I’m delighted to be spotlighting Christmas at the Dog and Duck by Jill Steeples which was published in e-book by Aria on 1st October 2016. Christmas at the Dog and Duck is available for purchase here.
To celebrate Christmas at the Dog and Duck I have three e-copies to give away at the bottom of this blog post and you can read an extract to get you into the Christmas spirit.
Christmas at the Dog and Duck
Ellie Browne has left behind her high-flying job in London to return to the charming Buckinghamshire village of Little Leyton. Working shifts at The Dog and Duck and running her own doggy-day-care business, Ellie’s looking for a much simpler way of life and a good old fashioned Christmas.
But Little Leyton’s landscape is changing; Johnny Tay, Ellie’s ex, wants to pick up where they left off; sultry property developer Max Golding, has moved into the village and is ruffling feathers; and rumour has it that the pub, which holds a special place in Ellie’s heart, might be sold. Suddenly, life’s looking a whole lot more complicated…
Can Ellie juggle her emotions and commitments in time to celebrate Christmas?
An Extract from Christmas at the Dog and Duck
‘There you go my lovely. These are for you, Ellie.’
It was the start of my shift the next day and Polly Samson from the flower shop next door was standing in front of me holding a bunch of assorted beautiful blooms.
‘Wow! They’re stunning. Thank you.’
‘No problem. I hate to see any flowers go to waste and I know you’ll find a good use for them.’
I took them from her, found a vase and placed them in the fireplace, standing back for a moment to admire them.
‘Perfect! I was going to take them home with me, but I think they’ve found their rightful place there, don’t you?’
I loved the quiet of the early evenings in the pub when I had the opportunity to potter and chat properly with any customers who popped in. Often, later in the evening, I was too busy to even draw breath so I always made the most of the quiet times when I could.
I plopped some ice into a glass, poured in some orange juice and handed the drink to Polly. Immediately she took a long sip, her eyes brightening as the refreshment hit the desired spot.
‘So no regrets then?’ she asked. ‘About coming back here? I should imagine life in Little Leyton must seem tame after living in London for so long.’
Polly was a friend who I’d known since my schooldays. We hadn’t been close back then; she’d been in the year above me and we’d mixed in different circles, but recently, with her working next door, we’d got to know each other better and had grown much closer as a result.
‘It’s different, I’ll give you that, but this is very definitely my home. Where I belong. I love the sense of community here. You don’t really get that in London. Or else I didn’t find it. My life seemed to consist of early starts, long days and late nights. It’s only now that I’m away from it that I realize how burnt-out I was. I’d gone straight from university into my job, doing my accountancy exams at the same time, and it was really pressurized. Losing my job like that, so suddenly, was devastating, but in some ways I see it as a blessing now. It’s given me the chance to step back from it all and decide what I want to do next.’
Polly nodded, taking another sip from her drink. She wriggled her shoulders and exhaled deeply, the tensions of her day seeping from her body. ‘Well I hope you’re here to stay now, Ellie? I do love having you around. You’ve brightened up this place that’s for sure.’
Such a lovely thing for Polly to say. She was tiny in stature, but had a huge heart. With her blonde hair cut into a swingy bob and bright blue eyes that shone keenly as she spoke, my mood always lifted just at the sight of her. With her being only next door, I often popped into her shop before or after a shift to have a natter and a cup of coffee. I’d perch my bottom on one of the stools behind her counter and watch transfixed as her fingers tended her flowers, creating pretty bouquets and baskets with expert ease.
‘I’m not sure how long I’ll be around,’ I told her now. ‘I love working here and doing the dog-sitting, but I don’t see either of them as long-term careers. I’ll probably have to go back into accountancy at some stage, it would be a waste of my degree otherwise.’
Which was absolutely true, so why, as I said the words aloud to Polly, did I wonder, not for the first time, if I really wanted to pick up that lifestyle again. Thinking about it, I’d been feeling the strain for months and a stirring of disquiet rumbled in the depths of my stomach as I wondered if the career I had chosen, the one I’d worked so long and hard for, was really meant for me after all.
‘So you didn’t leave anybody behind in London then?’ Polly shifted her bottom on the stool – they weren’t the most comfortable seats in the world – and the corners of her mouth twisted in an enquiring smile.
I tilted my head, deliberately misunderstanding the question.
‘I wondered if it might have been a man that brought you back here. If you weren’t trying to escape a broken heart?’
‘Ha! No,’ I sighed. ‘Four years in London and I don’t think I could have had more than a couple of dates.’
‘Really?’ Polly’s mouth gaped open. ‘And I thought my love life was in the doldrums.’
About Jill Steeples
Jill lives in a small market town in Bedfordshire with her husband, two children and a high maintenance English Pointer called Amber.
When she’s not writing, Jill loves spending time with family and friends, and enjoying books, films, musical theatre, walking, baking cakes, eating them and drinking wine.
There’s more with these other bloggers too:
To enter for a chance to win one of three e-copies of Christmas at the Dog and Duck, click here. Ends UK midnight on 13th October 2016.