Today I have an excerpt to share with you from Little Cottage in the Country by Lottie Phillips, this is going to be a perfect summer read.
Escape to the country!
Anna Compton thought that moving to the countryside, leaving London and her past firmly behind her was the perfect solution. Goodbye life of thirty-something, crazed single mum of two, hello country glamour queen, domestic goddess and yummy-mummy extraordinaire.
But her new life at Primrose Cottage isn’t quite what she expected! Very soon she’s chasing pork pies down hills, disguising her shop-bought cakes at the school bake sale – and trying to resist oh-so-handsome Horatio Spencerville, who just so happens to be the Lord of the Manor…
Could moving to the country be the biggest mistake she’s ever made?
Perfect for fans of Christie Barlow, Holly Martin and Tilly Tennant.
‘Right,’ her mother said, shooting the twins a hard stare, ‘are we ready?’
Anna helped the twins up and solemnly held her hand across her heart. ‘I, your mother, Anna Compton, do solemnly swear that this will be the last time I dress up as a member of Abba and I swear I will try to sing at least one note in tune.’
Minutes later, the twins had piled into Diane’s car and Anna was leading the convoy to the school. She found the reflection of a female Freddie Mercury in her rear-view mirror disconcerting, but no more so than her sixty-year-old mother, by her side, puckering her lips and admiring herself in a handheld mirror.
They arrived at the school gates and Anna noticed that the saner parents had decided just to watch the show and not participate. Anna climbed out of the car, all too aware of the looks she was getting from women and men perfectly kitted out in Joules and Boden. Angela spotted Anna and came over in a few long-legged strides.
‘Amy, you look divine. What are you? No, don’t tell me… A clown? No, actually, I think you’re that man out of that bank ad…’ She watched Anna’s face. ‘No? Oh, go on then, tell me.’
‘We’re meant to be Abba.’ Anna gestured to her mother and Diane. ‘Only, the fourth member is ill.’
‘How splendid.’ Angela flicked her straight red hair to the left and then to the right, and then back to the left. ‘I didn’t know Charlie Chaplin was in Abba.’ She looked at Diane. ‘You learn something new every day.’ She turned on her heels. ‘Anyway, must be off as I’m introducing Lucinda’s dressage. She prepared a few words for me.’
Anna watched her lope towards the school gates and they followed suit. Mrs Beecham stood at the entrance to the hall greeting everybody and, on seeing Anna, smiled and waved.
‘Wow. You all look marvellous. What an effort you’ve gone to. Brilliant. Now, we’ll be starting in about ten minutes and I believe you’re up after Lucinda, who’s after little Charles on the recorder.’ Mrs Beecham looked at the twins over her spectacles. ‘Now, what are you two doing?’
‘I’m playing drums,’ Freddie said proudly. ‘Antonia is playing the triangle.’
‘Wonderful.’ Mrs Beecham looked up at Anna. ‘Great that you’re all getting involved and in the spirit of it.’
‘Yes, we’re very excited,’ Anna said, pushing down her nerves. ‘Where’s Lucinda’s dressage being shown?’
‘She’ll be linked up to the big screen at the front of the hall. I believe Angela is au fait with all the technology involved.’
Anna nodded and smiled before heading backstage. Larry was waiting for them, wearing an incredibly convincing long, frizzy wig, and T-shirt and jeans.
‘God, how have you managed to grow you hair over two days? I want whatever you’re getting,’ said Anna smiling.
‘Steady on.’ Diane kissed Larry on the lips.
‘No, it’s my dreadlocks. I don’t need the hairpieces any more so I decided to backcomb them.’ He paused and looked at Anna’s mother. ‘I look a lot like you, Linda.’
‘I’d say not,’ her mother said, jutting out her chin.
‘Why don’t you need the hairpieces now, Larry?’ Anna said as she rammed her forefinger between her scalp and the wig in a last-ditch effort to relieve the itching.
‘I’m going to be a dad. I was only doing all that stuff because I was young with no direction.’
‘And now,’ Anna said, ‘you’re forty-eight hours’ older and dressed up like Brian May. Brilliant.’
‘Exactly,’ Larry said smiling.
Mrs Beecham’s voice boomed through the hall as she announced the first performer. ‘I’d like you all to put your hands together for Charles Bray who will be performing ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ on his recorder.’
A round of applause erupted and Anna, surprised at the level of noise, had a peek out at the audience. ‘Crikey, it’s full. Can’t you lot go and perform alone? Not sure I can do this.’
‘You said that about the bake sale and the pork pie competition and you did those,’ Diane whispered. ‘You’re a natural.’
‘At what? Making a tit of myself?’
‘Yep, something like that.’
Minutes later, the final squeak of Charles’s recorder sounded and everybody clapped. A man in the front row stood and wolf-whistled.
‘That’ll be you one day,’ Anna said to Larry, who grinned back at her like the cat who’d got the cream.
‘And now,’ Mrs Beecham said, ‘Angela would like to introduce our next act.’
Angela bounded onto the stage. ‘Hi everyone, Lucinda asked me to say a few words. She wrote them for me. So here goes…’ Angela cleared her throat. ‘As you will all know, Lucinda Deville is a woman of many talents and that’s why she’s my best friend. She won the baking competition here only a couple of weeks ago and today is going to show us what an amazing horsewoman she is via a live link. She really is an asset to this school and I’m sure we all wish we could be more like her.’ She smiled at the audience but no one stirred except for a woman at the back who snorted. ‘Right. Well, now I will press the appropriate button to join Lucinda via satellite link.’ Angela pressed a remote and the screen behind flickered to life. ‘Enjoy, everyone.’
