Excerpt from the second chapter of Escape to Christmas Cottage

It’s only SIX days until my Christmas romcom Escape to Christmas Cottage goes live! Here’s an excerpt from the second chapter….

An hour later, having rinsed off the restorative masks I’ve had on both my hair and face, and read three chapters of my book, a murder thriller – not sure how wise choosing that was given I’m all alone – I force myself out of the bath.

In the living room the logs in the burner are roaring away. I’m not sure that was still lit when I passed through an hour ago, and even I, with my limited knowledge of such things, know that log burners don’t last all night unless topped up. Someone has been in here. Local boy, no doubt. I don’t like the idea of that and decide that once I’ve retrieved my shopping from the car, I will be deadlocking all the doors. Happily, there’s no sign of him now.

I stand in front of the log burner, my back to the warmth. It’s so nice, I even lift the back of my towel to let the heat warm my bare skin. I feel as though I can do anything I like here, be myself, indulge my misery, allow myself to be happy, even run around naked – once I’ve deadlocked those doors. A ray of weak sunshine pushes its way through the windows and bathes my face, I close my eyes and enjoy the sensation.

I can hear the silence, the peace of this place. No memories – or at least not mine – running through the walls, no resentments, no accusations, just peace. I can be me. The me I used to be. Perhaps.

The snap of a door opening and my eyes ping open.

Standing in front of me is the local lad. Glistening chest wet from a shower, a towel around his waist, he’s towelling his wet hair, his face obscured. Damn cheek.

A low growl.

Then I see it. The dog. The biggest dog I’ve ever seen. It sees me and moves in a blur, grabbing my towel in its beastly jaws. Yanking so hard that I cannot hold on. I’m knocked off my feet by the power of the dog’s grasp, collapsing in a heap in front of the log burner. Attempting to cover myself with my hands – not an easy task given the size of my boobs – I’m yelping and howling as though I were a dog myself.

‘What the f…’ a male voice says, the local lad, the interloper. ‘Kong, drop.’

The dog drops my towel, the lad, though actually, clearly, not a lad, but a big hairy man, retrieves my towel from the floor and, in one swift movement wraps it around me.

‘I’m sorry about that,’ he says.

‘Sorry? Sorry?’ I scrabble to get up, gripping my towel around me. ‘What are you even doing in here? Who the hell are you?’

‘I was wondering that myself. About you, obviously.’ Is that the hint of a smirk on his face?

‘Me? Me? I’m the idiot who rented this place for ten days, not some part-time woodchopper nipping in to use the facilities. I’ll be reporting you to Mrs Lane.’ I grip my towel tighter, pulling it up around my neck.

He’s smiling now, definitely smiling. How bloody dare he?

‘What are you bloody smiling at?’ I’m incensed now.

‘Sorry,’ he says, but the smile remains. ‘I’ve rented this place too.’

‘No you haven’t. You’re the local la… man who chops wood. I saw you. Out there.’ I point my finger rather awkwardly, in the general direction of the garden but have to keep my elbow clenched to my body because I don’t want my towel to dislodge again.

‘Y-e-s-s,’ he says, drawing out the word. ‘I was out there chopping wood, because I told the owner I was happy to chop it. But I’m not local and I have rented this place.’

‘No.’ I cannot believe it.

‘Yes,’ he says. ‘There’s obviously been a mix up. Somewhere.’

For a second or two I’m speechless. A mix up? How? Why?

He stands before me, still glistening, then starts to dab himself dry with his hair towel. His body is lean, but muscled. His body is not at all like Cliff’s.

‘Well, yes,’ I snap. ‘I suggest we both get dressed then come back and discuss this properly.’

‘Okay,’ he turns away.

‘Yes, and you can put your giant dog outside too please.’

‘Kong,’ he calls and the dog trots alongside his master as the two disappear back into the bedroom next to the bathroom, the biggest one and with the en-suite too.

‘Arrogant bastard,’ I mutter. I do not want that dog menacing me inside my own holiday getaway, my Christmas escape.

