Thursday 23 June 2016

You Had Me at Merlot
Lisa Dickenson

Guest Review 
Julie Williams


You Had Me At Merlot makes for a great summer holiday read with gorgeous surroundings, romance and wine flowing throughout. It took me back to my own special memories of a holiday in Italy where I also visited the wonderful cities of Pisa and Florence; I especially loved Ponte Vecchio with its jewellers stretching over the bridge – oh yes and the gelato!

The story is centred on Elle and her friend Laurie who are the last of their group to be single which is fine by Elle as she is completely comfortable living her life without a man by her side. Laurie, however, decides she wants to settle down so she books a singles holiday at Bella Notte in Tuscany for them both. 

There’s horror and laughter when Elle’s boss unexpectedly arrives and she adds to the interesting characters Lisa has created in this tale. Talking if characters every holiday should have a Jamie!

This is my first book by Lisa Dickenson but won’t be my last as I just loved this read from start to finish and it certainly has got me the mood for summer.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa at a book event in London and she is a lovely woman who spared her time for a nice chat and signed my book.

Thank you as always to Julie for allowing me to review on her blog.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Following Evan
Elida May
Blog Tour

Three years on from the sudden death of her husband Matt and a subsequent miscarriage, interior designer Laura is still lost in grief, hiding out in the smart London townhouse that was going to be her family home. On the encouragement of her best friend Carla, she signs up to a dating website and receives a message from a mysterious stranger, imploring her to visit him in New York because he has seen her face in his dreams. 

Meanwhile, Laura visits an art gallery and is captivated by a painting of a beautiful woman in a flowing dress. It seems to be speaking directly to her, beckoning her to take a leap of faith. 

These seemingly disparate events lead Laura on an epic journey to the bustling streets of the Big Apple and the desert landscape of Wyoming, where the clues to her future happiness are waiting to be discovered… 

Chapter One

WIPING the silver frame, Laura stared sadly at a picture of her and Matt skiing in the mountains. Her mind was lost in a white chill: empty, unconnected and exhausted. Too weary to feel, to think, to escape even into the usual comforting fantasy she had built for herself. This is what her world had shrunk down to. She moved slowly and listlessly to the window without disturbing the stillness that had been her armour for three interminable years, 37 months, more than a thousand tired days and unrefreshing nights. She had seen the old pear tree at the end of the garden lose its fruits, the last of which were still rotting on the grass. Now the wind was taking its leaves and rain dripped from its branches. This window was her eye to the world; its gentle quietness demanded nothing and spoke to her in language she could understand, especially during these winter evenings. The grey sky, the falling darkness, the approaching night…this was as much as she could cope with.


 Holding her hand to her chest, she walked silently into her bedroom and buried herself in the empty bed. The room was stale and dark; the window shut, the heavy curtains drawn. The light was not welcome inside. The clock beside her bed had long since stopped. Time no longer mattered and her sleeping pills now lay where she used to put her jewellery before going to sleep. 1 2 Looking at the ceiling, she waited for sleep to come but her jumbled thoughts and feelings gave her no rest. There was no escape into the oblivion she craved which, in any case, would only last a few precious hours. She knew that the struggle for sleep would be fought again and again, tonight like every other one…


Reluctantly sliding her legs out of the bed, Laura pushed herself to stand up. This was the first battle of her day. The night hadn’t brought any refreshment. Sleep had come, but not from anywhere pleasant. A heavy chemical blanket had smothered her consciousness, but had failed to conquer the dreams that had demonised her night. Her first heavy step took her to the kettle. Coffee. Why do kettles have to be so bloody loud? She reached for her morning mug and the coffee jar. Her hand trembled. The steam from the cup was the promise and the first gulp of the dark liquid was a reunion with her companion through the darkness. Lightly stimulated, her eyes wakened as an unexpected knock alerted one of her other senses. Startled, she wrapped her dressing gown tightly around her and went to the door. Four years ago, when Matt had bought it for her as a Christmas present, they had both loved its sensuality. But now it was as ragged as she was. She opened the door to be confronted by a fern tree. A freckle-faced boy with blonde hair peered at her from behind it. He thrust a small white envelope towards her. “It came with the order,” he explained. “What order?” Laura asked, tearing open the envelope. “Pay the boy and start decorating!” read the note inside. 3 Laura grinned at Carla's familiar tone. Stepping aside to let the boy enter, she shook her head and muttered: “I don't do Christmas.” “Where do you want me to put it?” “Oh, right by the window.” After the boy had left, Laura stood in front of her tree. She smelled its resin, felt the chill that clung to it from outside and spotted the loose pines on the carpet that had already fallen from its branches. Why do I need this in my life? What is there for me to celebrate?

