Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spotlight: Enescu Fleet Mystery Trilogy by Sherban Young

Fleeting Memory
(An Enescu Fleet Mystery)

The answer lies with Keats... With these cryptic last words, the man sprawled out on the floor of the rustic cabin expires—murdered. What could he have meant? Why Keats? Which answer? (For that matter, what was the question?) All this and more passes through the mind of the young householder who discovers the body. If only he knew the guy’s name. Or anybody’s name. Including his own...
The first in the Enescu Fleet series. The murder revolves a Deadly Allusions style puzzle. See if you can solve it before Fleet does!
Read a free sample with Amazon’s LOOK INSIDE

June 2011
228 pp.  6 x 9 paper.  $14.95.
MysteryCaper PressAmazon
e-book.  $5.99.

Fleeting Glance
(An Enescu Fleet Mystery)

John Hathaway just wanted a quiet weekend alone with his fiancée. Instead, he receives a cryptic postcard from a man he’s never met, gets wrapped up in an elaborate art heist and finds himself framed for murder. And what’s worse, his future in-laws are in town! The palette is certainly thickening here, and there might be only one person who can rally the muses in time to string it all together: the Master himself, Enescu Fleet, retired private eye.
Murder, art and nudity. Have a gander at Glance: the exciting follow-up to Fleeting Memory.
Read a free sample with Amazon’s LOOK INSIDE

November 2012
283 pp.  6 x 9 paper.  $15.95.
MysteryCaper Press, Amazon
e-book.  $5.99.
Kindle, iBook, Nook

Fleeting Note - New!
(An Enescu Fleet Mystery)
The puzzling last words of a murdered music critic, the score of the missing third Romanian Rhapsody and a band of high-profile suspects. Fleet and the gang are back! Can they unravel the clue before a most unharmonious killer claims another victim?
The third in the Enescu Fleet series.
Read a free sample with Amazon’s LOOK INSIDE

July 2013
205 pp.  6 x 9 paper.  $14.95.
MysteryCaper PressAmazon
e-book.  $5.99.

Author Interview

I’d like to welcome author Sherban Young to Socrates’ Book Review Blog and Socrates’ Cozy Cafe. He is the author of several mystery books that have a touch of humor too.

Welcome to our blog, Sherban!

Thanks for having me!

1) To start off, what influenced you to become a writer?

I love words: constructing the turn of a phrase, structuring a narrative, all of it. I wrote my first novel when I was ten—a spy thriller. It was only eight pages, but I’m quite sure it was a novel. It said so at the top of the page.

2) Why mysteries?

I’ve always been drawn to mysteries. I like the structure most of all. As the audience, first we wonder, then we take some guesses, and finally we get a little wisdom. Sort of like life.

3) Is it difficult to mix mystery and humor together?

It depends which side is calling the shots. I tend to give the humor side star-billing, with the mystery side playing more of a strong supporting role. They’re both a driving force in my stories, but if I let the mystery throw its weight around too much the humor would seem out of place. I want the humor to permeate all the way through, even when the characters stumble on the occasional dead body.

4) Did you read mysteries growing up? Any favorite authors or books?

I loved Agatha Christie when I was young—still do. Later I enjoyed Rex Stout quite a bit. They took two very different approaches to the mystery genre. Christie was all about the supporting characters and their motivations, and of course the excellent mystery puzzle. Stout was more about the lifestyle of his detectives and their associates, with the secondary characters and mystery playing a pretty small role. Both approaches are a pleasure to read.

5) Do you do any research for your writing? What is involved in the process?

For my Enescu Fleet detective series, I do a little, yes. The process really started with my mystery puzzle e-book, Deadly Allusions (also published in paper as Dead Men Do Tell Tales). All the Allusion puzzles feature, well, an allusion to something: literature, art, music, sports, etc. The victim has left behind a clue containing a cultural reference and the reader tries to figure out how that relates to the possible suspects. The Fleet books employ the same style of puzzle, only it’s spread out over the entire novel. For that, I have to research the details of the riddle ahead of time. In essence, I work backwards. I find a good tidbit and then I try to figure out a clue that would have the right kind of double meaning.

The Fleet books are also thematic—literature, art and music, respectively—and each one has a brief “literary cameo” from a celebrity in that field. I have to research who I would like to have in the book, and then persuade that person to appear in it. So I suppose I do quite a bit of research, actually.

6) Where do you come up with your ideas?

For the most part, stories can either be character-driven or plot-driven. I prefer character-driven. For the Fleet books, I start with the puzzle, some cultural/scholarly tidbit I’ve come across. The puzzle indicates the theme of the book, and the theme creates the setting. From there, the characters take over. That way, we’re all experiencing the adventure together. I make a few notes ahead of time, but I try not to be too rigid adhering to them. It’s a little like swinging a baseball bat. You don’t want to keep a stranglehold on it. You want to stay loose.

7) Tell us about the setting of your mysteries and why you chose them.

The setting really depends on the theme of the book. The art-themed book is set around a museum, the music book at a music college, and the literature-themed book is set, obviously, at a casino.

8) Do you write any other genres?

I have tried other genres, namely sci-fi. I wrote a couple of screenplays for computer adventure games in college, and that was a lot of fun (mostly because I could approach the stories as mysteries of a sort). That worked because I treated them as sci-fi first and mysteries second. I’ve dabbled in sci-fi a few times since, in book form, and it didn’t work. I think my mistake was, I tried to start with the mystery first and toss in the sci-fi later. It didn’t come off. Now I just stick with my humorous mysteries. When in doubt, you can always depend on a cheerful corpse or two.

9) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

People say write what you know. I would alter that slightly and say write what you love. Do it for yourself, not for someone else. Writing is a struggle, requiring a ton of perseverance, and if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re not going to stick with it.

10) Can you give us a sneak peek at your future books?

I have some ideas for a fourth Enescu Fleet mystery. I’m also toying with doing another Warren Kingsley book (Double Cover, Five Star Detour). We’ll have to see who wins out!

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us!

My pleasure!

About the Author

 Who exactly is Sherban Young?

Sherban (rhymes with bourbon) splits his time between Maryland and Maine, and has often been called the next P. G. Wodehouse, or at the very least the current Sherban Young. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of literature, classical music, baseball and film (although, it should be noted that this encyclopedia is a single volume, pop-up book edition). When he isn’t working on a new novel, or an incredibly clever mystery game, he enjoys single malt, poker, billiards and listing things he enjoys.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cozy Mystery Book Giveaway and Spotlight: Eternally 21 by Linda Joffe Hull

“Never has coupon clipping been so fun or harrowing. Fast-paced, entertaining and filled with twist and turns, Eternally 21 will save mystery readers money and make them lose sleep as they cheer for formerly wealthy turned frugally funny Maddie Michaels.”


From bestselling author
Linda Joffe Hull
comes a new series where coupons often lead to crime…

More than ever before, Americans are searching for the next great deal. With coupons flooding inboxes, the coupon hysteria has reached a new level and creating a loyal following for couponing sites.

With the looming risk of her husband’s secret—that the financial guru lost the family’s nest egg in a Ponzi scheme—being exposed, and the possibility of bankruptcy and foreclosure, Maddie Michaels is willing to do anything to keep the family afloat. To maintain the appearance that everything is financially fine, Maddie sets up a bargain hunter’s website under the alias Mrs. Frugalicious.

While at the mall researching deals for her site, Maddie is mistakenly accused of shoplifting by Eternally 21 manager Laila DeSimone. Shortly after the accusation and Maddie’s acquittal, the universally disliked manager drops dead at the store. Since Laila was a universally disliked manager, the police now have a murder suspect list longer than Maddie’s bargain spreadsheet. But Maddie discovers the bulk of the evidence points to her. Now, Maddie’s in a race to find the real killer before the police pin the crime on her.

About the Author

Linda Joffe Hull is the bestselling author THE BIG BANG (Tyrus Books, 2012) and ETERNALLY 21 is the first installment of her Mrs. Frugalicious Mystery Series (Midnight Ink). Hull is on the national board of the Mystery Writers of America, and is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Linda earned her bachelor’s degree in Economics from UCLA and worked in sales before diving into motherhood. Linda is a native of Saint Louis, Missouri, but currently resides in Denver, Colorado with her husband and three children.