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Excerpt from the first chapter of Escape to Christmas Cottage

I have a new book out soon, it’s currently up for pre-order on Amazon. It’s a lovely, cosy, Christmas romcom. Read it while you have your hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate – something the characters do a lot…. Here’s a taster from the first chapter:

‘What are you doing for Christmas, Ruby?’

I swear the next person who asks me that is going to either get a punch in the face or I’ll vomit on their shoes. Which would be worse? I am only standing at the water cooler, filling my glass and minding my own business.

‘Oh, you know, just the usual, family stuff, quiet one.’ I force out a bland little smile before feeling obliged to return the query. ‘What about you?’

‘Oh, first we’re going to Paul’s parents’ place for brunch, then it’s over to mine for Christmas dinner at six, with all our lot… blah, blah, blah.’

Suddenly, I realise she’s stopped talking and I have to respond even though I haven’t been listening to most of it because it’s the same old stuff everyone says.

‘Sounds fab,’ I say, my voice rising at the end, trying to sound interested and positive. ‘Have fun.’ I turn and shuffle back to my desk and wonder how much longer this hell will continue.

It’s our last day at work before Christmas. We’re not working tomorrow, which is Christmas Eve, and everyone is hoping we’ll be let off early today. Even me. Not because I want to get home and start stuffing my turkey or trimming my tree or any of that crap, just because I want to get as far away from jolly, festive people as I possibly can.

‘Suppose we’d better put some of this away,’ someone says, starting to pick baubles off the tacky plastic tree wedged on top of the filing cabinet. I look away. Don’t involve me in that, I didn’t put it up and I’m not taking it down. I can still feel the daggers of disapproval flung my way when I wouldn’t participate in this farce. ‘Not even a bit of tinsel on your desk?’ someone had questioned, before backing off when I’d barked, ‘No, thanks.’

I hate Christmas. In case you hadn’t guessed. I haven’t always hated Christmas, but I do now.

The office door opens and I watch my friend, Zara, waddle towards me. The smile on her face lasts from the door to my desk.

‘Hey,’ I say, genuinely pleased to see her.

‘I’m so glad it’s my last day.’ She flops down in the seat next to mine, rubbing her immense baby belly.

 ‘You got lots of nice stuff.’ We had her leaving to have a baby presentation an hour ago and I’ve never seen so much baby paraphernalia. ‘Do you need a hand getting it home?’ I hope she doesn’t, I really do. I know that’s selfish.

‘No, my colleagues will stuff it in the car for me and Ben and the kids will get it out at home.’ She smiles, then nudges me. ‘I bet you just want to get off out of here, don’t you?’

‘Yes. I cannot lie.’

‘Who knows, by the time you get back from your little jaunt, I might have had this baby.’

‘When’s it actually due?’

‘4th Jan, but as it’s number four, it could come any time.’ She gives a little light laugh as though having a baby is like popping to the loo, but we both know that the last time was hell on earth for her and the baby. Personally, I think she’s mad to do it again, but what do I know? She said that she didn’t like families in uneven numbers, definitely didn’t want three children because there’s always a middle one, and she didn’t want that. She’d been a middle one herself and she definitely didn’t want that for her own children. Hence number four; I still think she’s mad.

‘Well, if you’re sure you don’t need any help…’

‘No, you’re fine. What are your plans? Car packed ready to go straight off?’

‘Yes. Clothes and stuff. But I’m going to go food shopping before I get on the motorway. It’s so cold outside that I don’t think I need to worry about anything I buy spoiling, do you?’

‘God, no. It’s bloody freezing outside. Snow forecast, apparently. Not that I believe it. We’ll just get drizzle like we always do. At least this year we won’t be having thermostat wars all over Christmas like we usually do, Ben too hot, me too cold. I’ve got my own hot water bottle here.’ She pats her baby bulge. ‘I almost envy you.’

‘What?’

‘The peace and quiet. It’ll be the usual bedlam in our house and inevitably tears before lunchtime on Christmas Day. Mine probably.’ She rolls her eyes and stands up. ‘Have a good break, Ruby. Recharge those batteries. Message me when you get back. They’re letting me go now, cos I’m special.’ She grins and as I look at her I see how tired she looks. She should have finished work weeks ago, in my opinion, but it’s none of my business.

