The Girl I Used to Be by Mary Torjussen | Blog Tour Extract | #TheGirlIUsedToBe

 

Published by Headline (9 August 2018)

Available in ebook and paperback

352 pages



 

|   About the Book   |

 

How can you hide your mistakes when you don’t know what they are?

Gemma Brogan needs a break from her life.

A work event looks the ideal chance to get away. And a friendly new client seems like the perfect gentleman when he joins Gemma for an innocent dinner . . .

But the next morning she has no memory of how the night ended and he has vanished into thin air.

Suddenly, Gemma is plunged into a twisted nightmare she can’t control. To protect her future, and her family, she will have to confront shocking secrets from her past – and the truth about the girl she used to be.

Completely gripping and full of page-turning twists, this is the perfect psychological thriller for fans of Erin Kelly’s HE SAID SHE SAID and Laura Marshall’s FRIEND REQUEST.

 

EXTRACT

 

Fifteen years ago

Thursday, August 15

When I think of that night now, I remember the heat, clammy and intense on my skin, and the sense of feverish excitement in the air. I think of the taxi ride to the party with my friend Lauren, her body soft and scented against mine as we sat crushed into the back seat with her boyfriend Tom. The radio was on, the windows were open, and ‘London Calling’ started to play. I remember the surge of happiness I felt then; I’d just been accepted by London University and would be there within a month. Whenever I hear that song now, it takes me straight back to that taxi ride to Alex’s house. It’s as though I am that girl, the girl I used to be.

But I’m not.

I can feel the sandals I was wearing as though I’m wearing them now. I could hardly walk in them; I wore them that night for the first time and within an hour I had blisters. I can remember the feel of my dress, its soft cotton brushing my skin. When I close my eyes I can feel the breeze lifting my hair. I can smell the perfume I wore, taste the lip gloss on my mouth.

But always, always, when I think of that night, I think of Alex.

It was mid‑August, the summer we were eighteen, and over two hundred of us from school were going to celebrate our exam results at Alex Clarke’s party. Lauren and I had got ready together at her house, and I’d sneaked in the little pink dress that I’d bought with the money I was supposed to be saving for university. We were tanned from the summer sun; each day we worked until mid‑afternoon in the café in our local town, and then we’d strip off our sweaty nylon overalls, pull on our shorts, and spend the rest of the day down at the beach. That afternoon we’d spent an hour or so topping up our tans before going back to her house to get ready for the night ahead. This was the start of the rest of our lives, we told each other. We wanted to look different, like we were ready for our new lives away from home.

We had a few drinks before we went to the party. Lauren’s mum came into her room with a bottle of champagne to celebrate our results, and insisted on refilling our glasses whenever they were empty. We didn’t tell her we’d already had tequila shots. Lauren had more to drink than I did, but she always did back then. As soon as I was seventeen, I passed my driving test and my dad bought me a runaround so that I didn’t have to ask him for lifts. I loved driving and was happy to have soft drinks and ferry everyone about. I suppose that’s why it hit me so hard that night.

It was a Thursday in the middle of August and we had to go to the school office first thing that morning to get our results. We felt they were life or death; if they were what we needed, doors would be opened to the top universities, the best courses, and a life full of promise. Just a grade down and we’d be screwed. The lives we’d hoped for just wouldn’t happen. Or so we thought. And while we knew – we’d been told often enough – that everything would work out no matter what, that other universities were still good, we were young enough to believe that no, actually, things wouldn’t be okay. We all knew people who’d failed to get into their first‑choice university, who’d talked about it for years later.

But that wasn’t our fate that summer. It was a stellar year. Everyone seemed to get the results they needed to do what they wanted to do. It was exhilarating, the way we opened our envelopes and screamed, one after the other.

And I remember Alex and his friends, all of them bound for Oxford or Cambridge, trying to hide their elation behind cool exteriors. They were fooling no one. They’d seen them‑ selves as separate from the rest of us – they knew they were different – and now they were proven to be right. Or that was how I saw it then. I didn’t even know him; I’d only spoken to him once, but that was the impression he and his friends gave. Lauren and I were standing behind their group that morning in the queue for the exam results and overheard his friend Theo ask, ‘The party’s on then?’

Alex nodded. ‘Spread the word around. People from here only. No one else.’

I’d nudged Lauren and she’d giggled; we’d been looking forward to it for months and had everything planned, right down to the nail varnish we’d wear on our toes.

The local press was there in full force that morning, pre‑arranged by the school, and there were photos taken of us all, grouped into sets, our expressions happy and free. Our teachers stood with us, their faces so tanned and relaxed I could hardly recognize them. The relief among all of us was palpable.

Alex’s house was in the middle of the countryside, ten miles out of town. We’d guessed it would be bigger, more expensive, but the scale of it surprised us. It was a detached house set in pristine landscaped gardens on the edge of a village. There were no near neighbours; the garden was surrounded by fields, beyond which we caught glimpses of the river.

He and Theo were standing at the front door when we arrived, making sure that they knew us all. There’d been stories in the news that summer about parties where crowds had gatecrashed and the police had had to be called; it was obvious from the way he checked everyone as they walked up the driveway that he was on guard for that.

‘Hi,’ he said. ‘Come on in!’

Behind Alex was Jack Howard, one of his friends, who was taking photos of everyone as they went into the house. We’d known for a long time that he’d had a crush on Lauren, and when he saw us, he blushed and busied himself with his camera. She slung her arms around Tom and me and we posed there on the doorstep, giddy and excited at the thought of the night ahead. After Tom went through the front door, she turned and blew a kiss at Jack and turned to wink at me. Whenever I think of Lauren, I think of us giggling. Just about anything could make us laugh. When Alex had greeted us, we giggled and nudged each other and went through the large hallway into the kitchen at the back of the house. It was full of food and alcohol. People had gone overboard and brought spirits and crates of beer and armfuls of wine bottles. I heard Jack say that Alex’s parents were away on holiday; they’d agreed that if he got top grades – which meant he’d be accepted by Oxford – and if he paid for a deep clean afterwards, he could have a party to celebrate. They would be back a few days later and didn’t want to see any sign there’d even been a party. That was a bit optimistic, I thought.

Everyone in our year was invited to that party and most were there. There were so many I only knew by sight, but we were all on such a high that pretty soon we were kissing everyone and anyone, congratulating people we barely knew, just grateful that we’d done well and were going to have our chance to get away.

You’d think we were living in some sort of hellhole, the way we carried on, as though our only chance of a good life was to leave behind the one we had.

Lauren and I had done well; Tom too. We were all off in a month’s time to different universities. She and I had been friends since nursery school, and it would be almost the first time Lauren and Tom would have spent more than twenty‑four hours apart in the two years she’d known him. I thought our friendship would last the separation, and guessed she’d stay with Tom, too; there was an ease about them that I envied. That night their arms were entwined and I noticed when she kissed a friend that she’d align herself with Tom, as though they were one person, so they embraced the friend together. I drank so much that night. All of us did. It was the first time we’d all been together like that and we knew it would be the last time, too. Despite that, people didn’t seem drunk. Not really. Nobody was staggering or falling, and apart from my friend Lizzie, who was sick into an ornamental bay tree on the patio before it was even dark, nobody was ill. We were all outside and then the music was turned up and everyone was dancing. I lost Lauren and Tom somewhere along the way. When I saw her later, her dress was buttoned up wrongly and she had a fresh love bite on her neck. She was telling someone she hadn’t ever spoken to before that she would always miss them.

Then all of a sudden, past midnight, it hit me. I realized I was more drunk than I’d ever been. I’d been drinking more and more as the night went on, and most of it was punch from a huge bowl that one of Alex’s friends had been in charge of. God knew what had been in it – there were bottles of every spirit and liqueur you could think of lying around, and I was sure that most had ended up in that bowl. Lauren and Tom were lying in a hammock nearby by then, and when I turned to them, clinging onto the back of a garden chair for support, she smiled lazily and closed her eyes. I knew she wouldn’t want to go home yet. I was staying at her house that night and we were sharing a taxi home. Her mum had promised to leave the money next to the front door and the key under the doormat, so that we didn’t have to take our handbags with us.

My heart sank. It could be hours before Lauren wanted to leave. I started to walk back towards the house and staggered, falling into a bush. I didn’t mind; I thought it was funny. One of the girls from school yanked me back up again and asked if I was all right. I nodded. I don’t think I could have spoken if I’d wanted to.

When I reached the house I was suddenly desperate for the toilet. There were several portable toilets at the bottom of the garden but I didn’t think there was a chance I’d reach them in time. I searched for a cloakroom inside the house and found a door under the stairs, which I thought was probably what I wanted. When I tried to open it, I heard a boy laugh and a girl say ‘Shh!’ and I realized what was going on. I gave a deep sigh, knowing there was no point in waiting, and went further into the house. I could hardly see by then and was smiling at just about everyone. The mood was high, voices were loud, everyone was happy.

