I go on my holidays in a couple of weeks, and that’s when it’s rather a treat to read for pure pleasure. And an author who can always be counted on to supply pure pleasure is Sheryl Browne – although I’ve recently been focusing on her thrillers (I adored both After She’s Gone and Sins of the Father) some of you might remember that I love her contemporary romances too. The Rest Of My Life was one of my books of the year in 2015 – Sheryl, just sometimes, does tell people about it! So Learning to Love – published in paperback by Choc Lit on 4th April – is going to be a real holiday treat…
Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places …
Living in a small village like Hibberton, it’s expected that your neighbours help you in a time of need. But when Andrea Kelly’s house burns down, taking all her earthly possessions with it, it’s the distant and aloof Doctor David Adams – the person she would least expect – who opens his door not just to her, but to her three kids and slightly dotty elderly mother as well.
Andrea needs all the help she can get, dealing with aftermath of the fire and the suspicious absence of her husband, Jonathan. But, as she gets to know David and his troubled son, Jake, she begins to realise that maybe they need her help as much as she needs theirs …
I’m really delighted to welcome Sheryl Browne to Being Anne…
Thank you for inviting me along to share a little about the inspiration for my stories, Anne.
I write in two genres, contemporary romance and psychological thriller, gravitating towards family and just how strong a family unit can be. Whichever genre I write in though, people and the whole gamut of emotion that comes with them are my inspiration. I tend to people-watch and I find every scenario, every face, every place tells a story. A glimpsed situation, an argument between a couple or a romantic liaison, for instance, and I have my stimulus for a story upon which my overzealous writer’s mind will weave fictional facts.
The kernel of an idea from which Learning to Love grew was an article I read about helping children through the loss of a loved one by allowing them to remember and cherish the good times. A subject I’m familiar with, it struck a chord with me and I wrote a short around it, which was published in a Birmingham City University Anthology. The characters, though, simply called to me and I knew I had to write their whole story. Learning to Love looks at bereavement in childhood and a single father desperately trying to help his son come to terms with his grief.
But how does a man reach out to a child who is furious with him? My hero, Doctor David Adams, knows his son’s anger towards him is justified. He did something which would be unforgivable in most people’s eyes. Writing aspects of his character that showed him to be a man worthy of forgiveness was a huge challenge, but also hugely satisfying. Fundamentally, “it’s a story about family as beautifully chaotic as they can be” – thank you, Sophie at Bookdrunk for this quote from your wonderful review. It’s poignant at times, but also amusing and uplifting. Learning to Love is about moving on, trusting yourself and opening yourself up to the possibility of loving again, even though life might be full of complications. The book, which has had some truly fabulous reviews, is now available in print and you can grab your copy from WH Smith Travel.
On which note, I can’t resist sharing a quote from the WH Smith Travel Fiction Buyer, Matt Bates, included in the foreword of the book: “Women’s fiction has a rising star in Sheryl Browne. Her novels cut straight to the heart and if you’re looking for a totally engrossing read that will make you cry as well as laugh your socks off then look no further …”. How lovely is that? So proud.
Thanks again for sharing my book news, Anne! Can I just take this opportunity to thank all readers and book bloggers for their fabulous support? It really is so hugely appreciated. I honestly wouldn’t still be writing without it.
Always such a pleasure, Sheryl – let’s share the video trailer too…
Do you think everyone’s convinced to try it yet? Oh, go on – let’s do an extract too..
David turned his attention back to his son, who was surrounded by a sea of photographs, he realised. Photographs of Michelle, from the albums in the spare room.
Cautiously, David walked across to stand by Jake’s side. Then, hands in pockets, he waited again, wondering what to say that could even begin to heal their relationship. What would he want to hear, if he were Jake?
Sorry perhaps? Wholly inadequate, David knew, but it might be a start.
He looked down at his son, whose head was bent in concentration on his endeavours.
He needed a haircut. Needed a lot of things.
David closed his eyes as he noticed the bottle of perfume tucked in the corner of Jake’s Adidas shoebox.
