Extract: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett @MicheleGormanUK

Hey everyone! I have something fun to share today, an extract from The Big Dreams Beach Hotel. You can read the first three chapters right here today!! I’m on the tour next week and I’ll have a review so stay tuned…


Release date: August 18, 2017

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Publisher: Harper Impulse

Blurb: 

Wriggle your toes in the sand and feel the warm breeze on your face when you check into the hotel that’s full of dreams…


Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.


What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.


That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.


How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?


Extract: 

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel

Lilly Bartlett

Chapter 1

 

New York is where I fell head over heels for a bloke named Chuck. I know: Chuck. But don’t judge him just because he sounds like he should be sipping ice-cream floats at the drive-in or starring in the homecoming football game. Rah rah, sis boom bah, yay, Chuck!

Believe me, I didn’t plan for a Chuck in my life. But that’s how it happens, isn’t it? One minute you’ve got plans for your career and a future that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of being in love, and the next you’re floating around in full dozy-mare mode.

I won’t lie to you. When Chuck walked into our hotel reception one afternoon in late October, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was lust.

Be still, my fluttering nethers.

Talk about unprofessional. I could hardly focus on what he was saying. Something about organising Christmas parties.

‘To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing,’ he confided as he leaned against the reception desk. His face was uncomfortably close to mine, but by then I’d lived in New York for eighteen months. I was used to American space invaders. They’re not being rude, just friendly. And Chuck was definitely friendly.

‘I only started my job about a month ago,’ he told me. ‘It’s my first big assignment, so I really can’t fuck it up. Sorry, I mean mess it up.’ His blue (so dark blue) eyes bore into mine. ‘I’m hoping someone here can help me.’

It took all my willpower not to spring over the desk to his aid. Not that I’m at all athletic. I’d probably have torn my dress, climbed awkwardly over and landed face-first at his feet.

Keep him talking, I thought, so that I could keep staring. He looked quintessentially American, with his square jawline and big straight teeth and air of confidence, even though he’d just confessed to being hopeless at his new job. His brown hair wasn’t too long but also wasn’t too short, wavy and artfully messed up with gel, and his neatly trimmed stubble made me think of lazy Sunday mornings in bed.

See what I mean? Lust.

‘I noticed you on my way back from Starbucks,’ he said.

At first, I thought he meant he’d noticed me. That made me glance in the big mirror on the pillar behind him, where I could just see my reflection from where I was standing. At five-foot four, I was boob-height behind the desk in the gunmetal-grey fitted dress uniform all the front-desk staff had to wear. My wavy dark-red hair was as neat as it ever got. I flashed myself a reflected smile just to check my teeth. Of course, I couldn’t see any detail from where I stood. Only my big horsy mouth. Mum says giant teeth make my face interesting. I think I look a bit like one of the Muppets.

‘Do you have the space for a big party?’ he said. ‘For around four hundred people?’

He didn’t mean he’d noticed me; only the hotel. ‘We’ve got the Grand Ballroom and the whole top floor, which used to be the restaurant and bar. I think it’s even prettier than the ballroom, but it depends on your style and your budget and what you want to do with it.’

Based on his smile, you’d have thought I’d just told him we’d found a donor kidney for his operation. ‘I’ve been looking online, but there are too many choices,’ he said. ‘Plus, my company expects the world.’ He grimaced. ‘They didn’t like the hotel they used last year, or the year before that. I’m in over my head, to be honest. I think I need a guiding hand.’

I had just the hand he was looking for, and some ideas about where to guide it.

But instead of jumping up and down shouting ‘Pick Me, Pick Me!’, I put on my professional hat and gave him our events brochure and the team’s contact details. Because normal hotel receptionists don’t launch themselves into the arms of prospective clients.

When he reached over the desk to shake my hand, I had to resist the urge to bob a curtsy. ‘I’m Chuck Williamson. It was great to meet you, Rosie.’

He knew my name!

‘And thank you for being so nice. You might have saved my ass on this one. I’ll talk to your events people.’ He glanced again at my chest.

He didn’t know my name. He’d simply read my name badge.

No sooner had Chuck exited through the revolving door than my colleague, Digby, said, ‘My God, any more sparks and I’d have had to call the fire department.’

Digby was my best friend at the hotel and also a foreign transplant in Manhattan – where anyone without a 212 area code was foreign. Home for him was some little town in Kansas or Nebraska or somewhere with lots of tornadoes. Hearing Digby speak always made me think of The Wizard of Oz, but despite sounding like he was born on a combine harvester, Digby was clever. He did his degree at Cornell. That’s the Holy Grail for aspiring hotelies (as we’re known).

Digby didn’t let his pedigree go to his head, though, like I probably would have.

‘Just doing my job,’ I told him. But I knew I was blushing.

Our manager, Andi, swore under her breath. ‘That’s the last thing we need right now – some novice with another Christmas party to plan.’

‘That is our job,’ Digby pointed out.

‘Your job is to man the reception desk, Digby.’

‘Ya vol, Commandant.’ He saluted, before going to the other end of the desk.

‘But we do have room in the schedule, don’t we?’ I asked. Having just come off a rotation in the events department the month before, I knew they were looking for more business in that area. Our room occupancy hadn’t been all the company hoped for over the summer.

‘Plenty of room, no time,’ Andi snapped.

I’d love to tell you that I didn’t think any more about Chuck, that I was a cool twenty-five-year-old living her dream in New York. And it was my dream posting. I still couldn’t believe my luck. Well, luck and about a million hours earning my stripes in the hospitality industry. I’d already done stints in England and one in Sharm El Sheikh – though not in one of those fancy five-star resorts where people clean your sunglasses on the beach. It was a reasonable four-star one.

There’s a big misconception about hotelies that I should probably clear up. People assume that because we spend our days surrounded by luxury, we must live in the same glamour. The reality is 4a.m. wake-ups, meals eaten standing up, cheap living accommodation and, invariably, rain on our day off. Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?

But I loved it. I loved that I was actually being paid to work in the industry where I did my degree. I loved the satisfied feeling I got every time a guest thanked me for solving a problem. And I loved that I could go anywhere in the world for work.

I especially loved that last part.

But back to Chuck, who’d been stuck in my head since the minute he’d walked through the hotel door.

I guess it was natural, given that I hadn’t had a boyfriend the whole time I’d been in the city. Flirting and a bit of snogging, yes, but nothing you could call a serious relationship.

There wasn’t any time, really, for a social life. That’s why hotelies hang out so much with each other. No one else has the same hours free. So, in the absence of other options, Digby and I were each other’s platonic date. He sounds like the perfect gay best friend, right? Only he wasn’t gay. He just had no interest in me. Nor I in him, which made him the ideal companion – hot enough in that freckle-faced farm-boy way to get into the nightclubs when we finished work at 1 or 2a.m., but not the type to go off shagging and leave me to find my way home on the subway alone.

 

‘I hope you’re happy,’ Andi said to me one morning a few days later. The thing about Andi is that she looks annoyed even when she’s not, so you’ve got to pay attention to her words rather than the severe expression on her narrow face. Nothing annoyed Andi like other people’s happiness.

But I had just taken my first morning sip of caramel latte. Who wouldn’t be happy?

‘You’ve got another assignment,’ she said. ‘That Christmas party. You’re on it.’

‘But I’m on reception.’ My heart was beating faster. She could only be talking about one Christmas party.

‘Yes, and you’re not going to get any extra time for the party, so don’t even think about it. I can’t spare anyone right now. You’ll have to juggle. He’s coming in at eleven to see the spaces and hopefully write a big fat cheque, but I want you back here as soon as you’re finished. Consider it an early lunch break.’

Even though my mind warned me to stop questioning, in case she changed her mind, I couldn’t resist. ‘Why isn’t Events handling it?’

