My turn to join the blog tour today for Nice Day For A White Wedding by A.L. (Andi) Michael, Book 2 of The House on Camden Square series, published on 22nd August by CarinaUK. Having read some of the reviews, I’m really sorry I couldn’t fit in a review of this one – but I’m delighted to host an extract and giveaway. Shall we take a look at the blurb?
Sometimes, Happy Ever After is where the real trouble begins…
Chelsea Donnolly wasn’t supposed to amount to anything. But if there’s one thing the bad girl from the estate liked better than trouble, it was a challenge. So, to the amusement of her best friends Evie, Mollie and Ruby – and the disbelief of her teachers – this bad girl turned good.
These days, Chelsea is the kind of girl people are proud to know – and, after a surprise trip to Venice, she has a ring on her finger to prove it. But to get there, she’s had to learn to keep her deepest secrets from everyone – even her fiancé. And when wedding preparations threaten to blow her cover, Chelsea can’t help but wonder: in her battle to the top, might she have left the best parts of herself behind?
And here’s an extract for you:
‘All right, babe?’
Chelsea shook her head, feeling foolish as the words escaped into the empty cemetery. Ruby’s grave wasn’t as bedazzling as it should have been, even as the sunflowers she’d brought brightly clashed with the black marble of her headstone. Time had passed – the flowers and teddy bears and cards from little girls who wanted to grow up to be Ruby Tuesday had gone. Rain-soaked and stinking, they had disintegrated in the summer storms, until eventually someone had cleared them all away.
Ruby would never have wanted such a drab headstone, plain and…appropriate. It should have been carved from a lump of garnet, showered with sparkle. Chelsea’s fingers itched with the need to improve it, to make it real in some way. She wanted to grab a glue gun and affix diamonds around the edges, but that would be wrong, disrespectful. At least to anyone who didn’t really know Ruby.
She could hear her friend’s voice in her head: ‘Go on, you’re not going soft on me, are you babe? You never cared about right or wrong before.’
And she was right, that imaginary voice. Chelsea had done whatever the hell she wanted when she knew Ruby. But things had changed.
The ground was damp beneath her feet, but the summer sun was bright and glaring, like Badgeley was punishing her for never coming home often enough. The whole town felt muggy, like there was no air, and the little that was left was stale. It seemed weird that Ruby should have been buried here, instead of in London, near her penthouse flat where people still left notes and flowers. No one in this little town gave a crap about Ruby Tuesday any more.
Chelsea wanted to sit cross-legged on the ground and put her head against the cool stone, conjuring memories of those teenage days resting her forehead against Ruby’s, pretending they could read each other’s minds, and freaking out the little year sevens. But the ground was wet, the air was dry, and things were different now.
She patted the cool headstone in a silent apology.
‘See ya later, babe.’
Chelsea pulled her handbag over her shoulder, clutching at the handle as she strode down the road, head held high. Confidence was everything on the road down to the estate. The hazy heat of summer had the kids of Badgeley looking for fun, evidenced by the beer cans placed on the wall of the cemetery, and piled up by the bus stop, fag ends on the floor. Summers growing up here had seemed endless, and not in a good way. Day after day of the same shit, the same life, over and over. They’d spent their time hanging around in the park, working on their tans and talking about their escape plans. One day they’d make it out, make it to London. Every sixteen-year-old in Badgeley probably had the same dream, even now.
Chelsea visualised London now, where Kit would be getting in from work, rolling his shirt sleeves up and making lasagne, singing along to some classic rock album she’d never heard of. Further across the city, Evie and Esme would be sitting at their kitchen table, whilst Mollie tried to show Killian how to make a basic meal for the hundredth time that summer. That said, Chelsea mostly subsisted on avocado on toast these days. Further down in London, there was her office, her lovely big office with a view of the river, only granted her days before, along with a raise and a new title that she had worked for the last three years to get.
And here she was, in fucking Badgeley.
Okay, so she was doing her sisterly duty, and bringing birthday presents for her little brother wasn’t such a chore. Neither was stopping by to visit a dead friend. It was just that these visits made her chest contract a little more every time, and there was a reason they became more sparse as the years passed.
