Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Spoonful of Sugar - Antiques And A Book Discovery

 Jan 28th - Re-sharing this post as part of Julie Valerie's Hump Day Blog Hop.  Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.
Mary Poppins sings: Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.  While I am not a sugar addict, I am addicted to other things that help the medicine go down. I had a chance to re-discover this over the Christmas holidays. And what I learned about myself should not have come as a surprise, but more of a warm fuzzy - it came as both. Since closing my antique business the first part of 2014 - a formal closure - but one is never really out of the business when you love to look and buy treasures - I shied away fron all the things I love for many months. Until my breakthrough in December, where all the beauty I loved, kept me from my own personal breakdown!
It is not bad enough I am trying to work through getting a hip replacement, and I am on hold with that until I do more to be pro-active and healthy with my daily rituals, such as eating and exercise, but I popped something in the back of my knee right before all the festivities started. The knee more a problem than the hip, since I couldn't walk without pain. A trip to the doctor, a prescription for pain meds, a cane, and an MRI were my holiday gifts! I cancelled all the wonderful plans since I had to rest, per doctor's orders. It was a very quiet holiday, shared with my dog family, so you know, it was a loving one. On the verge of going stir-crazy I frequented Pinterest - okay, you know me, I am on Pinterest every day - looking a lovely cottage rooms. However, over the holidays I spent more time looking and dreaming. When agitated with my knee, the photos of old painted cupboards and farm tables had a calming effect I can't explain. Looking at rooms that were filled with fancies I adore, made me feel hopeful for the future. The knee was just a problem for now, as the hip will be later this year, but the beauty of timeworn antiques and the decorating possibilities of what I can work towards, bloomed like a lovely rose on a dismal day in winter. It amazed me that my love of houses, and filling them with things of beauty, is a constant that carries me through rough days. That is not to say my faith is not strong, this is simply a statement on my never ending affair with things from the past. I became an antique dealer when my own treasures outnumbered my rooms and rented storage units all those many years ago. I guess once in love with antiques, always in love with them. Taste changes, but the basic thrill of finding beauty never goes away.
I know I am not alone in that thought - how home and decorating brings healing and joy. I am reading a lovely book that reaffirms all I feel.
I found this treasure on Amazon digging around looking for gardening books, and knew it was just what I needed to read. An older book, copyright 2002, it is a gem.
For six years, House & Garden editor-in-chief Dominique Browning has written a monthly column that weaves together personal stories and tips about home decorating, gardening, and raising children with universal themes of domestic life. In Around the House and in the Garden, Browning adapts and expands these well-loved pieces, adding dozens of new essays, to create an insightful and moving narrative about the solace and sense of self that can be found through tending one's home.
As a writer I am asked what books do I read. Well, here is a fantastic example of what I love. I am not a big fiction reader, I prefer small intimate books, essays on life. That is also what I prefer to write and hope to do more of.
So, back to the antique side of this post. I am including photos below from Pinterest that brought me back to my senses. I am an antique addict, a decorator, and, while no photos here, a crazy dog lady. Not bad. My spoonful of sugar takes mighty sweet!
These are a few of my favorite things . . . what are yours?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How I Chose My Writer's Platform.


Writer With Dogs. Every writer needs a brand - so we are told.  My brand is six rescue dogs that rescued me. After the sixth dog came into my life and my house, and friends started to think being a widow had made me crazier than a loon, I needed to find an excuse that made sense to those who decided I'd tipped off the edge. It came to me one night sitting at the computer, scratching what I hoped was a mosquito bite, not a flea bite (With a house full of dogs - mosquitos are more desirable than fleas - right? You can swat a mosquito, with fleas . . . it's never ending, flea meds, pest control, and the most dreaded word of all  . . . infestation.) In the middle of trying to work on my widow memoir (back in the early days of being on my own) it came to me. I was a writer with dogs, too many according to some folks, but for me - a reason to live and love. My six foot seven husband, rest his soul, believed a household should only have one dog. I believe you can't put a limit on dog love. So that year I became Writer With Dogs. I bought the domain name ( and, can't be too careful) and 500 business cards with my new 'brand'. 