 Talking Points for Interviews and Presentations:

• Extreme Couponers and how Linda Researched Her Book
• Living in the Suburbs: Are Families Saving More Now
• The Balance of Writing and Family
• How A Mystery Series Comments on Society

by Linda Joffe Hull
On Sale: June 8, 2013 | Midnight Ink Books
Paperback Original | US $14.99 CAN $17.50
ISBN: 978-0-7387-3489-7

For More Information Visit Linda Online:

Author Interview

Socrates’ Book Review Blog and Socrates’ Cozy Café would like to welcome author Linda Joffe Hull to our cozy little corner of the world. Linda is the author of a new mystery series, “Mrs. Frugalicious Mystery Series”. The first book in the series is Eternally 21.

Welcome Linda and let’s get started …

1. Who is the greatest influence in your writing career?

I could name off a huge list of writers I admire, but honestly it’s been my husband’s steadfast insistence that I pursue my dream of being a writer and his faith in my abilities that kept me going while I travelled the long and often frustrating path to publication.

2. As a child, did you read mysteries?

I was a big fan of Nancy Drew. I read most, if not all, of them, then moved on to the Hardy Boys.

3. Do you have any favorite authors or books to recommend?

I read all over the board genre wise, but just finished THE EXPATS by Chris Pavone, which I really enjoyed.

4. Do you outline a book before you begin? In other words, do you know who did it from the beginning or are you as surprised as the readers are?

I am definitely an outliner. I need to know who did it from the very beginning in order to properly lay in all the details and clues for my readers. That said, I’m sometimes surprised by subplots that turn up and characters who decide to act in different ways than I expected. I always allow room for personalities and new plot lines to emerge when necessary.

5. How long does it take for you to write a book and get it published?

I am a bit of a slow writer. My first published book, THE BIG BANG took close to three years to write, but was published a little more than 6 months after it was acquired by my publishers. My mysteries take about a year each and then another year to be released.

6. How did you feel when your first book was published?

For me, writing a novel feels very much like being pregnant—morning sickness, weight gain and all! So, honestly, seeing my book in print felt much like the pure joy of being handed my baby for the first time.

7. Can you tell us about the settings of your book? Are they real or fictitious?

I’ve set my books, at least so far, in fictitious locations in Denver, Colorado where I live. My first book, THE BIG BANG, is set in an upscale suburban community I named Melody Mountain Ranch, while ETERNALLY 21 takes place in a mall I made by combining a couple of popular malls around the city.

8. What can you tell us about your other book, “The Big Bang”?

I describe THE BIG BANG as a suburban satire/pregnancy whodunit. The story centers around beautiful interior decorator Hope Jordan who is desperate for a baby. As Hope struggles with fertility issues, her neighbors Will Pierce-Cohn, a stay-at-home dad and community activist, Frank Griffin, a minister-cum-homeowner’s board president, and Tim Trautman, a soon-to-be father of five, jockey for her attentions. When Hope inadvertently eats hash-laced brownies at the playground ribbon-cutting gala/Memorial Weekend poolside potluck, she falls into the arms of one of her three wanna-be paramours. After she discovers she’s pregnant as a result, she has to piece together what happened, with whom, and what to do about it.

9. What other genres, besides mysteries, do you like to write and/or read?

I love mainstream and literary fiction. THE BIG BANG is considered mainstream commercial fiction and I’m currently working on something a little more literary, but with a commercial bent.

10. Can you give us a sneak peek into future releases?

I am working on BLACK THURSDAY, the second in the Mrs. Frugalicious mystery series. In book two. Maddie Michaels finds herself once again investigating a murder when a pallet of toasters falls during the Black Friday shopping rush killing what turns out to be her online heckler. I am also working on a standalone novel with co-writer Keir Graff about a couple who attempt to work out their marital difficulties in a rather unorthodox manner.

Thank you so much, Linda, for taking the time to visit with us.

Thank you !!!


How would you like to win a copy of Eternally 21 for your very own? Thanks to author Linda Joffe Hull, I have one book to giveaway. 

Just a few simple rules...

1) You must fill out the form below.

2)  US residents only.

3)  For one entry:  Leave a comment telling us your biggest coupon bargain.

4) For an extra entry: Follow this blog

5) For an extra entry: Follow me on Twitter

6) For an extra entry: Follow me on Goodreads

7) For an extra 2 entries: Post this giveaway on your blog.

8) For an extra 2 entries: Tweet about this giveaway.

The giveaway begins on July 30th (midnight est) and ends on August 6th (midnight est).

The winners will be notified by email and has 48 hours to respond, otherwise a new winner will be chosen.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 29, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays/First Chapter Tuesdays - July 30th

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where we share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book we are reading or thinking about reading soon. Care to join us?

If you'd like to play along on Teaser Tuesdays, just click the button above.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week I'm reading...

Let the games begin.

Rosie Butler, my twenty-eight-year-old, uberorganized assistant, stands at my desk dressed in a taupe Ann Taylor pantsuit, her butterscotch hair tucked neatly under her chin.  Rosie's eyes are riveted to her phone sheet.

"The Lethal Stilettos notes meeting was moved to three.   So now you have two back-to-back pitch meetings.  One with Fox, the other with Warners," says Rosie.  Despite the hectic pace, she remains col and collected.  "The Of Corpse She's Alive dailies are on your iPad.  The producers think they suck and want to fire their director and hire the one you suggested.  Standards has an issue on Bunnies; the actresses need to wear nipple covers.  The female studio exec on Alpha Male wants to cast the guy from Glee in the role of Coach Bob Knight.  The writers are freaking out and begging you to call that woman, whom they referred to as a first-class...well, you know."

 So, what do you think?  Would you continue reading?

Spotlight: Louisiana Fever by D.J. Donaldson


Portly & Proud CSI Catches Louisiana Fever
Threat of Outbreak Drives Latest in Southern Suspense Series

“D.J. Donaldson is superb at spinning medical fact into gripping suspense. With his in-depth knowledge of science and medicine, he is one of very few authors who can write with convincing authority.”

--Tess Gerritsen, NY Times best-selling author of the Rizzoli & Isles novels

Andy Broussard, the “Plump and Proud” New Orleans medical examiner, obviously loves food. Less apparent to the casual observer is his hatred of murderers. Together with his gorgeous sidekick, psychologist Kit Franklyn, Broussard forms a powerful, although improbable, mystery solving duo.

Astor + Blue Editions is proud to release Louisiana Fever (ISBN: 978-1-938231-33-9; Fiction / Mystery & Suspense; $5.99 E-Book) the latest Broussard mystery by DJ Donaldson.

When Kit goes to meet an anonymous stranger—who’s been sending her roses—the man drops dead at her feet before she could even get his name. Game on.

Andy Broussard soon learns that the man carried a lethal pathogen similar to the deadly “Ebola”—a highly contagious virus, feared worldwide for killing its victims (grotesquely) in a matter of days. When another body turns up with the same bug, widespread panic becomes imminent. The danger is even more acute, because the carrier is mobile. The man knows he’s a walking weapon and… he’s targeting Broussard.

And when Kit Franklyn investigates her mystery suitor further, she runs afoul of a cold- blooded killer, every bit as deadly as the man searching for her partner.

Louisiana Fever is written in Donaldson’s unique style: A hard-hitting, punchy, action-packed prose that’s dripping with a folksy, decidedly southern sense of irony. Mix in Donaldson’s brilliant first-hand knowledge of forensics, along with the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and readers will be fully satisfied with this irresistibly delectable mystery.


p. 64, last paragraph

Broussard did not like other people interpreting murder scenes for him before he saw them himself. But he always had to weigh that dislike against the relative inconvenience of the time the call came in and the judgment of the detective working the case. Life was too short to throw on your clothes in the middle of the night and dash off to a run-of-the-mill murder that presented no unique or puzzling features. True, he hadn’t eaten yet, but he was already dressed. And if Gatlin wanted him, that was good enough.

“Where are you?”

He jotted the address down on the little spiral pad he kept taped to the counter.
“I’m on my way.”

He tore the page out of the pad, stuffed it in his shirt pocket, and grabbed his bag, which always sat by the back door. He went into the garage, set the timer for the light at five minutes, and paused for a moment on the top step, admiring the sight before him—six 1957 Thunderbirds, all of them in mint condition.

