Today I’m excited to be a part of the blog tour for A Single Journey, the new novel by Frankie McGowan.
Read on for an extract from the book and to find out more…
Harriet has begun to despair of her life.
With a failed relationship behind her, a business on the rocks and a flat that’s falling apart around her ears, she could really use some luck.
Elena Banbury, née Guseva, an elderly but imposing Russian woman who is Harriet’s neighbour and landlady, frequently entertains the punters at Harriet’s jewellery stall with tales of the palaces of St. Petersburg and the treasures of Fabergé. But Harriet sometimes feels, guiltily, that she could do without the endless errands that seem to fall to her as Elena’s friend.
Then, unexpectedly, when Elena dies, she leaves all her worldly goods to a grateful Harriet. In time, however, it becomes clear that others are shocked by Harriet’s good luck, too. Shocked… and very, very unhappy.
Challenged in court by Elena’s family who live in Berlin, Harriet is forced to give up her inheritance and long-dreamed-of plans for a new business, and start her life again. But with her reputation in tatters and the memory of Elena tainted, Harriet knows a great injustice has been done.
Against the advice of her friends, family and lawyers, Harriet sets off on her own, very singular journey to Berlin.
In the weeks that follow she meets rich and poor, the glamorous and the criminal, the honest and the secretive, and begins to see that perhaps she has something to learn from them all. Something to learn about herself, and something to learn about her priorities.
She knows she has to fight for justice. But, when she meets the scholarly, perceptive Neil, who generously tries to help Harriet in her mission, but who is struggling with a complicated marriage, she must also decide if she’ll fight for love, too.
[Extract from A Single Journey]
At the tangled junction of broad boulevards heading towards the entrance to the Tiergarten, Neil took her arm while they waited for the traffic streaming down from the Brandenburg Gate to ease up to allow them to cross.
On the other side of the street, for a while they walked in silence through the wide tree-lined paths of the Tiergarten, dodging around the familiar sight of families found in any big city on Saturday afternoon; babies in buggies, parents calling to children to watch out as they swerved on scooters around unsuspecting strollers, lovers with arms entwined, oblivious to anyone but each other. It could have been any park, in any city, anywhere in the world.
‘I should be careful,’ she smiled at Neil. His hands were dug into his pockets. He was
walking, frowning at the ground.
‘What?’ he looked blankly at her. ‘Sorry, miles away. About what?’
‘Falling in love.’
‘What?’ he looked startled.
‘With this city,’ she confessed. ‘Well, perhaps not the cold,’ she added quickly, beginning to remember his slavish devotion to accuracy. ‘Or the white sausages, or those nightmare men pounding on the door of the Hafen every night.’
‘Even after all you went through?’ He gave her a curious look.
She nodded. ‘It’s weird, isn’t it? It was only two – no crikey three – weeks ago. I shake when I think of it. I – I’m not that brave. I have a light by my bed – Bebe found it for me – and the dark isn’t great. But I can’t seem to associate that with this – all this magnificence. Neil? Are you okay?’
He was staring at her. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Just wondering if the market up ahead has
somewhere to grab a coffee.’
They found a stall that sold coffee in the tightly packed aisles of the famed flea market in the centre of the park, ambling companionably through them, stopping only when Harriet inspected the vintage jewellery. So long it seemed, since she had bothered with any of this. Not knowing quite what she was looking for, since she had no business anymore to make it worthwhile, she wondered where the drive for any of this had gone. Temporary, she consoled herself. It was another city, another time. It would come back to her.
On one stall, she turned over what looked like an amber and silver brooch, which she guessed had been copied from a time when more heavy Victorian tastes had melted away to be replaced by Edwardian delicacy.
Neil peered over her shoulder. ‘Is it real? The amber?’
‘Here?’ she glanced around the market. ‘Unlikely. Anyway, if you want to invest in amber, you should only ever buy Baltic,’ she advised. ‘And this is certainly not it.’
‘How can you tell? Just in case,’ he went on, ‘I’m ever asked. Well, you never know,’ he objected when she laughed.
‘Okay. Well, if you rub it with a soft cloth, then pluck a hair from your head, if it clings to it, it probably is. Or some people recommend washing it with soap and water and then licking it – it should be tasteless by the way – and then there’s the nail varnish test—’
‘Good God,’ he said hastily. ‘How do you know all this stuff?’
‘Well, a gemmology course helped – and there is all sorts of nonsense talked about tests for genuine stuff, but then I met Dermot and it was mostly through him. He could tell from the other end of the room what it was worth.’
‘He taught you?’
‘Not exactly. More that, when you’re with someone who is a total expert, you kind of want to know. A bit like you telling me something about a maths problem and – what’s the matter? You are impressive, okay, I think you are, but then I flunked maths at school so what do I know? Don’t look so shocked – I probably wouldn’t remember everything you said, but I’d remember enough not to sound ridiculous.’
‘Could you—?’ he seemed to be about to hold out his hand, but stopped. ‘Harriet? What’s the matter?’
She was staring through a closed glass case at a bracelet set in silver, the gleaming green gem caught in its clasp, catching the light. For some reason she shivered…
Extract from Chapter 17
[Follow the rest of the tour]