Born Bad Launch Day

 

I’m thrilled that launch day has arrived for the first book in my gritty new crime trilogy, Born Bad, which is available from four major digital retailers. There will also be a print version available from Amazon any day now at the Amazon link below.

If you haven’t yet ordered your digital copy, here is a list of the links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2niPMew

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2o6awKj

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2oxtNkh

iBooks: http://apple.co/2pTSQmy

Born Bad is already selling well with more than 1400 pre-orders as at the middle of June.

Blog Tour

To celebrate the launch my publishers are organising a blog tour, which will feature excerpts, reviews and background information about my inspiration behind the characters and the setting. If you want to check out any of the blogs, here’s a list of them followed by a list of blog tour dates and the link for each blog.

17th July

Cheekypee Reads and Reviews

Http://cheekypeereadsandreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cheekypeereadsandreviews/

Twitter: @cheekypee27

 

18th July 

Trish’s Blog

https://trishbsblog.tumblr.com/

Twitter: @TSpa2

 

19th July

Love Books Group

https://lovebooksgroup.blog – guest post

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LoveBooksGrp/

Twitter: @LoveBooksGroup

 

20th July

Bookish Jottings

https://bookishjottings.wordpress.com – extract

Twitter: @BookishJottings

 

21st July 

Emma The Little Book Worm

https://emmathelittlebookworm.wordpress.com/book-blog – guest post

Twitter: ‎@emmamitchellfpr

 

22nd July

The Writing Garnet

https://thewritinggarnet.wordpress.com/ – Review

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thewritinggarnet/

Twitter: @kaishajayneh

 

23rd July

The Book on My Desk: www.thebookonmydesk.uk

Twitter: @Sophjourns

 

24th July 

Kath Middleton – Books: www.kathmiddletonbooks.com.

 

Lastly, I want to end with a big thank you to my publishers, Aria Fiction, for all their support to date, to my readers for continuing to buy my books and leave reviews, and to the above bloggers for kindly agreeing to take part in the blog tour.

—————–

Excerpt from Born Bad

There’s now only a month to go until the launch of Born Bad.

So, as the exciting countdown begins, I thought I’d tempt you with an excerpt. Here goes:

As soon as Adele walked into the back garden of her home in the Manchester suburbs, she was horrified by the sight that met her. Among the overgrown bushes and weed-filled borders was an assortment of cracked and mossy flagstones that acted as a path. There, her ten-year-old brother, Peter, stood facing her. He was wielding a large twig which he had stripped bare. For him it now represented a whip; flexible enough to slash rapidly through the air, yet strong enough to inflict damage.

He chuckled as he repeatedly thrashed his whip onto the paving slabs in front of him. His target was several squirming caterpillars of differing sizes and various shades of green and brown, which he had lined up. Adele could see their tiny bodies writhing as savage blows from the hand-made weapon assailed them, causing their oozing entrails to spill out onto the path.

‘Stop it!’ she yelled.

Peter paused briefly to reply, ‘They’re only insects.’ He laughed and lashed the whip once more.

‘I don’t care. It’s cruel and disgusting,’ Adele shouted, becoming annoyed.

‘You’re stupid, you are. I’m not doing any harm. Go and mither someone else, Miss Goody-goody.’ His impish laughter had now disappeared, transforming his face into an unwelcoming sneer.

‘At least I’m not like you!’ said Adele.

‘What do you mean?’ he asked, staring at Adele while the caterpillars wriggled around on the paving slabs.

Adele could sense his change in tone but, despite her unease, she refused to give way. ‘You’re always up to no good, you are. You’re gonna get in trouble again if you don’t watch it.’

‘Oh shut up, you crybaby! Go and play with your dolls.’ And ignoring her pleas, he went back to meting out his vicious punishment.

Adele felt her stomach lurch at the sickening sight and cried out to him, ‘Peter, stop it; it’s horrible!’

Unfortunately, her cries soon reached the ears of their father who sped through the back door, pushing her aside. She noticed that he was still in his shabby vest, and knew that he hadn’t been out of bed long, even though it was midday. He was a menacing sight. The scruffy vest emphasised his bulky muscles, and his rugged features were set in a hard expression. She knew that he wouldn’t take kindly to having his Sunday disturbed.

‘What the bleedin’ hell’s going on here?’ he demanded.

Peter dropped the whip and looked up guiltily at his father. His jaw hung loose but he failed to utter any words of defence.

Their father didn’t need a reply, however, as his eyes took in the revolting sight. In one stride, he was on Peter, grabbing at his shirt collar and thrusting upwards until his feet left the ground.

