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Julie Highmore lives in Oxford and was a teacher and publisher's reader before becoming an author.
December 2009 Book of the Month. If you want some well written, indulgent escapism then try The Message. Great characters and witty observations make this a delightful read with this author going from strength to strength.
It's easy to make mistakes. The hard part is keeping them hidden. Emily spends a few precious hours with her lover, then picks up her children and returns to normal married life. Her brother Ben's career has crashed with the banks, and suddenly he has nowhere to go. But they must both put on a brave face for their mother's sixtieth birthday. Fran doesn't feel old. Mostly, she's worried about her increasingly depressed husband Duncan, and his slightly odd behaviour. Why did he think they'd been to Florence? Who is Alexa? And she doesn't really want a fuss over her birthday, but her daughter insists they must celebrate. Holding tight to their own secrets, the family gathers around Fran, but as one small revelation follows another, no one can foresee the huge repercussions of this birthday.
When Cait joins a singles' week in Oxford and realises that there are far more women than men, she resigns herself to concerts, museums and punting with something of a heavy heart. But a spur-of-the-moment decision takes her and fellow party member, Ralph, to discover a completely different side to the city - one in which fortysomething Cait falls hopelessly in lust with a younger man, and Ralph ends up pursued by both the police and a violent drug-dealing gang. Daniel, not taken with the other singles, goes in search of Cait, and he too is caught up in Oxford's exotic parallel universe, with strange consequences that lead him to an idyllic north Wales smallholding...and maybe the woman of his dreams.
A wonderfully warm and witty novel about building new friendships - in unlikely places... When Bea's husband dies, she decides not to be a lonely widow, rattling around her big Oxford house. Instead, she chooses three tenants, each of whom needs her help, and in return offers Bea more affection than her own distant son. Over the years they become something of a strange 'family', until the day they must find a new housemate. Will needs a place to stay, and expects the usual grimy kitchen and sloppy students. Bea's beautiful house seems too good to be true - until he meets the housemates. They're all at least twenty years older than him, and range from outrageously camp to irritatingly raucous. But somehow he finds he's taken the stunning spare room, and once he's moved in it's hard to escape. His sister, Harrie, falls in love with more than just the house when she comes to visit, and together they're soon caught up in Bea's final secret...
Tim's own life is in chaos, but he's paid for his qualification as a life coach, and he's going to use it. When his new, and only, client tells him she's had a windfall, he believes he really could turn his - and of course her - life around. But he doesn't know that there's more to Debbie than the scruffy, overweight drudge she appears to be. After all, journalists have to find a story somewhere - and Debbie's found hers in the little seaside town of Shelcombe, and its eccentric inhabitants.
Robin is shocked but thrilled when Hannah arrives on his Oxford doorstep with a two year old and a suitcase, and announces that Freddie is his son. Her husband Marcus was less happy to learn about Hannah's fling with Robin, but several months on he's longing to spend some time with the little boy he thought was his. So he takes on a house-sit a few streets away. Jo, over the road, is intrigued by the newcomer, and quickly finds an excuse to learn more, but Hannah is also wondering if Marcus is the one, after all...
In the wilds of Norfolk, Dylan is mending his broken heart by rebuilding his house. Next door, Ellie gazes longingly at him over the fence, while her mother Fliss contemplates a school reunion. Should she risk an encounter with her first crush? Meanwhile Dylan's once-famous father Alex, arriving a little late in his son's life, is also recalling the perils of first love - but will Marie return Alex's renewed affection? Can an old rock star recapture the magic of his first hit?
When the local library starts up a reading group, Ed is the first to sign up. Left home alone with baby Georgia once too often, he's looking for something more stimulating than the latest draft of his tiresome thesis. His fellow readers all have their own reasons for the weekly escape. Kate's social life is at a standstill and her quirky furniture shop barely breaks even. