Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Café
Molly Hooper has a secret. It haunts her dreams and casts a dark shadow over life with her gorgeous three-year-old daughter, Eva. Arriving in Sunnybrook has given her a glimpse of sunshine. The Little Duck Pond Cafe crew seem so welcoming and there’s even the chance of a new job. Baking delicious cakes has always taken Molly to a happy place, so the job – at the glorious Brambleberry Manor Cafe – might just be perfect for her. It would mean she and little Eva could finally put down some roots at last. But is Sunnybrook the sanctuary Molly is searching for? Or will the past come back to haunt her, wherever she hides?
Thank you to Rachel for my invitation to the tour and for my copy of the e book in return for a fair and honest review.
This was my second trip to The Duck Pond Cafe and I was looking forward to revisiting.
This story focuses on Molly and on her first day at work at Brambleberry Manor cafe she has an unexpected encounter with Matt, who begins to make Molly feel scared at her feelings towards him.
Eva is Molly’s daughter and she is her main concern in life and is not looking for anyone else. Unfortunately for Molly her creepy landlord Jaxon has other ideas. Molly is not opposed to taking on bullies either.
I am finding reading a struggle at the moment but I found Rosie’s book a real treat, easy to read and I liked getting to know Molly and her colleagues at the cafe, apart from Patrina !
It is real antidote to life at the moment with the importance of kindness being at the heart of the story something we all need particularly at the moment. A lovely happy read.
Author Bio –
Rosie has been scribbling stories ever since she was little.
Back then, they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’.
Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all – unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.
Rosie’s series of novellas is centred around life in a village cafe. The latest, ‘A Winter Wedding at the Little Duck Pond Cafe’, is out now.
Rosie has also written a full-length, standalone book, ‘Snowflakes over Moondance Cottage’, out now.
Two women. Connected by heartbreak, separated in time. Can Charity save the man she loves, or will Lydia’s vengeful spirit prove too strong?
Two haunting love stories and a hundred and fifty-year-old curse …
When the beloved grandfather who brought her up dies, Charity is left struggling to cope. Alone and rootless, she’s drawn to the sleepy fishing village of Beaumouth near Lyme Regis and begins to research her family tree. A chance encounter with attractive boat-builder Matt sparks a chain of mysterious and unsettling events and leads Charity to uncover the story of a young girl who lived in the village over a hundred years before.
In 1863 all Lydia Pavey wants to do is follow in Mary Anning’s footsteps and become a ‘fossilist.’ Instead, she is being forced into marriage to a man she barely knows.
Charity’s obsession with Lydia becomes all-consuming and she risks losing everything. With a longed-for family tantalisingly in reach, will Charity find the happy ever after she’s yearned for and, most importantly, can she save the man she loves?
Thank you to Rachel for my invitation to the tour and copy of the e book in return for a fair and honest review.
Charity has recently lost her Grandad Samuel who she lived with and cared for. Trying to get over her grief she heads to Lyme Regis where she knows her Grandad’s family originated from. She knows there was a reason her Grandad did not like the area but had no idea what she is about to uncover.
She meets Matt a local boat builder on the beach and feels an instant connection and she starts to discover more about her Grandy from local historian John Upton.
Her family and the town has a tragic past and she begins to experience some strange occurrences.
I really enjoyed this book and the two time lines and the setting as I come from Devon and enjoyed the local places names references and this added to the experience.
I also really liked the local history story-line and the supernatural element and there are some good twists and turns. A really enjoyable read.
Author Bio –
Georgia Hill writes best-selling romcoms and historical fiction with romance at the heart. Although she writes in two genres, they have more in common than you might think; she puts serious issues into her romcoms and lots of humour into her historical novels. She lives by the sea in the south west of England with her two beloved dogs – a spaniel and a delinquent cockapoo puppy, her husband (also beloved and not at all delinquent) and a ghost called Zoe. She loves Jane Austen, elephants, Belgian chocolate (all donations gratefully received) and Strictly Come Dancing.
Her stories come from everywhere and anything, so be careful what you tell her as you may end up in a book. She also finds inspiration in the folklore and history of the many places in which she’s lived. To put it politely, she’s had a portfolio career having worked in the theatre, for a charity and as a teacher and educational consultant before giving in and finally acknowledging that making up things was what she really wanted to do. She has a nasty addiction to moving house but is trying to overcome this.