Because Jake wanted something to remind him of her.
‘Need any help, Jake?’ David asked softly.
Jake didn’t answer. That was okay. David didn’t really expect him to. He swallowed back a lump in his throat, then took a gamble, crouched down next to Jake – and silently waited.
Biding his time, he studied the photographs quietly alongside his son. ‘You’ve chosen all the good ones,’ he ventured.
Jake did respond then, somewhere between a nod and a shrug.
‘Not many fun ones though.’ David reached for a photograph. One he’d taken himself on what turned out to be their last time at the theme park together: Michelle, Jake in front of her on the log flume, both shrieking with laugher and soaked through to the skin.
Probably the last time she had laughed – with him.
David breathed in, hard. ‘I did make her sad, Jake,’ he said quietly. ‘I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t help much, but … I wish I hadn’t.’
Jake’s head dropped even lower.
‘She did laugh though, you know, Jake. With you.’
David placed the photograph carefully in the box. ‘Alton Towers,’ he said, ‘summer before last. She laughed so much she had to dash to the loo, remember?’
Jake dragged the back of his hand under his nose.
‘She couldn’t have been that happy without you, Jake. You gave her the gift of laugher. That’s something to be glad about. To be proud of.’
David stopped, his chest filling up as he watched a slow tear fall from his son’s face.
David hesitated, then rested a hand lightly on Jake’s shoulder. Jake didn’t shrug him off.
‘You won her a stuffed toy that day, do you remember? What was it? A tiger?’
‘Tigger.’ Jake finally spoke.
‘That’s right,’ David said, his throat tight. ‘Tigger.’
‘She kept it in the car,’ Jake picked up in a small voice.
The car she never arrived at the hospital in, David realised, overwhelming guilt slicing through him. ‘She kept a whole family of furry friends in the car. I’m surprised there was room for her.’
Jake’s mouth twitched into a small smile. ‘She talked to them.’ He glanced up at David, his huge blue eyes glassy with tears.
‘That was the little girl inside her. The little girl you made laugh.’ David squeezed Jake’s shoulder. He actually felt like whooping. Like punching the air. Like picking Jake up and hugging him so hard … Jake had looked at him. Full on. No anger.
David closed his eyes, relief washing over him. ‘I have one of Mum’s stuffed toys,’ he said throatily. ‘One she kept. Not Tigger, but … Do you want me to fetch it?’
‘Right.’ David smiled. ‘Back in two.’ He dragged his forearm across his eyes as he headed for his own room. He had something else, too. Something he’d wanted to give Jake before, but somehow couldn’t.
The antique locket he’d bought Michelle for her thirtieth birthday was in the bedside drawer. David collected it, ran his thumb over the engraved rose gold surface of it. If Jake needed something to remind him of his mother, this was it.
‘Bedtime Bear,’ David announced, joining Jake back on the floor. ‘Your very first toy.’ He handed his son the scruffy little white bear.
Jake laughed and David really did feel like crying then.
‘I have something else for you, Jake.’ He passed him the locket. ‘It was very special to her,’ he said gently as Jake’s eyes fell on the photograph of himself inside it. ‘She wore it right next to her heart. And that,’ he went on as Jake looked at the lock of hair on the opposite side of the locket, ‘is your hair and hers, entwined.’
Jake went very quiet.
‘Okay?’ David asked.
Jake nodded vigorously. ‘Okay,’ he said, around a sharp intake of breath. David reached out, ran his hand through Jake’s unruly crop, and then allowed it to stray to his shoulder. He wanted very much to hold him, to reassure him. But Jake’s body language was tense. It would take time, David knew, but maybe someday, Jake would let him back in.
Isn’t that just wonderful? Ooh, I am looking forward to my holiday… thank you Sheryl!
About the author:
Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal, Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy, heart-wrenching fiction. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for the Best Romantic e-book Love Stories Award 2015, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.
Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction comes to you from award winning publishers Choc Lit.