Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Book of the Month: September

Songs of Willow Frost
Jamie Ford
William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage for five long years. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other children are taken to see a movie and he glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. William is convinced that the movie star is his mother. When William sets out to find Willow he discovers that her story is far more complicated than any Hollywood fantasy.
*     *     *     *     *
Songs of Willow Frost is an emotional tale of love and forgiveness. Twelve-year-old William has vague memories of his mother before he was taken in by the orphanage but assumes she is dead. So he is shocked when he sees Willow Frost, a glamorous actress who bears a striking resemblance of the mother William hasn't seen since he was a young boy. What follows is the poignant story of Liu Song, a young woman who is stuck in a miserable, controlled existence.
The story is set in Seattle during the 1920s and 30s, contrasting the glamorous rise of cinema with the poverty of Liu Song's Chinatown and the Depression. I quickly became immersed in the stories of William and Liu Song and while it isn't the most cheerful of storylines, I did enjoy the book immensely.
My full review of Songs of Willow Frost will be on Novelicious soon

Click here to see all Books of the Month

Monday, 29 September 2014

Everything Changes But You: Introducing Ally

Ally Richmond is a soon-to-be thirty-year-old woman who works as an HR Assistant for a coach hire company. She has been with husband Gavin since they were 15 but their views on how their marriage should progress are starting to differ. Gavin wants to start a family, but the thought terrifies Ally. She wants to live a little before they give up their freedom to raise children and feels that time is running out.

Ally works with Kelly and Jason, who she has a teeny tiny little work crush on. She would never actually cheat on Gavin, but it helps to pass the time. She doesn’t get on with Kelly at all and the pair take every opportunity presented to snipe at one another. Ally says she doesn’t like Kelly, but the truth is Ally is jealous of the life Kelly has. Kelly is still young and free to have wild nights out (which she frequently boasts about at the office) and isn’t being pressured to fill her womb with babies.

Ally has a close relationship with her family, especially with her (very slightly) younger sister, Freya. They spend their Tuesday nights in the local pub for karaoke and a glass of wine or two. And this is the extent of Ally’s social life. There are no crazy nights in clubs, no falling out of taxis at the end of the night or dancing until her feet beg for mercy. She has no stories to regale her colleagues with on a Monday morning. Or any other morning.

Ally feels like she’s stuck in a rut, but when she makes a birthday wish that comes true, her life is given a major shake-up and she is finally given the life she covets. But will this equate to a happily ever after?

'I just need a bit more excitement in my life. I don’t want to end up like Francine, tied down to the kids. She has one night out a week, you know. One lousy night.’

‘It’s better than nothing,’ Gavin pointed out but it only fuelled Ally’s argument.

‘Exactly! I don’t want to settle for “better than nothing”. I want to be free to live.’


Be careful what you wish for...

Ally Richmond is dreading turning thirty and bidding farewell to her youth. And when her husband says he wants to start a family, she begins to panic.

Is this all that life has to offer from now on? Popping out babies and growing old gracefully? She wants a life crammed with glamour and spontaneous adventure, not one full of dirty nappies and night feeds.

When Ally makes a silly birthday wish for a new, exciting life, her wish is granted.

But when Ally is presented with the freedom and opportunities she craves, she soon realises this new life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that there really is no place like home. But can she find her way back - or is she stuck in this new reality forever?

Friday, 26 September 2014

#AmWriting Lots

I've got quite a few writing tasks going on at the moment so I thought I would start a new feature: #AmWriting!
I've just published my second book, Everything Changes But You and a day later finished the first draft of Book 3. I didn't write it super-duper quick (imagine if I could write that fast) but I've been working on it for the past few months when Everything Changes was with an editor and between proofreads.
I've now put that draft away (I like to leave some time between draft one and two so I can go back to it with fresh eyes. It also gives me a bit of thinking time away from it to spot any major flaws and things to work on). I'm now planning Book 4 (which is nowhere near close to having a title yet) and also working on my Halloween short story (which does have a title and will be posted here on the blog next month).
As well as those two projects, I'm also thinking about my festive short story for this year. It's a bit difficult to plan yet though as I'm going to write a festive sequel to a previous short story and have left the decision up to my blog readers (you can vote here until 31st October).
I now need a lie down. Writing about all that writing is exhausting!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Giveaway Winner: A Night In With A Film

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway of a 'Night In With A Film' pack or spread the word on Twitter and Facebook.
Rafflecopter has picked a winner at random:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Well done, Sharon. I hope you enjoy your prizes!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Writing Book 2 - Part 9

The End

So that's it. Book 2 aka Everything Changes But You has been written, edited and published. It is now 'out there' all on its own, telling Ally's story.

