Dear Bainbridge – Chapter Nine – by Georgina Ramsey

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Bainbridge cover

I close my eyes and focus with all my might. The tips of my whiskers begin to tingle; my lips are quivering. I take one… two… three steps forward, until my nose touches the stonework of the house.

“You can do it, Bainbridge,” whispers Stan from behind. “Just believe in yourself.” I turn around, look at him and smile. He and Dave are nervously holding paws.

I face the house again, and steady my own nerves with a deep breath. Edging forward a little more, I feel the roughness of the stone scratch the end of my nose.

“One more push,” says Dave, “and you’ll be through. Just remember that—”

Closing my eyes, I scrunch up my face, anticipating some kind of pain. I walk forward; my knees are knocking together.

But it’s not hurting me; passing through is not painful at all. I feel only warmth, as if something is hugging me tightly. Oh my goodness, it’s actually happening. I’m moving through something solid. The sound of Dave’s voice disappears, as do the smells from outside. My nose twitches and my nostrils open wide. I can smell damp, and then dust from the stonework. Now… now there is a strong scent of humans. “Ah,” I say as my body relaxes.

I open my eyes and gasp. I’m in the drawing room. There is a funny box on a table with moving images on the front side of it. It’s making sound, but it’s muffled. I look up. I recognise the patterns on the ceiling; my eyes used to follow the swirls until I went dizzy.  I feel myself going again, so shake my head. The sudden movement causes my ears to pop. Everything sounds clearer now.

“I’m here,” I whisper to myself. “I’m back home.” I glance around at my surroundings, sniffing everything I can. I jump onto a familiar looking chair and pat it with my feet. It feels soft. I don’t recognise the fabric, but I know it’s the same chair that was here when Betsy was a girl; I know because I used to scratch its legs! We used to sit in this chair together, daydreaming and looking out of the window, while singing along to the gramophone.

“Oh no!” I call out, as I arch my back and let out a hiss. There are voices coming from another room. I quickly jump down from the chair and hide behind a bureau, until they’ve gone.

Once it’s clear, I walk into the familiar hallway. Excitement rushes over me. I am actually home. My toes sink into a plush carpet as I walk into the sitting room. The voices are getting louder again. I hide behind the door; my nose pressed firmly against it.

The people walk into the room and sit down on the sofa. Their faces look red and a small girl is hugging a woman; it must be her mother, but I don’t recognise them.

The clock on the mantel chimes and I jump, knocking into a vase. It wobbles to and fro before settling back in its spot. Phew!

“Look.” The young girl points directly at me.

I freeze, holding my breath, daring not to blink.

“Mummy. Look, it’s a cat!”

“Don’t be silly, Ruby.” The woman turns to a man, and shakes her head. “I think she’s after attention,” she whispers. “Maybe she should watch some television to take her mind off it all.” The man smiles, but he has tears in his eyes. He tightly hugs Ruby and the woman.

Ruby does not take her eyes off me, but I slip out of the room and down the hallway. I hear her cry out, “Bye, kitty. Come back soon.”

I dart up the stairs and towards Betsy’s old room. This is the last place I need to see before I leave. The door is slightly ajar and I sneak in, not sure what I’m expecting to find.

The window is open and the curtains are blowing in the breeze. I look to the side, towards the bed. My heart falters and my chest tightens as tears form in my eyes. Blinking them away, I step forward.

“Betsy, is that you?” I scrutinise the old woman’s face, every single line and dimple. My nose sifts the air. She doesn’t look like the Betsy I remember, but I see from her eyes that it is her. She turns to me and groans in pain. “Don’t move, Betsy. I’m coming to you.”

She tries to smile, and holds out something in her hand. It’s a piece of paper. I jump up onto the bed to take a look, but she drops it to the floor. I watch the paper float down, landing on the carpet. I lean over the edge of the bed. I can’t read what’s on the paper, but my eyes look over the shapes of the letters.

Dear Bainbridge,

I miss you so much. I wish you would come home. It makes me sad that I did not say goodbye to you properly. I want you to know that I miss your purr and the way you nudge me with your wet nose. Mummy says I shouldn’t cry over you any more, but she doesn’t understand how I feel. Daddy said I have to be a brave girl now. He has promised me that one day I’ll see you again. I can’t wait for that day to come. I hope it’s soon.