At the foot of the stairs there were a couple of chairs, with a note telling people to keep out. I couldn’t wait by then, though, so I squeezed past them and found a bathroom just at the top of the stairs. I stumbled in and sat down so fast I nearly dislodged the toilet seat. I found that funny, and wondered just what was in that punch. I wasn’t so drunk that I didn’t wash my hands, though, and saw that my face was flushed in the bathroom mirror, my eyes bleary and half closed. I knew I’d suffer the next day; I would have even if I’d stopped after the champagne and the tequila shots at Lauren’s house. I remember grimacing as I thought of the headache I’d have. The following afternoon I was going on holiday to France for two weeks with my family, and already I was dreading the long car journey with a hangover.

As I turned from the basin, I slipped on a towel someone had left on the bathroom floor. I probably should have picked it up, but I realized pretty quickly that if I bent down, I would fall. I doubted I’d be able to get myself back up if that happened, so I kicked the towel to one side and opened the bathroom door. It was quiet upstairs, though I could hear the sounds of the party continuing downstairs and out in the garden. I tripped at the top of the stairs and grabbed the handrail. I didn’t think I’d make it down without falling. My head was spinning by then and I had a sudden vision of myself hurtling head first down the stairs.

I backed away from the staircase and stumbled back into a door. It opened behind me. A lamp was lit next to a double bed. From the hockey stick propped up against the wall, I realized it must be Alex’s room. He played for the school team; the only time I’d spoken to him was when he dropped his kit when he was hurrying to get to a match. Posters from the Glastonbury music festival he’d gone to that summer were on his bedroom wall. I’d known he was going to it, just after the exams ended. Lauren had heard him talking to Theo about it when they were all queuing up to leave the hall after their last exam. A local band, The Coral, were playing at Glastonbury that year, and Alex was wearing their T‑shirt at the party. A drum kit was in the corner of the room next to a guitar and a huge amp. I remember wondering whether he was any good and thinking he wouldn’t play if he wasn’t.

I sat down on the bed. Suddenly I was so weary, I just wanted to sleep. My head was spinning and everything was blurred. I couldn’t summon up the energy to go back downstairs, and I knew that when I did, Lauren would want to stay longer and wouldn’t want to spend time with me. Only that night she’d said that she and Tom had just three weeks left and they were going to spend every single minute together.

So I lay down. The bed was so soft, its covers clean and fragrant. It smelled like my own bed when the linen had just been changed. I loved the scent of clean sheets. And I knew Alex wouldn’t know I’d been here – he was a party boy; he’d be outside until dawn.

My head relaxed onto his pillow. I had a fleeting thought that my make‑up would be all over the pillowcase, but I couldn’t care about that then. The door was half open and I knew that Lauren would come to find me. She’d know I hadn’t gone home; how could I? I had no money on me and I wasn’t going to go back to my own house as drunk as this. The bedside lamp cast a soft glow over the room and the light from the landing flooded the entrance to the room. She’ll see me here, I thought. She’ll tell me when it’s time to go home.

I turned to face away from the lamp. I’ve never liked to sleep with a light shining on my face. As I turned, I felt my dress ride up and I made a half‑hearted attempt to pull it down. The scent of the pillow and the alcohol in my blood‑ stream and the lateness of the hour and the fact that I’d been awake until dawn that morning, worrying about my exam results, meant that when I turned back, my head buried in the pillow, I relaxed completely. I remember sighing as I slipped into sleep.

It had been a great night. A really great night.

 

My thanks to Headline for providing the extract and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation.

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Mary Torjussen grew up in Stoke-on-Trent. There was no television in her family home so books have always been her escape – she spent hours reading and writing stories as a child. Mary has an MA in Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University, and worked as a teacher in Liverpool before becoming a full-time writer. She has two adult children and lives on the Wirral, where her debut novel, GONE WITHOUT A TRACE, is set.

 

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Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly | Blog Tour Review #Thriller #OpenYourEyes

 

Published by Corgi/Transworld (26 July 2018)

Available in ebook and paperback

352 pages

Source: Copy provided by The Pigeonhole



|   About the Book  |

 

Haven’t we all wanted to pretend everything is fine?

Jane doesn’t like confrontation. Given the choice, she’d prefer to focus on what’s going well, the good things in life.

But when her husband, Leon, is brutally attacked in the driveway of their home, in front of their two young children, Jane has to face reality. As he lies in a coma, Jane must open her eyes to the problems in her life, and the secrets that have been kept from her, if she’s to find out who hurt her husband – and why.

Maybe it’s time to face up to it all. Who knows what you might find . . .

