Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Blog Tour: 'Sometimes I Lie' by Alice Feeney. Review and Giveaway.

I was lucky enough to read a very early copy of Sometimes I Lie and read it in one, frenzied sitting. It is with great pleasure that I am now able to share my thoughts on this chilling thriller and offer three paperback copies for giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning one, just enter via rafflecopter link at the bottom of this post. UK and Ireland only, I'm afraid. Good Luck!


My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me.
1. I am in a coma.
2. My husband doesn't love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

This is the no-nonsense opening page of the debut novel from former BBC reporter, Alice Feeney. We are introduced to Alice as she lies, confused and with gaping holes in her memory, in a hospital bed. She has been in a road traffic accident and is in a coma. She can hear everything and yet has no way to express herself; her fears, her uncertainty and her own self-doubt are all pent-up. Before long we are brought back to the week before the accident and catch glimpses of what led up to the present day. With her husband and her sister taking turns at her bedside, Alice struggles to recall the details; big and small. Her comatose body lets her down and her frustration is palpable;

"Despite my internal cries, on the outside I am voiceless and perfectly still. [...] The Vice tightens around my skull once more, as though a thousand fingers are pushing at my temples. I can't remember what happened to me, but I know, with unwavering certainty, that this man, my husband, had something to do with it."

The novel flicks back and forth with delicious teasers and tightly woven tensions. A thrilling read that is like a kite flying on a uncertain wind. It launches with great gusto, dipping and diving through partial memories, all the while tethered to the reader with a thread of thrilling anxiety.  The story soars and crashes, rises and turns, with gruesome twists and  unforeseen turns galore.  I have no doubt that this novel will crash land onto bestseller lists worldwide and linger there for a long, long time. Whether you are reading on your commute or huddled up in your bed, just do not expect to communicate with anyone as you eagerly turn the pages. It will suck you in, refusing to let you go without a fight.  An intense reading experience that you will not forget in a hurry. Ideal for fans of BA Paris and Elizabeth Haynes. Highly recommended.


Alice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent 16 years at the BBC, where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Producer and One O’clock News Producer.

Alice is a Faber Academy graduate from the class of 2016. She has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog.
Sometimes I Lie is her debut thriller.

Sometimes I Lie is published by HQ Stories and is available in PB and ebook format. It is available in all good bookshops or you can order your copy via the amazon link below:

Monday, 27 March 2017

Book Review: 'Orange Blossom Days' by Patricia Scanlan.

This article originally appeared in The Sunday Independent on 26th March 2017

Warm stories of family and friendship under a hot Spanish sun

Fiction: Orange Blossom Days Patricia Scanlan, Simon and Schuster, €19.60

Orange Blossom Days by Patricia Scanlan1
Orange Blossom Days by Patricia Scanlan
Margaret Madden
It is 25 years since Patricia Scanlan's City Girl was published and became a bookshelf staple, inspiring a nation of young women. You would be hard pressed to find an Irish female over 40 who does not remember the feisty protagonist, Devlin, or her journey to success. Scanlan has remained one of Ireland's bestselling authors with over 20 titles under her belt and a loyal following. Her latest novel shows that her readership has matured alongside her.
Orange Blossom Days is based around an apartment complex in southern Spain where residents escape from routine and soak up their surroundings.
Within the small community there is a hidden hive of activity, both front-of-house and behind closed doors. There is the Irish couple who are preparing to enjoy their retirement and foresee days of golf, spa treatments and no pressures; "All the stresses of rearing the girls and running a business and a home had taken their toll over the years".
In the next-door penthouse is a wealthy Texan who is not shy about coming forward and is gearing up to leave her cheating husband; "She was married in name only and had been for a long time. It was time to face reality".
Downstairs is Eduardo, who bought his small apartment to escape the heat of Madrid and perhaps persuade his wife to stop her feminist nonsense and assist his aging aunt; "What was wrong with his wife? Was she ill? A brain tumour perhaps, or the beginning of dementia?". Meanwhile, rental-property consultant, Jutta is focusing on turning a profit. Independent and resolute, she dreams big and is determined to get what she wants.
This is a charming look at the realities of overseas property ownership. From the early 2000s, when having 'a place in Spain' was achievable to anyone with access to a bank manager, right through to the darker days of the recession when the economy collapsed, the fictional gated-community is brought to life with Scanlan's warm and humorous writing style.
She shows that times have changed for her readers and the days of sitting back and enjoying middle-age in comfort are not what they used to be. Her character's responsibilities have shifted from the workplace and home to caring for grandchildren and elderly relatives; while marriage-survival and menopause are the new hot topics.
However, friendship and family are themes that remain the same. A delightful and engaging read.
*(c) Sunday Indo Living

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Blog Tour: 'Six Stories' by Matt Wesolowski. Book Review.