Yours forever,

Betsy Williams

Aged 9 ½

Betsy whispers my name. Her voice is croaky. I move up towards her face and rub my nose on hers. She closes her eyes. Her chest stops moving up and down.

“Betsy… Betsy.” I call out to her, but she doesn’t respond. The air around us has turned cold all of a sudden; everything is grey. A gentle breeze blows in through the open window. I look at Betsy’s eyes; they have lost their sparkle. A shooting pain tears through my heart. “Betsy, I am so sorry,” I whimper.

In a heap, I flop onto the bed, crying. My heart is breaking all over again. This time Betsy has left me, and before I had chance to tell her how much I love her.

I nudge her hand, but it doesn’t respond; it falls limply over the edge of the bed. I close my eyes and sob. I’m struggling to speak, but I try for Betsy’s sake. “I just wanted to tell you—“

Then I feel it. A child’s hand runs down my back. The hairs on my spine stand up. There’s laughter and I can hear the gramophone playing in the background. The pain in my heart disappears as I feel her warm touch. I look up, and there she is. There is my Betsy, my Betsy with the curls. She smiles at me and says, “My beautiful Bainbridge, you came back for me. I always knew you would.”

Thank you for reading ‘Dear Bainbridge’. This is a work in progress, but the extended and edited version will be available from Amazon later on in the year.

A review of Tabitha Ormiston-Smith’s ‘The Dragon of Butter’ by the Book Gremlin

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The Dragon of Butter is a quirky little read and yet another excellent short story from Ms Ormiston-Smith. She is one of the most versatile writers I’ve come across, and I’ve found every one of her books able to transport me into their characters’ worlds. Her imagery is fantastic. In this, I could almost smell the hay, dung and cheese because the writing style had a theatrical quality about it. That said, it was coupled with impeccable comedy timing, which I’ve come to expect from Ms Ormiston-Smith’s work.

This story is an account of how Sir Leopold de Draco-Butyris was elevated to the rank of Baronet. I loved the characters’ names, such as Buttercup and Daisy. They conjure images of a big old dairy-fest! But that’s what this writer does. It’s the little things throughout that she makes use of, like the charming dialogue in this one, which help you fall for the characters and their situation. For me, The Dragon of Butter had almost a cartoon quality to it, and I loved that. It didn’t take me long to read. In fact, it was just what I needed for my tea break, but I would highly recommend it.

Dear Bainbridge – Chapter Eight – by Georgina Ramsey

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I didn’t for one minute think they’d follow through with their promise, but they have. I stand and look straight ahead in amazement. It’s huge, much bigger than I remember. My heart is beating fast, my legs are trembling, and my mind is going crazy. This is it. “This is the great house,” I whisper. I walk towards it, knowing it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for. It’s been so long. My mouth feels dry and I have a funny tingling feeling running all over my body. I feel truly alive.

“Are you okay?” asks Dave.

I jump onto a stone flowerpot and look through the window, excited at the prospect of seeing Betsy.

Stan climbs onto the pot, too. “Bainbridge?”

“It’s different inside. It’s very, very different,” I say. I look all around the room. “But I don’t see her.” A lump forms in my throat. All I can see is a family, I don’t recognise, huddled together. I feel a sharp intake of breath. “I shouldn’t have come. Betsy isn’t here. I was stupid to think she would be.” My heart aches at the realisation that she doesn’t live here any more, and I don’t think I have ever felt this sad. I look towards my friends. “Stan?”

“What is it?”

“I’ll never see her again, will I?” He doesn’t have to answer me. I know I’ll never get the chance to look in my Betsy’s eyes once more. I won’t hear her laughter, and I won’t feel the softness of her skin. I am now choked with tears.

Stan puts his paw onto my back. “Go in,” he says.

“I can’t,” I reply.

“Why?” he asks.

“It’s not my home any more.” I jump down from the flowerpot.

“I’m sorry,” Dave says, hanging his head low.

I try to smile through my tears. “Oh well.” I swallow hard. “It was always going to be a long shot, wasn’t it?” I turn around. “Come on.” My voice quivers as I speak. “Let’s go home.” I start to walk down the long gravel drive.

