …
Running her busy concierge service usually keeps Cassie Travers fully
occupied. But when a new client offers her the strangest commission she’s ever handled she suddenly finds herself on the cusp of an Italian adventure, with a man she thought she would never see again.
Jake McQuire has returned from the States to his family-run detective agency. When old flame Cassie appears in need of help with her mysterious client, who better than Jake to step in?
Events take the pair across Europe to a luxurious villa on the Italian Riviera. There, Cassie finds that the mystery she pursues pales into insignificance, when compared to another discovery made along the way …
Cassie knitted her fingers together and stretched her arms above her head, wriggling her neck to work out the kinks. A quick squint at the clock had her blinking. 7.30? Where had the time gone? As if on cue, her stomach rumbled.
Food and sleep. You have an early start in the morning.
‘Don’t remind me!’ She looked round guiltily, when she realised she’d said it out loud. The office was empty. The whole building was probably empty. No one to hear you curse. Even if the thought of tomorrow makes you want to. Cassie wrinkled her nose. London – fine. With Jake – not so fine.
She reached out to close down her computer, taking one last look at the screen. The research she’d been doing for the last hour was for herself, not for a client. An idea she’d been meaning to follow up for a while. And nothing to do with trying to prove something to Mr McQuire? She shrugged. It was nothing to do with Jake. Why should his arrival prompt her to make a serious attempt at tracing the errant Jason? And the digging she’d done had been worth it.
She noted the names on her list, with satisfaction, before sending it to print and closing the files. It was a short list, but one that might pay dividends – the names of private gardens on the Riviera that sometimes opened their gates to the public. Jason had once mentioned that his aunt was a keen gardener, very proud of her large garden and collections of rare plants. If she was proud of it, there seemed a good chance she might want to show it off. None of the owners’ names meant anything to Cassie, but a few quick calls in the morning might yield some information she could follow up. If not, you’ll just have to take a trip to the Riviera yourself.
‘Oh, yeah, fat chance. I’d be lucky to afford a trip to Bognor!’
Damn, she was talking to thin air again!
Anyway, in the morning … Cassie groaned, in the act of reaching for her ‘To do’ list. In the morning she’d be miles away from the office. With Jake. Jake and Jason. Two bad apples in a pod. Or did she mean barrel?
Her stomach gave a flutter that had nothing to do with hunger.
She flipped the printout from the machine and switched it off. The trip to London tomorrow would take up most of her day. Just to deliver a package. Tell me again – why are you doing this? Cassie leaned back in her chair, muscles suddenly tense. The job was distinctly iffy, whichever way you looked at it. She knew that – had from the beginning.
So – why?
She chewed her lower lip. Even if the job was genuine, and she was saving Benson’s childhood home from the bulldozers, she was skating on thin ice. If Benson hadn’t made it clear that the collection of the package tomorrow was only a very small part of the conditions he and his wife had to meet, to protect their inheritance, she wouldn’t have considered it. Even for that astonishing amount of money? That you now have to share with Jake?
Cassie chewed her lip harder at the memory of Jake, sprawled so confidently in her visitor’s chair. That chair. She glared at it. Promising him half the money rather messed up the idea that she would try not to touch Benson’s fee.
Hmm. The money was a matter for another day, and negotiation with McQuire. Now she had to concentrate on getting through tomorrow. She’d committed to the client and the job, and she would carry it through. But what exactly is the job? Do you really believe Benson’s story?
Cassie smoothed her finger along the arm of her chair. That was actually the point – in her heart of hearts, despite Benson’s tears, she didn’t. And if something else was going on, she and Jake were right in the middle of it. Which meant she had to do everything she could to find out what it was. Self-preservation, gathering information on a possible crime – and, she had to admit – rampant curiosity. Three good motives for keeping her wits about her and her eyes open tomorrow.
Cassie sighed. She’d been way too impulsive when she agreed to this crazy assignment. She’d let excitement and the thought of the money cloud her judgement. Benson had probably counted on that. All she could do now was press on, and learn from the experience. At least tomorrow would be the end of her enforced association with Jake. That was one bright spot to look forward to. She wouldn’t need him around any more. He would be going back to the States soon. Then she could investigate Benson without any unwanted distractions. Whatever she found out, she could take it to the authorities herself. She really didn’t need any more help from Jake.
Cassie Travers, ace detective!
Stuffing the list of Riviera gardens into a file marked ‘Fairbrook’ and dropping it into her desk drawer, she set about retrieving her possessions from around her desk – jacket, shoes – she had to feel under the pedestal to locate the left one, cramming it on as her stomach rumbled again, even louder. There was nothing in the fridge at home. She’d have to stop at the shop on her way. Get a ready meal, or something. A ready meal for one. How sad is that?
‘It’s not sad. It’s convenient.’ Cassie stood up, then hesitated, stalled on her way to the door by a sudden wave of uncertainty, and a quick, brutal stab of loneliness. She had masses of friends, including some of her clients. She could ring any one of them this minute, and get an invitation to supper in a heartbeat. But friends aren’t family. Or one special person …
‘Oh for heaven’s sake! You’re not that needy!’ Even so, her hand hovered over the phone. It was a while since she’d called her parents. She couldn’t remember exactly when. Maybe last month?
Somewhere outside a clock struck the hour. At this time of the evening her parents would be out, having drinks and tapas with friends. Or they could be entertaining golfing buddies with cocktails at home, before a late dinner. Not a good time. Making a mental note to try at the weekend, Cassie shouldered her bag. Calls to Spain were probably cheaper then, anyway.
