Read an exclusive extract from Carol Wyer’s fabulous new romantic comedy novel ”Suddenly Single‘*
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I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.
Today I’m thrilled to be hosting the book tour for Carol Wyer’s fabulous new novel, Suddenly Single*. It’s a heartwarming romantic comedy about Chloe Piper, a 30-something who finds herself suddenly single when her husband leaves her for a younger model.
You can read my full review here, and I’ve also been given an extract from the book to share with you as a little sneak peek.
In the following extract, Chloe has just moved into her new home after the breakdown of her marriage. It’s a nerve-wracking time, especially for someone who lives with social anxiety disorder.
But luckily there are some friendly neighbours around to help make the transition to her new life a little easier…
Ronnie gleefully strained in the direction of the muddy field outside the back door, tail wagging. Snowflakes stuck together in clumps like small patches of white flowers against the dark earth and Chloe held fast, dragging the dog down her gravel drive to avoid getting filthy. The wind was picking up. At the gate she stopped to admire the house opposite. Her neighbours had switched on their Christmas lights, reminding her she ought to buy a Christmas tree soon and make some preparations, even if they were only for her and Ronnie. They turned onto the main driveway.
Ronnie snuffled excitedly in the grassy verges, his nose assaulted by an array of interesting scents. She breathed in the fresh air and gazed off into the distance. At that exact same moment, Ronnie’s lead slipped from her hand and suddenly he sped off across churned earth littered with bricks and stones in the direction of one of the tumbledown outbuildings on the far side of the site. Aware of the dangers of building sites, Chloe raced after him, yelling at him to return. He ignored her and hurtled onwards, leaving her ever further behind. Her breath came in painful gasps, reminding her she was horribly out of shape. Flagging quickly, she spotted his tail as he leapt onto a pile of debris and disappeared inside the structure. Anxious he’d cut his paws on the rubble she shouted, ‘Ronnie Piper, get back here now or there’ll be no chicken for dinner.’
Her words were carried away by the wind. She jogged on, fearful he would continue through the open-ended building to the fields beyond, and then onto the main road that ran past the woods. This area was unfamiliar territory to him and he could easily get lost or spooked. Worse still, he could be hell-bent on returning to their old home in Appletree and to the little Shih Tzu on heat. The sky suddenly seemed darker and more threatening. She shivered in spite of the burst of activity. Ronnie meant the world to her. He’d been there for her when she most needed him and now he was all she had left. She couldn’t lose him.
Snow began tumbling. This time it seemed less enchanting; cold, wet flurries that blew into her face and stung her eyes, making them water. She ran on, puffing with effort at navigating uneven ground strewn with timber and rubble. By now, she’d covered quite some distance and was entering the area marked ‘unsafe’. She clambered over an enormous pile of stones and stumbled into the entrance of a dilapidated building, dropping onto one knee and swearing loudly. Pain ripped through her kneecap but even that couldn’t stop the anxiety that continued to rise in her chest. Ronnie was fast on his feet and could be dangerously close to the road by now. With his dark black fur and grey face, he’d be invisible to any motorist blinded by this snow. A large tear escaped and hung on one long dark eyelash as she hauled herself up.
A movement caught her eye. She squinted at an object a few feet ahead in the gloom of the building. It was Ronnie, tail wagging and head down, oblivious to his mistress’s arrival. He was wolfing down a delicious titbit he’d discovered.
In spite of the relief she felt, she admonished him in her best schoolmarm voice. ‘Ronnie Piper, drop that now.’
Ronnie fell to the floor and squirmed a little way in her direction on his belly, his eyes pleading to forgive him. She marched towards him and grabbed at the object dangling from his mouth. It appeared to be soggy tin foil.
‘You disgusting boy, what have you found to scoff now?’
A warm voice responded. ‘One large sausage roll, two ham and mustard sandwiches and a bag of cheese and onion crisps.’
She turned to face the speaker, a man in his mid-thirties with dark curly hair, eyes like shining conkers, and a broad mischievous grin on his suntanned rugged face. It was the man she and Faith had spotted when they’d arrived. Heat rose from the base of her throat and warmed her cheeks. It was always the same when she met strangers: her insides went squishy and she had a horrible urge to make a dash for it. Her reactions had intensified since her split from William. She wanted to race back to the house but he continued talking.
‘It was supposed to be a late lunch but I left my lunchbox out with the lid off while went to check on some dimensions for this place, and when I returned somebody was tucking into it. On the plus side, he didn’t get my apple as I’d already eaten most of that. However, he did manage to wolf down the core and pips.’ Ronnie’s eyebrows rose and fell in embarrassment at being caught out.
‘I am so sorry,’ she started. The man chuckled. It was a genial laugh.
