Meet Thomas Heaton from A Summer of Secrets

Thomas Heaton Colourised

Thirty-nine year-old Thomas Heaton is the 13th Baron Heaton. He inherited the title from his father when he had just finished university at Cambridge. For almost twenty years, he has had the burden and responsibility of not wanting to be remembered as the Heaton who had to sell Heaton Abbey House. Despite working long hours – often sleeping in his office – and being regarded as a recluse, he has been forced to open up the house to the public in order to keep the estate afloat.

Luckily, the house is somewhere tourists will flock to see. Thomas’ ancestor, Sir William Heaton bought the abbey and its lands following the dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s, renamed the abbey after himself, and remodelled the monastic buildings to suit his own domestic requirements.

A descendent of Sir William’s was created a Baron in the early 18th century and more rebuilding took place, reflecting the family’s elevation to the peerage. A further descendent made a fortune from coal mining, resulting in yet more rebuilding and restyling. A 20th century descendent made a catastrophic business deal and was forced to sell the mine and some land but, thankfully, the house with its mishmash of styles and five hundred acres of land remained unsold.

When he has a few minutes to spare, Thomas retreats to the abbey library to savour a glass of single-malt whisky. Having studied History of Art at university and with a weakness for full-figured Renaissance women, he can hardly believe his eyes when a curvy red-haired woman wanders in and begins to examine the books, not realising he is seated in a corner. The voluptuous Sophia Nelson may as well have walked off the pages of his art textbooks and will be working and living right on his doorstep.

Thomas’ elder sister, Stephanie, recently suffered a miscarriage at the hands of her violent boyfriend and lost a lot of blood. When Thomas offered to donate blood, he is told he can’t – and why – a secret that has been closely guarded for forty years and which shakes his world to the core.

When Sophia overhears the secret, Thomas can only hope she doesn’t reveal it. He struggles to keep his distance and his feelings under control, despite finding himself more and more in her company. She is the tour guide – staff – someone he really shouldn’t become involved with. Is it only a matter of time before the secret becomes public knowledge?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him or the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

Closing the bedroom door, she saw Heaton crossing the stable yard. It was the first time she had seen him dressed in anything but a suit and she stopped and stared. He was wearing a brown wax jacket with a bottle green jumper underneath, khaki combat-style trousers similar to her own and brown walking boots. She sighed and shook her head. It looked as though he was one of those men who looked fabulous in everything they wore. She reached for her mobile phone, pulled on a waterproof jacket, and grabbed her car keys before going downstairs to join him.

“You’ll have to move the seat back,” she said as she unlocked the Mini.

He got in and moved the passenger seat so far back that he might as well have been sitting on the back seat. She looked around at him, couldn’t help herself, and laughed.

“Sorry. I wanted something small and cheap to run.”

He pulled a comical expression. “I was looking to see if you had a sunroof that I could stick my head through. Maybe we should go in the Land Rover?” She nodded and he got out. “I’ll just get the keys from Des.”

She got out, locked the car, and saw him emerge from Des’ office. The two of them crossed the stable yard to the huge Land Rover.

“You’ll have to give me directions to where we start from,” he said as they got in.

“I will.”

Twenty minutes later, he pulled in at a small car park. “I haven’t been up here for years. You don’t walk too fast, do you?”

“No. There are two routes we can take. Up to what I call the big rock, which is eight kilometres there and back. Or up to the stone circle, which is five. Maybe five would be enough for today?”

He smiled. “I think so.”

He locked the Land Rover, they climbed over the stile, and walked up onto the footpath which ran through the heather.

“It’s lovely up here, isn’t it?” He halted after a few paces, hands on hips, and looked around them.

“If you need to stop and catch your breath just say.”

“Thanks. I’m not very fit. Walking between my office and the house isn’t really enough.”

They set off again at a slower pace.

“Where did you go to university?” she asked.

“Cambridge. The Heatons have always gone there. I was halfway through my final year when I learned that my father had cancer. I still have no idea how I got through my finals. The last time I saw him, he didn’t know who I was, so I do understand what it’s like. Unfortunately, he had run the estate like there was no tomorrow. I went into his study the day after the funeral and found drawers full of bills, invoices, and tax demands. Some went back years. It took years to pay all the creditors and the tax bill was astronomical. I’m still struggling to make ends meet and when the idea was put forward of opening the house up to coach tour parties, well, you saw what I was like. I apologise if I was rude to you. It’s no excuse, but I had to go to a funeral that day and I loathe funerals.”

“I hate funerals, too, and I wouldn’t like complete strangers traipsing through my home so I can sympathise. But there are tours booked for the next three months and Lady Heaton is scheduling additional daily tours because so many coach tour operators want to add the abbey to their list of stops. The way things are going, the abbey will soon have tours all year round.”

He nodded. “I know, but I am not dressing up as a monk or in a suit of armour for anyone.”

She laughed. “What do people say to you when they ask what you do for a living?”

“When people find out I have a title it is a bit of a conversation killer. I think some people have this idea that lords are all at least fifty, frequent gentleman’s clubs, and hunt, shoot and fish. I do none of those things. I was twenty-two when I inherited the title; I’ve been working to keep the place afloat ever since and I don’t want anything to spoil that.”

“It seems to be working, though.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “Just about.”

“Mum and Dad remember when you went down the mine instead of your father when he became claustrophobic.”

“Really?” He gave her an incredulous frown. “Good God, I must have been only about twelve or something. I wanted to go down with him but he wouldn’t let me. Then, when he had to come back up I asked if I could go and he just waved his hand in agreement.”

“Mum said that you asked lots of very good questions and that Dad was impressed. That is a huge compliment from my dad.”

“Were you ever down the mine?” he asked.

“No, I was never allowed, and it’s far too dangerous now. The nearest I got was the museum. I’d liked to have satisfied my curiosity but I much prefer the open air.

Mum’s grandfather was killed in a pitfall and I think she always worried that the same would happen to Dad. Now most of the time she thinks he’s dead.” She burst into tears. “Oh, God, I’m sorry.”

“Come and sit down.” Taking her arm, he led her off the path. They sat down in the springy heather and she wiped her eyes. “You have to cry, and let it all out,” he told her gently. “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve locked myself in the library and just…”

He pulled a comical expression as she stared at him. It was hard to imagine him crying his eyes out but who knows how he reacted when he left the library after learning that his real mother was a complete stranger.