After one house move too many, she lost all her notebooks and decided to stop talking about writing and actually do some. She’s been happily creating believably flawed heroines, intriguing men and page-turning stories ever since.
Giveaway to Win PBs of On a Falling Tide and While I was Waiting. (Open to UK & Ireland)
*Terms and Conditions –UK & Ireland entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
Kate Forster lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, two children and dogs and can be found nursing a laptop, surrounded by magazines and talking on the phone, usually all at once. She is an avid follower of fashion, fame and all things pop culture and is also an excellent dinner party guest who always brings gossip and champagne.
About the book
Buying a thatched cottage in the country may not be the usual cure for a broken heart. But after Clara Maxwell finds out her boyfriend and best friend have been sneaking around behind her back, packing her bags and leaving everything in London behind feels like it’s the only way forward.
Clara knew Acorn Cottage would be a fixer-upper… Yet in person, the cottage is less charmingly ramshackle and more a real health and safety concern. When Henry Garnett, her (rather handsome) new contractor, turns up with his little daughter Pansy and a van shaped like a cottage in tow, she isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. What on earth has she gotten herself into?!
Still, there is something strangely lovable about the people in the little village of Merryknowe, from Rachel Brown, the quiet, lonely girl who bakes magical confections for the tearooms, to Tassie McIver, a little old lady with a lot of wisdom and a penchant for reading tea leaves. And Clara can’t deny that Henry and Pansy are quickly worming their way into her heart…
With all the heartbreak of the year behind her, could Acorn Cottage be the fresh start Clara so desperately wants?
Today I am sharing an extract from this lovely book, Thank you to Vicky Joss at Aria Fiction for my invitation to the tour.
For three months Judy had been telling Clara to leave Giles after she confided that she would have liked more connection, more conversation and now she knew why. Judas was getting Giles’s love and Clara had the privilege of cooking him dinner.
And that was ultimately how she found out.
She’d found her Tupperware container – the one she had filled with cottage pie and given Giles for his ‘weekend away with the lads’ – at Judy’s house. It wasn’t any old Tupperware container. It had her name underneath it, written in marker, with the orange lid and a tiny burn mark on the corner of it from once being too close to the hotplate. Judy had never cooked a cottage pie in her life; her hapless on and off boyfriend, Petey, did everything for her.
Clara had found the evidence in Judy’s kitchen while looking for a bowl for nuts, and she had wanted to put Giles’s nuts in the container there and then.
‘Why is this here?’ she’d asked Giles and Judy and Petey at their monthly Food of the World Dinner. The dinners had started as a joke when Clara had received a sushi making kit from Giles and she made so much sushi that she had to invite Judy and whatever boyfriend she had at the time to eat it. The dinner turned into a thing and now they were eating their way around the world. Except that night was Italian, which Judy always resorted to when she was lazy or pressed for time, which was often. Clara knew the lasagne was a store-bought one, shoved into a glass lasagne dish that she knew was hers and Judy hadn’t yet returned. Judy seemed to have a habit of doing that. Clara had waved the Tupperware container at the audience eating their soggy dinner.
‘You said you took this to Cornwall,’ Clara had said to Giles.
‘I did,’ Giles had answered but she saw the red flush rise up his neck that was his tell when they played Scrabble and he had a good word.
‘But you didn’t because it’s here,’ she’d said calmly. ‘You were on the lads’ weekend last month, and Petey, where were you on the weekend of the 5th?’ She was starting to feel like Hercule Poirot but in a less smug way and more of a ‘my boyfriend is cheating’ way.
Petey had looked worried. ‘I was at a conference in Guilford.’ He had turned to Judy. ‘You said you couldn’t come because you had to help Clara with cleaning out her mum’s house. You told me how messy the house was when I came back, and that Clara’s mum must have been off her rocker from the medication.’
Clara had gasped at this comment because while Lillian, her mother, was off her rocker from the morphine for the cancer, only Clara could say so about her mother and she was furious that Judy had used her in her lies.
Sure, maybe her mother was a little strange with her organic composting and worm farm and the papier mâché seed pod coffin she was making for her own funeral but only Clara had the right to say that. Now her mother was gone, so the betrayal of Giles and Judy was even more painful.
‘You used my dead mother in your lies?’ she had asked Judy. This was worse than the betrayal of cheating with her boyfriend. Judy knew what her mum had meant to her, and while her best friend didn’t know everything about her mum she knew more than most, even more than Giles.
