Book Reviews

Book and Author Details : Caravan by Adam DeCollibus

Thank you Third Lion Publishing for sending me a free e-copy in exchange for a review.


About the book:

William Abney is a war journalist from London, England. After serving in the first world
war as a photographer he returns to England and makes his living taking baby portraits.
He gets desperate for money and decides to find another job. The novel opens with him
going to an interview to work for a newspaper called, The London Dove. He meets
Reginald, the owner of the newspaper, whose is an unstable alcoholic, and a little
disillusioned. William senses that there isn’t something right in the job but takes the job
anyway. The contract, proposed by Reginald, is that William travel first to Morocco then
across the Sahara, taking pictures of the locals and anything of cultural value that can
be used in the magazine, this demand for news on the cultures of North Africa coming
from the British soldiers returning from fighting there.

William takes a ship to Arish, a town on the coast of Morocco. He stays there for several
days and meets some very interesting characters, some openly cold to him, others
extremely warm and welcoming. He sees that the population in the city are divided into
three groups. The foreigners, manly Europeans coming because of the news from the
soldiers, and the locals of Arish who are split into two groups, one side wants the
foreigners there because they are good for business. The other half doesn’t because
they have taken so much advantage of the foreigners being there that they unknowingly
made it so that if the foreigners choose to suddenly leave a lot of business will go
bankrupt and hard times will come.

William takes a caravan across the desert and little by little he becomes more interested
in the desert. He becomes obsessed with seeing the dunes and feeling the silence at
the center of the desert. During his travel he meets Hans, a chess champion from
Germany whose history, like William’s, is marred by the First World War. He meets
Alexander, a once wealthy factory man from England whose wife framed him and he is
hiding in the desert. He becomes good friends with the leader of the Caravan, Hakeem,
a charismatic leader who has two sides, the fearless politician and the sensitive human
side. He falls in love with a Gypsy woman who is traveling to a small village out of
Yemen to see her grandfather, who is getting old. He also hears of a strange and
frightening legend. The legend of the Desert King, a soldier whose soul was taken over
by an evil spirit and who has spent the centuries hunting and killing anyone who
crossed his sacred desert with his army of blood thirsty warriors.

When the caravan gets close to the middle of the desert, its most vulnerable point in the
journey, William begins to think about his life in the caravan and realizes how much he
loves his life here instead of the one he lived in England. When William decides that
he’s going to find a way to stay, the people of the caravan discover that their well is
poisoned. Because of the vast amount of people affected by the poisoning the caravan
has to stop and recover. People begin deserting the camp and more and more clues
begin to reveal themselves to William in sinister ways that they are in fact being hunted.
When he discovers who is hunting them it’s already to late and what happens next
forces William to fight for his life in the caravan and the lives of his friends.

 

Goodreads | Amazon


An excerpt from Caravan, courtesy of Third Lion Publishing

It was like every London morning since the beginning of time. Foggy and wet. To all but a few, today seemed as though it was just another unadventurous happening. In his opinion, William belonged to the majority, and his stare out the coach window reflected his own bored confidence at life’s repetition, though inside he craved for the Fates to intervene.
The cobblestone street was empty and lined with lampposts glowing yellow in the fog. Over the roofs, long tongues of smoke emitted from industrial factories added to the gray in the sky. The coach came to a gradual stop on the left side of the street. William, a slender man wearing an earthy brown suit, stepped out of the coach and walked to the driver.
“How much do I owe you?” William asked.
“Thirteen pounds, sir,” the driver replied.
“Very well, let me see,” William said in a cheery voice as he reached into the right pocket of his trousers and rummaged around. William drew a fist out of his pocket and opened it. “I’m afraid two is all I’ve got. I am terribly sorry,” he said, looking up from his hand, slightly afraid the driver might become angry.
“Going through a bit of a rough patch?” the man asked.
William gave a disheartened nod.
“Well if that’s all you got, I’ll take it,” the driver said, barely satisfied, while lowering an opened hand to William. As the money traded palms, an automobile purred past the coach and disappeared farther down the street. The taxi driver tipped his top hat and sent the coach rolling forward in a sudden jolt. Now penniless, William watched as the coach carried his last two pounds down the street. He had earned the money taking a baby portrait, which had hurt his ears more than his ego. As far as he was concerned, not starving to death was more important than his honor.