 

|   My Thoughts   |

 

Oh my goodness, a new book by Paula Daly.  What a treat!  I’ve reviewed all of her books on this blog and jumped at the chance to read an advance copy of this via The Pigeonhole. This was my first time of using their app, reading a stave (or chapters) per day, over a period of 10 days, and it worked really well – I’d be very happy to read more this way.

For Jane, her husband Leon and their two young children, the day started ordinarily enough at their home in Liverpool. An intended visit to Leon’s mother to celebrate his birthday. Before they leave home, Jane pops out of the car for a few minutes whilst Leon is arguing with an awkward neighbour about trivial matters and when she returns, Leon has been attacked.

Paula’s latest book is set primarily around the publishing world (which for me added an extra interest), and I suspect perhaps draws upon some of her own experiences to give some insight. Leon is a successful published author and Jane is an aspiring author, currently teaching creative writing whilst the success she so desperately craves eludes her.  The rivalry and competitiveness between some authors doesn’t go unmentioned – some may remember the media furore over ‘sock-puppetry’ from a few years ago.

Open your Eyes seemed to me to be a little different from Daly’s previous books but none the less captivating.  In my opinion, this one is more of a character led domestic crime/suspense story, focusing on people rather than actions. Following Leon’s attack, Jane has to take over all the responsibility for her family, their home and finances whilst all the time fearing that whoever attacked Leon may come back. The trauma of what happened to Leon and how it affects their family is very powerfully and sympathetically written and the reader is left in no doubt as to the complexity of brain injuries and the the repercussions it has on everyone.  As Jane attempts to get their lives into some kind of order and find out why Leon was targeted, secrets and deceit come to light and she begins to wonder whether she actually knew her husband. It doesn’t help that the police suspect HER of being involved in the attack.

Jane, in particular, was a realistic and engaging character and generally I was on her side although there were times when I did wonder if she was being completely honest and I did begin to doubt her involvement.  We only saw events from her perspective and on occasions she withheld information and made some decisions that I thought were unwise but I guess she was doing her best in a dreadful situation and felt completely on her own.  It took a devastating event for her to come out from behind Leon’s shadow and find out just what she was actually capable of.

This wouldn’t be a suspense thriller without the unexpected curve balls and the author certainly had me fooled by the twists and surprises that occurred.

Open Your Eyes is another cracking read from this very talented author and I enjoyed it very much. Paula Daly generally produces one book a year – the only thing I am sad about is having to wait now for another one.

 

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invite.

 

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Paula Daly is the critically acclaimed author of four novels. Her work has been sold in fifteen countries, shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Crime Novel of the Year, and her books are currently being developed for television. She was born in Lancashire and lives in the Lake District with her husband, three children and whippet Skippy.

 

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The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis | Blog Tour Review #dualtime #historicalfiction #TheGirlInTheLetter

 

Published by Headline Review (1 August 2018)

Ebook (1 August 2018)  |  Paperback (4 April 2019)

384 pages

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher and Netgalley



 

|   About the Book   |

 

Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Kathryn Hughes, this gripping novel of long-buried secrets will stay with you for ever.

A heartbreaking letter. A girl locked away. A mystery to be solved.

1956. When Ivy Jenkins falls pregnant she is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a dark, brooding house for unmarried mothers. Her baby is adopted against her will. Ivy will never leave.

Present day. Samantha Harper is a journalist desperate for a break. When she stumbles on a letter from the past, the contents shock and move her. The letter is from a young mother, begging to be rescued from St Margaret’s. Before it is too late.
Sam is pulled into the tragic story and discovers a spate of unexplained deaths surrounding the woman and her child. With St Margaret’s set for demolition, Sam has only hours to piece together a sixty-year-old mystery before the truth, which lies disturbingly close to home, is lost for ever…

Read her letter. Remember her story…

 

|   My Thoughts    |

 

Oh my. What to say about this book. When I first saw the description it was one that absolutely appealed to me. Dual time, historical fiction – just the sort of book I love. What I wasn’t expecting was such an emotional, harrowing and dark read, bordering on the thriller genre.

The story begins with a prologue in 1959 and a letter from Ivy Jenkins addressed to someone called Elvira. This is the first of many heart-breaking letters that we see from Ivy. Ivy’s backstory is gradually revealed but it appears that she has been incarcerated since 1956 in St Margaret’s Mother and Baby Home in Sussex, simply for the ‘crime’ of falling pregnant and being unmarried. Because her family were unable/unwilling to pay the required fee, Ivy has been forced to remain at the home to pay off the debt.