Giles hadn’t said a word, and then Petey had taken on the role of Poirot.
‘So, you didn’t help Clara then, Judy? What did you do?’ Petey’s mouth had opened and shut like a fish gasping for water.
Clara had lost her temper then.
‘Oh, do catch up, Petey, she and Giles are having an affair, and eating my cottage pie, and lying to us both,’ she had yelled.
And she had seen Giles’s hand reach across the table to Judy’s, who had smiled at him in a sickening manner.
‘We’re in love,’ he had said to her as though she was missing out on something wonderful, and that was when she had thrown the breadstick from the table at him, knocking over the wine, knocking over the candle, which set fire to the whole evening. She left with her Tupperware and what little of her dignity was in the bottom of the container.
‘Who am I? Why am I here? Why did my mother give me away?’
On the surface, Luke and his girlfriend Hannah seem to have a perfect life. He’s an A&R man, she’s an arts correspondent and they are devoted to their new-born son Samuel.
But beneath the gloss Luke has always felt like an outsider. So when he finds his birth mother Alice, the instant connection with her is a little like falling in love.
When Hannah goes back to work, Luke asks Alice to look after their son. But Alice – fuelled with grief from when her baby was taken from her 27 years ago – starts to fall in love with Samuel. And Luke won’t settle for his mother pushing him aside once again…
Thank you to Tracy Fenton for my invitation to the tour and to Clare for copy of the book. This was a book that I was quickly engrossed in.
The story begins with Luke meeting Alice his birth mother, he has recently become a father and has had a strained relationship with his adoptive mother Christina. He quickly become entwined with Alice and his father the famous artist Richard Fields.
The book switches between the present day perspective from Luke and Alice retelling her story in the 1970’s.
I do not want to give anymore of the story away, but the book is written in a really compassionate voice for Luke and Alice who have both been deeply affected by Alice’s decison to give Luke up as a baby.
It was heartbreaking to read at times and I can not imagine what it must feel like to give a child up for adoption. Clare deals with this traumatic and life changing event in a sensitive way and you will need to keep reading to reach the conclusion.
It is a book about family dynamics, relationships, love and loss and I really enjoyed Alice’s story set in the 70’s art world a really great read.’
About the author
Clare Empson worked as a staff writer on national newspapers covering everything from collapsing merchant banks to tea with the late Barbara Cartland (everything pink including the cakes). Eight years ago, she moved to the West Country and founded the arts and lifestyle blog countrycalling.co.uk.
The idyllic setting inspired her first novel, which reveals the darker side of paradise. Clare lives on the Wiltshire/Dorset border with her husband and three children.
HOW CAN A MEMORY SO VIVID BE WRONG? In the summer of 1986 Robin and Izzie hold hands under The Faerie Tree and wish for a future together. Within hours tragedy rips their dreams apart.
In the winter of 2006, each carrying their own burden of grief, they stumble back into each other’s lives and try to create a second chance. But why are their memories of 1986 so different? And which one of them is right?
With strong themes of memory, love and grief, The Faerie Tree is a novel as gripping and unputdownable as Jane Cables first book, The Cheesemaker’s House, which won the Suspense & Crime category of The Alan Titchmarsh Shows Peoples Novelist competition. It is a story that will resonate with fans of romance, suspense, and folklore.
Giveaway to Win PB copies of The Faerie Tree and The Cheesemaker’s House (UK Only)
*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
This is a tender love story of Robin and Izzie, who are in love but a sudden loss means everything changes.
The book begins with Izzie preparing for the first Christmas without her husband Connor she is out shopping with her daughter Claire and she comes face to face with her past.
The story is then told from the perspectives of Izzie and Robin. Robin suffers a tragedy in his life and Izzie is there for him but things quickly begin to go wrong. The story then continues with Robin taking off and ends up in Cornwall and ends up living with Megan in Newquay but this is not to last. Robin still loves Izzie but is grieving for his mother. Izzie looks for Robin again but cannot find him and Claire urges her not to give up and she locates him in hospital.
I enjoyed the book and enjoyed the slower pace of the writing, it was calming. It is sad but also hopeful at times and addresses both mental health and homelessness in an empathetic way. The author is compassionate in her writing of Robin’s story and it really made me think about the stories of the homeless population.
Izzie is also suffering loss but also confusion to why Robin left so suddenly. The Fairie tree is central to the story and I liked the magical aspect of the story, it was unusual and Robin is a kind and sensitive soul and it was hard to read some of the turmoil he has to endure.
