As a bit of a change from what I usually do, for my stop on this tour I’m posting an extract from the book. Thanks to Neverland Blog Tours for letting me take part. There’s also a competition as part of the blog tour which you’ll find further down this post. Good luck!
Blurb: Escape to the south of France with the irresistibly compelling new story from Karen Aldous – the only book you’ll need this summer!
Nothing will ever be the same again…
Evie Grant has spent two years hidden away in a quiet French village, longing to escape her beautiful villa with its blue-shuttered windows. Maybe this summer, the father of her child will keep his broken promises and return to whisk her away to another life. One way or another, Evie’s determined to stop feeling like his dirty little secret…
Yet when a mysterious stranger almost knocks Evie off her bicycle early one morning, her world begins to change in ways she never expected. Embarking on a painful journey of self-discovery, Evie begins to face her darkest fears and shatter her fragile dreams. But can she ever truly break free from her gilded cage and learn to love again?
Excerpt: Evie tucked her hands under her knees and stared into her lap. ‘You think I trapped you, don’t you?’
‘I wasn’t ready. It was a big blow. Look, I know it’s hard for you at the moment but I honestly don’t know what I can do to put it right. I’m doing my best. When I’m not focusing on writing the songs, I have to focus on performing, rehearsing, until every song on an album is the best it can be. The music and musicians, the mixing – they have to be spot on for recording, and then again for the stage. So many people rely on me. You’ve no idea of the pressure of being on the stage – when you’re waiting for the audience to engage, to like you, and to not spot when you mess up. Look, I don’t expect you to understand the mechanics, just the pressures, the travelling, the demands. I’m a product like any other. I’m like a toy, to be enjoyed for a while, then brushed aside. I rely on myself to keep my music fresh, to capture new audiences, to maintain the interest of the older ones, and to keep the manager and the team together, to keep the wheels turning for all our sakes. I bought this so that you and Charlotte will always have a home. If it all went belly up tomorrow, you could downsize and hopefully still have some sort of income.’ He pulled her shoulders back, gripping her chin and kissed her on the lips. ‘I love you, I want what’s best for my two beauties.’ It’s just that most of my time is in the US or UK. We’re stuck with it for now.’
Instantly flinching, Evie jumped up and clutched both hands on her waist. ‘Stuck with it. Stuck with Charlotte? Seb, she’s your daughter. You spent more time with me when we first met. You found the time then. Even when she was a baby, you spent several weeks here. I really thought you cared, despite your reaction. I thought we had something special. Now… now it seems you just don’t know what to do with us. Like a puppy you got for Christmas and you can’t be bothered with. God, I was so naïve.’
Seb leaped up and put his arm around her. ‘Neither of us meant for this to happen. Let’s just make the most of it. Try and find somewhere you and Charlotte can go where she can make friends and you have some company.’ He kissed her hair and lowered his head, smiling into her eyes. ‘You both mean the world to me.’
Reluctantly, Evie met his gaze, wishing to believe him. ‘I can’t live in a cage like you expect. I’m turning into a hermit. I need something else to do. Some normal existence.’
She peered vacantly at the floor, trying to comprehend. Seb took her hand and led her back to the sofa, then sat down beside her. With one hand stroking her arm, he picked up the remote with the other.
‘You must get lonely. I understand.’ Seb said, flicking through TV channels and adding the sound.
Feeling like she’d been given a dummy to pacify her, Evie drew her legs up and tucked them underneath her. Seeing her book tucked down in the cushion, she picked it up. ‘I do, especially in the winter months when it’s dark. TV is boring. It’s lucky I have my books.’ Noticing Seb had hit the sports channel and was distracted by a Formula One racing driver interview, she continued. ‘Charlotte’s just finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy and is running out of material.’ She paused, when he failed to respond, and sat back. ‘There’s just not enough for two-year-olds. I thought she might like Fifty Shades next.’
He stared at her blankly, missing her irony entirely. He squeezed the mute button. ‘Sorry, I was listening to the TV.’