The ringing of the phone arrived like a rude poke in her ear, and she let it go straight to answer machine. “I’m Laura, I'm not at home…so you know what to do!” “Come on, girl, pick up, or don’t because I'm coming over tomorrow anyway to take you out. I don’t want any excuses. Five pm sharp!” Carla was the only one of her friends who had defied Laura when she had stopped receiving visitors. Their pity, sympathy and inability to know her pain was too much for her to bear; their lives were continuing but hers had died, and she really didn't feel that there was any way back for her.

When she had thrown that handful of earth onto the coffin and heard its soft thud, her own existence, with its emotions, appetites and hopes, had stopped. Since then, isolation and pain were all that was left for her. Only Carla continued to kick at the door she had locked in order to keep out the rest of the world. Carla visited her frequently, wiping away her tears, checking that she was taking her prescription medication and forcing her to have a bath and wash her hair. Carla had kept her spare house keys ever since that day, three years earlier, when she’d used force to open the door and found Laura unconscious following an overdose. She continued to keep a close eye on her friend, adamant that such a terrible occurrence wasn’t going to happen again. 4 Back then, a panicked Carla had shaken the thin body of the once vibrant Laura. Her lips were cracked, her eyelids were swollen and her tears and dribbles were dry on the pillow. “Come on, kid, you're not killing yourself today,” she said. “I am not ready to let you die yet.” Laura's head was swimming. She was dizzy and sick, but her stomach was too empty for her to vomit. “You have no right to do this,” she lashed out. “Who told you that you could do this? Do you think you are God? Just leave me alone!”
“Come on, girl,” Carla reasoned. “You can decide on a lot of things but not this, and don't imagine I will leave you like this. No way, no damn way!” “I want to die, leave me…I can’t go on any more...I can't,” came Laura’s heartbreaking reply. Hot tears burned Carla’s eyes before they rolled down her face. “Why my baby, why?”


What a mess Laura’s life had become. Her little baby, a son, so longed for and so loved, was gone. The only ultrasound picture she had was already faded from constant handling. This precious person, with tiny fingers and toes, was all that she had wanted for her future. She had longed to be a mum for as far back as she could remember. She had even been looking forward to the labour. Then one morning, still reeling from loss, she noticed he wasn't moving and the ordinary events of a tragedy unfolded. She called the hospital, took a cab, met the consultant, got undressed, put on a gown, took the anaesthetic, felt the nausea… Then home, alone. The place she had loved was now suffocating. Getting into bed was like climbing into her coffin, and every event of that awful day was a screw on its lid. 5 No wonder she had wanted to end it all. “I know it's not fair, it's horrible,” Carla had said after finding her in such a bad way, following the overdose. “You just cry. Hell, even I am crying!'' Carla held Laura's almost weightless body until her tears finally stopped. “Don't you worry, kid,” she said. “I'm going to be here. Death isn't getting any more out of us, not this week.'' Laura's guts felt as if they were being ripped apart as everything she had and hoped for fled from her wreck of a body.

Exhausted and completely empty she sank her wet face into her pillows, drew her knees up to her empty belly and slowly drifted off to sleep. Carla tenderly pulled up her covers and lay down next to her, cuddling her back and gently stroking her head until her breathing calmed and the shaking stopped. Then she quietly reached for the bedside phone and rang for a doctor, explaining what had happened and asking for someone to come quickly. A young Indian doctor helped Carla to sit Laura up. She examined her and made a swift assessment. “We will have to get you to hospital,” she said. “No bloody way,” came Laura's vehement response. “Well, at least let me take some blood samples to make sure you haven't done yourself any permanent damage.” Laura let her arm be stretched out and didn't even flinch as the needle penetrated her vein. “How are we going to make sure that you are going to be all right?” asked the doctor. “I can't leave you here on your own like this. I could actually get you detained in hospital for a short time, even if you don't want to go.” “I’m not very busy at work just now,” Carla interjected. “I could easily take a week off to stay here with her.”

