Sisters of Willow House
"An absolute perfect second book… A true delight to return to Willow House! I completely enjoyed this book! I couldn't put it down! Filled with so many ups and downs it kept me on the edge of my seat! I loved this book and I'm hoping there will be more!"Goodreads Reviewer
A heart-warming novel about the bond between sisters, set along Ireland’s windswept shores, where romance beckons and secrets unfold…
Roisin McKenna and her husband Cian are taking time apart. Unsure of what she wants, Roisin’s prayers are answered when she receives a call from her sister Maeve who is desperate for her help.
Roisin heads to Sandy Cove to help Maeve restore their aunt’s gorgeous tumbledown mansion Willow House and soon all she has time to focus on are its crumbling walls. Despite a shocking announcement from Maeve and hidden secrets in the house’s rafters, Roisin begins to feel a sense of self she’s been missing for years.
The ties that bind Roisin to her husband seem to be unfurling in the Irish wind, when she unexpectedly stumbles into a mysterious man on the beach. Suddenly, she’s swept up in the idea of another life she could lead…
The restoration may have brought the sisters back together, but as a storm rolls over the coast Roisin feels sure she must make a choice. Will her time at Willow House teach her the precious lessons she needs to return home or has the cove called to her in ways she’d never imagined it could?
Fans of Sheila O’Flanagan, Debbie Macomber and Mary Alice Monroe will be swept away by Sandy Cove.
Release date: July 26, 2019
Print pages: 276
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Sisters of Willow House
It was the campervan that started it all. The big white van parked in the driveway of their house in Foxrock, one of Dublin’s most prestigious suburbs, looked like a cross between an ambulance and a bus.
Roisin stood on the front step staring at it, thinking one of their neighbours was moving house and the removal company had come to the wrong address. It wasn’t until she spotted the driver beaming at her from the open window that she realised what was going on.
‘Hi, sweetheart,’ he called. ‘How do you like this, then?’
Roisin blinked and stared at her husband. ‘How do I like it? What do you mean? What is this… this thing?’
‘What do you think it is?’ He opened the door and jumped out, running up the steps to her side. ‘It’s a campervan. Didn’t I tell you to be prepared for a big surprise?’
‘Yes but…’ Roisin was stuck for words. She looked at Cian, feeling confused. ‘I didn’t think it’d be something like this. I thought, maybe, that you’d booked a holiday in the Caribbean or at least a week in the south of France. Some nice hotel with great food and…’
He looked slightly bewildered. ‘Why? That’s not my idea of a dream holiday. Not my style at all. But you know I’ve been dreaming of owning something like this all my life. I thought we’d go on an adventure, now that we’re as free as birds, with the lads settled in boarding school and the business sold, plus we have all that extra cash from the inheritance. This super deluxe camper will be our rolling home while we tour Europe and maybe even further. We might end up in India. Wouldn’t that be incredible?’
‘India?’ Roisin asked, staring at him. ‘Have you lost your marbles? We’d have to go through several war zones on the way, not to mention deserts and mountain ranges.’
Cian laughed. ‘Okay, I’m being a little bit ambitious. But we could go up the coast and do the whole Wild Atlantic Way from start to finish. I haven’t been to Donegal in years.’
‘It’s the middle of January,’ Roisin exclaimed. ‘Donegal is being battered by storms at this time of year, it might even be snowing.’
‘But we won’t get there for a few weeks if we start in the south and travel slowly. The weather will have improved by the time we get there.’
Cian looked only slightly deflated. ‘Come on, Rozzie,’ he urged, ‘think about it. It will be like we’re young again. We’re free as birds. We could experience amazing things together. Let’s have a little fun before we get too old to do anything. I want to go out there into the wild. Just imagine, bathing in rivers and lakes, fishing, listening to the birds, living like pioneers. It’ll be amazing.’
‘That’s not my idea of fun,’ Roisin replied.
‘But you haven’t really tried it. I think you’ll love it once we’re out there.’ He put his arms around her. ‘Sweetheart, I know it might be a little daunting, but won’t it be romantic? Just like the old days when we lived in that tiny bedsit and showered together to save on hot water. Maybe we could find that romance again?’
Roisin smiled at the memory and kissed his cheek. ‘That was lovely. But we’re older now. It doesn’t sound that romantic any more.’ She stepped away from him and rubbed her arms. ‘It’s freezing. Let’s go inside.’
‘Good idea. I’ll show you the amazing interior and the cute little shower and the double bunk and…’
‘I meant inside the house,’ Roisin corrected and went back into the hall. ‘We need to talk about this.’
‘Oh.’ Cian ran his hand through his hair, looking only slightly deflated. ‘Okay. Make a cup of coffee and we’ll discuss this.’
