Run away to the Dorset countryside, to the sleepy village of Honeymoon, where rose-adorned thatched cottages soak up the sunlight and Emma is risking everything for a brave new start on life and love… When Emma’s useless fiancé tells her a lie she cannot forgive, she decides enough is enough. She leaves him, quits her dead-end job and travels hundreds of miles away to the ancient village of Honeymoon in the Dorset countryside, to help her friend Tia turn the old train station into a boutique hotel. Tia has told Emma that it will be a project, but when Emma arrives in Honeymoon and sees a weed-choked crumbling ruin, her vision of an idyllic life in Dorset begins to disintegrate. But when she meets twinkly-eyed builder Aiden in the village shop, and sparks fly between them, she can’t help but feel that the stars have for once aligned. As work begins on the hotel, Emma and Aiden grow closer, and on sun-dappled evening walks, he tells her the secrets of the village. But there are some villagers who wish that Emma had never arrived in Honeymoon… And when Emma is involved in a terrible accident on site, and then discovers what Aiden has been keeping from her, it feels like the universe is telling her to leave Honeymoon for good. What if she was wrong to say goodbye to all that was safe and familiar? Will she ever be able to find her happy-ever-after in Honeymoon? A completely gorgeous and romantic read about being brave and taking chances on love and life. Fans of Shari Low, Jill Mansell and Milly Johnson will be enchanted by The Hotel at Honeymoon Station. What everyone’s saying about The Hotel at Honeymoon Station : ‘ A delight to read!... just the kind of story that makes me happy… just pure fun… hooked me from the very beginning until the end.’ The Bashful Bookworm, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘ I loved it and was sorry when I turned the last page. Great characters, great story and a definite must read ‘ NetGalley reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘ Lovely book. Lovely characters. A warm-hearted entertaining read’ NetGalley reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘This book will make you laugh, make you cry, make you swallow a lump in your throat and make you root for our heroine all the way! It’s feel good, it’s fun, it’s funny and it’s heart-warming! Read it now!’ NetGalley reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘An absolute pleasure to read. Beautiful!’ NetGalley reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
What everyone’s saying about Tilly Tennant: ‘ I was hooked! Every chapter left me wanting to carry on reading. My housework and family have pretty much been neglected whilst I have read this!… This is the perfect holiday read, or lazy Sunday afternoon read or that perfect distraction to a dreary weekday commute.’ Goodreads reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘ I really adored this... Had me smiling throughout, gave me a warm feeling… So many sparks… I enjoyed every second of it.’ Simona’s Corner of Dreams, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘ Literally couldn’t put it down!… makes you laugh and tugs at the heartstrings, all in one go!... absolutely perfect!... breath-taking… made me cry and it made me laugh… Love love LOVED it!! ’ Stardust Book Reviews, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Release date: June 18, 2021
Print pages: 350
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The Hotel at Honeymoon Station
Emma fixed the bunting to a hook she’d just knocked into a fence post, and the thought made her simultaneously happier and yet sadder than she could remember being in a long time. The sad bit she’d do her best to hide. Her younger sister had worked hard and she deserved this glorious, golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She’d been more diligent than the other students, had gone out of her way to display knowledge way beyond her course, had proved her passion, her hard work and her indispensability, and, as a reward, she’d been chosen out of her cohort of fellow post-graduates to take the final space on a research team as a paid intern. She’d be gone for a year at least, maybe longer, and while Emma would miss her she wasn’t going to let Elise get caught up in that grief.
There was another part to her sadness too, a part that felt far more selfish and unreasonable. As she toiled in the spring sunshine, hanging bunting, positioning garden chairs, tables and parasols, dusting plastic picnic-ware and making various other party preparations, she was forced to reflect on how, at the moment she was about to say goodbye to her little sister, she would also be forced to recognise her own shortcomings. She wasn’t going to let Elise see that either. If she dared let any of those bitter thoughts slip, Elise would try to reassure her that life had cut them a different stack of cards, and that Emma shouldn’t see the static nature of her existence as failure. But, in the end, Emma couldn’t view her distinct lack of achievement, or even ambition, as anything else. Elise – eight years her junior at twenty-two – was destined for great things. Emma… not so much.
