I am delighted to share with you an extract from Jennifer Wells’ debut novel, The Liar on my blog today . . . Not only did this cover grab my attention, the blurb has got me hooked! I didn’t have the time to read this before the tour date but it is top of my Christmas reading list and I really can’t wait!
The Blurb . . .
Can you really trust what you see?
‘Eerie and intriguing. I can’t believe it’s a first novel’ Fern Britton, bestselling author and TV presenter.
1935. A mother’s journey to find out what really happened to her only daughter. Complex and intriguing, full of twists and turns. Perfect for the fans of Lesley Pearse and Dilly Court.
What would you do if you saw a girl in a crowd whose face had the same, identical birthmark as your only child?
A child who, nearly ten years ago, you were told died?
It’s 1935 and housewife Emma glimpses a face in a crowd – a little girl with a very unique birthmark.
Transfixed by the sight of a stranger; Emma becomes convinced that the girl is her long-lost daughter taken from her at birth. There is only one problem: Emma’s daughter is dead. So who is the stranger?
THE LIAR follows Emma’s journey as she tries to find out what really happened to her daughter – a journey that unearths secrets from the past and ends in obsession…
The extract . . .
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had never seen her – the little girl with the birthmark on her face. I can recall her so clearly, standing by the pavilion in that spotted summer dress, her limbs striped by sunlight through the railings. Even after so much time has passed, I find that I can bring little details to mind – the dust on her shoes and the ribbon in her hair, the sugar cone in her hand and the beads of ice cream on her chin. But these are not the memories that come to me when I daydream or when I close my eyes to sleep. No, when my mind starts to wander, my memories of the girl are altered and I don’t see any of this; I remember the droop in her smile as she saw me and the flinch of her muscle as I approached. I remember the jut of her collarbone as my hands tightened round her shoulders and the warp of my reflection in her pupils. I remember the shudder of her breath and the hiss of the scream caught in her throat. I remember her fear. I remember my love. She had returned and she would be mine again…
Until I saw her it had been a normal day, like any other Sunday that August. The summer of 1935 had been a hot one, the blue dome of cloudless sky offering no defence from a relentless sun. Back then, summers in the suburbs had a particular smell – an acrid stew of bitumen from the new roads, wilted stinging nettles and dog muck baking on the pavements. The heat had drawn people out of their houses and on to the streets. They came from the farms, the old town centre and the new housing estates, their bodies merging in the shimmer of air over tarmac as they jostled in the queue for the lido.
I had intended to stay at home, at Little Willow. I’m no good with crowds and I had plans for the garden; some gentle weeding round the pansies and a good lemonade to cool me down. Everything that was acceptable for a married lady to do. But that was all before Audrey arrived.
The doorbell rang as I was kneeling over the flowerbed but I pretended not to hear and lingered in the pantry as George answered.
There was a creak from the door and then a shriek: ‘Doctor Marks!’ Audrey always treated a visit to her neighbours with as much excitement as a chance encounter with long-lost relatives. I shrank back into the darkness of the pantry. Audrey and I had been friends once. But that was before… well, that was before everything.
‘We can’t have her indoors and miserable on a day like this!’ cried Audrey.
Then came the mumble of George’s voice. I imagined him stood in the hallway, one hand resting on the doorframe, his thin body stooped slightly, as he did when his back started to aggravate him. His starched collar would be hanging open, sweat sealing the shirt to his back and his balding scalp shiny with perspiration. Maybe he would send her away; I wouldn’t stop him.
But Audrey called out: ‘Emma! Emma!’ And I had to step into the hallway in my gardening apron.
‘Audrey. What a surprise.’
Audrey burst into the hallway, pushing a large black pram like a battering ram. She was a tall woman and upright, the kind who takes to motherhood like a strong, sturdy animal. Her features were too large to be pretty but she seemed oblivious to this, always dressing in the latest fashions, today a bright yellow skirt and jacket and a matching hat with a pleat on top that bellowed like a concertina when she moved. I felt small next to her, faded and grey. She fussed under the hood of the pram, trying to silence the grizzling baby with rattles and teddies, and glanced up for only a second to shoot me a polite smile, the season’s red smeared on her lips like a life ring. Her three-year-old twins, Alan and Ethel, chased round the doormat, buckets and spades wielded like swords. And then, despite my protest and with little more than a goodbye nod to George, she grabbed my hat and bag from the stand and pulled me out of the door.
‘It will do you good to get out,’ said Audrey as she wheeled the pram down the driveway, gravel spitting from the wheels. ‘You never go out these days, not since, well anyway, you know… well you just don’t.’ She span the pram in a wide circle, narrowly missing the shiny red paintwork on our newly washed Austin 12, and hurled herself into the throng of people on the pavement, a group of schoolboys stumbling off the curb to avoid being mangled by the pram’s huge wheels. ‘Oh no! buggering heel strap’s gone.’
We crossed into the road and stood by the war memorial that marked the crossroads. I looked away, embarrassed, as Audrey leant her shoulder on the plinth and tightened the strap on her shoe. Back in those days, everybody respected the memorial but it did not just commemorate the fallen, it was the place where town met country and old met new – concrete and houses on one side of the road and the trees of the old orchard on the other. That day the stone cross was a meeting place for people, bringing them together from all directions to join the crowds that thronged to the lido. There were the well-to-do families who had not travelled far from the Sunningdale Estate, city dwellers hot from their walk from the Tube station and labourers coming from the dirt track that led up to the farms.
I pulled Alan away from a dirty-looking dog and kicked away a fallen apple that Ethel was grasping at. ‘I’m not a recluse, Audrey,’ I said, tightening my grip on Alan’s hand, but my voice was caught up in the rumble of the pram wheels.
‘Anyway,’ she continued, ‘it does one no good to be stuck indoors alone all day.’
I was about to point out that I had George so was not alone, but then realized that there was no point – I would have convinced neither her nor myself. Besides, I knew that Audrey’s invitation was probably a last resort. Her other friends had their own families, yet she knew I would be free and easily bullied into watching Alan and Ethel as she basked in the sun.
The lido’s lawns were packed with sunbathers; swimsuited walruses beached on the grass, their folds of white flesh turning an angry pink. Children dodged and weaved through the legs of chattering parents and a wet dog showered picnickers with droplets. We forced our way through the crowds on to a grassy bank overlooking the swimming pool. Most of the spaces were taken, but Audrey insisted that we could squeeze ourselves in.
‘You just watch,’ she said loudly, ‘these city dwellers just aren’t as fortunate as us Missensham residents. Just as soon as the two o’clock bus shows up they’ll have to be home for dinner. There’s not many buses on a Sunday and they won’t want to wait until four. The place will be emptied, and then we will have plenty of room.’
Wowsers! What a start! I really cannot wait to get my hands on this, it’s going to be devoured in one sitting I just know it!
And you can get your copy over at the following:
About the author . . .
Jennifer works in Market Research when not writing. She lives in Devon with her young family and cat. The Liar is her first novel, she is busily working on her next…