I stand up and give her a quick hug, mostly because she expects it. I swear her baby girl kicks me hard as I lean in. With three boys already, Zara was determined to try for a girl. I dread to think what would have happened if this one had been a boy too. Would she have tried for baby number five? Then a sixth if it wasn’t a girl, to keep the numbers even?

‘Message me if anything exciting happens.’

‘I don’t know if you’ll even receive messages down there.’

‘It’s Devon, Zara, not deepest, darkest space.’

‘I did tell you it was remote, though, didn’t I? We couldn’t even get a phone signal until we’d driven five miles away from the cottage.’

‘Yes, but that was fifty years ago.’

‘Shut up, you. Well, ten years, I suppose. In the days before we had children.’ Zara’s face takes on a wistful look and she smiles to herself, a secret little smile. ‘I think we conceived our eldest there.’

Too much information for me. ‘I was looking through the pictures Mrs Lane sent me again this morning,’ I say, changing the subject. ‘It looks like just what I need.’

Zara flops back down into the chair she’s just vacated. ‘Show me. Show me.’

….I’ll post an excerpt from chapter 2 soon.

Escape to Christmas Cottage is due out on 30 September and is available for pre-order now. Just 99p/c for a limited time.

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NEW RELEASE – It’s PAMELA Rigby Actually: A witty, poignant, feel-good story about love, friendship and redemption

And finally, it’s here. My new release has taken me longer than normal to finish. There are good reasons for this, not least of all the covid-19 lockdown and the ensuing panic and absolute disbelief that such a thing could happen in the 21st century. Pandemics are the stuff of history, surely. What next, aliens landing outside Bucky Palace? There is another major reason why this book is so late, but you’ll have to read to the end to find out because if I tell you here, it’ll spoil the story.

Pamela Rigby has waited her whole life for this holiday and nothing is going to spoil it.

She’s saved long and hard for a month-long Caribbean cruise, but can’t afford to go alone. Hooking up with Fiona on an internet forum seems like the ideal solution. A seasoned traveller and frequent cruiser, Fiona appears to be the perfect companion. If only Fiona wasn’t so obnoxious, if only Pam hadn’t been so trusting. Then there’s Carl, a boy from the past, a man now…

Set sail with Pam as she discovers that you can’t spend your whole life hiding.

Ideal for fans of Marian Keyes, Sarah Heywood or Richard Roper.

GRAB YOURSELF SOME COMICAL, FEEL-GOOD FICTION.

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NEW RELEASE Sooo Not Looking For a Man: A witty, heart-warming and poignant feel-good journey.

Just 99p/c or FREE with Kindle Unlimited http://getbook.at/SoooNot

After ten years together they’re having the most perfect wedding, ever…

Lauren always knew that Leeward was ‘The One’ and can’t wait to be his wife. The slimmest and blondest she’s ever been in her whole life; Lauren has a dress to die for and she is most definitely not a bridezilla.

But will the big day turn into a wedding to remember for all the wrong reasons? Will the internet ever forget Lauren’s rendition of I Will Survive?

Join Lauren on her journey to move on, even if it does mean taking advice from her stroppy sister and her opinionated, matchmaking great-grandmother – or Leeward’s gorgeous brother who’s offering her a shoulder to cry on and just can’t seem to stay away.

Will Lauren stick to her mantra of sooo not looking for a man? Will she ever trust another man again?

If you’re a fan of Sophie Kinsella, Jill Mansell or Sophie Ranald, don’t miss Lauren’s witty, heart-warming and poignant, feel-good journey.

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Another excerpt from my soon to be published romcom!

‘Ah, there you are,’ Grimmy says as we burst into the kitchen together. ‘I’ve been waiting for my lunch. It’s past twelve you know.’

Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay

‘Where’s John?’ Mum asks, meaning my dad.

‘Hello, Grimmy.’ I lean in and give my great-grandmother a quick kiss on the cheek. She flinches.

‘Mmm. I don’t know. In the garden.’ She shakes her head. ‘Shed. I don’t know. I haven’t seen him for hours.’