“Wait!” Stan pulls at my tail. He jerks me back.

“Oi!” I scowl at him. “What’s that for?”

He puts his paws onto his hips and looks me straight in the eyes. “You’re not going anywhere, Bainbridge.”

I rub my tail. “What are you talking about?”

“Stan’s right,” says Dave.

“I am.” Stan winks. “Aren’t you just a little bit curious? Don’t you want to let that old familiar feeling wash over you again?”

I look back at the house. Another lump forms in my throat. For some reason, it does still feel like home. It has a lovely warm glow about it. Even though there is another family inside, there are memories of us in there, too. They are floating around. I smile. The soul of the house smiles back and my memories of Betsy are more vivid now than ever. “Maybe I could go in and have a look around.”

“We’ve not come all this way for nothing!” Dave slaps me on the back. “Shake your tail, Bainbridge, and go and make the most of it.”

Nervously, I reply, “Okay. I’ll do it.”  I step forward one pace and look up at the windows on the first floor. I can see one is open.

Stan furrows his brow. “What are you doing?”

“Looking for a way in, of course.” I hear the pair of them laugh. “What?”

“You’re a ghost!” Stan says. “Do what you do best.”

Chapter Nine will be available to read from June 20th 2015.

A review of Tabitha Ormiston-Smith’s ‘Restless Legs’ by the Book Gremlin

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This is a fabulous short horror story and won’t take you long to read, but oh, I so wanted to run into my little boy’s room and give him a cuddle when I’d finished it. I read it in one sitting, and went from feeling relaxed, chilled out, ready for bed, to biting my fingernails, checking in on my son, and tossing and turning with a sense of unease in a matter of moments. You really are thrown into the underlying sinister tone of this book because of the skilful narrative of the author.

Everything seems quite normal in the household, but you constantly question yourself over whether something is going to happen to the boy, his mum or his dad. The author paints a vivid picture of a ‘normal’ family’s night-time routine, where the child’s tucked up in bed and, for the parents, the wine is opened. I would imagine it’s a pretty standard scene across the country, but as we switch between young Pat’s point of view and his parents’ you can’t help your mind racing. With every word I could imagine the young boy and how desperate he was for his mum and, being a mother myself, it tugged ferociously at my heartstrings.

This book gave me the jitters. It’s a quick, easy read, but it doesn’t ‘alf catapult you into what runs through a youngster’s mind in the late hours. I’d highly recommend it.

 

Dear Bainbridge – Chapter Seven – by Georgina Ramsey

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There’s a damp smell in the air that’s making my nose twitch. Cars are whizzing past the end of the alleyway and I can hear a siren in the distance. I think I preferred Stan’s previous accommodation.

Dave lurches towards us. Stan and I back up against the wall, our knees knocking together like castanets. I hold a protective paw in front of my friend. His heart is beating fast inside that little chest of his.

“I won’t let him get you,” I whisper. How I’m going to stop him, I’m unsure of at this precise moment.

“You might not have a choice,” he replies.

I know, I think to myself. I cross my claws.

But then the moonlight catches Dave’s body and reveals what we’re dealing with: a small tabby cat with a twisted ear and tatty whiskers.

I remove the protective paw from Stan, and give him a nudge. “That’s Dave?” I ask.

“Yes.” Stan nods furiously. “The one and only.”

Straightening my back, I look down at Stan. “And you’re frightened of that!”

“Hey!” Stan looks up at me and furrows his brow. “Looks can be deceiving, you know!”

“Really?” I shake my head and step towards Dave, holding out my paw. “I mean you no harm,” I say with a noble voice. He continues towards us. “Please tell me what you want with us, or go now, leaving me and my friend alone.”

He opens his mouth, and speaks, “Well, well, well,” with a shrill pitch.  My eyes open wide and a laugh escapes. I look at Stan. “What the—”

“Don’t laugh!” he replies quickly. “I know his voice is squeakier than a mouse’s trump, but please do not laugh at him… he hates that!”

Dave comes right up to my face. “What have we here?” He looks me up and down. “So you’re the new carer?” I bite my lip and try not to laugh again. “Don’t be taken in by Stan,” he squeaks. “He’s trouble, a lowdown dirty rat. He’s a conman, I tell you. He’s a liar and won’t help you.”

