Thank you so much, Jan and OAPsChat, for inviting me along to share a little bit about the inspiration behind my stories.
I write in two genres, contemporary romance and psychological thriller, gravitating towards family and just how strong a family unit can be.
Whichever genre I write in, though, people and the whole gamut of emotion that comes with them are my inspiration. I think most authors draw on life events, their characters often being an amalgamation of the traits of people they’ve come to know. Learning to Love does touch on a subject I’m familiar with, looking at bereavement in childhood and a single father desperately trying to help his son come to terms with his grief. “It’s also about family as beautifully chaotic as they can be.” – thank you Sophie at Bookdrunk for that perfect description.
Fundamentally, it’s a story – poignant at times – about moving on, trusting yourself, opening yourself up to the possibility of loving again, even though life might be complicated, even though you’ve been hurt and your heart might have been broken.
I very much wanted the book to be about real people. Having read one review, I think I might have achieved that. Annie’s Book Corner says, “It's one of those books that, when real life interrupts my reading, I can't stop thinking about the story and the people. I usually refer to them as characters in my reviews … but in Learning to Love, they are people. Solid and 3-dimensional people.” Thank you so much, Ann. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.
I’m super proud to say that Learning to Love is now available in print and you can grab your copy from WH Smith Travel. On which note, I can’t resist sharing another little quote, this one from the WH Smith Travel Fiction Buyer, Matt Bates, which is included in the forward of the book: “Women’s fiction has a rising star in Sheryl Browne. Her novels cut straight to the heart and if you’re looking for a totally engrossing read that will make you cry as well as laugh your socks off then look no further …”. How lovely is that? So proud.
Can I just add a final thank you to all those readers and book bloggers who are as passionate as I am about books and so wonderfully supportive. I wouldn’t be here if not for you.
Keep safe all.
Learning to Love - Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places …
Living in a small village like Hibberton, it’s expected that your neighbours help you in a time of need. But when Andrea Kelly’s house burns down, taking all her earthly possessions with it, it’s the distant and aloof Doctor David Adams – the person she would least expect – who opens his door not just to her, but to her three kids and slightly dotty elderly mother as well.
Andrea needs all the help she can get, dealing with aftermath of the fire and the suspicious absence of her husband, Jonathan. But, as she gets to know David and his troubled son, Jake, she begins to realise that maybe they need her help as much as she needs theirs …
Learning to Love by Sheryl Browne
David turned his attention back to his son, who was surrounded by a sea of photographs, he realised. Photographs of Michelle, from the albums in the spare room.
Cautiously, David walked across to stand by Jake’s side. Then, hands in pockets, he waited again, wondering what to say that could even begin to heal their relationship. What would he want to hear, if he were Jake?
Sorry perhaps? Wholly inadequate, David knew, but it might be a start.
He looked down at his son, whose head was bent in concentration on his endeavours.
He needed a haircut. Needed a lot of things.
David closed his eyes as he noticed the bottle of perfume tucked in the corner of Jake’s Adidas shoebox.
Because Jake wanted something to remind him of her.
‘Need any help, Jake?’ David asked softly.
Jake didn’t answer. That was okay. David didn’t really expect him to. He swallowed back a lump in his throat, then took a gamble, crouched down next to Jake – and silently waited.
Biding his time, he studied the photographs quietly alongside his son. ‘You’ve chosen all the good ones,’ he ventured.
Jake did respond then, somewhere between a nod and a shrug.
‘Not many fun ones though.’ David reached for a photograph. One he’d taken himself on what turned out to be their last time at the theme park together: Michelle, Jake in front of her on the log flume, both shrieking with laugher and soaked through to the skin.
Probably the last time she had laughed – with him.
David breathed in, hard. ‘I did make her sad, Jake,’ he said quietly. ‘I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t help much, but … I wish I hadn’t.’
Jake’s head dropped even lower.
‘She did laugh though, you know, Jake. With you.’
David placed the photograph carefully in the box. ‘Alton Towers,’ he said, ‘summer before last. She laughed so much she had to dash to the loo, remember?’
Jake dragged the back of his hand under his nose.
‘She couldn’t have been that happy without you, Jake. You gave her the gift of laugher. That’s something to be glad about. To be proud of.’
David stopped, his chest filling up as he watched a slow tear fall from his son’s face.
David hesitated, then rested a hand lightly on Jake’s shoulder. Jake didn’t shrug him off.
‘You won her a stuffed toy that day, do you remember? What was it? A tiger?’
‘Tigger.’ Jake finally spoke.
‘That’s right,’ David said, his throat tight. ‘Tigger.’
‘She kept it in the car,’ Jake picked up in a small voice.
The car she never arrived at the hospital in, David realised, overwhelming guilt slicing through him. ‘She kept a whole family of furry friends in the car. I’m surprised there was room for her.’
Jake’s mouth twitched into a small smile. ‘She talked to them.’ He glanced up at David, his huge blue eyes glassy with tears.
‘That was the little girl inside her. The little girl you made laugh.’ David squeezed Jake’s shoulder. He actually felt like whooping. Like punching the air. Like picking Jake up and hugging him so hard … Jake had looked at him. Full on. No anger.
David closed his eyes, relief washing over him. ‘I have one of Mum’s stuffed toys,’ he said throatily. ‘One she kept. Not Tigger, but … Do you want me to fetch it?’
‘Right.’ David smiled. ‘Back in two.’ He dragged his forearm across his eyes as he headed for his own room. He had something else, too. Something he’d wanted to give Jake before, but somehow couldn’t.
The antique locket he’d bought Michelle for her thirtieth birthday was in the bedside drawer. David collected it, ran his thumb over the engraved rose gold surface of it. If Jake needed something to remind him of his mother, this was it.
‘Bedtime Bear,’ David announced, joining Jake back on the floor. ‘Your very first toy.’ He handed his son the scruffy little white bear.
Jake laughed and David really did feel like crying then.
‘I have something else for you, Jake.’ He passed him the locket. ‘It was very special to her,’ he said gently as Jake’s eyes fell on the photograph of himself inside it. ‘She wore it right next to her heart. And that,’ he went on as Jake looked at the lock of hair on the opposite side of the locket, ‘is your hair and hers, entwined.’
Jake went very quiet.
‘Okay?’ David asked.
Jake nodded vigorously. ‘Okay,’ he said, around a sharp intake of breath. David reached out, ran his hand through Jake’s unruly crop, and then allowed it to stray to his shoulder. He wanted very much to hold him, to reassure him. But Jake’s body language was tense. It would take time, David knew, but maybe someday, Jake would let him back in.
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