It is 2017 and Samantha Harper, a young journalist, is desperate for a break and feels overlooked by her boss at the local newspaper. Separated from her husband, she lives with her Nana and 4 year old daughter Emma. Samantha comes into the possession of some letters and intrigued, she wants to find out more. It becomes clear that there is a mystery of suspicious deaths involving the Home and if Sam wants to delve deeper, she is up against the clock. Time is against her as St Margaret’s is due for demolition in a few days.

Emily Gunnis does not pull any punches here over the cruelty and brutality of these homes. Run by nuns, wouldn’t you naturally expect them to be kind and compassionate? Forget it. Most of the nuns at St Margaret’s are cruel and sadistic without a shred of humanity or compassion in them. Having read about the horrific treatment of women and children in the Magdalen laundries in Ireland, this wasn’t a totally unexpected revelation but I didn’t realise that the UK had its share of these brutal homes too. In the author’s notes at the back, she refers to a convent in Essex, my home county, being run like a ‘Victorian workhouse” where mothers were forced to give up their babies.

Of course, the nuns wouldn’t have been able to continue with their vile practices without the collusion of others. The families may possibly have been deceived as to the reality of sending their daughters to such places but doctors, priests, adoption agencies and the like knew exactly what kind of hellhole these girls were going to and many did very well financially from the arrangement. Nobody in a position of authority comes out well in this story and although some may be more culpable than others, they all have questions to answer. A book rarely makes me angry but this one did and fair play to the author for invoking that reaction.

The Girl in the Letter is a stunning debut from Emily Gunnis. It has clearly been well researched and factual and historic knowledge has been woven seamlessly into a fictional story, with each chapter ending with an intriguing hook. The threads of the story go back and forth in time and involve various characters over a timeline of 60 years and although, like me, you may initially wonder how a particular character fits in to the story, they are pulled together to a dramatic conclusion. What I particularly liked is the way that Ivy’s story is mainly told by way of her letters. Ivy is a very engaging character that I felt much sympathy for and the helplessness of her desperate situation came across so clearly.

It’s quite difficult to define the genre of the story, and I suppose it could be described as a historical thriller/mystery with touches of the paranormal. If I were to be really very picky, the paranormal aspect (and to be fair this only appears now and again in the story) is the only part which didn’t really work for me (but then it rarely does, whatever the book). However this didn’t spoil anything and certainly didn’t stop me from being completely engrossed and wanting to shed tears for Ivy and the other young women and children like her.

It is no secret that the author is the daughter of the late Penny Vincenzi, one of my all-time favourite authors. The talented writing gene obviously runs in the family.  The Girl in the Letter is a powerful and gripping read which will stir emotions and deserves to be a huge success. I loved it and do hope there is another book to come from Emily.

 

My thanks to Headline for providing a copy via Netgalley and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite.

The Girl in the Letter is currently available to download on Amazon for just 99p – an absolute steal for a cracker of a book.

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Emily Gunnis previously worked in TV drama and lives in Brighton with her young family. She is one of the four daughters of Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Vincenzi.

 

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Through His Eyes by Emma Dibdin | Blog Tour Extract

 

Published by Head of Zeus

Available in ebook and hardback (9 August 2018)  |  Paperback (7 February 2019)

368 pages



 

|   About the Book   |

 

A dark, unsettling thriller about a young female journalist drawn into the life of a troubled Hollywood A-lister.
The perfect summer read for fans of Sabine Durrant, Erin Kelly and Louise Doughty.

You have to know when to say no. That’s one of the first things they tell you. But from the first day I arrived in Los Angeles, I said yes.

Jessica Harris is a struggling Hollywood reporter hungry for her big break. When her editor asks her to profile movie star Clark Conrad, Jessica is sure her luck is on the turn. Clark is an A-lister with access to everyone. If Jessica can impress him, she’s made it.

When she arrives at Clark’s mansion in the Hollywood Hills, he is just as she always imagined. Charming, handsome yet disarmingly vulnerable. But then things take a darker turn. Clark’s world is not as straightforward as it seems and Jessica’s puff piece soon becomes something much more delicate – and dangerous. As Jessica draws herself deeper into Clark’s inner circle, events begin to spiral out of her control.

Transfixing, insightful and unsettling, Through His Eyes drops you into the mind of a young woman with everything to play for – and everything to lose…

 

EXTRACT

 

A silence, as Jackie exchanges a glance with the features editor, and I clench my fists under the table. There’s no way they will actually give this to me. It’s way above my pay grade, way above my experience level. How has some veteran profile-writer not already swooped in to take this? An interview with Clark Conrad is like a unicorn sighting in the world of movie journalism, for anyone, even for people who haven’t idolized him since puberty.

