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
It’s a very special day for my lovely publisher Choc Lit – they are celebrating their eighth birthday. I’m very proud to be part of the family and want to give a huge celebratory cheer of thanks to the whole team for all your hard work and support for us authors and our books.
There will be fun, prizes and, no doubt, chocs aplenty all day over at Choc Lit HQ, so be sure to keep an eye on the tweets/Facebook and join in the celebrations.
Here’s to another fab year!
Love Jan X
April ushered itself in with sunshine which was very welcome as we’d planned a family gardening day at Mum and Dad’s which proved a roaring success even if I did catch the sun and end up with a nose like a cherry tomato. It was also my first experience at using a Jet Wash. I think there may have been more water in next door’s garden then on the patio I was supposed to be blasting clean. Let’s just say it took me a little while to perfect my technique. 😉 All I do know is, for the next few days my muscles felt as though they were having a tug of war with each other. Keen gardeners, I applaud you!
My aches and pains were soothed beyond belief a few days later when I received the loveliest tweet from a reader who said she’d loved As Weekends Go and went on to write me the most fabulously detailed review that left me beaming with joy for days. Have a look at this. It’s a belter! ~ AWG REVIEW
In my last post I mentioned my lovely publisher was embarking on a tour of the libraries, starting with Exeter which was a huge success. I’m attending the next event in Southampton (May 20th) and really looking forward to it. Here are some of the goody bags that were given out last time.
On that note, I decided it was about time I ordered myself some promotional bookmarks which are always good to hand out should anyone show an interest in your novel. I placed an order via https://www.solopress.com/ (100 bookmarks for £25!) having sought the technical help from my good buddy and fellow Romaniacs blogger Sue Fortin – thank you, Sue! Well, they came within a week and here they are. I’m really pleased with them.
Easter Weekend was fun – we gathered at my younger sister’s house on the Sunday and had FAR too much chocolate (considering I’d been nibbling on these beauties for two days prior and still had more chocs saved for Easter Monday!).
Another top trio of reads this month. The first hasn’t actually been published yet but is due out very soon indeed. It’s a gem of a novel about three first-time mums and it’s by one of my The Romaniacs buddies (that’s all I’m going to say for now!) It’s contemporary and is going to be very popular. You’ll love it!
My second read was Lynda Stacey’s Tell Me No Secrets which kept me riveted throughout. Suspense, great characters, wit and a healthy dose of romance. I rooted for Kate (the main character) throughout and loathed her boyfriend Rob who will set your teeth on edge for sure. The backdrop of a private investigating company adds a bit of spice and intrigue. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I also read I Am The Secret Footballer which I’d been wanting to do for ages, having read the odd snippet here and there. I have my own fictional footballer in As Weekends Go and so enjoyed my research into the beautiful (and not so beautiful) game and this book held a wealth of equally helpful information. Very well written, candid, entertaining and eye-opening to say the least. Well worth a read if you love your footie.
Thank you, April.
Love Jan X
Happy August! I can’t believe I’m saying that. Where did July scoot off to?
Just a little update as to what’s been happening with me. It’s been all go these past six weeks. With the paperback release of my debut novel As Weekends Go just over a month away, I’ve been preparing some guest posts for various ever-supportive bloggers and answering some brilliant interview questions in preparation for publication day and beyond. I’m so excited at the thought of seeing my book in print and holding it (no doubt with a small tear in the eye).
I had some fab news when my publisher emailed me to say that I’d made The Bookseller, listed in their new titles : Fiction for September feature.
Here I am, just below Alan Titchmarsh and right of Prue Leith! 😉 Sorry it’s so HUGE and a bit blurred.
Anyway, I was thrilled.
More exciting still, was learning that, upon reading my novel and loving it, Lisa Jewell, one of my fave authors, has agreed to give me a quote for my paperback. I’ve read and loved all of Lisa’s books, so to know she’d enjoyed my story gave me the biggest lift.
On a different note, I knew my author pictures needed updating, so one Friday in July, my good friend Noreen who also happens to be an ace photographer came over with her camera and we had a mini photo shoot. Once we’d stopped laughing, etc, she patiently snapped away (I’d already told her she’d probably need to take about a hundred pics to get a handful of half-decent ones!) and I was really pleased with the results, not to mention relieved that we had a few to choose from, one of which will go in the paperback.
Here’s a little montage – some serious, some not so …
Well, that’s my round-up complete, apart from to say that I’m working hard on the sequel to As Weekends Go. It’s a standalone novel that features a few familiar characters and some newbies too – fresh dilemmas aplenty. 😉
I’m off to the dentist this week which as nice, patient and caring as he is, doesn’t exactly make me want to grab my maracas and samba down the high street (this being the fifth of six visits – broken tooth, root canal treatment and a crown refitted – Oh joy!).
On the flip side, though, my weekly travels to and from the surgery have also helped solve a sub-plot issue in the next book I’m writing. One of my characters wasn’t fully conveying the depth of his shock enough to move the story forward. Something was missing.
Well, bus journeys in my neck of the woods are rarely quiet affairs. Being a writer who is never without her trusty notebook and pen, my ears are treated to all manner of *ahem* lively conversations, one of which, last week, almost made me lean across the aisle and high five the poor woman in question. Her reaction both physically and verbally to her friend’s bombshell news was precisely the emotional ‘oomph’ I wanted from my fictional scenario.
More body language. That’s what my main man needed!
Yes, I felt nosey (although in my defence, this person on the bus was hardly whispering!) but my overriding feeling was gratitude and the realisation that no matter where you are or what you’re doing, where storytelling is concerned, observation is key.
My smile was as wide as this when I reached the dentist!
I’m guessing some of you must have had similar experiences?
Do tell …
Love Jan X