Monday, 20 August 2018

Blog Tour: Extract From Martinis and Memories by A.L. Michael



Today I have a very exciting extract to share with you. Martinis and Memories came out in the UK on August 13th and you can order your copy here. Don't forget to check out the other blogs on the tour for more exclusive content. I have a wonderful extract to share with you so you can get a taste of this novel, here's what it's all about:

Bel Hailstone has spent the past decade building her dream - Soho’s best burlesque club - from the ground up. But now The Martini Club is under threat and it will take everything in Bel’s power to resist encroaching developers and save her pride and joy.
Amidst the chaos Bel’s past comes knocking with the unexpected arrivals of her still-not-quite-ex-husband, her estranged mother and Brodie Porter - the boy who got away all those years ago.

To keep her beloved club afloat – not to mention her sanity - Bel will have to accept help for the first time in a long time, put the past to rest and claim the happy ever after she once thought was lost for good.


And here's that extract for you. Scroll down for more information about this author as well as social media links!

I picked up my gym bag and walked out onto the landing, closing the door behind me.
‘I know you’re there,’ I said, and Sam poked his head over, coffee in hand.
‘Hello again.’
‘You spying on me?’
He appraised me knowingly. ‘I was sitting having a cup of coffee in my stairwell; I’m entitled.’
‘You are, but you have a perfectly lovely flat up there and your knees cramp up sitting on those steps.’
He held up a hand. ‘Okay, okay, I was listening out for yelling. Slamming doors, anything else that might mean a big old American landlord needs to stick his oversized nose somewhere. But it seems you’ve got it covered. How long’s she staying?’
‘I have no fucking idea. I need to go dance it out or I’ll explode.’
He nodded gravely. ‘Smart move.’
‘Do me a favour? She wants to come and see the club, could you drop her by this evening? Just walk her over?’
Sam raised an eyebrow at me, whiskery and unimpressed. ‘And does your mother often look at menfolk like they won’t make it out alive?’
I laughed. ‘No, but they don’t make it out all the same. You’re strong, though, I believe in you.’
Sam paused, as if he wasn’t sure which words to choose. ‘Sweetheart, you’re not trying… this isn’t some sort of set up, is it? Because I am quite happy the way I am.’
I pressed my lips together and tried not to laugh again. ‘Sam, I love you. You are one of my dearest friends. I would not do that to you. I just need to make sure she doesn’t come over early and cause problems.’
He saluted lazily. ‘Okay, you can count on me, poppet. I’ll bring her over. Can’t be held responsible for what happens when she’s there.’
For the hundredth time this month, I thanked my lucky stars for Sam, who was sometimes the only person who made me feel sane.
I jogged down the stairs, weaving in between the Sunday morning tourists and workers, the people enjoying the sunshine, looking in shop windows and restaurants. Every step I took away from my mother, I felt a little better, a little more clear-headed. I tapped into the building on the corner, running up the stairs before walking straight into the studio. I spared a smile for the other women in the corner, almost always the same ones on Sundays. I sat down on the floor to swap my shoes, stretching out my legs and leaning into it, feeling the tension start to melt away. The other women were always perfect and spritely, long-limbed and perfect-bunned, just like when I used to go to ballet class as a kid. There were the cygnets, and then there was me, the chicken. Now, it was almost the opposite. The perfectly coiffed ladies would smile and say hello to me, but they never attempted to talk, and neither did I. I wasn’t the green juices and bran muffins after class type, and they knew that. It was easier to come in three minutes before the class started and focus on stretching out.
I was better than they were. I wasn’t good enough to be professional and I had hated dancing through my childhood, the way my mother forced me to practise for hours, took me to auditions. The bloody toes and constant aches as I tried to study on so few hours’ sleep. ‘You can do better, Bel, you know you can do better. You don’t want to embarrass me, do you?’ I had wanted to be better in school. My class tutor, Miss McKay, had gone head to head with Mum numerous times. I was exhausted, I was falling asleep, I was limping at school. How could I be expected to study and do well if I was dancing all the time? Did she know I was a smart girl? I could go to university if I applied myself.
I loved Miss McKay. She was the only person I’d met who ever seemed to think I could do anything. Mum thought I could dance, but never as well as her.
Everyone else I met seemed to think I’d just grow up and take over running the dance studio, or I’d be working at the chippy forever. Having one person, one young, hopeful teacher tell me I was smart enough to do something other than live my small life in Eastbourne, that was enough to plant a seed of doubt. I could do something else, but it would have to be carefully planned. I would never be able to live the life I wanted around Mum. She would never quit, not unless I was so badly injured I couldn’t dance any more, and I couldn’t quite bear to do that. I got close, some nights,
when I was so exhausted, when she was shouting at me about not getting picked at audition, when she made me stand on the scales every morning and sighed, before handing me an apple. I was a constant disappointment.
The weird thing was, after all that, after all those horrible memories and the stress and the way she made me hate my body… I still loved to dance. I loved to go up on my tiptoes and feel the tension in my legs. I loved to stretch and move and sway, and know that I could do what others couldn’t, that my body was a powerhouse. When I’d moved to the city, when I’d first considered leaving Euan, I found burlesque, and that was something else altogether. It was an act, a performance in confidence and sensuality. Ballet was about strength, beauty, control. They were two halves of me.
The teacher led us through some basic moves and I let everything melt away, feeling the tension in my neck release. Every thought about the club, my mother, Euan, money worries and that creeping, ever-present feeling that I was lonely and couldn’t work that away. It sat in my muscles and slipped from them as I stretched.
An hour later, I pulled on my trainers, nodded at the other women and headed out, feeling lighter. I wouldn’t tell Mum, no matter what. If she knew I still danced, it would be a thing. I didn’t know if she’d explode with irritation, that I had run out on it all those years ago, but still danced, or if she would get maudlin and full of regret. My mother’s emotions were like the weather.
When I got back to the flat, thankfully she was out. I saw the spare keys were gone, and her suitcase was open in the living room, clothes strewn everywhere, so she’d obviously taken my suggestion. Music played from Sam’s flat upstairs, and I got ready for work more quickly than usual.
Normally, putting on my game face was an art, like preparing for war. I started as Annabelle Stone, nobody, and I left as Arabella Hailstone, owner of the Martini Club. The make-up was glitter and darkness, plumping my lips until they looked like dark sugar plums. My eyes were lined in liquid black, and some days, if I’d put a before and after next to each other, I was sure I was almost unrecognisable. With my war paint on, I became who I was meant to be.
It’s not that unexpected to see a tall Valkyrie in a sparkling black corset and heels walking through Soho on a Sunday afternoon, but people still stare. They probably wonder if I’m someone famous, or if I’m a dominatrix, a local performer. The things I’ve seen in Greek Street over the years, I barely qualify as interesting. And yet I enjoy it, striding down the street, turning heads, as if it’s my own personal show. I play music on my walk into the office, something upbeat and powerful, so that I walk with a wiggle, keep my head held high. Every moment before entering the club is about becoming more myself, putting on the Wonder Woman outfit and making shit happen.

A. L. Michael is the author of 13 novels. Almost all of them are snarky love stories where difficult women learn to embrace vulnerability. Andi works as a content writer, so no matter what she’s doing, she’s all about the words. She has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Creative Business and an MSc in Creative Writing. She is represented by Hayley Steed at Madeleine Milburn.


Social Media Links

Twitter: @almichael_
Website: www.almichael.com

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