‘They would have if he hadn’t asked for you especially. It’s just my luck that it’s a huge party. We can’t exactly say no.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Then wipe that stupid grin off your face and next time try not to be so frickin’ nice.’

‘I need to use the loo,’ I told her.

‘Pee on your own time,’ she said.

I didn’t really have to go, despite the industrial-size caramel latte. I just wanted to put on some make-up before Chuck arrived. Instead he’d see my green eyes unhighlighted by the mascara and flicky eyeliner that I rarely remembered to use. Pinching my cheeks did bring up a bit of colour behind my freckles, at least.

Every time the revolving doors swung round, I looked up to see if it was Chuck.

‘You’re going to get repetitive strain in your neck,’ Digby pointed out. ‘And you know our workmen’s comp sucks, so save yourself the injury. Besides, you look too eager when you stare at the door like that.’

‘I’m putting on a convivial welcome for our guests,’ I said. ‘Just like it says in the Employee’s Manual.’

He shook his head. ‘There’s no way that what you’re thinking is in the manual.’

The weather had turned cold, which was the perfect excuse for woolly tights and cosy knits or, if you were Chuck, a navy pea coat with the collar turned up that made him look like he’d been at sea. In a suit and dress shoes.  

‘I’m so sorry I’m late,’ he said. ‘I hate wasting people’s time.’

‘It’s not a waste,’ I told him. ‘I’m just working.’ I caught Andi’s glare. ‘I mean, I’m on reception. I can show you the rooms any time you want.’

Anytime you want, Digby mimicked behind Chuck’s back. Luckily Andi didn’t catch him.

‘Thanks for agreeing to take on the party,’ he said as we shared the lift to the top floor. ‘Not that I gave your colleagues much of a choice. I told them I’d book the party if you were the one organising it. I hope you don’t mind. It’s just that you seemed … I don’t know, I got a good feeling about you.’

‘No, that’s fine,’ I said, willing my voice to sound calmer than I felt. Which meant anything short of stark raving mad. ‘Once you decide which room is most suitable, we can start talking about everything else.’

‘I knew you’d get it,’ he said.

The lift doors opened on the top floor into the wide entrance to the former restaurant. ‘As you can see, there’s still a lot of the original nineteen thirties decor,’ I said. ‘Especially these art deco wall sconces. I love them. Ooh, and look at that bar.’

I’d only been up there a few times, so I was as excited as Chuck as we ran around the room pointing out each interesting feature, from the geometrically mirrored pillars to the sexy-flapper-lady light fixtures.

‘I’m such a sucker for this old stuff,’ he said. ‘I grew up in a house full of antiques. Older than this, actually, in Chicago.’ Then he considered me. ‘You probably grew up in a castle from the middle ages or something, being English.’

‘That sounds draughty. No, my parents live in a nineteen fifties semi-detached with pebble-dash.’

‘I don’t know what any of that means except for the nineteen fifties, but it sounds exotic.’

‘Hardly. Let’s just say it looks nothing like this. Will this be big enough, though? You said up to four hundred. That might be a squeeze if we want to seat them all.’

‘My guest list has halved, actually,’ he said, shoving his hands into his coat pockets. ‘The company isn’t letting spouses and partners come. Isn’t that weird, to exclude them from a formal social event like that? It’s going to be black tie with dinner and dancing. They were always invited wherever I’ve worked before.’

The painful penny dropped with a clang. Of course he’d have the perfect girlfriend to bring along. A bloke that cute and nice wasn’t single.

‘Which company?’ I asked, covering my disappointment. ‘Your company now, I mean.’

‘Flable and Mead. The asset managers? Sorry, I should have said before.’

Of course I’d heard of them. They were only one of the biggest firms on Wall Street. No wonder Andi had to say yes when Chuck made his request. We were talking big money.

And big egos. ‘I’m not surprised that other halves aren’t invited,’ I told him. Surely he’d worked out why for himself. ‘They usually aren’t invited in the UK either. The Christmas do is your chance to get pissed and snog a colleague.’

Chuck laughed. ‘I’m really glad I’ve seen all those Hugh Grant movies so I know what you’re talking about. So maybe it’ll be everyone’s chance at Flable and Mead to snog a colleague too.’ When he smiled, a dimple appeared on his left side. Just the one. ‘And as you’re working with me to organise the party, I guess that makes you my colleague, right?’

Did he mean what I thought he meant? The cheeky sod. ‘Come on, I’ll show you the ballroom.’

But the ballroom had nowhere near the ambiance of the top floor, and I knew before Chuck said anything that it didn’t have the right feel. Whereas upstairs had character and charm, the ballroom had bling. I’d only known Chuck for a matter of hours, but already I knew he wasn’t the blingy type.

‘Definitely upstairs,’ he said. ‘So it’s done. We’ll book it. Now we just need to plan all the decorations, the food, the band, DJ. I guess the fee goes up depending on how much in-house stuff we use.’ He laughed. ‘I’m sorry, I really am in too deep here. I talked my way into my job. I have no idea how. My boss is a Northwestern alum like me and that must have swung it for me. Before I only worked organising conferences and a few parties at the local VFW hall. This is the big time.’

I knew exactly how he felt. When I first started at the hotel I had to pinch myself. There I was, about to live a life I’d only seen on telly. All I had to do was not muck things up. Digby had been on hand to show me the ropes when I needed it. So the least I could do for Chuck was to help him as much as I could.

That’s what I told myself. I was paying it forward.

‘We’ve got a range of decorations we can do,’ I told him, thinking about how much I was going to get to see him in the upcoming weeks. I could really stretch things out by showing him one tablecloth per visit. ‘And we work with a few good catering companies, who I’m sure can arrange anything from a sit-down meal to a buffet. One even does burger bars, if you want something more quirky.’

‘What I’ll want is for you to help me, Rosie. You will be able to do that, right?’

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘Whatever you need. It’s a whopping great fee your company is paying. That buys a lot of hand-holding.’

‘I was hoping you’d say that,’ he said. ‘The second I came in and saw you, I knew this was the right choice. We’re going to be great together, Rosie.’

I was thinking the exact same thing.

Chapter 2

 

Lill raises her tiny hands with a showbiz flourish that catches everyone’s attention. Lill is nothing if not an attention-catcher. Her platinum bob shines out from beneath her favourite black top hat, and she looks every inch the circus ringmaster with her moth-eaten red tailcoat over her usual thigh-skimming miniskirt and white go-go boots.

This wouldn’t look at all unusual if she wasn’t pushing seventy.

‘Happy anniversary to you, happy anniversary to you, happy anniversary, dear Rosie, happy anniversary to you!’

Lill’s voice soars clear and strong above everyone else’s and the Colonel calls me Rose Dear. That man hates a nickname.

They’re all bunched together in our hotel’s decrepit bar, directly under the lurid green banner we used last year when the Colonel’s biopsy came back benign. At his age, that kind of thing deserves celebrating. I was the one who tore it taking it down, so it reads CON RATULATIONS. Story of my life, really.

They couldn’t be prouder of their surprise, though. Even the dog looks smug.

It’s an ambush, though I suppose I’ve been half expecting it ever since Lill let slip that they knew the date was coming up.

Three years back in Scarborough. Who’d have thought it?

It’s touching that they’ve done this, although I’m not big on surprises, which has made me paranoid for days. I even double-checked the restaurant this morning, but everything was normal – Chef barking orders at Janey and Cheryl. Janey and Cheryl rolling their eyes behind Chef’s back. Chef acting like he doesn’t know they’re doing it.

I should have thought to check the bar. It’s just beside reception through double doors in the wide entrance hall, but it’s never open this time of morning, unless we have a stag party in. And that hasn’t happened in yonks. Not even the Colonel uses it before evening. He’s got his own private whisky stash up in his room. He says he likes to keep his loved ones close.