It was a dazzling display—each a different color, their spotless paint reflecting the garage lights like great jewels. The Russians had Fabergé and his eggs; the English, Grinling Gibbons and his picture frames; the French, Falconet and his bronzes. But the United States had Henry Ford, and Broussard had six examples of his finest work, one for every day of the week . . . well, almost every day. He had long believed that six cars was abundance and that seven would be eccentricity. Still . . . there was room for another.

A few minutes later, he backed out of the garage in the white one and headed for the Mississippi River bridge. For neckwear, Broussard owned only bow ties, mostly because the long kind had a tendency to fall into his work when he bent over. Then, too, there really wasn’t enough clearance between the T-Bird’s steering wheel and his shirt for any extra fabric.

The sun was a cool sphere low in the sky and he reached over and flipped the passenger visor down to keep it out of his eyes. After so many years as ME, he rarely encountered any big surprises, but he still found drama in death and his blood still sang in his veins on his way to a scene. When that was no longer true, he’d retire.

As he turned onto the West Bank Expressway a short while later, his stomach rumbled mightily in protest over his missed breakfast. To calm it, he unbuttoned the flap on his shirt pocket, fished two lemon balls out, and slipped one into each cheek.

Links to Purchase Book:

About the Author

D.J. Donaldson is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology. His entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee, Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound-healing and where he taught microscopic anatomy to thousands of medical and dental students.

He is also the author of seven published forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his wife and two West Highland terriers. In the spring of most years he simply cannot stop buying new flowers and other plants for the couple’s prized backyard garden.

Louisiana Fever
By DJ Donaldson
ISBN: 978-1-938231-33-9
Fiction / Mystery & Suspense
301 Pages
E-Book $5.99
March, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between! This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from!

An okay week for me ...

I finished reading...

and I finished listening to...

I'm currently reading...

and I'm listening to...

Next up is ...

 What was your week like? What are you reading this week?

The Sunday Salon/The Sunday Post - July 28th

If you'd like to participate with The Sunday Salon, just click the button above.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer ~ It's a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.

Happy Sunday!

Can you believe July is over and soon it will be August?  Before we know it, Fall will be here and everyone will be going back to school.  Time really zooms by, doesn't it?

The temperatures finally cooled down but the humidity is still here.  That's okay, though, since we had one day that felt very fall-like.  It was a nice relief.

As for for my reading, I finished two books this week.  Both were really good and my review links are below.  Although I thought last week would be slow, it wasn't.  Next week is looking a bit busier and I think August will be even busier.  My August blog tour schedule is looking a bit full :)  That's okay - at least I'm keeping busy :)

I hope everyone has a great week!  Enjoy you reading!

Blog Tours/Spotlights/Reviews/Giveaways 

Blog Tours/Hops Coming Up Next Week

Monday:  Louisiana Fever by D.J. Donaldson (Spotlight)

Tuesday:  Eternally 21 by Linda Joffe Hull (Spotlight/Giveaway)

Wednesday:  Ensescu Fleet Trilogy by Sherban Young (Spotlight/Interview)

Friday:  Blog Tour:  The Corpse and the Golden Nose by Cathy Ace (Review)

What was your week like?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Blog Tour: Looking for La La by Ellie Campbell (Spotlight, Guest Blog and Giveaway!)

About the Book

In a recent survey 65% of mothers admitted feeling undervalued, over-criticised and constantly tired.

Cathy is no exception. Her dull, uneventful days as a stay at home, mother of two, are radically transformed however with the arrival of a heavily lipsticked postcard addressed to husband, Declan. Who is the mysterious La La? Could Declan really be having an affair? And is Cathy actually being stalked?

Whatever – it will definitely prove riveting gossip for the Tuesday Twice Monthlies, Cathy’s 'Mothers Restaurant Research’ group where scandal flows as recklessly as the wine. But what starts as a light-hearted investigation with best friend Raz, soon turns into something much more sinister.

With a possible murderer on the scene, a sexy admirer igniting long-forgotten sparks, and all her friends hiding secrets, it’s not only Cathy’s marriage that’s in jeopardy. Add in the scheming antics of Declan’s new assistant, the stress of organising the school Save The Toilet’s dance and the stage is set for a dangerous showdown and some very unsettling, possibly deadly, revelations.


Looking for La La

In a recent survey over 65% of mothers questioned admitted feeling undervalued, over-criticised and constantly tired.


Not a sound is heard as it lands silently on the mat. No drums rolls, crashing thunder, shafts of light. The walls don’t start crumbling, the ground doesn’t vibrate with terrifying tremors and a yawning fissure fails to zigzag across the kitchen floor and separate my husband from his breakfast marmalade.
In short, I’ve no clue as to the impact it’ll have on our lives. Mayhem. Marital breakdown. Murder. It should at least have been written in blood or come in the beak of a dark-winged raven.
It is a postcard. “Love from London” blazoned above a giant pair of pouting lips kissing a cherry-red heart.
At first sight it appears to be one of those “Please Come to Our Rave” flyers which get thrust through my door periodically. Now the chances of me, a world-weary, put-upon mother-of-two, going to a rave are slim to none, but heck it’s nice to be invited.
I turn it over.
Dearest, sweetest Declan – it begins. My eyes widen as I take in the blue spidery handwriting and race to the signature. ‘Love from La La.’
A tiny blip courses through me as I beetle down the hall attempting to identify the exact emotion I’m feeling.
It’s – I recognise it now – excitement. A blip of excitement forcing its merry way around my clogged up veins.
‘Postcard for you,’ I say nonchalantly, opening the door and stepping back into the kitchen, ‘from La La.’

I had a blip when I first spotted Declan at Bubbles, a dingy disco located east of the pier in downtown Bognor Regis. It was Sandra Mason’s leaving work party and I was nineteen years old. Sandra was tear-stained and puffy faced – partly from drink, partly emotion and partly because she always had a fairly puffy face. We’d given her a pretty good send off, bought her sexy underwear and filled an enormous padded card with witty farewells and humorous poems, all of them sounding a whole bunch better than my lowly “To Sandra, All best – Cath”.
The fifth yawn of the evening had just wormed its way out of my mouth corner, when I spied Declan dancing under a glassy mirror ball, had the blip and knew immediately we were destined to become involved. I wasn’t sure how. Perhaps he’d introduce me to a mate or better-looking brother. Not that he repelled me exactly, but spiky ginger hair had never been top of my “must haves” and the way he was swinging those hips in perfect rhythm with a blonde nymphet, well, they looked set for life. In and out they gyrated to Unchained Melody, his large hands caressing her tanned shoulder blades. I found out much later she was his long-term girlfriend, Lucy. Juicy Lucy, I labelled her. Not very original maybe but it inevitably served its purpose of getting right up Declan’s nose.
They made quite a couple. Lucy laughing, licking her glossy lips, and my future spouse leering lovingly at her, beads of sweat running down his freckled brow. I was entranced for a good few seconds before being beckoned back to earth by Sandra, who wanted an all-embracing photo of the girls from Credit Control. So, blocking out the blip, I pasted on a wide cheesy grin and darted across the room.