“I used to cry for my family,” he continued. “Me; the bills that still needed paying; the career I never had; the nightmare of possibly having to sell the estate; the fact that I have no life…that sort of thing. You have your cry then you dust yourself down and, in my case, head back out to the office.”

“My friends in London didn’t want me to come back up here.” She fished a handkerchief out of a pocket and blew her nose. “But I had to, she’s my mum. She and Dad are all I’ve got left and I know I’m quickly losing her. This morning she thought I was Sally, her sister. I’m really dreading a time when she forgets that I exist.”

“Do you not have any other family?” he asked.

“Mum’s brother, Martin, died when he was twenty,” she explained. “Sally lives in Cornwall. They were never close, anyway. Dad was an only child.”

“So why did you go to live in London?”

“I followed a man down there.” She shook her head at her stupidity. “I thought I’d found ‘the one’ at long last and I thought I’d be able to persuade Dad to come and live in London, even though I knew deep down that he’d never leave Mum up here and he’d never move her down there. Anyway, needless to say, it didn’t work out between Lee and me, and I was packing up down there when I got a phone call telling me that Dad had fallen and badly broken his arm and he couldn’t live on his own anymore. That was six months ago. He said himself that he should go into sheltered accommodation so he sold the house and he’s in The Beeches Complex now. Finding a job which has a flat going with it is fantastic.” She smiled. “Do you feel like going on?”

He returned a smile. “To be honest, I’d rather sit here and talk to you. I haven’t had a conversation about anything but estate business in…I don’t know how long.”

“To be honest, I think you work too hard.”

He nodded. “I think you’re right. But I have to work hard. I’m not going to be remembered as the Heaton who had to sell up. And if that means coach parties and teas, then it means coach parties and teas.”

“Did you find the fridge in the end?”

He rolled his remarkable eyes. “Yes. It’s now built into the kitchen cupboards in the pantry. Integrated, I think Mrs Fields called it, so no wonder I couldn’t find it.”

“At least you can raid it now,” she teased.

He shrugged. “There’s no Branston Pickle.”

“I can make you a sandwich if you get a craving.”

“I might just take you up on that.”

She smiled and looked away, hoping that he couldn’t see her blush.

“I rang the opticians in the town,” he announced and she turned back. “They gave me an appointment for tomorrow morning.”

“Oh. Good.”

“I hope I don’t pick the most hideous frames there.”

“Would you like me to come with you?” she asked, hoping she wasn’t overstepping the mark, and he failed to hide his relief at her offer.

“Thank you. I’d welcome another opinion. Even if I could ask Stephanie, God knows what I’d end up getting.”

“I suppose I should have mentioned it before,” she began. “Properly, I mean. But I was sorry to hear about Stephanie. A friend of mine in London lost a baby. It was awful.”

“I suppose you’ve also heard that it was because her boyfriend hits her?”

Sophia nodded.

“She won’t leave him. I’ve begged her, Lady Heaton has begged her, her friends have begged her, but she won’t. I’m terrified that one day he will kill her. She went home to her apartment the other day, refused my offer of coming here for a bit. Stubborn to the last.”

“I take it that she doesn’t know?” she asked.

“No. And that’s the way it’s going to be.” He sighed. “Look, I’m sorry you’re caught up in all of this.”

“I have to say this: I just can’t help but feel you’re burying your head in the sand over it all.”

“Well, what can I do?” he demanded. “Turn up on your friend’s doorstep and introduce myself?”

“Her name’s Michelle,” she told him.

“Michelle’s doorstep, then. Her whole family could fall apart. It sounds dramatic but if it’s anything like what’s happened between Lady Heaton and me—” He stopped abruptly realising he’d said more than he had intended to. “For now,” he continued quietly. “I just want to try and get my head around it all and let sleeping dogs lie.”

She shrugged sadly. “All right.”

“We passed a pub about a mile back,” he said, jabbing a thumb back in the direction of the road. “Would you like a coffee?”

“I would love a coffee, thank you.”

“Good. I’m freezing.”

“Why didn’t you say?”

He just shrugged comically and they returned to the Land Rover.

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Meet Stephanie Heaton from A Summer of Secrets

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Stephanie Heaton is forty – a year older than her brother, Thomas, Baron Heaton – but being female, she could not inherit the title. She went to university in London but now lives in an apartment in Leeds, and owns and runs a company which designs wedding dresses.

Officially known as The Honourable Stephanie Heaton, she prefers to be known simply as Stephanie. One of her previous employers already knew she was the sister of a baron, the other only found out after she had been with the company for over a year.

Stephanie knows Thomas works too hard and has very few friends, so she has started buying clothes for him to replace the suits she hates and which he wears all day every day. She is also encouraging her friends to bring him for nights out to get him away from the abbey, even for only a short time.

When Sophia Nelson arrives at Heaton Abbey to begin work as tour guide, Stephanie is in hospital. Simon – Stephanie’s drug-dealing boyfriend – has hit her yet again. Stephanie suffered a miscarriage and lost a lot of blood.

Thomas knows Simon all too well. They were at school together and were – and still are – anything but friends. Thomas has begged Stephanie to finish with Simon and come home to the abbey but so far she has stubbornly refused. Thomas is very much afraid that one day soon Simon will kill her. Will Stephanie leave her boyfriend before it’s too late?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

“Thomas?” There was a knock at the door and she bit back a curse. “Thomas?”

“Excuse me.” Getting up, he went to the door and opened it. Lady Heaton stood outside wringing her hands. “What is it?”

“I’ve just had the police on the telephone. It’s Stephanie.”

“Tell me?”

“She’s in hospital, Thomas. He’s attacked her again.”

“Christ.”

“We’re to go there.” Lady Heaton’s voice shook. “Now.”

He nodded. “Get your coat, I’ll get the car out.” Closing the door, he inhaled and exhaled a shaky breath. “Christ.”

“Is there anything I can do?” Sophia asked.

“If we’re not back, then the tours and the shop,” he said apologetically. “I’ll have a word with Des before I go. I’m sorry that you may have to start them again so soon.”

“Don’t be silly. I should go,” she said, going to the door. “I’m only getting in your way. I hope Stephanie will be all right.”

She returned to the flat, saw him reverse the Jaguar out of the garage, then walk to the door of Des’ flat. When he drove away a few minutes later, she peered out into the yard and saw light shining out from Des’ office. She went downstairs and knocked at the door.