William turned toward the building to his left. In front of him was a
small set of stairs that led up to a massive black door. He reached into the
front pocket of his coat and took out a piece of paper that opened to reveal
an odd triangular shape. Scribbled in the center in blue ink was a simple
note: London Dove. Reginald Helee. William looked up from the paper. Above
the door was a white plaque, reading, “The Office of the London Dove,” in a
tangle of black paint.
A sigh of determination filled the misty air.
William walked up the steps. The sound of faintly clattering typewriters
came through the door. He tapped the knocker several times and waited,
taking a step back toward the handrail. While waiting for the door to open
he turned away and looked down the street. My last two pounds, William
thought, his mind too focused on his money to notice a low, dull chime
sounding in the distance. It was seven o’clock in the morning.
A loud sequence of clicks sounded from the door and William turned
around to a man smoking a cigarette. The man’s hair was slicked back, and
he had a thin mustache. “How can I help you?” he asked in a drowsy voice,
the sound of a hundred typewriters clattering and dinging behind him.
“I am here for an appointment with Mr. Reginald Helee,” William said.
“Your name?”
“Abney, William Abney.” He smiled sadly as he stepped closer to the door.
“Abney?” the man said, frowning, and William’s heartbeat fastened for
fear that something was wrong. “Oh, Abney. You’re here to take pictures,” the
man stated, recognition brightening his eyes.
“That’s right,” William nodded, feeling relieved that his name had not
been lost in the pile of candidates who had responded to the newspaper’s
simple advertisement: “Photographer wanted.”
“Come on in. Mr. Helee is expecting you,” the man said as he stepped back,
releasing the full roar of the typewriters. William walked through the door,
and the man closed it behind him. The room was plain and crammed wall to
wall with wooden desks. Behind them sat young men with black vests and
rolled-up sleeves, punching away at typewriters like their lives depended on
it. Second to the clattering that filled the air was a cloud of cigarette smoke
that hung just below the ceiling. The atmosphere in the room was so noisy
and busy that William had forgotten about the man standing next to him.
“Your coat?” the man asked.
“Ah, forgive me,” William said handing over the coat, and the man hung it
among a long line of overcoats and hats.
“Come this way,” the man said, walking past William through the rows
of desks. William followed. They turned right and entered a narrow hall that
led away from the main room. Flanking the narrow hallway were the doors
to other offices. At the end of the hall, a wooden staircase twisted up to the
second story, a single naked bulb the only source of light. The man started up
the stairs and William followed him.

“You can wait here,” the man said, looking down on William as if he were
unworthy to ascend the steps.
William stepped down and the man continued marching up alone.
William took a seat on the stairs and looked up at the ceiling. As he listened
to the echoing footsteps, they became fainter as they reached the lofty gloom
coming from the light bulb above. Then came a knocking, followed by the
muffled sound of a relaxed voice.
William assumed the voice belonged to the man he was there to see. He
leaned back in the staircase, the fingernails of his right hand thoughtfully
hovering near his lips. From his position, he couldn’t see much of the second
floor, only the top half of the man walking through an open door before
disappearing behind it.
The secretary walked in the office and had he not seen the room’s lavish
décor every day for years, he would’ve been awestruck. The room was
decorated wall-to-wall with red embroidered fabric and illuminated by
several lamps. The secretary sighed, hesitant to speak to the director who
was shielding his face and upper body with a newspaper at a desk situated
near the windows. Behind him, white shutters covered the panes, allowing
only four sharp rays of light to slip through the seams and enter the room.
“What is it?” a lethargic voice asked. The director was in his mid-fifties
and his dark hair had receded from the top of his head and looked slightly
disheveled; brandy and caviar had gotten the better of his health. Below his
round nose sat a mustache that the secretary could only aspire to brandish.
“There is a man here to see you, sir.” The secretary straightened his spine
and lifted his eyes to the shutters above the director’s barely visible head.
“So?” the director continued closing and opening the newspaper.
“He is currently waiting downstairs,” the secretary explained, shifting on
his feet.
“Tell him to go shear a sheep,” the director declared and straightened the
newspaper in a rustling jolt.
The secretary, used to the director’s moods, cleared his throat insistantly.
“The man is William Abney, sir.”
The director slammed the newspaper down and rose to his feet. “Why,
for God’s sake, man, why didn’t you say so? Bring him in at once,” he barked,
unaware he was still wearing his red morning robe over his usual dress shirt,
a habit he had formed on sleepless nights. The secretary darted out of the
room and closed the door, fearing a desk decoration or a jar of ink would be
hurled at him.
Reginald Helee, the director of the London Dove continued to stand behind
the desk for several moments, slightly confused about what had happened.