Thanks to Orenda Books for including me on the blog tour for Six Stories. Their titles always excite me and have yet to disappoint...

My Review

Scarclaw Fell, England, 1997. The body of fifteen-year-old Tom Jeffries is found after his disappearance from a camping lodge a year earlier. The cause of death is officially recorded as misadventure and the case is closed. 
Twenty years later, a serialised podcast brings the case back to life by interviewing the friends of Tom, who were there that fatal night. Over six episodes, journalist Scott King delves deep into the memories from six different perspectives and leaves his listeners to draw their own conclusions...

This is a murder mystery with a twist. By using the concept of transcribed podcasts the author draws the reader in; minute by minute; hour by hour. A close-knit group of friends travel together regularly, to the marshy area known as Scarclaw, supervised by some of their parents. The dynamic usually changes when a new member is added to the group, not always for the better, but each child looks forward to their time in the isolated cabin and the opportunities the trips provide. All that changes when Tom disappears in the middle of the night. The group break all ties and the property is sold. When the podcast airs, the individual stories of each group member shed a new light on the death of the teenager and the questions bring back some uncomfortable memories. Six teenagers; six stories; multiple viewpoints. But which one is real?

This debut is an addictive and compelling read with multiple layers. There are elements of suspense, fear, uncertainty and heart-pounding thrills. The unusual technique employed by Wesolowski is right on-trend, with nods to ground-breaking podcasts like Serial and TV documentaries like Making A Murderer and Amanda Knox. The search for the truth has gone beyond traditional police work and investigative journalism. Now the public want to feel part of the investigation; wanting more and more access to witnesses and documentation surrounding these mysteries. The days of Cagney and Lacey are a distant memory. This novel is sharp as a butchers knife, cutting straight through to the nerve of its reader. A read-in-one-sitting experience that will surely inspire many authors to explore new methods of narration. Highly Recommended.

About The Author

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. 

Wesolowski started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous magazines and US anthologies.

Wesolowski's debut novella ‘The Black Land‘ a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 by Blood Bound Books and his latest horror novella set in the forests of Sweden is available in 'Dimension 6' magazine through Coeur De Lion Publishing.
Wesolowski was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at 'Bloody Scotland'; Crime Writing Festival 2015. He is currently working on his second crime novel, Ashes, which involves black metal and Icelandic sorcery.

Six Stories is published by Orenda Books and is available in PB and ebook format. You can get your copy at all good bookshops or via amazon link below:

Blog Tour: 'The Missing Ones' by Patricia Gibney. Book Review.

Thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Patricia Gibney's debut crime thriller, featuring DI Lottie Parker. I have met Patricia at many book events and am delighted to see her book 'out in the wild'...

My Review

January 1976, and three children watch with horror as a small body is buried, without ceremony, under an fruit tree. 
December 2014, and  a woman is discovered, strangled, in a rural cathedral. DI Lottie Parker and DS Mark Boyd are called to the scene and can see no reason why anyone would want to harm a fifty-one year old county council worker. She has no family, few friends and apparently no enemies. A distinctive tattoo is found on the corpse and a similar one is located on the body of a suicide victim, just days later. For DI Parker, the coincidence is just too much, and she digs deeper to find a connection. 

The Prologue of The Missing Ones is about as strong as you can get. Disturbing, yet brief, it is enough to draw the reader into the mystery surrounding a child's death. Fast forward almost forty years and we are introduced to DI Lottie Parker, a forty-something mother of three. Widowed over three years, she is still grieving for her husband and coming to terms with raising her kids alone. She tries to balance her work/home life yet there are rarely family mealtimes and she feels responsible. Her vulnerability gives her character more depth and adds some warmth to the story. There is some great chemistry with Lottie and her partner, DS Boyd, bringing a real human element into the mix. As the case gains traction, there are flashbacks to 1970s Ireland and the darkness of the State/Church run children's homes of which we are all too aware of. Decades of secrets and lies are discovered as Lottie searches for links to her investigation. Meanwhile, a homeless man rambles about the past, the shady dealings of planning permission for the renovation of a former children's home come to light and a teenage boy goes missing. The spider web of cover-ups is expanding and the tension builds rapidly.