To celebrate, I hosted a couple of giveaways on publication day and my husband had secretly ordered me a cake made in the shape of a book with my cover on it. It's the closest I've come to owning an actual physical copy of one of my books!

The weekend before publication, my family and I went out for a meal to celebrate (it was actually a joint celebration for publishing my book, my husband's birthday and our wedding anniversary - we were determined to get our money's worth :-P )

out with the family

Although the writing of Everything Changes But You is finished, it isn't all over yet. The blog tour is going on right now and I'm going to start posting book extras, from character bios, to the cast and soundtrack and quizzes!

Everything Changes But You is now available from Amazon here

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Written In The Stars by Ali Harris

Bea Bishop is about to marry the man she loves but as she prepares to walk down the aisle, she starts to have doubts. She loves Adam but is marrying him the right thing to do? She has a painful past she has never dealt with properly and she isn't even sure who she is as a person. Swallowing her niggles, Bea begins to walk down the aisle but on her way to Adam, she slips and is knocked unconscious. Bea's world is split into two and she gets to live out both decisions of what she should do that day. Waking, the first Bea composes herself and continues to walk down the aisle to marry Adam while the other flees from the church.
While Bea is unaware that her world has been divided, we get to see what would have happened with each decision she made, whether she stayed and married Adam or changed her mind and fled. The basic premise is very much like the film Sliding Doors and I wondered how that would translate on paper. Would it be difficult to keep with each Bea and follow her individual storyline? The answer is not at all! I quickly got to grips with each Bea (married-Adam and didn't-marry-Adam) and what followed was an interesting story of what I'm sure most of us wonder from time to time - what if...? I liked that we got to see how that one decision would effect Bea's future, the consequences of choosing each path. The two alternative lives are cleverly woven together and I liked how parts from each life started to cross, as though fate was intervening.
Bea has a painful past that she has never dealt with. Instead, she has tried to push her thoughts and feelings away but they are still there, preventing Bea from moving on. As the book moves along, we start to dig away at Bea's past and learn what happened to her. I found it quite sad at times (and not just the tragic aspects of the book) and hoped that she would get a better resolution at times, but life isn't perfect and it made me feel for Bea even more.
One of my favourite aspects of the book was the flowers, which form an important role throughout the book. Bea has always dreamed of being a garden designer but dropped out of her course for personal reasons and never picked it back up again. Flowers and gardening feature heavily in the book and I found both the descriptions and meaning of the flowers, as well as the garden design, interesting and it helped to bring Bea's lives together.
Written In The Stars is a beautifully written book that deals with some serious issues without feeling too heavy. I enjoyed the mix of characters and thought the concept made a fascinating read.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Everything Changes But You: The Blog Tour


The Everything Changes But You blog tour has begun! From now until 5th October, my book and I will be travelling through the blogisphere and we'd love for you to join us.

Click to view each blog tour stop:
[Guest Post: If I Had Three Wishes]

Friday 26th September - Tishylou's World
[Guest Post: Inspiring Films]

Saturday 27th September - This Chick Reads
[Guest Post: The Book's Themes]

Monday 29th September - Reviewed The Book
[Guest Post: My Favourite Characters]

Saturday 4th October - Bookaholic Confessions
[Guest Post: Take That & Karaoke]

Sunday 5th October - Lost In Chick Lit

Be careful what you wish for...

Ally Richmond is dreading turning thirty and bidding farewell to her youth. And when her husband says he wants to start a family, she begins to panic.

Is this all that life has to offer from now on? Popping out babies and growing old gracefully? She wants a life crammed with glamour and spontaneous adventure, not one full of dirty nappies and night feeds.

When Ally makes a silly birthday wish for a new, exciting life, her wish is granted.

But when Ally is presented with the freedom and opportunities she craves, she soon realises this new life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that there really is no place like home. But can she find her way back - or is she stuck in this new reality forever?

Friday, 19 September 2014

Giveaway! Win A Handmade Felt Bookmark

My second novel, Everything Changes But You was published on Tuesday so to celebrate, I made some 'Make a Wish' bookmarks to giveaway!

One winner will receive one of the bookmarks pictured below.

To enter, fill in the rafflecopter form below and leave a comment telling me if you had one wish, what would it be for?
If you've already entered the giveaway on Tuesday, you'll have to pretend you've been granted a new wish - lucky you!
If you haven't entered Tuesday's giveaway, you can enter here until Tuesday 23rd September

You can earn extra entries but these are all optional.

The giveaway will end on Monday 29th September.
Rafflecopter will choose one winner at random, who will be notified by email before being announced on the blog.

This is giveaway is open internationally

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Everything Changes But You is available from Amazon here
Don't forget, you can add the book to Goodreads or view the Pinterest board

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Everything Changes But You: Launch Day Giveaway

Everything Changes But You is now available to purchase from Amazon. To celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway.

