Rosa Larkin is down on her luck in London, so when she inherits a near-derelict corner shop in a quaint Devon village, her first thought is to sell it for cash and sort out her life. But nothing is straightforward about this legacy. While the identity of her benefactor remains a mystery, he – or she – has left one important legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it.
Rosa makes up her mind to give it a go: to put everything she has into getting the shop up and running again in the small seaside community of Cockleberry Bay. But can she do it all on her own? And if not, who will help her succeed – and who among the following will work secretly to see her fail?
There is a handsome rugby player, a sexy plumber, a charlatan reporter and a selection of meddling locals. Add in a hit and run incident and the disappearance of a valuable engraved necklace – and what you get is a journey of self-discovery and unpredictable events.
With surprising and heartfelt results, Rosa, accompanied at all times by her little sausage dog Hot, will slowly unravel the shadowy secrets of the inheritance, and also bring her own, long-hidden heritage into the light.
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Praise for Nicola May’s books
‘This book will twang your funny bone & your heartstrings’ – Milly Johnson
‘A fun and flighty read’ the Sun
‘A funny and fast-paced romp – thoroughly enjoyable!’ WOMAN Magazine
About the Author
Award winning author Nicola May lives in Ascot in Berkshire with her rescue cat Stanley. Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks and enjoying a flutter on the horses. Inspired by her favourite authors Milly Johnson and Carole Matthews, Nicola writes what she describes as chicklit with a kick.
Follow Nicola May
Website – www.nicolamay.com
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Twitter – https://twitter.com/nicolamay1
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Let me introduce you to Queenie and Mary, two of the colourful characters who live in the bay. Rosa calls their place The Cockleberry Coven…and from this excerpt you can see why…
Queenie’s face was etched with deep lines, her skin very brown. Her lips were cracked, and her long grey hair was tied back into a bun. Rosa wondered why she was wearing dark glasses in the house.
‘Hello. So, it was you I need to thank for letting me into my flat the other night.’
‘Sorry. You must be mistaken, dear. The only way I will be leaving this house is feet first now.’
Mary quickly chipped in. ‘Gran’s sight is terrible now, she’s near on blind. Tea, Rosa?’
‘I can read your leaves, if you like?’ The old lady eased herself on to one of the chairs at the kitchen table, letting out a little fart under her layered skirt as she did so.
‘Err, no, it’s fine. I’m…err… not really into that sort of thing.’
‘You don’t have to be frightened.’ She grabbed hold of Rosa’s hand. ‘There is nothing to be frightened of but fear itself, you know that.’
Somehow Rosa knew that the old lady wasn’t going to take no for an answer. She pointed to the chair opposite her.
‘Come on, sit yourself down, lovey.’
Huffing and puffing, Mary put a pot of tea on the table. She pulled a stool out from under it and plonked herself down, a large cheek spilling out over each side as she did so.
‘Let me sit there.’ Rosa insisted.
‘No, no. You’re our guest and I wouldn’t dream of it.’
There were no handles on the cups and Queenie guided hers shakily to her mouth with both hands. ‘‘It’s refreshing to have a new face down here. The youngsters usually run when they get to a certain age. Find it all a bit boring. But you’ve got a focus. You can stay.’
‘Oh.’ This wasn’t exactly making Rosa feel uplifted, but she didn’t have to stay here forever, just get the shop up and running, make some money and hand it over to someone who deserved it.
‘Dotty was a friend of mine, you know. Well, for a while anyway. Until…’ She looked up to the ceiling.
‘Dorothea, from the corner shop.’ Mary chipped in.
‘Gran, come on let’s talk about something else. Rosa doesn’t need to hear about all this.’
Rosa couldn’t understand Mary’s agitation. Of course, her Gran was going to be upset about losing a friend. Rosa was intrigued to learn more about her predecessor and his life and she was surprised that nobody had mentioned a Dorothea before.
‘Such a lovely woman. Such a shame…’
‘Gran!’ Mary snapped.
‘So, what did they used to sell, her and Ned?’ Rosa tried to lift the mood.
‘Anything and everything really. It was like a magical shop. If you needed cotton for your sewing machine or a heel for your boot, even a pint of milk at last minute, Dotty seemed to have it. When she…’ Queenie took a deep breath. ‘When she died, he kept it going as she would have wished.’
‘Aw, that’s nice.’