“Look, Dave, I’m sorry, but I need to talk to you cat-to-cat.” I wrap my paw around his shoulder, and give Stan a wink. Dave flinches. “I’m not going to hurt you, Dave. I’m not the kind.” I can feel his muscles relax a little, but his eyes narrow; I don’t think he fully trusts me. “You need to back off Stan.”

He pulls away from me. “Why?”

“He’s sick of you following him. He just wants to be left alone to exist in peace. You’re making his afterlife miserable.”

“Well, I don’t mean to. I didn’t even know he felt like that.” Dave juts out his bottom lip. “It’s… it’s… it’s this damn thing on my head.” He shows me a clump of matted fur.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know. It’s a prickly thing, but it’s been stuck in there ever since I died, and I can’t get it out. It hurts like mad.”

“Ah,” I peer over his head, “it’s a thorn.”

“It is?” Dave gives me a smile. “Do you think Stan will help me get it out? I can’t reach it myself. Every time I get close enough to him to ask, he keeps running away and then telling everyone else to stay away from me, too. I know we were never friends, but he’s my oldest acquaintance, and I thought he might help me.”

“What?” Stan walks towards Dave, wrinkling his nose. “You mean you didn’t want to hurt me.”

“Well, I did when I was alive. I wanted to eat you then!”

Stan jumps back. “Oh!”

“But not now. I just want this damn thing out, and then I’d like to be friends. I’m kind of lonely. Being dead is no fun!”

“Oh, Dave, it can be,” Stan says. “Here.” Stan climbs up onto Dave’s back and shimmies up his neck. He pulls out the thorn with his teeth.

“Ouch!” screams Dave.

“Sorry.” Stan drops the thorn to the ground. “That was a big one.”

“Can I stay with you?” Stan looks at me when Dave asks the question.

I shrug. “It’s up to you, Stan. This is your place.”

Dave stays with us. Over the following weeks, I watch as the pair of them bond, having fun together. But I know Christmas Eve is tomorrow and part of me wishes I was back at the cemetery celebrating with Myrtle and Alwen.

“Don’t look so sad,” Stan says as we bed down for another winter’s night.

“I can’t help it. I miss my friends.”

“We’re you’re friends now,” Stan replies.

“Yes,” says Dave. “We’re your friends.”

“I know, but I wish… I wish…” They both look to one another.

“It’s time we parted ways,” Dave says, the corners of his eyes seem to drop.

Stan’s bottom lip trembles as he tries to speak. “But—“

“No buts, Stan.” Dave looks at me, and with firmness says, “We’ll take you to the great house tomorrow.”

“But—“

Dave shakes his head. “It’s still not the time for buts, Stan. Look, it’s Christmas, and Bainbridge deserves to be with his family.”

Stan folds his arms and slumps into his bedding.

Chapter Eight will be available to read from May 15th 2015

Dear Bainbridge – Chapter Six – by Georgina Ramsey

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(* Chapter Five was posted on January 28th 2015)

You heard him, didn’t you? You heard Stan promise to take me to the great house. But watch this. Watch me try and get him to go through with that promise now; it’s useless.

“Stan?”

“Yes.” He darts all over the street, bouncing from foot to foot and sniffing at bits of rubbish. He kicks a frozen blob of chewing gum into the air, “Goal!” and runs around in a circle. It lands on an old woman’s head. She rummages around in her nest of hair, but unable to dig it out, shrugs off whatever hit her.

I take a deep breath. “You promised you’d take me to the great house, remember.”

“Yeah, yeah… did you see what I did then? Did you see how high I booted the gum?”

“Stan?” I say through gritted teeth.

“Yes.” He jumps on an empty drinks carton. It pops. BANG! The old woman jumps, but she can’t see us.

“Stan, will you behave! You promised you’d take me.”

“And I will.”

See, I told you so. That’s all I ever get from him. He never listens to me. Look, he’s off again. He has no awareness of danger and what is classed as socially acceptable behaviour. Now look at him; he’s ferreting in a bin. He’s a complete nightmare, like an uncontrollable kitten. When did I turn into a parent?