13 Going On 30 is one of my favourite films and was a huge inspiration for Everything Changes But You so I decided to put together a 'Night In With A Film' pack.

The prize includes

DVD: 13 Going 30
Butterkist Toffee Popcorn
Rowntrees Pick & Mix
Bag of Revels

To enter, simply fill in the rafflcopter form in below and leave a comment telling me: if you had one wish, what would it be for?

You can earn extra entries but these are all optional.

The giveaway will end on Tuesday 23rd September.
Rafflecopter will choose one winner at random, who will be notified by email before being announced on the blog.

This is a UK only giveaway.
I will be hosting an international Friday 19th September

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Everything Changes But You

Ally Richmond is dreading turning thirty and bidding farewell to her youth. And when her husband says he wants to start a family, she begins to panic.

Is this all that life has to offer from now on? Popping out babies and growing old gracefully? She wants a life crammed with glamour and spontaneous adventure, not one full of dirty nappies and night feeds.

When Ally makes a silly birthday wish for a new, exciting life, her wish is granted.

But when Ally is presented with the freedom and opportunities she craves, she soon realises this new life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that there really is no place like home.

Everything Changes But You is now available to purchase on Amazon!

There are lots of fun things coming up, including the blog tour, book extras and giveaways. In the meantime you can:

Add Everything Changes But You to Goodreads and
View the Pinterest board

If you read Everything Changes But You, I hope you enjoy it. It was a lot of fun to write! I'd love to hear what you think, either through a review or you can contact me on Twitter or Facebook or leave a comment here on the blog.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Everything Changes But You: A Sneak Peek

Everything Changes But You will be released tomorrow (eep!) so I thought I would post a sneak preview of the first couple of chapters here on the blog.


Ally Richmond is dreading turning thirty and bidding farewell to her youth. And when her husband says he wants to start a family, she begins to panic.

Is this all that life has to offer from now on? Popping out babies and growing old gracefully? She wants a life crammed with glamour and spontaneous adventure, not one full of dirty nappies and night feeds.

When Ally makes a silly
birthday wish for a new, exciting life, her wish is granted.

But when Ally is presented with the freedom and opportunities she craves, she soon realises this new life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that there really is no place like home.

