Clean Romance FREE for a limited time.

Three Against the World

Redundancy gives Richard, a talented musician, the chance to pursue his dreams, but his fiancée, Bridget, publicly ditches him, making enemies of his friends. Next. his ex-wife, Naomi, dumps teenage Maria on his doorstep, claiming she’s his daughter. Scrapping freedom and dreams, Richard moves to London and takes Maria and an unwanted dog, Ben, with him. Can they find in each other the love they’ve been denied, or will an unknown enemy stop them?

Read a sample here. 

Amazon Reviews.

This is a fun story of romance or in fact, most of the time, a lack of romance for Richard. He is terrible at picking women and despite having a lot going for him, each relationship fails. In truth, by the end, he wasn’t showing the best judgement when using a dating site to find a wife and proposing in a ridiculously short time, despite the warning signs. At the heart of the story is a 14 year old girl, who is deposited on Richard’s doorstep by his ex wife, with the announcement the girl is his daughter. What follows is a charming story, which proves everyday life has plenty of twists and turns, drama and humour. The book ends with a twist and I already have the next in the series on my kindle so I am looking forward to discovering what life (or the author) has in store for Richard and Maria.

Never work with children and animals, the saying goes… but Sarah Stuart has flown in the face of this advice and produced a thoroughly enjoyable – dare I say, even spellbinding – story that revolves round the hopeless romantic Richard, his putative daughter Maria, and Ben, the Jack Russell who stole my heart. I love this author’s effortless and deceptively simple style – it immediately flowed and drew me into the narrative, and I was increasingly engaged with the characters and the plot. Some of the female characters were femme fatales of the worst kind, and I often wanted to yell at the ever-trusting and starry-eyed Richard: “Look out behind you!” However, in the past I have fallen foul myself into the giddy trap of placing hope over experience, and it’s a steep learning curve – and Richard is still on the baby slopes throughout most of this book. The themes in the novel are not simply romantic, and although Richard seemed at times to be throwing himself recklessly into yet another black hole of an inevitably mismatched relationship, I couldn’t help but admire his stamina and decency, and his numerous struggles to do the right thing. Maria’s low self-esteem when she is dumped on his doorstep at the age of fourteen is the outcome of cruelly abysmal mothering, and the book takes the reader on a journey over several years to see how love eventually helps to heal her wounds, as well as Richard’s. I unreservedly recommend this novel, and I’m looking forward to reading more of this author’s work.


The trilogy I didn’t intend to write.

A truly great trilogy.


Rebecca Bryn

The Chainmakers’ Trilogy –NEW COVER REVEAL

It all began when I saw a TV report about the Black Country Living Museum and the women chainmaker’s strike of 1910, when they fought the chain masters for a living wage and paved the way for a National Minimum Wage – the phrase The White Slaves of England piqued my interest. That children from the age of about four worked in backyard chain workshops alongside their mothers, sometimes for twelve hours a day for a pittance, appalled me. That a family all worked these hours and still couldn’t afford to put food on the table was scandalous. Men grew fat and built huge mansions on the blacks of white slaves as well as black ones. That troops shot railway strikers in South Wales was startling.

Social history fascinates me, even down to the everyday words and phrases we use without thinking about…

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Author’s New Book Receives A Warm Literary Welcome.

Readers’ Favorite announces the review of the Fiction – Thriller – Psychological book “Shattered Lives” by Sarah Stuart, currently available at

Readers’ Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.