‘For she’s a jolly good fellow…’ The Colonel’s voice trails off when nobody joins in. ‘I didn’t realise you were married, Rose Dear,’ he says. The ice in his glass tinkles as he sips.

Everyone stares at him as if we don’t hear his gaffs every day.

‘She’s not married, Colonel. She doesn’t even have a boyfriend,’ Janey says.

Her tone isn’t unkind. Just matter-of-fact. But ta for that reminder, I think.

‘It’s her three-year work anniversary, Colonel,’ Peter kindly reminds him. ‘Not a wedding anniversary.’ Peter reaches down to pet Barry, who’s starting to look bored with the whole event. Though it’s anyone’s guess what better offers a basset hound might have at eleven o’clock on a Tuesday morning at a seaside resort in the off season.

‘Righty-ho,’ the Colonel says. ‘Chin up, old girl, it might not be too late for you.’ He wanders out. We can hear the tap tap of his cane on the careworn parquet floor as it carries him off to his usual chair in the conservatory, where he likes to spend his mornings.

Colonel William Bambury always cuts a dashing figure, even when he’s half cut before lunchtime. Which is most days. His shirts are perfectly pressed and the crease in his trousers could slice through a joint of meat. After forty-five years in the Royal Marines, he knows his way around an ironing board. In summer his ensemble is khaki. He adds a green tweed jacket in cooler weather, and on occasions like today he pins his medals to the front.

Personally, I’d live in thermals and a winter coat if I were him, because I know he doesn’t put the heat on in his room. He says it’s because he likes the bracing air, but I know it’s to save money. We need whatever comfort we can spare for the guests.

‘Sorry about that,’ Cheryl says. ‘Janey can be a thoughtless arse.’

‘That’s rich, coming from you,’ Janey retorts.

‘She’s right,’ I say. ‘You’re exactly alike.’

And not only in personality. From the neck up, Janey and Cheryl could be twins. They wear their blonde hair blown out pin-straight and their make-up laid on with a trowel. If one tries a double eyeliner flick or a new set of false lashes, the other one does too. They claim to have their own lipsticks, but they’re all in the same shades.

It’s below the neck where the differences lie, though they wear identical faded black-and-white waitress uniforms. Janey is as athletically slender as Cheryl is plump, though they both hate exercise, which makes me love them all the more.

‘Can we have the cake now? I’m starving,’ Janey asks.

‘Oh, right, the cake,’ Lill says. ‘With my performance, I nearly forgot.’

Nobody points out that singing four lines of a trite old song isn’t exactly a sell-out show at Scarborough Spa.

Lill hoists a plain white cake onto the burnished bar top. I’m surprised she can get it up there with her scrawny arms. ‘We did ask Chef to add some colour to the icing, but he said you wouldn’t go in for that kind of frivolity.’

Chef means he doesn’t go in for that kind of frivolity. He’s cut from the same military cloth as the Colonel, though Chef’s cloth is ex-Army green.

‘Where is Chef? Isn’t he coming in?’ I ask.

‘Not when he’s getting ready for service,’ Janey says. ‘It’s fish and chips today.’

Peter’s eyes light up at the news. ‘With mushy peas?’

Cheryl nods. ‘And the home-made tartar sauce that you like.’

‘Can you believe our luck, Barry?’ He scratches behind his dog’s ear.

That’s a hypothetical question, though, since Barry was strictly banned from the restaurant after he made off with Chef’s crown roast two Christmases ago. He didn’t get far on his little legs, but dinner was ruined and Chef still holds a grudge. 

Kindly Peter Barker swipes the scant strands of his coal-black hair over his shiny dome. It’s a nervous habit, but necessary because his parting starts about an inch above his left ear.

His hair colour is probably as artificial as his surname, though he won’t admit to tampering with either one. But really, a dog trainer named Barker? Moreover, a fifty-something dog trainer named Barker with hair that black, when his face is crinklier than a sheet that’s been forgotten in the washing machine?

We’d give him a lot more stick about it if he wasn’t such a gentle soul. Believe me, we’ve got a lot of opportunity, with him living here at the hotel.

That’s the arrangement the Colonel has with the council: to house some of the people who need a place to live. They’ve been here for years and even though I’m the manager, I don’t know the exact details of the arrangement. They’re just our friends in residence. I guess they bring in a bit of revenue. Given how few paying guests we get, it might be the Colonel’s only steady income.

‘Will you have lunch with us?’ Peter asks me.

‘Yes, why not?’ Lill adds. ‘The guests leave this morning, don’t they? It’s been ages since you’ve sat down properly for a meal, and you are celebrating. Three years. Where does the time go?’

That’s a really good question, though I’ve been trying not to dwell too much on it lately. Otherwise it could get depressing.

I’m not saying that Scarborough itself is depressing, mind you. At least, I’ve never thought so. But then I was born and raised in a bungalow not a mile from the hotel, with the waterfront penny arcades, casinos, ice-cream shops, chippies and pubs a stone’s throw away. It’s a faded seaside town like many of the old Victorian resorts, but we’re hoping for a revival. With a little vision, we could become the Brighton of the north. I do love the grand old buildings, even if they’ve all seen better days.

Who hasn’t?

When I left at eighteen, I assumed I’d never come back, except for holiday visits to my parents. Yet, ten years later, my parents are living exotically in France while I’m back in the bungalow where I grew up.

See what I mean? Looked at in the wrong way, one could find that sad.

‘Rosie can have lunch off today, can’t she?’ Peter calls to the Colonel, who’s come back into the bar.

‘Don’t mind if I do,’ he says, refreshing his drink. He’s talking about helping himself to the bar rather than my lunchtime plans. ‘What?’

‘Rosie,’ Lill says. ‘She can have lunch with us today, can’t she?’

‘Of course, of course,’ he says. ‘The more the merrier, I always say.’

Actually, he never says that but, as he owns the hotel and is technically my boss, it’s not worth correcting him.

 

Given Chef’s refusal to indulge in a little food colouring, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that he’s also a stickler for punctuality. If everyone’s not sitting down for lunch between noon and two o’clock, they won’t get a morsel to eat. Not long after I got the job, I made the mistake of suggesting that we offer room service. Nothing fancy, just a selection of simple cold dishes for guests who arrive outside of Chef’s timetable.

You’d have thought I wanted him to don feathers and do a fan dance for the guests. He gave me dirty looks for weeks. Now I keep suggestions for the restaurant to a bare minimum.

Miracle Jones hurtles towards us through the dining room. Imagine the Titanic draped in a colourful dress and you’ll get the idea. ‘Darling baby girl, I’m so sorry I missed de surprise!’ she says in her sing-song Jamaican accent. It’s much stronger than that actually, so I’m translating.

Miracle is another of the hotel’s long-time residents. She’s also the mother amongst us. Large and regal, her black face catches every smile going and bounces it back at you tenfold. You can hear her throaty laugh all through the hotel.

‘I had to be at de church,’ she says, settling her bulk into the chair beside the Colonel and tucking her riotously patterned caftan around her. ‘Today is tea and sympathy day. It’s so sad how those poor souls have got no one.’

None of us can meet her gaze.

Unlike Peter and Lill, Miracle lives at the hotel thanks to her three grown children rather than the council. Every month the Colonel can depend on the fee for Miracle’s room and board. That’s more than Miracle can depend on when it comes to her useless offspring. None of us has ever actually laid eyes on them, so whatever they’re so busy doing, it’s not visiting their mother.

I don’t know how they can do that to such a giving lady. My parents drive me round the bend, but I still see them regularly. Granted, it’s not exactly a hardship when they live in a picturesque village not far from Moulins in France. But the point is that I’d visit even if they lived in a council flat in Skegness.

