25 October 2016

Book Review: Escape to the Riviera by Jules Wake

"Carrie Hayes is ready for the summer of a lifetime . .

Quiet and unassuming Carrie Hayes has a nice, steady life with long-term boyfriend Alan. But she’s been keeping a secret hidden for years. A whirlwind marriage to Hollywood superstar Richard Maddox when they were young and foolish and life was full of endless possibilities. Although no longer together when Richard went to fulfil his acting ambitions in America, they’ve never quite got a divorce.

And now a chance meeting in the paradise of the glamorous French Riviera is about to change Carrie’s summer, and entire life, for ever . . ."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy the book now!

Another read that I thoroughly enjoyed this summer was the new book from author Jules Wake. I have read several books by Jules now, and was lucky enough to get a copy of this through Netgalley this year. I  have to complement the design team because I think this cover is absolutely stunning, and certainly is one of my favourite covers this year. Luckily, the story inside inside is just as good as expected, and I didn't want it to end.

Carrie is enjoying her life as a teacher, happy in her relationship with her boyfriend Alan, and helping to look after her sister and niece when the need arrives. However, when Alan proposes to her, she doesn't quite know how to break it to him that she is already married - to a Hollywood superstar nonetheless. Richard Maddox lives a life a million miles away from Carrie's and she knows its time the pair finally got a divorce... trouble is, she has to find him first! She hears that he is filming a new movie on the French Riviera so decides to take her sister and niece with her on holiday to hunt down her estranged husband...

First of all, I want to say how much I enjoyed reading Jules Wake's writing throughout the book. She crafts the story perfectly, everything from the setting to the characters is written beautifully, and I really enjoyed every aspect of the book. I haven't visited the French Riviera myself, but could easily imagine it in my mind as I was reading thanks to the picturesque descriptions and detail that Wake puts into the whole book. It sounds idyllic, and I loved the time that I spent there!

The characters in the book are brilliant too. I loved Carrie, who was truly stuck between a rock and a hard place, I felt really sorry for her and her situation. It wasn't really one of her own doing, and as her life went on, she just put it to the back of her mind. However, I enjoyed the change we saw in Carrie once she met up with Richard again, how she seemed to become more free and truly herself, how he brought that out in her. He was a great character to read too, he seems perfect in nearly every way and is still blatantly holding a candle for his wife. The relationship between the pair makes for great reading, and I loved the whole story around them. I really did enjoy reading it and was swept up in their love story.

Overall, this was a brilliant book from start to finish, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole read. Everything in this book comes together to create a great story, and I thought it was a very romantic, hopeful, escapist read that is perfect for the summer, but also for these chilly autumn nights when you need to escape in your mind to much sunnier climes! Jules Wake's writing is superb, and she crafts a wonderful novel here. I am now very much looking forward to her next book, hopefully sooner rather than later!

24 October 2016

Book Review: The Lost Cats and Lonely Hearts Club by Nic Tatano

"Swapping Prada for purrs…

While covering a story, feisty network reporter Madison Shaw gets more than she bargained for when she rescues a box of orphaned kittens. Suddenly the glamazon of the Manhattan news room is doing two am feedings to keep these furbabies alive!

This is certainly a change of pace for the high maintenance workaholic she’s become and taking care of the kittens makes Madison realise how far off track she’s come—after all, she was a stray once too…

When a video of her caring for the kittens goes viral, she knows her image as a hardnosed reporter is shot to hell. What Madison doesn’t expect is the media circus that propels her and the kittens to stardom. And the domino effect that has on her, her career and her love life—especially when she meets sexy Officer Nick Marino…!"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy the book now!

I've been a fan of Nic Tatano's books for a few years now, and was a bit intrigued by this book when I spotted in on Netgalley if I'm honest! It isn't the sort of thing I would usually pick to read over others, but I know how much I enjoyed Nic's writing previously so decided to give it a go! I am really pleased that I did because it was a really heart-warming and enjoyable novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every page of it.

The story centres around a character called Madison Shaw who works as a TV presenter on breakfast television. She's not afraid to say she's quite self-centred, keen on being on her own and having no responsibilities. So when she finds a box of abandoned kittens on a building site, the last thing she truly wants to do is take them home with her, but she knows she must. She soon finds that raising the kittens is a lot harder work but a lot more fun that she ever could have thought... and they're about to open up her life in a whole new way!