‘I’m not sure we should—’ the features editor whose name I can never remember begins, then cuts herself off. ‘Maybe we hold off on making a call on the writer. I have a couple of freelancers I’d like to run it past.’

‘We’re really down to the wire on this,’ Justin says. ‘How fast can you get a freelancer onboard?’

‘I’m a little confused as to why we still don’t have a writer assigned,’ says Jackie softly. She is the kind of woman who never raises her voice, never needs to, because people lean in to catch every word. She turns to the features editor. ‘Eleanor, could you clear this up for me?’

‘We had Jim Rothman assigned, but he pulled out when we told him about all the restrictions on questions, and it’s been hard to—’

‘Okay,’ Jackie interrupts. ‘I don’t need to hear excuses, I need a solution. The interview is happening this week, yes?’

‘Friday,’ Justin confirms

‘All right, Jessica. Let’s give you a shot. Send your notes and your transcript to Eleanor when you’re done, and the two of you can work together on the angle. Do you have any clippings of similar pieces that you’ve done before, anything long-form? In case Clark’s rep asks.’

We both know that this has nothing to do with his rep. They want to vet me, and though there’s a part of me that bristles, I know they’re right to do so. I’m a nobody being handed an absurdly huge assignment.

Definitely. I can send you some clips today. I’ve written interviews before.’ This is true, but only with studio executives, indie directors, the odd supporting actor. No one on the level of a Clark Conrad, not even close.

‘She’s a pro,’ Justin says. ‘You don’t need to worry, she’s way overdue for an assignment like this.’ I glance gratefully at him.

‘All right, sounds good.’ Eleanor smiles, tightly. ‘Jessica, we can go over your questions in more detail later, but maybe try to get a line from him about Loner. The fandom for that show is still really engaged, even though it’s been off the air for so long, so anything he says will get picked up.’

As if I don’t know this.

‘And obviously anything he says about the divorce will be buzzy. I’m not expecting much, but it’s the whole reason for this midlife crisis renovation project, so even anything he says about the house that sounds like it could be about Carol if you read between the lines…’

‘I’m still not over it,’ Justin says mournfully. ‘The downfall of America’s golden couple. Love is dead, chaos reigns.’

The strangest part of Clark and Carol’s breakup has been Carol’s complete disappearance ever since. All anyone knows is that she moved to New York with the couple’s elder daughter Sarah, that she has retired permanently from acting, and that she’s been spotted a few times hiking in the Adirondacks. She has given no interviews, no statements, and has barely been photographed since the move. It’s not for lack of trying – almost every week, a gossip magazine will run some variation of the cover line ‘Why She Disappeared’, promising to finally reveal the truth about Carol’s new life, and to explain why she took Sarah with her and not Skye. There’s a persistent rumour that she cheated on Clark and is now quietly shacked up with the mystery beau, possibly pregnant with his child. Another impressively detailed theory says she’s joined a cult based in upstate New York, risen swiftly through the ranks of this ‘new religious movement’, and has now indoctrinated Sarah despite Clark’s best efforts to stop her. But the actual stories are always filler, a cobbled-together mess of old quotes and speculation from unattributed sources. Carol has become an enigma, which is all the more reason why any quote at all from Clark will be breaking news.

Later in the day I send over my meagre list of meaningful clippings to Eleanor and Jackie, trying to ignore the dismissive remarks already ringing in my head. I’m imagining all the ways this assignment could be taken from me before I ever had it, all the clear, undeniable reasons for me not to get invested in this. There’s no way I will be at Clark Conrad’s home in the canyon two days from now for an exclusive interview. Replace his name with the name of any other star and I might believe it, as an extreme but still plausible twist of fate. But not him.

 

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Emma Dibdin is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Total Film. She lives in New York City.

 

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The Light Between Us by Katie Khan | Blog Tour Extract and #Giveaway #TheLightBetweenUs

 

Published by Doubleday/Transworld (9 August 2018)

Available in ebook and hardback

320 pages



Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for The Light Between Us.  Today, I have an extract to share, plus a fabulous giveaway for a hardback copy.  Entry is via the Rafflecopter box below. My thanks to the publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

 

A classic ‘will they, won’t they’ love story – with a difference.

Perfect for fans of Sliding Doors, The Versions of Us and The Summer of Impossible Things.

Thea and Isaac first met at University. Theirs was an instant connection but it never went further than friendship.

Because, then and now, Thea only has eyes for her work. Not just her course, but also a private project – Thea is determined to prove that time travel is not just the stuff of science fiction. And she has never told anyone the reason why.