Mum’s eyes widen, not in shock or concern, but in disbelief. You cannot trust Grimmy’s estimate, or grasp, of time.

‘He’s supposed to be doing your lunch,’ Mum says, glancing up at the clock. It is indeed past twelve; three minutes past.

‘Well he hasn’t. He let me in, made this cup of tea hours ago and disappeared off.’ She makes a motion with her hand suggesting he vanished into thin air. She looks cross, but then, she always looks cross. The only time her super pearly whites make an appearance is when there is food on offer. She eats a lot for someone so small.

‘We’re going out for lunch, Grimmy. Why don’t you join us?’ I can’t imagine she will, but it’s polite to ask.

‘No thank you. I want cheese and pickle and proper white bread with a decent cup of tea, not a toasted panny and a cup of froth. I went with your mum a few weeks back. Not nice, not nice at all.’ It was actually six months ago and we’ll never hear the end of it. There’s no point in wasting a treat on Grimmy, she doesn’t appreciate it.

Grim by name and grim by nature; my oldest brother, Mark, had given her the name Grimmy when he was about fourteen. It had stuck, we all called her Grimmy, except Dad. To be fair parts of her life have been grim, she lived in London during the war, had a daughter who ran away at sixteen and returned at seventeen about to give birth. Her name was Catherine and that’s who my oldest sister is named after. Catherine died in childbirth and Grimmy brought Dad up. She’s also outlived three husbands. So maybe she has a right to be grim, but it can be wearing, especially as she lives in leafy Wiltshire now with my parents running around after her.

Mum goes off in search of Dad and I tell Grimmy about my dress. She appears to listen and her mouth curves up at the sides, suggesting she is smiling, but her eyes dart quickly towards the door when Mum and Dad make an appearance. It’s all about the food.

‘Where have you been?’ Her tone is sharp. ‘You left me alone for hours.’

Dad waves a loaf of bread at her, white sliced that only she will eat, gnawing on its viscous dough for what can seem like hours.

‘I told you I had to pop out for fresh bread. I’ve been gone ten minutes.’

‘Mmm.’ She frowns at Mum and Dad before turning to me. ‘What’s happened to your hair, Lauren?’

‘I had it done last night. Blonde slices and stuff. Ready for next weekend.’ I let my voice go up at the end, as a verbal reminder without the words.

‘What’s happening next weekend?’ I don’t think she’s joking.

‘My wedding. Next Saturday. We sorted out what you are going to wear last week. Remember?’

‘Of course I remember, I’m not senile. How is Gollum?’

‘What?’ Did I just hear her correctly?

‘Well…’ Mum butts in, ‘Now you’re sorted, Grimmy, we’ll be off. John will make you a lovely sandwich, just the way you like it.’ Mum pats Grimmy on the shoulder.

‘Bye, Grimmy,’ I add, grabbing my handbag and still wondering if she said what I thought she did.

‘Eat plenty,’ Grimmy says. ‘You’re very thin.’

I smile as I turn away; I know I am and I love it.

‘Bye Dad,’ I call. ‘Did Grimmy just call Leeward Gollum?’ I ask Mum as we head out of the door.

‘God knows. Best ignored.’

‘Has she even seen Lord of the Rings?’

‘I’ve no idea,’ Mum answers, a bit too quickly.

‘She has, you know, I remember. Last Christmas with the boys.’ I definitely remember her sitting in the middle of my nephews watching TV, with Leeward sitting alongside and constantly telling them not to talk over it – it’s his favourite film, if you don’t count the other Lord of the Rings films, while us girls – well the adult ones anyway – drank wine and giggled over YouTube videos shown to us by my nieces.

‘Where do you fancy for lunch?’ Mum asks, changing the subject.

‘Your favourite,’ I say, laughing, because we both know that’s where we’ll be going even if I suggest somewhere else.

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Excerpt from my upcoming book…

Soo not looking for a man Kindle cover Mar 19My next book is currently being edited so I thought I’d share the opening paragraphs with you. As you can see it’s quite romantic. Don’t worry, it won’t last. Usual caveat about typos etc.  I hope you enjoy it…

I never used to believe in love at first sight.