‘We certainly will,’ Roisin replied, wondering how on earth she was going to handle the conversation.
Roisin went into the kitchen and started making coffee while she tried to understand what was happening. She knew Cian had been restless ever since they’d sold the business. They’d been planning to sell up for quite some time as they both felt they needed to start something new, something that’d give them a little more freedom. When their partner had offered to buy them out, they’d accepted at once, and nearly at the same time, Cian’s uncle had died and left him a considerable sum, more money than they had ever had before. Suddenly, they had the financial security to do what they wanted and to pay the huge fees for the boarding school the boys were desperate to go to.
They’d decided to take a break before they started something new, something fun and different that they could invest in. Cian had spent long hours at his laptop and she had assumed he was looking around for a new business venture for them, hoping he’d come up with something exciting. She hadn’t paid much attention to what he was doing and felt she needed a break from everything. Me-time, she thought. This was a buzzword she had read about in magazines and heard friends talk about, but had never tried for herself. It sounded lovely and she had often wished she had a moment to do something only for herself from time to time. She’d been working full time and raising children for seventeen years and had never, ever taken a break to do something even slightly frivolous. But now, finally she could.
Suddenly finding herself a lady of leisure, Roisin had looked around for new interests and hobbies. Yoga had always looked so relaxing and the women at the yoga centre nearby seemed so lithe and fit in their yoga pants and body-skimming tops. But after two sessions, she’d realised that it wasn’t about stretching, breathing and lying on a mat smelling lavender and drifting off to some nirvana-land. To her it was a back-wrenching, exhausting way of doing static exercises. She never got the hang of the ‘downward-facing dog’ not to mention balancing on her hands, her body toppling forward banging her head on the floor, while everyone else was hovering elegantly in something called ‘the crow’. ‘It’ll come,’ the yoga teacher (a woman called Amanda with the body of a twelve-year-old gymnast) had assured her. ‘Just keep practising.’ Roisin knew she’d never be lithe and slim and that her generous curves would never look right in yoga pants and vests no matter how much she practised. The other women seemed to have been friends since birth and chatted to each other afterwards, making plans for coffee and lunch and never invited Roisin to join them. Oh, well, they weren’t really the kind of women she’d want know better anyway, she’d thought, and she’d left the yoga centre for ever.
Then she’d joined a walking club but the other women there were too jolly for her liking, sprinting up the steep slopes of the Wicklow Mountains as if they were training for the Olympics. It seemed there was nothing left to do. Golf? Boring and the clothes were so naff. Bridge? She’d tried it once but found it a pointless pastime.
One of her friends from school invited her into town for shopping and lunch. She’d married a wealthy man and knew the ropes when it came to spending serious money. But as Roisin wandered through Brown Thomas, swiftly followed by a trip to Harvey Nichols in Dundrum, she’d glanced at the hair-raising prices of the clothes and felt a stab of guilt. Was she really going to pay five hundred euros for a silk shirt when half the people in the world were starving? She’d glanced at her friend, who happily bought anything that took her fancy, continuing to the cosmetic department where she stocked up on Crème de la Mer, easily spending the monthly salary of the average worker without blinking. After lunch at a plush restaurant they’d kissed each other and promised to do lunch again ‘soon’, which Roisin knew probably meant never, as she had made no secret of how bored and appalled she had been. Shopping for the sake of it was not as much fun as she’d thought and she realised she had grown apart from many of the women in her life.
Being a lady of leisure wasn’t really all it was cracked up to be, she’d realised, missing those exhausting but challenging days of running a company, balancing childcare and housework and still finding time to have a bit of fun now and then. Those were the days. After a month of doing very little, she’d felt ready to scream with boredom and had started to look around for something new, as Cian hadn’t managed to come up with anything.
The house was like a morgue without the boys, who had departed for boarding school in September, all excited about this new school which offered so many sporting activities they loved. Cian had been so happy they had started at his old school, and kept saying how it would make men out of them and how they’d do brilliantly academically as well as in sports. But Roisin had been devastated when they were all gone. She knew it would be good for them and that they’d get an excellent education which would give them a better chance to get into the best degree courses eventually. But oh how she missed them, even though she knew they loved it there and had taken to boarding-school life like ducks to water. Just as well, as they would stay there until they graduated and applied for college places.
They had been home for Christmas which had been lovely but it seemed like they had just arrived when they had to leave again and she had spent two days in tears, walking through their rooms and looking at their baby pictures. Why did kids have to grow up so fast? Why had they had them when they were so young, she wondered again and again. Roisin knew this was a watershed period, when she would have a chance to think of herself more and plan a new project.