Nobody imagined they’d actually leave Scarborough. At first I thought they were joking about moving away from the water. Not only are they away from the water, they found the most landlocked village in France to live in. It is nice to visit for a few days, but then I miss the sea.

‘I’ll have to run off straight after lunch,’ Peter tells us as Cheryl and Janey bring our fish and chips to the table. Not that we ordered it. Chef doesn’t so much run a restaurant as a school canteen. We eat what we’re given. ‘I’ve got a three o’clock birthday and Barry and I have some lines to run through.’

We all nod as though it’s perfectly normal for Peter’s dog to run lines with him. Because, in a way, it is.

Peter’s had his trained dog act for decades and he’s well known on the children’s party circuit. Barry’s not your usual dancing dog, though. Well, a basset hound is never really going to be a great dancer, is he? But what he lacks in agility he makes up for in personality. He’s the perfect straight man for Peter’s act. When Peter tells his jokes, you’d swear Barry understands. His facial expressions are always spot on.

The Colonel clears his throat.

‘Have you got a fish bone, William?’ Lill asks. When she puts her hand on his arm, the Colonel blushes.

‘I’ve got something to say.’ Never one for public speaking, he shifts in his chair. ‘We’ve finally had some interest in the hotel.’

This is great news. ‘Was it the North Yorkshire Gazette advert?’ He wasn’t keen on spending the money, but I knew it would bring the punters in. And out of season too. If we keep up the publicity, imagine what we could do when it’s not rainy and cold. ‘We’ll have to open up some of the other rooms, though,’ I say. To keep the utility bills down we only keep the first floor open for hotel guests. We’re managing. Just.

‘It’s from a US hotel,’ he says.

I’m confused. Why would a US hotel send guests here? ‘Do you mean some kind of exchange?’ If so, we haven’t got many guests to send their way in return.

‘You don’t mean a sale, Colonel?’ Peter asks.

No, he can’t mean that.

‘It was a surprise to me too,’ the Colonel says. ‘You remember when we tried selling the place after we played ‘The Last Post’ for my sister. Couldn’t give it away with a free prozzie then.’

‘William.’

‘Sorry, Lillian.’

I do remember that summer. It was when I worked here in school, though I didn’t have anything to do with its management. I was under Chef’s tyrannical regime then. It’s hard to imagine the hotel more run down than it is now, but it was.

‘They approached me,’ he says. ‘Made an offer sight unseen.’

‘You’ve sold the hotel?’ Lill asks. It’s clearly news to her. ‘William, how could you?’

‘I thought you’d be pleased,’ he says. ‘You know how long I’ve wanted to get out from under the place. Now I’ll be free.’

‘You thought I’d be pleased? How long have we known each other?’

‘Eight years, Lillian.’

I’ve only known Lill for three and even I can see that the Colonel’s news is about as welcome as a parp in a phone box.

‘And you think I’d be pleased to know you’re selling the hotel out from under us to strangers? Out of the blue?’

‘I’m not selling it out from under us! We’re all staying. It was part of the negotiation. I made sure, Lillian. Now we won’t have to worry about keeping the hotel running. Let it be on someone else’s watch. I did it for us, really.’ His bushy eyebrows are knitted together in concern. ‘All of us.’

Lill crosses her arms. ‘There is no us, William.’

The poor Colonel. His upper lip may be stiff, but his bottom one starts wobbling with emotion.

‘Rose Dear.’ The Colonel looks beseechingly at me. ‘Once we’re established with new owners here, you might be able to do a stint with them back in the US if you want. Wouldn’t that be nice?’

I want to make it better for the Colonel, I really do. But I’ve spent the last three years trying to forget all about my life in the US. The last thing I want is to go back there now.

Chapter 3

 

The mood at the hotel has been subdued ever since my party, when the Colonel dropped his bombshell about the sale. It’s not helped by the fact that Lill won’t speak to him. He’s moping around the place, every inch the lovelorn old man, and you can’t help but feel sorry for him. He still sits in the conservatory every day, but Lill won’t even set foot in there. If they do happen to be in the same room, she makes a big show of ignoring him. But then that’s not a surprise. Lill makes a big show of everything.

I would too, if I’d spent half a century in show business like she has. Between her gorgeous voice and flamboyant stage presence, she was a sensation once, nearly up there with the greats of the sixties and seventies. It must be hard to let that go.

I don’t blame her for being cross with the Colonel either. We’re all a little out of sorts, because it seems that the hotel sale isn’t just a possibility. It’s a done and dusted deal. Some company called Beach Vacations Inc. now owns the Colonel’s hotel, and what I’ve found on their website doesn’t exactly make me think this was a good idea.

Luxury island FIVE-STAR service at three-star prices!! it boasts all over the place. It’s got hotels on islands and keys in Florida and on a beach in Rhode Island – which isn’t an island, despite the name.

We’re not an island either, and that’s what’s got me worried. Every photo of their interiors and their staff look as if they’re kitted out in fabrics made from gaudy old Hawaiian shirts.

Our hotel couldn’t be more opposite. It’s Victorian and quintessentially British, ta very much. The public rooms have high ceilings, ornate cornicing and parquet floors. The floors might be dented and scratched, but that just gives them a fine old patina. The brass and glass chandeliers are originals, throwing a warm yellow light over the wide entrance hall, and the bar is really pretty spectacular, aside from the old pub carpet that’s coming away in places. And Peter was up on the ladder only last month painting over the water stains in the corners, so they don’t look too bad, considering all the holes in the roof.

My point is that some loud-shirted American company won’t do us any favours in the style stakes.

And worst of all, now we’ve got a transition manager coming to turn everything upside down.

‘I think that’s him coming!’ Peter cries from his lookout post in the conservatory. His announcement startles Barry, who’s been napping beside Peter’s chair. ‘He’s definitely from London. He’s got pointy shoes.’

And pointy horns, probably. I’ve never met a transition manager before, but the whole point of them is to change things, right? That’s the last thing we want around here. Ta very much again.

Tempted as I am to run to the window to see the bloke, we can’t have him thinking that we care that he’s here.

‘I think you’ll like him, Rosie. He’s a good-looking lad.’

‘He’s changing our hotel, Peter, not asking us out.’

‘Right. Still.’

I can see his smile through the wavy old glass of the door even before he reaches it. They must teach that at change management college. Introduction to Sincere-Looking Smiles.

I hate to admit it but, flippin’ heck, Peter’s right. This bloke is a looker, if you take away the thick specs he’s wearing. Tall and broad-shouldered, he looks natural in his fitted grey suit, like one of those arrogant Wall Street types. Only his hair isn’t slicked back. It’s stuck up with gel and there’s a lot of it. 

I let him push open the door instead of opening it for him. No reason to roll out the red carpet for someone who’s about to do us over. ‘Are you Rosie? I’m Rory Thomas.’

His accent throws me. I expected brash American, not posh English. Quickly I readjust my prejudices from one to the other. There, job done. Now I can resent him for being a poncy southerner. ‘Rosie MacDonald.’ I bite down the Nice to meet you and offer him my hand instead.

‘Will you be staying long?’ I ask. He hasn’t got any cases with him, just a khaki courier bag slung across his front, which clashes with his sharp suit.

‘Are you trying to get rid of me already?’ he teases. When his smile ratchets up a notch, his mouth looks almost as big as mine, but less muppet-like. Kind of nice, if I’m honest. ‘I’m at Mrs Carmody’s B&B on Marine Road. Do you know it?’

‘We’ve got a lot of B&Bs around here. The town’s not that small, you know.’ I don’t know why I’m defending Scarborough when I couldn’t get out of here fast enough myself. ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’, I guess.

‘It’s a reasonable size,’ he agrees. ‘I imagine that means reasonable competition, so it surprised me when Mrs Carmody made me leave for the day. I’m not allowed back till after four. I thought those days were over.’

