Sunday 27 November 2016

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Amanda Laneley

Today I'd like to introduce you to the author of What I Love About Dublin, Amanda Laneley.

Amanda is passionate about writing and exploring the world. She has travelled through five continents, collecting anecdotes and stories that she turns into novels.
She loves the movies of Meg Ryan and the novels of Jane Austen. She adores learning and thinks that there aren't enough hours in the day to do it. She loves to dance, laugh and share a beer with good friends.
She was a professor, entrepreneur and holistic therapist before devoting herself to writing. She started writing because, one night a romantic story appeared in her dreams and wouldn't let go of her. That story became her first novel. The curious thing is that as soon as she finished it, another story appeared and then another. Since then she hasn't stopped writing or dreaming.
Amanda loves to hear from her readers and you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and her website.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Laneley
Published in October,  What I Love About Dublin is Amanda's debut novel and she's very kindly sharing an excerpt from the opening chapter with us today.


Let’s suppose you are a heartbroken woman trying to get over the pain of a failed relationship. You’ve always wanted to see the world. What do you do? Perhaps you would do what Sarah does: travel alone to Dublin and leave your worries behind. She wants to start from scratch, to forget about it all; to enjoy the lush green countryside, the Celtic music, the famous pubs. However, her life turns upside down when she finds herself living under the same roof as Daniel, a handsome yet stubborn Irishman.

Both Daniel and Sarah have their reasons for not falling in love, but love has other plans.

Things become more complicated because love affairs are prohibited between housemates. This is an unbreakable rule that also applies to the three other residents: a shameless womanizer, an absent-minded musician and a new female best friend, intrusive and meddling. It’s a fun and exciting intercultural household for Sarah to adapt to! And as if that wasn’t enough, she also has to deal with Daniel’s heated misunderstandings, with an insistent ex-boyfriend and some compromising situations with a very sexy Frenchman.

This is a new life in Dublin and there is certainly a lot to love!

Chapter 1

“Welcome to Dublin.”

The welcome came over the loudspeakers as soon as the plane landed, and Sara unfastened her seatbelt with impatient fingers. She breathed out, filled with a mixture of apprehension, weariness and sadness. Barely past her mid-twenties, she was going to step onto European soil for the first time. She was finally going to become acquainted with the ancient continent she had fantasized so much about in the novels she devoured. What she wanted most was to repair her broken heart after what had happened with Antonio, to start over again surrounded by the greenery of Ireland.

“Greenery?” she wondered, disillusioned, as soon as she had left the airport and caught a glimpse of the bleak surroundings. “More like grayness.” The sunset, weighed down by black clouds, frigid gusts of wind and an incessant rainfall that spread in all directions, wasn’t exactly the cordial welcome Sara had hoped for. But, truth be told, nothing about the past forty-eight hours had been cordial. She never imagined she would hurriedly leave Chile. She had only long enough to say good-bye to her parents, whose worried faces reflected their opinion, repeating a thousand times that her going off to Ireland was a huge mistake.

Sara replayed in her mind the whole argument with Antonio, and as she rolled her luggage toward the taxi stand, her eyes filled with tears. She felt so alone! And the worst part was that now she really was alone. She didn’t know anyone in Dublin, neither family nor friends. All she had was the hope of a new beginning and a piece of paper with an address written on it, which she clung to for dear life.

The arrival of an empty taxi made her swallow her tears. She held out the address to the taxi driver and, twenty minutes later, found herself in the front yard of a narrow red house with a pointed roof while the darkness surrounded her and rain mercilessly pelted her and her luggage. As fast as she could, she rolled the suitcase to the front door and rang the bell.

No answer. She rubbed her hands together and blew on them to heat them up. She rang a second time. Nothing. He teeth chattering, she peered through the stained glass windows of the front door. She couldn’t make out anyone, but a light was on, so someone must be there. Lord, at least she hoped there was; if not, she didn’t know where else to go.

She knocked and, after a minute that seemed like an eternity, the door finally opened.

 “Hello?” said a beautiful brunette of about her age, half greeting her and half inquiring.

 “Hola, I mean, hello. I’m Sara and. . .”

 “You speak my language,” the young woman interrupted, switching to Spanish with a Central American accent. “Are you looking for one of the boys, Sara? Because no one is here; they all went out.”

 “No, actually, I came about the room for rent. I reserved it a few days ago.”

The young woman shook her head in unequivocal negation.

 “That’s impossible; there must be some error. The ad clearly says we rent only to men. Better luck next time,” she said, starting to shut the door.

Sara’s stomach tied up in knots as she imagined herself looking for a place to stay somewhere else, in an unknown city, in the middle of the rain and darkness.

 “Stephen Brennan gave me the address!” said Sara hurriedly. “He told me to come here.”

The young woman opened the door again and studied her, frowning.

 “Stephen? He told you to come? Are you sure?”

 “Yes, he gave me the address. I came straight from the airport.”

The young woman looked at Sara’s luggage, which was collecting water, forming an enormous pool. When she saw that its owner didn’t seem to be in much better shape than the luggage, her expression softened.

 “Come in while we clear up this misunderstanding.” She opened the door and gestured to a spot near the entrance. “If you like, you can leave your things there. I’m Fran, by the way.”

 “Thanks, Fran.” Sara obeyed, taking off her coat. She suddenly sneezed several times.

 “You’re drenched. Would you like a cup of coffee?”

 “Yes, please.”

She followed Fran to a spacious wooden kitchen. She didn’t much care for coffee; still, she was willing to swallow anything that might raise her body temperature by a couple of degrees.

Her hostess put on water to boil.

 “How do you know Stephen, Sara?”