After a lot of further discussions and instructions, the doctor left, promising to send a community psychiatric nurse daily to check on Laura’s progress. 6 For a full week, Carla stayed with Laura, pouring life slowly back into her: bathing, dressing and feeding her, and giving her the correct medication. At first she could hardly speak or stand up. Sleep was her only escape, but even then she cried and fought, not knowing whether she wanted to live or die. Carla's stubbornness shielded the small flame that was her life. This flame wasn't enough for light or warmth or nourishment, it was merely sufficient to keep death away. It wasn't really life. But, as time wore on, Laura slowly and very reluctantly began to do the things that living people do. At first, just sitting up in bed was a huge effort. Gravity seemed so much more powerful than before. Carla even had to help her get to the toilet. Drinking was painful. Her tummy rebelled over cold fluids and she was only just able to tolerate warm milk. It was over a week before she could swallow any solid food. When she could eat, buttery brioche with strawberry jam was all she wanted. Even getting warm was almost impossible; her hands and feet stayed pale and cold for weeks. But Carla and James, the Mauritian nurse, managed to pull her back into some semblance of life. After Carla returned to work she visited her every night to keep her guard against death, staying with Laura for weeks.

Thankfully, the medication Laura had taken hadn’t caused any permanent damage and slowly, as the weeks stretched into months, she began showing signs of recovery. She gradually built up her days into a pattern of doing; washing, dressing and feeding herself. She was progressing, but these tasks were all achieved without thought or feeling. Her breakfast always consisted of the same thing: coffee in the same KitKat Easter egg mug, toast with strawberry jam, always made with the same knife. Lunch was either a tin of spaghetti hoops or soup, or, if she could be bothered to make it, some cheese on toast. Most days she didn't feel like eating much in the evenings. Her  stomach felt like a tightly clenched fist, but when she eventually felt hungry she would snack on skimmed milk and shortbread biscuits. Before retiring to bed every night she put the same set of dishes in the same position in the dishwasher, and whenever she became aware of their presence she would gather socks, knickers and bedding together and stuff them into the washer dryer. The only interruptions in her routine were Carla's Wednesday and Sunday visits and her twice-daily phone calls from her doctor’s office to remind her to take her meds. Radio Four, with its porridge of human sound, was the aural wallpaper of her days and she kept it on right through from the Today programme to the melodious anaesthetic of the Shipping Forecast. But the words never penetrated her thoughts; instead they formed a fence around her mind. In bed at night she could feel the weight of her body on the mattress. It was too firm for her on her own, and the queen-sized duvet seemed to drown her. Her hands and feet hardly ever got warm and even a hot water bottle clenched between her ankles only comforted her feet. Her hands were permanently cold and yet moist. More than anything else, she missed having somebody to lean against. Her sleeping pills would eventually press her down into a kind of empty sleep, but it would still take her about two hours to quieten the thoughts and noises of her mind until the darkness took over. Those nightly three hours, maybe half an hour more if she was lucky, formed her only mental rest. It wasn’t enough for repair, let alone for refreshment, and all too quickly her slumber was cruelly invaded by frights, accusations and terrors without names. These would start to push into her resting mind like uninvited weeds poisoning her peace and bringing her too soon into her daily struggle with the wounds that had so nearly killed her…

Information about the Book

Title: Following Evan
Author: Elida May
Release Date: 16th June 2016
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Self-Published
Format: Ebook

Author Information

Elida May was born in Albania in 1972. Growing up in a Communist country, where access to books was severely restricted, helped to nurture her love of the written word, and she avidly read whatever genre she could get hold of, including a lot of European literature. Today Elida lives in London with her son Elidon. Following Evan is her first novel, and she is currently working on her second, Diary of Michael Vica.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Sleepless in Manhattan
Sarah Morgan

Guest Review 
Julie Williams


This is the first instalment of a fabulous new trilogy from the Manhattan With Love series by Sarah who definitely owns Queen of Romance title in my opinion.

Three best friends Paige, Eve and Frankie live and work together in Manhattan what could go wrong?

Well first all of them get the sack, then Paige, who this book canters on acts on her feelings for her brother Matt best friend Jake, who just happens to be desired by nearly every woman in New York!

After a few smouldering hot dates Paige decides to bite the bullet and tell him just how she feels and that she has loved him for many years.

Unfortunately commitment is not a word in Jakes vocabulary as he is scared of love and eventually tells her the reason why.