I stifle a laugh. ‘Welcome to Scarborough, where time stands still. I’d have thought you’d just stay here. Is our hotel not good enough for you?’ I don’t know where this narky attitude is coming from. Especially since, technically, he’s probably my boss now.

‘It’s perfectly good enough for me, but I’d have to move out when we redo the rooms. It’ll be less disruptive to just hole myself up at the B&B while works are going on.’ His forehead wrinkles. ‘They did tell you about the renovation?’

‘No. We’ve heard nothing at all. Only that you were coming.’

‘God, I’m so sorry! That’s a terrible way to hear news about your hotel.’ He shakes his head. ‘Really, I can only apologise. I haven’t found the communications great with the company either, if that makes you feel any better.’

It doesn’t.

‘So you don’t know what they’re planning?’ His grey eyes are magnified by his thick lenses. ‘Have you got an office or somewhere for us to sit and go through everything?’

It can’t be good if he wants me to sit down. My tummy is flipping as we go into the oak-panelled office behind the reception desk.

‘This is nice.’ He’s running his hands over the panels. ‘The whole hotel is really something. I love these old places.’

‘Do you revamp them a lot?’ I make ditto marks just in case he misses the snark.

‘Me? No, never. It’s my first hotel assignment.’

‘But I thought you worked for the company.’

He shakes his head. ‘I’m a freelancer. They’ve brought me in to do this job. It’s the same process, though, no matter the industry.’

So our hotel is going to be ‘change-managed’ – ditto fingers – by someone with absolutely no hotel experience. ‘Where have you worked before?’

‘That sounds like an interview question. A slightly aggressive one. No, I don’t mind,’ he says, when he sees me start to object. ‘It’s natural to have concerns. After all, this is your livelihood. I’ve managed transitions for a biscuit factory and a couple of banks that needed integration.’ He’s counting off on his fingers. ‘An insurance company, and a long stint with Transport for London. Ah yes, and a handmade bicycle business in Leeds.’

Biscuits and bicycles. That’s great experience for running a hotel. If we never need advice on elevenses, Rory’s our man.

‘Rosie, if you don’t mind me saying, I don’t have to be clairvoyant to see that you’d rather not have me here. And I’m sorry about that, but I’m a necessary evil and this will all go a lot more smoothly if we can work together. I’m not here to do your job. And despite what you probably think, I’m not a ball-buster. The sale’s gone through. It’s going to happen now, whether anyone likes it or not.’

I’m a little taken aback by his directness. Rory doesn’t look like a ball-buster, but clearly he’s no pushover either. I might not want him here but, as a Yorkshirewoman, I’ve at least got to admire his straightforwardness.

‘My job is to make the transition as easy as possible for both sides,’ he continues, ‘and that means being the go-between and trying to keep everyone happy. So I’d like it if you could see me as an ally instead of an adversary. Because I’m really not. An adversary, I mean. I don’t have any loyalty to Beach Vacations –’

‘Inc.,’ I add. Something about that really irks me. It sounds so impersonal. The hotel I worked for in New York City was also an Inc. And look at how that turned out.

‘Inc., right,’ he says. ‘They’re paying me to transition the hotel as smoothly as possible, and a transition can only be smooth when everyone is happy. So I’m really here to make you happy.’

Dammit. I can’t help returning his smile.

‘We’re going to be colleagues, only I’ve got the boss’s ear,’ he says. ‘That should be useful to you, right?’

It would be, if it’s true. ‘I do understand what you’re trying to do,’ I tell him honestly. ‘We’re just not big on change around here. Your landlady is the tip of the iceberg, believe me. The Colonel’s family hasn’t changed anything here in years, not even paint colour on the walls. The staff aren’t going to like it.’

When I say ‘staff’, it’s Chef who pops into my head. When Cadbury ditched the Bournvilles from the Heroes chocolate tub, he was apoplectic. Not only is he originally from Birmingham, home of the Bournville, but substituting Toblerone (Swiss!) was unpatriotic. When Cadbury then dared to change its recipe for the Creme Eggs, it was the last straw for him. Now there’s a total ban on their products at the hotel. He won’t even touch a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and they’re his favourite. We have to hear him grumble about it every Christmas.

‘I’m sorry, but there will be changes with the new owners,’ Rory says. ‘So will you at least let me try to help? The transition is happening. You may as well have me on your team.’

‘Is that what we are? A team?’

‘I hope so. Should we meet the rest of the team?’

‘Please stop saying team.’

‘I’m sorry. The company uses it a lot. As you’d imagine.’

We share a very British smile at the Americans’ expense.

But I’m not laughing after he’s told me everything. It’s bad enough that there’s a whole refit planned for the building. We’ll also be reapplying for our own jobs. Those are the jobs we’ve all been doing perfectly well for years! Like anyone else would want them anyway. Rory claims it’s just a formality because everyone will get new contracts, but I don’t like the idea of jumping through hoops for a job I’ve already got. It sounds like a lot of useless bureaucratic box-ticking to me.

I shrug. ‘Anyway, if it’s definitely happening then there’s no use grizzling about it. So how long will the hotel be closed while it’s being refurbished?’

‘The company isn’t keen to lose any income it doesn’t have to,’ he says, clearly relieved not to discuss my potential job loss anymore. ‘I wish we could close it, but we’ll have to zone the building works so they can be done away from where the guests will stay. It should be okay if we do it in stages. Your occupancy isn’t above thirty per cent anyway at this time of year.’

Of course. The company would have done its homework before the purchase. Rory probably knows more about this place than I do. ‘What about the residents?’ I ask. ‘Will they work around them?’

‘Like I said, we’ll just keep them away from the works. The company might authorise a discount on room rates. We’ll see.’

‘But won’t their rooms need redoing too? I guess we can put them up in guest rooms in the meantime.’

Rory looks confused. ‘Which rooms do you mean?’

‘The residents’ rooms.’ Am I not speaking English? ‘The hotel residents: Peter, Lill. The Colonel, Miracle?’ Best not bring Barry into it just now.

‘The Colonel has a lifetime tenancy, so his room won’t be affected. It’s written into the contract. The company isn’t refurbing it, though. I don’t know who the other people are?’

Oh really? Well, this is interesting. ‘You don’t know about the council agreement? Or Miracle’s arrangement?’ He definitely isn’t going to welcome this news. ‘They’ve all got tenancy agreements with us. With the hotel.’

Rory’s eyes widen. ‘You don’t mean they’re sitting tenants?’

Sitting tenants. Now there’s a phrase to strike fear into the heart of any new owner. I’m glad.

‘I wonder if the company knows,’ he says, looking worried. ‘They’ve only ever mentioned Colonel Bambury’s agreement.’

‘Maybe they don’t know what sitting tenants are, being American. They might not have them there.’ If not, the new owners are in for a shock. I happen to know that the ink is hardly dry on Miracle’s new tenancy agreement. Three years. And the council isn’t going to be keen on having to rehouse anyone with the way the government is squeezing their budgets.

‘Between you and me,’ says Rory, ‘it doesn’t sound like they did much due diligence before the purchase. Did anyone even come for a site visit?’

‘No, not that I know of,’ I tell him. ‘But who in their right mind would buy an entire hotel without seeing it first?’

Rory leans closer. ‘I probably shouldn’t mention this, but I’m not so sure they are in their right minds. It’s two brothers who own the company, and they don’t speak to each other. I’ve only had Skype calls with them, separately, of course, but from what I gather they’re pretty eccentric.’

‘When you say eccentric …’

‘They’re mad as a box of frogs. You’ll see.’

‘And these are our new owners? Perfect.’

‘At least if they didn’t bother coming over to see what they were buying, they probably won’t bother us much now after the fact. They seem to like to dictate from afar. Over Skype.’ He pulls a grimace. ‘You will let me help you navigate through all this, won’t you?’