Anna glanced at the giant screen and, when she saw Lucinda, her hand flew to her mouth. The audience, quickly registering the situation, simultaneously gasped. Lucinda standing in a dressage ring, fully kitted out in her riding gear, talking on her mobile. She had a long glass of something in her hand and she was ranting.
‘Oh yeah, Rupert, that’s the way to be a man… What? You thought you’d ring me and let me know you’ve left for the Bahamas. You’re a stupid… What did you just call me?’ She started to pace. ‘You hear me? You’re an absolute pillock. I mean, you don’t even have enough imagination to run off with someone outside of your office?’ There was a long pause. ‘Oh no. Don’t give me that, Rupert. I’m going to take you to the cleaners.’
Anna cringed and looked at Angela, who stood, frozen, on the stage, her mouth gaping like a goldfish.
‘I mean,’ Lucinda continued, ‘you had an affair with your sodding PA. You tell me her name like I’ve never heard it before. Yeah, well, just thought you should know, Rupert…’ She stopped moving. ‘I don’t care because I happen to know that Belinda is a bimbo, and not only that, you moron…’
Anna watched Lucinda wobble. ‘Not only that, I’ve already kissed her and it’s like being stuck in a washing machine. But mainly you should know, I couldn’t give a flying one because I love women and I’m in love with Angela.’
The audience gasped and stared at Angela, who turned to look at the audience.
‘First I knew,’ she said, giggling nervously. ‘I think I’d better just give Lucinda a ring.’
Anna looked over to Mrs Beecham, at the back of the hall, desperately jabbing at the computer’s keyboard to no avail. As Angela walked hurriedly past, Mrs Beecham grabbed her by the arm. Angela, looking terrified, shrugged and ran out the back of the hall.
Anna’s eyes returned to the screen in wonder. ‘You know, Rupert, I’m hanging up now because I have to ring Angela and find out when I’m on. I can’t believe you would choose today of all days to do this. I have dressage to perform.’ She jabbed at the phone, cutting the call, and then, on hearing her ringtone, focused on her mobile once more.
‘Speak of the devil.’ Lucinda answered, ‘Hi, darling one. Rupert’s left me. Oh, you know already? There’s something I want to tell you actually… What?’ She turned slowly towards the camera and stared down its lens. ‘Oh, I didn’t think I’d switched it on yet.’ Lucinda stood up straighter, the phone clamped to her ear and her mouth started to twitch. ‘Right. OK. Thanks.’
She finished the call and dropped her shaking hand to her side.
‘Um,’ she started and came up close to the camera. ‘Hello, dear audience. I join you live this evening from my home.’ She paused. ‘So, I hope you all enjoyed my piece of improv. I decided, as a woman of many talents, to ditch the dressage and concentrate on my acting. So, that piece was called…’ She paused. ‘That piece was called Marital Hiccup and, needless to say, the events mentioned in the piece were all fictional and, while you may have recognised the names, there is no link between the names and events depicted.’ She smiled at the audience, her smile cracking. ‘Thank you, dear watchers, and back to you in the studio.’ She nodded, walked over to the camera and could be heard muttering, ‘How do you turn this off? I need to turn the sodding thing off.’
Mrs Beecham moved slowly towards the front of the hall, the audience now silent. She climbed the steps to the stage and cleared her throat. ‘Well,’ she said, clasping her hands together, ‘that was fun. I’ll just say that we weren’t expecting that, so please don’t take offence at the content, but…’ She nodded unconvincingly. ‘Didn’t she put on a fine performance?’
A spattering of applause came from the audience and a mother and her three children got up to leave.
‘Anyway, on a lighter note, we now have the fabulous Abba and Queen montage I’ve heard so much about it so, if Miss Anna Compton and her family and friends would make their way to the stage…’ She nodded at Anna. ‘Keep it clean!’ Mrs Beecham let out an hysterical laugh and descended the steps.
Anna looked at Diane, panic in her eyes.
Diane shrugged. ‘Listen, whatever we do now will look like a work of genius after Moose-inda’s nervous breakdown.’
About Charlie Phillips
Charlie Phillips, writing under the pseudonym Lottie Phillips, worked as a teacher before turning her hand to fiction. She was brought up in Africa and the Middle East and then – as an adult – travelled extensively before moving to London and finally settling in the Cotswolds with her partner and toddler. When she’s not writing, you will find her scouring interior design magazines and shops, striving toward the distant dream of being a domestic goddess or having a glass of wine with country music turned up loud. As a child, she always had her nose in a book and, in particular, Nancy Drew.
The Little Cottage in the Country is Charlie’s debut romantic comedy. She is very excited to be sharing Anna Compton’s hilarious story with you! She also writes psychological thrillers under the pseudonym Louise Stone, including the best selling novel, S is for Stranger.
Book & Buy Links
Title: The Little Cottage in the Country
Author: Lottie Phillips
Genre: Women’s Fiction | Romantic Comedy
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: 3 July 2017
Review Format: N/A
Other Formats: eBook
Buy: Amazon UK | Speedy Hen