“Des? It’s Sophia.”

“Come in.”

She went inside and found him sitting at his desk. “Do you know Stephanie at all?”

“Not very well,” he replied. “She went off to university in London and now lives in Leeds. She works as a wedding dress designer and comes back here the odd time. The boyfriend is bad news. That was his brother you saw the day you arrived.”

“Oh. What exactly does Simon do?”

“As little as possible, from what I can make out. His Lordship made the mistake of lending him some money a while back and now he keeps coming back for more. I think he might be a druggie. And so when he can’t come, he sends his brother instead.”

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Paperback ISBN: 9781986599504

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Meet William and Maria Nelson from A Summer of Secrets

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Sophia Nelson’s father, William, is seventy-eight years-old and was a coal miner. When the mine closed in 1990, he put his heart and soul into the town’s mining museum, only to see it burn to the ground in a suspicious fire and Sophia lose her job there as a result. He continues to hold out hope that the museum will be re-built and, while he is pleased Sophia has found another job, he isn’t too happy that it is as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House.

Sophia’s mother, Maria Nelson, is seventy-five. She worked in an engineering firm in Leeds and became friends with Danielle O’Hara, mother of Sophia’s best friend Michelle, but they drifted apart when Danielle married Don Armstrong and moved to London. Maria now suffers from dementia, has recently had a stroke, and lives in Rich Hill Nursing Home.

Maria has periods of lucidity but at times she thinks Sophia is Sophia’s aunt Sally, or even Sophia’s grandmother. William visits his wife every day but after falling and badly breaking his arm, he had to spend some time in hospital. Because he was unable to visit her, Maria assumed he had died. Even when he left hospital and started visiting her again, Maria still thinks William is dead and that he is her long-dead brother.

Like her husband, Maria isn’t happy that Sophia is now living and working at Heaton Abbey. She begs Sophia to ‘get out of that place’ and but refuses to say why. What happened at the abbey and is Maria speaking to Sophia, or is she thinking of someone else?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

“You are looking for another job, aren’t you, Sally?” her mother added.

“I’ve got another job now.”

“Where?”

“Up at Heaton Abbey. I’m the—”

“The abbey?” Mrs Nelson exclaimed. “No.”

“Yes… What is it?” she cried as her mother began shaking her head violently. “Mum, stop it, don’t do that.”

“Not that place. Not that place.”

“Mum.” She tried to calm her mother. “Mum, stop.”

“You get out of that place. You must get out of that place.”

Sophia could hear feet running down the corridor and her father and a nurse rushed into the room.

“Mrs Nelson?” The nurse tried to soothe her.

“You must get out of that place. You have to get out.”

“Sophia,” her father ordered. “Leave her.”

“Why do I have to get out, Mum?” Sophia demanded. “Tell me.”

“Sophia. Out. Now.”

“Please?” the nurse begged.

Sophia got up and went out into the corridor, kicking the skirting board in frustration. A couple of minutes later her father followed.

“What the hell was that about?” he demanded.

“I don’t know. She asked if I had got a job yet and I told her that I was at Heaton Abbey and she just started shouting and shaking her head.”

“Right, well, you don’t mention the abbey again to her. Do you hear me, Sophia?”

“Yes. I’ll just lie as usual. Pretend I’m Sally one day. Pretend I’m her mother the next.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “I’m sorry.”

“I know,” her father said quietly. “Let the nurse calm her down.”

“All right.”

“You like the abbey, then?” he asked.

“Yes. I did my first tour yesterday.”

“What’s Lord Heaton like?” Mr Nelson added. “Is he a recluse like everyone says?”

“I don’t really know,” she replied truthfully. “He seems to work very hard and doesn’t leave the estate much but I don’t know if that makes him a recluse.”

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Paperback ISBN: 9781986599504

 

Explore A Summer of Secrets on my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

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Meet Michelle Giles from A Summer of Secrets

michelle-giles

Michelle Giles is thirty-three years old and has been Sophia Nelson’s best friend since they were at school together. Michelle is married to Tony and they have one daughter, Cathy, who is six. Now Cathy is at school, Michelle works part-time in the town’s tourist office.

When Sophia split up with her boyfriend and returned to Yorkshire from London to be near to her ageing parents, she slept for a while on her father’s uncomfortable sofa and worked at the town’s mining museum before a suspicious fire burned it to the ground. Michelle then took pity on her and offered her the bed in the loft conversion. Sophia lives with the Giles’ for the next few months but eventually finds a job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House, a stately home and former Cistercian Abbey, which comes with accommodation.

Michelle has mixed feelings about Sophia’s new job and the fact that Sophia will be living at Heaton Abbey – a place people from the town have little or no connection with. Michelle doesn’t want her friend ‘bowing and scraping’ at the abbey but, at the same time, she does want to see Sophia employed and happy again. But what if Sophia’s employment and happiness includes Lord Heaton – dismissed as a recluse by everyone in the town? Will Michelle simply see the lord – the title – and not the man underneath like everyone else?

A_SummerOfSecrets_SQUARE

Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it her attraction to him or the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

Read An Excerpt:

Letting herself into the flat, she blew out her cheeks before going to the cupboard and retrieving a small tin of baked beans. She emptied the contents into a saucepan, turned the gas hob on, then heard her mobile phone ringing. Picking it up and glancing at the screen her heart sank. It was Michelle.

“You’ll never guess who we had an email from at work?” Michelle laughed.

“Who?”

“Your boss.”

“You expected him to be still writing on parchment with a quill, or something?” Sophia asked, pressing the speakerphone button and carrying on with preparing her lunch.

“No. Well, maybe not a quill. Did you give him the office email address?”

“Yes, why?” Sophia put two slices of whole grain brown bread in the toaster and pushed the lever down.

“I just wondered what he was like. It’s just that we’re bringing out a glossy brochure. It might be the only brochure, glossy or otherwise. We’ll see how it goes, but I was wondering if Lord Heaton would mind being interviewed? It would be a big plug for the place and a big scoop for us. Is he a bit…fierce?”

“No, not really,” Sophia lied, opening the fridge and taking out a tub of low fat spread.

“Well, not all the time. Actually, underneath it all, I think he’s a bit shy.”

“Shy? Great. He probably won’t do it, then?”

“There’s no harm in asking. Would you be doing the interview?”

Michelle laughed. “God, no. It’ll be Vincent Graves, probably. The brochure was his idea. Pity, though. Is he good-looking?”