‘It doesn’t sound like I’ve got much choice, given what might be ahead.’

‘That’s the spirit!’ He raises his hand for a high-five.

I’m sure I slap it harder than he’s expecting.

 

It’s late afternoon by the time we finish and I, for one, am exhausted. I never realised how much work I do till I had to explain it all to Rory. Hopefully that’ll count for something when I reapply for my own job.

‘What is that smell?’ Rory asks.

‘Oh, that’s the goat. It starts out a little pongy but ends up really nice.’

‘Do you serve a lot of goat at the hotel?’ A smirk is playing at the corners of his mouth. He seems to find a lot of things funny.

‘Only on Caribbean night.’ I push my chair back and stretch my back. We both hear the cracks of my spine. ‘Come on, you can meet Chef and Miracle. It’s her goat.’

‘Her…?’

‘Recipe. It’s her goat recipe. Not her goat.’

As if we’d let Miracle keep a goat in the hotel. We’re going to have enough trouble when Rory sees Barry.

Chef and Miracle aren’t alone in the dining room when we get there. Lill is sitting with them. She’s got her vape in one hand and a martini in the other.

‘She’s not smoking indoors, is she?’ Rory murmurs.

‘No, Mister Health and Safety.’ But I know why he’d think so. Lill’s vape looks like a twenties-style cigarette holder. It’s rarely out of her hand. ‘Just in time for drinkies!’ she cries when she sees us. ‘Oh, hello there.’

Rory’s greeting is friendly and polite, but I catch the look of confusion on his face.

I guess I’m so used to seeing Lill that her drag queeny false eyelashes, feather boas and white go-go boots aren’t such a shock. It’s not the boots, actually, that throws people. It’s the sight of her scrawny arms and legs in a vest and miniskirt. She looks like sixties Twiggy has spent way too long in the bath.

‘You’re the henchman,’ Chef says. Like Lill, he’s most comfortable in a vest. Unlike her, Chef’s vest is always white and sometimes stained, and he’s got tattoos all up his beefy arms. He’s left the Army, which may account for the slip in uniform standards, but his haircut is still regulation. And his manner is as exacting as his haircut.

‘Well, I’m only here to ensure a smooth transition,’ Rory explains.

‘Said the SS guard at the camp gate. Call it what you like. How long are you staying?’

‘Don’t be harsh on the bloke, Chef,’ I say. ‘He’s just doing his job.’

Rory smiles his thanks, though I’m not sure why I’m sticking up for him when he’s just told me I’ll have to apply for my own job. Maybe it’s because he seems like an alright person. Maybe because he’s the only buffer between us and our new owners.

‘Rosie tells me you’re making goat. It smells … good.’

Miracle’s laugh rings out across the dining room, and that’s saying something because the room is vast. In its heyday our hotel would regularly seat a hundred and fifty people for buffet lunches or fancy dinners. There are old black-and-white photos hung all around the hotel that I love to look at. ‘My, isn’t he a charming liar? No, it don’t smell good, petal, but it will. It will.’ Miracle’s chins nod for a few seconds after she stops. ‘My babies always brag about their mama’s goat curry,’ she says, wiping her hands on the bright-yellow apron that’s covering her batik-print dress. ‘They can’t get enough of it. All three begged for de recipe before they moved from home but they say I still make it better.’ She laughs again. ‘I say I do.’

‘You can’t beat a family recipe,’ Rory says. ‘And I know how your children feel. My dad was the cook in our house, and I’ve never been able to make his recipes as well either. There’s something about the way a parent makes it.’

‘It’s de love they put in,’ Miracle says. ‘Come along, boy, I’ll show you.’

‘I don’t want strangers in my kitchen,’ Chef barks.

‘Calm yourself, Chef,’ she says. ‘It’s not your kitchen today. As long as it’s my curry in there, it’s my kitchen.’ Ignoring Chef’s thunderous look, she hoists herself from the table. Then she leads Rory to the industrial kitchen, leaving Lill and I to smooth over Chef’s ruffled feathers.

Isn’t this fun?! If you would like to read the rest you can preorder a copy on Amazon US or Amazon UK

Review: The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin @Hoz_Books 


Goodreads|Amazon
Release date: August 10, 2017

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Genre: Thriller

Blurb:

When Caitlin moved from London to New York, she thought she had left her problems behind: her alcoholic father, her dead mother, the pressure to succeed. But now, down to her last dollar in a foreign city, she is desperately lonely.


Then she meets Jake. Handsome, smart, slightly damaged Jake. He lives off-grid, in a lakeside commune whose members practise regular exercise and frequent group therapy. Before long, Caitlin has settled into her idyllic new home.


It looks like she has found the fresh start she longed for. But, as the commune tightens its grip on her freedom and her sanity, Caitlin realizes too late that she might become lost forever… 

Review: 

I’ve had a long fascination with cults, it’s always so interesting to see why an average person would ever join one. Was it just because they were at a vulnerable time in their life? Were they targeted and stalked like a hunter circling their prey? And how were they roped in to a place where they have to cut off contact with the outside world? 

Caitlin was definitely in a tough time in her life and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her. She was fragile and very easily manipulated and cult leaders are generally very adept at spotting this and using it to their advantage. Don is the leader of the group Caitlin joins and she is instantly mesmerized and intrigued by him, he has a charisma that speaks to her. The cast of characters here were well drawn and complex with histories and backgrounds that made it easy to see why they were drawn to “The Group”.

This was a slow burn with a lot of psychological insight as group members all participate in both individual and group therapy sessions. The bulk of this novel focuses on Caitlin and her sessions and as human psych interests me, I liked it. Things do get intense the further you read, there is a sense of discomfort and uneasiness because you know sinister things are lurking just beneath the surface. If you like books that explore cults and the behavior of their members, this is a solid read.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy. 

#ThrowbackThursday You by Caroline Kepnes 


Goodreads|Amazon
Release date: June 16, 2015

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler

Genre: Thriller

Blurb:

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.


There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.


As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

Review:

I’m joining in again with Throwback Thursday which was created by my good friend Renee at It’s Book Talk. She started this weekly feature as a way to highlight old favorites and read books that have already been published. I have so many older books on my TBR that get ignored in favor of review copies and I figure participating in Throwback Thursday will help me to read at a least one older title a week! This week I chose You as it was highly recommended by many people and it won the poll I posted on Twitter haha. 

I have a confession to make. Sometimes when a book is super over hyped I refuse to read it just to be stubborn. Why? I don’t even know really, sometimes I think it’s because if I wind up hating it I’ll just be irritated that I gave in. Or maybe it’s because I like knowing I have a highly recommended book in my TBR to look forward to. So that’s why I’ve avoided You for the past two years but I finally felt like it was time for me to see what all of the fuss was about and I’m really glad I quit being so damn stubborn and gave in.

Joe has one of the most oddly unique and powerfully strong voices I’ve ever read. It’s told in the second person as he is speaking directly to the object of his obsession, Beck which gave this such an intimate feeling. He rants, raves and rambles incessantly but it really works well here. It also gives you an extremely in depth look into the mind of a sick and deranged individual, so why in the hell did I like Joe so much?! I really did, despite his many flaws I enjoyed him and was kind of charmed by him even though it creeps me out just typing that. He captivated me and I couldn’t wait to see what he would do or think or say next. 

This is a super dark tale of obsession and manipulation that had me feeling uneasy and nervous the entire time. The creepiness level is at an all time high, some of the lengths Joe will go to are downright disturbing. It is sexually explicit with strong language, just a heads up for people that may not like that. But it’s also insanely well written and has an almost hypnotizing style, it’s honestly not like anything I’ve ever read before. I’ll be picking up the sequel, Hidden Bodies very soon!