About The Author

Adam Decollibus ~ Author Profile_041.jpgAlthough born in California, Adam De Collibus is a man of the world. In his early years he lived in South America and his love of travel has led to him living and traveling in over seventeen countries. Inspired by both historical and actual events during his travels De Collibus was compelled to write Caravan, his debut historical novel. Adam De Collibus lives mostly in California where he spends his time writing, reading, and playing the piano.

Website: www.adamdecollibus.com
Instagram: @adam_decollibus

 

 

Book Reviews

Blog Tour: The Brighton Guest House Girls by Lesley Eames

I’m super delighted to be taking part of this blog tour and I’ll definitely be sharing my review about the book soon.


About the book:

A saga of immense charm and warmth, with three characters you won’t forget. Thea, Anna and Daisy forge an unbreakable friendship through adversity.

Thea’s loathsome stepbrother is trying to trick her out of her inheritance of her parents’ beautiful house in the seaside town of Brighton by means of a Will which Thea believes to be forged. He gives her three months in which to leave. Afterwards she will face destitution.

Anna is pregnant and grieving, her explorer fiancé lost at sea. Her violent father drives her from the family home in the back streets of London’s Bermondsey and her fiancé’s upper-class relatives cruelly reject her.

Daisy is in search of independence, running from a man she doesn’t want to marry.

Together the three girls setup Thea’s home as a guest house and embark on a mission to outwit her stepbrother by proving his fraud. In a race against time, nothing will turn out to be quite as it seems.

Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play


An excerpt from The Brighton Guest House Girls, courtesy of Aria

‘Away with you,’ her father said. ‘Get out of my sight.’

Anna hesitated for just a moment then ran upstairs to the room she shared with her brothers and sisters where she leaned her palms on top of the small chest of drawers and let her head drop forward,breathing deeply to try to quell the mounting panic. But it was only a matter of time before her mother and the children came up, and Anna didn’t want them to find her looking scared. Pushing herself upright, she studied her reflection in the small mirrorthat hung on the wall.

Her face was even paler than usual while her dark eyes were large with fear. Swallowing, Anna smoothed her hands over the heavy brown hair that she kept drawn into a bun on the nape of her neck like a Victorian governess, then attempted a smile. She didn’t linger to see if she’d succeeded but turned away from the mirror to pack her things.

The tiny house –surely long overdue for demolition –had only two rooms upstairs, a crude curtain separating the bed in which Anna slept with hersisters from the bed in which her brothers slept. Having brought home cardboard boxes so they could keep their possessions in an orderly fashion under the beds, Anna kept the room spotlessly clean and tidy.

Those possessions were admittedly few. There were the books, writing tablets and pencils that Anna had bought, the doll that had been passed down between them and scraps of fabric that Anna had used to teach the girls sewing. There were also wooden carvings made by the man at number twenty-six who’d been blinded by gas in the war, catapults, a ball and things scavenged from the banks of the Thames when the tide was out –small bottles, pipes, a model boat with the rigging missing, and bits of glass worn smooth after years in the river.