Reviewed By Susan Sewell for Readers’ Favorite

“Wanting to remove any claims to his vast inheritance, a serial killer is on the hunt for his recently discovered sister in the exciting thriller Shattered Lives: A DCI Gerald Croft Thriller by Sarah Stuart. Ralph Thyme is impatiently waiting for his grandmother to die. Tucking her away in residential care, he takes over the master suite in her mansion and inadvertently finds his grandfather’s hidden diary. The pages hold a family secret that directly affects Ralph: he has a sister named Olivia that he didn’t know existed. Not wanting to contend with anyone for what he considers his fortune, Ralph systematically begins hunting for Olivia to eliminate her. After the detective he hires finds Olivia, Ralph commits murder, but something dreadful goes wrong. In the meantime, the thirst for blood rages through Ralph’s veins, and Ralph commits more heinous killings. His crimes have DCI Croft urgently looking for a serial killer, but can DCI Croft capture Ralph before he finds his target? Or is it already too late?

Filled with drama and foreboding, Shattered Lives: A DCI Gerald Croft Thriller by Sarah Stuart is a heart-stopping murder mystery. It is an intense story that takes the reader on a ride of horror and suspense. The apprehension and intensity continue building throughout the plot, snowballing into a climactic and shocking finish. I read it with bated breath and could not put the book down until I reached the final page. It is a sensational story with a clever plot and intriguing characters with realistic personalities, both good and bad. Containing gruesome murder scenes filled with blood and gore, Shattered Lives is a riveting novel for mature audiences that will engage any reader who loves spine-tingling thrillers.”

You can learn more about Sarah Stuart and “Shattered Lives” at where you can read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.

A few good reads.

cherime Macfarlane

This is one whopping tangle of a tale. Nor does it begin where you think it does. The greedy, ready to do anything to further his agenda vile twit didn’t start the ball rolling. No, the first generation set the stage for the horror to come. I must admit to having times when I wanted to tell DCI Croft to get rid of his tunnel vision. But for the most part he is a person with feelings which sometimes get in the way.

Be prepared to spend time reading this one. It sucks you in. It’s not comfortable in places, not in the least. It is a great story.

It all started with his other books. Since I like what I read I went to this one. I know the country a bit. Once owned property out that way. It is the definition of high lonesome. My sister lived in…

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Shattered Lives – Readers’ Favorite Pre-Publication Hit!

5 stars from Susan Sewell

Filled with drama and foreboding, Shattered Lives: A DCI Gerald Croft Thriller by Sarah Stuart is a heart-stopping murder mystery. An intense story that takes the reader on a ride of horror and suspense. The apprehension and intensity continue building throughout the plot, snowballing into a climactic and shocking finish. I read it with bated breath and could not put the book down until I reached the final page. It is a sensational story with a clever plot and intriguing characters with realistic personalities, both good and bad. Containing gruesome murder scenes filled with blood and gore, Shattered Lives is a riveting novel for mature audiences that will engage any reader who loves spine-tingling thrillers.


5 stars from Anne-Marie Reynolds

Shattered Lives by Sarah Stuart is a fascinating thriller that delves deep into two storylines: the mind of a psychopath and that of a sexual abuse survivor who must save another from the same fate to heal herself. It isn’t a story for younger readers or the faint-hearted: child sexual abuse, necrophilia, and graphic violence are just part of the substantial subject matter. This story delves into how a psychopath functions and what makes them tick, leading you down some dark paths through a truly twisted mind. It also guides you on a journey of discovery through the eyes of a child sex abuse survivor, more dark paths that eventually lead to the light. Shattered Lives is a gripping tale that will hold your heart in a vice while you read it, and it will have you turning the pages deep into the night.

Shattered Lives is coming soon at the introductory price of 99p/99c


Coming Soon – Shattered Lives

Murder shatters more lives than those of victims. Ralph Thyme, psychopath, is hooked on rape and strangulation.

Warning – this book contains graphic violence, necrophilia, and sexual abuse of a child.

Ralph Thyme, rejected by his parents, escapes twelve years of hell at boarding school when they’re killed in an avalanche. The only acknowledged heir to his grandmother’s millions, he discovers he has an elder sister, Olivia, whom his grandfather sold for fifty thousand pounds. Might she discover who she really is and claim half? Ralph decides not to risk it and kills her… or does he? 