Considering the recent events surrounding the discovery of hundreds of bodies in a former mother and baby home in Ireland, this book is eerily relevant. Our small island has buried the truth for far too long and society will no longer stand for it. Patricia Gibney has written a fictional account of how a handful of bad apples can destroy the whole cart. There are twists galore and the story gathers pace at a gentle pace, reaching a frantic climax. The horrors of the past seep into the present and the characters are introduced with meticulous detail. This is a thrilling debut, with a fantastic protagonist. DI Lottie Parker has her flaws; she has OCD tendencies, a disastrous relationship with her mother and a terrible concept of what is a reasonable diet for herself and her family. Basically, she is human. I'm a big fan of crime thriller series and look forward to the next installment from this Irish DI and her sidekick, DS Boyd (of whom I may be developing a crush on). 

The Missing Ones is published by Bookouture and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy from good bookstores and via amazon link below:

Monday, 20 March 2017

Book Review: 'The Gingerbread House' by Kate Beaufoy.

*This article originally appeared in the Sunday Independent, 19 March 2017.

Beaufoy's small, exquisite and moving story of dementia has huge heart

Fiction: The Gingerbread House Kate Beaufoy, Black and White Publishing, €9.99

Margaret Madden

The Gingerbread House by Kate Beaufoy1
The Gingerbread House by Kate Beaufoy
The Gingerbread House is home to 90-year-old Eleanor, a former actress who is now suffering from dementia. Tess has taken on the task of minding her mother-in-law while her regular carer takes a much-needed break. Her 14-year-old daughter, Katia, is by her side as she enters the unknown territory of caring for the elderly.
Her journalist husband must return to work, as money is tight, and Katia fears her mother may crumble under the pressure. Isolated, with no transport, the strain is apparent from the start.
However, Katia cannot give advice. The book-loving teenager has "lost the power of speech" and only communicates with EB White's beloved fictional spider, Charlotte. This exquisite novel comes in at just under 200 pages, yet is as powerful and poignant as it gets.
Caring for the elderly in their own homes is rarely discussed. "They're family secrets. Kept in cupboards, like skeletons." Through Katia's eyes, we see that the stubborn, demanding and often abusive elderly are victims of their age or disease; they once lived full and meaningful lives with their loved ones but are now shells of their former selves. They crave routine, require constant attention and affection. Just like infants, they cannot fend for themselves.
Kate Beaufoy has addressed a difficult subject but has done it with grace. By using a child-narrator, the story is given a new perspective. Katia is silently observant yet extremely astute. She sees her grandmother in her current state and struggles to visualise her as she appears in the fading photographs in the old woman's bedroom.
"She looks so scary - like a skull against the pillows - and when she takes her teeth out, her mouth is like a gaping black hole." She sees the former beauty at her absolute worst and silently cheers her mother on as she deals with difficult circumstances. "I can almost hear Mama's heartbeat accelerate. It's funny, isn't it, that a grown person can be afraid of a 90-year-old little old lady? But mama has reason to be fearful. […] Granny is surprisingly strong."
This is a small novel, with a huge heart. There is beauty to be found amongst the desperation and the muted voice of Katia is innocent yet brave. She blends fact with fiction and the lines become blurred.
Beaufoy has created a stunning and sensual read, which may just break even the hardest of hearts. Highly recommended.
Sunday Indo Living

The Gingerbread House is published by Black and White Publishing and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy from all good bookshops or via amazon link below:

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Book Review - 'Ithaca' by Alan McMonagle.

Eleven-year-old Jason spends most of his summer days avoiding his drunk mother and trying to find out who his father is. His curiosity is limited by geography, so he takes his research to the local pub, shops and streets of his small town. A host of characters have plenty to say about the recession, builders, chancers and even his own mother. Jason escapes to the peaceful surroundings of the swamp where, amongst the murky waters and tree stumps, he discusses Greek legends and pictures lands far away with his only friend.  They soon find themselves planning real adventures and are determined to make their mark.