He sits motionless, his knife suspended in the Flora margarine, blue eyes gazing into the far distance, as he listens to a heated political debate on Radio 4.
‘Postcard, darling, from La La.’ I raise my voice, aware it’ll take a more urgent tone to break that level of concentration. Either that or blasting out the latest match score. Arsenal 0 – Manchester City 2. He reminds me at times of De Niro in Awakenings, forever trapped in a catatonic state. I often wonder if I throw a ball at him whether he’d whirl round in his chair and catch it in one swift movement.
‘What?’ He finally looks up, granary toast perilously close to his open mouth. ‘Not more bills, surely?’
‘La La,’ I repeat, handing the postcard to him.
‘Who the hell’s La La?’
‘Sounds like a telly tubby,’ I return to my half-eaten boiled egg, disguising my curiosity. ‘Not sure which colour though? Ask Josh and Sophie about it tonight.’
Our two children have been despatched to school by Henrietta, a fellow mum. A ruse we’d come up with so we could have “quality” time with our husbands on alternate mornings. Knowing Henrietta she’ll be using her time to bonk Neil senseless. Me – I just aimed for a halfway decent conversation and constantly missed.
He’s silently reading.
‘What does it say?’ I add a pinch of salt to the last millimetre of yolk. Declan hates that I add salt to food, wants it banned from the house, which makes it all the more decadent and delicious.
He fishes in the drawer for his wire-framed reading glasses, perches them on the end of his nose, in a way that hides his boyish face and makes him look nearer fifty than his “recently passed forty-two”.
He clears his throat. ‘‘Dearest, sweetest Declan, I long to have you in my arms again. Ever yours.” A tinge of colour slowly works its way up his cheeks. ‘And there’s a “Love from La La” at the bottom. Well, how about that?’ He starts pacing the floor, a puzzled frown etched on his forehead.
‘So who do you think sent it?’ I ask eagerly.
‘No idea.’ The postcard’s placed on the worktop. ‘Practical joke, I guess.’
Forlornly I tackle the stack of plates lying accusingly in the sink.
‘I seriously need a dishwasher,’ I mutter, squeezing a generous helping of Fairy liquid onto a brown, greasy stain. ‘Everyone’s got one, even Patience Preston.’
Patience, mate of my closest friend, Raz, lives on her own in an immaculate flat.
‘All she uses her fridge for is to chill vodka. Not a scrap of food’s ever marred its spotlessness.’
Sometimes my conversations went totally one way.
‘She skips breakfast, buys herself wraps lunchtime and eats out each evening. And yet she owns a dishwasher. All I’ve got is an empty space waiting to be filled.’
‘Patience can probably afford a dishwasher,’ he says slowly. ‘Because she has a job.’
My hackles raise a notch. ‘Ah, but she doesn’t have children to chase after all day, does she?’
‘And nor do you. Now they’re both at school till four.’
Another few notches of hackles are raised. ‘Half three actually. And I have to leave ages before that to pick them up.’ Rather than tromp through a well-planted minefield I decide to divert. ‘Did you know Patience’s mum owns a microphone once licked by Tom Jones?’ Occasionally a little falsehood helped deflect the shrapnel.
It works, momentarily. ‘Why on earth does Tom Jones go around licking microphones?’
‘Dunno, maybe someone threw their knickers at it and knocked it into his mouth.’
He raises his eyebrow a fraction. ‘Anyhow a dishwasher’s not exactly a priority, is it? What with the roof space that needs lagging, windows needing replacing, boiler about to blow. Where the money’s coming from, I don’t know. My pockets aren’t…’
His diatribe’s thankfully interrupted by his ringing mobile. It’s in his hand faster than Wyatt Earp with a smoking gun.
‘Hi. Mm. Sure, sure. Sounds good. When? Ha, ha, ha. Have you asked Jessica-Ellen? Uh huh. Uh huh. Cathy? Nah she’s cool. ’Course. Eight p.m. it is.’
‘Eight p.m. it is,’ I echo under my breath as I scrub furiously at last night’s saucepan.
‘So,’ his voice is casual as he slips his phone into his pocket. ‘Wonder who sent it then?’
‘Maybe someone at work fancies you.’ My chortle halts abruptly when I turn and catch his expression. He’s not been in the mood for jokes lately, his sense of humour apparently absconding the morning of his fortieth birthday.
Besides he knows he’s attractive. I made the mistake of telling him he was voted “Body of the Year” by the Tuesday Twice-Monthlies – the Restaurant Research Group I attend each fortnight. Henrietta likens him to a ginger Nicholas Cage with his high cheekbones and well-defined eyebrows. Raz adores his muscley arms, “sex on elbows” she calls them. And everyone everywhere tells me how lucky I was in nabbing him. As if I was a total pleb who lured him with some secret charm they could never quite see in me. I want to rage at them all, ‘I was the one “nabbed” sisters. I was the one “bloody nabbed”.’ Of course being a coward, I never do.
He turns the card over. ‘If that were true, you’d think they’d pop it in my pigeonhole rather than send it to my home, wouldn’t you?’ He drops his cup into my washing up bowl. ‘Right, I’m off.’
I wipe my hands on my dressing gown as I follow him down the hall.
‘You couldn’t just take my watch to be repaired? On the bedside cabinet.’ He retrieves his umbrella from the pot by the door.
‘Sure, honey babe.’ I stand on tiptoes to tweak his tie.
‘Oh and my black boots need soles.’
‘Consider it done.’
‘And do get the kids to clear up those toys in the back garden.’ His face takes on a pained expression, strange love cards already dismissed. ‘Neighbours must wonder who they’re living next to.’
‘I’m on to it.’ I resist the urge to snap into a salute.
Pathetic, isn’t it? These seem to be our new roles in life. Declan barking orders, me acting the subservient housewife. Usually I’m not so wimpish but since Josh started school six months back, I realise I’m on extremely shaky ground even if it looks like the same old floor tiles. Casual mentions of spiralling debts, sharing the load or even carrying it for a change have been accumulating faster than Victoria Beckham’s Hermes handbag collection.
Too bad that as the bickering increases so does my morbid fear of rejoining the workforce. Once lodged comfortably at the back of my mind, like a suspicion of woodworm you’ll get around to dealing with later, it’s morphed to become a monstrous bugbear between us.
Rattle of keys. He’s already mentally in his office as he pecks me on the cheek. Smack of suit pocket to check for his wallet, quick comb of the hair to confirm it’s up to R A Wilson Inc standards, and he departs for work. I wave serenely on the doorstep before dashing back inside to put on Coral Duster’s Greatest Hits.
As Coral’s dulcet tones wash over me, I head for the phone.
‘Urgent sturgent! Urgent sturgent!’ I can’t disguise the thrill in my voice. Me with news? Something unexpected from the Cathy O’Farrell home front. I move aside Declan’s raincoat and Sophie’s puffa jacket, rub a hole in the dusty oval mirror and glance at my reflection. My eyes are so alive they’re practically dancing. The whites are whiter than I’ve seen for ages, the iris a more attractive shade of green and my pupils have almost doubled. Even my hair, though badly in need of brushing, seems to have a few extra auburn glints.
‘What’s up?’ Raz says excitedly.
I knew she’d be all ears. I don’t call her “Nose-ache Nora” for no reason. Her name’s really Rosa. Rosa Alison Zimmerman, but Raz was a pet name one of her ex’s gave her and it had kind of stuck.
We met in the toilet of Johnson & Phillips Surveyors, both escaping for a clandestine ciggy and to get away from the oppressive atmosphere of the miserable men with their clacking rulers. During our regular smoke-outs we found we had much in common, i.e. sneaking off for two-hour lunches and rating the hotness factor of every guy we ran into. That was fifteen long years ago. We’d lived together, loved and lost together. We know each other better than we know ourselves.
She listens quietly, as I spurt it out in a waterfall of words. ‘You think this postcard could be serious?’ she says finally.
‘Nah,’ I giggle. Even my lips have a bee-stung feel about them. ‘It’s just somebody winding him up.’
‘Sure about that?’ Her imagination virtually scales the same heights as mine, except she’s got minor sanity in her life – an office, desk, own direct line and, best of all, colleagues.
Colleagues. Thing I miss most about working. Especially male colleagues that I can banter with, groan at their silly jokes and amaze with clever solutions to their insurmountable problems. ‘By gad you’ve got it, Cath!’ They’d exclaim in awe. ‘We’ve been struggling with that one ages’ and I’d reply, ‘No worries, lads,’ and feel their admiring eyes on my bottom as they watched me leave.
Only that was before my bottom sagged to resemble Dumbo’s and my pre-children brain cells were sparkling crystals, free from today’s pea souper fog. Nowadays the only thing I could bring to the conference table would be the tea trolley.
Raz and I are both silent. I’m thinking about Declan and his endless meetings and oh-so-vital budget reports. Could he really sweep them all aside for unbridled, illicit sex? Raz, from the sound of things, is drawing on her first fag of the morning. I can almost smell the sweet aroma.
‘You’re obviously really really worried about it,’ she adds. ‘So...’
‘I’m not really really worried about it,’ I say, starting immediately to really really worry.
‘I’m on my way.’
The sound of creaking and clopping, platform shoes on wooden stairs, reverberates throughout the house.