Whatever the truth, he realises the detective he employed to find Olivia might shop him to the police when he reads of her death. He too must die… and his pretty blonde daughter…

DCI Gerald Croft has a serial killer on his patch, but who is he?

“Three Against the World” is FREE today!

Beware! Richard, Maria, and Ben will hook you, BUT, all is not lost. Books 2 and 3 are on offer at 99 cents or same worldwide.

Book 1 Richard finds teenage Maria on his doorstep, as unwanted by her mother as he is by his fiancée, dumped, like the stray dog, Ben, he adopted. Richard didn’t expect to fall in love

Book 2 Richard and Maria’s marriage attracts enemies from the past prepared to risk killing innocent people to split them apart, but which one?

Book 3 Financial disaster threatens. When their daughter, Eleanor, tries to help, she renews ancient jealousies. Will the music they share keep them together, or must Eleanor remain one alone in the world?

Amazon Worldwide

Amazon UK

YES! The books are free or reduced everywhere, but UK readers are told “UNAVAILABLE” sometimes, so please use the correct link. 



Day 5 of What Are You Missing?

One of dozens of scenes set in the USA!

California Dreams or a Nightmare? 

Kenneth Walsh spent his twentieth birthday as he did every weekday, and Saturdays, since a few months after his parents died in a pile-up on Route 66, working in the sort of garden his parents had dreamed of when they left Ireland for a new life in America.

He and Orla had been in the rear seat of the family Toyota Camry, and they’d survived, miraculously unhurt. The threat to him, then just eighteen, and his younger sister, had come from a female do-gooder who’d stepped from another car and established their parents were dead. He was an adult. She didn’t give a damn he had nothing but the clothes he was wearing and the contents of a backpack, but she proposed to take Orla when she could move her drivable car. The social services, she’d said bossily, were obliged to provide foster care for underage orphans.

He leaned on his rake for a minute and took a swig from his water bottle. The crash was as vivid now as the day it happened. No way would he have parted with Orla; he was all she had left, and the chaos of mangled vehicles, with paramedics and fire crews struggling to help the victims, had played into his hands. Nobody had been interested in two teenagers obviously unhurt, even the police. They’d cleared the scene and begged a lift with a motorist turning his car illegally to head back to LA.

Schooling was out, even though Orla was still grade nine; they needed two wages. Jobs in bars where nobody asked questions had kept them fed and housed, but he’d wondered too often if Orla would have been safer if he’d let her go into foster care; she was a pretty girl who attracted male attention. Doubts had ended when Mrs Davis-Browne advertised for a gardener. He’d applied and spent most of his nights before the interview reading about plants and soil, so he could answer questions. He’d got the job, though he suspected it was because, as the youngest applicant, the lady could offer him less money, but when he’d attempted to persuade her to raise it by saying he cared for his sister, she’d jumped at the chance of a cheap maid. It turned out Mrs Davis-Browne was a divorcee living above her means and aiming to attract a second wealthy husband, but it was marvellous for them. No drunks in sleazy bars –

A scream from an upper-storey window bounced back from the greenhouse and was silenced abruptly, but not before he recognised Orla’s voice. He dropped everything and ran, crushing flowers underfoot and aiming directly for the front door. It was unlocked. He pounded up the stairs. ‘Orla, Orla, where are you?’

No answer. He flung open doors to the bedrooms. Behind the third, a man he’d seen call at the house several times lay on top of Orla, one hand over her mouth. The rise and fall of his naked butt showed him that he was too late. The fucking asshole was raping his sister. Even as he crossed the room, the man shuddered and came inside her.

He grabbed the bastard’s hair and yanked him off Orla, and then laid him out with one punch to his chin.

‘Ken, you’ve killed him!’

‘I wish.’

Mrs Davis-Browne spoke from the doorway. ‘You’re fired, both of you. Get out of my house.’