She was shaken from her reverie by the sound of Aunt Patricia’s voice, and perhaps that was a good thing. Today was not the day for maudlin thoughts.
‘Done over there yet?’ she called from the far side of the garden where she was busy setting a table that they’d moved to the shade of a cluster of maple trees. It was early in the season and not yet the furnace-like temperatures of a midsummer day, but it was still warm and bright enough to be uncomfortable sitting for long in the glare of the sun.
‘Nearly,’ Emma said, shaking off her melancholy.
Patricia raised her eyebrows, giving Emma a look that never failed to remind her of her mother. Patricia’s hair was a soft grey, almost white, but it suited her. Her skin was fair and her eyes green-grey, and her movements were always delicate, like a ballet dancer’s, even when carrying out the heaviest chore.
Emma had supposed, over the years, that had her mum still been alive, her ginger hair would have been turning white now too, and her movements would have been elegant and considered like her twin’s, her grey-green eyes shining with the same kindness. Her mum and aunt weren’t identical, but they were so alike people said they might as well have been. No matter how many years she’d been gone, Emma would always look at her aunt and see the echoes of a mother she’d lost at the age of eight – a mother Elise had never even known.
At eight months pregnant a collision with a car had put her into a coma she’d never come out of, and Elise had been born by caesarean, into a world where everyone had overcompensated to make up for her tragic beginnings. In her darker, less charitable moments, Emma would blame that for the fact she had failed while Elise flew, but in reality she knew that wasn’t fair. Elise had suffered in different ways. She had never known her mum, but she had still suffered a loss as tragic as Emma’s.
‘Looks pretty good,’ Patricia said, coming over. ‘You’ve got an eye for this kind of thing – I always said so.’
Emma smiled. ‘Oh I don’t know about that…’
‘You don’t give yourself enough credit. Didn’t you have balloons to sort too?’
‘Over in that box.’ Emma indicated a trestle table still groaning with things in boxes and bags they needed to put out before her dad brought Elise over under the pretence of having a quiet family farewell dinner. Elise had said no surprise parties, which meant that this party might not be much of a surprise considering she’d spotted the possibility of it happening. But it wasn’t every day your brilliant baby sister got the chance of a lifetime to study a largely unknown volcano in Iceland with a renowned professor and a team of eminent scientists, and if Emma couldn’t throw a surprise party to celebrate that, she didn’t know what she could throw one for. Of course, studying a volcano in Iceland wasn’t everyone’s idea of a dream opportunity, but for Elise it represented all she’d been working towards since first setting foot on the university campus.
Emma’s mind went back to the day Elise had come over to her house with the news. She’d never seen her sister so excited – in fact, she didn’t think she’d seen anyone look that excited about anything before. She cared not a jot that she’d have to spend a year in a village (more of a hamlet, really) whose name she couldn’t pronounce and whose only source of electricity and heating was geothermal energy produced by magma under the ground they’d built their houses on. In fact, she absolutely loved that the village had a name she couldn’t pronounce and that it was heated by molten magma, but then, Elise would. Emma had pondered what might happen if that magma ever came to the surface, and at the thought of that her sister had gone into near-raptures.
Elise had always been the curious one, the adventurous one, the child filled with wonder at the world. Emma had happily taken on the mantle of responsibility and stoic practicality to indulge that wonder, often giving up her own school trips and outings so their dad could afford to pay for Elise’s. She’d pretended she hadn’t wanted to go so that nobody would feel guilty, and she’d do it all over again if she had to. If anything, their celebration today and the reasons for it were reward for that sacrifice. Elise was off to start the realisation of her dreams and Emma couldn’t be happier for her – her little sister had been robbed of any memories of a mother and it was the least she was owed.