When one of their friends goes missing in an experiment, Isaac and Thea must work together to find her – forcing them to re-examine their own friendship.

Is it really as platonic as they used to think?

The Light Between Us is a story of unrequited love and second chances. It begs the dangerous question that we all ask ourselves – what could have been?

 

EXTRACT

Oxford, October 2010

The planets were moving towards each other in the night sky when Isaac and Thea first met. It was a rare conjunction, the type that happens only once a decade – and, at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, the Astronomy Club was meeting to observe the curious celestial event…

…Hands stuffed into coat pockets, her chestnut hair tucked into her scarf, neck straining to look up at the sky, Thea’s attention was fixed on the pale pools of light pouring towards her, strengthening each minute. ‘Here –’ a student Thea hadn’t met before pushed a hot drink in a red plastic cup at her – ‘take one. It’ll warm you up.’

‘Thanks,’ she said, taking her hand from her pocket to hold the cup against her, absorbing its heat. Around them, various people peered into the lenses of telescopes, while those waiting stamped their feet against the cold, similarly clutching steaming red cups.

‘I hate these cups,’ she murmured.

‘Oh?’ the same person said, still near her. He was tall with a shock of dark hair brushed away from his forehead; waves that threatened to explode into all-out curls at any moment. ‘Why’s that?’

Thea swirled her hot toddy, gazing into it as though she could read tealeaves. ‘Well, who brought them here? Almost certainly an undergrad who’s spent time in the States, gorging on American culture, who has very misguidedly thought the Oxford Astronomy Club would be the right place to cultivate a derivative fraternity vibe.’

‘Is that right?’ he said, starting to laugh. ‘I mean, are we supposed to play a game of beer pong, right here on the grass . . . ?’

‘Oh, good!’ came a voice. The Philosophy professor stood behind them, beaming. ‘You’ve met. Two of my “half” students who, lamentably, I only get to teach for half the time. The rest of the time you’re corrupted by other subjects, and other professors.’

Thea smiled politely, as did the person next to her.

‘You’re both looking rather contemplative,’ said the tutor. ‘Pondering the otherworldly light from the heavens?’

‘Something like that,’ Thea said.

‘And what do you think light is?’ he enquired. ‘Colman?’

She raised her eyebrows: the question was too easy. ‘An electric field, tied up with a magnetic field, blasting through space at great speed.’

The tutor smiled. ‘You like that definition. I can see it in your eyes.’ He tilted his head. ‘What about you, Mendelsohn – what do you think light is?’

She watched the curly-haired student next to her consider before he spoke.

‘Well . . .’ His gaze flicked towards Thea, not quite meeting hers before snapping back to the professor. ‘“A certain slant of light” is poetry. A spectrum of seven rainbow colours is a symbol of pride . . . And I suppose when we, as humans, look in a mirror – we can find our own truth, within that reflection made from light.’

‘Do you see?’ the professor said, sadly. ‘How your other studies corrupt you. Though that was very lyrical, Mendelsohn – what a shame I don’t get you in my Philosophy class full-time.’ He brightened. ‘Perhaps you’ll be a good influence on Thea, here. Get her out of her scientific ways of thinking.’

The student took a leisurely sip from his red cup. ‘I’m more inclined to think someone that logical will be a good influence on me.’

She regarded him briefly; that secret moment when you instinctively like someone you’ve just met and must consider whether it’s admiration or attraction. Or both.

‘You were saying something about hating the red cups?’ he said, turning to her as their professor made his excuses and moved away.

She smiled. ‘I don’t think we’ve met before, have we?’

‘I’ve been abroad,’ he said. ‘I spent a year studying in the States.’

‘How did you like America?’

‘I loved it.’ Around them, people began to ooh as the remaining daylight dispersed and the planets became more visible in the dark. He pointed to Mercury, closest to the horizon, and Venus with its whiteish light sitting just above the moon, the three entities forming the beginnings of a curved line. In only a few minutes those brightly coloured dots would be joined by three more, arching in the sky above them, a line‑of‑sight trick making them look impossibly close.

‘I stayed with a fraternity in Princeton,’ he continued. Then, when Thea didn’t say anything: ‘You could say I gorged on American culture.’

‘Oh.’ She looked at him soberly. ‘You brought the cups.’

He grinned. ‘I’m Isaac,’ he said, holding out his hand, waiting as she jostled her red cup to the other hand so she could shake his.

‘I’m sorry. I said something rude. I tend to lack—’

‘A filter? That’s not a bad thing.’ He smiled. ‘So you’re Thea. The scientific one.’