A love story with a difference that I really enjoyed. Thank you to Rachel at @rararesources for my invitation to the tour and to Jane for my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.
Author Bio –
Jane Cable writes romantic fiction with the over-riding theme that the past is never dead. She published her first two books independently (the multi award winning The Cheesemaker’s House and The Faerie Tree) and is now signed by Sapere Books. Two years ago she moved to Cornwall to concentrate on her writing full time, but struggles a little in such a beautiful location. Luckily she’s discovered the joys of the plot walk.
Jo’s world is about to change forever, and it’s about time
Her marriage is on auto-pilot, daughter hates her, job sucks and it’s not even Tuesday.
As Jo’s life implodes, a freak event hurls her back to ‘90s Los Angeles where, in a parallel universe, she’s about to hit the big time as a rock star.
Jo has to choose between her dreams and her family in an adventure that propels her from London to Hollywood then Glastonbury, the world’s greatest music festival.
Jo encounters a disgraced guru, a movie star with a fetish for double-decker buses, and the biggest pop star in the world… who just happens to want to kill her.
Back to Reality is a funny, heartwarming story about second chances, with a heroine to rival Bridget Jones and the rock n roll nostalgia of Keith A Pearson.
The novel from the Bestseller Experiment podcast presenters Mark Stay and Mark Desvaux. The Two Marks went to more gigs in the ’90s than in any other decade and are currently working on a time machine to see Prince in concert.
Praise for Back to Reality:
“Like if Nick Hornby wrote a time travel, body swap adventure!”—New York Times bestselling author Mimi Strong
“Everything the world loves about British comedy. For those who wished Simon Pegg wrote novels, you now have the Two Marks.”—USA Today bestselling author Shannon Mayer
“Written with an authentic touch and plenty of good humour. A tough book to put down.”—Mark Dawson, USA Today bestselling author of the million-selling John Milton series
“A compelling story where the comedy compliments the drama and keeps you turning the page… A delight.”—Bestselling author of The Dublin Trilogy, Caimh McDonnell
“I LOVE IT! It’s Back to the Future meets Freaky Friday.”—#1 Kindle bestselling author of Hot Mess, Lucy Vine
“Crackles with all the addictive energy of a pop hit, and the heart of a soul classic.”—Samantha King, bestselling author of The Choice
“Like a book version of Hot Tub Time Machine with fabulous female characters and great music.”—Kate Harrison, author of the bestselling 5:2 series
“If you love time travel and rock and roll, you’ll love this book!”—Julie Cohen, author of Together
“Sliding Doors meets Back to the Future in a story to make you sing with joy.”—Karen Ball, Speckled Pen
“A magnificent book! Loved every page. Beautifully written.”—Callan McAuliffe, actor The Walking Dead
What Amazon readers are saying:
★★★★★ ‘A real page-turner overflowing with humour.’
★★★★★ ‘All kinds of funny, from laugh out loud to quiet snorts of recognition.’
★★★★★ ‘I miss the characters so much I think I’ll start reading it again!’
★★★★★ ‘Pure pleasure to read. You won’t put it down until you reach the last page.’
★★★★★ ‘An absolutely cracking read. It’s funny, it’s clever, it’s heartwarming, and completely impossible to put down.’
★★★★★ ‘It’s —Spinal Tap meets —Back to the Future meets —Freaky Friday.’
★★★★★ ‘Funny, fast and massively entertaining. Hugely recommend.’
★★★★★ ‘—Back To Reality has it all; It’s funny, it’s thrilling, its thought-provoking and inspiring, but be warned, once you start reading this book you won’t want to put it down.’
★★★★★ ‘Think —Peggy Sue Got Married meets MTV. Funny and warmhearted. Highly Recommended.’
★★★★★ ‘This book reads like the best comedy movies. Great pace, humour
Thank you to Heather Fitt for my invitation to the tour and for my copy of the audio book via audible in return for a fair and honest review.
I have to admit that when I started to listen to this book I was not sure I would like it, however I was wrong, its funny, quirky and I really enjoyed it.
Jo is married and in a blink of eye everything goes badly wrong, her life is in ruins. She has fallen out with her daughter, she finds out her husband has been having an affair and then she finds her self in the body of her 24 year old other self Johanna. Yes, I agree it does sound a little out there but bear with me.