Then I met Leeward. Well, not met, more glimpsed across a crowded, noisy bar on a Friday night when I was my friend’s plus one at her after work end-of-financial-year celebration booze up.

And it was only a glimpse, yet though our eyes met for only the briefest of moments we just connected. It was as though a thousand words had been exchanged between us. He had dark eyes, deep eyes and I don’t just mean deep set, although they were, I mean I felt I was seeing into his soul. A tortured soul. Don’t ask me how I knew that, I just did.

Then he was gone, pulled away by an unseen force and I was back listening to my friend’s inane, drunken rambling about auditors and virements and other nonsensical stuff. I did actually know what a virement was, because she’d told me three times in the taxi on the way to the bar and about twenty times since we’d been here – the transfer of a surplus from one account to cover a deficit in another.

I looked around me and saw everyone having a good time, there was plenty of drink sloshing around, anything you wanted from the free bar; I dread to think how much money her company had spent on this evening – I wondered what the auditors would think of it. Not that I was availing myself of it, I had an early start the next day, one which hadn’t been on the rota when I’d accepted this invitation. I thought I was the only person in the entire place, other than the staff, who wasn’t completely off my face.

‘Hey,’ a voice said from behind me.

I turned, and there he was. Leeward. Not, of course, that I knew his name at that point.

‘Hi.’ I offered a shy smile. It was genuine too; I was just so knocked out by his presence.

‘I feel as though we’ve already met.’ He didn’t smile. His face was serious, intense.

‘Yeah.’

‘Across the bar.’ He nodded over to where he had been when our eyes first met.

‘Yeah.’

‘Would you like a drink?’

‘Um, yeah, but not alcohol.’ I didn’t say I was on an early shift in the morning, in my head it sounded sort of lame.

‘Not drinking?’

‘No. I’d love a coke or something soft, though.’ I didn’t want him to think I was turning down his offer, even though we both knew the drinks were free.

‘Cool. I’m having a coffee.’

‘They do coffee? I didn’t know that otherwise…’ My voice trailed away, because he was smiling and it took my breath away. It wasn’t a full on, teeth bared smile, just a little upturn to the corners of his lips, slightly crooked and it had the most profound effect on me. I felt my knees start to buckle and I pulled myself upright. What was wrong with me? I wasn’t even drunk.

‘Would you like a coffee instead?’

‘I would. Oh yes, I would.’

‘Cappuccino?’

‘Yes, please, err…’

‘I’m Leeward.’ He held out his hand. I was afraid to take it, afraid to touch him. What the hell did I think would happen? Sparks, fireworks, explosions, that’s what. ‘And you’re Lauren.’

‘Yeah. How did you…?’ Over his shoulder I saw my friend grinning, holding up her thumbs, nodding in that stupid way drunk people do, especially in front of the stone cold sober. ‘You asked my friend,’ I said, answering my own question.

‘I did. You sit there.’ He nodded at an empty table for two. ‘I won’t be long.’

I flopped into the seat and watched him as he made his way to the bar. I don’t know why I was so attracted to him; he wasn’t my type at all. I went for tall, fair-haired men, I liked them on the lean side, not quite male model heroin chic, but getting that way. I was twenty-five and my two serious ex-boyfriends had been exactly my type. And neither had worked out well. I was only three weeks out of my latest relationship which had lasted seventeen months. I thought we had a future, it seems he didn’t and he dumped me, rather unceremoniously at my brother Sam’s engagement party. I was still smarting from the rejection and definitely not looking for another relationship.

Leeward was short, not tiny, just not much taller than me, and he was stocky, not fat, but definitely not lean. He had dark hair, cut short, but long enough for me to see a few licks of curl around his collar. Definitely not my type, but I still found him attractive.

I think it was his eyes, deep, dark pools of unfathomable something – I didn’t know what.

‘I gather you don’t work with this lot,’ he said, putting our coffees on the table and sitting opposite me. I was staring straight into those eyes. I read pain and sorrow and a troubled soul but not a loser, not someone who needed fixing.