‘You dirty little get!’ he yelled. ‘Look at the bleedin’ state of that path.’ He released his hold, allowing Peter to drop shakily to the ground. Then, prodding his forefinger into Peter’s face, he ordered, ‘Get it cleaned up… NOW!’

Peter hung his head in shame and approached the house in search of something with which to clean up the mess.

‘Where the bleedin’ hell do you think you’re going?’ roared his father. ‘I told you to clean them up.’

‘I’m going for some newspaper to wipe them up with,’ Peter replied.

‘No you’re bleedin’ not! You weren’t bothered about newspaper when you put the bleedin’ things there, so why bother now? You can get them shifted with yer hands. And I want every bit cleared up, including that slimy shit that’s come out of ’em. That’ll teach you, you dirty little bastard!’

He turned and pushed Adele aside again as he trundled back indoors. Just before stepping into the house, he turned his head back and added, ‘And you can get your bleedin’ hands washed when you’ve finished as well.’

For a few moments, Adele stood still, her eyes fixed on Peter, awaiting his reaction.

‘What you looking at, you bitch?’ he muttered. ‘It’s all your fault! If you hadn’t started carrying on, he wouldn’t have known.’ As he murmured these few words, he made a show of wiping up the slimy mess with his fingers, as though deliberately trying to antagonise her.

Adele couldn’t take any more. She ran into the house retching, and headed straight for her bedroom where she threw herself onto the bed. But the tears didn’t come. At eleven years of age, she’d suppressed her tears so often that it had become an automatic defence mechanism that helped her get through life.

Adele felt bad. She shouldn’t have carried on so much at Peter, then her father wouldn’t have known. It was bound to annoy him, especially on a Sunday. He was always in a mood on a Sunday. In fact, he was always in a mood any day, but Sundays were particularly bad. It was only recently, as she was growing up, that Adele realised why; it was because of the skinful he had had on a Saturday night. All he wanted to do on Sundays was sleep it off. Then he would sit and pore through the papers whilst their mother, Shirley, made a pretence of cleaning the house, and cooked the traditional Sunday dinner in an effort to please him.

This was usually the first attempt at cleaning that Shirley had made all week. She spent most of her days gossiping with the neighbours, sleeping or watching TV. Her evenings were spent in a similar fashion, except for the few nights a week in which she tore herself away from the street to go and play bingo.

Adele got up off the bed and drifted towards the window. She avoided the sight of Peter but looked out instead at the other houses, watching people go about their business. Allowing her mind to drift, she contemplated, for the umpteenth time, her miserable existence.

Lately she was realising that although this way of life was commonplace within these four walls, there was a different world out there. Talking to her friends had made her understand that her circumstances weren’t the norm, and other parents were different from her own. Other children went out with their families to the cinema or country parks. They had holidays at the seaside and expensive presents for their birthdays.

The only advantage she had over other children was her freedom. Her father was hardly ever home, so that gave her and Peter a chance to roam the streets and do whatever they pleased as long as news of their mischief didn’t get back to him. Their mother scarcely showed any interest in where they were going or what time they would be back.

Adele often consoled herself by imagining that one day things would be different. When she was old enough she would get a good job and a rich husband, and she would escape her domineering father and slovenly mother. She would have a beautiful home and children who would never want for anything. It was this dream that kept her going.

Just then Adele was jolted back to reality by the sound of raised voices downstairs.

‘Don’t go, Tommy, I was gonna do you a nice dinner later,’ pleaded her mother.

‘Bugger off, I’m going for a pint. There’s nowt to stay in this bloody pigsty for. I’m sick of you, you lazy cow, and those two scruffy little gets!’

This was followed by a loud slamming of the front door and Shirley muttering something to herself. Adele couldn’t quite hear her mother’s words, but she gathered that she wasn’t happy about him going out.

Adele had had enough of home for one day, so she decided that she would go outside for a while too. She was heading downstairs when she heard the sound of the door knocker. Worried it was her father coming back, she scuttled back to the top of the stairs. It was only after her mother had answered the door that Adele realised it was her grandma, Joyce.

She entered loudly and, appearing as bumptious as ever, declared, ‘I’ve just passed His Lordship in the street. He’s got a right face on him, as usual. It took him all his time to say hello. What the bleedin’ hell’s up with him this time?’ The soft features of her plump face had tightened to form an expression of scorn.