Johnanna is an up and coming star and she finds herself in limbo after swapping bodies with 42 year old Jo and enlists the help of Frederica her foster mother and her guru from the states Aronavich.
It’s a story about starting again, about life not turning out the way you thought it may and about realising your dreams eventually.
There are several really laugh out loud bits in this book and it gets quite tense when you realise that the swap needs to be reversed or it will have huge repercussions for both Jo and Johanna.
The Glastonbury scenes are hilarious and I for one was pleased to see Diamond get her comeuppance.
A really different but entertaining book !
About the authors
Mark Stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival.
Author of the fantasy novel The End of Magic, he is also co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com Mark Desvaux writes fiction as Mark Oliver.
He also authors inspirational non-fiction and online courses, and is a professional speaker in the fields of self-development and spiritual growth. He is chairman and co-founder of the charity Foodshare.
As a bestselling recording artist (Urban Myth Club), Mark’s two critically-acclaimed albums have led to appearances at festivals such as Glastonbury (which he tries to mention on every podcast). He lives on Vancouver Island with his family, surrounded by the beautiful mountains and seas, with chickens, bees and very tall trees.
Thank you to Sriya at Penguin Random House for my invitation to the tour and my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.
Eve is married to Eric, they have 3 children Poppy, Sorrell and Ash.
Melissa has a perfect life on the outside married to Paul and has a daughter Izzy.Then there is Grace married to Martin and they have two children Charley and Blake. Grace is fed up with her life and wants to escape. Three couples all brought together by Eve teaching some of their children who are dyslexic.
The story is written from the perspectives of the 3 women and also from the children.I really enjoyed this book, it is a lot darker than I had first anticipated and there are some huge twists which really took me by surprise. I really don’t want to give any spoilers but what I would say is that do not take anything on face value. Everything on the outside seems perfectly normal but it really is far from the truth.
I loved the fast pace and the secrets and the hidden darkness that appears. If you enjoyed Big Little Lies you will love this.
About the author
While working as a GP, Jane Shemilt completed a postgraduate diploma in Creative Writing at Bristol University and went on to study for the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa, gaining both with distinction. Her first novel, Daughter, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, shortlisted for the Edgar Award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and went on to become the bestselling debut novel of 2014. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol.
The drinks are flowing. The music is playing. But the party can’t last.
With the Blitz over and London reeling from war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Fresh off the Empire Windrush, he’s taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door.
Touring Soho’s music halls by night, pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until, one morning, he makes a terrible discovery.
As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And, before long, the newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart.
Atmospheric, poignant and compelling, Louise Hare’s debut shows that new arrivals have always been the prime suspects. But, also, that there is always hope.
Thank you to Sian at HQ for my invitation to the tour and for my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.
Lawrie has arrived in London from Jamacia he works at night as a musician and by day as a postman. One day he is out delivering the post when he makes an awful discovery. Lawrie is taken to the police station where he is interrogated as they think he is connected with the discovery. It doesn’t end there and the story highlights the struggles with racism that the new arrivals off The Windrush experienced. Also how they became suspects of crime just because of their colour.
I loved this book the author sets the scene of 1950’s London so evocatively you almost feel as if you are there.
I loved the two main characters Lawrie and Evie and their love for each other. It was difficult to read at times, what would have been the normal treatment of people of colour at this time.
Lawrie is really hardworking and he loves Evie who is also mixed race and has been brought up by her mother. Lawrie desperately wants to make England his home.
The book has a real sense of place and family and it really draws you in with the atmosphere and setting. It is also exciting and so much to think about and digest as a reader. The book is also very emotional due to the subject matter but it is such an amazing read. I loved it !!
About the author
Louise Hare recently completed the MA Creative Writing at Birkbeck. Her debut novel ‘This Lovely City’ was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Prize for Fiction 2017 and will be published by HQ in March 2020. Her short story ‘Panopticon’ was written on the MA and has been published in ‘The Good Journal.’
Charles Holborne, maverick barrister, will never fit in at the Bar; he is too working-class, too Jewish and too dangerous.
But that makes him the perfect outsider to prosecute a shocking murder case which has already made its way to the press.
By chance, a body was found, dumped in a lake. It had clearly been there for some time, but the conditions in the water have meant that it was nearly perfectly preserved.
The police have managed to match this ‘waxwork corpse’ to a missing woman and if her husband — a senior judge — was the one who killed her, the scandal threatens to rock the British justice to its foundations.
