It’s really frustrating that life is so busy at the moment, because I’m having to turn down the chance to read and review some excellent new books. Choc Lit books are always some of my favourites, but I just couldn’t find a space to read Meet Me at Number Five by Lisa Hill, published on 18th June and available for kindle in the UK and US. I can still tell you all about it though…
What if finding happiness was a race against time?
Grace Cavendish knows a thing or two about horses – but what she doesn’t know is that her husband, top horse racing trainer Charlie Carrisbrook, is having a literal ‘roll in the hay’ right under her nose. When the painful truth is revealed Grace has no choice but to move in with her highly-strung grandmother Clara and cousin Hennie; a single mum who has renounced men (at least that’s what she says!) .
Determined to start again, Grace takes a job at the local cafe, Number Five. And whilst serving up coffee and cake is a far cry from the stables, she enjoys it – especially as she gets to work alongside the rather scrumptious Sam Whittaker.
But the past is racing to catch up with Grace. Can her life still be a romp to victory or will a devastating secret stop her dead in her tracks?
And I’m delighted to be able to share an extract…
It would have been nice to have stepped over the threshold and said nothing had changed. The blanket box full of shoes still stood in the entrance hall with a collection of tweed and wax jackets hanging above it. Clara’s enormous portrait of her beloved Cavendish House – a seventeen hand chestnut thoroughbred, long since put out to pasture – still hung above the fireplace as Grace peeked through the door into the snug. But the rising commotion of shrieking children and Clara’s raised voice arguing with what sounded like her cousin Hennie made for a livelier atmosphere than Grace ever remembered.
It was actually a welcome distraction.
‘Take your muddy boots off, please. I have just mopped the floor!’
Grace did a double take. A pretty young girl with an Eastern European accent and chestnut-brown hair tied up in a topknot came thundering down the stairs in a pair of skinny jeans and a slouchy, marl grey jumper. Grace could only presume it must be Clara’s latest au pair, although Clara’s standards must have slipped as usually her staff had to wear dresses with aprons like something out of Downton Abbey.
‘Sorry,’ Grace said, feeling like an unwelcome guest. She unzipped her boots, dumped them on the coir matting and padded in her woolly socks down the hall, through the double doors and into the vast kitchen. It was full of warmth from the ancient Aga still standing in what was originally a fireplace. The smell of freshly baked bread hung in the air. Usually such a smell would have made her feel ravenous but instead she just felt her stomach knotting as she thought of her own kitchen and her own Aga. Most probably under the charge of another woman this morning.
A pregnant woman.
‘Would you like coffee?’ the girl asked, taking the whistling kettle from the Aga
‘No, thanks,’ Grace said, looking around at the updated kitchen, which was much the same layout but with cream units instead of the pine ones she had been used to growing up.
‘Yes, you will,’ Clara’s voice broke off from her debate with Hennie. ‘You’ve been sleeping in that stable loft all night. You can have some breakfast too. Natalia, please make Grace a full English. I expect Colin will want one too.’
‘Yeeeesss!!’ shrieked a child as he leapt up and punched the air with a games console controller in his hand.
‘Goodness me, why didn’t I insist on private schooling for my grandchildren? At least then we would get some peace on Saturday mornings.’
‘Sshh, Zach, and get off that blessed game now!’ Hennie Cavendish grabbed the controller out of her son’s hand amid a chorus of groans. Grace peered into the conservatory, which opened up from the kitchen, and noticed three children sitting on the wicker sofa: a girl, Hennie’s daughter Matilda; and two boys, one of which was Zach. Grace didn’t know who the other boy was but a house full of young children was not what she needed.
‘Grace.’ For the first time Hennie noticed Grace and flung the controller onto the sofa. She glided into the kitchen and embraced Grace in a Givenchy perfumed hug.
If Hennie had been a thoroughbred she would have been a magnificent creature. At five-foot-ten she was tall for a woman, with an hourglass figure, long, glossy, auburn hair and a beautiful, well-defined, high cheek-boned face. She had all the elegance of a lady but Grace knew that underneath lay the tenacity of a Rottweiler.
‘Finally at the same conclusion as the rest of us? That all men are utter shits?’