My first card with my dear Foxy Barth in the center, Annabelle in the lower corner, Bray in the top right corner. They looked so cute wanting in the house I photographed them. All three had chapters in my widow memoir.

I took it a step further too. A slogan. I love my Margaritas, but I live with a six-pack at home. I tossed that phrase around as I slurped my salt-rimmed drink at happy-hour.  It made its way to my website too.

Armed and dangerous, I waited for the next new person I met to give me the evil eye when I spoke of my dogs. It happened within a week. It was at a social hour at a local business meeting. People talked about their children, I spoke of my dogs. All went well until I was asked, "How many dogs do you have?"

"Six." I beamed.

That look again. Crazy lady. Not even, Crazy Dog Lady. I was prepared.

I whipped out my business card. Writer With Dogs. I smiled (perhaps a bit of a self- serving smile) and handed out my newly printed works of art.

In that instant it was clear to me, people understood writing about your dogs more than living with that many. The rest was easy-peasy.

Of course, my Margarita slogan was something I had to deal with a few years ago, when it was time for Foxy to move on to doggie heaven. In the middle of my grief I realized my six-pack now only held five dogs. That would not work. I found Bertha Barth on Facebook and quickly dashed to Animal Control to make her mine. I was in sync again.

I also needed a new business card - and went with whimsy this time.  I loved the stock image I found online.


I have too many dogs, just as I have too many websites, and too many blogs.  Sometimes I wonder if I should reel it in - one website, one blog, but then I know that's not me. I work best in multiples. Six dogs, four or five web domains, and an embarrassing amount of blogs. Writing blogs, antique blogs, house blogs, and blogs that feature books by other authors. The one commonality - I tweet it all under my twitter name, you guessed it @writerwithdogs.

Six dogs is really not too many. I know people who have more. It is a whopping amount of dogs for a single gal who lives alone.  I don't travel, I rarely have company,  getting sick is a nightmare, and I have yet to find a male who thinks it's great I have a six-pack at home. Beer yes, dogs no.  So for me my dogs are my platform, yes, but they have also defined how I live my life. A trade off I wouldn't trade for any other lifestyle.

Not to try to hog the limelight that I am the only writer with dogs. I am just the one who bought the Many other authors have dogs as their platform, or dogs that influence their writing, or just plain like to sit at the computer with friendly Fido close by. I have been blessed to meet so many great writers who are kindred dog spirits.

As my writing contacts grew, so did my big ideas. I decided to take my Writer With Dogs blog and turn it into a forum for writers to talk about their dogs.

Writer With Dogs blog - Share Your Stories
Of all my blogs, Writer With Dogs is my favorite. It is not about me, it is all about sharing dog stories and meeting new authors. Some of my favorite dog writers have been featured there.  I am always looking for new authors to post, so if you have a dog (sometimes a cat has wormed its way in) and write, you might be perfect for a guest spot.

I love dogs, I love books, I love meeting new authors. My brand covers all the bases for me.  It doesn't get any better than that for a gal who named herself Writer With Dogs as she worked on a widow memoir. One world closed and another opened up.

Contact me if you'd like to share your dog story!

This post is being shared on Julie Valerie's Blog Hop for the week of October 29 - Nov 5. Want to join the party and have some fun, meet new authors. Click on the link below the image and off you go!

Visit Hump Day Blog Hop by clicking here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Journal, New Sneakers, A New Lease On Life - Just In Time For My Birthday

My new journal

Update: 9/24/2014 Sharing this post today as part of Julie Valerie's Hump Day Blog Hop. Link here to join the fun and meet other authors!

Lately I've been grumpy. So unlike myself. I usually wake up to dogs rolling around on the bed next to me, trying to lick my face, as my arms and hands flail wildly in front of them, protecting my nose from assault. I've got that move down to a science.  Then I laugh and we all run down the hall so I can let them out and feed them.

They are deliriously happy their morning has begun at 6:45 am. No longer do my dogs sleep in late with me, they have trained me to get up as soon as that minute hand hits the correct time on their internal clocks and they want FOOD.