‘I suppose I’d better get some blown up,’ Emma said. ‘We’re running out of time.’
Patricia cast a glance at the box. ‘It’ll take you ages – I thought Dougie was coming to help us.’
Emma’s whole body tensed at the mention of her boyfriend. ‘So did I. I’ve called him three times but he’s not answering his phone. If he’s too busy to help set up that’s fine, but I don’t want him to rock up late and spoil Elise’s surprise.’
‘Do you want to take a quick trip to the lake to see if he’s there?’
‘No – there isn’t time,’ Emma replied, though that wasn’t the real reason she didn’t want to go. She already knew he’d be there and she knew that catching him there would provoke the kind of almighty row that would completely ruin the day. For herself, she didn’t really care, but for Elise’s sake that could not be allowed to happen. ‘I swear he’s at that fishing lake more than he’s home these days. I ought to suggest he gets engaged to a passing carp – they see more of him than I do.’
‘I rather think a carp might struggle to take the vacuum cleaner round your house.’
‘Hmm,’ Emma said. ‘Me too, and if you’re saying what I think you’re saying then you might be right.’
‘What do you think I’m saying?’
Emma gave a small smile. She could speak frankly to her aunt, who’d always treated her with respect and as an equal, even when she’d been very young. Growing up, Emma had appreciated that and she still did – now more than ever, if only because Patricia had become one of her most important confidantes and counsellors. But even so, there were some things even her aunt couldn’t help her sort out.
‘That he’s only marrying me because I look after him and more or less let him do whatever he likes?’
Patricia frowned. ‘If you know this, I don’t understand why you don’t do something about it. Knowing that can’t make you happy.’
‘I have,’ Emma said wearily. ‘More times than I can count.’
‘Then you haven’t told him in a way that makes him take you seriously.’
‘He doesn’t take anything seriously – that’s the problem.’
‘And you love this man? Sometimes I wonder, Emma…’
‘Well they do say love is blind,’ Emma said wryly. ‘They must have forgotten to mention the part where it’s stupid as well.’
‘If I were you I’d tell him to buck his ideas up or it’s the end of the line. An ultimatum is the only way.’
‘It’s not that easy.’
‘It’s not that hard.’
Emma ran a packing knife along the Sellotape sealing the lid of the box and pulled it open. ‘He knows I’d never chuck him out – that’s why he doesn’t take me seriously.’
‘He thinks he knows. Say it like you mean it – call his bluff; pack a suitcase or something.’
‘I don’t know…’ Emma let out a sigh. ‘Sometimes I wonder if it’s me. Perhaps I’m too uptight about it all. I knew what I was getting when we moved in together – he’s never been the world’s most driven man, and in that way we’re not so different – we just manifest our lack of ambition differently.’
‘There’s a difference between a lack of ambition and downright laziness,’ Patricia said.
‘He does what he needs to do… eventually.’
‘Like today? How long have you been planning this party?’
‘Couple of months.’ Emma looked at her feet, starting to feel like a chastised toddler.
‘And how long has he known that he’d have to be here to help?’
‘He didn’t have to—’
‘You asked him to and he said yes. In my book he’s committed to it and he has an obligation to see that commitment through. He lets you down again and again and you make excuses for him.’
Emma looked up to see her aunt was regarding her with a keen questioning stare, but she had no convincing response.
‘Your uncle will be back shortly,’ Patricia said. ‘Once he’s set the drinks up I’ll ask him to help with the balloons.’
‘Dougie will probably be here soon too,’ Emma said quickly, although she didn’t feel that optimistic.
Patricia raised her eyebrows again, and Emma had to admit that she had a point.
Patricia’s lawn was dotted with daisies and buttercups, the odd dandelion or coltsfoot poking a shaggy head above the carpet of more delicate flowers. Patricia had always let the first weeds of the season take hold and left mowing the lawn for as long as she could stand – it was important spring food for the bees, she said, and she wouldn’t deprive them of that for the sake of a pristine garden.
