Thursday, 30 November 2017

Guest Post and Extract from Katey Lovell, Author of Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown

Today is the release day of the paperback of Joe and Clara's Christmas countdown. I am very very excited because I absolutely loved this festive read, as you can tell from my review, which you can find here!

Katey knows how much I love her books and so offered to share an extract from Joe and Clara's Christmas countdown right here for you, and I also asked her for some words of wisdom when it comes to present buying, since there are so many amazing gifts exchanged in her latest novel. You can scroll down to read the extract and I'll leave links to the book down there too, but first, its; over to Katey-thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us!

In my festive novel Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown, Clara generously gives Joe a selection of gifts to remind him of the joy of the season.  Some of them are silly, some of them nostalgic, but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re given with love.

This made me think of some of the Christmas presents I’ve been given over the years that have really made me smile.

It made me realise that some of the nicest things I’ve been given are decorations from children I’ve taught – when a child I’ve looked after gives me a tree decoration I’m always thrilled.  Each year when I get the bauble-filled box down from the top of the cupboard and see these presents, which have spent much of the year tucked out of view, I think of the child who gave it me and hope they’ve had a happy and successful year.  

Although Christmas isn’t just about the presents, I do find real pleasure in giving someone the perfect gift and love it when I can find a lovely present that I know they’ll adore.  I’ve done a lot of my shopping already, but as my son Zach turns ten the week before Christmas I still have a few more things I’d like to buy for him.  He’s given me numerous lists of things he might like, so I’ve no shortage of ideas!

Katey Lovell is the author of three romantic comedies published by HarperImpulse.  Her latest novel, Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown, is available now – you can read an extract below.

Thursday, November 30th 2017

Clara had always loved everything about Christmas, and although Advent hadn’t yet started she was fully prepared for the season.  She’d retrieved her collection of knitted Christmas jumpers from the back of her wardrobe (they were now hanging prominently from the picture rail in her bedroom so she could admire them in all their hideously gaudy beauty), and already done the majority of her shopping.  Her cards were written and stamped, ready to go into the post box at the end of the road on the first day of December.  And now she was trying to persuade Deirdre to let her decorate the youth club with spangly decorations galore.

‘There’s no way you’re putting them up today, Clara.  Not a chance.  It’s still November!’ Deirdre shook her head with such vigour that her monstrous clip-on earrings threatened to fly off.  ‘The ones at home don’t go up until at least the middle of the month.  If they were up any earlier I’d get bored.  I’m gagging to take them down by Boxing Day as it is.’

‘Spoil sport,’ Clara pouted. 

‘You’re not going to change my mind.  It’s November.  It’s too early.’

Clara sighed, ready to admit defeat.  It was the same every year – she’d be itching to get the club covered in tinsel and glitter whilst Deirdre would be putting the Christmas dampeners on.  

‘I’ve been patient.  The supermarkets have had their decorations up since the day after Hallowe’en.’

‘Bully for the supermarkets!’ Deirdre blustered.  ‘Go and work for them if you’re so desperate to have your bloody baubles up!’

Clara laughed.  ‘You don’t mean that.  We’re struggling enough as it is with the two of us running this place.  You’d have no chance if you were doing it single-handedly.’

‘Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong,’ Deirdre replied, a cryptic smirk curling at the corners of her lips.  ‘I wouldn’t be doing it alone.  My new volunteer would be able to help me out.’

Clara’s ears pricked up.  ‘New volunteer? You mean someone’s actually been daft enough to sign up to spend their free time in this madhouse?’

‘Yes, and, what’s more, I think he’ll be great with the kids.’


‘Yes, he.  He’s young and enthusiastic and it’ll be good for the boys to have a male role model.  I know it’s all about equality these days, but I switch off the minute Jordan starts talking about football.  What do I know about whether United would be better moving their right back into central defence or whatever it was he was rambling on about last night?  This way he can chew someone else’s ear off about it rather than mine.  Someone who might be able to make a more incisive comment than ‘Hmm, I don’t know’.’