This is a book of solid friendships, success and true love. I personally cannot wait for book two Sunset In Central Park which is out in July as I know I will be in for another treat this time with Frankie’s story.

Sunday 12 June 2016

The Museum of You
Carys Bray
Blog Tour

Today, I'm delighted to be kicking off The Museum of You by Carys Bray Blog Tour. I have an excerpt for you and also a character piece on Clover Quinn. 

When she got home from the museum Dad was kneeling in the hall. He’d unscrewed the radiator and his thumb was pressed over an unfastened pipe as water gushed around it. The books and clothes and newspapers that used to line the hall had been arranged in small piles on the stairs. Beside him, on the damp carpet, was a metal scraper he’d been using to scuff the paper off the wall.
‘Just in time!’ he said. ‘Fetch a bowl. A small one, so it’ll fit.’
She fetched two and spent the next fifteen minutes running back and forth to the kitchen emptying one bowl as the other filled, Dad calling, ‘Faster! Faster! Keep it up, Speedy Gonzalez!’ His trousers were soaked and his knuckles grazed, but he wasn’t bothered. ‘Occupational hazard,’ he said, as if it wasn’t his day off and plumbing and stripping walls was his actual job.
Once the pipe had emptied he stood up and hopped about for a bit while the feeling came back into his feet. ‘I helped Colin out with something this morning,’ he said. ‘The people whose house we were at had this dado rail thing – it sounds posh, but it’s just a bit of wood, really – right about here.’ He brushed his hand against the wall beside his hip. ‘Underneath it they had stripy wallpaper, but above it they had a different, plain kind. It was dead nice and I thought, we could do that.’
Dad found a scraper for her. The paint came off in flakes, followed by tufts of the thick, textured wallpaper. Underneath, was a layer of soft, brown, backing-paper which Dad sprayed with water from a squirty bottle. When the water had soaked in, they made long scrapes down the wall, top to bottom, leaving the backing paper flopped over the skirting boards like ribbons of skin. It felt like they were undressing the house.
The bare walls weren’t smooth. They were gritty, crumbly in places. As they worked, a dusty smell wafted out of them. It took more than an hour to get from the front door to the wall beside the bottom stair. That’s where Dad uncovered the heart. It was about as big as Clover’s hand, etched on the wall in black, permanent marker, in Dad’s handwriting: Darren + Becky 4ever.
‘I’d forgotten,’ he murmured. And then he pulled his everything face. The face he pulls when Uncle Jim is drunk. The face he pulls when they go shopping in March and the person at the till tries to be helpful by reminding them about Mother’s Day. The face which reminds her that a lot of the time his expression is like a plate of leftovers.
She didn’t say anything, and although she wanted to, she didn’t trace the heart with her fingertips. Instead, she went up to the bathroom and sat on the boxed, pre-lit Christmas tree dad bought in the January sales. When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories. That’s not to say it’s always sad – there are happy things, too. When she was a baby Dad had a tattoo of her name drawn on his arm in curly, blue writing, and underneath he had a green, four-leaf clover. She has such a brilliant name, chosen by her mother because it has the word LOVE in the middle. That’s not the sort of thing you go around telling people, but it is something you can remember if you need a little boost; an instant access, happiness top-up card – it even works when Luke Barton calls her Margey-rine. Clover thought of her name and counted to 300.
When she went downstairs Dad had recovered his empty face and she couldn’t help asking a question, just a small one.
‘Is there any more writing under the paper?’
‘I don’t think so.’
‘She didn’t do a heart as well?’
‘Help me with this, will you?’
They pulled the soggy ribbons of paper away from the skirting and put them in a bin bag. The house smelled different afterwards. As if some old sadness had leaked out of the walls.

The Museum of You – Meet Clover

Clover Quinn is twelve years old. She likes Doctor Who and knitting. She likes visiting Grandad and Uncle Jim and cycling down to the allotment to water things – that’s her job this summer because, for the first time, she doesn’t have to go next door to Mrs Mackerel’s house while Dad works, driving his bus to Liverpool and back.