All we – the very odd couple – seem to do is walk round in circles together. I’ve been with him now for weeks. Weeks! And things don’t change. It’s the same thing every day: we wake up, he bounces off the walls with excitement, we wander, we argue (most days), we make up, he sings, I cover my ears, he sings some more, we go back to bed, and then the whole saga is re-played the following day. Stan seems to have a rather nonchalant attitude to everything; I’ve never met a creature like him.

Jumping onto a greengrocers’ display outside a shop, he merrily skips across the fruit and veg, pretending to be a pirate.  “Ahoy there, matey,” he cries out, using a banana as a galleon.

“Stan, get down from there, now!” I scold, as I pace about. My head’s beginning to throb and I’m feeling dizzy.

“I’m untouchable, Bainbridge.” He swings along bunting, his tail swishing from side to side. “The world is my oyster. Now I have my very own bodyguard I can do whatever I like and, more importantly, whenever I like.”

“Why me?” I quietly question. “Why me?” I slump down in front of a crate of pears and rest my head on my paws.

Stan jumps down from the display. “What’s up?” he asks. His eyes are darting all over. I know he doesn’t really care; I could say anything and it would go ‘Whoosh,’ straight over his head in a flash.

“I thought you were going to help me,” I say, sniffing. “I only left the cemetery to find my old home. I didn’t want any of this.”

“Any of what?”

“This wandering about, aimlessly, looking for nothing!”

“You’re just grumpy, Bainbridge. Didn’t you sleep well last night?” He doesn’t wait for me answer. “Hey, look an eggshell!”

“Stan!” I stand up, frustrated. “That back alley you sleep in—”

“Excuse me!” He leans forward, pointing a finger into my chest. “I prefer bolthole in the city actually.”

“Whatever.” I wave him away; I’m in no mood for word tennis. “It’s damp, smelly and full of suspicious characters.”

“What?” Stan’s voice trembles; he looks hurt, really hurt, by what I’ve just said. “But it’s mine,” his voice wobbles some more. “It was the first place I ran to after my death.” He swallows hard. “It was dark and I felt safe. There were other rats there too… at the time.”

“And where are they now?”

“Well, they’ve moved on. I’m all by myself.”

“Exactly. It’s time to move on, too, Stan.”

“No. They only left because their family or friends did.” He scratches his neck.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“Yes!” He turns away from me, and begins rummaging in a box underneath the display table. With a mouthful of fruit, he explains, “I couldn’t tag along with them. I had to stay behind.”

Now I feel sorry for him. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, Stan.” I pat him hard on the back. Falling from the box, he lands flat on his belly on the pavement; a grape flies from his mouth. He stands up, coughing, and brushes himself down. I ask, “Why don’t you have a new start?”

“Where?”

“I don’t know,” I say, shrugging my shoulders. “Let’s find a place together.”

“Like flatmates?” His eyes twinkle.

“Er… no… I mean… when I said ‘together,’ I meant I’ll help you find somewhere new… but I’ll help you settle in, and then maybe you could show me how to get to the great house, like you promised.”

“Alright.” His voice is subdued and the twinkle in his eye fades quickly. “I can take a hint, Bainbridge. I know when I’m not wanted…”

“It’s not like that, Stan. I—“

“Come on,” he sighs. ”Let’s go house hunting!”

“Or mouse hunting?” I laugh, slapping him on the back.

“Now’s not the time for jokes, Bainbridge,” he says, shaking his head.

We walk down many alleys and he dismisses them all. They’re too small, too big, too dark, too light, too smelly, not smelly enough, too noisy, too quiet, too empty, too cluttered, too—

But then, we find ‘the one.’ That twinkle resurfaces in his eyes. “I like this one,” he beams, spinning around on the spot, surveying it’s…er.. beauty!

“Really? This one?” I ask, looking around, wincing, at the smell of damp and the sight of litter blowing about. “Well, yes… I… er… I see why you like it…  it’s… it’s very nice, Stan.”

“And it comes ready furnished,” he squeals, darting from corner to corner. “Wow! Look. You can sleep in this.” He jumps onto a wooden crate.

“Okay,” I reply, tentatively, “for now.”

Dragging over an old newspaper in his teeth, he says, “You can even use this as a mattress, if you like… after all, us ghosts still need our home comforts.”