Orla pulled a torn dress over her head. ‘You can’t do that! Ken hit him because he raped me.’

‘Really? You’ve been making a play for him every time he calls, and he’s mine. You either leave or I’ll call the police and who do you think they’ll believe? A respectable resident of an upscale part of town or a pair of immigrants?’

The answer was obvious, and it would end with Orla alone; he’d be in jail for assault. ‘Orla, we’re going home.’

‘She’s lying. It’s not fair.’

Life hadn’t been fair to their parents, all their hopes and hard work crushed in seconds when somebody took a risk overtaking a car-transporter way ahead of them, and they could expect no better. Neither of them had qualifications, for these jobs or any other, and Orla was still only fifteen. He put his arm around her and led her out to their latest acquisition, an old Chevy Cavalier he’d paid for after he’d bullied the salesman into basic repairs.

Back at Caverly Court, a fancy name for a trailer park in Watts, LA, he squeezed it into his parking place beside their small home and wished he’d never parted with the cash. It was worth nothing, and if it broke down on the highway, he’d have to pay tow charges or be prosecuted. Forget it. Think about Orla; she’d cried so much her eyes were swollen. and she’d gone inside alone. He followed, and she looked at him, a desperate expression in her grey eyes.

‘Suppose I’m pregnant, Ken?’

‘It was only once.’ Only, when he’d thought she was safe.

Orla pointed a shaking hand at a small stack of thumbed magazines Mrs Davis-Browne had given her. ‘There are advice columns in those, and “Ask E Jean” has loads of questions about sex and pregnancy, and she says once can be all it takes.’

Articles in those same magazines confirmed what he already feared. Abortion was legal in California, but only free in cases of rape, incest, or when it was medically necessary. Pray Orla had been lucky; they couldn’t prove rape, and “medically necessary” meant admitting Orla was underage. Any doctor would look at computer records, and their parents’ practice would have her correct date of birth, which was why they’d left registering with another and been lucky. Neither of them had needed a doctor, until now – maybe.

£/$9.99 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Day 4 of What Are You Missing?

Does the celebrity lifestyle attract jealousy and revenge, or did he pay a hit man? You decide!

Powdery snow flew under his skis as Michael Marsh turned into a stop at the bottom of a beginners’ run. Not bad after a fortnight, especially as the first week had been spent on the nursery slopes. He looked back for Elspeth. Her bright ski suit was usually easy to spot, but there was no sign of her. Had they been right to dispense with the services of a private instructor?

A golden and copper flash swept around other skiers, and Elspeth arrived beside him laughing. ‘Michael, don’t you dare ask what happened.’

‘I don’t have to. You look like a tube of toothpaste that’s been squeezed too hard.’

‘Oh, charming!’

He removed his goggles and stopped her mock fury with a kiss before he brushed off the snow. ‘Once more, or are you ready for a hot chocolate?’

Elspeth took off her helmet and goggles. ‘In one of the bars, or are you offering to make it?’

He winked. ‘I’ll do it, later.’

It was good to see Elspeth happy; she’d been depressed by her mother’s death. Christmas and Hogmanay at Kinloch Wildlife Reserve had been quiet, with only a few guests other than the family; Margaret Cameron had been loved. She’d lived to see James and Isla’s son christened Iain after his great-grandfather, and then given in to crippling arthritis and the loneliness of years without the husband she’d adored.

Elspeth jerked him back from Scottish mountains to the glittering sunlit slopes skirting the jagged peak of the Matterhorn. ‘Come on then. I don’t walk in these boots, I shuffle.’

‘Keep your skis on.’

It was what the instructor had suggested, but she was already removing them. Perhaps if he carried them, her helmet, goggles, and the knapsack she used to tote sunscreen and goodness knows what else, she could walk without slipping on ice, if she’d remembered to bring her boot spikes.