Something I really enjoyed about this book is how heavily the cats features and how much of an important part of the story they really were. I have read books that say they are about a dog or a cat, but then said animal hasn't appeared much but that definitely wasn't the case for this book. Nic Tatano writes the kitten's brilliantly and you can tell he has had experience with his own animals as you can picture them in your mind as you read what they are up to.

The character of Madison Shaw is wonderful too, and I really enjoyed reading about her transformation as the book progresses. She begins as someone I wouldn't particularly want to know but by the end, she was kind, open-hearted and generous towards everyone. The way the kittens had worked their magic on her was very touching, and I was pleased that she gave them a chance, especially how she cared for the one kitten who seemed to have taken a shine to her!

There were a few male characters in the book too, the main one being a police officer called Nick who she meets when she's accidentally speeding to get home to the baby kittens one day. He's lovely, and certainly a good love interest for Madison, if only she can make her up mind between and another man who has been sniffing around her! I enjoyed the way she tried to get to know each of them to see which man she wanted to be with, and that she took the kitten's impression of them into consideration too, it showed how much she really loved them and cared for them!

The writing was really enjoyable in this book, and the story was charming from start to finish. If you're not a cat person, you can still enjoy the tale because the kittens are just so cute, and it's fun to read about them leaping all over the place, waking Madison up in the small hours much like a newborn baby does! Nic Tatano really sets the scene well with his writing, I enjoyed everything from the detail of the kittens, to Madison's job in television - that was certainly new to me and I liked finding out more about what she did! The budding romances, friendships and kitten love come together to make this a wonderful read, definitely recommended!

23 October 2016

Blog Tour Book Review: Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

"Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she’s given an opportunity to housesit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan?

What she didn’t expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous–and mysterious–owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife’s death looming, he’s isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn’t appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…

This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Miracle on 5th Avenue now!

I can safely say that Sarah Morgan is now one of my favourite authors, and I simply can't get enough of her books! I love that she writes stories that are part of a series, which is great because I get to know the characters and become totally involved in the books, but sad because I never want them to end, and this was certainly the case with this book! Miracle on 5th Avenue is the last book in Sarah's latest series 'From Manhattan With Love' and features the final character of the three women, Eva.

Eva is a hopeless romantic and not afraid to admit it. She's pleased to see her friends Paige and Frankie settle down with their their respective boyfriends but can't help but wonder if she'll ever have the 'happy ever after' for herself. When she is sent on a job to a reclusive author's apartment to get it ready for Christmas, she's shocked to find him in situe, not prepared to let her in and do her work. She tries hard to break down Lucas Blade's walls, but he's determined not to fall in love again and make friends with Eva. As the festive season fast approaches, Eva is sure that she will find love this Christmas no matter what, and is sure Lucas can never feel for her as she feels for him. Or is there a miracle heading her way?

If you have read the previous 2 books in the series, Sleepless in Manhattan and Sunset in Central Park, you'll know the character of Eva from those two books, along with her best friends and colleagues Paige and Frankie, who took centre stage in each of the two previous books. I was always looking forward to reading Eva's story, and it certainly didn't disappoint for me. The setting of New York is perfect, my favourite city in the whole world, and I loved these books because I could imagine the city so well, especially as this book is set at Christmas and this was when I was lucky enough to visit a few years ago now.

Eva is a fantastic character, and you easily fall in love with her zest for life and eternal optimism, especially her love for all things Christmas! She has such a kind heart, is fiercely protective of those around her but hiding her own heartbreak over the death of her beloved grandmother a while ago. She tries to hide it, but I enjoyed reading Eva's more vulnerable moments when she opens up about her grief, it was so well written and very touching. The other main character in this book is crime writer Lucas Blade, who Eva ends up befriending when she is employed to decorate his posh apartment. He is the complete antithesis of Eva in every way - closed off, hard-hearted, and determined never to love again.

The chemistry between these two was on fire right from the beginning, Morgan has such a way of writing characters that bounce off each other, and you just want so badly to be together! I felt sure Eva was the woman to melt Lucas' cold heart, and was hopeful throughout the book that this would be the case. I enjoyed the ups and downs of their friendship, from how Eva opened Lucas up by cooking for him to Lucas being inspired by Eva to write his latest bestseller. The pair were certainly fickle though, and I was left hanging sometimes waiting for them to just get it together!

