That’s right! The second book in my Love trilogy releases from Carina UK today. And to celebrate, here’s my A to Z of Aberarian, the rundown seaside town that’s the setting for the book. And, below, a little sneak peak of the story itself!
- A – is for Aberarian itself, of course
- B – is for Becky, who’s come back to town with a plan
- C – is for the Coliseum Cinema – home of the midnight movie and wet weather matinees – and destined to become a casino, if Becky gets her way
- D – is for the irrepressible Ditsy Levine, owner of the A to Z shop
- E – is for the Esplanade, the road that runs along the beachfront
- F – is for Falling in Love, but who’s falling for whom?
- G – is for George Page, our heroine’s dad, who skipped town with the school secretary – and the contents of the local museum safe – when she was 14
- H – is for Hero – ours is Charlie Frost, seafood chef and owner of StarFish restaurant
- I – is for Ideas for how to get the town on side to save the cinema, and Ditsy has a good one, laid out on Index cards
- J – is for Joe, the butcher-cum-fishmonger of Aberarian
- K – is for Kissing, of which there is plenty
- L – is for Love, which everyone in town is looking for
- M – is for Mia, our town outcast heroine
- N – is for New beginnings, for everyone
- O – is for Opportunities – is Becky’s return one for Charlie?
- P – is for the Postman, Jaques, who delivers a most unwanted letter to Mia
- Q – is for Questions, of which Mia has plenty. Like, will Charlie get back together with Becky?
- R – is for Ruthless, just like Becky’s plans
- S – is for Saving the Coliseum!
- T – is for Tony, Becky’s boss
- U – is for Unexpected help from Unexpected quarters
- V – is for Victory, but for whom?
- W – is for Weather, which in Wales, is never very reliable
- X – is for eXes, and why it’s a bad idea to get back with them
- Y – is for Yesterday, and how the town can’t let go of Mia’s family’s past
- Z – is for the famous smuggler, A to Z Jones
And here’s an excerpt…
People could say what they liked about Welsh seaside towns, but in Mia Page’s opinion, there weren’t many better ways to start a June day than walking barefoot on the beach.
Shoes in hand, she wriggled her toes against the dry sand and stared out over the glistening waves, cheerfully ignoring the line of dead jellyfish left behind by the retreating tide. Even at eight-thirty in the morning, the salt air was already filling with the familiar seaside scents of frying chips and a hint of sugary rock.
‘Magda’s trying to persuade me to open StarFish for breakfasts, and close two nights a week,’ Charlie said, walking beside her with his hands in his pockets. He still had his shoes on, even though Mia had tried to explain to him a hundred times over the course of their friendship that the only proper way to walk on a beach was barefoot. ‘Says we’ll get more customers that way. More people can afford a quick breakfast than a three course dinner.’
‘Makes sense,’ Mia said. ‘But you don’t want to?’
Charlie sighed, and Mia snuck a sideways glance at him as they walked. He looked tired, his broad shoulders slumped. ‘I just always wanted StarFish to be a proper seafood restaurant, I guess. Not just another café diner surviving on serving coffee.’
‘Can’t you be both?’ Mia laughed at the filthy look he gave her. ‘Your problem is that you still think you’re in London, where enough people can afford to eat out every night of the week if they want.’
‘Oh, it’s pretty clear I’m not in London any more,’ Charlie said, gesturing to the seafront and then the rows of pastel coloured houses up above. ‘The smell apart from anything else.’
‘You mean the glorious, reviving sea air,’ Mia corrected him.
‘Something like that.’ Charlie shook his head, then gave her a lopsided smile. ‘Besides, as Magda keeps pointing out, without a few more customers I’ll never be able to afford to move back there anyway.’
A chill hit Mia’s chest, and she tried to convince herself it was the breeze. It was easy to forget, sometimes, that Charlie didn’t want to be in Aberarian. That, but for an evil ex-girlfriend and an economic downturn, he wouldn’t be there at all. When it was just them, catching a midnight movie or tasting new dishes at the restaurant, she could almost believe this was enough for him – their friendship, her hometown.