Anna took a bag from her box, opened a drawer and began to pack her modest collection of clothes, aware that her fingers were shaking badly. Her mother and the children crowded into the room after her. They were white-faced and saucer-eyed, and little Mary was crying openlynow.

Anna took a deep breath and renewed her attempt at a smile. ‘It’s going to be fine.’‘But where will you go? How will you manage?’ her mother asked.‘I have friends, Ma. I’ll cope.’‘Your pa says you mustn’t even write to us.’

‘I’ll write care of MrsFawley next door but don’t fret if you don’t hear from me for a while as I get myself established.’ Anna turned to Mary. ‘You’ll keep up the lessons?’

Mary worked in a bakery but the other children were still in school and Anna had always given them extralessons. ‘’Course I will,’ Mary promised.

‘What’s happened to me changes nothing,’ Anna insisted. ‘The better you’re educated, the more choices you’ll have about how you earn a living.’ Earning a good living was the way out of slum housing and poverty. The way to dignity and satisfaction too.

‘Listen to what Mary tells you,’ Anna bade the others.

‘We will,’ Lizzie promised, then she held out her shiny sixpence. ‘I want you to have it.’

Anna’s throat tightened.

‘I’ve got tuppence you can have,’ Joe said.‘And I’ve got ninepence,’ Mary said.

‘Here, love.’ Anna’s mother held out five or six coppers. ‘It’s all I’ve got till your pa gets paid.’

Anna swallowed. ‘You’re all wonderfully generous but I can’t take your money.’

She took her mother into her arms instead and kissed her, then did the same to each of the children. ‘I love you all dearly,’ she told them.


About The Author

Born in Manchester but currently living in Hertfordshire, Lesley’s career has included law and charity fundraising. She is now devoting her time to her own writing and to teaching creative writing to others. In addition to selling almost 90 short stories to the women’s magazine market, Lesley has won the Festival of Romance’s New Talent Award and the Romantic Novelists’ Associations Elizabeth Goudge Cup.

Twitter: @LesleyEames
Facebook: @LesleyEamesWriter


You can check out the rest of the tour here:

Book Reviews

Blog Tour: Bloomsbury Affair by Anita Davison

I’m super delighted to be taking part of this blog tour and to share my review about the book.

Book Title : Bloomsbury Affair
Book Author :
Anita Davison
My Rating :
⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
Publication Date : 
November 20th 2018


About The Bloomsbury Affair

1905 London is a heady mix of unimaginable wealth and simmering political tensions, and with war looming Flora Maguire wants to keep her family safe.

So when her beloved charge Viscount Edward Trent is accused of murder, she’s determined not to leave the investigation to the police. Flora has trodden the path of amateur sleuth before, but with so much at stake, this time it’s personal.

Slowly the body of the victim found stabbed on a train bound for Paddington starts giving up its secrets, and Flora and her husband Bunny become mired in a murky world of spies, communists and fraudsters. And with the police more sure than ever that Edward is their murderer, Flora must work fast to keep him safe.

Anita Davison’s compulsive story-telling, combined with the irresistible mix of historical drama and gripping mystery, make this unputdownable.

Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play


My Review

It was a delight to be introduced to Flora’s world as this is my first of hers.

I couldn’t say no to a mystery and as a big historical fiction fan, I was sure this was the book for me.

It wasn’t easy for me to get into the book at first, felt there were so many characters and names which I’m sure were introduced in the first books of the series and I felt I am missing out on some traits of them.

But still, I was told this could be read as a standalone and it is certainly so.

Set in 1900’s, a murder investigation where our Protagonist Flora have set to make things right and assist her friend, Viscount Edward who was accused of this murder.

Well written with relatable characters. I find that I have I loved Bunny’s character the most, who was Flora’s husband, as he made the book quite enjoyable as a sidekick. My issue was it was a bit slow at times or maybe I was just impatient to know what just happened.

I certainly do recommend reading it and I feel like I need to get and check out the rest of the series.