As I mentioned, the reading experience of this book was perfect, especially as it is set at Christmas, my favourite time of year. Morgan describes everything perfectly, from the gorgeous huge tree Eva bestows upon Lucas' apartment to the snowy scenes in Central Park that brought back amazing memories for myself. You can of course read these books as stand-alone stories but for me they really are best enjoyed as part of the series, so you know more about the other characters who pop up throughout. However, I felt the skill in this book lie in the fact the vast majority of the book is set in one apartment with just 2 characters - but I was completely hooked. Morgan doesn't allow her readers to dwindle in their attention at all, and I just loved this story so much I couldn't put it down. I'm sad that it is the last I will see of Eva, Paige and Frankie but I cannot wait to see what Sarah Morgan has for us next!

22 October 2016

Book Review: We Were On A Break by Lindsey Kelk

"Is it a break? Or is it a blip? 'You've just had a holiday,' I pointed out, trying not to yawn. 'Wasn't that enough of a break?' 'I don't mean that kind of break.' 

There's nothing worse than the last day of holiday. Oh wait, there is. When what should have been a proposal turns into a break, Liv and Adam find themselves on opposite sides of the life they had mapped out. Friends and family all think they're crazy; Liv throws herself into work - animals are so much simpler than humans - and Adam tries to get himself out of the hole he's dug. 

But as the short break becomes a chasm, can they find a way back to each other? 

Most importantly, do they want to?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy We Were On A Break now!

I was very excited to be sent a review copy of Lindsey Kelk's brand new book We Were On A Break and finally got around to reading it last week. I have to be honest and say this is probably my favourite book ever by Lindsey, and I don't say that lightly given how much I adored her 'I Heart...' series! I was just totally absorbed by this book, its characters and genuinely didn't want to put it down.

Liv and Adam thought they were the perfect couple, so when Liv was told (on good authority) that Adam was going to propose while they were on holiday in Mexico, Liv got her hopes up and awaited that inevitable question. However, when it doesn't come, it causes the pair to start questioning everything about their relationship, and whether or not they really do belong together after all...

Of course, when I read the title of this book, my favourite TV show of all time, Friends, sprang to mind. Who doesn't remember the 'will they, won't they' of Ross and Rachel, and I wondered what elements of that would spring up in this book. In the end, I thought the pair were quite similar to this storyline on TV, but I really did want these two to bang their heads together and work it out, they were both just being silly and stubborn in my eyes!

Liv is a vet in her small village, and Adam has thrown the towel in at University and has decided to work as a carpenter, something he had always wanted to do but Liv gave him the guts to actually pursue. Both of them are really nice people, with supportive families that I enjoyed reading about - having said that, I thought Adam's brother was absolutely awful and I think I'd probably disown him if I were related to him! Liv, however, was my favourite. She seemed genuinely heart-broken when the proposal didn't materialise and I just wanted Adam to man up, make them both happy and ask her to marry him. I enjoyed the unfolding of this part of the book, which happens at the beginning and really sets the tone well for the rest of the book.

One thing I really enjoyed a lot about this book is that it was told from both character's perspectives. Lindsey Kelk alternates her narrator chapter by chapter, and I found it interesting to see how both Liv and Adam viewed things, and how easily crossed wires happened between the pair. I wanted to kill Adam for some of his choices, I wanted Liv to stop moping around and get on with it, but reading both of their stories certainly allowed me to feel more involved in the story, if a little more frustrated as I knew their true feelings and they just couldn't seem to bring themselves to say it! The writing is of course typical Lindsey Kelk - funny, witty, emotional and just brilliant to read. The narrative flows so well from both characters, and chapters zoomed by in a flash because I couldn't stop reading.

As I said earlier on, this is probably my favourite book of all time by Lindsey Kelk which is certainly no mean feat! I just thoroughly enjoyed the feel of the whole thing, from its setting to the characters, both main and secondary and the twists and turns that the book took along the way to its conclusion. I really didn't want it to end, although there was a part of me who wanted it to get there to see if the pair would decide whether or not they wanted to be together! It was a fantastic, enjoyable and funny read, I can't wait for Lindsey's next book!

20 October 2016

Blog Tour: Extract of All She Ever Wished For by Claudia Carroll

Today I am very happy to be hosting an extract from Claudia Carroll's brand new novel All She Ever Wished For. I am a bit in love with the book's gorgeous cover, and I think the story sounds wonderful too! So please enjoy this extract and get ordering the book!