Sophia felt herself flush and stirred the baked beans. “Yes, I suppose he is.”

“Excellent. Might even get him on the cover. I’ll tell Vincent. So, how’s it going up there?”

Don’t ask. “Very well. The flat’s lovely and the tours are no problem.” Provided he doesn’t come on them. “I’ve even got the use of the wireless internet connection.”

“Blimey, very hi-tech. Have you tried it out yet?”

“No, I’m still unpacking.”

“And Lady Heaton? What’s she like?”

Where could she start? Best not to even try. Sophia’s mind then went back to Lady Heaton’s peculiar behaviour as she left the drawing room. And where had all that money come from? She shrugged. No, best not even try.

“She’s been pleasant so far.”

“You haven’t got lost at all, then?”

She just laughed and said goodbye to Michelle as the toast popped up and the beans came to the boil.

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Buy A Summer of Secrets for   

KindleOr read A Summer of Secrets FREE with 

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Amazon ASIN: B07B51ZTH2

Paperback ISBN: 9781986599504

 

Explore A Summer of Secrets on my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

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Meet My Name Is Rachel’s Rachel Harris

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Rachel Harris is an unemployed librarian, having lost her job when her library branch was closed due to county council cutbacks. She has recently moved into the cottage left to her by her late grandmother and is looking for a lodger to share it with. Having recently turned thirty, Rachel is also thinking of her birth and adoption, and wonders if she should try again to find her birth mother who abandoned Rachel as a new-born baby on the steps of a church-run children’s home.

The cottage is old and creaks and groans but Rachel begins to hear rustling noises and the pot plant she keeps on the bathroom window sill ends up regularly on the floor. She mentions the noises to her adoptive mother and her best friend, Kathy, but thinks nothing more of it until Kathy e-mails her to let her know that she has arranged for the ‘Hot Vicar’ standing in for the holidaying local clergyman to call to the cottage and investigate the noises.

Returning home from a job interview, Rachel finds the Reverend Matthew Williams waiting for her and discovers that, yes, he is pretty hot, while he finds that the strange noises are caused by nothing stranger than a large bat roost in her attic. When Matthew sees Rachel is looking for a lodger, he asks if she would consider him. Single since discovering her boyfriend was married with two children, Rachel puts aside her attraction to the first man since Craig and agrees. She can’t be eyeing up Matthew now she is going to be his landlady. But only days after Matthew moves into the cottage, the anonymous and increasingly frightening incidents begin.

Is Rachel being targeted? Is it Matthew? Or is it someone who has a grudge against both of them? And why? You’ll have to read My Name Is Rachel to find out…  

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Rachel Harris was abandoned as a baby on the steps of a church-run children’s home in England and later adopted. Who was her birth mother and what were the circumstances which led her to give up her baby?

Searching for someone who doesn’t want to be found seems a hopeless task until Rachel meets Matthew Williams, a Church of England clergyman.

Then the anonymous and increasingly frightening attempts to end their relationship begin. Are these actions connected to the mysterious events surrounding Rachel’s birth?

Read An Excerpt…

“Your dad asked me whether I was single, married, divorced or…gay, I suppose…”

She groaned. Dad. You wanted me to get a lodger, and now I have one you immediately start giving him the third degree. “I thought you’d be safe with him. Mum’s usually the one cross-examining people.”

“Then he told me about you, that you were adopted, and about…” He tailed off and her heart began to pound with fury at her father. “I’m sorry, I didn’t question him about you.”

“No, you’re far too polite,” she replied. “Yes, my ex, Craig turned out to be married with two kids. He just forgot to tell me.”

He gave her a sympathetic smile. “This competition of ours might end up as a draw yet,” he said and she pulled a comical expression. “But it must have been awful.”

“Yes. I was his mistress for four months; the idea of it makes me shudder now. It was all downhill for a while afterwards. I lost my job. A few months later Gran died, then I reversed the car into a concrete bollard.”

“Then I arrived.”

She gave a little laugh. “Once you arrived I could tell Mum and Kathy that this house isn’t haunted and I wasn’t going nuts, I’d got someone to share an ancient house with no double glazing with, and I’d got a new job. That’s good in my eyes.”

“Well, I’m relieved.”

“Well, I’m furious you were interrogated about your marital and sexual status. It’s none of either of my parents’ business.”

“I can’t blame them for trying to match-make.” He shrugged. “I am single and straight after all.” She flushed and he smiled. “Enough. I’m embarrassing you. Friends, yeah?”

He came across to her and held out a hand.

She grinned, clasped it and squeezed it. “Friends.”

“Did you tell his wife?”

“No,” she replied. “I wanted to, to get my own back, but I didn’t. Why wreck her life, too? And the children’s if she left him. Do you think I should have?”

“No, you did the right thing,” he assured her. “It’s only natural you’d want revenge, but I think you were wise in not giving into it.”

“I hated him for doing that to me and to his family. I mean, I have no idea where I come from or what sort of situation my birth mother was in. I’m not going to create problems for Craig’s wife if she believes there are none.”

“How did you find out?” He seated himself in the saggy floral armchair opposite her.

“I saw them.” She pulled a wry expression. “They were grocery shopping in Aldabury. It was a workday afternoon, so he obviously thought it safe for him to be in the supermarket with them. I wasn’t feeling too well and was on my way home from work but had popped in to the chemist there. I saw them as I was leaving. There they all were at the freezers, choosing what kind of pizza to have for dinner that evening. He was supposed to be in Scotland at a conference. I almost threw up on the spot. I just dropped everything and ran.”

“Did you confront him?”

She swallowed and closed her eyes, recalling the awful experience. “Yes. He didn’t bother denying it so I just asked him to leave. I was very calm, very dignified, but once he left I cried solidly for days, then gave notice on the house, packed my bags and went home to Mum and Dad. I haven’t seen him since. Have you seen your ex since you split up?”

“Ages ago. Just to see, not to talk to. I’m not so sure if I could have been as dignified as you.”

“What about now? I used to dread running into him again, but I heard a few months ago that they’d moved. It was a huge relief.”

“Not sure.” He shrugged and crossed his legs. “I certainly wouldn’t try and get back with her. One bitten, twice shy. I think I could just about exchange a few clergyman-like comments about the weather, or something. I don’t know where she is living now, anyway, and I don’t really care.” His raised his eyebrows. “I can hear Mike cheering from here. I wonder what you’ll think of Mike? He always takes the mickey out of me. I wonder what he’ll make of an a librarian soon-to-be-archivist?”