Fifteen minutes later we are all back in bed for another hour or two of sleep. Since I am the queen of late night - some nights not going to bed until 3 or 4 am, my sleep is non-existent. Some days you will find us napping mid day, basking in the sun coming through the sheer white curtains on my bedroom window, a breeze above from the ceiling fan, and the glorious pastel colors of my old paint cottage furniture shimmering before me as I drift off for a nap and dream.

So how does grumpy fit this scenario? It's taken me some time but I figured it out and I am fixing it NOW.

This year has been a health one for me. Nothing horrible, but one thing on top of another, that kept me from doing the things I wanted. Slowed me down, and I am a fast lane type of gal. I had a bucket list of things to accomplish when I turned sixty-five last year. Surgery, a naughty hip (not related to any surgery), and trouble walking from heaven knows what I did to my feet kept me from getting about like I like. 

A friend gave me a wake-up call this week. I hobbled in to a lovely little cafĂ© to meet her for lunch, grumbling how everything hurt. (Old lady talk I hate,  but indulged in). She smiled at me and gently said, "You haven't been quite yourself since your surgery in February."

I knew that. But when she said it a flood gate opened up. I think having someone take notice, made me sit up and take notice.  Those simple few words, said kindly, snapped me back to my own reality. I needed to take charge of my life again. Get busy on my bucket list.

I still have some doctor's appointments before my birthday next week. But I got a head start on feeling better! My flimsy girlie shoes got trashed for a pair of Dr. Scholl's comfy and trendy chic sneakers. I am walking on heaven and my feet are liking me again, as is my hip, and, yes, my attitude is now back to gratitude.

I also found this sweet pink journal at TJMaxx, where I found my shoes, at a big savings all around.

For someone who keeps an online journal, this book called out to me at the checkout counter, where it and many other items are so conveniently placed to make you spend more.

Today Will Be The Best Day Ever
Another message I needed to hear. I added the journal to my stash and whipped out my debit card. I saw 'grumpy' fade to pink as I punched in my pin.

My first entry was today:
Somehow I'd lost touch with my favorite word - POSSIBLIITES. I'm glad I found it again. I'm in the pink.  Every day I will post a word of gratitude for all the blessings I have and add to my bucket list for the coming year. My birthday is next week. Sixty-six. BRING. IT. ON. It's going to rock!
Update: September 24, 2014. Sharing this post on Julie Valerie's Book Blog as part of the Hump Day Blog Hop. Join in the fun and click on the link or the one below.

“On Hump Day About Books”

WEDNESDAY (Sept 24, 2014) to WEDNESDAY (Oct 1, 2014)

Like To party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie's Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My David Austin Rose Is Blooming!

Won't you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you. 
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
(I hope you will enjoy my rose story. It was originally posted on The Cottage In My Mind blog on May 6, 2014. I wanted to include it here for Julie Valerie's Hump Day Blog Hop! Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop and see what others are writing about.
Nothing says cottage garden more than roses to me. I want old fashion English roses that look like the roses in magazines, climbing over arbors, twining through picket fences.
My wish came true today. In a small way. But big enough to fill my heart with the beauty I covet. And it is growing in my back yard.
My very own David Austin rose is in full regalia with blossoms and buds ready to burst open at any moment.
Now, if I were a true gardener, I could tell you the name of this rose. But I don't have a clue. It was purchased twenty years ago from a catalog. The photo was one of many that I had trouble deciding on. I knew pink was a must.
It took years to bloom. The rose is planted next to the back of the house. My late husband built a huge trellis for me. The vines took hold of the wood railings and started to climb high. But the rose never had a single flower.
Did you fertilize it? you might ask. My answer is no. I did nothing to help this English lady blossom.
I just waited.
And wondered.
Back when my husband was alive he was not happy with the bush. It reached out far into the yard with huge thick thorns that stuck him as he rode by on the lawnmower. There may not have been flowers, but the branches had a life of their own. He pruned it back a few times and tucked the  branches back on the trellis, hoping to contain it. Sometimes cutting it back further than he should at times when pruning was not recommended.
Still the rose bush held its own coming back each year. But no blooms.
The year after my husband died, I had to put a French drain in next to the foundation of the house. There was water in my basement. The trellis was moved. The rose stayed in place.
"Cut that rose bush when you dig the ditch and it is off with your heads!" I told my handyman and his crew as I wagged a finger in their faces.
The rose survived the French drain.
It bloomed the following year. And has had a rose or two on it each year since.
This year it is taking me by surprise.
Huge blooms. Many buds.
My rose bush. Neglected. Managed to grow despite adversity and is now a thing of beauty.
I know there is a life lesson there.
For now I'm just going to watch with awe.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Merry Month Of May When The Widow Vs. WonderWoman