The waxwork corpse is not the only thing to be raised from the past. The investigation also dredges up a violent mistake made by Charles in his youth which, if revealed, could put his own life at stake…
Thank you to Caoihme at Sapere books for my invitation to the tour and copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.
This is the 5th book in the Charles Holbornbe Legal Thriller series and I had not read any previously but I had no problem in getting straight into the story.
The author sets the scene with a prologue in 1940 which gives the reader a sense of Charles background as a young working class Jewish man with a bit of a reputation. The book then skips to 1960 and Charles is now a Barrister and has left his past behind or has he ?
A body is found by divers and the body has been preserved by the cold water. It is a woman who appears to have been in the water for sometime. Charles is asked if he will look at a case by the police but first he needs to sign the official secrets act and it all appears to be linked.
This is a engaging and fast paced read and I really quickly became engrossed in the story and who the woman in the lake is and who murdered her.The book is written in such a way that hooks the reader in and you need to find out what happened to the woman, and I enjoyed the legal side of the story, and the court process.
It is always a book about forgiveness and family a really entertaining read.
About the author
Simon Michael is the author of the best-selling London 1960s noir gangster series featuring his antihero barrister, Charles Holborne. Simon writes from personal experience: a barrister for 37 years, he worked in the Old Bailey and other criminal courts defending and prosecuting a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy. The 1960s was the Wild West of British justice, a time when the Krays, the Richardsons and other violent gangs fought for control of London’s organised crime, and the corrupt Metropolitan Police beat up suspects, twisted evidence and took a share of the criminal proceeds. Simon weaves into his thrillers real events of the time, the cases on which he worked and his unusual family history in the East End.
Simon was published here and in America in the 1980s and returned to writing when he retired from the law in 2016. The Charles Holborne series, The Brief, An Honest Man, The Lighterman, Corrupted and the latest, The Waxwork Corpse, have all garnered strong reviews for their authenticity and excitement.
It’s 1952. The switchboard operators in Wooster, Ohio, love nothing more than to snoop on their neighbours’ conversations, and gossip about what they learn.
Vivian Dalton is no different (despite her teenage daughter’s disapproval), and always longs to hear something more outrageous than the monotonous discussions about quilting and makeup tips. But on the night of December 15th, she wishes she hadn’t listened in on Betty Miller’s call with an unknown stranger because what Vivian hears rips the rug of her life out from under her.
Vivian may be mortified, but she’s determined to find out who the unfamiliar voice belongs to, and why they are trying to ruin her life. And the thing about small towns is, one secret tends to lead to another …
THE OPERATOR vividly captures small town dynamics as it takes us down Vivian’s rocky path towards reinvention and compassion. In this moving, heart-felt and uplifting narrative, unexpected friendships, family tensions and a marriage shaped by secrets are brought brilliantly to life, in an utterly satisfying read from a dazzling new writer.
Thank you to Anne Cater Random Things Tours for my invitation to the tour and to Alara Delfosse at Headline Books for my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.
Today I am sharing an extract from this intriguing book.
DECEMBER 1 5, 1 952 Vivian Dalton’s worn old ankle boots crunched over the packed snow in front of Freedlander’s, the bright lights of the department store spilling right out onto the sidewalk and mixing with the glow of the streetlamps. Vivian gave a quick, polite wave of a gloved hand to Betty Miller, who’d caught her eye through the flocked glass of the main display window. Freedlander’s fancied itself right up for the holidays with the lights and the bells and whatever it was they put on the window to make it look like it snowed inside.
Vivian had heard it called flocked glass but couldn’t tell you what flocked was. She might’ve guessed something to do with geese. Flock, flocked. Who knew? Vivian just knew she would’ve liked to be inside the bright store, on the other side of that flocked glass, herself, all nice and toasty, instead of out freezing her toes off walking to work in the boots that might as well’ve been made of Saran Wrap, for all the good they were doing. Betty Miller didn’t have to work, did she? No, she was nice and toasty inside the department store with her two youngest, Little Bitty and Charles Junior, waiting in the long line to see Santa Claus, and that didn’t surprise Vivian one bit. This year’s Santa was a pretty good one, Vivian had to admit. Fat, jolly, and sober, at least, so the Millers were there, and the lines were much longer than they had been last year.