A woman wearing a multi-coloured ski suit, pink helmet and goggles, tapped his arm and held out a leather-bound autograph book with a pen attached. He signed, conscious of a crowd gathering. Drat it! He hadn’t replaced his goggles with dark glasses: so much for hot chocolate or anything else in the immediate future. Sure enough, women were scuffling in pockets for paper, and their menfolk were grinning; they didn’t intend him to escape. ‘Elspeth, I don’t suppose you have a pen?’

She emptied her knapsack onto the snow and waved a felt-tip. ‘See! I carry all sorts of useful things. The loan charge is a kiss for every signature.’

He tossed his gloves on top of her scattered belongings and started writing MM for the unruly queue, struggling to smile at his fans without laughing. Elspeth would be counting, and crowds invariably attracted more people.

Screams cut the clear air. The girl holding a piste map for him to sign looked over his arm, swayed, and collapsed at his feet. He half-bent to help her and glanced back. A familiar figure lay still against the stark white, the silver handle of a weapon protruding from a blood-stained patch on her chest.

Elspeth.’ Levering off his skis, breaking straps in his haste, he slid his fingers inside her collar: no pulse, and not a hint of breath on his icy palm. He tugged at the zip on her suit and a hand grasped his.

‘Warten Sie lieber, mein Herr – make – badder.’

Another voice. ‘Help is coming – not long. They’re prepared for accidents.’

This was no accident, but a doctor would revive her. They could work miracles; he knew they could. He’d shown no signs of life after a heart attack, and he was fitter than he’d been on a concert tour of Europe eighteen months ago.

Uniformed bodies pushed him aside. A policeman addressed him in perfect English, and he too recognised him. ‘Mr Marsh, this lady is your wife?’

‘My – my Elspeth.’

He persisted. ‘Your wife’s full name?’

I, Michael, take you, Elspeth. ‘Elspeth Marsh.’

‘The correct spelling, please.’

The paramedics had finished. Elspeth lay where she’d fallen with a sheet over her that covered her face. No hope, no chance to hold her ever again, and no goodbye. To hell with police formalities and witnesses’ sensibilities. He folded back the sheet, made the sign of the cross on her forehead, and kissed eyelids closed by a stranger’s hand. ‘Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death –’

Those closest joined in, and the murmur of prayer gained strength. This was Europe, and the Catholic faith was strong: even the policeman remained silent until it was over.

‘Mr Marsh, I regret that she cannot be moved, and I must ask you to stay.’ The sympathetic voice spoke louder, commanding. ‘Ihr bleibt alle hier bis ihr die Erlaubnis habt zu gehen. All of you remain until you are given permission to leave.’

Official backup had arrived. He was forced to leave Elspeth, the area around her cordoned off, and more police surrounded the crowd, notebooks at the ready. He unzipped his ski suit and found his mobile. Fumbling, almost blinded by tears, he managed need u lis and dropped the phone.

A lady picked it up and read the message. ‘Lis is your daughter, Lisette Marsh, and you want her to come? Does she know where you are?’

He and Elspeth had decided to visit Zermatt and try skiing a couple of days into exploring Rome, where the winter sun had vanished making wearing dark glasses recognisable as a typical celebrity disguise. He shook his head; his fingers couldn’t find the tiny keys he needed. ‘Horn Anzeigen.’

‘I know it. Horn Anzeigen Aparthotel.’ She tapped busily. ‘The “Lisette” in your contacts, yes? Ah! No signal.’ She closed a hand over his. ‘When I am permitted to leave, I will find a good spot to send this, and leave your mobile with the concierge.’

A policeman prevented him from touching Elspeth’s belongings. Everything was bagged and labelled, even her felt tip. The loan charge is a kiss for every signature.

£/$9.99 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Day 3 of What Are You Missing?

A piece of the jigsaw: A television interview where Michael attempts to manipulate the media, and it’s affect on the family in Scotland!