 “Actually, I don’t know him, at least not personally. I’m going to teach at the same university he does, Spanish classes, and he was my contact for arranging all the paperwork. He was very kind in recommending somewhere to live; he did not need to do it.”

 “Yes, he’s kind when he wants to be; at least when he can make the effort to listen. I’ve told him a thousand times that the room isn’t available to women. Sometimes what I tell him goes in one ear and right out the other. Men!”

 “Are you his girlfriend?” Sara guessed, from the annoyance and familiarity she heard in Fran’s voice.

 “Yes. Let me call him and see what we can do.” Fran dialled a number and started speaking in English. “Stephen, it’s me. Sara, the girl you gave this address to, is here. Yes, but I told you we would rent the room only to a man. What? But I told you a thousand times!. What? No, it has to be right now! At least speak to her! What do I care if you’re in a meeting? No, Stephen. . . don’t you dare hang up on m. . . Hello? Hello?”

Fran suddenly slammed the phone down on the table. Sara didn’t dare breathe; she didn’t know what to say.

 “Always the same thing!” complained Fran, exhaling a weary sigh. “I’m sorry, Sara, but you can’t stay here. I’d be very happy to rent you the room, but it isn’t up to me. It’s up to the boys.”

 “But maybe I could speak to them, somehow convince them,” said Sara, feeling her throat close up.

 “Don’t waste your time. You wouldn’t be the first one to try it and fail. I’m sorry, Sara, I wish I could help you, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to go someplace else.”

Sara agreed quietly, feeling her eyes fill with tears. “I understand,” she said in a hoarse voice. “It’s just that I don’t know where to go. I don’t know anyone in this city. Stephen was the only contact I had.”

 “You can go to a hotel,” suggested Fran, observing Sara sympathetically.

 “Yes, of course, that’s what I’ll do. . .” Her voice was about to break. “It’s just that, well, I didn’t feel like being alone today. . .” She remembered how alone she was. She thought of Antonio, of her uncertain future, and she couldn’t hold back a pair of silent tears. “Fran, excuse me, you barely know me and here I am crying in front of you. It’s just that the past two days have been the worst of my life, and all I want is a warm bed, a place to sleep and to forget about everything for a while.”

Fran gave her a sad look.

 “Don’t tell me, problems of the heart, right?” When she saw Sara agree, Fran went on. “I’ll bet some man cheated on you and broke your heart.”

It hadn’t happened quite like that, but, yes, her heart was broken, so Sara just replied. “Something like that.”

 “Well, what woman hasn’t been in that situation? You can’t imagine what a state I was in the first day I arrived in this city, and all because of a wretched man. . .” Fran seemed lost in thought a few minutes, lost in her memories; then she looked up with a kind expression. “Look, Sara, out of female solidarity, I don’t have the heart to tell you to leave right now. If you want, you can stay in the room for tonight, but you’ll have to leave tomorrow.”

 “Really?” Sara asked, filled with gratitude.

 “Yes, but just for tonight. Daniel isn’t here, so there won’t be any problem with him, and I doubt the others will be back today.”

Sara felt like hugging her. She accepted the marvellous offer without any hesitation and began to feel a little better.

Now feeling a bit more like herself, she sat at the table drinking coffee. Sara learned that four people lived in the house: Armando, from Italy; Fran herself, from Venezuela; and Colin and Daniel, from Ireland.

 “This house is marvellous,” Sara observed, gazing around her.

 “It is. Spacious, well located and in one of the best neighbourhoods in Dublin, but you can’t imagine how expensive it is. To tell you the truth, everything in this city is quite expensive, but especially around here. That’s why we need to rent the open room right away; otherwise, the four of us will have to make up the difference out of our own pockets.”

 “Then why aren’t you willing to accept women?”

Fran sighed.

 “It’s all Armando’s fault. He got himself into a mess with the last renter and it poisoned the atmosphere. Finally the girl left, though it was his fault, since he’ll sleep with anything that moves. That’s why, no more women, to avoid risks. It’s strictly forbidden to get involved with anyone else in the house.”

Sara smiled sadly.

 “I doubt very much there would be any risk with me. Believe me, Fran, the last thing I want now is more romantic problems.”

 “Do you feel like talking about it? You can tell me about it, if you want.”

 “Thanks, but I’m not ready to discuss it yet. So, how long have you been in Dublin?”

 “Almost eight months. I had originally planned to stay for three, but I fell in love,” Fran said enthusiastically.

 “With Stephen, right?”

Fran blinked. “Yes, of course, with him too, but especially with the city. It has some lovely places and is filled with greenery everywhere.”

Fran told Sara that when she first arrived in Dublin, things hadn’t exactly been easy. She couldn’t find any work in her profession as an accountant, so she waited tables in a restaurant. She missed everything about Venezuela, especially her mother and girlfriends, but fortunately she had found a new family in her housemates.

 “Sometimes they drive me crazy with their jokes, it’s true,” said Fran, “but Armando, Daniel and Colin are fantastic, and I adore living with them.”

Fran described the domestic routine as a whirlwind of laughter, recitals and group outings, which made Sara wish all the more that she could be accepted into the house. The building itself was lovely, the available room was inexpensive and cosy, and the relationship among the housemates was fantastic, according to Fran. And Fran herself was the most charming and outgoing person Sara had ever met. Yes, this house was the perfect place for a new beginning. . . if she could only stay.

If you enjoyed that and want to read more you can buy it here and it's also available in Spanish here.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Amanda for stopping by today to give us a taste of her novel and I wish her lots of success with it. 😉


  1. Thanks a million, dear Neats for this lovely spot. I love my novel is in your blog.
    Big hug!

    1. You're very welcome Amanda, it was a pleasure to host you 😘