Ah, the month of May. I wrote about it in my memoir The Unfaithful Widow. It is a month that brought so much, then took so much, then put me back on my feet. I wondered if I should reminisce here, it is May again, or just stay with the 'new me' that feels more like Wonder Woman these days. But I would not be true to writing about my experiences if I let my thoughts go today. And if you know me, truth sets me free.

This blog started in December 2009 to get ready for the launch of my widow memoir. Everything I read about promotion for books enticed me to start early to have a small platform. This blog featured 'lessons learned' at the end of each post. My widow lessons learned came from lessons learned from my dogs. I loved adopting dogs so much, I now live with a pack of six rescue dogs that rescued me.

The month of May. How many memories can one month hold? It is the turning point for me each year to reflect. I met my husband in May all those many years ago. We married in May and had five years together as husband and wife, which added to the years we lived together, gave us a history of 25 years. He passed away in May 2008. In May 2009, I had a 'coming out' celebration at the house to celebrate my friends and all the love that was shared with me that year. I had just started my dog adoption frenzy, so there was just Foxy, the Grand Dame of small German Shepherds and Bray, my first rescue dog. It was easy to entertain in my house then with only two dogs.

Now, six years and six dogs later, it is harder to have people over, but I am working on it for my dog loving friends who are brave. As a mad collector of things, I kid, I could have a lovely tea party for six, and everyone could have their own Victorian silverplate tea service and a dog for their lap. My kind of tea party would also include a pitcher of Margaritas, so tasty with cheese straws and in tiny cups, so ladylike to keep sipping!

The Unfaithful Widow book launch was in May 2010 with a grand party at a friend's bed and breakfast and was an event/silent auction for Animal Action Rescue. I am still on their website under links we like. A very proud thing for me the crazy dog lady. We made some money for them that night. Every cent went to the folks that brought me Bray, and then some of my other dogs down the road. I had my first blog tour with WOW Women in Writing that month too. This May I am on tour with WOW again to promote my first fiction novel Danger In Her Words.

My wonderful Mother has her birthday on May 22nd. I can't forget that. It is a reminder how lucky I am to have her in my life. She reminds me you can do anything, be anything, at any age. She wrote when we were kids and went back to her writing roots at age 85. She will be turning 86 and has three books on Amazon with a fourth to come. Her website is Audrey Frank Author. She is the inspiration that keeps me moving forward thinking I can conquer the world, make my life what I want it to be, despite all the things that can go wrong, but can work for you if you leave your heart open.

Six years a widow this month. It seems so strange. At first the days seemed endless, how would I survive? Now I look back on all that has happened and wonder where the time has gone. I have the books I've written, my wonderful friends, both from years of knowing each other to new women who have enriched my life. I opened and closed an antique shop, The Little Shop of Arts and Antiques, that became a hub for writers and artists. I started a writers guild that still meets. A Book Talk blog to promote other authors.  I appeared in a snippet of an interview on Lifetime Television's The Balancing Act, a morning show for women. I blogged for them for several years. I sleep with dogs, hmm, not those bad dates I used to write about, but my wagging tail buddies that surround me with love.

I am in the same house, living a life close to home, that is as rich as any life I could ask for. My fears and loss made me step out of my comfort zone to do things I would never have done in the safety net of my marriage. But my marriage, my husband's constant for all those years, gave me a secure base to start from. It was about creating something good that would make sense of my loss.

