Today on the blog I have an extract from A Village Affair by Julie Houston. I do have this on my TBR. So hopefully a review will come soon!
Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy head teacher at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.
As if it weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the front of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.
But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…
Julie Houston is the author of The One Saving Grace, Goodness, Grace and Me and Looking for Lucy, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle Number1 bestseller. She is married, with the two teenage children and a made cockerpoo and, like her heroine, livs in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.
Social Media Links for Julie
Twitter handle: @juliehouston2
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‘Where’s Dad?’ Freya, pouring enough chocolate Shreddies into a bowl to feed an army, looked up from the task, spilling cereal onto the kitchen floor as she did so. ‘Bugger.’ She bent to pick up the escaped squares and shoved them all into her mouth. ‘Five-second rule,’ she managed to say before drowning the Shreddies that had actually hit target in full-fat milk. At fourteen Freya was tiny – the smallest girl in her year at school – but she still managed to put away twice the amount of food in a day that I consumed in a week. How did one tell an adolescent girl that her father wasn’t at his usual Sunday morning place at the kitchen table, eating bacon and eggs and toast and lime marmalade, because he’d been shagging her auntie Tina for the past few years and her mother had subsequently banished him from the house?
The banishing of my husband bit hadn’t been quite as calm and stiff-upper-lip as I might pretend. There was no scenario such as you might find in a 1920s-silent movie, where the heroine (me) holds one hand to a pale forehead and points to the door with the other while the baddie (Mark) falls to his knees, wringing his hands and pleading forgiveness, while the other baddie (bloody Tina) slinks off into the night like the she-snake she had suddenly become. Au contraire. In reality, it was like something off The Jeremy Kyle Show. After Simon’s shouting out to Mark, there was a deathly silence as shocked, bemused and amused – I did hear a couple of drunken guffaws – faces turned as one in the direction of our table. Then, as the loud and totally unexpected crashing to the floor of a pile of plates being wheeled in for the main course broke the silence, all hell had let loose. Mark, deathly white, had left the auctioneer’s stand, hurrying through the excited rubber-necking guests to get to me and, taking my arm, had tried to drag me with him out of the room. Simon pushed Mark away from me, took a swing at him, missed and, skidding on an escaped vol-au-vent, landed on the floor at Tina’s feet.
‘Get up, you fucking idiot,’ Tina hissed in a voice so full of venom I would, forever after, name her Serpentina.
Mark, pleading with me to leave the room with him, had taken both my hands in his but I shook him off, whereupon Tina had thrust her Louis Vuitton over one shoulder, grabbed her drink with one hand, my husband with the other (my husband, Serpentina) and together they’d exited the hall.
‘Had to be done,’ Simon had mumbled from the depths of the floor. ‘Sorry, Cassie, sorry to spoil your evening… sorry, everybody… just carry on as if nothing’s happened. Don’t suppose we’ll be wanting that Portuguese villa now…’
Matthew had reached his big solid farmer’s hands down and pulled Simon to his feet, dusting him off and holding him upright while both Clare and Fi had ushered me out of the emergency exit and into Fiona’s car before driving me back home.
Shock is a funny thing. It can render one hysterical or, in my case, totally calm. I’d felt as if I were in a play, that some drama was being acted out around me in which I just happened to have a walk-on part. And now I’d walked offstage and back to the dressing room.
‘Your mum has a bit of a headache – boring night, anyway – we’ve left the men to it…’ Clare had executed her lines perfectly, shouting them up to my daughter as Freya leant over the stair banister, wondering why we were back so early.
‘You all right, Mum?’ Tom had appeared at Freya’s side, his short fair hair askew from his habit of running a hand constantly through the front of it while grappling with maths and science problems set for those already at university.
‘I’m fine, really. Go back to what you were doing. Clare, Fiona and I are going to have a drink here.’ Amazing what lies come glibly out of your mouth in order to protect your kids.
‘Did you two know?’ I’d demanded, closing the sitting-room door behind us and turning to face these two women, with whom, along with Tina, I’d shared all my hopes and dreams, ups and downs since we’d bonded at Davina’s wedding. Surely Fiona and particularly Clare, whose proud boast was that she had supercharged antennae that could detect exactly what men were up to – and with whom – must have known what was going on.
‘Honest, Cassie, I had no idea, I promise.’ Lovely reliable, motherly Fiona had been visibly distressed at the very idea that she might have been a party to this and worse, that I could even think her capable of such a thing.
Clare had hesitated. ‘God, it all falls into place now. How could I have been so thick? I guessed she was up to something: she and Simon haven’t been right for years; we all know that. And she has dropped a couple of hints to me over the years that there was someone else in her life but who was totally unobtainable… but I’m as shocked as you, Cassie, about who the someone else was. I honestly had no idea. It never occurred to me.’
‘I bet you encouraged her, didn’t you?’ I turned on Clare, venting my fury wherever I could. ‘You’ve never been able to understand being with one man, have you? Does it never occur to you that when you’re having sex with one of your married men that he’s someone else’s husband, someone’s dad?’
‘Cassie, don’t take this out on me.’ Clare was calm. ‘I’ve never pretended to be anything other than I am. Just because I’ve never wanted a husband—’
‘One of your own, you mean. You’re quite happy to have someone else’s.’
‘Stop it, Cassie, that’s not fair,’ Fiona interrupted my rant, shaking her head at me.
Perfectly calm still, Clare added, ‘Cassie, this isn’t about me. It’s about you. Mark and Tina and you need to sort it. I’m here for you, but please don’t bring my personal life into this.’
‘Clare’s right, Cassie,’ Fiona said. ‘Look,’ she added hopefully, ‘it might even be one big mistake. Maybe Simon just got so drunk and accused Mark because… well, because…’ She trailed off as Clare looked at her pityingly.
‘The bitch. The snake.’ I turned my anger away from Clare and back to the real perpetrator. ‘One of my best friends,’ I howled, ‘and she’s been sleeping with my husband all these years.’ Red-hot fury was coursing through every vein. I could feel it creeping, running, surging through every artery, every sinew, every bit of skin and bone.
‘I’m not sure there’s been much sleeping,’ Clare said wryly, but I wasn’t listening.
Where were my car keys?
‘Don’t even think about it,’ Clare said, obviously guessing my thoughts. ‘You’ve had too much to drink, for a start. And where do you think you’re going to go? Roam the streets until you find them? Look, it’s more than likely that Mark will come back in an hour or two. He’s going to have to face you.’
‘I can’t see him, well, either of them, going back to Tina and Simon’s place,’ Fiona said, taking my hand. ‘Jack will be there, for a start. She’s not going to suddenly arrive back at home with no Simon, and with Mark in his place. Jack might be a pretty laid-back seventeen-year-old, always plugged into his music, but I reckon even he would notice the difference. Come on, Cassie, take your jacket off and stop pacing the room. He’ll come back home and then you’ll have to… well, you’ll have to have it out with him and see what he has to say. And then decide what you want to do.’
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