Spring 2002

Eight months, two weeks and four days. That’s exactly how long Kate had been married before she began to see a very different and slightly worrying side to Damien.

She could still remember it vividly. They had been due to have dinner that evening with a business contact of his, along with his wife. Not just any business contact though – Damien had so many, it was impossible to keep up with them all – this was a guy who’d flown in all the way from Missouri especially for the night and Damien was hoping to persuade him to come on board as a Globtech investor. Kate knew it was a huge deal for him and, as ever, the last thing she wanted to do was let him down.

About an hour before they were due to leave, she was still up in her bedroom at Castletown House, blow-drying her hair before changing into a slinky Armani cocktail dress she’d bought in Harvey Nichols earlier that day, a whispery slip of a thing that only someone as long and lean and elegant as her could possibly carry off. From two floors beneath her, she heard Damien coming home from work and moments later, he strode into the room and was straight over to her, locking his arms around her waist and nuzzling deep into her neck.

‘Missed you,’ he said, kissing at her ear. ‘Did you miss me?’

‘Stop messing,’ Kate laughed, playfully pushing him away from her so she could concentrate on putting in her earrings. ‘We only just saw each other this morning!’

‘Far too long to be apart,’ he said, gripping her even tighter. ‘Nine hours stuck in the Globtech office without you? Completely ridiculous. Might have to start bringing you into work with me.’

He looked adoringly at her and a part of Kate glowed, still unable to believe that it really was possible for two human beings to really be this much in love, even after almost a year of marriage.

Their life was completely perfect in every way and although she worried constantly about something going skew-ways, it never seemed to. Day after unbelievable day, she and Damien had remained as besotted with each other as they’d been since they first met. Everyone commented on it; friends teased them for still acting like newlyweds and even the gossip columns were constantly filled with stories about ‘the loved up Mr and Mrs King’.

But then Kate was still na├»ve enough to find being in the full headlamps of Damien’s attention endearing and romantic. The way he was so full-on and almost obsessive about her, insisting on being with her every night of the week and when they weren’t together, calling and texting all the time. Wanting to know the tiniest detail about her day, wanting to tell her all about his.

‘Oh that’s so sweet . . . he’s nuts about you!’ all her girlfriends had said, not a little enviously.

‘Keeping tabs on you, is he?’ was her mother’s only comment, when Damien had taken to calling in to the family home at all hours before they were married, even if he knew Kate was out on a modelling shoot. He’d sit with her mother, charming her, buying expensive gifts for her, encouraging her to tell stories about what Kate had been like as a little girl. Never in her whole life had Kate dated anyone so unabashedly besotted with her and she found it intoxicating. Like standing out in full, glorious sunshine.

‘So where are we meeting the Sandersons tonight?’ she asked him, focused on her dressing table mirror and fiddling with the back of an earring that stubbornly refused to go in.

Damien pulled a face and locked his arms even tighter around Kate’s waist, kissing the nape of her neck and playing with her long, fair hair. He was still in his work suit and smelt slightly sweaty and musky from a long day.

‘Oh, sweetheart, does it matter?’

‘You’re messing up my hair.’

‘So what? I like it messy. It’s sexier.’

‘Well shouldn’t we get a move on before we’re late?

If we’ve got to drive into Dublin for this dinner, we need to get going.’

‘Let’s not bother,’ he’d said after a pause, sliding his arms even lower down her thighs and pulling her even closer. ‘Let’s just have a night in, just the two of us. We’ve both had a busy week, so why not have this evening to ourselves?’

‘But won’t that be rude to the Sandersons?’ Kate asked, turning around to face him now. ‘They’ve flown in all this way and you’ve been saying all week how much you’ve got to discuss.’

‘Oh, babe,’ he said, rolling his eyes. ‘I’m putting them up in the Merrion hotel. They’ll be fine there, with a bit of room service. It was only a business dinner anyway, we can always do it some other time.’

‘But they’ve travelled from Missouri just for this!’


‘But . . . I was actually looking forward to going out tonight . . .’

‘Ooh, now, sweetheart, I can think of ways to keep you far more entertained here at home instead,’ he’d said, unzipping her dress, pulling her face to his and kissing her as he gently caressed the small of her back.

Half an hour later, tangled up in bed together in a mess of limbs and discarded clothes and Egyptian cotton sheets, Damien reached out to the bedside table for his phone.