Emma had always liked the way it reminded her of a country meadow – there weren’t so many of them in the little ex-industrial northern town of Wrenwick where she lived. There were some stunning moors on the outskirts of the city, but they were wild and bleak and often obscured with rain or cloud, and there were pockets of man-made greenery here and there, but they were the types of green spaces where you still knew you were in suburbia – houses and blocks of flats showing above the treeline, with concrete paths and council bins every few yards overflowing with uncollected rubbish. It was nice enough to walk there, but you’d never be fooled for a moment that you were in the countryside. A crowd of grateful little bees were exploring Patricia’s flowery larder now, bumbling from plant to plant, settling for a while in the sun before moving on to the next.
Her aunt Patricia and uncle Dominic had a bigger house than either Emma or her dad, who both lived in turn-of-the-century terraces which had once belonged to a mill owner and which he’d used to house his workers. Patricia and Dominic had a detached house on the outskirts of town, and they often hosted family get-togethers, so it made perfect sense to have their party here. Emma’s dad and Patricia had continued to have a close bond even after the death of Emma’s mum – partly, Emma had always supposed, for the sake of her and Elise, but also because there was genuine affection between Patricia and her brother-in-law. She’d looked out for him after Felicia was gone and had comforted him, never asking for anything in return, despite the fact that she’d also lost her twin sister. She’d taken an incredibly active role in the raising of Emma and Elise and, having no children of her own, had almost become their surrogate mother.
Emma and her aunt were putting the finishing touches to the table decorations now. Emma had put Dougie firmly out of her mind and her tummy flutters were now at full pelt as the excitement grew about the arrival of her sister. Today had to be perfect, and if it had anything to do with her it would be. While they’d been working, her uncle Dominic had arrived and was bringing crates of beer and wine from his car.
‘Don’t worry – I’ve only brought a few bottles of the home brew,’ he said in answer to Patricia’s frown. ‘The rest is all shop-bought.’
‘Thank goodness,’ Patricia said under her breath. ‘First sensible thing he’s ever done without having to be told.’
‘It isn’t that bad,’ Emma said with a laugh.
‘I don’t think it’s that bad either, in all honesty,’ Patricia agreed, ‘but it’s not for everyone, and you can’t just offer naff old home brew at a party – you’ve got to give people proper stuff to drink. If Dom had had his way he’d have been scaling up his shed production to something rivalling Guinness and he’d be trying to force it on everyone.’
Emma’s reply was cut short as Dominic came back and gave an approving look at the garden. ‘You’ve done a cracking job here, ladies. Need me to do anything?’
‘Are the drinks all in?’ Patricia asked.
‘Yep. I think that’s all my jobs ticked off.’
‘I think we’re nearly done too, aren’t we?’ Emma glanced at her aunt, who nodded agreement. ‘Just the balloons if you don’t mind helping out with those.’
Dominic scratched his head and swept his gaze over the garden again. ‘Dougie here?’
‘No,’ Patricia said in a stony voice before Emma had any opportunity to reply herself.
And while getting angry might feel good for a while, it wouldn’t change anything and so she’d vowed not to. She was annoyed, of course, but that was a different thing entirely. She was frustrated that Dougie had failed to see what today meant to her, and she was also sad that what meant a lot to her meant – if the evidence was anything to go by – absolutely nothing to him, because it meant she herself meant nothing to him.
She’d left phone messages and texts. She’d allowed herself, on the odd occasion, to imagine that he’d been genuinely held up, and she’d even aired the worry to her aunt that he might actually be in trouble (though Patricia had given that theory short shrift, reasoning that if Dougie ever had trouble Emma would be the first person he’d come to, expecting her to sort it out). In the end, even if he wasn’t able to get here for the setting-up, Emma could only hope he’d arrive with the rest of the guests in plenty of time for Elise’s surprise. She liked to think that, knowing this was important, he’d at least make the effort to do that much. But these days, Dougie doing anything that selfless was an increasingly vain hope.