Midlands Ireland is featured in many of today's finest novels, with the recession featuring heavily in most. There is something quite woeful in the description of ghost estates, whole villages of unemployed builders and hallways full of unpaid bills. It is hard to see the light through the trees of a forgotten midland town. While Ithaca has a similar setting, it stands apart from the crowd.  Jacinta has a drink problem. She also has an issue with mothering. She has no filter, no morals and no hope of changing. Jason just wants to know who his father is. His mother refuses to say, so his search begins on a bar stool;

 "It was my first time in the pub, a dark dungeon of a room with a beery smell and no windows.[...] Shirley Halligan was behind the counter pulling drink. Meantime, Barry the bank clerk was sitting at the low table by the wall, in his stripey suit and pink shirt and long shoes, the kind that went on long after feet end, and the wondering head on him because his mobile phone wasn't working." 

McMonagle's writing brings a whole village to life with simple yet effective words. The story flows at a steady pace, with Jason at the heart of it. He is a victim of circumstance; finding solace in self-harm and vandalism; always listening and hoping for clues leading to his father. Jacinta is darkly comical, despite her situation. She has a litany of excuses for her dire financial situation and most involve Jason suffering from life-threatening illnesses. 
Unusually, the dialogue in McMonagle's debut novel is without inverted commas. This lends to a raw and sharp tone and often feels like the scene is literally playing out in front of you;

"Look who it is, Shirley said, without even turning to me.
The one and only.
Back for more punishment.
You'll get a crick in your neck staring up like that, Shirley.
Don't be smart. It doesn't suit you.
You were in a much better mood the last time I was in.
I'm a woman, kid. My mood changes a million times every second."

Despite the bitterness spewing forth from Jacinta and the silent sadness which gnaws away at Jason, their story hypnotizes and jars, through lighter moments and visceral dark comedy. Mother and son  get under your skin from the opening page. They crawl so far into your pores that you can almost feel the itch underneath. A remarkable and enthralling debut. Highly recommended.

*I received an ARC copy of this title, from the publisher, in return for an honest review.

Ithaca is published by Picador and is available in HB and ebook format. You can get your copy at all good bookshops, or order via amazon link below:

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

'Our Little Secret' by Claudia Carroll. Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway.

Exclusive Excerpt* from Our Little Secret by Claudia Carroll.

I am extremely honoured to be the first to share an excerpt from Claudia Carroll's latest novel, Our Little Secret, which is published on 23rd March. I also have three copies of the novel to giveaway. Just enter via rafflecopter link at the end of the page. The giveaway is open INT. I hope you enjoy this sneak-peek and best of luck to all who enter the giveaway. 

*please note that any change of formatting is due to Bleach House Library and is not reflective of the final product. 

The Blurb

A sparkling story about what happens when you let someone into your life… but they turn out to want more than you’d bargained for!
Sarah has the perfect life. A high-flying job in a law firm, a beautiful daughter and a house to die for. So how does she find herself looking in through the kitchen window while another woman enjoys it all?

When Sarah takes pity on a struggling young graduate who can’t get a job, she thinks she’s doing the right thing. She’s being kind, generous and helpful to others, as she always is. But as Sarah allows the younger woman into her home, her law firm and even her family, is there more to this pretty youngster than meets the eye? And could this be a good deed that goes further than expected?
Claudia Carroll does it again with a sparkling new novel about what happens when your life becomes up for grabs…


With a slow, sickening sense of horror, Sarah found herself
peering through the darkness of night, right into her own
living room window. And there it was for all to see – the
happy family tableau that was playing out inside, picture
perfect in every way.
The roaring log fire? Tick.
The glasses of wine served out of the good crystal? Her
good crystal goblets that had been a wedding present, thanks
very much. Tick.
The whole scene looked like something out of an Ikea
catalogue, right down to the daintily laid out plates of
bruschetta and picky dippy things artfully dotted around
the coffee table.
To Sarah’s astonishment, both her ex-husband and her
daughter had completely abandoned TV, iPhones and iPads
and were actually playing Monopoly. (Christ, Monopoly
. . . seriously?) All while she looked on, smiling happily and
carefully noting down the score while the three of them
laughed and joked, everyone in high spirits.
Just look at you, Sarah thought, as she stood in her own
front garden, her eyes burning into the back of the woman
she still thought of as her friend.