Kinloch House

James counted the horse riders taking advantage of the sunny autumn morning: only five, and the weather forecast for later was overcast with a strong possibility of rain. He went back into the house, grateful the journalists in the helicopter parked beside his own were reluctant to leave their breakfasts. He’d provided them to smooth feathers ruffled by Alasdair and Bruce who’d been asked to explain the coffin they were seen loading into the Kinloch helicopter. As usual, Alasdair had taken it for granted they could use it to deliver one of Bruce’s sculptures without asking or paying.

A guest emerged from the larger of the two lounges. ‘Mr Marsh, would you mind tuning the television.’ Mr Lester flapped the tabloid, Circadian Gossip, under his nose. ‘You can pick up programmes broadcast from Italy?’

‘Yes, I’ll do it for you now.’

All television channels available was a facility offered on the Kinloch Wildlife Reserve website. Just occasionally, the mast erected on a mountain top let them down: it hadn’t this morning, drat it. He located the channel, ostentatiously deaf to the complaints voiced by far too many guests waiting to watch the interview spot advertised as Luongo Inside Stories.

Mr Terry, a burly businessman from London, was in full flow. ‘It didn’t seem unreasonable to expect a wildlife reserve to be a peaceful haven for humans too. I suffer quite enough from the media attacking my company without finding the blasted nuisances haunting me when I do take a holiday.’

‘I agree, and that damned helicopter arriving woke my wife.’ Mr Partridge stopped to yawn, as if he’d been awake ever since. ‘She’s out riding, but goodness knows if she’ll get back without some idiot journalist waylaying her.’

Mr Donne’s Texan voice broke in. ‘The Kinloch helicopter is taking us to Aberdeen Airport. I’ve booked a flight to Belfast. We want to see something of the Old Country before we go home, and I shall expect a full refund. I said as much to Mrs Cameron.’

The American and his family occupied three suites, and he’d talk when he got home. They all would unless Michael could say something to stop the paparazzi raking over the embers of a forgotten scandal and igniting a flame that looked like becoming a conflagration that would consume them all.

‘Isn’t leaving today a little hasty, Mr Donne? After all, Mr Lester asked Mr Marsh specially to find the right channel, so we could find out the truth.’

He paused, occupying his hands with a flower arrangement. He knew nothing about arranging flowers, but the lady speaking was one of two sisters who’d been visiting Kinloch since he was a youngster.

Mrs Terry spoke. ‘I agree with you, Miss Carver. Michael Marsh is well-liked by the staff here, and they know him a great deal better than we do.’

Mr Donne snorted. ‘Kinloch Wildlife Reserve is the biggest employer in the area. They’re hardly likely to criticise the laird’s father.’

Drat the man. Over fifty percent of their guests were American, and the majority were a pleasure to entertain. Would they return if the media verdict was guilty whether the police took an interest or not?

Miss Carver, less shy than her sister, wasn’t to be silenced. ‘I’ve met Michael and his wife. They’re a charming couple, and generous enough to play and sing for guests sometimes. Where else would you have the privilege of asking a superstar for requests?’

‘It seems you aren’t the only woman Michael Marsh has charmed, Miss Carver. We’re leaving. My wife and daughters are with me, and I won’t have them exposed to scandal.’

Nothing he could offer would stop complaints this serious. He left the mixture of red and white roses drooping askew and joined Gran, who was watching the same channel on the television in the study.

She replaced a cup on the coffee table. ‘It’s raining in Rome. Not very pleasant for the people queuing for entrance to the Vatican. I had no idea it was open so early.’

Rain in Scotland wouldn’t have kept many more guests indoors. He sat beside Gran, praying for a miracle and fearing the collapse of the business and all their lives. Would she survive if that happened, or give in to the hip pain and arthritis that plagued her?

Advert followed advert before the programme began. It opened with a view of a massive circle of machines he couldn’t identify and homed in on chairs set around a table. One of them was occupied, and the gentleman spoke into the camera.