Chapter One
‘Well? What do you think?’
Ally arranged herself in the doorway in what she hoped was a sexy pose; right arm raised above her head and grasping the frame, left hand planted on her hip, glossy lips pouting. Her husband lifted his head away from the television, his eyes following gradually, leaving it until the very last second before they snapped away from the screen. The real test of how she looked would now occur. A brief glance accompanied by some sort of mumbled response would mean she looked ok at best.
‘Wow, babe. Are you sure you’re only going over to The Farthing for karaoke with the girls?’
His eyes were still on her, the film almost forgotten. This was a very good sign. A very good sign indeed.
‘Yes, I’m sure. Why?’ Ally pushed her lips back into a pout while blinking slowly from under her long fringe.
Gavin laughed. Amusement had not been the response she’d been hoping for as she’d slipped into her new emerald green dress and her trusty, sky-scraper-but-broken-in heels. She’d blown her hair straight – although it was already starting to curl again – and plucked out the couple of grey hairs that glinted at her in the mirror. She was wearing more make-up than usual in an attempt to cover up the crow’s feet she was convinced had embedded themselves into her flesh overnight.
‘Are you fishing for compliments?’
Of course she was fishing for compliments! ‘No, don’t be daft,’ Ally tittered unconvincingly as she undraped herself from the doorway and perched on the edge of the sofa where Gavin was watching The Terminator. Again. Ally didn’t know why he bothered to watch it any more. Surely he knew the words off by heart by now, and it wasn’t like it was a repeat-worthy film like Dirty Dancing.
‘I can’t believe you’re watching this again.’
The Terminator is a classic. It deserves to be watched again and again so you can appreciate the brilliance.’ Gavin’s attention was now back on the television, his forearms resting on his knees as he attempted to sit as close to the action as possible.
‘And it has nothing at all to do with your childhood crush on Sarah Connor?’
Gavin gave a shrug, eyes still glued to the television. ‘I’m a hot-blooded man, Ally.’
‘And don’t I know it.’ Ally slipped off the arm of the sofa, landing on Gavin’s lap. Gavin’s interest in Arnie waned as he kissed his wife, all thoughts of saving the world from the machines vanishing as he found the zip on the side of the new dress.
‘Whoa there, mister. Some of us are going out, you know.’ Ally pulled away, tugging the zip back into place.
‘You can be five minutes late, can’t you?’
‘Five whole minutes? Has my birthday arrived a day early?’ Ally giggled as she hopped off Gavin’s lap and straightened her dress.
‘Jared and Paul will be here any minute. You don’t want them to catch us at it, do you?’ Gavin wasn’t that fussed, to be honest. His mates could wait on the doorstep all night for all he cared. Jared and Paul would understand. ‘Besides, you’ll have something to look forward to later.’
Ally bent over to kiss Gavin on the lips, purposefully flashing her cleavage as she did so. ‘Really. And you know how frisky I get when I’m drunk.’
Gavin reached for his wallet and handed Ally a couple of notes. ‘Have a few drinks on me.’
Ally swatted Gavin but she grabbed the money anyway. ‘What are you planning on doing with the boys tonight?’
‘Beer, pizza, poker. The usual.’ Tuesdays were set in stone. Ally would meet up with the girls for karaoke and a gossip while Gavin invited the boys round to slob out.
‘Well, have fun.’ Ally grabbed her handbag, making sure she had her purse (with Gavin’s extra money nestled safely inside), her mobile and lip gloss. ‘I’ll see you and your little friend later.’
Ally winked at Gavin while he covered his crotch. ‘Hey, less of the little. You’ll offend him.’
‘I’ll make it up to him later, don’t worry.’ Ally gave Gavin one last kiss and skipped away before he could haul her off to the bedroom. Sarah Connor would have to do for now.
Ally closed the front door behind her softly, smoothing her dress down once more before setting off for the pub. Their first home together had been a poky little flat with peeling wallpaper and a dodgy boiler, but Ally and Gavin had made the decision to upgrade a year ago. The terraced house on MacMillan Road was almost as tiny as the flat but it had a little yard at the back and, more importantly, it was four doors down from their local pub. Despite Ally’s proximity to The Farthing, she was still the last of her group to arrive but the karaoke machine was still being set up, so at least she wasn’t too late.
‘Here she is!’ Ally’s sister stood up, one hand holding her glass of wine, the other pointing at Ally as she headed towards their table. ‘The almost-birthday-girl. Say ta-ra to your twenties!’
‘Oh, God. Don’t remind me.’ Ally slumped into her seat and dropped her head into her hands. ‘How can I be thirty already? It only feels like yesterday that I was at school.’
‘You wish it was only yesterday. You’re practically an old woman now. You’ll be drawing your pension in no time.’
‘Cheeky cow.’ Ally glared at her sister. Freya was only eleven months younger than Ally so she wasn’t so sprightly herself. ‘But, as a pensioner, I can’t afford to buy my own drinks any more, so you’ll have to provide me with alcohol, being a young whippersnapper and everything.’
‘Whippersnapper? God, you are old.’ Freya shook her head at her sister, oozing sorrow. ‘I’ll go and get another bottle of wine. You missed the first.’
Freya tottered to the bar while Ally’s best friend, Francine, gave her hand a squeeze. ‘You’re not that old, chick. I’ll be forty in a couple of years. Now that’s ancient.’