Shirley said nothing, but shook her head from side to side as she led her mother into the living room, leaving the door ajar. Adele would normally have raced down the stairs to greet her grandma, who she thought the world of. Although loud and opinionated, Joyce had a kind heart and was full of good intentions. But the look of resignation on her mother’s face, and the tired way she dragged her feet, stopped Adele from following them. She had guessed that they were about to have one of their chats, and overcome by curiosity, she crept down the stairs so she could listen in. She could just about see them both through the gap of the open door.

‘Jesus, Shirley love, what the bloody hell’s happened to this place? It looks like a bomb’s hit it and smells bloody awful! It’s worse than last time. I thought you were going to try and get on top of things!’

‘Oh don’t start, Mam. Don’t you think I’m sick of it? It’s not me that makes it a tip you know, and what’s the use of tidying it anyway when they only mess it up again?’

‘I’m worried about you, love. Every time I come you’ve let yourself go more. You’re just not happy, are you? Has he been at you again?’

‘Not really. It’s Peter he’s pissed off with, because he made a mess on the garden path, squashing some caterpillars or summat. I wish he’d leave him alone; he’s not a bad lad really.’

‘I don’t know, I worry about our Peter, always up to mischief and getting into fights. I’ve told you, he takes after his side of the family.’

Their conversation then became much quieter, and Adele had to strain to hear them. Without getting too close, and risking being caught out, she managed to catch snippets of her grandma’s words.

‘Bad lot… told you before… bad blood… mad… great-uncle… always fighting… ended up in an asylum.’

A few moments of silence followed until Shirley said, ‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do, Mam. I’ve no idea what our Peter will turn out like. I’m just glad our Adele’s all right.’

‘Aye, she’s a good girl,’ replied Joyce whose voice had returned to its normal level. ‘Keep encouraging her to do well at school so she can bugger off to university or summat. She’ll be bloody better off out of it.’ Joyce’s voice then adopted a sympathetic tone. ‘I do worry about you, Shirley love. You’ve changed so much over the years, ever since you met Tommy. You don’t seem to care anymore and you were never like this when you were younger. Did you go to the doctors like I told you to?’

‘Yeah, he’s given me these for the daytime on top of the ones I take at night,’ she said, passing something to her mother.

‘Let’s have a look,’ said Joyce who then tried to read the words on the bottle of pills. ‘Dia… ze… pam. What are they supposed to do?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Shirley. ‘But I feel more knackered than ever. I’ve not got the energy I was born with, honestly Mam.’

‘Well, I don’t know what the bloody hell to make of it all. I wish to God you’d never married him in the first place. I tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t be told. I’d take you and the kids round to my house, but I’ve just not got the room.’

‘I know that, Mam. I’ve just got to put up with it, haven’t I? Besides, I love Tommy. I just wish he wasn’t so angry all the time.’

Joyce looked exasperated, but didn’t continue. It was a topic which she had already covered many times before, so she moved onto something else. When Adele had grown tired of hearing about what Joyce’s neighbours were up to, she returned to her bedroom. There she mulled over the conversation in her young mind.

She knew her grandmother had been referring to her father and his family. She was used to her grandma Joyce talking about them, but she had never heard her mention the word ‘mad’ before. Maybe it just meant they had bad tempers. She wondered about the word asylum. It wasn’t one she was familiar with, but she decided to check it in her dictionary.

Adele took her dictionary off the row of books on the shelf. She opened it up, and scanned the words under the letter ‘a’ until she reached asylum. She found two meanings; the first of them referred to a place of refuge, but the second related to a mental institution. She wondered which of these her grandma could have been talking about but she daren’t ask.

Adele stared at the dictionary for a few moments but when the words ‘mental institution’ seemed to leap out from the page, she quickly shut it. Those words frightened her. She knew her dad had a temper, but surely that couldn’t mean he was mental. She’d heard kids at school use the words ‘mad’ and ‘mental’ when they were trying to put down someone who was a bit stupid. They weren’t nice words and she didn’t like to think of them being linked to her family.

She was curious about the tablets her mother was taking as well; something called diazepam, her grandma had said. Adele opened her dictionary again and flicked over the pages, checking whether diazepam was listed, but she couldn’t find anything.

Her thoughts flitted back to the words ‘mad’ and ‘mental’. Adele was confused. She couldn’t understand why her grandma would use such words about her family. Grandma Joyce didn’t usually say nasty things. Grandma Joyce was nice. So if she was saying bad things about her dad, then maybe they were true. Maybe he really was mad. And, if Peter took after their dad’s side of the family, did that mean he was mad too?

***

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. If it has made you want to read more, you can check out the book at Amazon by following the link: Born Bad.