She pretended to ponder it for a couple of moments. “Well, I’m not the elderly spinster-type with glasses on a chain around her neck and who wears a twin set and pearls.”

“Not yet.”

She roared with laughter and was delighted to see him laugh, too. “So what does this Mike call you?” she asked.

“Well, he used to call me Fox Mulder. I’m sure he’ll think of something new eventually.”

“And you don’t mind?”

He shrugged non-committally. “From Mike I can take it. Just about. Sometimes you need to laugh, don’t you?”

“I could have made you laugh last night if you’d told me.”

He met her eyes with a grateful smile and she fought to control another flush. “If it happens again—which I hope it won’t—but if it does, I’ll tell you. If you hadn’t guessed what was wrong already, that is. Your dad also told me about the children’s home you were in. You do know the Church of England ran it?”

“Yes. The building is still there, too. I went there and took a picture of the steps. People must have thought I was completely nuts, but anyone working there thirty years ago has long gone.”

“Tell me if I’m interfering.” He sounded hesitant. “But I could make some enquiries about people who used to work there. They might remember your birth mother.”

Her heart leaped and she clenched her fists. “No, you wouldn’t be interfering at all. Fantastic, Matthew. Thank you.”

My Name Is Rachel by Lorna Peel

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Meet My Name Is Rachel’s Matthew Williams

Matthew

Matthew Williams is a 38-year-old Church of England clergyman. He has returned to the church after a year’s sabbatical following a violent assault on him and has recently been appointed editor of the Diocese of Aldabury’s church magazine.

The assault left Matthew with PTSD and has only increased his trust issues. His relationship with his ex-girlfriend hadn’t been going well even before the assault—she had wanted him to look for a country parish and he was appointed to an inner city parish instead. She then thought that when he resigned from his parish following the assult, he was, ‘flushing his career right down the toilet’. Their attempt to live together while he was on sabbatical was disastrous, with her continually nagging him to find another parish. They soon went their separate ways and Matthew moved in temporarily with a friend, sleeping on Mike’s sofa.

While waiting to begin work as editor and undergoing IT training, Matthew stands in for clergy who are away and he is asked to call to a woman claiming to be hearing strange noises in her house. He finds nothing stranger than a large bat roost in her attic and when he sees that Rachel is looking for a lodger is is he who asks if she would consider him.

Matthew hopes that by living in a beautiful cottage in the countryside, he can put the assult firmly in the past and look to the future. But only days after he moves in, the anonymous and increasingly frightening incidents begin.

Is Matthew being targeted? Is it Rachel? Or is it someone who has a grudge against both of them? And why? You’ll have to read My Name Is Rachel to find out…  

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Rachel Harris was abandoned as a baby on the steps of a church-run children’s home, fostered and later adopted. Who was her birth mother and what were the circumstances which led her to give up her baby?

Searching for someone who doesn’t want to be found seems a hopeless task until Rachel meets Matthew Williams, a Church of England clergyman.

Then the anonymous and increasingly frightening attempts to end their relationship begin. Are these actions connected to the mysterious events surrounding Rachel’s birth?

Read An Excerpt…

Rachel saw nothing of Matthew the following day; didn’t hear him leave and didn’t hear him come home – but he must have – as she found a mug and plate, knife, fork, and spoon left to dry on the draining board the next morning.

That night, she was in bed with a detective novel when she heard him come home. Glancing at the clock radio, she saw it was ten to midnight. He came straight upstairs and went into his room. Some minutes later, she heard murmuring then a louder and clearer “Amen,” then all was quiet.

A few hours later, she was woken by an anguished cry. She leapt out of bed and ran across the landing just as another cry came from Matthew’s room.

“Matthew?” She knocked at his door, then thought to hell with it, and opened the door. Fumbling for the switch, she turned the light on. A bare-chested Matthew was sitting up in bed, the heels of his hands in his eyes, and his fingers in his hair clawing his scalp. Little by little, he dragged his hands down his face and groaned. “What is it?” she asked, crouching down beside the bed and just managing to keep her voice steady.

“I’m okay.”

“No, you’re not. Want to talk about it?”

“It?” he repeated.

“The nightmare.”

“I can’t remember it,” he told her in a flat tone and she knew he was lying. “I’ll be okay. Thanks, Rachel. Sorry for frightening you. Oh.” He rubbed his eyes. “Tomorrow… today… I don’t have to work, so I’ll have a lie-in.”

“All right. Goodnight.” Reluctant to leave him in such a state, she closed the door and returned to her room. As she got back into bed, she heard murmuring again.

My Name Is Rachel by Lorna Peel

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Meet Into The Unknown’s Kate Sheridan

Kate Sheridan

Kate Sheridan is an only child, born in Co Galway, Ireland to an Irish solicitor father and an English mother. Her father had wanted Kate to go to America in search of work and live with his cousin but her mother persuades him to let Kate go to London to live with Kate’s aunt and uncle, despite the threat of war.

Although Kate is only eighteen when she arrives in London on the morning of 3 September 1939, she is very independent, having been sent away from home to boarding school at the age of twelve. She has recently completed a course in a Commercial College so she knows short hand, typing and book keeping, which she hopes will help her in her search for work.

Unfortunately, Kate’s nationality and accent hinder her job search, as many people resent the Irish Free State’s decision to declare itself neutral. It is quite a while before she is employed by a local butcher, who thinks she’s Welsh, as his book-keeper. Mr Graham turns out to have wandering hands and by Christmas 1939, Kate has had enough of having her bottom pinched. She decides to leave and join the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, known as the WAAF.

Kate meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler on Christmas Day when they both have the same idea to walk off their Christmas dinner. She is immediately attracted to him and agrees to go to the pictures with him but is put on her guard when her aunt and uncle tell her Charlie is a womaniser who only lives for the here and now.

When Charlie asks Kate out a second time, her aunt and uncle are shocked. Charlie Butler has never asked the same woman out twice and Kate’s aunt forbids her to go. Should Kate heed her aunt and uncle’s advice and turn Charlie down? Or should she trust her own judgement and risk a relationship with an RAF pilot whose life will probably be in danger? Find out what she decides in Into The Unknown.  

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London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will Kate and Charlie’s love survive separation, parental disapproval and loss?