‘You’re right. I’m a spring chicken compared to you.’
Francine nudged Ally but she was smiling. ‘Wait until you have kids. Then you’ll feel old. I live for our karaoke nights. It’s the only freedom I get. How sad is that?’
‘Then we’d better enjoy ourselves, hadn’t we?’ Ally searched the bar for Freya, wondering where her wine was. She was parched, but it seemed Freya was too busy flirting with the young barman to provide the much-needed alcohol to her elders. ‘So what are we singing tonight?’
‘Like you have to ask?’ Francine sang ‘Mustang Sally’ every week, without fail. It wasn’t a Karaoke Tuesday without The Commitments.
‘I can’t decide between a bit of Adele or something retro.’ Dee, the fourth member of their group, tilted her head to one side as she weighed up her options.
‘What’s the retro option?’ Ally asked.
‘Eternal Flame?’
Ally and Francine sucked in their breath before nodding vigorously. Retro it was.
‘Look what I managed to wrangle.’ Freya returned to the table, waving a bottle of wine in each hand. ‘Two for the price of one. And I’ve got a date for Friday. He’s pretty cute, isn’t he?’
Four heads swivelled around to the barman, who gave a little wave.
‘He is cute but isn’t he a bit young?’ Ally wasn’t convinced he was legally allowed behind the bar.
‘Is he even old enough to be in here without a responsible adult?’ Honestly, he looked like he could be a classmate of Francine’s twelve-year-old daughter.
‘He’s twenty-one.’
Ally and Francine gaped at Freya while Dee gave an appreciative nod. ‘Go, Freya. The young ones are the best.’
‘Are they?’ Ally wouldn’t know. She’d been with Gavin since they were fifteen – although they’d had a bit of a break when Ally went away to university – so she’d never experienced the younger man.
‘God, yeah.’ Dee nodded with vigour. ‘Think of all that energy they’ve got.’
Ally would rather not. Gavin had enough energy for her. Besides, he’d got past the spotty back stage and Ally wasn’t willing to go back to that.
‘I’ll stick to my Gavin, thanks.’
‘And what if Jason offered it to you on a plate?’ Freya hopped onto the table, toppling a glass over with her bum in the process, but luckily it was empty. ‘What if he came in here, right now, and asked you to ravish him?’ She patted her thighs and threw back her head. ‘Hop on board, Ally. I’ve got to have you right now.’
Ally scoffed. ‘Jason would never say that.’ If only! ‘And I’d have to decline anyway because I love my husband and would never cheat on him.’
‘Not even with the gorgeous Jason? But you’ve had a crush on him for ages.’
‘It’s only a silly little work crush. I wouldn’t actually do anything about it.’
I’d give it some serious thought.’ Francine’s confession made Ally’s eyes widen. She’d been married far longer than Ally and she had three kids. ‘What? He’s gorgeous. Imagine grabbing hold of that arse.’
The table erupted into giggles and the wine was poured. This was what Ally enjoyed most about their karaoke nights. It was great to get up on the little stage and throw herself into her chosen song, imagining she was Mariah Carey – which she most definitely was not – but it was spending time with the girls that she savoured, gossiping and sharing secrets, no matter how silly.
A sudden squeal filled the pub as Keith Barry, karaoke extraordinaire, plugged the microphone into his machine. Keith Barry was fat and balding but thought he was some sort of love god and had a tendency to wear shiny gold shirts and fistfuls of sovereign rings.
‘Now, now ladies. There’s no rush. I’m here all night.’ Keith Barry rasped into his microphone, out of breath and oozing sweat from lugging the equipment from his van. ‘Form an orderly queue if you’d like to have a go with Uncle Keith. But don’t tell the missus.’ He winked and laughed at his own ‘joke’. Nobody else joined in, but that didn’t stop our Keith. ‘My equipment’s up and ready for action. So come on ladies, get stuck in, you randy mares.’ Chortle chortle.
‘Uncle Keith?’ Dee shuddered. ‘He’s like the dirty perverted uncle you only ever see at family weddings who gets pissed and presses his hard on into your hip after forcing you to dance.’ She took in the tableful of creased brows. ‘Is that just me then?’
‘Er, yeah.’ Freya shuffled away from her best friend. They’d been friends since nursery but that was the first time that little confession had slipped out.
‘Oh, chick.’ Francine reached across the table to squeeze poor Dee’s hand. ‘I’d avoid him from now on if I were you.’
‘I’d chop his balls off.’ Freya caught her best friend’s eye and they burst out laughing. If Freya had her way, every man within the Greater Manchester area would have his testicles hacked off. Even Lovely Paul, once Freya’s boyfriend of eighteen months and now a good friend of Gavin’s, would be a eunuch for some crime or other in Freya’s mind.
‘Hey, what’s going on over here then, ladies?’ Their laughter caught the attention of Keith Barry, who was leaning in closer, one bushy eyebrow raised. ‘Come on, share the joke. We like ladies to share, don’t we?’ He shouted across to the twenty-one-year-old barman, who smiled good-naturedly before ducking down and busying himself with the dishwasher.
Ally leaned in towards her friends, her voice hushed as she spoke out of the corner of her mouth. ‘Is that supposed to have sexual connotations?’
Dee gave a shrug – like she knew what ‘connotations’ meant! ‘Who cares? I call group song!’ Without waiting for an answer, she grasped her friends by the hand, shoving two towards the stage and the slobbering Keith Barry before returning for the third.