I’ll be keeping you up to date soon with news of my blog tour. Until then, bye for now.

***

Growing up in 70s Gorton

1970s Gorton is the setting for the first part of book one in my new gritty crime trilogy. Gorton is a suburb of East Manchester, and is also the place where I was born and raised until the age of 13.

Book one of the trilogy is called Born Bad and the first part of the novel describes Adele and Peter’s tough upbringing with a drunken, violent father and a slovenly, beaten mother. The remainder of the book tells the story of how that upbringing affects them into adulthood.

I have chosen 1970s Gorton for the setting of ‘Born Bad’ part one because, by doing so, I have drawn on many childhood memories. However, I wish to add as a disclaimer that although I draw on the characteristics of many people when creating my characters, none of the characters in the book are intended to depict any real people, either living or deceased.

Gorton has changed very much in recent years with rising unemployment and an increase in violent crime. However, the Gorton that I remember was very different from the Gorton that is now portrayed in the media. It was a working class area where most people worked for a living or, as was the custom in those days, the husband worked and the wife stayed at home to look after the children.

What is Gorton Famous For?

Belle Vue – formerly a zoological gardens, which opened in 1836 as well as a speedway stadium, amusement park and amusement hall complex. Belle Vue hosted many sporting events including wrestling, boxing and rugby.

Sadly the zoo closed in 1977 and the amusement park in 1980 followed by the speedway in 1987. Nowadays all that is left of Belle Vue is the Greyhound Racing Stadium and a snooker hall although that part of Gorton is still often referred to by locals as Belle Vue.

Shameless – Although the programme featured the fictitious Chatsworth estate, it was actually filmed on the council estate in West Gorton.

Gorton Monastery

Picture by Mikey – originally posted to Flickr as Gorton Monastery, Gorton, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8010571.

The monastery is grade II listed and has been included amongst the 100 most endangered sites in the world alongside the ancient ruins of Pompeii and the Taj Mahal. It was designed by Edward Pugin and built by Franciscan monks between 1863 and 1872.

The Franciscans left the monastery in 1989 and it fell into disrepair as well as being ravaged by dry rot. It was also prey to vandalism and theft, and many of the artefacts disappeared.

Fortunately, a £6 million fundraising campaign enabled the monastery to be restored, and many of the artefacts were returned. It now functions as a conference and events centre.

I’m pleased to say that I visited the interior of the monastery in the early 70s when the monks were still in residence and before many of the artefacts disappeared. It’s a stunning building. I’m also old enough to remember the monks in their brown habits walking in and out of the building when I passed the monastery on the bus to Manchester.

My Memories of Gorton

Belle Vue – In those days its main attraction was the well-known zoo with an accompanying fun fair. We used to love visiting Belle Vue in the school holidays.

When I was a teenager I moved out of Gorton but still lived within easy reach of Belle Vue, which also ran the Zoo Bi Doo disco. It was very popular amongst teenagers and was great fun, a precursor to the clubbing days of my 20s. Many of the kids who went to Zoo B Doo also went to the same secondary school as me.

I also remember attending the East Area Athletics championships at Belle Vue, where I represented my school in the 200 metres sprint. No, I didn’t win. I came third out of four runners.

Gorton Cross Street – This was the place where parents went for their weekly food shop but, as well as supermarkets, it had many other shops including clothes shops, haberdashers, toy shops etc. It was rare for our parents to venture into central Manchester in those days because of the expense, even though it is only a few miles away. Therefore, most things would be bought at Gorton Cross Street. There is still a thriving shopping centre in Gorton but the street has been renamed and most of the shops have changed.

The Corner Shop – We had one at the top of our street and many others dotted about the surrounding streets. I have vivid recollections of women standing in the shop gossiping, often wearing hair rollers and turbans. Women would also gossip on their doorsteps and I remember that a trip to Gorton Cross Street with my mother would take an age as she would stop to chat to many people on the way.

The Red Rec – This was where many of the older boys went to play football. It was also the place where most of the surrounding streets had their bonfires on Bonfire Night. Back in the 70s, the abundance of fireworks from people attending a dozen or more bonfires used to frighten the living daylights out of me. It’s a pity I can’t see it again nowadays because it must have been quite a spectacle.

Although I was nervous of the fireworks, I still have fond memories of all the mothers mucking in with Jacket potatoes baked on the bonfire, homemade treacle toffee and Parkin.