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Read An Excerpt…

“What?” His head jerked up, making her jump. “You’re only nineteen?”

He seemed so horrified, her heart began to thump for all the wrong reasons.

“Yes. Why? What age did you think I was?”

“Twenty-two, twenty-three, at least,” he gasped. “Oh, God.”

My clothes and make-up, she thought, getting to her feet. “Charlie, we seem to have been very much mistaken about each other.” She reached for her gas mask case, hoping she wouldn’t cry, and cursing herself for not believing Helen and Bob and letting her guard down. “I’m very sorry.”

“No, Kate, please?” He stood up so quickly his chair toppled over backwards, just missing his own gas mask case, and grabbed her arms. “Please stay?” he pleaded, his hands sliding down to hers and squeezing them. “Please?”

When she nodded, he released her hands, and she re-took her seat. Picking up his chair, he sat down, rubbing the side of his nose, and she waited for him to gather his thoughts.

“Kate, I’m sorry. I did think you were older. I mean, I’m twenty-seven. You don’t look or act like a nineteen-year-old.”

She gave him a weak smile. “When I arrived in London, I looked like a scarecrow and Helen refused to be seen out with me. As soon as she could, she bought me clothes, shoes, and make-up, and got my hair cut and styled. We thought it would help me to get a job but looking back I realise it was very over the top. I did get a job, but it brought me the trouble with Mr. Graham, so now I’ve modified my style so I don’t look like a scarecrow or a clown anymore.”

“Mmm,” he replied, and she frowned. “I saw you,” he explained. “I was driving back to base. I saw you getting out of a cab. I only saw a glimpse of you, but it was enough for me. Kate, can we start again? Please?”

Kate looked down at her hands and heard Charlie sitting back in his chair. It creaked, and he sighed. How should she answer? What about Bob and Helen’s warnings? What about what her father would say? What about her feelings for Charlie? There was no denying she had some and she bit her bottom lip. This was only the second time they had gone out together. Was this all happening far too soon?

“Be careful.” Bob and Helen’s words echoed around her head and she couldn’t ignore them so she leaned forward. “Are you really sure you want to go out with a nineteen-year-old girl from Ireland?” she asked.

Seeing indecision in his eyes, her heart sank. “I need to know, Charlie. I’ve let my guard down once and I’m not doing it again unless I know.”

“Bob warned you about going out with me again, didn’t he?” he asked instead of answering. “No, it’s all right, I’d be amazed and disappointed in him if he hadn’t. Charlie Butler—be careful, he gets through more women than hot dinners. Kate, if you just want to be seen with a pilot on your arm, who makes you feel all grown up, then I will find a cab and send you back to Dunstan Street right now.”

“Bob warned me the first time, it was Helen who warned me about going out with you again. And I can also hear my father shouting at me in my head. You’re British, Charlie, and you’re in the British armed forces, so he’s going to hate you.” His dark eyes widened in shock, but she continued. “Charlie, I don’t need someone like you to make me feel all grown up. I’ve been all grown up since the age of twelve when I was sent away from home to boarding school. I’m here, despite Bob, despite Helen, despite my father, and despite my own reservations because I like you very much and I want to get to know you better. So, if you aren’t all grown up enough to handle that, then I will be the one calling a cab and sending you home.”

He stared at her. She returned his stare defiantly before he leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “Yes, I am grown up enough,” he said. “And, yes, Bob’s right, Helen’s right, my father’s right, I have been with a lot of women, but none of them have ever had the effect that you have on me. So, Kate Sheridan, aged nineteen, from Ireland, would you like to go out with me?”

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Meet Into The Unknown’s Charlie Butler

Charlie Butler

Twenty-seven year-old Charlie Butler is the eldest of two boys born to Dr Malcom Butler, a Harley Street gynaecologist, and his wife, Audrey. Having always wanted to fly airplanes, he joined the Royal Air Force straight from school and has recently been promoted to Flight Lieutenant. He is handsome, he knows it, and it doesn’t bother him one bit that he has a reputation as a womaniser.

He first sees Kate Sheridan the day after her arrival in London from Ireland. Her aunt had brought her to Oxford Street to smarten her up and Charlie finds himself mesmerised by the ‘film star’ who gets out of a cab across the street from him.

It isn’t until he’s granted Christmas leave that Charlie has the opportunity to ask her out to the pictures. He behaves himself, the date goes well and, despite misgivings about getting involved with a woman during a war, he asks her out again – this time taking her to his favourite jazz club.

There, he gets the shock of his life when the beautiful woman seated opposite him lets slip that she is, in fact, a nineteen-year-old girl. Clearly dismayed by his reaction, Kate gets up to leave. Should he let the girl he is beginning to feel very strongly about walk out of the club and his life? Find out what he decides in Into The Unknown.

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London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen-year-old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will Kate and Charlie’s love survive separation, parental disapproval and loss?

Fashion girl in sketch-style

Read An Excerpt…

A couple of hours later, Charlie sank back into one of the leather armchairs which ran along a wall in the Officers’ Mess at his fighter base, his mind still on Kate’s legs and lips. He was pretty unnerved that a mere glimpse of this girl could affect him like this.

“Oi, Charlie?” He jumped as someone’s goggles hit him on the head and dropped into his lap. He looked around as Pilot Officer Billy “The Kid” Benson grinned at him. “Had a good leave?”

“It was the usual, but then…” He tailed off and frowned.

Billy laughed. “War is declared, yeah, great. It’ll be all go from now on.”

“No, it’s not that.”

“What? You don’t think the Luftwaffe deserve a good old thrashing?” Billy’s voice had risen and Charlie began to tense.

“Of course I do. It’s just that I saw this girl…”

“Ah,” Billy roared and the others sniggered. “Yet another female about to fall for the Butler banter.”

“I didn’t even speak to her.”

“Just as well, or you’ll have Doris after your balls. Bloody hell, is no woman safe? You must have little blighters running about all over the country!”

“No, I bloody don’t,” Charlie snapped, wishing he hadn’t opened his mouth. “I’m careful, which is more than can be said for you.”

“My father isn’t a bloody Harley Street gynaecologist who knows where to get condoms from.”

“Well, you should at least try and get some from somewhere. A barber’s, perhaps?”

