Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Lynda Renham

Today I'd like to welcome Lynda Renham to The Hippo. Lynda is famous for her romantic comedy novels. She has been called A Comedian in a Book, Chicklit Royalty and A Comic Genius. Her writing style has been likened to Sophie Kinsella but is refreshingly down to earth with characters that become your friends. Lynda is a prolific writer, blogger and when not writing can usually be found wasting her time on Facebook. Lynda lives in Oxfordshire with her second husband and cat.

Photo courtesy of Lynda Renham

Lynda's latest novel, Remember Me, was published a couple of weeks ago. Described as a gripping psychological thriller with a jaw - dropping twist, it's getting fantastic reviews. Here's the blurb:

A new neighbour becomes a new friend. She looks up to you. She admires you, but is it you she wants? You begin to wonder if she wants your husband, or even your child. But then you realise, she wants your life.

When Sharni and Tom move into 24 The Pines, it seems like Clare and Chris have the perfect neighbours. Sharni is always there to help, especially with childcare for Clare’s two-year-old, Ben. But Clare can’t shake off the feelings of anxiety that assail her whenever Sharni is near. Is Clare just being overprotective, or are her feelings justified? As Sharni‘s influence touches everyone around her, Clare finds herself fighting for her sanity as well her family.

 If, like me, you think it not only looks but sounds great then read on lovely people as Lynda is very kindly sharing an excerpt here to give you all a little taster.

Chapter One

She stands on the doorstep. She’s shivering.  She isn’t wearing a coat and I can see the outline of her breasts through her thin blouse. She sees me looking and pulls her cardigan around her.
‘Hello,’ she says. ‘It’s freezing isn’t it?’
Her lips quiver with the cold. She looks shy and apologetic. Some hair has escaped her loose pony tail and she brushes it back.  She looks at me through rain splattered glasses.
‘I’m Sharni,’ she says.  ‘We’ve just moved in to number 24, next door.’
She points and my eyes follow her direction to a removal van. The house had been empty for a few months and Chris and I had wondered who might move in.
‘I’m Clare,’ I say. ‘It’s nice to meet you.’
She seems nervous and embarrassed.
‘I’m sorry to be a pain, already,’ she smiles. ‘But I’ve been sent some flowers and I can’t seem to find a vase anywhere. There are just so many boxes and …’
‘Oh, of course, come in,’ I say opening the door wider.
She closes it quickly behind her but not before a flurry of autumn leaves has blown in with her. Their rustic brown matches the colour of her hair.
‘It’s lovely and warm in here,’ she comments.
‘Do you not have heating?’
‘Oh yes, but with the door open all the time it’s impossible to stay warm.’
She looks vaguely familiar and I try to recall where I have seen her before.
‘I’ll get you a vase,’ I say, leading her into the lounge. ‘Would you like a coffee?’
She turns away and rubs her glasses on the sleeve of her cardigan.
‘I’m steamed up,’ she laughs. ‘A coffee would be great.’
Small gold hoops dangle from her earlobes and I notice ink smudges on her hands. Newspaper print I imagine. I remember Chris and I were covered in it when we moved in.
 If we ever move again, remind me not to use newspaper,’ he’d complained.
I search under the sink for a vase. My hand encounters dirty dusters and old bottles of cleaning liquid, but no vase. A mouse trap slams shut on my finger and I fight back a cry. I hear Sharni talking to Ben. Her voice is warm and soft. Ben gurgles happily. I try another cupboard without success and finally reach for the hand painted vase on the top shelf of the Welsh dresser. Chris had bought it for me on our honeymoon. I hesitate for a second. It’s not like she’ll have it for long. She’ll probably give it back as soon as she’s unpacked.
The kettle clicks and I make the coffee.
‘Oh, that’s lovely,’ she says on seeing the vase. She’s on the floor helping Ben colour in his rabbit pictures.
‘My husband bought it for me when we were honeymooning in Ireland.’
‘If you’re sure?’ she asks. ‘I’ll bring it back tomorrow. It’s just I don’t want the flowers to die.’
‘That’s fine,’ I say, pushing my lesson plans off the coffee table and placing a mug in front of her.
‘He’s adorable,’ she says, looking at Ben.
‘He is,’ I agree.
She strokes the top of his head, her hand lingering.
‘You have a lovely home,’ she says, glancing around.
‘Thank you.’
‘I’m keen to get ideas. I want our house to look really nice. You’ve done a great job here.’
She fingers the art d├ęcor lamp on the side table and I smile. Ben begins to get irritable and I bend down to him.
‘Do you mind if I ask where you bought this?’
‘John Lewis, if I remember. They have lovely things there.’
Ben lets out a burp and we both laugh.
‘How old is he?’ she asks.
‘Almost two,’ I say.
He struggles from my arms and wobbles towards Sharni like a new born fawn.
‘He’s just discovered his legs,’ I laugh.
She catches him as he tumbles towards her.
‘Do you have children?’ I ask.
Her face clouds over. It occurs to me that maybe I shouldn’t have asked. She then smiles and I wonder if I imagined it.
‘No,’ she says flatly.
I struggle to think of something to say.
‘Are you in interior design?’ she asks.
I laugh.
‘Me? No, I wouldn’t know where to start. I’m a teacher, well, only part time now that we have Ben.’
‘But this room is gorgeous, you have excellent taste. I’ll have to pick your brains when I start decorating ours.’
‘It’ll be nice to have neighbours of our own age,’ I say.
Her eyes shine. She places her mug on the table and leans towards me.
‘I’ve got a great idea, why don’t you and your husband come over Saturday evening for house warming drinks. We can get to know each other better.’
‘But you’ll be up to your eyes won’t you?’ I say, surprised at the invite.
‘We’ll need a break. Do say you’ll come.’
‘I’ll need to check with Chris, my husband, but I’m sure it will be okay.’
‘Great,’ she smiles, getting up from the couch. ‘Shall we say about eight? If you can’t get a sitter then bring the toddler with you.’
I open my mouth to speak and then change my mind. I had hoped we could take Ben with us. I hate leaving him with sitters but I imagine she wants an adult evening.
‘Thanks,’ I say hugging Ben close. ‘Enjoy your flowers.’
‘Flowers?’ she questions.
‘The ones you needed the vase for.’
‘Oh yes. My mum sent them. Thanks Clare. See you on Saturday.’