‘I’m going to get changed if we’re done here,’ Emma said. ‘Mind if I borrow the spare room?’
‘Help yourself,’ Patricia said. ‘I’m going to freshen up too before the guests start arriving.’ She turned to her husband. ‘Can you keep an eye on things here while we get ready?’
‘If you can trust me not to start eating the food while you’re missing,’ he said. ‘I don’t mind telling you my stomach thinks my mouth’s gone on strike.’
Patricia gave the sternest, most comical mock frown. ‘Don’t you dare! I’ll know if so much as a slice of cucumber has gone missing!’
‘She will as well,’ Emma said with a laugh. ‘She nearly broke my fingers earlier when I went in for a carrot baton.’
‘In that case I’d better try and manage a bit longer,’ Dominic said. ‘But don’t blame me if you find me fainted clean away when you come back down.’
‘Honestly…’ Patricia said as she and Emma began to walk back to the house, ‘he should have been on the stage; he’s such a drama queen.’
Emma grinned, and then turned to shoot her uncle a face of sympathetic solidarity. He returned it with a silent shaking fist to his wife’s back and Emma burst out laughing.
‘I don’t need to ask to know what you’re doing!’ Patricia called blithely, not even bothering to look back.
Patricia and Dominic were amongst the handful of people Emma loved most in the world and she loved them at this moment just about more than anyone. It was moments like this that had made them so important to her, because after her mother’s death Emma had needed not only emotional support, but, as a child of only eight years old, she’d desperately needed to find some joy in her life again. Dominic and Patricia had given her that in spades. They’d supported her during her darkest days and they’d shown her light again when her shell-shocked father had been unable to. Emma’s dad had struggled to process even the smallest things his new life as a single father had demanded of him and for a while he’d become selfish, resentful, unwilling to acknowledge that anyone else’s grief might be as vast as his.
He hadn’t meant to be – Emma knew that now – but as a girl it had been hard to understand that he was expressing himself in the only way he was capable of – shouting into the void, demanding answers from a universe that refused to give them. His wife had been taken and he’d wanted to know why. Emma and Elise’s mother had been taken too, but Emma had often been so wrapped up in her dad’s needs that she’d been robbed of the time she’d needed to process that. She’d known that it hurt, but it had taken a long time to really understand why.
In the end, Patricia and Dominic had provided the space and time for her to do that. She and Elise had spent many weekends at their house, just being silly and spoiled and carefree and all the things kids were supposed to be. Her dad had got better as the years went on, but he’d never really been the same since Felicia’s death. And as adults, if ever Emma or Elise had needed support, it was Dominic and Patricia who had almost always provided it.
Up in the spare room Emma slipped on a long floral dress. It was baby pink and white and about as girly as she got, but it had been hanging in the wardrobe since she’d bought it on offer at the tail end of the previous summer and this was the first time since that the weather had been good enough to wear it. She didn’t need any more reason than that and had happily pulled it from her wardrobe this morning to iron it for its maiden outing.
The colour was delicate but it suited her winter complexion – though she’d have loved to wear them, stronger colours overpowered it. Her mousey hair had been given a helping hand to something more impactful with the aid of a bottle of blonde hair dye, but the sage green of her eyes was the same as her mother’s and aunt’s. She had a figure so straight up and down that an unkind classmate had once teased her she could iron clothes on it, to which another had added that she’d look like a boy with short hair – and in a world of Kim Kardashian-style booties it was deeply unfashionable. Still, she’d got used to the way her body looked and she’d even learned to love it; if only she’d been born in the roaring twenties she’d have made one hell of a flapper girl, cutting a dash at all the best parties. Perhaps a little unconsciously, to redress the balance somewhat, she tended towards ultra-feminine looks, wearing all manner of soft pastel fabrics and leaving her hair in loose curls.