‘Buongiorno da Roma. Good morning from Rome. This is Alberto Luongo welcoming you to Luongo Inside Stories, and my guests this morning are Lisette and Michael Marsh.’

Lisette, shaking the man’s hand and taking a seat, said something he could barely hear, and couldn’t understand. Obviously, a greeting in Italian.

Gran fidgeted. ‘Michael looks tired.’

Would it make an incestuous affair seem more likely or less? For the first time Michael looked his age, and he wouldn’t be the first older man to attempt to recapture his youth with an attractive young woman.

Alberto Luongo put his first questions pleasantly to Lisette, but her replies were short. It was a relief when Michael interrupted their host.

‘You must forgive, Lisette. She strained her vocal cords during the concert in Istanbul. She has an appointment with an otolaryngologist here in Rome later this morning.’

The man shook his head with what looked like fake sympathy. ‘Turkish audiences will keep singers all night if they can, and I’m sure you two had more amusing ideas to occupy your time than endless encores.’ He pressed on when he got no response. ‘Lisette, will you be able to sing for us tomorrow?’

‘I don’t think so, but the concert will go ahead.’

Michael put a hand over hers. ‘Hush, Lisette. Talking won’t help. My wife, Elspeth, is on her way now. She’ll be taking Lisette’s place in the concerts until an ENT specialist gives Lisette the all clear.’

‘Your wife?’

He almost fell over Gran’s feet, leaping up to shake his fist with more fervour ‘He didn’t have to sound so bloody surprised!’

Alberto Luongo’s eyes had lit. Like the rest of the media, he was backing off accusing his guests of incest, but he’d seen his chance to make a more blatant hint. ‘She’ll be with you for the rest of the tour taking care of her daughter?’

Replacing his hand on the chair arm, Michael produced a worried frown. ‘If a week’s rest is enough for Lisette my wife will fly home after the concert in Athens. Our youngest daughter is only eleven. We have an au pair, and my middle daughter, Harriet, is there too, but Greta needs her mother. She’s not a strong child.’

‘You have three daughters?’

He thumped the back of the sofa. ‘Luongo may as well have accused Michael of having a fucking choice.’

Gran was intent on the screen, but he had a nasty feeling he hadn’t heard the last of that remark. If he wasn’t so worried, he wouldn’t use the foul language Alasdair habitually did. Michael was fighting, but it was imperative his argument was convincing.

‘Three daughters and two sons. It’s Kit’s music this tour was arranged to promote and the whole family are keen to see him succeed. He’s a very talented composer.’

The interrogator wasn’t giving in: he turned from Michael to Lisette. ‘You left a successful career in America to publicise your brother’s work?’

Lisette moved nearer the mic: she must have, though it was off-camera. Could she say anything to halt the disaster he was watching, as were most of the Kinloch House guests.

‘I haven’t seen any of my family since I flew to America to star in my first Broadway musical. At the end of the tour I plan to stay in the UK and catch up with them all. My brother, James, owns a wildlife reserve in Scotland, and my grandmother still lives there. I haven’t even met Greta, my youngest sister.’

‘You don’t intend to stay with – Michael?’

Gran, Luongo came close to saying your lover.’

‘Hush, James, and do sit down. Lisette’s still speaking.’

‘– my two sisters, and of course Kit, still live at home. I can’t wait to hear what Kit’s working on now.’

Michael intervened. ‘Lisette, don’t try to say anymore.’

‘Forgive me, Lisette. Michael, Italy is a country with many very beautiful young singers. You didn’t consider employing one of them in Lisette’s place?’

‘My theatrical agent suggested exactly that, but Elspeth wouldn’t hear of it.’

He groaned. It sounded as if Elspeth didn’t trust him, but Michael was still talking, and if he interrupted again – Gran did have a temper.

‘Elspeth sings for guests at the hotel attached to the wildlife reserve, and Clement Fynn coached her as he did Lisette.’