It had been my great good fortune that two months ago Raz found out Jerry, her live-in lover, was a secret druggie. She kept discovering rolled up balls of silver foil near the base of the toilet and could never understand where they came from. She rang me one night about it.
‘Silver foil…toilet base…hang on a sec. Look, now don’t take this badly but,’ I drew in a deep breath. ‘Do you remember when you were shacked up with Pete and I was stuck on my own in that grotty Kilburn bedsit?’
‘And do you remember what I found…in the back of the oven?’
‘Yes. Oh God. God.’
‘Now listen, Raz, I want you to stay calm. Just think,’ I said the words slowly to emphasise the seriousness of the situation. ‘Have…you…checked…the tea-towels?’
‘I can’t!’ she shrieked. ‘I can’t have a bloody rat living in my oven!’
‘You bet you can.’ I mean why not her? Happened to me after all.
The tartan tea-towels had been the first thing I noticed. Ragged at the best of times, they were becoming holier by the day. Eventually one night I followed a scratching sound and there in the dark of the kitchen a small brown head popped up from under a hot plate. I looked again and he was gone but pulling back the oven moments later, there I found him – a ruddy great rat sitting wide-eyed and somewhat guilty in a tartan nest.
‘But surely silver foil isn’t that comfortable?’ Raz said bemused.
‘Might be for insulation. Rats are extremely intelligent. Now deep breaths. I’ll stay at the end of the phone. You go look.’
She came back moments later.
‘It’s OK,’ she said relieved. ‘Tea-towels are all there, there’s no droppings and besides, we’ve one of those halogen hobs.’
Days later Raz discovered Jerry was heavily into the old Charlie – and I’m not talking Sheen – (but could be). It was enough for her to retreat back to her parents’ home. ‘Thank Christ I found out before we moved into the new flat,’ she’d confided as I joined her in a spot of retail therapy. ‘He’d have stayed forever, burning a hole in his nose and my pocket at the same time.’
‘True.’ I’d replied, peeling off yet another pair of Calvin Klein jeans I could barely manoeuvre into, let alone afford.
‘But on the other hand I don’t think I can stand staying with mum and dad until the renovation’s done,’ she continued, buttoning up an immaculately-fitting black Jaeger jacket. ‘I’m already getting jaw-ache from grinding my teeth at night. I’ll have to rent. Only all the landlords want a year’s bloody contract.’
‘Too bad,’ I’d sympathised, whilst inwardly formulating a cunning plan.
That evening I whisked her off to Café Rouge, got her tanked up and persuaded her to move into our loft extension. ‘Just until your builders finish.’
‘But you’re married now,’ she slurred, over her fourth glass of Frascati. ‘I don’t want to be a big fat gooseberry.’
I glanced at her across the table, chasing her crab cakes around her plate with a fish fork. Willowy and beautiful with her delicate bone structure and slim but shapely figure. No big fatty thing about her anywhere. Not like me. Two sizes too wide, two inches too short, orange peel thighs and a large layer of belly blubber.
No, Raz’s different. Everyone loves her with her famous zigzag parting, her shoulder-length stylishly-streaked blonde hair dropping down just a hint over her right eye. She has a certain sexiness in her gravelly voice, a confidence in her manner and a way with people that both intrigues and attracts them.
‘You won’t be. What’s more,’ I added encouragingly. ‘It’ll dilute Declan, help with the mortgage and,’ my eyes sparkled with anticipation, ‘we might have fun. Thirty quid per week.’ I quickly chinked my glass against hers to cement the deal.
After another carafe of wine, she agreed, with the proviso that she pay us eighty, wouldn’t be expected to baby-sit and I’d have to knock if I wanted to enter her private quarters. You always knew where you stood with Raz. ‘Oh and,’ she added, ‘we’ll need space for our own friends.’
‘Fine! Fine! Anything you say,’ I squealed with delight and just managed to refrain from running around the restaurant clicking my heels.
I’ve got to admit living with Raz and my family is a whole lot different to when it was just the two of us sharing years before in various short-term lets. Back then not only was I young, energetic and could party ‘til dawn, but I could nip to the pub at the crook of a finger, vomit down the loo all night long and nobody’d blink an eye. My commitments added up to a big round zero. But now, having gone down the baby route, I’ve turned into this safety-conscious, back-of-the-queue sort of a gal while Raz has remained in the live wild, live dangerously phase.
Not forgetting that the “job” thing also stands between us. While my career, ranging from lowly filing clerk to secretary to PA slithered into oblivion at the birth of my offspring, Raz became a big cheese in the advertising world. She blossomed whereas I withered away, happily sacrificing my not-yet-glorious working life to nurture our children.
Anyway, she keeps assuring me that her “room at the top” suits her perfectly for now, although recently I’ve noticed that her phone calls to the team of builders called Trev and Kev and such are sounding increasingly hysterical, overshadowing the screeches of squabbling children and day-to-day quarrelling between Declan and myself. Builders being what they are and the finish date past weeks ago. I suppose for an ad executive she’s slumming it, although she does have her own bathroom, toilet and bed under the eaves. A little nest where she gathers together countless people. I should know because I’ve tried counting them, watching enviously as they troop up, bottles in hand. Unusual hairdos, curious fashions. I’ve even managed to join them a few times, to supper or the occasional brunch, where we’ll read the Sunday rags, drink bucks fizz and gobble up grapefruit sprinkled with Demerara sugar. And I’ll borrow some of Raz’s clothes, lie back on a beanbag and feel for a tiny while young and Bohemian, forgetting about Declan downstairs with the kids.
She arrives in the kitchen, notebook in one hand, half-finished cigarette in the other. I show her the postcard then perch expectantly on a stool.
‘I see.’ She studies it carefully before pinning it to the fridge with a magnetic Marge Simpson. ‘Well, I’m not going in ‘til later.’ She flicks the ash into the sink. ‘So,’ she ejects my Coral Duster CD, plugs her iPod into Declan’s docking station, and turns it on, ‘let’s get down to facts.’
Pumping music fills the air and I grin. We’re on a mission. Just like the old days in our shared studio when we’d jump on the other’s bed and shout, ‘Let’s hit Camden’ or ‘Let’s do the Thames’ or ‘Let’s phone that bloke that never rang you and blow raspberries at him.’ Happy times before I became a domestic prisoner.
‘We’ll make a suspects list.’ She looks thoughtful as she taps into her Blackberry. ‘A. La La’s someone Declan works with having a giggle. Someone with a lousy sense of humour?’
‘Definitely. They’re all rather geeky.’
‘B.’ She closes her eyes a moment. ‘La La’s a man!’
The hairs on my neck suddenly stand erect. ‘Gay lover?’
‘Hardly! Business rival maybe. Someone with a grudge.’
‘Grudge? Well probably loads of people hate him. He’s got funny habits, like the way he looks in the opposite direction when you’re attempting a conversation.’ I drum my fingers on the table.
‘C. Declan’s had or is having an affair. She begged him to leave you, but he told her no. Miffed, she sent the card hoping you’ll kick him out.’ She taps away while adding. ‘Totally off the wall, but we have to consider every possibility.’
‘Unlikely,’ I say dismissively. ‘If he started an affair I’d suss him out right away. He’d be all strange and psychologically different. Mooning at the moon, sighing heavily, listening to Leonard Cohen.’
‘You mean like you did when you had that secret tryst behind pervy Paul’s back.’
‘Yeah, well, he deserved it with that foot fetish. Can you imagine how cringey it is having your toenails idolised?’
‘So Declan’s not been acting differently in any way?’
‘We-ell,’ I pause to think. ‘He has been coming home later from work…and he’s just recently bought piles of starry-designed underwear and expensive aftershave.’
‘Anything else?’
‘Em, silly really,’ I hesitate. ‘But there’s been a surge of brightly-coloured ties these last few weeks, not the sort he usually wears. Snake-like patterns.’
‘And he -’ I lower my voice. ‘God I’m embarrassed to say, but he’s been wanting me to get up to all sorts of bedroom tricks. Almost as if he’s got this teacher, showing him the ropes. But hey, I don’t think they’re signs, do you?’
‘Cath,’ she rolls her eyes, ‘will you be serious for once? I mean it’s clearly a nonsense prank, but whoever sent it is playing a totally stupid and possibly dangerous game. What if you were the morbidly possessive type? Remember that idiot in the news a few months back who stabbed his girlfriend because he believed the rumours she was a prostitute.’
‘I know, I know.’ But for some mad reason I’m loving the drama. Maybe I should be getting all neurotic and jealous at the possibility of my husband of ten years finding a lover – alarm bells ringing, cue eerie music as Camera One closes in on my wedding ring – but, hey, this is fun. Perhaps it’s only that I’m stuck in a rut and clueless how to change things, but for one wild moment I want to fling everything routine from the highest rooftop. And then peer down, see how they’ve landed and go from there. Is that so very wrong?
‘Apart from working longer hours than ever before, there’s zilch to report.’
‘I mean, an affair. Ridiculous. He’s crazy about you.’ Raz smiles sympathetically, but continues tapping, an intense look plastered on her face.
I give a weary sigh. Perhaps I’m looking at this the wrong way. Perhaps the opportunity of swapping my plain cotton-rich M&S midi knickers for a scanty pair of Agent Provocateur briefs has finally become too much for Declan. I can’t help feeling a tinge of sympathy. After all, he’d no idea when he married his coquettish flirtatious young girlfriend what sort of dreary wife she’d turn into. Although, to be fair to myself, neither did I.
‘And D,’ she stubs out her ciggy. ‘Could be like fatal attraction. Insane woman, gunning for you.’
‘Gee, now that makes me feel heaps better,’ I gulp.
‘Well, like I said, they’re all just possibilities,’ she presses a few more buttons and the screen goes blank. ‘Probably turn out to be A. Cox’s?’ She throws me over an apple and takes one herself.
‘You know, Raz,’ I bite into mine, ‘this reminds me of the last mission we undertook – the frozen shoulder conspiracy.’
‘The one where you discovered people suffering from spasmodic shoulders had been infected with a strange Spanish virus?’ She bites into hers.
‘Yup, but the UK doctors were keeping mum because they were getting backhanders from pharmaceutical companies.’
‘Cathy,’ she smiles at me indulgently. ‘That was a dream, remember?’
‘Yeah, I know,’ I admit grudgingly. ‘But it was a really realistic one.’
She stands up and checks her watch. ‘Woops. Better go. Can you just sort my jacket?’
I retrieve the lint roller from the kitchen drawer and carefully remove Custard’s dog hairs from her back. She looks exceptionally smart, with a crisp cream blouse underneath her cotton flared trouser suit that matches to the precise shade, her violet-blue eyes. All ready for a hard day’s work with Younger and Wilding, top London Advertising Agency. And there’s me standing behind her, unshowered, clad in grubby dressing gown with one pocket and three buttons missing, shoulder-length hair secured with one of Sophie’s discarded Barbie baubles.
At thirty-four, she’s only four years younger than me, but at this nano-second in time, I feel like her old granny – the one you can shove off a bus.
‘You home tonight?’ I call after her as she heads off down the front path.
‘Not until late,’ she shouts back. ‘Seeing Patience up town. But I’ll google La La as soon as I get to work, see if she’s got a track record. And Cathy, if you think of anything, anything at all, call me right away. We’re going to get to the bottom of this if it kills us.’
I smile as I close the door and step back inside the house. I might not get paid a salary, my children might be speeding towards adulthood so fast we’ll be paying for Sophie’s wedding before I’ve even got her baby photos sorted, but now I have a purpose, a quest. I’m looking for La La.