Last August I turned sixty-five. I don't feel it. I do feel like an odd bird out some days, at my age there are no children, no grand kids, when most everyone I know, despite their marital status, has them. I wondered how life would be different if I'd had children. Then a new friend said to me she wondered what life would have been like if she didn't have her kids and grandchildren. There was food for thought for both of us. We decided we are happy where we are. Isn't that the best place to be in life? Happy.

Will I find someone again? It is still not my answer - although sometimes I think about it. What I found was me. I feel like Wonder Woman on so many levels.

I am blessed to have happiness. I am blessed to have the month of May to make me remember all that I loved, still love, and all that is yet to come.  A month that full has got to be a merry month!

Traded my widow crown for my Wonder Woman accessories. Wanting to be my own super hero.


Monday, May 5, 2014

My Blog Tour With 'WOW Women On Writing' Starts Today

Words from WOW on Danger In Her Words:

Starting something new almost always leads to that old familiar feeling of butterflies in your stomach. New homes. New romances. New jobs. New friends. Change can be fun but it can also be unsettling...really scary! Danger In Her Words combines the fun of new romance with the thrill of a killer on the loose for a book you won't be able to put down.

Danger In Her Words is Barbara Barth's first novel--or is it her first two novels? Danger In Her Words is a story within a story that allows you to enjoy the story of Sue, a writer, as well as the story of Jamie, the character in the romance book Sue is writing.

Stop by The Muffin today and learn more about Barbara Barth in an author interview, and enter to win a copy of Danger In Her Words! The giveaway ends on Tuesday, May 13 at 12:00am EST. Tweet about this great giveaway using the hashtag #BarbaraBarth. Don't miss it!

Tour schedule:

Monday, May 5 (today!) @ The Muffin

Stop by for an interview with Barbara Barth and a chance to win Danger in her Words.

Tuesday, May 6 @ Romance Junkies
Need a new romance? Romance Junkies is reviewing the romance in Danger in her Words and giving you a chance to win a copy.

Friday, May 9 @ All Things Audry

Thinking about a book trailer for you book? Barbara Barth, author of Danger in her Words, tells us all about the fun she had creating her book trailer.
Monday, May 12 @ Bookhounds
Learn more about Barbara Barth in today's interview and enter to win her debut novel Danger in her Words.

Wednesday, May 14 @ Deal Sharing Aunt
Stop by for a review of Danger in her Words, the debut novel of Barbara Barth.
Friday, May 16 @ Vickie S. Miller
Don't miss a chance to meet writer Barbara Barth and enter to win her debut novel Danger in her Words.

Thursday, May 22 @ Traveling with T
Barbara Barth, author of the novel Danger in her Words, stops by to write about the importance of girlfriends.
Friday, May 23 @ Bibliotica
Want to enjoy a book that combines thrills and romance when you're picnicking over Memorial Day Weekend? Try Danger in her Words by Barbara Barth that is being reviewed today.
Wednesday, May 28 @ Words by Webb
Find out what blogger Jodi thinks about new beginnings and Danger in her Words, a romance thriller all about starting over.
Monday, June 2 @ Lusty Penguin Reviews
Learn about the healing power of dogs from Barbara Barth, author of Danger in her Words and a woman who has never written a book that doesn't include a dog. Stop by and share stories of your favorite dog.
Thursday, June 5 @ The New Book Review
Want the 411 on Danger In Her Words? Stop by for a review of Barbara Barth's debut novel!

Friday, June 6 @ All things Girl
All Things Girl wants to share All Things Barbara--Barbara Barth that is. Don't miss today's interview with the author about her dogs, antiques and her latest book Danger in her Words. 
I love WOW/ Women On Writing. It is an amazing site for authors. If you are not familiar with it be sure to link to their site and check it out. Fantastic resources, reviews, blog tours, contests . . . the list goes on. My memoir The Unfaithful Widow went on tour with WOW in 2010. I am so excited to be back with a bit of danger! 