The Local Park/Playground – Although we referred to it as the park, it was actually a playground next to the Red Rec with some fields off to the side. From what I recall, I don’t think the park even had a name; it was just ‘the park’ as far as we were concerned. I have based the playground in ‘Born Bad’ on our local park.

As kids, when we felt a little more adventurous we would take ourselves off to one of the ‘proper’ parks, the ones that had names, such as Sunny Brow Park, Peter Pan Park or Debdale Park.

Playing out in the Street – At the risk of sounding like a middle-aged bore – those were definitely the days when we didn’t need games consoles and mobile phones to entertain us. We knew how to entertain ourselves and would play out for hours.

Here are some of the games I remember from the 60s and 70s:

Skipping – when the mothers would often come out to hold the ends of the rope.

Two and three a ball against the wall to chants such as Pontius Pilot the king of the Jews bought his wife a pair of shoes etc.

Handstands against the wall.

Paper chase, where we tucked bits of paper into wall crevices etc. and each piece of paper would have a clue as to where to find the next one.

Knock a door run – when we were feeling a bit devilish.

Please Mr Fisherman.

Statues.

Ticky It – still played by children nowadays but I think it’s changed its name.

Hide n Seek.

 

 

Check out those street urchins – I’m the skinny one second from the right.

Black and White TV – Yes, I still remember our first rented black and white TV. Most of the sets we rented used to jump and we would have to change the position of the indoor aerial to get the picture right. When it became impossible to adjust we would send to the rental shop for a replacement.

School Sports Days – Back in the days when winning was celebrated (and not just the taking part). I remember taking my giant sized prize bars of chocolate home and being ordered to share them with my brothers. Having brothers in school had its advantages though as it meant that half the school would be cheering for me whenever I entered a race. Yes, believe it or not, I used to be quite an athlete back in the day. I don’t think my arthritic knees could cope with it nowadays though.

——————

‘Born Bad’ now Available for Pre-order

I’m thrilled to announce that my new novel is now available for pre-order on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XGY9YHG, priced at only £2.48. It has changed its title from the working title of ‘Bad Brother and I’ to ‘Born Bad’. The novel will also be available to purchase from other eBook retailers.

I’m really pleased with the cover that my publishers, Aria Fiction, have produced. The image of my protagonist, Adele, is just how I pictured her in my mind, and I love the tagline that Aria have added. Here is the cover:

The book blurb has changed too and I’m really happy with the new blurb that my publishers have written. Here it is:

Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.

Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.

But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. Afterall, blood is thicker than water…

I hope you agree that it really pulls readers in and makes them want to find out more.

Big thanks to Aria fiction for a sterling job so far. My publication date for ‘Born Bad’ is 1st July and as the date draws nearer I’ll be taking part in my first blog tour, organised by Aria. I’ll keep you up-to-date with links to blog posts, interviews etc. once I have the details.

——————

Book Launch -Danger by Association

I’m thrilled to have finally reached launch date for ‘Danger by Association’, book 3 in the Riverhill Trilogy. For some reason this one seems to have been a long time coming, but maybe that’s just because it’s the last book in a trilogy. If you would like to download a copy, here is that all important Amazon link: http://viewBook.at/DangerbyAssn.

Danger

Although we’ve only just reached publication day, ‘Danger by Association’ is already ranking well on Amazon UK as it has been available for pre-order since mid-May. I think its rank is attributable to the fact that the first two books in the trilogy had already found a readership, and this book appears on the list of books ‘also bought’ by purchasers of ‘Slur’ and ‘A Gangster’s Grip’.

If you have already purchased ‘Danger by Association’, I would appreciate it if you would consider leaving a review, once you have read the book, by following the above Amazon link.

I’ll be offering free copies of ‘Danger by Association’ in a Goodreads Giveaway to be announced in a later blog post so watch out for that. I’ll also be making an announcement regarding a local book signing event.

Bye for now, and thank you for all your support.

—————

Excerpt from ‘Danger by Association’

As we’re drawing closer to the launch date of 24th June for ‘Danger by Association’, I thought I would share an excerpt with you. In this first chapter Rita has returned to Manchester to attend her brother’s wedding.

After the trauma of her previous visit (as shown in ‘A Gangster’s Grip’), Rita regarded her return with trepidation. This trip won’t be any better for her because her son is in danger. As you can see from this first chapter, there are already signs of trouble, which intensifies as the book progresses:

Danger

Chapter 1

Saturday 8th June 1996

Rita walked in front of her family and greeted them before taking her seat at the front of the church. Her mother, Joan, was seated to her left, resplendent in her new outfit from C & A. To the left of Joan was Rita’s father, Ged, looking uncomfortable in his one best suit. As Rita cast her eyes across the front pew she noticed him loosening his shirt collar and adjusting his tie.