A laugh of disbelief leaves my lips. “Great!” I shudder at the thought. “So where are you going to sleep?”

“In this.” He jumps into an old shoe box and begins scratching in the corners.

“It looks a bit wet, Stan.”

“And your point is?”

“Nothing.” My nose wrinkles.

“It’s perfect.”

Trying to smile for his sake, I can only respond with, “Isn’t it just!”

He signs on the dotted line and moves in straightaway. We stay up talking for hours, and it reminds me a bit of being in the cemetery. But then… my eyes begin to feel heavy. I yawn. My lids close, just for a few seconds. I am fighting the tiredness. When I open them again, Stan is still wittering on, “… so I told them there and then that…”

My eyes close once more, this time for a little longer. I can hear Alwen’s beautiful voice singing, and I can see Myrtle smiling. She is waving and calling my name. “Bainbridge… Bainbridge…”

“I’m here, Myrtle. I’m right here.” I smile.

“What? Who’s Myrtle?”

“Eh?” I jump up.

“Bainbridge, I’ve been calling you.” It’s Stan. I blink slowly in disappointment. He sits himself up on his makeshift cushion made from a split tomato, and states the obvious. “You nodded off there, mate. You—”

Suddenly, there’s a hiss from the shadows. “What’s that?” I ask, trembling.

Stan gasps in horror, throwing his paw over his mouth. “That’s him,” he whispers.

I whisper back, “That’s who?” and snatch a stick off the ground for protection. It’s tightly clamped in my mouth, my teeth chattering on it.

Stan edges towards me, “That’s Dave, the cat who’s after me.”

“It is?” I question in a muffled voice.

“Yes. How did he find us here?”

“I don’t know.” I gasp; the stick falls from my mouth.

Eyes, glowing in the moonlight, look directly at us.

Chapter Seven will be available to read from 28th March 2015

Indian Summers

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Did you watch Julie Walters’ amazing new drama on Ch4 last week? Are you as excited as I am for the next part tonight? It portrayed 1930s India as rather beautiful, productive, vibrant, colourful, humid, bustling, yet at the same time segregated and culturally imposed. It certainly didn’t romanticise the period. and that’s what I liked about it. I was hooked from the credits.

I have an author, Malika Gandhi, to thank for my interest in ‘Indian Summers,’ and thanks to her, I will be filling up my Sky box with each and every episode of it. I shamefully new nothing – absolutely nothing – about Indian history a while ago, but then I came across her book, titled ‘Freedom of the Monsoon,’ and was enthralled. I actually studied History at  A-level, so it’s not that I was ever intentionally ignorant to this element of the past. No, it was never pointed out to me, and sometimes in life things have to slap you in the face before you realise their existence.

‘Freedom of the Monsoon’ is all about hope. anger and violence. It’s rather gritty and it’s certainly illuminating. It’s set in 1942, when, according to the author, ‘death and sacrifice are knocking on India’s doors. Mahatma Gandhi has demanded the Raj quit India for good. The Indian people want their country back,’ so the British Raj has to go. It’s a chaotic book, full of tragedy, but in the midst of confusion there is a love story between the lead characters: Dev and Pooja.

This is a great book to read after you’ve digested ‘Indian Summers’ and the author hopes you will ‘share the determination that dwelled in the hearts of the Indian people as they fought hard and long, sacrificing all they loved along the way.’ In this book you can’t fail to find a bond with Pooja, Dev and their enduring love story, and it stirred a mixture of emotions within me. At times I laughed, at times I cried, but it was the ending that really tugged at my heartstrings, leaving me with a sense of guilt that this part of history has been downplayed – that’s my opinion anyway. But ‘Indian Summers’ and ‘Freedom of the Monsoon’ will refresh, or push, this into people’s consciousness, and that’s never a bad thing.

‘Freedom of the Monsoon’ is well written and I loved the way the author translated culturally specific words throughout. I found myself immersed in the plot, and inwardly fighting for the characters to come through the other end, but throughout, the writer introduces twists and turns that will leave you wanting to read more, and wondering whether they will ever get their happy ever after. I honestly, truly cannot recommend this book enough. Ms Gandhi is a talented writer; her words flow with ease.

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