‘But she didn’t take up singing professionally?’

Michael chuckled, and the camera picked up a twinkle of genuine amusement in his eyes. ‘With five children spread over twenty-five years?’

‘You’re a Catholic. A large family is normal.’

‘Oh, for goodness sake, Gran. Luongo’s been well-briefed. Michael should have ignored the suggestion about an Italian singer, not repeated what his theatrical agent said.

Quiet, James.’

‘My wife and I are both Catholics.’ Michael smiled. ‘There are approved methods of contraception, but a big family was Elspeth’s choice. She’s an only child and rather envied me my brother and sister and all my nephews and nieces.’

He only had one male cousin: it took the emphasis off nieces, and Luongo hadn’t expected a lecture on contraception. It sounded as if he might get one unless he changed the subject. What would he think of next?

The presenter wasn’t given time to think. Lisette coughed. Michael reached for a glass of water the man had failed to offer, gave it to her, and attacked. ‘Lisette needed a rest after a long tour of South America. She offered to help me bring Kit’s music to Europe. Instead of welcoming her, you, Senor Luongo, have taken media stories as gospel truth, and they have come as close as they dare to accusing her of bearing my child. On what grounds?’

‘There was talk of a relationship between the two of you at the time.’

‘At what time, precisely?’

The man shuffled papers. ‘Nineteen years ago.’

‘Gossip based on nothing more than stage kisses when we played lovers in a musical.’

‘It was Miss Marsh’s first starring role, and she conveniently vanished.’

Michael’s blue eyes darkened. ‘Conveniently? Lisette was eighteen. How many girls of that age do you know who could have faced dozens of journalists night after night when they used every trick there is attempting to make her admit to something that wasn’t true?’

‘Did you advise her to drop her career to save your own? Your career and your liberty?’

Gran tensed beside him. It wasn’t her grandson annoying her now! ‘How long before the egotistical sensationalist uses the word incest?’

‘He may as well have done.’

Michael flushed. He leaned forward, and so did Gran; Luongo had made a mistake. Michael rarely lost his temper. He had now, but his answers were considered, and the actor in him was making his audience wait.

‘I backed Lisette’s decision to leave the West End production. She played the same part from its premiere on Broadway where the media could be trusted to refrain from attacking her.’

True or not that statement would help Kinloch if the wildlife reserve did survive. It mattered; he loved his life here – he’d forgotten how much he loved his elder sister until he saw her in the Paris concert. Bossy, protective, loving Lis.

Luongo turned on the softer target. ‘Lisette, during the months you spent in a retreat, reportedly recovering from the shock of a friend’s death, did you give birth to your father’s child?’ The presenter leaned across the table towards her. ‘You couldn’t have put it up for adoption, so where did you hide it? With your understanding mother?’

Michael looked at Luongo with anger laced with contempt. ‘The only children born in the family at that time were mine and Elspeth’s twins, Harriet and Kit. If it takes DNA tests to prove it, they will be done.’

Gran, it would show they weren’t twins.’

She poured more coffee, her hand steadier than usual. ‘After that offer, do you think anybody would think it worth pressing for DNA tests? James, the fuse was set to blow all the old scandal out into the open. Instead, Alberto Luongo has been forced to snuff it out.’

Gran had always loved Michael beyond the bounds of good sense, and she wasn’t the only one if the Carver sisters were an example.

Time ran out for Luongo. He closed the show with an introduction to the next edition and adverts filled the screen. Had Michael won and quashed the stories of incest?

An answer, of sorts, came from the journalists’ helicopter rising fast as if they had been tipped off the story was dead. Could Elspeth make a success of the televised concert? It was vital she did to confirm the family support for Kit. Michael had made it a strong argument: he hadn’t mentioned the coaching, which he remembered amounting to no more than instructions from Clement about how he wanted a song expressed, had come to an end long before his death twenty years ago.

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