She’d known since the New Year that Cian was cooking up something but he’d refused to tell her what it was. He’d spent long hours in the study surfing, looking coy and saying things like, ‘You’ll see,’ or ‘It’s a surprise’ whenever she’d asked. She had a feeling he was avoiding her. They had got on each other’s nerves lately, having very little to do and all the time in the world to do it. There was no longer any focus to their lives, no struggle or striving for a goal, or simply to pay the bills each month. Money was more of a curse than a blessing, it seemed.
Roisin suddenly yearned for peace and quiet. For a sense of self she’d only had as a little girl. Something she’d only ever felt in one place. Willow House. Aunt Philomena’s old house in Kerry. She found her mind drift like it often did these days, to the old house perched on a hill high above the beach with the sweeping views of the dramatic coastline. And far out at sea, the craggy outlines of the Skellig Islands, where the remains of a monastery had stood for over a thousand years. Sandy Cove, such a magic place that made her spirits soar every time she went there.
The house was having a huge make-over as her aunt had come into some money. She’d been writing romantic fiction and her novels had become hugely popular in America. Under the pen name Fanny l’Amour, her novels had been on the bestseller lists several times and she now had a huge following. It was amazing. She was now seventy-four but showed no sign of slowing down. This had earned her enough money to restore the huge Edwardian pile on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic.
All this had been revealed at her sister Maeve’s wedding over a year ago. There were grand plans for the restoration of the house and Maeve had produced drawings and mock-ups of how it would eventually look, but it hadn’t got started quite yet. But the house and gardens had been lovely in the spring sunshine and nobody minded the cracks and dents.
Roisin had been transported back in time as she and Cian had slept in her old bedroom the night before the wedding. The ceremony was held in the overgrown rose garden with Maeve in a long floral cotton dress and Paschal in jeans and a linen shirt. It had been a lovely ceremony which ended with the happy couple taking off in Phil’s vintage Jaguar for a weekend on the island of Valentia where they’d first started their love story.
Rosin had made Cian promise that they’d go back for an extended visit later this year, and it was all Roisin could think about now. She’d even floated the idea that they’d move down there for a longer period, to help restore the house.
Cian. As she put two mugs and a basket of raisin bread on the table, Roisin tried to figure out what was going on with him. She’d thought he was looking into ideas for a new business while he spent hours in the study with his laptop but now she realised he had been searching for the perfect campervan. He had been into camping when they met in college and had taken Roisin on a camping trip to Wexford so she, despite her protestations, would get ‘the feel’ of sleeping in a tent and cooking over an open fire. She hadn’t felt anything except back pain and mosquito bites. And washing in a freezing cold lake instead of a hot shower had soon lost its appeal. Cian had accepted that camping would never be her thing and instead gone on camping trips with his pals, and later their sons, who loved it.
The campervan idea had been raised many times during the years, but Roisin had always managed to shoot it down by changing the subject. In any case, running the business and looking after three growing boys had left little opportunity to consider the idea. He hadn’t mentioned it for a long time and she thought it was a passing phase that had faded away. But now she realised she was wrong. He had surfed the campervan websites as if he was hooked on porn. And in a way it was. Campervan porn. A dream that had turned into an obsession. Roisin suddenly wished it had been real porn. Then she could have dealt with it. She laughed at herself. What was she thinking?
She looked up as Cian walked into the kitchen. ‘Coffee,’ she said. ‘And raisin bread. I made it myself.’
He poured himself a cup of coffee from the pot and sat down opposite her. ‘Let’s talk about this.’
‘Yes. Let’s.’ She looked at him and wondered what he was thinking. He looked the same as always, his brown hair cut short, his hazel eyes calm and determined, his tall frame relaxed. He didn’t give the impression of someone whose dream was about to be shattered. Quite the opposite. Perhaps he was sure he’d be able to talk her into the idea and they’d go off into the wild blue yonder as if they were in their twenties and didn’t have a care in the world. She wondered if he was going through some kind of mid-life crisis, like many men in their forties.
‘Roisin?’ His voice cut into her thoughts. ‘Can I just tell you my side of this? From start to finish?’
‘Just one question,’ she interjected. ‘How much did you pay for that thing out there?’
‘Sixty-five thousand,’ he muttered.
She stared at him, appalled. ‘Oh, God. I had no idea they were that expensive.’
‘We can afford it.’ She took a deep breath but he put up a hand. ‘Just listen,’ he pleaded. ‘Then you can have your rant.’
She sat back. ‘Okay. Go on.’