Dad isn’t great at explaining things. Clover remembers, years ago, asking where babies come from. ‘Between your legs,’ he said, and afterwards, as she eyed her legs from foot to thigh, she determined that the space between each – the soft, veiny plane of skin behind her knees – was incredible.
Clover knows she was a surprise. She had always imagined that she was the good kind of surprise, like when it’s a party and everyone jumps out and shouts, ‘Happy birthday.’ But she is beginning to wonder whether she was the kind of surprise someone might get if, after the party, they got home and discovered their house had been burgled.
She wants to ask about it. Sometimes the question is there, in her mouth, all the words lined up in the right order: ‘You know the story of when I was born?’ Once or twice the beginning of the ‘Y’ has slipped out like a string of spaghetti and Dad has said, ‘What?’ But each time, she has retreated: ‘Oh, nothing.’ She doesn’t want to upset him or, perhaps worse, lead him to shrug and say, ‘What’s done is done, Clover. Don’t waste time thinking about it.’ But she does, she thinks about it a lot.
This summer, while Dad is driving his bus, window open, right arm resting in the sunlight, she will sneak upstairs and explore the second bedroom which is still full of her mother’s belongings. And she will curate an exhibition that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.

The Museum of You is available from your local bookshop and online.
A moving and surprisingly funny novel – The Independent

Monday 6 June 2016

The Flower Seller
Ellie Holmes
Blog Tour

Review by Julie Williams

All she wanted was a love she could BELIEVE IN.

Jessie Martin believes that when it comes to love there are three types of people: the skimmers, the bottom dwellers and the ones who dive for pearls.  Jessie is a pearl diver. She had thought her husband William was a pearl diver too. But when William leaves her for a younger woman, it’s not just Jessie’s heart that is broken, her ability to trust is shattered too.
Refusing to retire from the battlefield of life, Jessie resolves to put her heartache behind her. She doesn’t want to be that woman who was too scared to love again. There has to be another pearl diver out there; all she has to do is find him.
When fate brings handsome flower seller Owen Phillips into her life, Jessie believes he may be the one but is her fragile trust about to be shattered all over again?
The Flower Seller is a warm, engaging read about love, deceit, betrayal and hope.


Jessie and William Goode’s marriage has ended suddenly due to William’s adultery with a young hair dresser named Chelsea. A difficult time for both as they work in the same office as lawyers, William as an Equity Partner, Jess yet to attain a partnership role she so desperately wants. Jess hopes to achieve an amicable divorce settlement that ensures the family home, The Lodge, remains hers. However getting what is rightfully hers turns out to be a long stressful battle and this book tells of how bitter negotiations can be.

Jess’s good friend Anne encourages her to move on and to start socialising again, and after a few hiccups she agrees to go on a date with Owen the local, younger than her Flower Seller. I really enjoyed their relationship blossom as Jess tried to stop loving her husband. I had many laugh out loud moments as William was referred to as The Dickhead and Chelsea, The Tart. These lightened the serious parts of the book for me. I was hooked throughout as to whom if anyone was going to get a happy ever after. The Flower Seller is a lovely debut novel which deals with betrayal, love and heartache.

Many thanks to Ellie Holmes and JD Johnston of Brook Cottage Books for supplying the kindle version of the book  for an honest review. I will certainly be looking out for more from this author. 

About the Author

Ellie Holmes writes commercial women’s fiction and romantic suspense. She takes her inspiration from the beautiful Essex countryside and the sublime Cornish coast. The Flower Seller is Ellie’s first full-length novel.  Ellie is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.  To find out more please visit


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Friday 3 June 2016

One Hot Summer
Kat French



I have loved Kat French’s previous two books and both have been in my top ten, Undertaking Love (2014) and The Piano Man Project (2015), so when I knew that a new book was coming out I just had to get a review copy!

One Hot Summer starts with the break up of Alice McBride and her husband Brad’s marriage and the fall out that entails. Alice is determined to stay in their huge house Borne Manor as she fell in love with it the moment she saw it, but without Brad’s celebrity pay packet to keep them afloat, she decides the only way to keep up the payments on the mortgage is to rent it out.
Robinson Duff is also trying to mend a broken heart and wants to get away from Nashville and the Country music scene where he is a huge star and take some time out where nobody will bother him. Borne Manor seems to be that very place and he puts a six month payment down on the country retreat.

Alice decides to live in a caravan (Airstream) in the vast grounds of the Manor whilst Robinson lives in the house. She has dreams of setting up a glamping business to keep things afloat while her lodger lives in luxury in Borne Manor.
When Alice meets a jetlagged Robinson for the first time, there is a definite spark there, but Alice is still hurting from her marriage break up. Will Robinson be able to charm her with his American charm?