I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review


An excerpt from The Bloomsbury Affair, courtesy of Aria

Chapter 1

Eaton Place, London, April 1905

‘Good evening, Stokes.’ Bunny’s voice from the hall brought Flora to her feet.

Issuing a brief apology to her two dinner guests, she left the dining room, shivering in the blast of cold air that rushed through the open front door.

Tall and muscular with slightly boyish looks which sent females of all ages checking their hair in nearby mirrors, Bunny’s pale skin was flushed from the cool night air, his blue eyes bright behind rimless spectacles.

‘I’m horribly latefor dinner, Stokes. Is your mistress very angry?

He handed the butler his hat and then shrugged out of his overcoat.

‘I would rather not speculate, sir.’ Stokes placed the hat on a hook, took his coat and gave it a shake, scattering raindrops over the tiled floor. ‘I’ve laid out your dinner suit in your dressing room. Would you require my assistance to change?’

‘Not necessary, thank you, Stokes. I’ll manage. If you could just tell my wife I’ll

be down as quickly as I can.’

Flora stepped from the cover of the archway from where she had observed them.

The butler froze, the overcoat held out in front of him.

‘Ah, there you are, Flora.’ Bunny cleared his throat before summoning a

conciliatory smile. ‘I intended to be here on time, but it couldn’t be avoided, sor

ry.’ He lifted his arms intent on a hug, but she sidestepped him. ‘Ah, I’m not forgiven,

then?’

‘What kept you?’ Her fierce whisper held the mounting irritation she had nursed

all evening. ‘You’ve almost missed dinner.’

‘If you’ll excuse me, sir, madam. I must see to my duties.’ Stokes divested himself

of the coat and, head down, fled in the direction of the kitchens.

‘How’s the reunion going?’ Bunny fingered an arm of his spectacles nervously, his

gaze going to the closed dining room door.

‘Don’t change the subject.’ Flora brushed a hank of damp hair from his forehead.

‘Better than I could have imagined, actually.’ Her attempt to stay cross was ruined as

his cologne stirred her senses. ‘It’s as if they have never been apart. I doubt they’ll

even notice I’m gone.’

As if on cue, a baritone chuckle drifted into the hall, followed by a gale of relaxed

feminine laughter.

‘Why the sad face?’ Bunny ran a finger along her cheek. ‘Sounds to me like your

parents are getting along splendidly.’

‘They are, and I’m delighted, of course. It’s just– oh, never mind, we’ll talk later. I

should get back to our guests.’

How could she explain? William and Alice might have put the past behind them,

but theirs weren’t the only lives disrupted by twenty years of lies and secrets.

‘Your guests, this was all your idea, remember?’ Bunny planted a swift kiss on her

forehead and headed for the stairs. ‘By the way,’ he halted halfway up and leaned

over the handrail, ‘your trip to Harvey Nichols was very much worth it. The gown is

magnificent. I love that shade of blue on you.’

She waved him off impatiently, but her steps lightened as she returned to the

dining room, relieved he was home and the weight of the dinner party no longer lay

entirely on her shoulders. ‘I’m sorry about that.’ Flora resumed her seat in a room where soft golden light reflected off crystal and gilt, the crackle of flames and shift of coals in the Adam fireplace completing the cosy ambience. ‘

Bunny promises to be with us shortly.’

‘You’ve no need to apologize, my darling,’ William patted her hand. ‘I haven’t

enjoyed a dinner this much for a long time.’ His gaze shifted from Flora to the lady

opposite. ‘Although Flora did insist under no circumstances was I to cry off—

‘Which you have done on two previous occasions,’ Flora added.

He had retained a muscular physique into his mid-forties, honed from years spent

in the saddle on the horse ranches of far-flung continents. Tiny lines carved into his

tanned skin beside intelligent dark eyes that sparkled with private amusemen

t, hisdark hair sporting half-inch wide silver wings at his temples.

‘It’s been a wonderful surprise.’ Alice’s cheeks warmed to a becoming pink. ‘I had

reconciled myself long ago to never seeing William again.’ She tore her gaze away

from him only long enough to rearrange her napkin on her lap. ‘He was a secret I

imagined keeping forever. I could hardly believe it when Flora told me you lived in

London and she saw you regularly.’