Link Here To Visit WOW

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cathy Bramley "Conditional Love" Blog Tour Continues

Visit CLP Blog Site For Destinations On This Tour!
Buy / Peek Inside on Amazon

Click Here to enter Amazon Gift Card Giveaway
About The Book
Meet Sophie Stone, a thirty-something serial procrastinator. Tesco knickers, Take That and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets. Sophie’s life is safe and predictable, which is just the way she likes it, thank you very much.

But when her boyfriend dumps her on Valentine’s Day and a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, Sophie has to accept that change is afoot. There is a catch: in order to inherit, Sophie must agree to meet the father she has never seen.

With interference from an evil boss, bickering flat mates, warring parents and a sexy ex-boyfriend, Sophie has plenty to contend with without an architect who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth.

She will have to face the past and learn some uncomfortable home truths before she can finally build a future on her own terms.

Meet The Author
Visit Her Website

Cathy Bramley is a British author of women’s feel-good fiction. Conditional Love, a romantic comedy is her debut novel. Her new title, Ivy Lane is being serialized as four ebooks this year and will be released as a paperback in 2015.

Cathy has spent most of her working career in the crazy world of marketing. After graduating from University in Nottingham, she plunged herself into corporate world, working on high-powered projects such as testing the firing range of SuperSoaker water guns and perfecting the weeing action of Tiny Tears. In 1995  she set up her own marketing agency, Apples & Pears Marketing, but now most of her marketing activities involve promoting her books.

She lives in an idyllic Nottinghamshire village with her husband, two daughters and a dog called Pearl.

Guest Post
Grand Designs on Writing My First Book! 
Thank you so much, Barbara for taking part in the Conditional Love CLP Blog Tour and allowing me to write a guest post for your blog!
Conditional Love is my debut novel and as such I decided to keep things simple for myself and write about something I know – property development.
In Conditional Love, the main character, Sophie, inherits a run down bungalow in a small village on the outskirts of Nottinghamshire. Well, that happened to me – or should I say, my husband, when his father suddenly passed away.
In our case there was no mystery inheritance and no condition in the will, however, we did decide to develop the property and in fact we demolished the little bungalow and built a house ourselves on the site.
Does Sophie go on to build the house of her dreams? You’ll have to read the book to find out, but I can tell you that the book isn’t the least bit auto-biographical!
Sophie and I do share one passion though and that is the British TV show Grand Designs.

The show is mentioned throughout the book. I know that there is an Australian version, but I don’t think it has ever made it to the USA. Grand Designs is fabulous programme which has been running for years.  It follows self-builders from the start of their project right through until they move into their dream home. In fact, the show has become so popular that there is a monthly magazine accompanying the series as well as two large national exhibitions every year. My husband and I attended a couple of these shows when we were planning our own house build and they were amazing.

Each TV episode is usually packed with drama: things go wrong with the build or the home owners run out of money or fall out with the workmen! But what I love about it is the creativity that these people have and the determination to pursue their dreams. Of course, it nearly always turns out right in the end.

And for an author who loves happy endings, what more could I want from a TV show!
Extract from Chapter four 

In the centre of the desk, lay an open file. I shuffled forward to the edge of my seat and managed to read my own name at the top of the page. I inched closer still, squinting to read more.

‘And you are?’

The deep voice made me jump so much that I panicked, slid off the chair and down onto one knee, thus greeting the tall, thin man with dark hair, glasses and a bushy beard in some sort of weird marriage proposal stance.

I scrambled up off the floor, mortified, and sat back down. ‘Nothing! Just waiting for Mr Whelan.’

His lips twitched and he gave his beard a scratch.

‘I’m Thomas Whelan.’ He extended a hand towards me. ‘And you are?’

‘Oh! Sophie Stone.’ I shook his hand and pulled up the collar of my coat to hide my glowing cheeks.

‘Ah yes,’ he said settling himself at his desk. He glanced at the file that I’d had been trying to read. ‘You’ve come about your aunt’s will.’

I processed this new information, hitherto unaware I had an aunt. Alive or dead.

‘My aunt?’

Mr Whelan blinked furiously, referred back to the manila file and adjusted his glasses.

‘My apologies, Miss Stone, your great aunt.’

