Sunday, 10 July 2016

Blog Tour and Extract - Sunshine and Secrets - Willow Cottage by Bella Osbourne

**Part one of a new cosy and heartwarming seasonal series, perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley.**

Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a safe place for little Leo.

When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.

Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…

Part Two: meeting Jack

‘It’s okay, accidents happen,’ said Rhonda. Beth crouched down as best she could in the fitted skirt and started to pick up the worst of the broken porcelain.
She was thankful for the sympathetic smile Rhonda gave her. ‘Don’t worry. Maureen will do that.’ A large lady who would be a prime candidate for over 60’s cage fighting, if there were such a thing, appeared from behind the counter brandishing a dustpan and brush.
Beth retreated to the small table and sat down. As Maureen cleared up, the tearoom clients went back to their drinks now that the entertainment was over. Beth waited patiently and Leo swung his legs and huffed a lot. The tearooms were equally quaint inside with mismatched crockery and simple wooden tables and chairs with gingham seat cushions in an array of colours.
Out of the window they had a good view of the village; a car trundled past and stopped to let the ducks waddle across the road before it drove through the ford and out of the village. Beth checked her watch. She needed to book them in somewhere for the night and she hadn’t seen any hotels since they left the motorway.
‘What do you want?’ asked Maureen, gripping a small notepad, her stubby pencil poised, her tone disgruntled.
‘A cranberry juice and a caffeine free coke please,’ asked Beth with her best ‘I’m sorry’ smile.
Maureen stared at her and a muscle near her eye twitched. She tapped the laminated card on the table. ‘Teas, coffees, hot chocolate, lemonade or squash.’
‘Oh,’ said Beth hurriedly, familiarising herself with the items on the card. ‘Is it sugar free lemonade?’
‘What flavours of cordial do you have?’
‘Orange and it’s squash,’ said Maureen. There was more twitching.
‘Hot chocolate, hot chocolate…’ Leo chanted.
‘Um,’ Beth frantically re-read the list again. ‘Just two iced waters then, please.’
Maureen didn’t bother to write it down. She shoved her notebook in the front pocket of her apron and marched off behind the counter. Beth let out a sigh. This wasn’t going well. A couple went to pay and, although she couldn’t quite hear the conversation, Beth was pretty sure they were discussing her. A couple of furtive looks over their shoulders accompanied by huffing from Maureen confirmed her suspicions.
The door opened and in came Jack. He was wearing a similar well-fitted dark suit and despite his deep frown he was quite good looking. He strode purposefully across the tearoom to collect his espresso. When Beth saw him get out his wallet she dashed over to intervene.
‘I’ll get that,’ she said opening her purse. As she looked up she saw she was moments away from bashing into Jack once again. ‘Oh, sorry.’
Jack shook his head. ‘Bloody tourists,’ he murmured as he sidestepped her and exited the tearoom. Beth felt decidedly awkward as she handed over a ten-pound note and silently Rhonda gave her the change and passed the two glasses of tap water to her.
‘Could you tell me where the nearest hotel is please?’
‘There’s the B&B on the south side of the green and there’s the Bleeding Bear,’ said Rhonda. ‘The Bear does a great breakfast.’
‘Right. Thanks. And where would be the nearest Hilton or Marriott?’
Rhonda thought for a second. ‘That’d be Tewkesbury but Cheltenham’s nearer and there are hotels there.’
‘Thanks,’ said Beth and she slunk back to Leo with the glasses of water.
‘What about the scone, Mum?’ asked Leo looking totally unimpressed with the glass of water and its solitary ice cube.
‘Not now, Leo. Let’s drink this and go.’
A few short phone calls later she discovered that, thanks to a Medieval Festival, there was no room at the big hotels in Tewkesbury or Cheltenham or anywhere nearby. Staying in a bed and breakfast was never going to be the first choice for Elizabeth Thurlow-Browne. However, it appeared the village of Dumbleford was pretty short on options and she didn’t like the sound of The Bleeding Bear pub despite its recommended breakfast.
Thankfully, the landlady at the B&B was very friendly and keen to have residents for the night. She welcomed them by bustling around and thrusting leaflets at Leo that detailed all the local attractions.
‘And there’s the Morris competition tomorrow on the green. You’ll love that!’ she insisted. Leo let out a giant yawn.
‘Morris? Are they those funny little cars?’ asked Beth.
The landlady laughed, ‘No, dancing. Morris dancing, it’s a big thing round here. You might get to join in if you’re lucky!’
Beth could think of nothing worse.
She settled Leo in front of the small television and dashed out to the hire car to grab their case and Leo’s rucksack of toys. Seeing as it was dark she also grabbed her pink unicorn onesie from the overstuffed small car and shoved it under her arm. The hire car was parked further away than she’d thought and Beth was concentrating on where she was walking as she struggled with the case.
It was the dog she spotted first. A huge muscle bound beast with flailing jowls that intermittently showed large white teeth as it hurtled towards her. Beth tried to get out of the way as the huge dog ran past her but at the last second she saw a large hooded figure running behind the dog and they barrelled into her, sending her sprawling across the pavement. If she hadn’t been winded, she would have had a lot to say.
‘Where the hell did you spring from?’ came a gruff and accusatory male voice that was worryingly familiar.
‘Could you get off me please,’ was all Beth could manage, her response was muffled by the onesie over her face. The large hooded figure was heavy and she was pinned to the case. He rolled onto his haunches, sprang up and dusted himself down. Beth pulled the onesie off her face and tried to hide the mass of pink furry material. She looked up and despite the hoody she recognized her assailant – it was Jack.
‘I think that makes us quits,’ she suggested as she sat up and started to get her breath back.
The dog must have kept going at first but now, realising it was running alone, it was racing back towards them. Jack made a lunge for the beast’s collar and missed, and Beth found herself lying on the pavement again, this time with a huge dog slobbering all over her.
‘Argh! It’s trying to bite me!’ she yelled.
‘Don’t be ridiculous, Doris wouldn’t hurt a soul.’ He got hold of the collar and winched the large dog off. He held out his other hand to help Beth to her feet.
‘I’ll manage, thanks,’ huffed Beth. ‘That thing should be on a lead.’
‘You should look where you’re going. Come on Doris.’ Jack turned and jogged away.

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel.
In 2016, her debut novel, 'It Started At Sunset Cottage', was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award.

Bella's stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. Bella believes that writing your own story really is the best fun ever, closely followed by talking, eating chocolate, drinking fizz and planning holidays.

She lives in The Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping).

For more about Bella, visit her website at or follow her on Twitter - @osborne_bella

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