Monday 2 October 2023

The Time of Cherries by Michael S Hollington BLOG TOUR #TheTimeofCherries #MichaelSHollington @BookGuild @RandomTTours #BookExtract


Burgundy, 1861.

Christine ‘Kiki’ Vellay, the daughter of vineyard workers, is forced to marry an older man in exchange for a piece of land. He abuses her. Seduced by a young naval cadet she plots to run away. When her husband is killed during the attempt, she finds herself wrongly accused of his murder.

Kiki is on the run.

On reaching Paris in disguise, Kiki discovers she is pregnant and takes on various jobs to survive. When her child is stolen from her, she begins a desperate attempt to find him. Her story takes her from imprisonment in the infamous Conciergerie, to a chateau in the Loire, back to Paris under siege – as a spy – during the Franco-Prussian war, culminating in a dramatic conclusion in the final bloody week of the Paris Commune.

A story of resilience in the face of immense hardship, The Time of Cherries is a gripping account of a woman’s instinct and longing for her child.

The Time of Cherries by Michael S Hollington was published on 23 August 2023 by The Book Guild. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from The Time of Cherries by Michael S Hollington 

My family, the Vellays, have worked this land for generations as labourers. Everyone who lives in the town is in their own way dependent on the grape – from the priest who blesses the wine in church to the butcher and baker who provide us with sustenance. 

The crop is king. Men, women and children divine the sky at sunset and sunrise, gauge the drift of the wind, observe the rise and fall of the barometer, kneel in prayer on Sundays, all in fealty to the grape. A late frost, hailstones, tempest and snow can bring disaster – there, sent by God to test man in his quest for a decent drop to drink.
The land, the domaines, are owned by a handful of proprietors – men who control our lives, pay a man a miserable two and a half francs a day to sweat and toil on God’s own ground. To become a proprietor, you have to be born to it, or marry into it, or be of sufficient fortune to obtain it. Or by whatever means are deemed as necessary. 

One such proprietor was staring at my back. I was convinced of it. I dared not turn around to look at Junius Gerard lest the congregation saw me and shook their collective head. Only last week, he had turned in his saddle and smiled at me with his large brown eyes. Now, those eyes were on me again, on my back. His family were the owners of Domaine de l’Oubliette, an estate on the edge of the town. I had seen him over the years, high up on his horse and as ignorant of me as a cat is of God. 

Until now. 

Father Alberic stood and blessed the wine. I shifted down the pew with the rest of my family, convinced that everybody was looking at me. I knelt, felt myself tense when he placed the wafer on my tongue. The blood of Christ tasted acidic – in Meursault? I looked across at my sister Aliette and wondered again how different we were: she with her fair hair and blue eyes; me with my dark hair, brown eyes and olive skin. 

I followed Maman’s bulk as she clattered back to her pew. She was large, the child within her a surprise, as Alie was supposed to be the last of our generation of Vellays. Papa plonked himself next to me. He was large as well, and flushed. Hair gathered at his Adam’s apple; his collar tight against the flesh of his neck. I could see he was chafing to be away... for his Sunday drink. My brothers sat the other side; the male Vellays tended to stick together. 

My given name is Christine, after the saint whose feast day, the twenty-fourth of July, was the same day as my birthday. As an infant Alie had struggled with my name. ‘Kikine, Kikine,’ she would say. The family had settled on Kiki. 

Soon it was over, except the ignominy of walking up the aisle, of avoiding his stare. At last, I was outside in the warm spring air. I chanced a look behind me. Junius was there. Smiling, he waggled his fingers at me without raising his hand. 

Michael S Hollington qualified as a chartered surveyor. 
After spells in the City, Belgium and North America he spent the bulk of his career in Hong Kong, selling buildings on behalf of clients. 

He lives in London with his wife, Sarah. 

The Time of Cherries is his first published novel.

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