Furthest away from Rita, and occupying the inside seat of the pew, was her brother, John, nervously awaiting his bride-to-be, with his best man Tony buoying him up. Rita smiled at John before switching her attention to her husband, Yansis.

Rita felt mixed emotions as she thought about the absent family member. It was five years since her sister, Jenny, had died but on days like today she missed her more than ever. This was the first time Rita had returned to Manchester since Jenny’s death. She lived in Greece, where she and Yansis ran a restaurant.

Her sister’s demise was such a traumatic event that Rita had taken a lot of persuading before she agreed to return to Manchester. But how could she miss her brother’s wedding? So here she was. But only on the condition that she went nowhere near the Riverhill Estate. The place where it had happened. The place where her parents still lived.

Although Rita no longer lived in Manchester, she thought of her sister daily. She always would. Every time she looked at her son’s face she was reminded of Jenny. Because, even though Rita and Yansis called Daniel their son, it was Jenny who had given birth to him. As Rita thought about Jenny, she gazed with affection at Daniel who was shuffling impatiently in his seat between her and Yansis.

“It won’t be long now till the bride gets here,” she whispered as she took in his familiar features and gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze.

As though in response to her words, the organist began to play the wedding march. Rita, along with almost everyone else, turned to see the bride walk up the aisle, which was lined with exquisite blossoms in a delicate pink and white colour scheme.

Rita had never met Paula in person; she had only seen her in photographs. She was a stunning girl, and Rita felt happy for John who gazed proudly at her as she approached. Paula looked radiant in her beautiful off-the-shoulder wedding gown with sweetheart neckline. The onlookers were captivated as she progressed down the aisle, the layers of tulle flowing from a tiny fitted waist against which she clutched a lovely bouquet. Yes, John had definitely done himself proud and, if her parents were to be believed, Paula was a lovely person too.

As the bride drew closer, Rita caught the eye of her best friend, Julie, sitting a few rows back with her husband, Vinny. A few seconds later, the bride joined John at the front of the church, and the wedding march died down. The congregation cleared their throats and hushed their children, and the vicar allowed them time to settle down before beginning the ceremony.

Joan had already broken out her tissues and sat sniffing throughout the entire service. Rita wondered whether it was through happiness for John or sorrow at her missing child. Maybe it was a combination of the two. Rita’s mind wandered again to the last time the family had been together, apart from John who had been stationed abroad in the army.

The hospital. The endless wait. Desperately hoping she’d pull through. The devastating news from the doctor. Rita stopped herself, determined not to succumb to tears. This was a happy occasion and she’d make damn sure she enjoyed it. She tried to ignore her mother’s whimpering as she focused on the ceremony.

Once outside, the emotional strain was forgotten amidst the excited chatter, words of congratulations and organising the photographs. Rita was too busy to think about emotions as she and Yansis had resolved to keep Daniel clean and tidy at least until the pictures were taken.

Although he was a good child, he was a typical five-year-old boy. Carried away by the novelty and excitement of the occasion, he was more intent on racing around the manicured church lawns than posing for photographs in a stuffy suit.

“Oh, it was lovely wasn’t it?” said Julie as she and Vinny joined them on the lawn after the photographs had been taken. “I was filling up when she walked down the aisle in that gorgeous dress.”

“Don’t be so bleedin’ soft, you daft sod,” said Rita. “You’re supposed to be happy, not crying your eyes out. You’re as bad as my mam. I think she went through a full packet of man-sized by the time it was over.”

“You’re bloody heartless you, Rita,” laughed Julie.

They circulated for a while, chatting to friends and relatives until it was time to go to the wedding reception. Then they crowded into a minibus, which John and Paula had laid on especially for the occasion. Within minutes they arrived at the venue, which was a hotel.

It wasn’t long before they were all seated ready for the wedding breakfast. But they had to go through the speeches first. This was the moment Rita was dreading. She knew it would be emotional. John was bound to mention Jenny. There was no way he would ignore her absence.

Unlike the church service though, where she had a front row seat, Rita was now surrounded by people on all sides. If she became overcome by emotion it would be difficult to hide. And she didn’t want to get upset. This was John and Paula’s big day, and despite Jenny no longer being with them, it should nevertheless be a happy one.

After dreading the speeches, she was surprised at how smoothly it went. John handled the matter well and she felt proud of him.