He took her hand. ‘You see,’ he started, ‘I have felt… I’ve been very lost since we sold the business. I know we both agreed it was time to give up the rat race and do something else, have more time for each other and the boys. But now that they’re settled into school and really happy there, I felt we – you and I – needed to go on some kind of trip – or adventure. The campervan has always been my dream, a dream I never thought I’d be able to realise. But then we got all this money and all the free time, I felt it was meant to be. My dream could become real.’
‘Your dream? What about me?’
‘I thought you’d love the idea.’
‘You know I hate camping.’
He sighed. ‘But this isn’t camping. It’s more like living in a cute little house that travels. It has all the comforts of home and—’
‘It’s camping, Cian. Maybe on a more luxurious scale, but still – camping.’
He gripped her hand harder. ‘I knew you’d say that. But… maybe you could come out for a spin in it? Just for the day? Tomorrow’s Saturday and the weather forecast promised a sunny day. We could go to Brittas Bay and walk on the beach and cook lunch in the van, and roll out the double bed and try it out.’ He winked. ‘It’s a big bed with a very comfortable mattress.’
She suddenly felt sorry for him. He was like a little boy with a new toy and she was the nasty stepmother who wouldn’t let him play with it. ‘Oh, okay, then. But it’s not going to convince me. This is just an outing, okay? No promises and no twisting my arm or anything.’
‘I swear. Thank you, sweetheart.’ He beamed at her, his face transformed, looking suddenly years younger, very much like the Cian she had fallen in love with. It seemed churlish not to at least let him try to persuade her.
‘I’ll take care of lunch tomorrow,’ she promised.
He got up. ‘I’ll go and get her ready.’
‘Her?’ Roisin laughed. ‘It’s a woman now? And does she have a name?’
He blushed. ‘Yeah. I’m calling her Rita. But only in my head.’
‘I should hope so.’
It wasn’t until he had left that she realised where she had heard that name before. Rita was his first girlfriend.
Roisin’s phone rang as she was putting the mugs away. It was Maeve.
Roisin smiled as she thought of her sister. She’d ditched a brilliant career in interior design in London when she fell head over heels in love with Paschal and switched from city living to a windswept little village in Kerry. Roisin had understood her completely the moment she clapped eyes on Paschal and been bowled over by his good looks and charm. The house and the village were also a huge draw for the world-weary. The simple lifestyle, the friendly neighbours and the stunning ocean views were hard to resist. It suited Maeve perfectly and her move back to Ireland had brought the sisters closer after many years of not being in touch as often as they should. But now they were nearly as close as when they were teenagers, running wild on the beaches at Sandy Cove and sharing secrets while they lay on the back lawn at night wrapped in blankets looking at the stars. To Roisin, she felt as if she had been given her sister back at a time when she really needed her.
‘Roisin, can you talk?’
Roisin sat down at the kitchen table. ‘Of course. What’s going on?’
‘I have some news.’ Maeve paused as if she was trying to find the right words.
‘What news?’ Roisin asked, sensing something big.
‘I went to the doctor yesterday,’ Maeve started, her voice shaking.
‘The doctor? Are you sick?’ Roisin asked, alarmed.
‘Not sick exactly. But the results of the tests said that—’
‘Is it a lump?’ Roisin cut in, her heart beating. ‘Please God, don’t let it be a lump.’
Maeve laughed. ‘It’s a kind of a lump, yes. But a good one.’
‘It’s benign then? Can you have it out?’
‘Definitively. It’s due to come out in July.’
‘Due?’ Roisin squealed. ‘You mean you’re…’
‘Pregnant!’ Maeve laughed. ‘Yes, you guessed it. I got myself pregnant at the age of forty-two. How’s that for news?’
‘It’s the best news ever!’ Roisin’s face broke into a huge grin. ‘But you must be at least three months by now. How come you didn’t go to the doctor before?’
‘I thought I was going through some kind of early menopause. I didn’t have much morning sickness but my periods stopped and all the other signs pointed to that. I couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams that I could be having a baby. But then I felt a bit odd, so I went and then I found out.’
‘Paschal must be over the moon.’
‘He is still in shock, I think. I just told him. But…’
‘But what?’ Roisin asked, sensing a touch of concern in her sister’s voice.
‘Well, the thing is, I had a small bleed so the doctor told me I had to stay in bed for a couple of weeks and then take it very easy for the rest of the pregnancy. Nothing to worry about, he said. And the bleeding has stopped.’
‘Oh, no!’ A wave of dread washed over Roisin. ‘I’m so sorry. You have to stay in bed until the baby is born. I had that same scare with Darragh, remember? It was so frightening.’
Maeve laughed. ‘No, it’s not as bad as that. I can get up in a week or so and live fairly normally, just not do anything strenuous. It’s just that… Well, . . .
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