‘It’s not a problem. I wasn’t very hungry.’
‘He’s such a scavenger and it’s not like I don’t feed him or anything. He hoovers up everything and anything he finds. He’s a glutton. I’m sure he’ll make himself ill one day.’ She was babbling to conceal her discomfort.
‘He looks healthy enough to me.’ Ronnie’s stomach gurgled in agreement. ‘That, though, looks nasty,’ he replied, pointing at her torn jeans. Blood, vivid scarlet in colour, was seeping through the gaping hole.
‘It’s nothing. A scratch.’
‘I’ve got a medical kit in the car. I’ll put some antiseptic cream on that cut.’
Ronnie continued to regard her with abject misery and licked her hand.
‘No, it’s fine. Really.’ The familiar dread was rising in her chest. Soon her body would react and she might lose all strength in her legs or freeze, and the man would think she was crazy or worse. Part of her insisted that the reactions were in her mind, that none of them need happen, that she should be able to have a conversation with the man. But the other half of her mind, the half that couldn’t cope with meeting people, screamed she should leave. She was stymied by fear and grateful when Ronnie pressed his damp nose into her hand, giving her the confidence to speak again, albeit weakly. ‘I thought he’d run away to find his girlfriend.’
‘Dogs, eh? Mine was always going off investigating. She used to come to the sites with me but on Thursday afternoons she always disappeared. It took me over a month to find out what she was up to. She had worked out that the fish and chip van parked up at the village green on Thursdays so she’d go down and beg for food or raid the bins afterwards for leftover chips. I still miss her.’ He looked into the distance, a faraway look in his eyes.
Chloe loved dogs and couldn’t imagine being without Ronnie. Her lips unfroze and she asked. ‘What was she called?’
‘Sophie. She was a long-haired German Shepherd. She had a shaggy coat like a wolf’s and the most intelligent amber eyes. She was incredibly bright. I swear she understood every word I said. Got her for my thirteenth birthday. We were inseparable right up until I took her to the vet. Hardest thing in the world, saying goodbye to a loyal friend like that, but hey, that’s life. You have to enjoy the good times and remember them with fondness. Bet Ronnie has had his moments.’ He gave another smile but his eyes hung on to the sad memory. She ought to say something to comfort him but could think of nothing. That was her trouble: she had little or no conversation. William would get cross with her when they used to go out to work-related events for being tongue-tied and awkward…
‘Can’t you make an effort?’
‘Try harder. Sometimes it’s embarrassing being with you.’
That was before he stopped taking her along. It had suited her to be left out. She couldn’t face crowds of people, let alone strangers. She’d become physically ill every time she was expected to attend a function. Her anxiety would get out of control and they’d end up rowing about it before the event which only made matters worse; Chloe would attend and inevitably end up doing something stupid, drop a glass, fall over, stare at her feet all evening or say something that made William despair of her. The fact was that she was simply unable to mix with people. The disorder had contributed to their marriage breakdown. William’s new love, Lilly, was no doubt gregarious and a delightful companion – the opposite of Chloe.
She was brought back to the present by Ronnie’s stomach which gurgled again and was followed by an especially loud outburst of flatulence. The uncontrollable chattering began again,
‘Ronnie! Sorry. We’re sorry. He’s sorry. Aren’t you, Ronnie? So sorry.’
The man chuckled. ‘Poor chap. He’s probably nervous about moving.’
‘It’s more likely the cowpats he was eating this morning. I try to keep him away from them. I’ll have my work cut out here. Lots of fields. Lots of cowpats.’ She wished she’d just shut up but as usual, she had no control over her actions. He didn’t seem to mind and kept smiling at her.
‘I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Alex Collins, Thomas’s son. I’m the project manager here, so you’ll be seeing me about. I also live here, over there.’ He pointed to the first property, the one-storey barn with the arched porch she and Faith had driven past on their arrival.
‘I’m Chloe Piper.’
‘I know,’ he replied. ‘Dad told me all about you.’
Chloe groaned inwardly. ‘Everything?’
‘If you are referring to a certain “naughty” book that caused controversy, then yes, he told me everything. If it is about your fetish for eating noodles with knitting needles or that you wear a yellow neoprene diving suit to bed then no, I must have found out about that on Wikipedia. But don’t worry, all your secrets are safe with me.’
She smiled in spite of herself. ‘Thomas said he wouldn’t tell anyone.’
‘I’m the exception. He tells me everything. I have to know who’s up here. Don’t want any axe murderers moving in, do we?’
‘Keep it to yourself, please. I’ve moved here to protect my privacy. I don’t want any more members of the clergy or congregation lobbing sex toys at my windows at night.’ Her eyes widened at the memory.
He raised an eyebrow…