I shower and change into jeans and a slightly stained black t-shirt before checking myself in the mirror. My fringe is reaching just below my eyes, so officially not a fringe anymore. Debate whether I should cut it dead short, longer but blunt across or grow it out altogether. Blunt across might make me appear like a schoolgirl. Dead short though could show up my worry lines.
Maybe I should go for a whole new sexy look. Woo back my errant husband if he’s “had or is having” an affair. Fight this La La at her own game. I imagine myself with platinum-blonde tresses piled high on my head, sexy velvet choker, push up Wonderbra and tons of make-up.
An hour later, shying my eyes from their big sign – Wanted: Part-Time Help – I’m trudging through Go-Buys, a sad supermarket situated on one of the main downhill streets of Crouch End. Sad because it’s too small to be a big modern superstore and too big to be a little cockney-sparrow, have-it-on-tick type corner shop. Overpriced and out-of-date produce abound alongside grizzly girls in grubby overalls. How on earth am I to conjure up a great delicacy out of this to satisfy my ever-hungry brood?
It was at a supermarket in Streatham almost four years after the Bubbles episode, that I next spied Declan. Declan Phase 2 I call it.

Raz was on a weekend break to Paris and Harry, my boyfriend of the time, was glued to a David Attenborough documentary and saying “Shoosh now” if I so much as made a comment. I decided some air was in order.
In Sainsbury’s I beckoned over a shop assistant.
‘Can you tell me where to find dry roasted peanuts, please?’ I asked politely.
Her jaw was hanging down, her heavy lidded eyes semi-open and greasy hair scragged back into a thick elastic band.
‘Aisle 4’. She started moving away.
‘Um and have you got any, er, skins?’ I tried deciphering the writing.
‘What you mean, skins?’ She lifted an Elastoplast from her left cheek and scratched underneath.
‘Here,’ I pointed to the line between dry roasted peanuts and taramasalata, ‘skins.’
‘Sausages in the corner. Chipolatas next to them, innit.’
I stood puzzled, when suddenly this husky Irish voice boomed out.
‘Ah now, I think you might want to ask for cigarette papers – you know, Rizlas.’
‘Oh.’ My brain clicked into gear. I looked up and there he was – Declan. ‘Oh,’ I repeated. ‘It’s you.’
He gave me a curious smile, because plainly he didn’t know me from Adam – he’d been too absorbed in tracing his fingers round his girlfriend’s bony blades.
‘Bubbles, Bognor Regis.’ My downcast eyes involuntarily strayed to the crotch of his faded jeans.
‘I went there on holiday once,’ he sounded puzzled, probably frantically assessing if I was someone he should remember.
‘How terrible!’
He stared at me a moment, bemused, and I had this uncanny impulse to bug my eyes and poke out my tongue like a Maori performing the Haka. Instead I added. ‘I lived there. Can’t imagine anyone paying to visit.’
‘My ex surprised me.’
‘Some surprise!’
‘Actually it was fun,’ he laughed. ‘So you wanted skins?’
‘Well whoever wrote the list did.’
‘So who wrote the list?’ He cocked his head to one side in a flirty manner.
‘Dunno. Found it in the trolley.’
‘You found a list?’
‘Saves thinking one up.’
‘But sure and isn’t the point of writing your own list so’s you buy what you need?’
‘And how monotonous is that?’ I began walking and he drifted alongside. ‘You end up with the same old, same old.’ I pulled a jar of pickled walnuts off the shelf. ‘Widens your diet.’
‘I see.’
‘Good.’ I had a vague feeling he was patronising me, but because I didn’t fancy him and was in a stable if lacklustre relationship, I wasn’t that fussed about this stranger’s opinion. Blip or no blip.
‘But what if you were after something in particular?’
‘You know, life’s for living.’ I turned my trolley around and walked off in the opposite direction. ‘Not list making.’
So that was Declan Phase 2.