* * *
‘I see someone’s moving in,’ says Helen, nodding towards the removal van.
I follow her gaze.
‘Yes. I met her this morning. She seems nice.’
We watch as a white sofa is carried into the house. I shiver as the cold air cuts through me.
‘Do you want a coffee?’ I ask, stepping back into the warm.
‘No, I just popped around for the lesson plans. I’ve got a pile of marking to get through.’
She closes the door and waits for me to get the plans.
‘They’ve invited us for drinks on Saturday,’ I say. I don’t know why I’m telling Helen. Maybe I’m hoping she’ll make me feel better about not wanting to go. 
‘God, they’d have barely settled in.’
‘I know. I’m thinking we should maybe say no.’
‘That’s daft. Of course you should go. I’m sure you can get a sitter,’ smiles Helen. ‘You’re always saying how Chris moans because you don’t go out much.’
I force a smile. It’s very short notice to ask Kathryn to babysit and I really don’t trust anyone else. It’s all right for Helen. Not having children she couldn’t possibly understand. I know she thinks I’m over anxious and maybe she’s right.  It’s not that I wouldn’t like to go out for the evening but it’s not much fun if I’m worrying about Ben all the time.
‘I’ll speak to Chris,’ I say.
‘How’s Ben?’ she asks, peeking around the door to wave at him.
‘He’s great. I love the days I’m home.’
She hugs me and opens the front door.
‘We need to do a trip to Ikea,’ she says, her face lighting up.
‘We’ll get a date at school tomorrow. Better fly.’
I watch as a black Audi pulls up outside the house next door. A smartly dressed man emerges from it. He pulls a suitcase from the boot and wheels it to the house. I brush some leaves from the step and close the front door.

One year earlier

She sat in her usual chair in the therapist’s room her hands clasped together, her shoulders hunched.
‘Do you want to talk about the birth?’ Leah asked, handing her a mug of coffee.
No, I don’t want to talk about the birth, she thought. The rain splashed at the windows and her eyesight blurred.
‘I don’t really remember much,’ she said. It didn’t sound like her voice. It was too far away. ‘I know it was raining. I remember hailstones hitting the windows. I was excited that it was happening.’
She squeezed her hands tightly, the nails sharp and painful in her palms.
‘I remember thinking it doesn’t matter about the pain. It would all be worth it, and it was.’
‘It’s a good memory?’
She nodded.
‘But I wanted three. I always wanted three. I’d planned that we’d have the second a year later. That way they could grow up together …’
Her throat seemed to close up and she struggled to breathe.
‘Do you need a glass of water?’ Leah asked kindly.
She shook her head. All she seemed to do here was drink endless amounts of water.
‘I still can’t accept it. I do try. I remember the pain, it went on for hours. I would have liked a natural birth but I was relieved when I was taken to the operating theatre. Everyone said I should be grateful to have a baby but I only felt disappointment and anger. It was my mother who told me that I couldn’t have any more’.
‘Are you still angry with the doctors for taking away your womb?’’
She shrugged. Her hand trembled and she carefully placed the mug of coffee onto the table next to a solitary box of tissues. She found herself wondering how often Leah replaces the box. Every day? Every few hours?
‘You need to get past this if we’re to move on.  You have to accept.’
It’s easy for her to say, she thought angrily.
‘Do you have a family?’ she asked.
‘It’s not about me.’ said Leah
‘I have to go,’ she said suddenly, standing up.
Leah didn’t seem surprised.
At least she’d stayed longer than last time.

                                    *    *    *    *

 If that's made you want to carry on reading, you'll be pleased to hear that you can download your very own copy of Remember Me for just 99p.

You can find out more about Lynda and her books and connect with her using the links below:

I'd like to thank Lynda for sharing an excerpt of Remember Me and I hope she gets lots more fabulous reviews for it.

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