‘Hi, can you put me through to the Sanderson’s room, please? Thanks. Hi, Greg, that you? Damien here. Yeah, good to hear your voice too. Listen, bit of a problem this end, I’m afraid. There we were, so looking forward to seeing you for dinner tonight, only Kate’s been in an awful car accident and I’m afraid she’s a bit shaken.’

Kate sat up and looked across the bed at him, horrified.

‘. . . OK to take a rain check on tonight?’ he chatted on, improvising easily as he went. ‘No, no, she wasn’t hurt, thankfully, but she’s completely rattled as you can imagine . . . yeah, the car is a complete write-off . . . no, not the Jag, the Beamer . . . brand new as well . . .’

Kate lay back against the pillows, astonished at how easily the lie just tripped off his tongue. He even embellished it with all sorts of crazy, elaborate details. Apparently she’d been driving along one of the twisty by-roads that led to Castletown when another car came flying round a dangerous bend, crashing into her front right headlight and sending her reeling off the road. A hit and run, apparently. And yes, the Guards had been called, and were confident they’d find the culprits. Teenage joyriders, more than likely. For good measure, he even threw in that he’d taken her to A&E, where she’d been treated for minor shock, then sent home to rest.

What was really chilling was that he was so persuasive, so utterly convincing. If I listen to him much longer, Kate thought, I’ll eventually start to believe this myself.

‘All sorted, babes, we’re off the hook,’ Damien said, hanging up the phone and cuddling her tightly into him. ‘So it looks like it’s just you and me tonight. Bliss.’

She pulled away and hauled herself up on her elbows so she could look him square in the face.

‘You could have just said one of us had a tummy bug,’ she said. ‘There was no need for the three-act opera.’

‘The bigger the fib, the more easily people will believe it,’ he’d shrugged lightly.

Kate said nothing, just looked steadily back at him.

‘What now?’ he said. ‘Did I say the wrong thing?’

‘Nothing. I hadn’t realised, that’s all.’

‘Realised what?’

‘Just what a good liar you are.’

17 October 2016

Blog Tour Book Review: The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop by Caroline Roberts

"From sleigh bells to wedding bells . . .

After a rocky start, Ellie Hall baked her way into everyone’s hearts at Claverham Castle – even the miserly Lord Henry was won over – and the run-down teashop regained its old sparkle.

Now Ellie has upgraded cupcakes for fairytale masterpieces as the proud caterer for an ever-growing list of weddings at the castle. The teashop team love baking to the tune of happy ever afters, but can they pull together when a certain bridezilla pushes them all to boiling point?

Christmas is just around the corner, and a last minute booking threatens to snow the team under. Ellie and her hunky hubby Joe have their own Christmas dreams to chase, but they’re determined to pull through and give this special couple the winter wonderland wedding they deserve.

Will Christmas at the Cosy Teashop be a showstopper to remember?"

Rating: 5/5

I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour for Caroline Roberts' new festive treat The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop, which is a follow up to her lovely summer novel The Cosy Tea Shop at the Castle, a book I read and thoroughly enjoyed earlier this year. It was lovely to catch up with the familiar cast again and see what they were up to in a book set a few years after the previous one, but this can also enjoyed as a stand alone festive read too!

Ellie and Joe are loving living at Claverham Castle, and Ellie's tea shop is going from strength to strength, with a good daily dose of visitors keeping things ticking over. As well as this, the pair have started to host weddings at the castle, sure that people will want to hold their wedding at their beautiful home, and raise some much needed revenue too. As Christmas time approaches and things start to get quieter, Ellie decides that they can host a Christmas Craft fair to attract some more visitors. As well as this, a last minute wedding ensures that things at the castle certainly aren't going to slow down for the festive season!

As the book began, I have to be honest and confess that I was wondering where the festive feeling was hiding as it didn't begin at Christmastime! However, I needn't have worried because this was a really enjoyable read, and I loved how the Christmas spirit crept up on throughout the book, and by the time the season had arrived, I was feeling well and truly festive. Caroline Roberts' descriptions definitely helped as well - the castle decorated for Christmas sounded idyllic and definitely somewhere I would want to visit at Christmas.

As well as the descriptions of the castle, I also loved the mouth-watering descriptions of the festive treats that Ellie and her crew at the tea shop were cooking up, from brownies to mince pies, brandy laden Christmas cakes and gingerbread - yum yum! These sounded perfect, I could have done with a lovely piece of gingerbread and one of Ellie's hot chocolates with cream while I was reading! Together with this, the lovely Christmas tree, Father Christmas and much more going on at the castle, it added up to a very festive read indeed!