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Blog Tour: Wedding Bells at Butterfly Cove by Sarah Bennett @Sarahlou_writes @NeverlandBT

Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon UK

Release date: July 13, 2017

Publisher: HQ Digital

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit

Blurb:

 A second chance by the sea?
When Kiki Jackson’s marriage falls to pieces, there’s only one place that she knows she can escape to – her sister’s little guesthouse in Butterfly Cove.

But she’s worried that turning up on bride-to-be Mia’s doorstep, especially with her two adorable children in tow, will spoil her sister’s imminent wedding plans!

Luckily, handsome neighbour Aaron Spenser offers to share his new cottage with Kiki until she’s back on her feet. And as the wedding draws closer, Kiki realises that Butterfly Cove may be offering her little family more than just a new home…

Maybe this is where her new life begins…?

An uplifting and heartwarming read, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley, Rachael Lucas and Hilary Boyd
 
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Wedding Bells at Butterfly Cove!


Review:

I was really craving a lighthearted, fun read when I picked this book up and had a feeling this would hit the spot. I was totally right, it was sweet, charming and so romantic!

This is the second book in a series but can easily be read as a standalone. I didn’t have a chance to read the first book and Bennett filled in the blanks for me beautifully. Butterfly Cove is one of those magical, enchanting settings that make you wish you were there with the characters. 

The characters themselves were all so lovely, some of them are related so there’s a great family bond and some are friends that are as close as family. Kiki is such a dear woman, I really felt for her, she’s had such a rough time in an awful marriage. But despite her struggles she’s an amazing mother and I loved the bond between her and her two adorable children. Aaron was the kindest, gentlest man, I just adored him. While they definitely had an instantaneous chemistry, there was no instant love, which always makes me happy and just makes things so much more realistic. 

If you’re looking for a happy, feel good read with a gorgeous, quaint setting, this is it! There is another book in this delightful series (a Christmas one!!!) coming out in October so you have plenty of time to catch up. 

Overall rating: 4/5

About the Author:

Sarah Bennett has been reading for as long as she can remember. Raised in a family of bookworms, her love affair with books of all genres has culminated in the ultimate Happy Ever After – getting to write her own stories to share with others.
 
Born and raised in a military family, she is happily married to her own Officer (who is sometimes even A Gentleman). Home is wherever he lays his hat, and life has taught them both that the best family is the one you create from friends as well as relatives.
 
When not reading or writing, Sarah is a devotee of afternoon naps and sailing the high seas, but only on vessels large enough to accommodate a casino and a choice of restaurants.
 

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Review: The Address by Fiona Davis @FionaJDavis @DuttonBooks


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Release date: August 1, 2017

Publisher: Dutton Books

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse, returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota, New York City’s most famous residence. 


After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children. 


In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island. 


One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head. 


With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives –and lies–of the beating hearts within. 

Review: 

Last summer I had the pleasure of reading Davis’ debut, The Dollhouse and I was so impressed. I was never a huge fan of historical fiction before I read her books and I have her to thank for opening my eyes to yet another amazing genre. I’ve read so much more HF this past year and I don’t know if I would’ve without reading The Dollhouse, so thanks Fiona Davis for expanding my world!

Having been such a fan of her debut I had that nervous feeling I always feel when I’m about to read an authors sophmore book. Well, I shouldn’t have worried at all, I ended up liking this one even more than her first, it was mesmerizing, full of detailed historical descriptions, an amazing setting and two characters that I fully connected with.

This is told using dual narratives set one hundred years apart. Sara is a thirty year old woman who moves from England to New York for a job opportunity in 1884 and Bailey is also thirty and living in NYC in 1985. Both of the timelines were equally fascinating for me, they were both mainly set in the famed Dakota Apartments and Davis truly brought this wonderful setting to life. Most of the book was historically accurate and the liberties she took fictionally were perfectly executed. I really felt like I was beside both women in the Dakota, it was such an immersive, engrossing setting.

Sara and Bailey had many similarities despite being from two completely different worlds. They both have struggles and difficulties to overcome and I was rooting for them the whole way. I found myself sympathizing easily with both of them and couldn’t wait to find out what would wind up happening with their lives.

This is one of those books that will truly sweep you away to another time, there is such a strong sense of place that really worked well for me. While this isn’t a traditional mystery there were some surprises along the way that add another layer to the wonderful plot. If you loved The Dollhouse you’ll like this one as well, and if you haven’t read it but enjoy HF what are you waiting for?!

Overall rating: 5/5

#CoverReveal Broken Bones by Angela Marsons @WriteAngie @bookouture

Happy Monday everyone! I have another super exciting cover reveal to share today. The seventh book in Marsons amazing Kim Stone series is called Broken Bones. I’ll be sharing the cover, but I have an extra treat as well, the prologue! 
Blurb:

 

 They thought they were safe. They were wrong.


The murder of a young prostitute and a baby found abandoned on the same winter night signals the start of a disturbing investigation for Detective Kim Stone – one which brings her face to face with someone from her own horrific childhood.


As three more sex workers are murdered in quick succession, each death more violent than the last, Kim and her team realise that the initial killing was no one-off frenzied attack, but a twisted serial killer preying on the vulnerable.


At the same time, the search begins for the desperate woman who left her newborn baby at the station – but what looks like a tragic abandonment turns even more sinister when a case of modern slavery is uncovered.


The two investigations bring the team into a terrifying world of human exploitation and cruelty – and a showdown that puts Kim’s life at risk as shocking secrets from her own past come to light.

A gripping new crime thriller from the Number One bestseller – you will be hooked until the final jaw-dropping twist.

 Doesn’t this sound fantastic?! It’s out on November 3 but you can preorder on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Here’s a sneak peek at the book.
PROLOGUE

 

Black Country

Christmas Day

   

    Elaine Goddard sat on the roof of the thirteen storey block of flats. The winter sun shone a grid on to her bare feet dangling over the edge.  

    The protective grate had been erected some years ago after a father of seven had thrown himself over.

    By the time she was eleven she had stolen a pair of wire cutters and fashioned herself an access point to the narrow ledge that was her place of reflection.

    From this vantage point she could look to the beauty of the Clent Hills in the distance, block out the dank, grubby reality of below.

    Hollytree was the place you were sent if Hell was having a spring clean.

    Problem families from the entire West Midlands were evicted from other estates and placed in Hollytree. It was displacement capital. Communities around the borough breathed sighs of relief as families were evicted. No-one cared where they went. It was enough that they were gone and one more ingredient was added to the melting pot.

    There was a clear perimeter around the estate over which the police rarely crossed. It was a place where the rapists, child molesters, thieves and ASBO families were put together in one major arena. And then guarded by police from the outside.

    But today a peace settled around the estate giving the illusion that the normal activities of robbing, raping and molesting were on pause because it was Christmas Day. That was bollocks. It was all still going on but to the backdrop of the Queens speech.

    Her mother was still slurring her way around the cheerless flat with a bottle of Gin in her hand.

    But at least Elaine had this. Her one piece of heaven. Always her safe place. Her escape.

    She had disappeared unnoticed up here when she was seven years old and her mother had been falling all over the flat pissed as a fart.  

    How lucky was she to have been the only one of the four kids her mother had been allowed to keep?

    She had escaped up here when her mother’s drinking partner, Roddy, had started pawing at her groin and slobbering into her hair. Her mother had pulled him off, angrily, shouting something about ruining her retirement plan. She hadn’t understood it when she was nine years old but she had come to understand it now.

    She had cried up here on her sixteenth birthday when her mother had introduced her to the family business and to their pimp, Kai Lord.

    She’d been up here two months earlier when he had finally found her.

    And she’d been up here when she’d told him to fuck right off.

    She didn’t want to be saved. It was too late.

    Sixteen years of age and already it was too damn late.

