About the book
As the snowflakes start to fall, Holly Cove welcomes a new tenant to the beautiful old cottage on the beach…
For lifestyle magazine journalist Tia Armstrong, relationships, as well as Christmas, have lost all their magic. Yet Tia is up against a Christmas deadline for her latest article ‘Love is, actually, all around…’
So, Tia heads to Holly Cove where the restorative sea air and rugged stranger, Nic, slowly but surely start mending her broken heart. Tia didn’t expect a white Christmas, and she certainly never dared dream that all her Christmas wishes might just come true…
Set in Caswell Bay on the stunningly beautiful Gower Coast, the cottage nestles amid the limestone cliffs and the woodlands, where the emotions run as turbulently as the wind-swept sea.
As cosy as a marshmallow-topped mug of cocoa, fall in love with a heart-warming festive story from the bestselling author of The French Adventure.
Life Goes On
‘Welcome back, Tia, you’ve been missed. Glad to see you looking so well.’
Clarissa Cooper doesn’t do sympathy, or empathy. My gut instincts tell me that’s probably going to be the full extent of my back-to-work interview. Even the chief editor can’t ignore HR’s policy for staff returning to work after being out on compassionate leave.
In fairness, Love a Happy Ending lifestyle magazine is a little empire. With its print sales, website and app, it runs like a well-oiled machine. Since Clarissa took over two years ago, sales have steadily climbed and no one could ask for a better mentor.
I suck in a deep breath as quietly as I can, thinking that if I keep my mind focused on getting through this meeting, then I’m less likely to embarrass myself and dissolve into tears.
‘I have an exciting project lined up and the whole team agree that you are the right person to tackle it. How do you feel about three articles, each one looking at two very different types of relationship? They are due to run in the November, December and January issues and will look at what makes the relationships work.
‘We’ve already picked the couples from varying backgrounds and age groups. Our readers will be keen to know how they keep the love alive. How does love change as the years go by? What sort of gifts do they give each other at Christmas? I want pages oozing with sentimental festive cheer. And the January one should slant towards New Year resolutions and shared goals for the coming year. It’s going to be our biggest headline this winter and we’re all very excited about it. We’re going to run this in tandem with a series of competitions sponsored by Green Fern Spa Centres and we will be giving away one hundred vouchers for free his and hers pamper sessions.’
I was right. Her employer obligations have been fulfilled; box ticked, now back to the business in hand, which isn’t simply hitting those sales targets, but knocking them for six.
My stomach sinks into my boots. Clarissa Cooper’s steely-grey eyes sweep over me, appraising my reaction rather like a fine-tuned minesweeper in action. If I hesitate now she’ll know I’m not ready to come back yet, and warning bells will start sounding in her head. I can’t risk being side-lined for some younger, smarter version of me, because Mum would be horrified to see me throwing away all those years of hard graft.
‘Great. I love the idea – sounds exciting.’
My mother died four weeks ago today and it’s my first day back. Interviewing loved-up couples gushing over their wonderful relationships is about as surreal to me at this moment as the fact that I can’t pick up the phone and talk to Mum. Still, not bad, Tia, you managed to sound enthused. That’s quite an achievement, especially since you have just waved goodbye to thirty and obviously have no idea at all how to keep a long-term relationship alive. I ease my shoulders back and down, forcing my body not to sag and I seem to have convinced Clarissa I’m up to the task.
‘Well done, you. The sign of a true professional is someone who can roll with the punches and remain standing afterwards. I thought, given the circumstances, a little stay away from the madness of London might aid your concentration. The details are in here.’
I can’t trust myself to utter another word, so I plaster on the widest smile I can muster and grab the folder she thrusts in my direction. Already her attention is elsewhere and she doesn’t even look up as I turn and run.
Clearly, Clarissa has never lost a close loved one. Come to think of it, does Clarissa actually have any close loved ones? All she ever talks about is work, but although she doesn’t wear a wedding ring I suppose that it’s not inconceivable she has a partner. Or is it? It’s hard to think of a sentence in which the words Clarissa and emotion would sit well together. For cool, read icy. For efficient, read microchip processor. It’s an incredible skill, obviously, but there has to be something more, something that touches the soul. The only people she appears to make time for are from the publishing world too, because it’s all about being seen with the right people and making contacts. She does spend quite a lot of time accompanying Oliver Sinclair to drinks parties, but then he is her boss and I suppose she is a little different around him. But whether that’s a softer side creeping in, or the result of her well-practised social skills, who can tell?
I’m being a little unkind and I know it. What did I expect? The world goes on and whether I like it or not I have to earn a salary to pay the bills. Despite the fact that, at the moment, every morning it’s a struggle to drag myself out of bed and face the new day ahead. Life will never be the same again and now, as someone very kindly pointed out to me at the funeral, I’m an orphan. I remember recoiling, wondering how on earth anyone could ever think that was an appropriate thing to mention. The word was like a bullet through my heart, but I had to agree it was true. My father died many years ago, but for some stupidly naive reason, I thought Mum would go on forever.
The one inevitable thing in life is death. And I’ve just been reminded of that. What made it even harder is that I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. She died in her sleep; a heart-attack they said and a peaceful way to go. But even after seeing her coffin disappear behind those curtains, I still can’t take it in. OK, so I’m grieving and it’s pretty obvious I’m having trouble moving on from the denial and isolation phase. Maybe that’s because I’m not sure I can handle the anger phase.
It’s as if I’m living in a bad dream and when I wake up everything will be back to normal. Time to face up to reality, Tia, this is no dream and you have to snap out of it. Your career-hungry peers are snapping at your heels and shadowing Clarissa is a privilege you must never take for granted. That hunger to continue climbing the ladder and be the one sitting in the editor’s chair will return. When it does you need to be prepared to do battle again and fight off your opponents, sorry – colleagues. Allow yourself this one assignment to ease yourself back in and prove you can come out triumphant. Don’t just do a good job, do a brilliant job and make everyone realise you’re more than ready for the next step.
Jeez, am I really giving myself a pep talk here? Or am I scared that none of it means anything to me anymore? That’s nonsense, I tell myself. And Clarissa’s one of the best, so you are lucky to be able to chase the dream. Stop moaning, Tia, it’s not your style and get on with it.
About the author
Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean with her husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. She won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction Award. When she’s not writing, Lucy can be found in the garden weeding or with a paint brush in her hand.