‘I said it might be useful if we had a computer,’ she said, now having his attention. ‘We could find things to do like games or learning apps. Could you get one? Just a second-hand one will be fine.’
‘Not necessary. She has lots of toys. She is definitely too young for a computer.’
‘Well I’d find one useful. I could…’
‘This house alone costs a fortune to run. Evie, you have your books. I promise to try and get back more.’ He kissed her lightly on the lips and turned again to the screen, clicking it off mute.
‘Seb, I need to do more. I need something to occupy me. ‘If I had more to do… A job maybe, to get me out.’
He sat slumped, engrossed in the screen. He was obviously bored and had switched off. Was she just going to continue sitting around, waiting for him to fulfil his music career? She could be old and grey and yet still waiting for him to step back from his first love – his fame – and still Charlotte wouldn’t know her father, or anyone else come to that. Seb cricked his neck. Evie sensed either he wasn’t comfortable with the idea or wasn’t listening. He was difficult to read and she needed to know. She took another sip of wine and crossed her legs while he scratched his chin and surveyed his empty glass. ‘Why? You’ve got everything you need. Anyway, you enjoy reading.’
She grabbed the remote from his hand and pressed the mute. ‘Seb, listen to me,’ she demanded, surprised at her impulsive pluck. ‘If I worked, it would help our relationship too. I wouldn’t resent you being away so much if I had a job. I would be happier and Charlotte could go to a good crèche and make friends. Even if I worked two or three morning a week. In fact, I could help out financially too and pay for a computer myself.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. Where are all these ideas coming from? You don’t need to work. You have more than enough income to live. I don’t know what’s got into you.’
‘But that’s just it. I exist. I want to live a little more. It would be nice to take Charlotte to the zoo or buy her a treat or a nice little dress. What spare cash I have, I save for her birthday, or Christmas.’
‘The income is so that you bring Charlotte up, not for luxury trips and flouncy dresses. I want you to bring her up, not some childminder who doesn’t even care about her. I won’t have you working, Evie. I won’t. Do you hear?’
She tentatively bit her lip. ‘You’re right Seb, but at least let me try and prove to you that I can work without it affecting our relationship. We could all benefit.’
‘Hey, Evie, listen to me.’ Seb pulled her to his chest. ‘You don’t need a job. You have one, looking after our daughter. You’ve got me wrong. Of course I want to be here. I want to see more of Charlotte, and you, and I want our relationship to work. It’s hard, that’s all. My head is in a different place much of the time. You have to understand.’ He squeezed her arm. ‘I’ll get you another drink. I bought some tasty Roquefort. Fancy some?’
Evie shook her head. ‘Just a small glass of wine, thank you,’ she said, biting her cheek and pulling long tendrils of hair to her chest as Seb stood up. That was too much. She could risk everything she and Charlotte had. She could push him too far and the last thing they needed was to be homeless with no funds at all. She had nowhere to go.
Seb returned with the wine and cheese, placing them down on the table. He sat beside her and pecked her gently again on her lips. ‘I’m sorry. It’s not easy, I’m sure. If I made millions, I would have you with me, but this business is tough.’ Twisting her mouth, she gave a reluctant nod. Lifting his hand, he gently cupped her chin. ‘Tell you what, I’ll increase your allowance a bit, how’s that?’ he said, planting a tender peck on her nose. Hugging herself, again she nestled deeper into the sofa. Leave it, she told herself. Perhaps she was being unreasonable and should count herself lucky. He had agreed to up her allowance, she couldn’t really argue… but then why did she feel he’d just reeled her in again?
About Karen Aldous: Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!
Karen gets much of her inspiration from her travels and if she had to choose, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and the USA would be her favourites. However, wherever she goes, she discovers a new character emerges in ‘Karen’s World’. She likes to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives – but struggle to control them! And, of course there’s always a gorgeous hunk or two!
This giveaway is for a £15 Amazon Voucher and a copy of the book as first prize and a copy of the book as second prize.