By Nicola May
Rosa Larkin is down on her luck in London, so when she inherits a near-derelict corner shop in a quaint Devon village, her first thought is to sell it for cash and sort out her life. But nothing is straightforward about this legacy. While the identity of her benefactor remains a mystery, he - or she - has left one important legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it.
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This is where you find out how Hot; Rosa’s cute little Dachshund came to be in her care…
Rosa felt butterflies in her stomach as the train pulled into Cockleberry Station. Hot had slept nearly the whole way but was now agitated and whining.
She exited the train as quickly as she could with a heavy suitcase and black bin bag in tow and almost felt the relief herself as her agitated pooch cocked his leg on the edge of a coffee sellers stall.
‘Oi,’ The ginger bearded bloke manning it was not happy. Rosa likened him to a skinny Viking.
‘Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I should have got out at Exeter but wasn’t sure if we’d have time to get back on again. Let me buy a bottle of water and I’ll wash it down.’
The dishevelled man took in the stranger in front of him. Unruly brown curls stuck out beneath her bright blue bobble hat, neatly framing her small round face. Her well fitted dark jeans, met her black Nike trainers which had seen better days. She had a tiny scar on her left cheek which resembled a miniature bolt of lightning. And, although not wearing a scrap of make-up, she was naturally very pretty.
He smiled. ‘Travelled far then?’
‘Visiting family for Christmas, I guess?’
Blimey, Rosa thought. She’d rather hoped she could enjoy the anonymity that a new town may offer.
‘Yes. Yes. Now I really must be going. Where is the taxi rank, please?’
The bearded man laughed revealing a missing tooth. ‘Taxi rank? I can give you a number for Ralph Weeks. He lives in the bay and does the driving around here. But not sure how busy he will be as no bus runs on a Wednesday to Ulchester. I’m Seb by the way.’ He held out his gloved hand.
‘Rosa, and this is Hot.’
Seb properly belly laughed. ‘Hot... hot dog... that is the funniest name for a dog I think I have ever heard.’
‘Well he is a sausage and I did steal him.’
‘That makes it even funnier. Here, let me ring Ralph for you, he’s already in my phone. You say you stole him?’
‘Long story, but don’t you be phoning the police on me. Or is there none of those in the bay either?’
‘You’re learning fast, Rosa.’ He held the phone to his ear. ‘No answer. Look I’m freezing and was about to finish up anyway. Maybe I can give you a lift?’
It was already four ‘o’ clock and dark, and feeling cold and tired herself, she agreed.
‘If you can just drop me at The Ship Inn that would be lovely.’
With passengers and luggage safely on board, Seb shouted over the obviously blown exhaust of his old white van. ‘Not a limo I’m afraid, but it gets me from A to B.’ With Rosa supporting his little body, Hot craned to see what was going on.
‘An absence of street lights here too then?’
Seb laughed. ‘Yep, a torch is definitely your friend down here. I know every broken paving slab and bump in the road now. Although the council do make the effort with a few Christmas lights, which we’ll get to in a minute.’
Rosa tried to locate the corner shop as they made their way down a narrow street, but the address was in her bag and she didn’t want to make it obvious to Seb that she was looking out for anything. It was her business and she wanted to keep it that way; for the moment anyway.
Turning into another narrow street, she smiled as she saw quirky gift shops, a bakery and a butcher’s shop, all decorated beautifully for the festive period. As all she had ever known was the hustle and bustle of town life and it was almost like going back in time to her. She noticed a couple, swinging their child by his arms and then bundling into one of the cafes displaying an impressive array of cakes in the half steamed up window.
She had never really known normal family life as such. Her real mum had been an
alcoholic, evidently, and there wasn’t a father named on her birth certificate. The story was that at six months, despite every effort her mum made to look after her, social services had still taken her away.
And then there was Maureen and Len, who after having no luck bearing children themselves had fostered her with a view to adoption. Tragically, Maureen was diagnosed with terminal cancer when Rosa was just six years old and Len was unable to cope with a young child and a dying wife. Then began an unstable journey of children’s homes and foster carers. There were a couple of ‘almost’ adoptions along the way, but with Rosa being such a troubled child, nobody had been willing to take her on permanently.
Rosa sighed and nursed Hot into her lap. Being honest, her dysfunctional, blow job (only when drunk) relationship, with Josh, plus the recent acquisition of Hot had been the nearest to feeling happy that she had ever felt and now she had given that up to.
But giving up was a common occurrence for Rosa. She didn’t tolerate fools. Seb looked over to her. ‘That was a big sigh. We are nearly there, just around this corner and The Ship will be in front of us.’
As they rounded the corner, Rosa noticed it. The shop. Lit by the van’s headlights, it had an interesting curved frontage. Turquoise paint was peeling from the worn front door where a battered looking CLOSED sign was still turned out. In faded writing, above the beautiful curved windows were the words, The Corner Shop. Rosa also seeing a flat above the shop felt a surge of excitement. It that was part of the package, then suddenly the whole thing didn’t seem such a bad idea.
‘What a shame.’ Rosa said softly.
‘The Corner Shop you mean?’
‘It’s been shut for about five years now. Used to be a little goldmine.’
‘What did it sell?’
‘Everything and anything, really. It was a real favourite with locals and tourists alike. Bit of a mystery actually, as old Mr Myers who ran it, literally worked until he couldn’t negotiate the steep steps up to the flat anymore.’
‘Aw, bless him, but why a mystery?’…
About The Author:
Nicola May lives in the UK, five miles from the Queen’s castle in Windsor, with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan. Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks – and, naturally, enjoying a flutter on the horses.
She won Best Author Read at the Festival of Romance for The School Gates and Christmas Evie, in 2012 and 2014 respectively.
She classes her novels as ‘chicklit with a kick,’ writing about love, life and friendships in a real, not fluffy kind of way. She likes burgers, mince pies, clocks, birds, bubble baths and facials - but is not so keen on aubergines.
You can learn more about Nicola and her other books here:
Follow Nicola May
Website - www.nicolamay.com
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Twitter - https://twitter.com/nicolamay1
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Thank you to the author, publisher, and Rachel's Random Resources for this ARC. This is my honest opinion.
When I had gotten the email about a blog tour for this book, I knew I just had to read it. Why you may ask? Well, Rosa has her very own Dachshund named Hot. As a Dachshund lover, I just had to give it a go. (Tank's a Dachshund, too. He is just bigger and hairier than most 😁)
We weren't disappointed. The book is set in Cockleberry Bay where everyone knows everything about everyone. Yet there are still secrets being kept that will turn this little town upside down.
The biggest surprise is when Rosa inherits the corner shop and moves in from London. Rosa thinks she is pretty worldly because she has had to fend for herself since she was a little girl. It was interesting to watch her open up and develop new meaningful relationships.
Rosa herself was a tough one to like. Besides being a dog lover, she had made some shaky decisions in the beginning that I couldn't get behind. But she grew on me as the story unfolded.
The story itself had lots of twists and turns. Some of them were easy to see coming and some were unexpected. Overall, I had an enjoyable experience reading it. It was one of those books that left me pondering about it for the rest of the day.
It definitely gets a 4 paw rating as it had suspense, romance, character growth, and of course a Dachshund!
Trigger warning: This book touches on rape and alcoholism.
Trigger warning: This book touches on rape and alcoholism.