“I want to propose a toast to all our loved ones who sadly can’t be with us,” he said as he held up his glass. Everybody raised their glasses in respect and John quickly added, “I’m sure they’d want us all to enjoy this day so I don’t want to see any tears.”

Rita’s mother took a deep breath and shoved her tissues inside her handbag.

Daniel was fidgety during the meal and couldn’t wait to run around outside with his newfound friends. Fortunately, the wedding reception was in a hotel within its own grounds so he could play out safely. Once he had eaten enough, Rita and Yansis let him go. Then it was time for the adults to relax. While Daniel played outside, Rita and Julie chatted to some of Rita’s older relatives. They were all interested in Rita’s life in Greece and she enjoyed telling them all about it, as well as discussing her wider family.

When the meal was finished, Rita, Yansis, Julie and Vinny found somewhere else to sit while the hotel staff cleared the tables ready for the evening reception. Yansis and Vinny soon struck up a conversation while the girls chatted amongst themselves.

“That grand aunty of yours was a card, Rita,” remarked Julie. “She could hardly take her eyes off Yansis.”

“I know; did you hear what she said?” Rita asked, before answering her own question. “‘I’ve always liked the Mediterranean men myself. They’re really sexy.’ I had to wedge myself between her and Yansis to protect him. She might be in her seventies but there’s life in the old girl yet.”

Rita and Julie laughed heartily, and Rita soon felt as though she had been teleported back ten years. To the good times of her younger days. All the great nights out she had spent with Julie and the girls. That was before life got in the way, and a series of traumatic experiences had changed her and Julie irrevocably. But today she was going to be relaxed and carefree.

“There are some right eccentrics in our family, Julie,” Rita continued, “The bloody Addams family have got nothing on us.”

Then, spotting her Aunty Irene heading towards them, she added, “Talking of which, here’s one now, Aunty Irene, my dad’s sister, got a tongue on her like a viper.”

She whispered the last few words as her Aunty Irene came within earshot.

“Hello Rita, I thought it was you,” she announced once she reached them.

“Hello Aunty Irene,” sighed Rita.

“Well, aren’t you going to introduce me then? I’ve never met your husband; I wasn’t at your wedding. Is this him?”

Rita made the introductions, and Yansis, Vinny and Julie shook her aunty’s hand politely. Once Aunty Irene had the attention of everyone around the table, she asked Rita, “Was that Jenny’s son I saw earlier? Good-looking little lad, isn’t he? Takes after his mother.”

“No!” said Rita. “You saw Daniel, my son; mine and Yansis’s.”

Yansis, Julie and Vinny looked on, aware of Rita’s feelings about Daniel, as the aunty continued.

“Yes but, you know what I mean.”

“As far as Daniel is concerned, me and Yansis are his parents and I don’t want anyone telling him anything different.”

“But surely he’ll have to find out eventually?” Aunty Irene asked. “He’ll know there’s something amiss; even Yansis isn’t as dark as Daniel.”

“He’ll find out when he’s old enough and when we decide to tell him. But that won’t be for a long time. He’s only five years old, for God’s sake! It’s too much for him to take in.”

Rita could feel her temper rising but she tried to hold it in check. She didn’t want to spoil her brother’s wedding by having a set to with her Aunty Irene, but her aunty wasn’t finished yet.

“Alright, I can see you’re upset. I know you don’t want to be reminded about Jenny. It was a sad day when she died. Your mother and father were broken-hearted, and when you took that little boy away they were beside themselves …”

“What do you mean?” Rita cut in before she had a chance to carry on.

“Well, you weren’t here of course. You’d taken him all the way to Greece, but I was the one having to console them when they were missing him.”

“You could have bloody well fooled me!” Rita snapped, unable to put up with her aunty’s venom any longer. “My dad couldn’t get rid of him quick enough. He was too frightened of him cramping his style. So don’t you go telling me they were pining for him! And as for you; we only bloody see you at weddings and funerals.”

Her aunty was speechless following this outburst. Rita was about to continue but, before she could say any more, she felt a tug on her arm.

“Rita, didn’t you want to go and talk to John and his new wife?” asked Julie. “There’s nobody with them now. Come on while we’ve got a chance.”

Julie’s words brought Rita to her senses. She stood up, grabbed her handbag, slammed her chair underneath the table and walked away with Julie. As they were walking off, Rita could hear her aunty shouting after her, “That child should be here with his family; not miles away, living with a load of strangers. What you did was wicked!”

“Did you hear that?” Rita asked Julie, “The cheeky cow!” Rita turned, about to retaliate, but Julie kept a tight grip on her arm.