Last year, Jimmy Hixson had said Santa’s breath smelled like the Sunoco filling station. Jimmy’s older brother Albert worked at the filling station, so he would know.When she’d heard what Jimmy Hixson said, Betty Miller had been the first mother to boycott the Santa line and the other mothers quickly followed her lead, like they always did. She hadn’t bothered with a courtesy phone call, politely explaining to Freedlander’s with all her over- enunciated consonants, “Your San- ta Claus seems to be fright- fully ahem em- balmed.” That would’ve taken up too much of her time.
Vivian didn’t know exactly what it was Betty did with her time, but she knew Betty thought her time was more precious than anyone else’s. Betty Miller knew the boycott would work, and the other mothers knew it, and soon Freedlander’s knew they’d better get themselves a new Santa Claus. No matter what Little Bitty and Charles Junior said to Sober Santa, up there on his shiny red North Pole throne, Vivian Dalton knew the Millers were going to have a marvellous Christmas this year. The Millers had a marvelous Christmas every year. That was the thing about small towns. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. Vivian certainly knew everyone else’s business, but more important, she knew people. Vivian Dalton knew people, that was for certain, and she’d be the first to tell you that. She’d say it was more from intuition than from eavesdropping on people’s telephone calls, but her daughter, Charlotte, would say, “No, it’s from the eavesdropping.”
Charlotte joked with her friends, putting on airs for amusement, saying her mother was privy to myriad conversations among the good people of Wooster. Now, “privy” and “myriad” were two words Vivian would’ve used if she’d known what they meant. She wasn’t stupid, but her schooling hadn’t gone any further than grade eight at Bowman Street School. Vivian never would’ve seen “privy” and “myriad” printed next to the splashy photos in her fashion and movie magazines. Charlotte had to roll her eyes and sigh as she explained to her friends, “My mother doesn’t trust people who read books.”
It was a shame Vivian didn’t know words like “privy” and“myriad,” because she would’ve loved them. They sounded fancy and expensive. They sounded like words the four- flushers on the north side of Wooster probably used all the time, even at Buehler’s when they were buying whatever it was they bought there. Their prime rib and lobster claws and bushels of caviar or whatnot. Vivian eavesdropped, and also did her share of peering into people’s shopping carts at the grocery store. Yes, people like the Millers probably used words like “privy” and “myriad” at Buehler’s. All four of their rich kids probably privyed and myriaded all over the place. Little Bitty and Charles Junior probably used those words when they were talking to Sober Santa at Freedlander’s. Vivian wasn’t thinking about the words she didn’t know as she crunched along on her way to work, blowing out little frozen clouds as she exhaled. She was thinking about how glad she was that Betty Miller had seen her wearing her new hat. There’d only been one left at Beulah Bechtel’s that afternoon, and Vivian had set it on the counter next to the cash register with shaky guilty fingers that really should’ve been pushing the hat money across the counter to the bank teller to put into her savings account instead. She’d seen Betty hovering near the fur coats, eyeing the hat hungrily. Looking at it like she’d almost eat it for lunch if she could, with her pointy little white teeth. Betty Miller’s teeth weren’t really pointy, that’s just how Vivian imagined them. Pointy teeth in a vicious mouth that seemed just as likely to tear the very flesh from your bones as it was to smile and comment on the weather.#
Vivian had saved for months to buy that hat. Just that one hat. The beautiful hat that she knew hadn’t really been made for someone like her, but maybe, if she bought that hat for herself, she’d feel a little bit of what the four- flushers felt. Worthy of something nice. Boy, if she’d told Edward how much it cost, he would have put her in the lunatic asylum. Betty Miller probably could’ve bought four or five of those hats that day, right there. If they’d had any more, that is. “You’re lucky,” the salesgirl (Doris, maybe?) had said to Vivian as she wrapped the hat in lavender tissue paper. “This is our last one.”
About the author
Gretchen Berg grew up in the US Midwest and now lives in Oregon. She has always been curious about history and family dynamics, and has a personal family tree of over 16,000 people. Her family research started with her own grandmother’s little brown notebook full of details, and it was the story of her grandmother – herself a switchboard operator in Wooster, Ohio, in the 1950’s – that inspired this book and partly provides an authenticity to the narrative. THE OPERATOR is her astonishingly accomplished first novel with a vibrant narrative full of brilliantly portrayed characters, surprise plot twists, and a deftly handled exploration of the issues of class and race relations in 1950’s America.