I’ve just been warned about you. I’ve been told you won’t
stop till you’re actually living my life.
But by the looks of it, you already are.


Did it all start such a very short time ago? Has it really
only been a year since I could call my life my own?
Here, for what it’s worth, is how it all began. With a
simple manicure on my lunch break, in the middle of a
day, when I was stressed out of my mind. All I wanted was
a snatched half-hour of time out, before heading back into
the manic whirl of the Sloan Curtis offices. Nothing more.
But if I’d known then what I know now, then trust me,
I’d have been a very distant speck on the horizon.



Chapter One

‘You have very good cuticles. Badly neglected though, I’m
afraid. They just need a little bit of work,’ my beauty
therapist said, her head of thick, glossy dark hair bend low
over the nail station, uttered focused on her work.
‘I’m afraid I don’t get a huge amount of time to take
care of myself.’ I smiled politely, flicking though that
month’s Vanity Fair with my other hand. There was an
article about Kate Middleton’s mother that I remember
particularly wanting to read, for no other reason than to
valet park my brain for the next half-hour. Exactly what I
needed after that morning’s conversation/screaming match
with Darcy, my teenage daughter. Not to mention the snippy
tone my boss had taken with me in a meeting earlier that
day to discuss a legal brief I wasn’t quite up to speed on.
At least not yet, I wasn’t.
A little half-hour of pampering on a Friday lunchtime
before the weekend, that’s all I was after. Something I hadn’t
indulged in for years. In fact I think the last time I spent
a bit of non-essential cash on myself was long before Darcy
hit secondary school.
 ‘But it’s so important to make time for personal grooming,’
Lauren, my therapist, gently insisted with a sweet smile.
‘These little things matter. My mother always used to say
you can tell anything you want about a person just by looking
at the state of their nail bed.’
‘Yes, yes, of course,’ I chimed automatically, completely
absorbed by the article in front of me. Jesus, had Carole
Middleton really made £30 million by the time she’d turned
forty? And all from flogging little party bags? What was
wrong with me anyway? Why couldn’t I come up with a
home-based cottage industry like that, which would go on
to dominate the Forbes index and put an end to all of my
money worries?
‘Will you be taking any holidays soon?’ my therapist
asked, interrupting my thoughts yet again. Oh God, I
groaned inwardly. Do we really have to have the holiday
chat? Couldn’t this one sense I just wanted to pull a Greta
Garbo and be left alone to my thoughts?
‘I wish. I can’t remember the last time I took a proper
holiday,’ I replied, flashing her a quick smile.
‘Going out tonight, maybe?’
‘No, just back to the office shortly to catch up with a
few things I need to sign off on, I’m afraid.’
‘And any plans for the weekend?’
Not unless you count frantically playing catch-up with work,
bickering with Darcy and trying my level best to be civil to
Tom when he comes over to collect her later on, then no, I
thought. As it happens, I was plan-free right through till the
following Monday morning. If I was very lucky I might get
to see an episode of House of Cards that I hadn’t seen before
on Netflix and maybe, just maybe, I might even chance a
sneaky glass of Pinot Grigio when I had the house to myself.
As you could see, it was set be another wild weekend in
the life of Sarah Keyes.
‘No, just a quiet one for me.’
‘Say no more,’ Lauren smiled very sweetly. ‘I get it. A
romantic Friday night in with your husband, am I right?’
‘A romantic night in with who?’ I asked, looking up at
her, confused.
‘Your husband,’ she said, two chocolate-brown eyes
blinking innocently back at me.
‘I’m not married,’ I replied, just a bit too quickly. ‘At
least, not any more I’m not.’
‘Oh, I’m so sorry, me and my big mouth,’ Lauren said,
blushing very prettily as she rubbed a dollop of cuticle
cream in. ‘It’s just that you’re wearing a wedding ring, so I
‘Ahh,’ she said, nodding. ‘I see. Do you have children?’
‘Just one. Darcy. She’s sixteen.’
‘I’m sure she’s a wonderful girl,’ Lauren said diplomatically.