Alice has some weird and wacky neighbours living in the cottages on the outskirts of the Manor and some of their antics (including a cursing mina bird) had me in absolute hysterics! My son can’t believe I actually laugh out loud at a book!

Another brilliant book from Kat French and I know already that this one is going to be in my 2016 top ten! I can guarantee that it will get you  sprinting for your country music CDs! I had my Garth Brooks one on full blast whilst having visions of Kevin Costner in a Stetson like in The Bodyguard!!

Loved it! Roll on the next one!

Thursday 2 June 2016

Blog Tour 
My Husband's Wife
Jane Corry

Today I'm delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for Jane Corry's novel My Husband's Wife. I have chapter one for you to have a sneaky peak at!

‘Nervous?’ Ed asks. He’s pouring out his favourite breakfast cereal. Rice Krispies. Usually I like them too. (Crispy, without milk.) As a child, I was obsessed by the elfin-faced figures on the packet, and the magic hasn’t quite left. But today I don’t have the stomach to eat anything. ‘Nervous?’ I repeat, fastening my pearl earrings in the little mirror next to the sink. Our flat is small. Compromises had to be made. Of what? I almost add. Nervous of the first day of married life, perhaps. Proper married life in the first year of a brand-new century. Nervous because we should have taken more time to find a better flat instead of one in the wrong part of Clapham, with a drunk as a neighbour across the landing, where both bedroom and bathroom are so small that my one tube of Rimmel foundation (soft beige) and my two lipsticks (rose pink and ruby red) snuggle up next to the teaspoons in the cutlery drawer. Or nervous about going back to work after our honeymoon in Italy? A week in Sicily, knocking back bottles of Marsala, grilled sardines and slabs of pecorino cheese in a hotel paid for by Ed’s grandmother. Maybe I’m nervous about all these things. 

Normally, I love my work. Until recently, I was in employment law, helping people  –  especially women  –  who had been unfairly sacked. Looking after the underdog. That’s me. I nearly became a social worker like Dad, but, thanks to a determined careers teacher at school and, let’s say, certain events in my life, here I am. A 25- year-old newly qualified solicitor on a minimum wage. Struggling to do up the button at the back of my navy-blue skirt. No one wears bright colours in a law office, apart from the secretaries. It sends out the wrong message – or so I was told when I started. Law can be a great career, but there are occasions when it seems ridiculously behind the times. ‘We’re moving you to Criminal,’ my boss announced by way of a wedding gift. ‘We think you’ll be good at it.’ So now, on my first day back from our honeymoon, I’m preparing to go to prison. To see a man who’s been accused of murder. I’ve never been inside a prison before. Never wanted to. It’s an unknown world. One reserved for people who have done wrong. I’m the kind of person who goes straight back if someone has given me too much change in the newsagent when I buy my monthly copy of Cosmo. 

Ed is doodling now. His head is bent slightly to the left as he sketches on a notepad next to his cereal. My husband is always drawing. It was one of the first things that attracted me to him. ‘Advertising,’ he said with a rueful shrug when I asked what he did. ‘On the creative side. But I’m going to be a full-time artist one day. This is just temporary – to pay the bills.’  I liked that. A man who knew where he was going. But in a way I was wrong. When he’s drawing or painting, Ed doesn’t even know which planet he’s on. 

Right now, he’s forgotten he even asked me a question. But suddenly it’s important for me to answer it. ‘Nervous? No, I’m not nervous.’ There’s a nod, but I’m not sure he’s really heard me. When Ed’s in the zone, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. Not even my fib. Why, I ask, as I take his left hand – the one with the shiny gold wedding ring – don’t I really tell him how I feel? Why not confess that I feel sick and that I need to go to the loo even though I’ve only just been? Is it because I want to pretend that our week away from the world still exists in the ‘now’, instead of in the souvenirs we brought back, like the pretty blue and pink plate that Ed is now sketching in more detail? Or is it because I’m trying to pretend I’m not terrified of what lies ahead this morning? A shiver passes down my spine as I spray duty-free Chanel No. 5 on the inside of both wrists. (A present from Ed, using another wedding-gift cheque.) 