The complete book will be available in October, in both paperback and ebook.

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Bank Holiday Weekend Sale – all 99p/c

99psale all inst

Pick up your 99p/c bargain from Amazon:

Little Mishaps and Big Surprises by CJ Morrow
Fat Girl Slim by Marina Johnson
We can Work it out by Belle Henderson and CJ Morrow
Say Hello and Wave Goodbye by Marina Johnson
Mermaid Hair and I Don’t Care by CJ Morrow
A Confusion of Murders by Marina Johnson
Blame it on the Onesie by CJ Morrow
So Talk to Me by Marina Johnson
Never Leaves Me by CJ Morrow
Stonehaven Trilogy by CJ Morrow

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A freebie to celebrate my anniversary

On 1 May 2013 I released my first book, The Finder – book one in my Stonehaven trilogy. Finder freeI remember the fear, trepidation and thrill as my book went live and I plucked up the courage to tell the world. Six years later and I’ve just started writing my eleventh book – this one, like so many of my others is a romcom.

Reactions were interesting; my work colleagues, who had no idea I was writing a book, were positive and encouraging, as were my family. What shocked me, and still does, was the reaction of some of my closest friends. They weren’t particularly happy for me, they weren’t impressed, if anything, they seemed annoyed. I’ve since learned that this is a common reaction. I’ve since realised that my mistake was to go off script, writing a book wasn’t on their agenda for me, they had envisioned other things – I don’t know what – but I had strayed off their proposed plan. I’d stepped out of my box, I’d flown out of my pigeon hole, I was the wrong shaped peg.

I suspect that I too, like most people, assign others roles, and that’s why we’re shocked when someone does something surprising, whether that something is good or evil. It’s why the serial killer goes unnoticed by their neighbours, or the embezzler undetected at work – because they seemed so nice and normal.

To celebrate my anniversary, I’ve made my first book, The Finder, FREE today. Apologies to those of you who’ve already read it (and thank you) but I know many of you haven’t so now’s your chance to try my urban magic books. You can download THE FINDER direct from Amazon for FREE, but don’t wait too long, the book will be back to full price on 2 May.

Happy reading

CJ

And remember, ALL of my books are always free with Kindle Unlimited. (Have you read my latest? We can Work it out.)

ALL MY BOOKS

 

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NEW RELEASE: We can Work it out – available now

I’m thrilled and delighted to announce that I’ve been co-writing a new book with debut author Belle Henderson. This one is a romantic comedy, my favourite genre – because I do like a happy ending.

Kindle cover FINAL smallCalled We can Work it out: Two people, one opportunity, is told from two viewpoints, Emma’s and Jamie’s.

Never lick a 20p coin!

When single mum, Emily, encounters bumbling Jamie licking a 20p coin to get the parking meter to accept it, she feels sorry for him. On her way to an interview for the best opportunity of her career, she certainly doesn’t expect to see him again, much less for him to be her rival.

When Jamie sees sassy Emily trundling her wheelie case across the car park, he assumes she’s a sales rep. He doesn’t expect to be pitted against her for a career making job.

It’s up to Dirk Whittaker, their Greek godlike boss, to choose between them. Can Emily secure the position without succumbing to Dirk’s amorous advances, or will Jamie resist the temptation to punch him, and win the day?

Will the rivals stay rivals?

Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella or Fiona Gibson or Sophie Ranald, it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited.

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NEW RELEASE Little Mishaps and Big Surprises – available now

Hurray, hurray, Little Mishaps and Big Surprises is finally with us. 

Charlie’s life was perfect, until that one fateful night….

London girl, Charlie, has a great life; fab flat in Covent Garden, a satisfying career and great friends. She certainly doesn’t need a man to complete her. Her life couldn’t be better. Or could it?

Charlie’s life is about to change. From an episode of doggy incontinence to a vomit incident in the M&S food hall, life has some little mishaps planned for Charlie that lead to some BIG surprises.

With a fancy dress party looming, what begins as a drunken nightmare could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to her.

Our now on Kindle for just 99p or FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited, and also available in paperback.

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