Oh yes, a wonderful girl all right, I thought. If you overlooked
the sudden downturn in her school results ever since Tom and
I broke up, the mitching off school, the sulkiness, the violent
mood swings and don’t even get me started on the amounts of
cash that seem to disappear out of my purse on a daily basis.
Back then my brain melted with the guilt of how badly
Darcy had been dealing with the whole separation. And,
of course, every time I tried gently to broach the subject
with her, I’d either get the sulky silent treatment or else
her bedroom door slammed square in my face.
‘Absolutely,’ I agreed, with as bright a smile as I could
muster. ‘Darcy’s a terrific kid, thanks.
A pause while I went back to my Vanity Fair, hoping
that was us done with the chit-chat. No such luck though.
‘So, whereabouts do you work?’
Oh please, if I tip you extra, can we just edit out the small
‘I work over at Sloan Curtis,’ I said, taking a sip of the
latte in front of me, resigning myself to the fact that I’d
have to make conversation. ‘That’s a legal firm,’ I added, a
little patronisingly, now that I come to think about it.
‘Yes,’ Lauren nodded thoughtfully. ‘Sloan Curtis, I’ve
heard of you. You mostly concentrate on company and
taxation law cases, don’t you?’
At that, I looked up, my attention caught. But then you
don’t really expect your nail technician to be au fait with
local legal practices and their individual specialties, now
do you?
‘You’ve heard of us?’ I remember saying.
‘Yes,’ Lauren nodded, with a knowing smile. ‘I certainly
‘I hope you don’t mind my asking, but how?’ Clients
from the firm must come to her for treatments, I guessed.
‘It’s just that, well, let’s say I’m very interested, that’s all.’
‘You mean you’re interested in studying law?’ I fished
about a bit, wondering if that’s how this one stumbled
across the company name.
‘Oh no, nothing like that,’ she said. ‘You see, I’m already
a fully qualified lawyer. I’m a solicitor, in fact.’
At that, I put the Vanity Fair aside and really had a good
look at Lauren, taking her in properly this time. The girl
was twenty-five tops and stunningly pretty, with brown
eyes like twin Cadbury’s Buttons and a figure that Miss
Universe might have wept for. She smiled a lot, and had a
soft, gentle accent that was hard to place. From the West
of Ireland, I wondered. Galway, maybe?
First impression? That this was a sweet, bright girl, albeit
a little bit on the talkative side.
‘So is the salon a part-time job for you?’ I asked.
There was a pause while Lauren fumbled around with a
selection of SHELLAC nail varnishes in different shades of
‘Blush or bashful?’ was all I got by way of an answer
‘Excuse me?’
‘Which colour would you like on your nails? Blush or
bashful? You did specify nude colours and these are the
ones I think would probably work best with your pale skin
‘Lauren,’ I persisted gently. ‘You didn’t answer my question.
Sorry if I sound nosey, but I’m just curious to know
why you don’t actually practice law.’
I remember hoping I hadn’t caused the girl any offence,
though it was clear what I was really asking. Why was a
fully qualified lawyer working in a cut-price nail bar in a
dingy salon, above an Indian takeaway in the middle of
‘Money is a little bit tight just now,’ she said, pushing
her hair behind her ears self-consciously.
‘But wouldn’t you earn much more if you worked for a
legal firm?’
‘Absolutely, yes,’ she replied, focusing on my nail bed and
not making eye contact. ‘Of course I would. But it’s so hard
for someone like me to get started in that field. Almost
impossible, in fact.’
‘What do you mean, for “someone like you”?’
‘It’s . . . a little bit complicated,’ she said, blushing.
‘Complicated, how?’
‘You work at Sloan Curtis,’ Lauren answered politely, ‘so
you of all people must know how it is. The legal field is a
pretty rarified one and it’s tough to crack into. Particularly
when you don’t have a single friend or contact in that world.
And I’ve been working hard to try and get some kind of a
break, believe me. I’ve been trying so hard, you wouldn’t
believe it. But sometimes it really feels like I’m banging my
head against a brick wall.’
Looking back, it was that one single sentence that caught
I thought for a moment, then nodded in agreement,
absolutely chiming with what Lauren had said. Because it
had been a huge struggle for me too, back in the day. I
didn’t come from a legal background, unlike so many in
my class at college who had parents and relations practising
as barristers and, in one case, even a High Court judge.
I remembered all too vividly how tough I’d found it to