‘And you’re Isaac,’ she said, as their gaze returned to the skies. ‘The poetic one.’

It was nearly time.

She could see his profile in the corner of her vision, but when their eyes met they both quickly turned their attention to the emerging conjunction of the planets. They only looked like they were close together because of where they were standing; their viewpoint on Earth tonight would deceive their eyes, and though, for a brief moment, the planets would appear near to one another in the solar system, they were still distinct and far apart – lone lights in the dark.

Thea turned something over and over in her pocket, feeling the shiny, hard surface of glass against her palm as she contemplated the starlight.

Above them, faintly, shone brownish Saturn and pinkish Mars, and far out to the left was yellowish Jupiter. The sound of the groups became louder, as though someone had turned up the volume. ‘Do you see it?’ People around them began to murmur excitedly.

‘The syzygy,’ Thea said, and she saw Isaac glance at her as he drank from the blasted red cup. ‘That’s right,’ the Astronomy tutor said warmly. ‘Three or more celestial bodies, all in a line. And this syzygy is special, because the curved line the five planets fall on is the . . . ?’

Thea stopped herself answering, remembering to let other people have their turn, and instead took a sip from her cup. But when nobody spoke, she bit her lip.

‘It’s the ecliptic,’ she said, tracing the line of lights in the sky with her hand. ‘An imaginary line that marks the path of the sun.’ More quietly, she continued: ‘It’s what makes it look as though we’re standing on the edge of the universe. As though we could wave, and the other planets might see.’

Isaac wore a look of surprise, and as the group chattered and the professors posited further questions, moving among the crowd, he turned to her. ‘You’re into astronomy?’

‘I’m studying Physics and Philosophy.’

‘Suddenly it makes sense.’ He raised his cup in cheers. ‘I’m Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics, myself.’

‘Keeping busy.’ Thea grinned.

‘I spend more time in the library than is entirely good for the soul – there’s a hell of a lot of research.’ He grimaced. ‘Hard science has always been my Kryptonite.’ She took a sip of her drink, smiling into the cup. ‘Better not let me tell you my idea for a PhD, then.’

In Philosophy?’

No – God, no.’ She wrinkled her nose. ‘Physics.’

They stood together, staring at the moon ringed aglow, the planets like bright map pins they could reach up and unfasten from the sky.
‘When you see the solar system laid out in front of us like this,’ Isaac started, ‘when you can really see the other planets . . . it makes me think there’s no one else out there, in the universe, but us.’

She knew she’d met someone she’d want to talk more with, when he said that.

‘Would I be able to follow it?’ he said. ‘Your PhD idea.’

And whereas Thea would usually reach for every principle under the sun, every technical word to prove her intelligence through the great wealth of fact and theory she’d stored up over the years, she didn’t want to lose her new friend’s attention – and she didn’t want to make him feel bad, if he couldn’t grasp it.

‘Yes,’ she said. She reached into her pocket, feeling for the comfort of the multifaceted glass that dug into her hand. She brought it out and he looked at it, bemused.

‘A crystal?’ he said.

‘Nothing quite so woo-woo,’ she said. ‘This is a glass prism.’

Isaac eyed her speculatively. ‘And what are you going to do with this prism, during your complicated PhD research project I haven’t a hope of understanding?’

Thea twinkled. The ecliptic stretched out overhead, a curved line of the solar system’s major players, the rarely beheld formation making an imaginary line real to the naked eye once every ten years. ‘It’s about light,’ she said, forcing herself to sound casual. ‘The theory is, if you were to travel faster than the speed of light, you could – technically speaking – arrive somewhere before you left.’

Isaac raised an eyebrow. ‘Is that so?’

‘It’s a theory.’

‘But isn’t the speed of light inordinately fast?’

‘It is.’ Thea twisted the prism so it caught the moonlight, throwing beams and spectrums across the ground. ‘But not if you were to slow it down. Trap it, somehow.’

Isaac looked to the glass prism, and back at his new friend. ‘You could arrive somewhere before you left.’

She gave him a conspiratorial smile. ‘I’m going to prove that time travel is possible.’

 

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Katie Khan has spent 10 years working in online editorial in the film industry, including 4 years as Head of Digital at Paramount Pictures. She joined Warner Bros. in 2017 to work on a major film production. Her first book, Hold Back the Stars, is being adapted into a film by the producers of Stranger Things.
She is a graduate of the acclaimed Faber Academy writing course.  Katie lives in London with her boyfriend and rescue cat Artie.

 

 

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