‘Are you going to tell me who this saviour is or are you going to sit there teasing me all night?’  

Deirdre jokingly tapped the side of her nose with her index finger.  ‘I could tell you, but it’s far more fun to keep you guessing.’

‘You’re so mean!’ Clara hated being left in the dark over anything, especially when it came to the youth club.  Deirdre might be the manager, but Clara had taken on more and more responsibility over the years until they were pretty much equals.  Everything was a team effort, from budgeting, to choosing which fundraising events to run and which local groups to work in partnership with.  Clara couldn’t remember the last time Deirdre had made a decision without consulting her first.  ‘So you’re not even going to give me a clue?’

Deirdre shook her head once more.  ‘Nope.  This one’s for me to know and you to find out.’


‘You love me really.  And you’ll love me even more when you find out who our new volunteer is. I’ve got a good feeling about the two of you.’

Clara’s face dropped.  Deirdre and her meddling.  
‘If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.  I’m not looking for a man.  They’re smelly and lazy and slob about on the settee with their hands shoved down their pants.’  Clara remembered the time she’d called Dean out on that, because she’d been sick of the sight of him with his hands in his trousers.  He’d insisted he wasn’t playing with himself but she’d had her doubts. The excuse that his hands were cold didn’t wash with her.  Hadn’t he heard of pockets?  ‘Not to mention they have a habit of sleeping around.’  

Bitterness filled her mouth.  She’d got past the sadness of their relationship ending, but she couldn’t get past the anger at being lied to and cheated on.  It took a lot for her to trust someone.  Watching her mum’s confidence dwindle away to nothing after her dad’s infidelity had been painful.  Dean screwing around behind her back had only reaffirmed her distrust.  

‘Not all of them, and not this one.  This one’s a good one.’

‘I thought Dean was a good one, once upon a time,’ Clara grumbled in retort.  ‘If there are good ones out there, why have you never got married, eh?  Answer me that.’

‘I’m married to this place, remember.  The club, the kids – they’re all the family I need.’

‘Well, maybe that’s enough for me, too,’ she answered defiantly.  ‘Maybe I’ll be married to this place.’

Deirdre waggled her finger in front of her face, wearing a stern expression no one in their right mind would argue with.  ‘I don’t think so, Clara.  I think you need to trust me for once.’

‘I always trust you.  Except when it comes to your decisions of when to put the Christmas decorations up, because when it comes to that you’re just downright wrong.’

‘The decorations can go up tomorrow.  December the first.  Which is still too early, but at least it’ll tie in nicely with the lantern parade.  Plus Joe will be around then, so you can do it together.’

‘Joe?  Simone’s brother Joe?’

Deirdre smacked the heel of her hand into her forehead.  ‘I can’t believe I let that one slip.  Me and my big mouth!  But yes, he’s our new volunteer.  Be nice to him, Clara.  I’ve known Joe since he was eleven years old and he had lines shaved into his eyebrows like he was some sort of gangster.  He was trying to be tough, but he’s was a softie then and he’s a softie now.’  

She looked dreamy, and Clara suspected her boss was imagining Clara in a puffy meringue-like dress and Joe in a jet-black top hat and tails.  Typical Deirdre, never one to let reality get in the way of a good story.

‘Don’t go getting any ideas, Deirdre.  I barely know the guy.’

‘But you’ll get to know him,’ Deirdre reasoned.  ‘Don’t rule anything out yet, that’s all I’m asking.’

Clara didn’t have the energy to argue.  In ten minutes’ time they’d be opening the doors and the stream of excitable kids would flood into the hall ready to spend the next two hours wreaking havoc. 

‘If I can’t have fairy lights, I’m going to need caffeine,’ she grumbled, heading towards the kitchenette. 

‘Clara?’ Deirdre called after her. 


‘If you believe in the magic of Christmas, you can surely believe in the magic of love too.’

Clara rolled her eyes.  Christmas was one thing.  Love was something else altogether.

Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown is out now and you can click here to order your copy: UK or US

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