Last month, a solicitor from a rival firm was stabbed in both lungs when he went to see a client in Wandsworth. It happens. ‘Come on,’ I say, anxiety sharpening my usually light voice. ‘We’re both going to be late.’ Reluctantly, he rises from the rickety chair which the former owner of our flat had left behind. He’s a tall man, my new husband. Lanky, with an almost apologetic way of walking, as if he would really rather be somewhere else. As a child, apparently, his hair was as golden as mine is today (‘We knew you were a “Lily” the first time we saw you,’ my mother has always said), but now it’s sandy. And he has thick fingers that betray no hint of the artist he yearns to be. We all need our dreams. Lilies are meant to be beautiful. Graceful. I look all right from the top bit up, thanks to my naturally blonde hair and what my now-deceased grandmother used to kindly call ‘elegant swan neck’. But look below, and you’ll find leftover puppy fat instead of a slender stem. No matter what I do, I’m stuck on the size 16 rail – and that’s if I’m lucky. I know I shouldn’t care. Ed says my shape is ‘part of me’. He means it nicely. I think. But my weight niggles. Always has done. 

On the way out, my eye falls on the stack of wedding cards propped up against Ed’s record deck. Mr and Mrs E. Macdonald. The name seems so unfamiliar. Mrs Ed Macdonald. Lily Macdonald. I’ve spent ages trying to perfect my signature, looping the ‘y’ through the ‘M’, but somehow it still doesn’t seem quite right. The names don’t go together that well. I hope it’s not a bad sign. Meanwhile, each card requires a thank-you letter to be sent by the end of the week. If my mother has taught me anything, it is to be polite. One of the cards has a particularly ‘look at me!’ flamboyant scrawl, in turquoise ink. ‘Davina was a girlfriend once,’ Ed explained before she turned up at our engagement party. ‘But now we’re just friends.’ I think of Davina with her horsey laugh and artfully styled auburn locks that make her look like a pre-Raphaelite model. Davina who works in Events, organizing parties to which all the ‘nice girls’ go. Davina who narrowed her violet eyes when we were introduced, as if wondering why Ed would bother with the too-tall, too-plump, touslehaired image that I see in the mirror every day. Can a man ever be just friends with a woman when the relationship is over? I decide to leave my predecessor’s letter until last. Ed married me, not her, I remind myself. My new husband’s warm hand now squeezes mine as if reading my need for reassurance. ‘It will be all right, you know.’ For a minute, I wonder if he is referring to our marriage. 

Then I remember. My first criminal client. Joe Thomas. ‘Thanks.’ It’s comforting that Ed isn’t taken in by my earlier bravado. And worrying, too. Together, we shut the front door, checking it twice because it’s all so unfamiliar to us, and walk briskly down the ground-floor corridor leading out of our block of flats. As we do so, another door opens and a little girl with long, dark, glossy hair swinging in a ponytail comes out with her mother. I’ve seen them before, but when I said ‘hello’ , they didn’t reply. Both have beautiful olive skin and walk with a grace that makes them appear to be floating. We hit the sharp autumn air together. The four of us are heading in the same direction but mother and daughter are now slightly ahead because Ed is scribbling something in his sketchbook as we walk. The pair, I notice, seem like carbon copies of each other, except that the woman is wearing a too-short black skirt and the little girl  –  who’s whining for something  –  is dressed in a  navy-blue school uniform. When we have children, I tell myself, we’ll teach them not to whine. I shiver as we approach the stop: the pale autumn sun is so different from the honeymoon heat. But it’s the prospect of our separation that tightens my chest. 

After one week of togetherness, the thought of managing for eight hours without my new husband is almost scary. I find this unnerving. Not so long ago, I was independent. Content with my own company. But from the minute that Ed and I first spoke at that party six months ago (just six months!), I’ve felt both strengthened and weakened at the same time. We pause and I steel myself for the inevitable. My bus goes one way. His, the other. Ed is off to the advertising company where he spends his days coming up with slogans to make the public buy something it never intended to. And I’m off to prison in my navy-blue skirt suit and suntan. ‘It won’t be so scary when you’re there,’ says my new husband – how I never thought I’d say that word! – before kissing me on the mouth. He tastes of Rice Krispies and that strong toothpaste of his which I still haven’t got used to. ‘I know,’ I say before he peels off to the bus stop on the other side of the road, his eyes now on the oak tree on the corner as he takes in its colour and shape. Two lies. Small white ones. Designed to make the other feel better. But that’s how some lies start. Small. Well meaning. Until they get too big to handle.