She stepped out into the corridor and secured the door behind her. Maybe she’d forget the ready meal and stop at the chippy instead.
Jake stared out over the dark expanse of water. The breeze, whispering through the open windows of the car, held a tang of salt. Lights from shipping in the Channel flickered, breaking up the twilight. Ma was out there, somewhere. Crossing the Bay of Biscay? Or already anchored off some sunshine island, getting ready for a show, or dancing on deck, or whatever other entertainment the cruise ship provided? He’d have to check on the schedule she’d left. She’d be visiting lots of amazing places. Which is good. She deserves it.
Jake frowned. She didn’t need to go alone though. They could have spent some quality time together, just hanging out. But she’d been adamant about it.
He stirred uncomfortably in his seat, a lump gathering in his throat. He swallowed hard. When Ma first mentioned she was having medical tests, it hadn’t sunk in. She’d made it sound like routine stuff. Even when she’d phoned in the middle of the day, to tell him she was having surgery … It had taken a call from Tony, his oldest friend, to spell it out. His mother could be dying. It had hit him like a rock between the eyes. What a miserable excuse for a son he had been. The lump in his throat rose again. Once he knew how necessary it was, it had proved remarkably easy to drop everything and just walk away. On the way over, on the plane, all he’d been able to think of was the gift she’d given him – of a wonderful childhood; the Christmas treats, birthdays, holidays by the sea – all playing in his mind like a continuous film loop.
And in there too, in the background, in scratchy, jerky black and white, were Benita and Tony … and Cassie.
He’d got to his mother’s bedside right before the operation was scheduled. Had just had time to tell her he loved her, before they wheeled her away. And he’d been there, holding her hand, when she woke. He’d vowed then … Whatever she wanted …
He’d been a bad son. He knew that. Sitting beside his mother’s bed in the hospital waiting for her to wake up after the surgery … What the hell were you thinking, staying in New York all those years? He lifted his hand to rub the corner of his eye. Having come close to losing her, he really hadn’t wanted to let her go away alone, even on a luxury cruise, but he hadn’t wanted to deny her anything either. And then there was all the other stuff …
The whole thing was weird, but he had a chance now to make amends. He’d work it out.
The breeze blew suddenly sharper. With a slight shiver, Jake raised the window a fraction. He wasn’t all that sure why he’d driven out here to the sea. Childhood memories of time spent on the beach below where he was parked? Sandcastles and wave jumping and picnics with Ma – those long days of childhood that always seemed to be full of sunshine?
Hmm. Getting maudlin here. He looked at his watch. It would be after midnight when he got back and then he and Cassie would be off to London.
He let out a long sigh. It was good to be seeing her again. Sure – for some reason she didn’t think so, but he’d win her over. Would Ma approve of him helping her out? He thought she would. Maybe not some of the other stuff, but hooking up with Cassie …
He tapped a finger on the steering wheel. Cassie was … great. A hard worker, real good at her job – but her heart was too big. For a business woman, she was too trusting. That dirt-bag Jason …
When Tony had told him what that shite had done to Cassie and to the business – all but wrecking what she and Benita had worked so hard to build …
Benita hadn’t said much, but he’d gotten the story out of a still indignant Tony – and found out everything he needed to know about the firm, over a few beers. Well, more than a few. And a couple of whisky chasers. He and Tone had been in complete agreement – those women needed someone looking out for them. And Jake was stepping up to the plate. He wasn’t too sure about how much Tony would remember about all that. He wasn’t entirely sure how much he remembered, but Tone was still speaking to him, so he’d not crossed any lines. It hadn’t been too much of a stretch to plant the idea in Benita’s mind that she was always welcome to call on Kings for help, now that he was back. Should the need arise. And with all Cassie’s usual male helpers out of action … And a job that needed a man to complete …Well, stepping up to the plate. Almost a public duty. Spending time with a gorgeous woman and keeping the dirt-bags away. Just about perfect. The Benson thing … He grinned. Cassie needed him.
Hmm. She needs the Benson money. Which you are making her split with you. Yeah – but there would still be enough left to save her business. He’d made sure of that. No woman, least of all Cassie, wanted to feel like a charity case. Their agreement had to look good. And how could he resist going head to head with Cass over the negotiations when she looked so darn cute when she was mad? She needed the money, but she needed him to get the money.
An unexpected chill ran down his back. He cranked the window all the way shut. Any man would want to be needed, right?
Shrugging his shoulders to shake off the chill, he reached out to start the engine.
Of course, once you’ve delivered the package, Cassie will expect the job to be over.
Hah! No way!
Now he’d seen Cassie again, he was planning to go right on seeing her. Which meant that whatever happened tomorrow, the Benson thing wasn’t going to come to an end. That whole inheritance story was enough to make anyone suspicious, let alone someone as curious about her fellow human beings as Cassie. She was a people person. She liked to know what made them tick, which was probably one of the reasons she was good at what she did.
Jake smiled. That was the key. Cassie would be curious about what might lie behind their unusual assignment. With the right kind of encouragement, she’d be ready to investigate.
And, of course, you’ll be right at her side while she does.
‘Perfect.’ The car engine purred into life. ‘Let the good times roll!’
If you enjoyed this extract and can’t wait to read more, you can find Summer in San Remo available to purchase on all eBook platforms!
Kindle UK: https://goo.gl/ghNaks
For other buying options click here: https://goo.gl/XVvZmn