Alice too wore the years lightly, with her girlish slenderness, unblemished

porcelain skin and the same wide, hazel eyes Flora saw in her own mirror every

morning. When Stokes had shown William into the room where Alice waited, his soft murmur of her original name, Lily, followed by Alice’s sharp exhalation of breath, spared Flora the task of having to explain her reasons for deceiving them.

Silent, awestruck seconds passed in which, had they been alone, Flora had been

convinced they would have rushed into each other’s arms, and only kept a respectable distance between them for form’s sake.

‘Had I known what you had planned, Flora,’ William said, ‘I would have cancelled

my trip to Moscow and told Balfour to go to blazes.’

‘How would you have explained that to the Prime Minister?’ Flora laughed as she

set down her wine glass, belatedly realizing what he had said. ‘Russia? When you

said you were taking a northern holiday, I imagined Scotland, or Belgium. Not

Russia.’

‘Oh, you know me, my love.’ He adjusted his tie avoiding her gaze. ‘I’ve always

had a yen for exotic locations.’

During Flora’s childhood, ‘Uncle’ William descended with no warning on Lord

Trent’s family at Cleeve Abbey several times a year laden with gifts for his nieces and nephew. There was always something for Flora; the butler’s daughter, as well when she was invited to join them on cold evenings in front of the fire to listen as he

recounted his adventures. He would stay a few memorable weeks, then disappear

again as quickly as he had come. Her discovery three years before that William was

her natural father was something she was still coming to terms with. This evening

meant such a lot to her, in that she had recently discovered her mother was also alive and bringing them together at her dining table for the first time in twenty years was a huge gamble; one she hadnot told either of them in advance. Was matchmaking your parents socially acceptable, or would she forever be a pariah for interfering?

‘What’s Russia really like?’ she asked carefully, conscious of the secrecy connected to William’s work with the Foreign Office. ‘We see the newspapers, but

it’s hard to form a true picture.’

The fact William could summon several armed men at a moment’s notice and his

driver was a burly six feet four who sat in the lobby of his apartment at night

contradicted his claim of being, ‘merely a lowly diplomat’.

‘Colder than anywhere on earth.’ William accompanied his broad smile with a

contrived shiver. ‘St Petersburg lay under several feet of snow when I left, and

—’ he broke off as the door clicked open to admit Bunny.


About The Author

https://katherinesbookuniverse.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/img_1260-1.jpg

Born in London, Anita has always had a penchant for all things historical. She now lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, the backdrop for her Flora Maguire mysteries.

Any Blogs/Website: @AnitaSDavison
Twitter: @AnitaSDavison


You can check out the rest of the tour here:

The Bloomsbury Affair blog tour poster (1).png

Book Blog

Arc Review : The Note

Book Title : The Note
Book Author : Zoe Folbigg
Expected Publication Date : October 1st 2017


I always try to be super honest with my reviews and I always to try as much as possible to find the good in what I read.

The Note was supposed to be that romantic, got-you-swooning, hoping and rooting for the Protagonist kind of books and It was, somehow that way. But…

My issue with the book was the writing style and format. The name, Maya, our Protagonist was mentioned a lot. Maya this, Maya that. I don’t mind a book written in a third-person narrative but I don’t think it worked for this one. It got the characters feeling bland and without flavor. There were also the mention of a lot of characters that it was hard to keep up with and I felt some did not even add to the story.

Writing style and characters aside, it had a good plot line. I loved the idea of what the book represented and what it is expected to learn out of it. It’s all about taking chances, being brave and not afraid to take that leap.

Overall, I won’t really recommend the book. But if it did happen to fall into your lap, do pick it up and check it out.

 

Thank you @netgalley and Aria Books for a copy in an exchange for an honest review.

Book Reviews

Blog Tour: The Note by Zoe Folbigg

I’m super delighted to be taking part of this blog tour and I’ll definitely be sharing my review about the book soon.