The story is of course set at Christmas, but there are a few threads going on which made it great to read, as there was always something going on .Ellie and Joe go through a bit of an emotional set back of their own, and I felt that Robert's tackled this issue really well, giving it the time it deserved but also not allowing her characters to become too bogged down in their sadness. The way they used the happiness around them to motivate themselves was great, and I loved the final few chapters with the most perfect festive wedding I think I've ever read! I certainly had tears in my eyes at the most inspirational final few chapters, it was such a joy to read! I really hope that this isn't the last we see of Ellie, Joe and Claverham Castle, they've become firm friends of mine and I'd be happy to pay them another visit! A must-read for the festive season!

9 October 2016

Blog Tour: The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

Today I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Sue Moorcroft's new festive read The Christmas Promise, her first book with her new publishers Avon. I am hosting an extract from the book, and am lucky enough to have a copy sat on my shelf ready to ready when I start reading my festive books!

Please enjoy the extract below, and make sure you pick up a copy of The Christmas Promise! Thank you to Sue Moorcroft and the team at Avon for asking me to be part of the blog tour!

Saturday 1 December
Battling her way along the crowded pavements of Camden High Street, under the red and green Christmas lights and past the huge boots and aeroplanes displayed on the shop fronts, Ava didn’t feel entirely in the mood for going out and having a good time. Today, her first day as a ‘casual’ stallholder in the West Yard market, had seemed endless. And she was pretty sure there would never be a second.

‘Even though I’ve been home to warm up, my feet are still burning and freezing both at the same time,’ she complained to Izz. They’d linked arms to share body heat as sleet danced in the air around them but she wished her dress would magically transform itself into a thick water­proof coat until she reached the warmth of Blaggard’s Bar. ‘It’s only the beginning of December and I’ve already had enough of Christmas shoppers who browse without buying, try on without buying, and especially, especially those who gasp, “How much? For one hat?” and drop one of my precious samples. Also without buying.’

Izz’s teeth chattered, although she was marginally more warmly dressed in glittery jeans and a top. ‘Sales were a bit thin, were they?’

‘To the point of being anorexic, even though I slashed my prices and prayed that none of my bespoke customers would appear and demand to know why they’d previously paid double.’

‘Your hats are amazing. You should be charging more, not less.’

Ava gave Izz’s arm a squeeze. ‘Aw, thank you! But needs must. I do need to eat, even if I can manage without luxuries like restaurants or the gym. I get anxious every time I think how much I spent on tarpaulin, skirting cloth and display stands, all of which look likely to end up on eBay after Christmas. If another casual hadn’t offered us a lift home I’d probably have stuffed the lot in a bin. I should have listed my stock on Etsy or Notonthehighstreet and saved myself a lot of freezing disappointment.’

She gave a little skip to keep up with Izz’s long stride. ‘I hope this drinks party is worth coming out for. It’s a bit early for a Christmas do, isn’t it?’

‘PR and marketing people will be frantic for the rest of the month with clients. Anyway, three of the associates from Jermyn’s were already over here today with a new client. Oh, look, there’s Tod, going into Blaggard’s.’

Ava watched the back of their mutual bestie Tod with envy as he hopped out of a cab and into Blaggard’s Bar, safe from the December drizzle. ‘Clients on a Saturday?’

‘It’s not necessarily a Monday-to-Friday industry.’ Izz was on a short contract at the communications agency where Tod was an associate. Tod was taking his newish and bossy girlfriend, Louise, to the agency Christmas do, and so Ava had agreed to be Izz’s plus one, Izz not currently having a boyfriend or feeling sufficiently brave to go alone.

Izz’s next words illuminated why giving the event a miss had not been an option. ‘Sam says the agency Christmas bash is a cornerstone of team building, so everyone will probably be here.’

‘Ah! If Sam said it then it must be true,’ Ava teased, shooting thankfully through a midnight-blue door span­gled with stars and into the happy and familiar din of Blaggard’s Bar, the rough-hewn wooden pillars incongru­ously strung with fairy lights and mistletoe tied with red and black ribbon.

Typically Camden, Blaggard’s was about crowds and diversity; suits mixing happily with gothic black or steampunk satin.