Today I will be sharing an extract for my spot on the blog tour for Pink Ice Creams by Jo Woolaston.
Intent on fixing her broken marriage and the alcohol-fuelled catastrophe that is her life, Kay Harris arrives at her grim and grey holiday let, ready to lay to rest the tragedy that has governed her entire adulthood – the disappearance of her little brother, Adam.
But the road to recovery is pitted with the pot-holes of her own poor choices, and it isn’t long before Kay is forced to accept that maybe she doesn’t deserve the retribution she seeks. Will the intervention of strangers help her find the answers she needs to move on from her past, or will she always be stuck on the hard shoulder with no clear view ahead and a glove box full of empties?
Pink Ice Creams is a tale of loss, self-destruction, and clinging on to the scraps of the long-lost when everyone else has given up hope.
As the mistakes mount during her solo venture, Kay soon realises that leaving her husband Martin, in particular the vein in which she left – embittered and vengeful – was her biggest mistake of all. Their marriage was less than perfect but she should be more grateful to him. He married her – despite her lower social standing, her lack of life experience, her baggage. And so she defends his actions, his cruelty, as she doesn’t deserve any better than this… does she?
‘What is it?’
Martin has returned from work earlier than anticipated. I have hastily shoved half a bottle of Chardonnay into the tumble dryer and am failing to shield the concave glass with my knees. Please don’t look, please don’t look. He stands in front of me, his eyes over-bright and excited, a ten year old in a grown man’s body, the calm before the storm.
‘I don’t like surprises Martin.’
‘You’ll like this one.’
I hold my breath for fear of exhaling a cloud of wine-stink, whilst my hand fervently stumbles around in my jeans pocket searching for a mint, a chewy. I am nervous, of what could be in the box, whether I have pushed the bottle far enough into the dryer, and why he has come home early, unexpectedly.
‘Come on Kay, you’re spoiling it.’
‘Sorry, pass it over then.’
‘No, you’ll drop it. I’ll hold it, you lift the lid.’
Mint located, nerves controlled. Deep breath in, slow release out. Come on, step forward. One… Two… nearly there… and lift.
‘Well? Do you like it?’
‘It’s a kitten.’
‘I know that, I bought it. Well?’
‘Say something then. Why aren’t you saying anything?’
He knows why. My eyes are already starting to feel hot, the corners watery and ticklish, willing to be closed tight to fight the oncoming itch, the uncontrollable sneeze.
‘I’m allergic to cat hair.’
‘Does it always have to be a negative with you?’
I need to make light, avoid the inevitable.
‘So has it got a name?’
‘You name it.’
‘Okay, erm… Paddy?’
‘What sort of a stupid name is that?’
‘Well, it has big paws.’
‘It was just an idea, Martin. I don’t mind. What do you think?’
I pick the kitten up out of the box and hold it up. It is tiny and shivering and completely terrified, snatched from its mother too early. It has defecated in the box and the fur on its back legs is matted with piss and shit.
‘Wait, look what I bought for him!’
Martin rifles around in a carrier bag that I hadn’t seen him bring in. He places objects onto the table one by one, his excitement building with each item like a child emptying a Santa sack.
‘His very first toy. Watch.’
He whips a coloured stick out of the bag like a flamboyant magician, the bag floats to the floor and the wand circles above his head before dancing a figure of eight. Yellow ribbons and red feathers follow the trail in a blur.
‘Cats like the chase, see? Put him on the floor.’
Regretfully I do as I am bid and gently place the trembling mite on the tiles, still trying to bend my body in front of the tumble dryer door. Smack! The feathered cane lands a foot away to the left of the kitten and is still. Then, only gently at first, Martin shakes it back and forth, building up steadily to a great crescendo, a dramatic swish across the kitchen floor. The cat does not move, only shrinks.
‘Come on! It’s a little birdie, look!’
Smack! It lands again, this time on the other side and once more lies momentarily still as it awaits attention. Then, it starts to bounce tap tap tap tap flicking up perilously close to the kitten’s nose. The kitten cowers.
‘Just leave it Martin, it doesn’t understand. It’s too young.’
‘Of course it does. Animal instinct.’
‘Oh shut up Kay, what the fuck do you know?’
Here it comes.
‘Look at it, it’s nearly as pathetic and stupid as you are.’
‘Leave it alone.’
‘Or what? You don’t even like the bloody thing. Oh Martin… I’m allergic to cats, poor me, poor me, pour me another drink!’
I turn my attention to the kitten, picking it up carefully and running its back legs under a warm trickle of tap water. I can barely see through my raw, quarter-mast eyes, but my hands feel slowly around the work surface and manage to locate a fluffy tea-towel which I wrap the kitten in and hold it firmly against my chest.
‘Don’t start please Martin.’
‘Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think I don’t see the half empty bottles, every day? You’re not exactly Queen of hide and seek, are you?’
