Wednesday 14 February 2024

Dark Days at the Beach House by Francesca Capaldi BLOG TOUR #DarkDaysattheBeachHouse @FCapaldiBurges @canelo_co @HeraBooks @rararesources #BookExtract #RespectRomFic


Can Helen save the hotel... and her reputation?

Helen Bygrove is managing the hotel, now that her husband has been conscripted. 

Against all expectations, Helen and her team are doing marvellously, despite the shortages brought by war. 

Even the exacting Lady Blackmore agrees. 

But then the calm is shattered when poison pen letters are sent to prominent townsfolk and Helen finds herself the target of a police investigation. 

Is someone trying to ruin Helen, and the Beach Hotel? 

And can she rely on the handsome but taciturn Inspector Toshack to help her? 

When her husband, Douglas, is invalided out of the war he is determined to take back control of the hotel and things go from bad to worse.

How can she ever escape his bullying? Is she a fool to hope that she may have a second chance at love?

Dark Days at the Beach Hotel by Francesca Capaldi is published on 15 February by Canelo/Hera. As part of this Rachel's Random Resouces Blog Tour I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from Dark Days at the Beach Hotel by Francesca Capaldi

Helen Bygrove, the manageress of the Beach Hotel, now her husband has been conscripted, is on the front desk, when a couple of her regular, but annoying customers enter, signalling the beginning of future trouble.

‘Good morning, Lady Blackmore, Miss Cecelia.’

‘Ah, Mrs Bygrove, I am so glad that you are on duty today.’ Her ladyship strode to the desk, a black umbrella hooked over the arm of her coat. Cecelia trotted behind, limping a little.

‘What can I do for you, my lady?’

Was this going to be some complaint about the decline of standards, or about there being less choice of fancies with coffee? Or, alternatively, a comment about what a shame it was that Douglas had been conscripted, and how on earth was she managing without him? Such comments from guests had been rife after he’d been sent away in June. They had dwindled over the summer, thankfully. However, these remarks had started up again after Douglas had been home on leave in the middle of September. 

But Lady Blackmore had so far said nothing of the sort in the four months he’d been away, training at the Shoreham-by-Sea camp.

Her ladyship reached the desk. 'I was just saying to Cecelia here, how well the place has been run since Mr Bygrove went away, wasn’t I, Cecelia?’

‘You were, my lady.’

‘Not that it was poorly run before, of course. But I was not very hopeful that you would be able to carry on without your husband. However, I have to say that, despite the increasing shortages, if anything, things seem more organised. And we don’t get him in the conservatory every few days, fawning over those he deems to be important.’

‘Lady Blackmore – ’ Cecelia started, in a slightly cautionary tone.

‘No, Cecelia, I will say my piece. Despite my title, Mr Bygrove clearly considers me insignificant. You on the other hand, Mrs Bygrove, treat all the guests with equal importance. And you are doing an excellent job.’

Helen was stumped for a few seconds. Was Lady Blackmore suffering a bump on the head, or early signs of senile dementia?

‘Well, um, thank you, my lady. I’m lucky to have a very dedicated staff.’ 

‘Yes, I agree. I was sceptical when the men started to enlist and women took over their posts, but, I have to admit, they’re doing an equally good job. If not better, in some cases. Is that not right, Cecelia?’

‘It is, my lady.’

‘I cannot help but agree about the women,’ said Helen.

‘I did not think that anyone could do as good a job of head waiter as poor old Günther, or Mr Smithson who followed him.’ said her ladyship. ‘But Lili has filled their shoes admirably.’

The doors opened once more. This time Helen’s heart really did sink.

It was Isabella Harvey, a friend of Douglas’s from the tennis and bowls club. She owned Selborne Place Guest House, an establishment two roads back from South Terrace, and was someone for whom Helen had little regard. She was certain the woman felt the same about her.

Unlike Lady Blackmore, Miss Harvey, despite being in her mid-forties, was now up to date with her couture, though it had not always been the case. Her navy-blue suit, with its ankle-length, full skirt and flared jacket with a high waist was very stylish, as was the saucer brimmed hat on her fair hair.

‘Oh dear, not her,’ muttered Lady Blackmore. ‘How tiresome she is.’

Helen noticed Cecelia look down and half smile. 

‘Good morning to you, Lady Blackmore,’ Miss Harvey pronounced effusively. She ignored Cecelia completely.

The answering, ‘Good morning,’ was said rather stiffly.

‘I don’t suppose you approve of the tennis courts being dug up any more than I, especially as you live nearby on South Terrace.’

Not this again. Both Lili Probert and Phoebe Sweeton, had reported this complaint from Miss Harvey on several occasions after she’d been in for either morning coffee or afternoon tea.

‘I think it was a jolly good idea. And Cecelia agrees, don’t you, Cecelia.’

‘Yes, my lady, for it’s – ’

‘What Cecelia was no doubt about to say is that the gardeners have done a splendid job of planting up a vegetable garden, which, I am sure, will be needed by the hotel with the current shortages, which, I am certain, will only get worse.’
‘That’s right,’ said Helen, determined to have her say. ‘The vegetables we grow there have been a boon to the hotel.’

‘And why, for goodness sake, would anyone be wasting their time playing tennis when there is work to be done towards the war effort,’ said Lady Blackmore. ‘I, myself, am now on several committees for raising funds for various good causes. And what encouraged me was Mrs Bygrove’s excellent example, with all the charity events she has organised here at the hotel.’

‘I think you’ll find that Mr Bygrove organised those,’ said Miss Harvey, looking smug.

Douglas would have told her that, and no doubt everyone else in his little golf, tennis and bowls groups.

‘No no! I have it on good authority, from Miss Sophia Perryman no less, who runs the committees I’m on, that it was Mrs Bygrove here who organised them. Is that not right?’

She turned to Helen, who felt she had temporarily replaced Cecelia.

‘Yes, that is correct, my lady. Douglas, my husband, trusted me to arrange things.’
She’d added the last bit in case it got back to him. She was convinced that Miss Harvey was writing to him. It was generally thought, among the staff, that she had a crush on him. They didn’t know she knew, but she’d overheard Fanny Bullen and Gertie Green joking about it once to some of the others. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t suspected it herself. In fact, she had wondered, on more than one occasion, whether there was more to it.

Francesca has enjoyed writing since she was a child, largely influenced by a Welsh mother who was good at improvised story telling. 

Writing under both her maiden name, Francesca Capaldi, and her married name, Francesca Burgess, she is the author of historical novels, short stories and several pocket novels. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. 

The first novel in the Wartime in the Valleys series, Heartbreak in the Valleys, was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association Historical Award 2021. Both the Valleys series and the Beach Hotel series are published by Hera Books.

Francesca was born and brought up on the Sussex coast, but currently lives in Kent with her family and a cat called Lando Calrission.

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