Chelsea adjusted her handbag, grabbed tighter at the plastic bag of presents as she turned off of the high street, shaking her head as she looked through the window of the funeral director’s little shop. She’d dated a boy who worked there, a lifetime ago. She liked to look through the window whenever she was back, see if the names on those sample tombstones ever changed. They never did.
Chelsea adopted a strut as she turned right onto the estate she’d grown up on. She couldn’t decide if it looked smaller and harmless, or scarier and sprawling. Nothing had changed, she realised, recalling the multiples times she’d narrowly escaped trouble. She had a knack for attracting it then. You felt invincible when you were a kid. There was the time Leah Thomas decided Chelsea had flirted with her man. That’d been a big one. Chelsea had managed to head-butt her and knock Leah’s two front teeth clean out. She was called Gap Tooth from then on, and it got shorted to GT as the years went by. She probably still lived here.
She walked across the centre of the grassy verge, remembering the time one of her mum’s boyfriends tried to knock their front door down, because he was convinced Tyler had nicked his stash. He probably had too, but all Chelsea could remember was laughing and taunting him whilst he went mad outside, and they pushed a cupboard up against the front door until he went away.
So many years of screaming and squaring up and desperately being a smartarse, because if you were just funny enough, someone might give you a break.
Chelsea took it in, the light sky of summer reflecting off the concrete. A couple of boys were standing around, topless in the fading light, jeans low on their hips as they stood smoking, staring at her. She instantly recognised Ty, his pimply teenage skin and shaved head atop a skinny body. His eyes widened in warning: ‘Don’t you dare come over here in front of them.’
She hated to admit it, but Tyler was pretty much a lost cause. It might have been her fault. She got out, got a job and forgot about him. She left him with her mum and Jez and the little ones. Chelsea had convinced herself that maybe she’d inspire him, show him that he could do it too, go to college, uni, do whatever he wanted. Those first few trips home had been full of impassioned speeches about following your dreams and all that bollocks. Ty wasn’t buying it. Which was fair enough, because the person who had washed his clothes, helped with his homework and made sure there was dinner every night had up and abandoned him without a backwards glance.
Chelsea frowned, nodded at her brother and shook her head as she marched over to her mum’s front door. She heard the whistles and catcalls from behind her as Tyler’s friends realised she was going to his house.
‘Ty, your stepdad send over a posh prozzie?’ one asked.
‘Yeah, present for your little brother’s birthday yeah?’ another cackled.
She turned and Tyler just stared at her, chin raised defiantly as their eyes met.
‘Nah, it’s just my hoity toity bitch sister.’
The ‘oohs’ of the teenage boys were low as they watched Chelsea for her reaction. She had purposefully softened her look, her blonde bob clipped back at the sides, her jeans and plain T-shirt. The bag didn’t have a designer label, and her shoes were cheap. But they could see it as well as she could – she didn’t belong here any more.
Ooh, anyone else who wanted to carry on reading? I’ll have to catch up later…
With thanks to Neverland Tours and author A.L. Michael, I’m delighted to offer a giveaway. It’s for an Italian themed goodie bag that Andi is preparing herself which has lots of goodies in it – like prosecco, biscotti and other italian themed yummies. Here’s the rafflecopter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
About the author:
A.L. Michael is hurtling towards the end of her twenties a little too quickly. She is the author of ‘Wine Dark, Sea Blue’, ‘The Last Word’, ‘My So Called (Love) Life’, ‘Driving Home for Christmas’, and ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’, based upon her experiences as a London barista. Her new three book series, The House on Camden Square, starts with ‘Goodbye Ruby Tuesday’ and focuses on three friends as they try to open an arts centre in Camden, in memory of their rock star friend.
She is a Creative Therapeutic Facilitator, currently researching the power of creative writing to be helpful in recovering from eating disorders, and likes running writing workshops that link together the body and the mind. When she’s not writing, she likes yoga, trying to bake healthy treats and was a hipster before hipsters were hipster. Well, she likes Chai lattes and owns a Mac.