get a paralegal job – any kind of job, really – after I first
graduated, all those years ago. How I’d had to graft away
as a postgraduate, doing any kind of legal temping work
that came my way. I had to shatter every glass ceiling I
came in contact with all by myself, with absolutely no one
to help me. Then eventually after years of that, an opportunity
finally opened up for me at Sloan Curtis. It felt
utterly miraculous to me that I’d managed to land an actual
bona fide job there. I really couldn’t – then or now – believe
my luck.
‘All down to my magic novena to St Joseph,’ my mother
had preached at the time, wagging a triumphant finger in
my face. Yeah, right. More to do with the fact that I invested
years practically battering down the door of Sloan Curtis
before I could even get an interview in the place.
Because Lauren was absolutely right. The legal world was
then and is now a virtual closed shop, and it takes grit and
iron determination to get a foot in the door. And that’s
only if you happen to be one of the incredibly fortunate
‘So where did you qualify?’ I asked, turning my attention
back to Lauren, feeling guilty for not having engaged with
her a bit more beforehand.
It struck me as strange that she didn’t even attempt to
answer my question. Instead she flushed red with a coy,
embarrassed little shake of her head.
‘Or did you study abroad?’ I persisted, confused by the
‘It’s a long story,’ she said quietly.
I looked expectantly across at her, waiting on her to
elaborate a bit but, no, there was nothing. Instead, she just
kept her head bowed and her mouth firmly shut as she
continued filing away at my nails.
So I let it drop. Was the girl exaggerating her qualifications?
Possibly. Maybe she was doing some kind of night
course in law and had decided to ‘big’ herself up a bit.
Which happened all the time, by the way. We’d just been
interviewing for an intern over at Sloan Curtis and some
of the exaggerated fiction that prospective candidates
adored their CVs with would almost be worthy of a book
A companionable silence fell and I went back to my
Vanity Fair, while Lauren concentrated on applying a
perfect layer of topcoat.
It was only as I was leaving that it happened. I remember
going to the till and paying what I owed to a surly looking
receptionist who barely glanced up from the Hello! magazine
she’d been reading as she took my money; instead she
just growled at me to ‘come back again – whenever’.
Then I made a point of going back to the nail station to
find Lauren, so I could give her the fiver tip I had clutched
in my hand for her.
‘Thank you so much,’ I said, shaking her hand and
pressing the cash right into her palm.
But Lauren didn’t respond with an automatic ‘thank you’,
the way any other therapist would. Instead she locked eyes
with me and stared at me for just a beat longer that you’d
expect, almost like she was trying to communicate something
unspoken. Then to my surprise, she handed the tip
right back.
‘Please don’t,’ she said. ‘There’s really no need.’
‘Come on, Lauren, take it,’ I persisted, gripping her hand
and forcing it on her gently. ‘Cash is cash.’
It wasn’t much but still, I wanted the girl to have it.
‘No, really,’ she insisted, her voice wobbling a bit.
‘Come on, you’ve earned it. It’s just my tiny way of saying
thank you, that’s all.’
‘Oh no,’ Lauren said, ‘I’m the one who should be thanking
you. It meant so much to me that I got to talk to you. As
one lawyer to another, that is. It’s been a long time for me
and it’s so hard. You really have no idea just how hard—’
Then her voice cracked and I could have sworn the girl
was getting a bit teary. But she’d turned away before I could
properly see.
‘Lauren?’ I asked. ‘Are you alright?’
‘I’m OK,’ she said quietly, head bowed as she cleaned up
her nail station, almost as though she didn’t want me to
see how upset she was. ‘But you know, if it’s not too cheeky
of me, I’d love to just chat to you properly over a coffee
sometime, that’s all. Just a coffee. That’s all. I know you’re
busy and everything, but if you ever had the time – well
. . . you know where to find me.’
I walked back to my car, went back to the office and
gradually fell into my normal work routine.
But I thought about Lauren for the whole afternoon.

Thought about her, and wondered.


Thanks to Harper Collins in Ireland for letting me share this excerpt, and for the giveaway. I hope you all enjoyed the teaser. Our Little Secret is published in TPB on 23rd March 2017. 

via twitter @carrollclaudia 

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