But every now and then, she couldn’t forget that her best friend would be hightailing it back to London, the first chance he got. Which was just enough to make sure she never let on how much she didn’t want him to.
‘I can’t imagine why you’d want to,’ she said, as lightly as she could. ‘I mean, who could bring themselves to leave all this?’
Mia turned slowly around, surveying her domain as Charlie watched her with an amused grin on his face. The caves, just up the coast, where A to Z Jones’s smuggler gang were said to have hidden, back in the day. The lighthouse on the cliff above, and beside it the tumbledown lighthouse keeper’s cottage she’d dreamt of owning as a child. The Esplanade, with its dated hotels and faded guesthouses, spanning the length of the beach.
Her boss, attacking the postman on the Esplanade.
‘Oh hell. What is she doing now?’ Mia gave her toes one last wriggle, then tugged her shoes back on. ‘Sorry, it looks like I have to rescue Jacques from Ditsy. I’ll see you later, though?’
‘Yeah, sure.’ Charlie stared up at the Esplanade. ‘And you’re right. I can’t imagine how I could ever think of leaving this place,’ he added, as Ditsy walloped Jacques in the stomach with her handbag.
Mia stuck her tongue out at him and dashed up the stone steps from the beach to the town above. Ahead of her, Ditsy Levine, seventy-six and still spectacular, dressed in a shocking pink and green floral tea dress, had Jacques’ arm twisted up behind his back and was trying to prise a selection of envelopes from his hand. Jacques was not giving in easily.
‘Ditsy, what on earth are you doing?’ Mia grabbed the much older woman around the waist, more to steady her than stop her, since Ditsy looked about to topple over.
‘Getting our post,’ Ditsy said through gritted teeth, succeeding at last in peeling one of Jacques’ fingers out of the way.
Jacques – who’d arrived in Aberarian from France two months before Mia was born, twenty-eight years ago, yet still complained about the weather – was not the world’s most efficient postman. But he did have a system. He started his deliveries on the outer streets of the small seaside town and spiralled his way in to the centre until he reached the post office again. Ditsy’s A to Z shop, being next door to the post office-cum-newsagents on the main street, was his last stop. Quite often, the workday had effectively ended by the time he handed Mia her mail.
‘If somebody would employ a sensible delivery system,’ Ditsy carried on, separating another finger from the letters, ‘I wouldn’t have to resort to such actions.’
‘Fine, fine!’ Jacques finally released the post, and the sudden action caused Ditsy to jerk backwards, pushing Mia against the railing separating the Esplanade from the rocks leading down to the sandy beach. Glancing down, she could see Charlie walking back along the beach the way they’d come, heading for StarFish and another day not serving breakfasts. From the slump of his shoulders, he didn’t look happy about it.
With a sigh, Mia turned back to see Ditsy settling her skinny frame onto a nearby bench and sorting through her mail. Jacques rooted around in his inside pocket and pulled out another envelope. Ditsy made a disgruntled noise from the bench, obviously personally offended he’d kept any mail hidden from her.
‘Since we’re ignoring any sense of order today, you might as well have this too.’ Jacques shoved the letter into her hands. ‘It was addressed to your mother’s old house, but I would have brought it over to you.’ He sounded hurt at the accusations thrown at him for doing his job in an orderly manner, and for a moment Mia wondered if he was hanging around for an apology from Ditsy, in which case she suspected everyone’s post would still be waiting to be delivered tomorrow.
Then she glanced down at the envelope. Written across the reverse flap was a return address: G E Page, 15 Cottle Way, Cottlethorpe, East Yorkshire. Well, at least she knew where dear old Dad had got to now. And it had only taken him fourteen years to write. Suddenly it was very clear why Jacques was still there.
Mia pushed the letter into the corner of her handbag. She wasn’t giving Jacques, and by extension everyone on his post round, the satisfaction of knowing what her father had to say to her.
She wasn’t even sure she wanted to know herself.
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