‘It just helps.’
‘Who? Not me, it doesn’t help me. You’re an embarrassment, a fucking catastrophe.’
‘Please Martin, there’s no need to make an issue out of it.’
‘Listen to yourself, for pities’ sake. Normal behaviour is it, hiding wine in a tumble dryer?’
He grabs me by the collar and forces my head towards the floor, my body has no choice other than to follow it. Then, jerking the scruff of my neck to knee level he hauls me across the tiles. Snatching open the tumble dryer door, he grabs my arm and shoves it as far as it will go into the metal drum. I can feel his breath, hot on the nape of my neck.
‘Come on then, reach. That’s what you want isn’t it? That’s all you’re good for.’
About the Author:
Jo Woolaston lives in Leicestershire, England with her extreme noise-making husband and two lovely sons. She tries to avoid housework and getting a ‘proper job’ by just writing stuff instead – silly verse, screenplays, shopping lists…
This sometimes works in her favour (she did well in her MA in TV Scriptwriting, gaining a Best Student award in Media and Journalism – and has had a few plays produced – that kind of thing) but mostly it just results in chronic insomnia and desperate tears of frustration. Pink Ice Creams is her first novel, she hopes you liked it.
Today I will be sharing an extract for my spot on the blog tour for the novella A Little Hotel in Cornwall by Laura Briggs. This is a short one at 120 pages and available TODAY! Happy Publication Day!!!
Struggling American waitress and aspiring novelist Maisie Clark dreams of becoming a full-time writer — even though in real life she’s just lost her chance at an exclusive writer’s mentorship program that would give her novel its big break. Desperate, she decides to take a chance and ask her favourite writer, a celebrated but reclusive English novelist, to help her find a second chance.
When she receives the author’s reply in an envelope with a Cornish postmark, Maisie decides not to take the writer’s half-hearted ‘no’ for an answer. With nothing to lose, she takes off for the author’s last known location, a beautiful hotel on Cornwall’s western coast. But when the hotel mistakes her for the latest applicant for a maid’s position, Maisie finds herself given an opportunity too good to lose … and a chance for a summer adventure far bigger than she ever imagined.
Surrounded by breathtaking Cornwall and working in an elegant hotel, Maisie’s world becomes one of secret identities, quirky friends, and unintentional mishaps — and despite reminders of past relationship disasters, a certain handsome, charming local resident Sidney Daniels has her conflicted about her heart’s desires, too.
Will Maisie find the chance she’s been waiting for — and a possible new romance — in her perfect Cornish summer?
Buy A Little Hotel in Cornwall here.
Thanks so much to Jessica for allowing me to share an extract from my new novella, A Little Hotel in Cornwall. This scene shows the heroine Maisie’s first impression of the quaint Cornish village she has traveled to in search of an elusive—and famous—English novelist who may just hold the key to her dream of becoming a great writer.
I set down my suitcase and shoulder bag and looked around. The bright sunlight was reflected on the water of the ocean in the distance, like a current of diamonds on its surface. I waited for the realization to sink in that this view of the sea below and the village above belonged to a foreign country.
I had spent part of my precious savings to come here, to find the dot on the map that represented the hotel Penmarrow. I knew it was highly possible that Alistair Davies was already gone, but it was still the best chance I had of meeting him. If he would read only a few chapters with his red pencil in hand, I would once again qualify for the Ink and Inspiration. Granted, alone and without a mentor to guide me through the rest of its process, but with a definite chance of salvaging my dream.
Port Hewer welcomes you, said the sign, with words below it in Cornish. A nice wooden sign with a seascape painted in one corner. I could see a quaint village waiting for visitors in the distance — on my map, it had been a tiny red dot between legendary places of west and south county, like Penzance and St. Michael’s Mount. I could see a grand building perched high above the sea and the village, as if watching over them both. That was the Penmarrow, I imagined, from the description on its website and its photos.
Cornwall. Until now, it had only been a place in a geography book, and in books I had read. I had seen Doc Martin and Poldark on PBS, of course. I had read Rebecca dozens of times. But the scenery was more beautiful in person than I had imagined when it was only words on paper or pictures on a television screen. With the balmy breeze on my cheek, palm trees in the distance, and the sand glittering in the sun, I almost felt a little at home, even standing on the threshold of the Celtic Sea.
I lifted my suitcase again, the one containing most of my important stuff — my books, my tablet computer, and my clothes, along with all my assignments from the Tucker class, and Mr. Bubbles, too. I didn’t have much to pack, or much to leave behind. Since I didn’t know how long I was going to be here, I didn’t know what to bring.
Somehow I’ll bet this wasn’t quite what Wallace Scott pictured when he told me to take a chance for my dream.
About the Author:
Laura Briggs is the author of several chick lit and romance stories, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, caring for her pets, going to movies and plays, and trying new restaurants.