‘Four at once, eh?’ Keith Barry looked as though all his Christmases had come at once. Freya imagined sharpening her bollock-hacking scissors.
They sang ‘Like a Virgin’, with Freya gyrating against Dee in a very non-virginal manner. Under normal circumstances Ally would have been mortified, but sod it. She was turning thirty tomorrow. Thirty. She was going to enjoy herself tonight, no matter what. Even Francine, the most reserved of the group, got into it, shimmying out of her shrug before whipping it off, lassoing it around her head and chucking it out into the crowd. Ally felt alive as she bounced around while waving her arms and belting out the number until her lungs ached. She wanted to bottle this feeling, to relive it over and over again.
‘Fantastic, ladies. Fantastic.’ Keith Barry applauded as the song came to an end. He whipped a polka-dotted handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his brow. ‘What are you going to sing next? “Patricia the Stripper”?’ He gave them a seedy wink, which sobered Ally enough to dodge the karaoke host as he lunged at them. Poor Dee wasn’t quick enough and Keith’s sweaty hands gripped her in a too-tight hug. ‘Let’s have a round of applause for these ladies. Weren’t they great?’
The group returned to their table, draining their glasses and refilling them to the brim. This karaoke business was thirsty work.
‘So, what are we singing next?’ Freya asked before they’d even caught their breath back. ‘Shall I grab the book?’
Keith Barry and his equipment were long gone by the time Ally and co were turfed out of The Farthing, clinging to one another and giving an encore of ‘Like a Virgin’, which was still the highlight of their evening. Francine had given her usual performance of ‘Mustang Sally’, with Keith taking the shine off the experience by making vulgar gestures throughout, and though Dee’s ‘Eternal Flame’ had been beautiful, it couldn’t beat the fun they’d had as a quartet.
‘We’ve got to get up for work in the morning.’ Francine groaned as they stumbled along the pavement towards Ally’s house.
‘Drinking this much was a bad idea.’ Ally could already feel the onset of a hangover.
‘Are you kidding? Drinking this much was the best idea we’ve ever had.’ Freya broke away from the group, throwing her arms up to the dark sky. ‘I feel fantastic. I don’t even want to go home yet. Shall we go into town?’
‘No,’ Ally and Francine chorused while Dee hissed that she would love to go into town. She wanted to dance and flirt and drink some more.
‘Don’t forget we’re not as young as you two. I’ve got three kids to get ready for school in the morning.’ Feeling a chill, Francine went to pull her shrug back into place but she was no longer wearing it. ‘And Ally’s thirty now, remember.’
‘Hey, I’m still twenty-nine.’ Ally peered at Francine’s wrist as she tapped her watch. It was after midnight. ‘Shit. I’m thirty.’
She wanted to cry, right there in the street, and it wasn’t only because she’d had too much to drink. How could she be thirty so soon? Thirty was old, ancient, decrepit and she didn’t want to be those things. She wanted to be young, youthful, virginal. Alright, maybe virginal was pushing it. She did quite like sex. But she didn’t want to be thirty.
‘Sorry, chick.’ Francine patted her on the arm, which only made her feel worse. Francine knew. She’d been there, washed and ironed the T-shirt. She’d passed Go and everything, and she knew it was all downhill from here. That’s why Francine was being sympathetic.
‘Do you think people will mistake us for mother and daughter when we’re out in public now?’
Freya thought she was being amusing, but she was not. ‘Eleven months, Freya.’
‘Eleven glorious months of youth.’ Freya caught the thunderous look on her sister’s face and that, coupled with the amount of alcohol Ally had consumed, made her reconsider the string of jibes she’d pre-prepared weeks in advance. ‘I’ll stop now, I swear. And we’ve walked past your house.’
The four staggered back towards Ally’s house and fell inside, shushing each other with over-exaggerated fingers to their lips. A taxi was called and another bottle of wine opened for the wait. Ally crept up the stairs once the others had left and slipped off her dress, neither bothering to change into pyjamas nor remove her make-up before climbing into the warm bed.
‘Good night?’ Gavin was a comfort, anchoring her to the bed as her fuzzy head made Ally feel like she was floating up to the ceiling.
‘Brilliant night. I’m a little bit pissed.’
Gavin laughed. ‘A little bit?’ Ally nodded in the dark. ‘Too pissed to remember your earlier promise?’
‘God, no.’ Ally somehow managed to climb astride her husband without damaging anything vital,  but struggled when it came to locating the box of condoms from the drawer beside the bed.
‘Why don’t we forget about them?’ Gavin suggested.
Ally continued to rummage in the drawer, her fingers slow and clumsy. ‘Did we forget to buy some?’
‘No, I mean why don’t we stop using them?’
Oh. Ally’s fingers stopped their search and instead slammed the drawer shut. ‘Not this again. Please.’ She was too drunk and knackered for this old argument. They’d moved into the slightly bigger house a year ago and ever since then Gavin had been desperate to fill it to the brim with babies.
‘It’s got to happen sometime, Ally. You’re thirty now.’ Like she needed reminding! ‘You’ve been saying we should wait for ages now, but how long do you want to wait? Until it’s too late?’
‘I’m thirty, Gavin, not sixty.’
‘But I want us to have a family. Don’t you?’
Ally didn't answer as she slid back under the covers, her back against Gavin's chest. She wasn't nearly ready for babies. And she wasn't sure she ever would be.