I return home, palms criss-crossed with welts from the cheap carrier bags. Just enough time to shove in a load of laundry before leaving for the school pick up. Meandering dreamily down the road, I think again of the mystery postcard writer. Who, what and most of all, why, had this stranger entered our lives and is the fact I’m so joyous about it, a bad omen maritally-speaking?
Approaching the gates, I can see all the other mothers gathering up their children, wiping noses, carrying schoolbags. I give them each a sympathetic smile. I bet their husbands don’t have admirers writing to them.
I’m shivering in the park with the other parents, watching our children dangle by their feet, fling themselves off swings and launch their little bodies recklessly headfirst down the slide in valiant attempts to break the current Whittington Hospital casualty record. And no, none of the adults know anyone called La La or so they said when I cunningly suggested it as a trendy new name to the mother who’s five months pregnant.
My euphoric mood has long gone, doused by an ill-advised glance at the local paper’s classified job postings. It’s OK for Declan, I think, slapping my arms against the cold. Forcing me into the workplace again, like a leaky old barge hastily patched up and launched into the harsh unforgiving Atlantic, engines rusted from years of domestic drudgery. Well, so sorry, dear hubbie if your poor old HMS SuperworkingMum isn’t immediately made flagship. Does he honestly expect me to compete with all those shiny new liners, filled with high tech, optimism and trailing champagne bottles? And I bet none of them has my huge load of ballast.
I’m feeling pretty sorry for myself, probably because I’m bored rigid. My feet lost their last hint of sensation about the time my hands started to feel they might fall off and every time I say firmly we’re definitely leaving, Josh and Sophie wail, not yet, mummy, just five more minutes, mummy. Just another fun relaxing Cathy puts-her-feet-up quality moment in Declan’s book.
The mother next to me is moaning about her husband who sounds a right old dictator – insisting supper’s steaming on the table when he walks in from work, complaining because she takes one measly hour out a week for choir practice.
‘That’s the problem with being a stay-at-home mum.’ Another disgruntled woman clambers aboard the whinge train. ‘The loss of power. Seesaw’s always unbalanced in favour of the wage earner. When everyone knows office staff spend half their time skiving off, net surfing or gossiping about who they fancy this week.’
‘My trick is to fold laundry as soon as Henry’s headlights appear in the driveway,’ says a fellow downtrodden wife pushing her toddler on the swing with an alarming amount of force. ‘I swear I don’t stop from six in the morning until nine at night, but unless he actually sees me physically doing something, he doesn’t believe it.’
‘Chips,’ pipes up another mother, skipping the roundabout with her foot, while her four-year-old hangs onto the pole in the middle, legs flying behind. ‘Nothing puts “himself” in a happier frame of mind than the smell of frying chips.’
I sigh as I collar Sophie on the climbing frame and go for a final grab on Josh. Subservience, tricks, and cupboard love. And this is supposed to be a liberated society?
Discontent’s catching. Makes me wonder again who might be behind these postcards. And, if they really are after my husband, whether I should start investing in a sizeable amount of giftwrap…
Twitter: @ecampbellbooks

Check out Amazon to download a free Kindle book.   It will be available until July 28th.

Then, from August 2nd to 4th, the author's other book When Good Friends Go Bad will be available on Amazon for a freebie.  This one is US only.

About the Author

Who is Ellie Campbell?

Actually ‘Ellie’ is two people – sisters and co-authors Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell. We love all kinds of novels but particularly women’s fiction with a great story, recognizable characters and the ability to make us laugh one minute and perhaps cry the next. We still share the same sense of humor that got us into so much trouble as kids and so it has been fun writing books that allow us to enjoy the comic aspects of everyday life while still exploring some serious issues and indulging in our taste for romance, drama, and intrigue. If our imperfect heroines are often older than the average chick-lit character, and as likely to be bogged down with marriage, troublesome husbands and child-rearing as fretting over that perfect pair of designer shoes, we are still immensely proud to be considered part of the same genre that includes such talented writers as Marian Keyes and Jane Green.

Guest Post

If you were stranded on an island what 10 things would you most want with you?

1) Kindle, filled with books and solar powered so that it wouldn’t run out of charge as I guess they’ll be no plug sockets on this island. Note to Self: Preload Kindle before you go on any cruises or plane journeys where there’s a likelihood of crashing into the sea.

2) Laptop, again solar powered, then I could write away to my heart’s content. I would so love internet access to go with it so I could do my own research and Skype people, let them know I’m safe, ask for pick-up etc, but I guess that wouldn’t be possible if I was in a hugely remote place.

3) Water I guess – especially if there was none in the island. Pretty important. Should have been first really. Or maybe I’d become a real survival expert and learn how to extract salt from seawater or set up some kind of water-gathering device. Another Note to Self: Preload to Kindle, lots of “how to do things when stranded books”.

4) Food. I’m assuming the island has some natural foods that I can eat, berries, fruit and fish, etc. but just in case it didn’t, then I guess I would have to have a huge hamper of food enough to last until I am picked up. (And tin-openers with it and chocolate, lots of chocolate).

5) Shoes. I know what it’s like on the beach when the sand gets excruciatingly hot. Hopping from shady spot to shady spot. I assume this is a hot island. But even if it wasn’t, and it was all cold and craggy, I’d still need a good pair of shoes, stop my feet getting torn to shreds. Just a nice pair of trainers, don’t need to worry about make or anything.

6) Clothes – I wouldn’t want to be rescued naked, although if there was a choice I suppose I’d forego my modesty. But I hate being too cold and too hot and clothes would be hugely important. I mean I may get all clever with the vegetation and vines and make myself a banana leaf sarong or waistcoat or something, but it would be much nicer just to have some clothes washed up on the shore with me.

7) Sunblock. If I was there for months, I’d probably get very brown, but risk skin cancer? No way.

8) Moisturizer. There may be natural oily plants, like aloe vera plants or coconuts that I could crack open and rub into my face, but it would be so much easier to have a big old tub of moisturiser to hand. When I’m rescued I don’t want to meet the press looking like a wrinkled old prune as I model my banana leaf sarong and show them my home-made water collection contraption…

9) Animal. Little furry thing that I could befriend, like a squirrel or wallaby, or heck, even a rat (as long as there was only just one). I would be their friend. Tame them and they would follow me everywhere, and I would whistle and they’d come running to me and put their little paw up when they wanted more nibbles. I would talk to them and teach them commands like sit, beg, down. They would lie in my arms at night and I’d tell them stories or read to them from my memoirs. Because you might as well write them if you’re on an island, leave something behind for your family to remember you by.

10) Cigarette Lighter/ Fire starter. So I’ve been fed and watered, am comfortable clothes-wise, wandering around my island in my shoes and bikini under my banana leaf sarong, followed faithfully by my highly-trained squirrel/rat creature, been writing and reading with no disturbance (bliss), and my skin is well moisturised (for the press and future movie-makers watching on TV), then my No 10 would have to be a cigarette lighter. I love real fires and I’d need one for warmth, scaring off ferocious animals (if I can’t tame them), cooking, attracting passing ships/planes, gazing into and dreaming of lost loves, etc. Of course I’d have learned how to rub two sticks together my preloaded “desert island survival” e-book, but honestly, every night…? What a faff.

Do you know, writing this, I am actually wanting to go to this island, it is seeming more like bliss every moment.


Now you can enter to win a paperback copy of Looking for La La for your very own. Thanks to author Ellie Campbell, I have one to giveaway. 

Just a few simple rules...

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Blog Tour: Down and Out in Beverly Heels by Kathryn Leigh Scott (Review and Interview)

About the Book

Meg Barnes, a beloved actress for her role as TV detective Jinx Forgarty,  has it all but thanks to her newlywed con-man  husband,  loses everything and ends up living on the streets of Tinsel Town in her Ritz-Volvo. This fun, light-hearted romance takes us into the Hollywood social swirl, but also delves into the gritty truth of what it is to be “homeless and hiding it” in one of the most glittering, fashionable cities in the world. It’s also a story of redemption with a “Thelma and Louise” twist as Meg, incorporating skills she learned as a TV detective, tracks down her fugitive husband and struggles to regain her reputation, career and friendships.

My Review

I adored Meg and her interactions with the handsome FBI agent, Jack Mitchell, and her new found friend Donna.  There were so many well-crafted scenes that it actually made you feel as if you were standing right by Meg's side throughout her ordeal.  There is the perfect blend of mystery, romance and humor throughout the story.

The author is a former actress so all the entertainment references feel very realistic and she clearly knows her stuff.  This is a fun book that keeps you guessing and has you laughing at the same time.   It makes for great summer reading, but will lighten your mood at any time of the year.  I hear there's a sequel in the works and I'm ready to join Meg Barnes for another adventure.

Purchase your copy at AMAZON.

FTC Disclosure: The author provided me with a copy of this book to review for this blog tour. This did not influence my thoughts and opinions in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
Book Excerpt

Excerpted from Down and Out in Beverly Heels by Kathryn Leigh Scott, © Montlake Romance 2013

Actress Meg Barnes, homeless and living in her car, hopes to spend the night in a safer place than parked at the curb of a local park for the night. She needs a good night’s sleep because she’s got a job guest-starring in a TV pilot.

I park up the street in a cul de sac off the main road. Then, my overnight bag slung on my shoulder, I slip through a break in a boxwood hedge. In the shadow of a sycamore tree, I pause, listening to the sounds of the night. The lights are off in Marjorie Singleton’s house, my benefactor tucked in for the night. I don’t know Marjorie well, though whenever I voted, it was in Marjorie’s clean, spacious garage, her Bentley parked on the street to make way for a bank of polling booths on election day. I’m sure Marjorie, if she knew, would be only too happy to extend a neighborly welcome to me.