“Charlie’s right.” A calm voice spoke from the door and they all turned in surprise. No-one had heard Squadron Leader Ralph Clarke come in and they all got to their feet to salute him. “Now we’re at war we can’t afford any…accidents. We’ll all be under pressure from now on. We all have our needs, but we don’t want to be leaving them with something to remember us by. Try, lads, I’m sure they’re not that hard to find.”

“Yes, sir,” they all mumbled, and Charlie sat back down in his chair with some satisfaction.

“Now, look.” Clarke leaned back against the door. “No lectures, but I’ll give you all an idea of what to expect. Everyone here and at Fighter Command expects your full support in whatever operations you are sent on. The plan is that we carry out two weeks of maximum effort, one week of sustained effort, followed by one week of rest. Our first objectives are raids against German warships in Heligoland—which is just off the north coast of Germany—and the dropping of leaflets, but we are not to raid Germany itself.”

There were mumblings at that and Clarke raised his hands. “Patience,” he told them, then smiled at Charlie. “Congratulations on your promotion.”

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Meet Jane Hollinger from Only You

pretty-2150882_1920Jane Hollinger is thirty-one and recovering from a devastating divorce. After being dumped by her husband and business partner then discovering he had been having a year-long affair with a client, Jane doesn’t think she will ever recover from the betrayal. She isn’t in any hurry to begin dating again because, as she puts it, she’s the wrong side of thirty. She spends her time teaching family history evening classes and one of her students is a man named Mitch. His strange appearance makes her very nervous but at the same time she is intrigued by him.

After a few classes and encounters with Mitch, Jane discovers that the man who has been sitting at the back of her class is a man she thought she would only see in her dreams. His name is Robert Armstrong, one of Britain’s biggest acting stars, and she is stunned. Robert asks Jane to help her with an up and coming television role and also to help him with a mystery in his family tree.

Jane and Robert become friends but realise the chemistry between them is too strong to ignore. Jane begins to discover what dating a celebrity is like and Robert gets a taste of the normal life. Then, the British press get wind of their relationship, and Jane must decide whether she can put up with press intrusion and the paparazzi to be with Robert. Find out what she decides in Only You!

Jane Hollinger is divorced and the wrong side of thirty – as she puts it. Her friends are pressuring her to dive back into London’s dating pool, but she’s content with her quiet life teaching family history evening classes.

Robert Armstrong is every woman’s fantasy: handsome, charming, rich and famous. When he asks her to meet him, she convinces herself it’s because he needs her help with a mystery in his family tree. Soon she realises he’s interested in more than her genealogical expertise. Now the paparazzi want a piece of Jane too.

 Can Jane handle living — and loving — in the spotlight?

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Read An Excerpt From Chapter Six…

“Why do you run away?” he asked quietly. “Do I still frighten you or something?”

“No.”

“Then why?”

“Because, if you want to date me, I don’t know how,” she confessed, feeling blood rush to her cheeks. “I haven’t dated anyone since university and that wasn’t even proper dating. Tom took me out to dinner once. We were students; we couldn’t afford to go to restaurants, so it was usually fish and chips or a burger. I don’t know how to date properly, Robert. I’ve never been out with a man your age and it’s mortifying to have to admit it. That’s why I take the easy way out and run. And, apart from that, your ex-girlfriend was everything I’m not.”

“Which is precisely why she is now my ex.”

“Why did you split up?”

“It’s a cliché, but we ended up wanting different things. I’m not into all that ‘let’s see how often we can get in the papers’ stuff. I didn’t like going to clubs or restaurants where there would be photographers outside. She did. I’m an actor, not a celebrity. I hate the whole celebrity thing.”

“But you’re very famous now,” she protested. “And you’ll be even more famous when Mitch Barnes is aired. I mean, on the web…” Tailing off again, she pulled a face.

“What on the web?” he asked.

“There are websites dedicated to you. Lots of websites. Some of them are a bit…” More blood gushed into her cheeks and he rolled his eyes.

“Look, I’m just an ordinary bloke.”

There was nothing ordinary about him. “There are millions of women out there who compete against each other to see who can come up with the best sexual fantasy involving you. That doesn’t really strike me as normal.”

“Looks like I’ve got some work to do, then.”

“What?”

“I’ll boot up my laptop and dedicate a few websites to you.”

“What?” she squeaked. “No you bloody won’t. If my parents saw—”

“You’re beautiful when you’re angry,” he interrupted softly.

“And that’s just corny.”

He shrugged. “That was meant to be a compliment. All right, you look like crap, if that’s what you really want to hear.”

She couldn’t help but roar with laughter. “Thank you,” she said and he inclined his head.

“Look, Jane. Just tell me whether I’m wasting my time.”

“No,” she replied with a sigh. “But I think you’re mad.”

He came slowly towards her and held her hands. “No, I’m not.”

“Are.”

“Not,” he whispered, then gently kissed her lips. “You’re not going to run, are you?”

“It’s my house.”

“Ah. Good point. Can I have your phone number?”

“Why?”

“Don’t you want me to text you sometime?” he teased with a wink.

“Sexy ones?” She winced as soon as the words were out of her mouth.

“They might be,” he replied mischievously. “So don’t show anyone.”

“I won’t,” she said as they exchanged phones and added their numbers then passed them back.

“Thank you.” He returned his phone to his jacket pocket. “I’ll ring you, too. Now, can I have a look at these websites about me?” he asked and her jaw dropped.

“No.”

“Why not?”

Because the women – and quite a few men – in the guest books, message boards and forums would queue up to rip your clothes off and handcuff you to the bed so they could smear cream all over you and lick it all off.

“Because you’d find some of them a bit embarrassing.”  

“That bad, eh?”

“Coffee?”

“Yes, please. Milk, no sugar.”

“I won’t be long.”

She went to the kitchen, switched the kettle on again then leant heavily on the worktop. Right, let’s get this absolutely straight, she told herself. You are in a relationship with Robert Armstrong. She inhaled and exhaled deeply before reaching for the jar of coffee.

Only You by Lorna Peel

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Paperback ISBN: 9781094641393

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Meet Robert Armstrong from Only You

Robert Armstron from Only You

Robert Armstrong is 40 and is a handsome actor who the paparazzi and most red blooded females and males want a piece of. Originally, he thought it would be easier to only date actresses but as his career progressed he didn’t like being in, and being referred to as, one half of a celebrity couple. It caused friction and lead to the break up of that relationship and made him realise he needed to be with someone who wasn’t famous in any way and who could look past the characters he’s played and just see him.

