Julie Houston shares an extract from her new novel, Coming Home to Holly Close Farm.
I laughed despite myself. ‘Oh, well done. Ten out of ten.’
‘Yes, I was so pleased with my quick wit. Unfortunately, while most of the crew thought it was brilliant, one of the stewards, who was teed off with me because the co-pilot he’d fancied for ages had chatted me up in Liverpool, reported me to my line manager.’
‘The traitor. And you were in trouble?’
‘Sacked,’ Daisy sniffed, jumping off the bed and examining her now quite purple roots in the mirror. ‘I don’t really care, because the season was coming to an end and I’d totally had enough of the whole damned circus of arm waving the safety stuff when nobody takes any notice because they know it’s all a farce anyway, and a mask and yellow rubber dinghy and abandoning high heels isn’t going to save them from the sharks below.’
‘Sharks? In Malaga?’
‘You know what I mean.’
I yawned. God, I was tired. And depressed. ‘So, what now? You can’t stay here for ever.’
‘I don’t plan to.’ Daisy checked her watch before wiping the white cream off her top lip with a couple of quick moves before squinting in the mirror above her dressing table once more. ‘There, that’s better. Ready to face the world now.’
‘I don’t imagine there’s much of the world to face round here. There never was before, so I don’t see why there should be now.’
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Daisy frowned. ‘I’m actually enjoying being back. Having both feet on the ground all the time.’
‘Yes, but what are you going to do? You can’t just sit around all day doing nothing.’
‘Hey, I’ve not stopped since I came home three days ago. I’m already earning my keep by giving the garden a makeover. And Westenbury’s becoming quite trendy, you know. There’s Clementine’s restaurant down the road. I thought I might see if they need any kitchen or waiting staff. Just until I find some more landscaping work.’
‘Do people want their gardens doing in November? I thought it was a miserable time of year for gardens?’
‘That’s where you’re wrong,’ Daisy said enthusiastically, warming to her theme. ‘Dahlias need lifting, new bulbs need planting, the ground needs to be prepared for planting hedges, trees and shrubs…’
‘Fine, fine, enough,’ I groaned, burying my head under her pillow. ‘Spare me the details; I’ve got one hell of a headache. You won’t catch me staying round here longer than I have to. As soon as I’ve sorted myself a new job, I’ll be back in London. I sort of panicked. You know, there I was, on the streets of Bloomsbury, five bin bags around my feet and I just headed for King’s Cross and the train home. I should have gone to stay with someone in London really, but to be honest I was too embarrassed to ring anyone.’
‘Embarrassed?’ Why? Because that wanker was married all along?’
‘No, not because of that,’ I managed to articulate from the muffled depths of the pillow before surfacing fully and sitting up. ‘I suppose I’ve not been the best friend since moving in with Dominic. I was just so happy to come home and be with him – when he actually was at the flat – that I’d not really wanted to socialise with friends.’
‘That’s really poor of you, Charlie.’ Daisy sounded cross. ‘You really shouldn’t give up your friends just because you’ve moved in with some man.’
‘Anyway,’ I went on, not really listening, ‘when Dominic finds out I’ve left London, he might realise just what he’s missing and…’
‘Oh, don’t be so wet, Charlie. He’s had you over, good and proper. And yes,’ Daisy went on, ‘I totally understand what you saw in him and that you were taken in by him. He was charming and pretty gorgeous to boot.’
‘Oh, he was, he was.’ I lashed out furiously at the pillow.
‘But you’re better off up here for a while,’ Daisy affected a broad Yorkshire accent. ‘Oop North wi yer mam and dad, yer gran and yer little sister.’
Charlie Maddison loves being an architect in London, but when she finds out her boyfriend, Dominic, is actually married, she runs back to the beautiful countryside of Westenbury and her parents.
Charlie’s sister Daisy, a landscape gardener, is also back home in desperate need of company and some fun. Their great-grandmother, Madge – now in her early nineties – reveals she has a house, Holly Close Farm, mysteriously abandoned over sixty years ago, and persuades the girls to project manage its renovation.
As work gets underway, the sisters start uncovering their family’s history, and the dark secrets that are hidden at the Farm.
A heart-breaking tale of wartime romance, jealousy and betrayal slowly emerges, but with a moral at its end: true love can withstand any obstacle, and, before long, Charlie dares to believe in love again too…
Julie Houston is the author of The One Saving Grace, Goodness, Grace and Me and Looking For Lucy, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle #1 bestseller. She is married, with two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.