Chapter Two
Oh, God. Ally was in the clutches of a hangover before she’d even opened her eyes, her head throbbing on the pillow, her gut churning and threatening to spill at the slightest movement. Her eyelids refused to lift but that was fine by Ally. She didn’t want to open her eyes anyway. A whimper escaped her dry lips as it dawned on her what day it was.
It was her birthday.
‘Oh no.’ The words were barely distinguishable as they bubbled from her lips. She reached out for Gavin, needing the comfort of his familiar skin against her own but the bed was empty. ‘Gavin?’ She prised her eyes open and eased herself into a sitting position. Her head felt like concrete, heavy and solid as she attempted to keep it upright.
The bedroom was empty and she knew Gavin wasn’t in the shower as he was the world’s loudest cleanser, the shower radio blaring almost as loudly as Gavin’s singing. Ally was sure even the volume of the gushing water was raised when Gavin stepped under the stream.
But there was no sound emitting from the bathroom. The rumpled sheets beside Ally were still warm so he hadn’t been gone that long. Ally squinted at the clock and groaned when she realised her alarm would be yelling at her any minute now. Gavin must have sneaked off to work early in a huff after their row last night.
Well, stuff him. If he wanted to sulk, let him sulk. It was her birthday and she should be enjoying the day, being pampered and having her mind taken off the fact that she was another year closer to receiving her free bus pass, not worrying about stupid quarrels.
Ally’s throbbing brain sighed with relief as she sank back down into the pillow, closing her scratchy eyes to make the most of the final two minutes before she had to punch her alarm.
‘Happy birthday, darling.’
Ally lifted one eyelid and, in spite of her lethargic muscles, managed to smile up at her husband.
‘What are you doing?’
Gavin glanced down at the breakfast tray in his hands and then at his wife. ‘Breakfast in bed.’ What else could he be doing with a tray of tea and toast? ‘I’m sorry about last night. I don’t mean to go on at you, but we’re in our thirties now. We need to start thinking about this kind of thing.’
Ally’s smile drooped into a scowl. ‘What is this? Breakfast in bed or a lecture? I don’t want to think about babies. I don’t want to think about anything right now. I’ve got a raging hangover and want to die.’
‘You never want to think about babies, hangover or not.’ Gavin dumped the breakfast tray on the bed and Ally had to leap to steady it before the tea sloshed onto the covers. The sudden action caused her to retch but nothing came up. Closing her eyes, she took deep breaths to calm the nausea and when she opened them again, the room was empty. The front door slammed shut a moment later, followed by the piercing squeal of her alarm and the noise of both made Ally wince in pain.
Why did she need a baby when she was already married to the biggest, sulkiest baby of all?
Ally was not in the mood for the bus ride to work, with every sharp turn and sudden stop making her want to chuck up her breakfast. The air was stuffy, the seats cramped and there was a kid in a buggy kicking hell out of the side of the bus. The metallic thump, thump, thump was driving her crazy, so it was a relief to finally emerge into the fresh air, away from the noise and chatter. Westerly’s Coach Tours was a short walk from the bus stop, but it was nowhere near enough to clear her head before she limped into the building.
‘You look how I feel.’ Francine flashed a tiny smile of solidarity from behind her reception desk as Ally threw herself into one of the plush blue chairs in the waiting area. ‘We had way too much to drink last night.’ Ally nodded, unable to speak as her mouth was dry and fuzzy. ‘It didn’t help that Maisie was up three times during the night.’
‘Three times?’ Horror forced Ally’s voice into action. ‘Isn’t she six? I thought they slept through after a few months.’
‘Ha! That’s what they’d have you believe. Charlotte didn’t sleep through until she was nineteen months. But even when they do start sleeping through, anything can keep them awake. It was nightmares for Maisie last night, poor chick.’
‘Doesn’t Mike ever get up with them?’
Francine spluttered. ‘You must be joking. That man could sleep through an earthquake. Or pretend to, at least. But I do get a lie-in every other week when he takes the girls over to his mum’s for a couple of hours. It’s a blessing she hates me, really.’
A lie-in every other week? That was barbaric. Why would anybody want to put themselves through such hell?
‘I think I’d better be getting up to the office.’ Ally heaved herself out of her chair and began her trek up the old spiral staircase. The building was a former bank, but while it was beautiful and Ally loved the remaining original features, she would prefer the use of a lift, especially on days like these when each step felt like her skull was being rattled.
‘Oh, I almost forgot. Happy birthday!’
Ally continued up the stairs, pretending she hadn’t heard her friend. She was struggling to deal with this horrendous hangover without adding her birthday woes to the mix.
Ally worked in the HR department of Westerly’s, located at the front of the building on the first floor. Sunlight streamed through the large windows, which was usually delightful but today was a menace. Being early spring, the sunlight was weak, but it was still enough to send searing pain through Ally’s already aching head.
‘You look like shit.’