Queenie carried on. ‘Before that blasted Co-op came along, we had two butchers, a fishmonger and a florist. I guess you’ve seen we have just the one butcher now. Alfie Davies, took over from his old dad Bill, not quite as good in my opinion but we still get our pork chops from there, don’t we Mary?’ Mary nodded. ‘I didn’t really want her to work in that blessed supermarket to be honest, but needs must around here, hey Mary? And, I mean who wants to be cooped up with an old woman like me twenty-four seven.’ She put her bony fingers to Rosa’s face, feeling around it, she then touched on her scar. ‘I see now. You are very beautiful, aren’t you?’
‘Oh, Gran, really?’ Mary seemed beside herself with embarrassment. Rosa not sure of how to react, carried on picking loose tea leaves out of her teeth. Queenie grabbed at her empty cup as soon as she had finished.
‘Go on, Rosa, let me have a look for you.’ Rosa didn’t dare ask how she could do that if she couldn’t see properly. Without removing her dark glasses and as if reading her mind, Queenie snarled. ‘I can make out the outlines and feel.’
At that moment, Rosa was completely startled by the cat flap flying open and the appearance of the biggest black cat she had ever seen. He went straight to his bowl of crunchies on the floor, stuffed a few in and then without warning jumped up on her lap, causing fur to fly in to her mouth as he did so.
‘Merlin, Merlin, get down.’ Mary tried to shoo him off a slightly agitated Rosa who was now pulling bits of cat fluff, as well as tea leaves from her lips.
‘He likes you.’ Queenie smiled. ‘And, animals are very good judges of character, you know.’
Merlin made a funny sort of growling sound, then took himself to his basket in the corner of the kitchen and began to noisily clean himself.
The old lady began to move her hands over Rosa’s cup in a circling motion. She then suddenly made a loud funny noise, a cross between a hiss and a groan, which caused Merlin to omit a deafening meow and Rosa to nearly jump out of her skin.
‘It’s OK Rosa,’ Mary whispered. ‘They both do that every time.’
Rosa although feeling slightly uneasy, realised it would probably be easier to escape from Colditz than here, so sat tight and waited to hear what was said.
Queenie looked down into Rosa’s cup. Then reaching across the table, she grabbed Rosa’s hand.
‘I see paper, a bundle of paper.’ Queenie hesitated for a second as if waiting for Rosa to say something. ‘Remember always, love was at fault. The mermaids know that.’ Queenie let go of her hand and started again. ‘Dark haired and smooth; a crooked life. But he isn’t too blame this time…’ She began to swirl her hands over the top of the cup again. ‘‘I see lots of animals.’ Rosa was now already beginning to switch off. Mary had obviously been told about Luke and it was obvious she liked animals, as everyone could see what Hot meant to her. ‘Don’t be fooled by the tall one…’
Rosa kept with it. If that was Josh, then she knew this really was rubbish, Josh would never lie to her. Mind you he hadn’t mentioned he had seen Luke the other day and she had forgotten to ask him why. The old lady continued at great speed.
‘Be free with your energy Rosa and your angels will guide. Believe in yourself and happiness you will find. Eat well. Drink less. A lot less.’ Mary was now sat as still as a stone, even Merlin had settled down to a one-eyed-open nap. But old Mrs Cobb still hadn’t finished and on hearing Rosa moving restlessly in her seat, she shouted. ‘WAIT!’ Even Mary jumped this time. ‘Don’t jump to conclusions.’
She suddenly opened her eyes and stared straight at Rosa. Her voice was now soft again.
‘You have a good future ahead of you, my dear. Don’t waste it.’
‘If I keep away from all these men, obviously.’ Rosa smiled.
‘Did I mention any men, Rosa?’
Although not sure if it was the right thing to do, thanking Queenie she asked her if she owed her anything.
‘Rosa, please, of course not. I invited you to do this. But when you’re ready, Merlin could do with a new lead.’
‘I err…OK… a lead?’
‘Yes, our Mary takes him for a walk sometimes. He loves it, he does.’
Mary nodded furiously.
‘Well then Merlin shall have the finest cat lead on the market. How did you know I was thinking of selling pet products?
‘Did I say that? I don’t think I did. No more questions now, my dear girl. Please, just tell me you’re leaving soon, as I really could do with a sleep.’
‘Oh, ssh now Mary. You know how tired this makes me.’
Rosa stood up. ‘It’s fine, honestly, I need to get back to Hot anyway.’
Queenie Cobb slowly got out of her chair. She rested both hands in front of her on the table to steady herself. ‘If you find it, don’t sell the necklace, Rosa.’
Rosa was now open-mouthed. ‘But… How…?
The old lady shook her finger at her. ‘Keep it in a very safe place and tell no one about it.’