Jane Hollinger is divorced, dumped horribly by her philandering husband and not in any hurry to start dating again. She’s perfectly happy with her quiet life teaching family history evening classes.

Normally their paths would never have crossed, but when Robert lands the role of a genealogist, he starts to attend Jane’s classes to help with research into the part. When he begins to delve into his family tree, he uncovers a mystery and asks Jane for help. It’s the start of an on/off romance where Robert isn’t used to having to chase and almost beg a woman to go out with him. Robert isn’t vain, he’s just never had a woman actually run away from him before!

Like Jane, Robert has personal issues he hasn’t dealt with and he doesn’t like accepting advice from anyone. Attempting to deal with his feelings for Jane brings out the worst in him, which he hates, and it doesn’t help matters that it all takes place inside and on the covers of Britain’s many celebrity gossip magazines. Will Robert persuade Jane to learn to trust again and get used to the pressures of living with him in the public eye?

 Jane Hollinger is divorced and the wrong side of thirty – as she puts it. Her friends are pressuring her to dive back into London’s dating pool, but she’s content with her quiet life teaching family history evening classes.

Robert Armstrong is every woman’s fantasy: handsome, charming, rich and famous. When he asks her to meet him, she convinces herself it’s because he needs her help with a mystery in his family tree. Soon she realises he’s interested in more than her genealogical expertise. Now the paparazzi want a piece of Jane too.

Can Jane handle living — and loving — in the spotlight?

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Read An Excerpt From Chapter Two…

An hour and twenty minutes later, Jane was sitting in The Crown – a pub she had never been in before – nursing a pineapple juice. Five minutes passed. Then five more. She was on the verge of leaving when she saw ‘Mitch’ weaving his way through the tables towards her.

“Sorry, Jane,” he said. “I had trouble finding a parking space.” There was still no trace of the Cockney accent. “Let me get you a drink. Same again?”

“Pineapple juice, thank you.”

He returned with two pineapple juices. As he sat down, he went to rub his bloodshot eyes, then clearly thought better of it and grimaced.

“I’m sorry for deceiving you,” he began. “And I’m even more sorry for frightening you the way I did. I come to the classes straight off the set. I frighten myself sometimes when I look in the mirror.”

“You frighten the hell out of me…” Her voice tailed off as she realised she still didn’t know his real name.

“Robert. Robert Armstrong.”

She stared at his outstretched hand. No, it couldn’t be. He, or rather the character he played in her favourite TV series, had been the first man to make her blush since Tom had left. Both Mags and Carol teased her unmercifully over it.

She continued gawping at his hand. Like his face, there was something not quite right about it. Then the penny dropped. It was makeup. Her gaze travelled up his arm. There was makeup there, too. Bloody hell, he was covered in the stuff. Every bare patch of skin was lathered in what looked like very pale foundation. Relieved it was only makeup and not some kind of bizarre skin disease, she finally reached out and shook his hand.

“The other night… I was watching The Lady of the Woods.” For the ten millionth time.

“I see. Good. I hope you enjoyed it?”

“It is you, isn’t it – as Simon Moore?”

“Yes, it’s me.”

“Your makeup person deserves an Oscar.”

He laughed. “I’ll tell her that.”

“Because you look atrocious.”

“Thank you,” he replied.

She flushed. “Sorry. That was a bit rude. You’re a bit of a Daniel Day-Lewis, then? You have to be the person you’re playing?”

“No, not really, but I wanted to keep the accent up. Mitch Barnes was a real East End lad, and I’m not.”

“Go on then.”

He smiled and took a sip of pineapple juice. “How did you find out?”

“My sister looked up Michael ‘Mitch’ Barnes on the Internet,” she said and he made an ‘ah’ face.

“Why family history classes?” she asked, lifting her glass to her lips.

“I start filming a feature-length TV drama next month. About a genealogist.”

She almost inhaled her drink. “You’re joking?” she croaked and coughed to clear her throat. “I mean, I know genealogy is popular at the moment, but a feature-length TV drama? I suppose there are lots of murders and bigamy and other juicy stuff to bring in the viewers?”

“There’s one murder. I play a genealogist, hired by a female solicitor who is acting on behalf of a very rich client, now deceased. The solicitor needs proof that a claimant to the estate really is a descendant of her client.”

“Oh.”

He grinned. “You don’t sound too impressed.”

“No doubt he gets involved with the solicitor?”

“No doubt about that at all. He has flings with the solicitor and the claimant.”

She fought back a groan. It sounded like they’d based this character on her ex-husband and she had to fight the urge to ask if the genealogist’s name was Tom.

“Hey, look,” he said, rubbing the corners of his eyes. “It’s a TV drama. But I did want to try and get a feel for why people want to trace their ancestry. I mean, Dave is doing it because he knows he won’t be having children of his own, while Diana is doing it especially for her children and grandchildren…” Tailing off, he shook his head. “Sorry.” He smiled apologetically. “But my eyes are killing me.”

“When are you finished filming this gangster series?”

“Tomorrow. And it can’t come soon enough. I’ve spent a fortune on eye drops.”

“You need to take those contact lenses out. Maybe we should go?” she suggested, despite a huge reluctance to leave.

“I’m sorry but, yes.” He blinked and rolled his eyes. “Can I walk you to your car?”

“Yes, thanks,” she said, getting to her feet and smiled as Robert helped her into her coat. A young woman at the next table watched his every move as though she was expecting him to run off with not only Jane’s coat but her bag, too. “Thank you.”

They left the pub, more people staring at them as they passed.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a TV drama about a genealogist before,” she told him as they strolled along the street. “What does the genealogist in your drama look like? Is he a bit of a stereotypical geek?”

“Oh, he’s just a normal bloke. Normal clothes, no glasses or contact lenses.”

She thought of Tom again, then banished him to the back of her mind.

She stopped at her car and he watched as she unlocked and opened the door. “Will you be back next week?” she couldn’t help but ask, grabbing the door as it began to swing shut.

“I hope so, why?”

“Well, you won’t be dressed like that.”

He smiled. “No, I’ll be myself for once.”

“Good,” she said, gripping the car door so tightly she was sure she was denting it.

He leant forward as if intending to kiss her cheek then jerked back, opened his eyes wide, then squeezed them closed. “Sorry.”

“Go,” she told him. “Get rid of those awful lenses.”

He nodded. “I will, I promise. Goodnight.

Only You by Lorna Peel

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