“Don’t rise to it, Rita. Don’t let her spoil your brother’s wedding. If you go back, you’ll be letting her win. Come on!”

For a few moments Rita hovered, indecisive, but Julie’s insistent tugging at her arm persuaded her to keep walking. Rita didn’t head straight for John and his bride though. She was too annoyed, and needed to calm down first. She and Julie made their way outside the room where they found some ladies’ toilets in a different part of the hotel. Rita wanted to vent her anger without being overheard.

Once they were inside, they checked the cubicles. While Julie tapped on each of the doors to make sure they weren’t occupied, Rita hammered and kicked at them. It was her way of letting go of her rage at the same time. She had just moved away from one cubicle and was attacking the next one when the door opened. A young woman emerged looking terrified. Without making eye contact, and not even stopping to wash her hands, she swiftly exited the ladies’ toilets.

“Bloody hell, Rita; you’ve frightened the life out of the poor sod!” said Julie.

This realisation caused a break in the tension and Rita stopped kicking at the doors, “I’m sorry, Julie. I didn’t mean to go off on one. But thanks for pulling me away; it’s a good job you did.”

“I know you, Rita. I could see she was annoying you.”

Rita fished inside her bag for her cigarettes and lighter while sounding off to Julie, “She’s a cheeky cow! What business is it of hers? I wouldn’t mind but when I was at home she hardly ever came to see my mam and dad, so what would she know?”

Julie gave her time to let off steam. They knew each other so well that Julie could predict exactly how she would react. After a few minutes of venting, she began to settle down, “Eh, I hope Yansis and Vinny were alright being left with her.”

“Don’t worry about them two; I’m sure they can handle her. She probably went off with her tail between her legs once you’d given her a piece of your mind.”

“I’m not so sure, Julie. She’s a nasty old bitch by all accounts.” Rita then apologised again, now she was feeling calmer. “I’m sorry Jules, I didn’t mean to go off on one.”

“It’s OK, Rita. It wasn’t your fault; I’d have felt the same.”

“Look, I’m not gonna let that evil old cow get to me. This is our John’s wedding and I’m gonna bloody well enjoy it.”

And she meant what she said. Once she had finished her cigarette and calmed herself down, they returned to the reception, passing her dad on the way. She couldn’t fail to miss him; he was so loud. But she wasn’t going to let that worry her.

She could have become irritable watching him make an arse of himself, boasting loudly about his latest scam, but she wouldn’t. She could have focused on her dead sister, but she wouldn’t. No, she was going to make the best of things. After all, that was what she had come back to Manchester for: to enjoy her brother’s wedding. With that in mind, she and Julie went off to chat to Rita’s brother and to introduce themselves properly to Paula.

———————

‘Danger by Association’ is already available in print from Amazon. The Kindle version will launch on 24th June, but you can pre-order your copy here.

———————

Announcing my Latest Novel – Danger by Association

I can now announce that my latest novel ‘Danger by Association’, book 3 in the Riverhill Trilogy, is available for pre-order on the Amazon Kindle. Here are the links:

UK: http:/www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01FE2A2BU.

US: http:/www.amazon.com/dp/B01FE2A2BU.

I am also thrilled to reveal the cover for ‘Danger by Association’. It is the work of talented book cover designer, Chris Howard, and I think it is his best one yet.

The image captures the exact mood I was looking for, and features our feisty heroine, Rita, complete with fiery red hair to match her temperament. Also, the colouring conveys the theme of danger, even in a thumbnail size. When you view the book cover in full size, you can see that bullets form a lot of the background image.

If you are interested in Chris’s work, he can be contacted at: blondesign@gmail.com.

Here is the cover image with the book blurb below:

Danger

Book Blurb

Rita has been avoiding Manchester; it brings back too many bad memories. She still has harrowing flashbacks of ruthless gangster, Leroy, and the death of a loved one. It takes the wedding of her brother, John, to persuade her to return. She agrees, on the condition that she steers clear of the Riverhill estate and Leroy’s family.

When her son, Daniel, is placed in danger, Rita is lured back to the Riverhill where she confronts those she believes responsible. She receives support from an unlikely source who promises information subject to terms. Realising that she needs help to act on that information, Rita turns to her brother, John.

But John works for the law. And he will have to go against everything he believes in if he agrees to embark on a maverick mission to help save his sister’s son.

—————-

‘Danger by Association’ is scheduled for publication on 24th June. I will be making further announcements regarding promotions and other activities via this blog as we draw nearer to publication date.

—————-