It’s Wednesday: Marjorie’s son, who lives in Encino, is home with his family and won’t stop by again until Friday afternoon, when he’ll bring her Chinese takeaway. I know the rituals; I’ve watched Jake Singleton come and go. This is a safe night, and all is quiet.

I follow the flagstone walkway around the swimming pool, past the rose bed, and turn the knob on the side door to the garage. It’s unlocked, as usual. Inside, I slip quietly along the west wall to the workbench Marjorie’s long-dead husband built, and set down my carryall. I plug my laptop and cellphone into a wall outlet to top up, then move through the darkness to Marjorie’s Bentley. She rarely drives it anymore.

I toss my sleeping bag into the back seat. Tonight I can pack in a good six hours and be gone before the gardeners arrive. On those nights when I’ve had to spend the night in my own car, I remain fully clothed, doors locked, windows open no more than a finger-tip wide.

Usually I find a spot on the street around Holmby Park, the gates to Aaron Spelling’s mansion within spitting distance. Should his ghostly presence be hovering above his former abode, I can imagine his bemusement seeing me camping out a stone’s throw from his old bedroom window. I still get residuals from his shows, blessed checks from repeats of mindless fluff that pay my car insurance and buy me another month at the health club. But those nights parked on the street, hiding under spread newspapers, even with the tinted windows, are the tough ones, the only time it really hits me that I’m homeless.

More accurately, I am without a home. I am not actually a Homeless Person. I always manage to have a roof over my head, even if it comes with four wheels and a dashboard. I’m not a bag lady, a bum. I’m not a thief, though I suppose I’ve stolen a few pennies’ worth of kilowatt juice from Marjorie. But the back seat of an old lady’s car is only temporary accommodation, not Home, Sweet Home. I awaken too often in the night, dozing more often than sleeping.

I slide my legs deeper into my sleeping bag and hug my arms for warmth, trying to stop the rat-wheel of worry spinning in my head. I am far from complacent about the fix I’m in, yet I manage to drift off in welcome sleep.

Moments later—or is it hours?—I’m fully awake and alert, every fiber of my being a listening device. What is it? What did I hear? My heart bangs in my ears as I strain to sort out the sounds. The irrigation system kicking in? A squirrel on the roof?

Hearing footsteps falling softly on the flagstone walk, I slide free of my sleeping bag. Who’s coming for me? Who in hell knows I’m here? My fingers close around a small can of pepper spray. I don’t even know that the aerosol works. The container is old and I’ve never had occasion to test it.

The garage door scrapes open. A beam of light arcs across the windshield. A male voice booms. “C’mon out. Now!”

… It’s my Margot Kidder nightmare, a “caught-in-the-headlights” shot of myself disheveled, my arms clutching a sleeping bag, splashed on the cover of a supermarket tabloid: “Former ‘Holiday’ Star Down and Out in Beverly Hills!”

Tears sting my cheeks. Wouldn’t the paparazzi love this shot? Jinx, face puffy, mascara smudged, lurking in someone’s garage. I press my forehead into my sleeping bag, recalling poor Margot, missing her front teeth and in need of meds, cowering in someone’s backyard. What’s my excuse? If I’m busted now, it’s the end of my job next week, the end of pulling myself out of this confounding mess I’m in.

About the Author

Kathryn Leigh Scott is an actress, probably best known for creating the roles of Josette DuPres and Maggie Evans, the love interests of vampire Barnabas Collins in the cult classic TV show “Dark Shadows.” Down and Out in Beverly Heels is her second work of fiction. Scott wrote Dark Passages, a paranormal romance, with more than a passing nod to the ‘60s soap and she appeared in the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton film Dark Shadows last year.

Scott is currently at work on a sequel to Down and Out in Beverly Heels.

To learn more about Kathyrn, please visit .

Author Interview

Please join me in welcoming author and actress Kathryn Leigh Scott to Socrates’ Book Review Blog. Kathryn is the author of a new book, “Down and Out in Beverly Heels” and she starred in the 1960’s gothic drama “Dark Shadows”. It’s a pleasure to have you join us today.

1. I was a huge Dark Shadows’ fan back in the day, can you tell us a little bit about the book you wrote based on the show, “Return to Collinwood” ?

Return to Collinwood is only of several nonfiction books (Dark Shadows Memories, Dark Shadows Companion, Dark Shadows Almanac, Dark Shadows Movie Book, etc.) that I have written about the show "kids ran home from school to watch" from 1966-1970. I appeared in the very first episode in June 1966 and stayed with the series for almost its entire run, playing four different character, including Josette DuPres, the fiance of the vampire. I felt that I had probably said all I had to say about the show until Tim Burton invited four of the actors from the original series to join Johnny Depp in the Warner Bros. film, Dark Shadows. I decided to do a book that would encompass five decades of the show, including the NBC and WB reboots of the series, the CD audio dramas, the two original MGM features and the new film. I was so fortunate that Jonathan Frid (Barnabas Collins) was agreeable to writing a foreword for the book, his final piece of writing before his death in May 2012. I also prevailed upon my colleagues, Lara Parker (Angelique) and David Selby (Quentin Collins) to contribute pieces for the book. I am so pleased with the book and its huge success. I'm also grateful to Johnny, Tim and Warner Bros. for allowing us to use the photographs from the film.

2. Will there be more Dark Shadows’ based books?

In fact, I am writing a sequel to the novel, Dark Passages, which was published last year and is based on my experiences on the show. I joked that all the behind-the-scenes stories I couldn't relate in my nonfiction books, I poured into Dark Passages! The paranormal romance is truly written with a wink and a nod to "Dark Shadows." It's the story of a young ingenue who arrives in New York in the early '60s and is cast in a Gothic television soap that introduces a vampire... except she's a real vampire trying to pass for mortal and she falls in love with the British actor cast in the role of the vampire. Of course it's a humorous book, but also a coming-of-age story in which this young woman has to cope with being a vampire living in a world of mortals. After writing the sequel to Dark Passages, I may do another nonfiction "Dark Shadows" book to celebrate the 50th anniversary (!) of "Dark Shadows."

3. What made you go from actress to author?

Since I was a young girl, my twin career goals have always been acting and writing. I have been so lucky to work successfully at both. I won scholarships twice to study acting and I gained success in that career early on, so acting took precedence. Over the years I've written screenplays, magazine articles, short stores... if blogs had been around at the beginning of my career, I imagine I would have started out doing that! The turning point for me, when writing became a full fledged occupation, happened in 1985, coinciding with the deaths of Joel Crothers and Grayson Hall. I was asked to write a magazine article about these two beloved Dark Shadows actors and, once I turned in the piece, I just kept writing. It became my first book, My Scrapbook Memories of Dark Shadows. I've now completed two screenplays and have two other books in the pipeline... while also continuing my acting career.

4. Your latest book is quite a bit different than the gothic of Dark Shadows. “Down and Out in Beverly Heels” is a romantic mystery. How difficult is it to switch genres? Do you have a preference?

I'd been aching to write fiction, but did not find the transition from nonfiction easy. I abandoned several false attempts before finding my voice with Dark Passages. I tend to write in a humorous vein and once I tapped into it I had a great time. Down and Out in Beverly Heels is a funny book, although I deal with a serious topic: homelessness. I think the new term for homeless is "unhoused" and that accurately describes Meg's situation. She's lost her home, along with everything else, and is forced to live on the streets of Beverly Hills in what she calls her "Ritz-Volvo." The mystery involves tracking down her fugitive husband, who is the cause of her predicament. I have almost completed the sequel. I love the character and find her very challenging to write! However, I will continue to write nonfiction, as well.

5. Will there be more romance and mystery books in the near future? What can we look forward to in the future? Any sneak peeks?

Sequels to both Dark Passages and Down and Out in Beverly Heels are forthcoming. The two characters are so different and they live in two different time periods, so distinguishing between them is easy for me. Also, one is paranormal romance, the other mystery romance. It's also possible I'll write a stand-alone novel as I have a story in mind that takes place at the turn of the last century.

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