Ally wandered over to the windows and began closing the blinds. ‘Thanks, Jason. It’s good to know I look as bad as I feel.’
‘Are you ok?’
‘Ah.’ Jason gave a slow nod of his head, a smile lighting up his face. Ally looked away. She couldn’t stomach her manager’s handsome face, not today. She couldn’t bear to see him in his charcoal suit, tailored to perfection and hinting at the amazing body Ally could only imagine was underneath. Watching the gorgeous Jason was usually the only thing that got her through each working day, but it was too much today.
‘Jesus, you look like shit.’ Ally’s colleague strode into the room wearing a tiny black skirt and a silky red blouse. Ally counted the buttons that were actually fastened – three – before averting her gaze. Of all the things Ally didn’t want to see that morning, Kelly’s black lacy bra was in the top three.
‘Thank you, Kelly. It has been noted already.’
‘Ooh, touchy or what?’ Kelly sauntered over to her desk, wincing as she pulled out her chair. Ally noticed the bandage, which was probably wider than her skirt, wrapped around Kelly’s wrist. Ally imagined she’d sprained it during some sort of sexual activity and the thought had her reaching for the metal waste paper bin, just in case she had to hurl. Kelly Fox was young and beautiful with shiny blonde hair cut into a severe bob with a short, sharp fringe. She frolicked about the office in next to nothing, flashing her ridiculously long legs and perky tits, bringing with her tales of rowdy, drunken nights. Even outside there was no hiding from Ms Fox as she drove around in a flashy sports car, music blaring.
‘What’s happened here?’ Jason had crossed the office and was holding Kelly’s hand in his, stroking a finger along the bandage. Ally would sprain her wrist too if it meant Jason would hold her hand with such tenderness, but then Ally wasn’t enjoying a supposedly secret fling with the gorgeous Jason.
Kelly Fox was a lucky, lucky woman.
‘Oh that. It’s nothing, really. I was out with Martine last night and we got really wasted.’
For a change, Ally thought, her mouth filling with bitterness. Kelly was always getting wasted and this Martine girl featured in most of her drunken antics.
‘We were dancing on a podium and, daft cow that I am, I fell off. It hurt like hell but it was so funny.’
Yes, hilarious. Ally fell about laughing every time she came close to breaking a bone too.
Ally placed the waste paper bin on the floor and nudged it back under her desk. ‘If you were so wasted, why do you look…’ Ally wanted to say fresh-faced and beautiful, but she couldn’t bring herself to compliment Kelly. ‘Normal?’
Kelly’s damaged hand was still in Jason’s, so she placed the other to her chest. ‘Oh, sweetie. That’s because I’m still young. When I’m pushing forty, I’m sure I’ll look like shit too.’
Pushing forty? Pushing forty? ‘I am nowhere near forty, thank you very much.’
Kelly’s eyebrows arched in mock surprise and right then, hangover or not, Ally wanted to stride across the office and slap her youthful face. Kelly was twenty-two – practically a child still – and Ally now hated that most about the girl.
‘Now, now, ladies. I’m sure we’ve got more important things to be getting on with than having a catfight.’ Jason released Kelly’s hand and backed away before making his way towards his internal office at the end of the room. Kelly arranged herself neatly on her chair before leaning across the desk, resting her cheek on her good hand.
‘Was that true back then? Are you really not nearly forty?’
Ally jabbed at her computer’s power button, pretending she couldn’t hear Kelly’s words or feel her poison seeping into her pores. She busied herself with her in-tray and clearing out her email’s inbox, but she couldn’t concentrate as she worried about Gavin and their rows. They had a great marriage and rarely argued over anything more serious than who had used the last of the loo roll without replacing it, but this baby thing was starting to eat away at them.
‘I’ve got a pile of filing to do. I’m going down to the basement.’ Kelly didn’t usually inform Ally of her whereabouts, despite Ally being of a slightly higher rank, but she always made it known, quite loudly, when she was going to the filing room. The filing room was down in the basement and only HR had access to the key, meaning it was the perfect rendezvous for Kelly and Jason. They thought they were being clever and discreet, but Ally knew exactly what was going on. Why else would Kelly disappear with a pile of papers to be filed and return with the exact same number of sheets?
Ally counted down from ten, muttering under her breath. ‘…five, four, three, two, one.’
‘I just need to go and see Malcolm about next week’s meeting.’ Right on cue, Jason strode out of his office. Ally picked up her phone and dialled down to reception.
‘Jason’s on his way down,’ she told Francine.
‘Yes, I see him.’ Francine lowered her voice as the man himself obviously came into view. ‘And yes, he’s gone down to the basement. Funny, Kelly’s already down there.’
‘That is funny and it’s also taking the piss. Do they think I’m going to sit here and work while they skive off? Two can play at that game.’
Ally hung up the phone, already reaching for her post-its and scribbling a note, sticking it to Jason’s door before trudging down the stairs.
‘If they ask, you saw me heading out towards the depot,’ Ally told Francine as she slipped on her jacket.
Francine gave Ally the thumbs up. ‘Will do, chick. Where are you really going?’
‘To see Gavin.’

Everything Changes But You will be released tomorrow but you can pre-order a copy now or add to Goodreads