About The Note

Based on Zoë Folbigg’s true story comes an unforgettable romance about how a little note can change everything…

One very ordinary day, Maya Flowers sees a new commuter board her train to London, and suddenly the day isn’t ordinary at all. Maya knows immediately and irrevocably, that he is The One.

But the beautiful man on the train always has his head in a book and never seems to notice Maya sitting just down the carriage from him every day. Eventually, though, inspired by a very wise friend, Maya plucks up the courage to give the stranger a note asking him out for a drink. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness where you least expect it.

The Note is an uplifting, life-affirming reminder that taking a chance can change everything…

Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play


An excerpt from The Note, courtesy of Aria

Chapter One

May 2014

Maya has done it. She has delivered three sentences and a friendly sign-off, and now it is out of her hands. She struggles to walk the incline of the seemingly uphill train carriage because her legs are shaking, her mouth is dry, and putting one foot in front of the other takes effort and focus her racing heart isn’t capable of at the moment.

Her legs buckle as Maya slumps into a seat on the other side of a grubby internal door. Which is just as well because she wanted to linger with the last straggles of bedraggled Train People disembarking reluctantly; to make herself invisible to all the commuters she just embarrassed herself in front of. So, Maya lies low with the sleepy people. The people who can’t stand their jobs. The people who are lost in someone else’s life, frantically turning or swiping pages to find out if the girl got the guy, the adventurer made it back to London or the heretic was burned at the stake.

Train Man isn’t a straggler. Every day Maya sees him stand up confidently at the same point on the track, somewhere between the football stadium and the tunnel, as the train snakes towards a new day and a new terminus. Equine legs, strong arms. He throws a grey backpack with two thin brown leather straps onto his back, stands in the doorway and, as the train comes to a stop and orange lights ding, he steps off with pace and purpose. Maya usually walks a healthy distance behind Train Man, tiny sparks flying from her heels, down the platform and through the barriers under the canopy of a reverse waterfall bubbling white and bright above them. The intimate huddle of a metal umbrella for thousands of people who don’t even look up. Train Man always walks straight through the station and Maya wonders what he’s listening to, trying to guess from his gait, not realising he was at four of the six gigs she went to in the past year. Every day she sees him turn right out of the station and walk swiftly, resolutely, into a mist of people down the road. Until she can’t keep up with his long stride, he in Converse, she in heels – or ballerina flats if she needs to be nimble and get to a meeting – and Maya tends to lose him around the big crossroads at the artery by the hospital. But not today. Today Train Man has long gone.

When Maya’s legs buckled and she fell into a dusty seat, she put distance between where Train Man had been sitting, where she had awkwardly stood over him, and into this sanctuary of a cringe-free carriage. Catching her breath, she waits for three minutes until she, Maya Flowers, is the last of the stragglers. Hot face. Thumping heart.

I did it!

In the empty carriage, Maya’s legs stop shaking and she flattens her wavy hair in an attempt to regain composure for no one’s benefit. She takes long deep breaths and calms herself by putting her fingertips against her ribcage to feel her lungs fill slowly.

A tall man in a bright blue short-sleeved shirt that sits pleasingly against Somali skin steps on and starts to throw newspapers into a sack before passengers board the train that will take them north.

Maya stands and tries to stride with Train Man’s purpose. She knows she won’t catch him up today, to see whether he is clutching her note to his heart, whether it’s crumpled in his pocket, or whether he tossed it into a bin. It doesn’t matter for now. What matters is she did it.

Spring sunshine looks down gently and tempers rise noisily in the gridlock of an underpass, but all Maya can hear among the birds and the horns are the words of an American woman in her head.

‘What’s the worst that can happen?’

Maya smiles proudly as she passes a bin and gives a cursory glance into it.


About The Author

folbigg_zoe-colour.jpgZoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style, and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She has since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. This is her debut novel.

Website: http://www.zoefolbigg.com/
Twitter: @zolington
Facebook: @zoefolbiggauthor


You can check out the rest of the tour here:

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