Well that was that then. She had to be one of my father’s relations. There were definitely no great aunts in Mum’s family. There was no one at all in her family. I sighed. I had been hoping… well, I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d been hoping. Maybe that she was an old lady I’d done a good deed for once when I was in the Brownies or something. Although, I couldn’t think what I’d done to warrant a mention in anybody’s will.

But any tenuous link would be better than being a relative of Terry Stone’s. Still, I’d better be absolutely sure.

‘Would you mind just running me through the family tree?’

‘Of course not,’ said Mr Whelan, pushing his chair back and standing up abruptly. ‘But first, have you brought your passport?’

I jumped to my feet too.  ‘Why? Where are we going?’ I had been told on the phone to bring my passport when I arranged the appointment and the request had been troubling me ever since.

‘Only to the photocopier,’ he chuckled. ‘Need to verify you are who you say you are before we continue with the reading of the will.’

Thank heavens for small mercies! I had had visions of having to jump on a plane at a moment’s notice to take ownership of some mystery item.

Identity checks complete, we resumed our positions either side of the desk. The solicitor took off his wristwatch, set it to one side and then, elbows on the desk, clasped his hands together and made a steeple with his forefingers, resting his long nose on the tip.

‘This office holds the last will and testament of Mrs Jane Kennedy. She was Terence Stone’s maternal aunt. Your great aunt.’

I stared at him, mesmerised by the end of his nose which was protruding over his fingers.

I should stop him from going any further. There was no point in hearing what he had to say. My father had been absent for all of my thirty- two years. Mum and I had managed perfectly well without his or his family’s help, thank you very much and I knew instinctively that she would resent any intervention at this stage in the game. Besides, why would the old dear leave anything to me? It didn’t make sense, we’d never even met.

‘Long and tedious documents, wills.’

My eyes must have glazed over for a moment. I shook myself and Mr Whelan’s eyes twinkled at me.

‘There’s been a misunderstanding,’ I said, scooping up my bag as I stood. ‘My mother is estranged from her ex-husband. I’ve never met Jane Kennedy; in fact, I’ve never met my father.’

‘I’m aware of all that,’ he said, not unkindly. ‘However, it falls to me to ensure that you are fully informed as to your inheritance. Please sit.’ He flapped a hand at the empty chair. ‘Would you like me to read the whole thing or cut to the chase?’

I blinked my green eyes at him. Was he allowed to say things like that? I sat back down obediently.

‘The main bits, please.’

‘Righto.’ Mr Whelan extracted a document and a small sealed envelope from the file. He pushed his glasses up his nose and cleared his throat. I held my breath.

‘Your great aunt Jane has bequeathed the bulk of her estate to you. You, Miss Stone are the main beneficiary of her will.’

An estate! Visions of strolling through manicured gardens like someone out of Pride and Predjudice, against a backdrop of a Chatsworth-style mansion, on Marc’s arm, were somewhat dimmed with Mr Whelan’s next sentence.

‘There’s a bungalow in Woodby and several thousand pounds. We haven’t finalised the amount yet.’

Woodby? That was a village in the sticks somewhere north of Nottingham. A bungalow and some money. I repeated the words in my head. That was a house and some actual money-in-the-bank type dosh.

My chest had been getting tighter and tighter with lack of oxygen and now I was all panicky. Breathe, Sophie, in out, in out. I probably looked like I was in labour: face all red, and puffing like Ivor the engine.

A house. My great aunt had given me a house. Of my own. And that meant a home. How long had I been dreaming of my own home? Only all my life, that was how long.

Mr Whelan’s lips were moving. He was still speaking and I hadn’t been listening. He was holding an envelope out to me and I took it automatically.

‘As I say, there is a condition to the inheritance, but I think it would be better if you read Mrs Kennedy’s letter yourself. I’ll leave you in private for a moment. Can I get you some coffee?’

‘Tea please, two sugars.’

Condition? I wasn’t sure I could take any more surprises. Life was so much gentler without them. My heart rate was already registering at least a seven on the Richter scale.

‘Actually, make it three!’
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