Today I am part of the blog tour for Chickens Eat Pasta: Escape to Umbria by Clare Pedrick. I am sharing an extract of the novel. **There is also an international giveaway going on!**
Not just another romance, but a story of escapism, coincidences, friendship, luck and most of all… love.
Chickens Eat Pasta is the tale of how a young Englishwoman starts a new life after watching a video showing a chicken eating spaghetti in a mediaeval hill village in central Italy.
“Here I was, 26 years old, alone and numb with boredom at the prospect of a future which until recently had seemed to be just what I wanted.”
Unlike some recent bestsellers, this is not simply an account of a foreigner’s move to Italy, but a love story written from the unusual perspective of both within and outside of the story. As events unfold, the strong storyline carries with it a rich portrayal of Italian life from the inside, with a supporting cast of memorable characters. Along the way, the book explores and captures the warmth and colour of Italy, as well as some of the cultural differences – between England and Italy, but also between regional Italian lifestyles and behaviour. It is a story with a happy ending. The author and her husband are still married, with three children, who love the old house on the hill (now much restored) almost as much as she does.
Chickens Eat Pasta is Clare’s autobiography, and ultimately a love story – with the house itself and with the man that Clare met there and went on to marry. If you yearn for a happy ending, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a story that proves anything is possible if you only try.
“Does the Signorina have a family?” The question was not directed at me, even though I was the subject of the inquiry and was sitting at a table laden with food amongst the family who had invited me to lunch. It was becoming increasingly obvious that I was something of a novelty, and invitations like today’s were not uncommon. Grazia, the hostess, looked past me towards Angela and Ercolino. They had clearly taken on the status of my parents, at least for this particular occasion, given that it appeared I did not have any of my own.
I saw Natalino, the son, shift uncomfortably in his chair as his mother leaned over his shoulder and ladled out a large helping of strangozzi with wild asparagus. She passed to my place, which had been set strategically next to Natalino’s, still refusing to catch my eye.
“Does the Signorina like home-made pasta?” she asked Ercolino. “I made it myself with our own olive oil. The asparagus come from the hills around the village.”
I assured her that I did, but she seemed not to hear me. My stand-in parents confirmed what I had said and Grazia spooned
some pasta into my plate before moving on to serve the rest of the large gathering seated around the old wooden table. I waited for her to sit down, but everyone else plunged their forks into their pasta and started eating noisily. Grazia, a thin, severe looking woman with the regulation overall fitted tightly over a high-necked dark brown dress, made no move to take her place, but turned towards the waist-high fireplace, which was lit in spite of the warm temperature outside. She piled some hot ash over a dish of pizza stuffed with spinach and covered with silver foil. While she waited for it to finish cooking, she used her fingers to turn some lamb chops on the griddle placed over the embers.
“These are from our own lambs,” she said, still speaking to Angela and Ercolino, though the information seemed to be aimed at me. “We’ve got sheep, five cows, chickens, olives, vines. And of course, a truffle hunting dog.”
“You won’t go hungry here,” interjected Natale, the grandfather, smiling toothlessly as he attempted to chew some meat from the lamb chop that his daughter-in-law had just put on his plate. Natalino put down his food and darted a meaningful glance in the direction of the old man.
“And does the Signorina have a boyfriend?” inquired Grazia, as though the idea had only just come to her. “Why not take Natalino?” asked the grandfather loudly nudging me vigorously. The table went quiet as Natalino visibly
shrank in his chair. “I’m so sorry about all this,” he muttered under his breath.
Poor Natalino had not had the best of days and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. Earlier he had borrowed his father’s car to take me to a tiny lake suspended in the mountains, which was reached by a seemingly endless series of unpaved roads that wound up through the soft green hills. The sun was warm and when we reached the narrow stretch of grass next to the lake, I stripped down to my swimming costume under my shorts and tee-shirt.
“Aren’t you coming in?” I asked, heading for the water. He looked down uncertainly at his short pale legs, having reluctantly removed his trousers.
“I am as white as a mozzarella,” he said. “I’ll stay here and get some sun and watch you swim instead.” There was no persuading Natalino to come into the water, for, as he confessed shyly when I emerged ten minutes later, he had never learned how to swim. He had another confession to make, which was even more difficult, though not entirely unexpected. He was definitely not my type, so I tried to explain that I was not looking for any kind of relationship, other than friendship of course. It was becoming increasingly clear that life in San Massano was going to be more complicated than I had thought.
About the Author:
Clare Pedrick is a British journalist who studied Italian at Cambridge University before becoming a reporter. She went on to work as the Rome correspondent for the Washington Post and as European Editor of an international features agency. She still lives in Italy with her husband, whom she met in the village where she bought her house.
Read her blog about life in Umbria here.
Win an audiobook copy of Chickens Eat Pasta!
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