Grace pulled away from Hennie’s silk blouse before she either got mud or tear stains on it. Hennie had enough intelligence not to ask how Grace was.
‘I’m fine,’ said Grace, not even convincing herself.
‘Not all men can be shits if you’re bartering with me to babysit for you tonight,’ Clara interjected.
‘Nana,’ said Hennie, ‘you are always going on at me to find a man to fill my time. I finally find myself asked out on a date and you tell me it’s inconvenient. Now what am I supposed to do?’
‘It is Natalia’s night off and I’m having dinner with the Fauconbergs at Lypiatt House.’ Clara’s dainty shoulder pads shrugged. ‘You’re going to have to rearrange.’
Hennie looked at Grace again, her big, brown eyes lighting up as that oh, so familiar, childhood smirk spread across her face. The one where Grace always had to do what Hennie said, being the older, bigger cousin.
‘No way.’ Grace shook her head.
‘It will do you good,’ said Hennie. ‘Tilly’s four now and out of nappies so you only need to read them a bedtime story and turn the light out.’ Hennie clapped her hands together. ‘That’s sorted then!’
‘What about Symon?’ Clara looked at the other boy on the sofa, who was sitting quietly, looking up from under a thick blond fringe. He looked about the same age as Zach, probably eight or nine.
‘Grace can look after him too.’
‘Thank you!’ said Natalia. ‘I am out with the girls tonight, I wouldn’t want to cancel.’
Grace looked at Symon and back at Natalia. ‘He’s yours?’
‘Yes.’ Natalia nodded vigorously as she turned the bacon in the griddle. ‘Your grandma is so generous, she lets us live here like a little family.’
Grace couldn’t help herself. ‘Family? You have a partner who lives here too?’
‘Oh, no.’ Natalia’s face lit up as she smiled, like it was some in-house joke that Grace didn’t know about. ‘He lives in Poland. We were never together. Hennie and I share the childcare between us.’
Grace stood open-mouthed taking in the situation. Two single mothers, one widowed Grandmother, a chauffeur-cum-male-lodger, three children and now her. What on earth had happened to Clara? She could barely bear the noise of Grace practicing her piano when Grace was a teenager.
‘I couldn’t possibly babysit,’ Grace said, backing out the door, firmly shaking her head.
‘Why? What else did you have planned? Anyway, it’s not good for you to be on your own and the children will be a distraction. At least they won’t ask you awkward questions.’ Hennie’s voice dropped as she mouthed, ‘About Charlie.’
‘I don’t think I’m ready for it,’ Grace said.
‘Nonsense,’ replied Clara, ‘like Hennie says, it will be a good distraction for you. Stop you thinking about everything. Now go upstairs, have a shower and get changed into some of the clothes Colin retrieved from your bedroom at Farriers. He should have left the cases in your old attic room.’
Grace watched a triumphant smile spread across Hennie’s face. She turned and fled up the stairs, her feet pounding every step.
Distraction indeed. Much as she could do with one, she certainly didn’t need to be looking after three perfectly formed reminders that she was twenty-eight and still hadn’t reproduced.
Now that’s definitely a book I’d like to catch up on later! Thanks to Lusana at Choc Lit for providing the extract.
About the author
Lisa grew up in the village of Bussage, near Stroud, in the Cotswolds until she returned to Cheltenham as a teenager. She is married to her very own hero, Matt, and has three sons, Hamish, Archie and Laurence. Her first encounter of a romance author was chats over the garden wall between her father, Godfrey, and Mrs Cooper from the neighbouring village of Bisley. It came as quite a surprise in later life to find that Mrs Cooper was in fact Jilly Cooper! Lisa’s writing inspiration now comes from other Cotswolds authors including Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde.
Lisa writes contemporary romance with a light-hearted tone. What interests her most is people, their interactions, emotions and relationships. It’s probably why her career to date has been based in property; she confesses herself that she is ‘naturally curious’. When she’s not busy writing, helping Matt run his electrical empire, or being her sons’ taxi service Lisa enjoys running with her gun dog, Sparky. They are both currently training for the Stroud half-marathon although Sparky’s motivation lies much more in chasing bunny rabbits. Lisa is a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme and attributes this supportive and informative scheme to her winning the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition 2016 with her debut novel Meet Me at Number Five.