She gave herself one last glance in the mirror now, fluffed her waves, touched up her lipstick and hurried back downstairs so she’d be ready and waiting to direct the first guests to their hiding places.
Patricia was already in the garden, looking gorgeous in wide-legged linen trousers and a vest top that showed off a figure earned by daily yoga. Her features mirrored those of her nieces in the uncanniest way; the same features that Emma recognised from old photos of her mum. These days, photos often felt like the only way she could recall what her mum had looked like – as the years had gone by Emma had struggled more and more to picture her, no matter how hard she’d tried to hold on to the memories.
Her aunt looked up from an extension lead she was plugging in. ‘You look lovely.’
Emma smiled. ‘I was just going to say the same thing to you.’
Dominic came out from the kitchen and handed her a drink. ‘Thought you might like a nice G&T to get you started. You’ve certainly earned it today.’
‘I feel as if I have.’ Emma took the glass and sipped, savouring the ice-cold crispness of a perfectly mixed drink. ‘It’s not even my party but I’m as nervous as hell. I suppose I just want it to go well.’
‘Everyone knows how much you care about Elise,’ Patricia said. ‘It’s understandable you’d want her send-off to be perfect.’
There was a sound from the garden gate and they turned to see three girls trying to undo the latch. The guests had been instructed to come straight round the side of the house to the garden, so Emma and her aunt and uncle weren’t surprised to see Elise’s university friends letting themselves in.
‘Hi!’ Emma dashed forward to give them a hand undoing the gate before ushering them in. ‘I’m so glad you could come! You found us OK?’
‘The taxi driver did,’ one of them said with a light laugh. ‘We wouldn’t have had a clue.’
‘Well, however you found us, we’re glad,’ Patricia said. ‘Elise will be thrilled to see you.’
‘Yes,’ Emma agreed, ‘it’ll mean a lot to her that you’re here.’
‘Oh, we wouldn’t have missed this,’ another girl said. Emma vaguely knew them as Abigail, Sana and Olivia; she only wished she could remember who was who. ‘Even if Little-Miss-First-Class-Degree did show the rest of us up.’
The third girl laughed. ‘I think that might be something to do with her actually working and us having too many mornings in bed.’
‘Oh yeah,’ the second said with a grin. ‘That’ll be it.’
Emma’s proud smile grew. Elise had worked hard but she was clever too – and nobody minded admitting she was the brains of the family.
As Patricia started to fill the girls in on the plan for the afternoon, two more guests arrived – tutors from Elise’s sixth-form college days. They were quickly followed by more family members (cousins from their dad’s side) and colleagues from the restaurant Elise had worked at to finance the last year of her studies. Then came Elise’s geography teacher from school and his wife – Elise had always said had it not been for Mr Baker firing her interest in the physical landscapes of mountains and lakes and the way the earth had been formed, she would never have gone on to her degree course in earth sciences, and she wouldn’t currently be about to embark on her dream job as a volcanologist.
Some old school friends came next, followed by more family members, and soon the garden was buzzing. As people who knew each other chatted and those who didn’t got acquainted, Patricia checked her watch and then hurried over to Emma.
‘They’ll be here in five minutes!’ she said. Emma didn’t need to ask who she meant and couldn’t help but note that her aunt, who’d been calm all morning, was now showing almost as much excitement and nervousness as Emma. ‘Shall we get everyone in position?’
Emma glanced around the garden. ‘It might take that long to get everyone organised so perhaps we ought to, just to be on the safe side.’
‘And knowing Elise she’ll decide to turn up early.’
‘There’s that,’ Emma agreed.
After calling three times for everyone’s attention, Emma and her aunt finally got started. They directed one giggling group to the summer house (and if Elise didn’t hear them giggling when she walked in then she probably needed a hearing aid because th. . .
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