    Many times she had fantasised about how it would feel to lurch forward onto the wind. She had envisioned herself floating to and fro gently making the journey like a stray pigeon feather all the way to the ground. Had imagined the feeling of weightlessness of both her body and her mind.  

    Elaine took a deep breath and exhaled.  

    In just a few minutes it would be time to go to work. Heavy rain, sleet, snow, Christmas – nothing kept the punters away. Trade might be slow but it would still be there. It always was.

    She didn’t hear the roof door open or the footsteps that slowly strode towards her.

    She didn’t see the hand that pushed her forward.

    She only saw the ground as it hurtled towards her.

Well I don’t know about you but I cannot wait to read the rest!

 And now the cover!!


About the Author: 


Angela Marsons is the author of the Amazon Bestselling DI Kim Stone series – Silent Scream, Evil Games, Lost Girls, Play Dead, Blood Lines, Dead Souls and now Broken Bones. Her books have sold more than 2 million in 2 years.
She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their cheeky Golden Retriever and a swearing parrot.
She first discovered her love of writing at Junior School when actual lessons came second to watching other people and quietly making up her own stories about them. Her report card invariably read “Angela would do well if she minded her own business as well as she minds other people’s”.
After years of writing relationship based stories (The Forgotten Woman and Dear Mother) Angela turned to Crime, fictionally speaking of course, and developed a character that refused to go away.
She is signed to Bookouture.com for a total of 16 books in the Kim Stone series and her books have been translated into more than 20 languages.
Her last two books – Blood Lines and Dead Souls – reached the #1 spot on Amazon on pre-orders alone.

 

 Website|Facebook|Twitter

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly post to share what you recently finished reading, what you’re currently reading, and what you plan on reading this week. It’s hosted by Kathryn at Bookdate.

What I Read Last Week: 


Emerald Coast was a fun, sexy beachy read.

At Wave’s End was another beachy read but this one had some depth and heart.

My favorite book of the year thus far and one of the reviews I’m the most proud of, The Good Daughter. I know you guys are probably sick of me gushing over this book/author, but I have to share one more thing. She said my review made her day AND she’s now following me on Twitter!!! I couldn’t be happier, all my book blogging dreams have now come true hahaha. Now if I can just get Harlan Coben’s attention…


Little Gray Dress was fun and sassy debut.

My throwback Thursday pick was Still Missing, awesome thriller!

The Girls in the Water is the first book in an exciting new series.

Emma in the Night was a good thriller with a heavy emphasis on psychology.


If You Could See Me Now was a really fun, quirky read. 
Currently Reading: 


Up Next: 


I’m having trouble deciding on my Throwback Thursday read this week, should I read Dark Matter or You or Find Her? I’ve heard great things about all of them and can’t chose so help please?!

How was your week? 

Review: Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber @katelizabee


Goodreads|Amazon|Author Website
Release date: August 1, 2017

Publisher: Gallery Books

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.


The only thing more dangerous than a lie…is the truth.


Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father’s murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay. The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.


When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future. 

Review: 

Well guys, it’s time for me to officially topple your summer reading list. Sorry, but I’m not sorry! (Not even a little bit, haha) Are You Sleeping is a perfect addition to your TBR, it’s compulsive, engrossing and highly addictive, I loved it!

Two things that always catch my eye in a thriller is sister or twin relationships and a cold case and this gem had both. Josie and Lanie have an extremely complex relationship and haven’t seen or talked to each other in ten years. Both were the kind of character that can frustrate the hell out of you on one page and then the next they’re tugging on your heartstrings. That sense of unease and uncertainty really added to this tale of lies and betrayals. The girls moved in with their Aunt A and cousin Ellen after their father was killed and I really liked Ellen. She’s kind of bossy and overbearing, but she has a huge heart and was super endearing. 

My favorite thing about this book was how engaging it was, there is something about Barber’s writing style that just hooked me. There is a great social media addition in the form of podcast excerpts, Reddit threads and updates from Twitter and Facebook feeds that added something really unique and current. If you’ve read Six Stories there is a similarity but not completely the same, this one easily stands on its own feet.

This was one of those reads where I kept thinking I had things all figured out and then Barber would throw in a new twist to shake things up. Ultimately, I did have some aspects worked out but it absolutely did not take away from my enjoyment of this highly entertaining read. This would be perfect for readers who don’t like graphic violence, it’s on the lighter side and has very few truly dark moments, but it’s still very compelling. Pack this one in your bag next time you’re going on vacation, I think it would be ideal! 

Overall rating: 4/5 

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy. 

Blog Tour: If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton @Keris @bookouture


Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon UK
Release date: August 4, 2017

Publisher: Bookouture 

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Blurb:

 

Izzy Harris should have it all – but her boyfriend has been ignoring her for months, she’s been overlooked for a promotion, and the owner of her local coffee shop pervs on her every time she has a craving for a salted caramel muffin.


Then her life is unexpectedly turned upside down.


Izzy dumps her oblivious boyfriend, and leaps on the chance to win a big pitch at work. Needing to work closely with gorgeous colleague Alex is an added perk…


But then her best friend has her heart broken, the pitch is way more complicated than expected, and Alex is keeping secrets. Does Izzy have what it takes to help her friend, save her career and get the guy?


A funny, feel-good read about finding yourself – and love – when you least expect it, for fans of Joanna Bolouri, Cate Woods, and Lindsey Kelk.

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for If You Could See Me Now!


Review:

What an absolutely fun read this turned out to be! It was different than what I was expecting, but I mean that in a good way. Without spoiling it, it gave me a Kitty French/Chapelwick series vibe and had a touch of magical realism that worked really well for me. It was highly original in both the concept and the characterization, I cannot wait to read more from Keris Stainton. 

Izzy was such a fabulous character, she went through quite the transformation throughout the book and I was rooting for her the whole time. She’s been a bit of a doormat her entire life and lets people walk all over her until something kind of crazy happens to her. Her best friend Tash was also fantastic, she’s naughty and sassy and the perfect balance to Izzy’s more subdued personality. When they were together they had me laughing so hard, there were SO many hilarious scenes in this book.

I loved the positivity throughout the book, it was super uplifting and lighthearted but it still had a powerful message of female empowerment that had me nodding my head in solidarity. It’s a little risqué but in a wickedly funny way and while there was definitely romance, the entirety of the plot did not hinge on that aspect which was great! If you’re looking for an original, easy weekend/vacation read this is it. 

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy. 

About the Author:



 

 

 

 

 Keris lives in Lancashire with her husband and two sons. She’s written a bunch of books for young adults and children, and is obsessed with Twitter, tea, and 1D.

Website

Review: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker 

Goodreads|Amazon
Release date: August 8, 2017

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…


One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime. 

Review: 

This is told using dual narratives, it alternates between Cass who disappeared three years ago and shows up suddenly at home and also from Abby, the psychiatrist that has been working the case since Cass and her sister Emma vanished. I especially enjoyed the chapters from Abby’s point of view as a psychological insight fascinates me and there is much to explore in Cass and her complicated family. It chronicles the days immediately following Cass return as Abby and the FBI try to uncover where exactly Cass has been and where Emma is now. There are SO many questions and layers to this insane mystery, it’s a constant guessing game and then second guessing that had me on the edge of my seat.

While I liked the pacing and it definitely held my attention, the process of learning the details of Cass three year disappearance was sometimes painstakingly slow. Oddly enough, I was still totally captivated by this dark tale of a twisted family and their bizarre dynamics. It really was an intoxicating read for me, but if you don’t like your psychological thrillers with a heavy dose of psychology, this could be a frustrating read. 

This is full of unlikable characters and unreliability, but each character was extremely well drawn. The writing was strong and smart and the plot was very well thought out and executed. While there were some twists early on, towards the end there were an onslaught of turns that left me reeling, I especially liked the ending. If you like thrillers with an insight into the human psyche, check this one out. 

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.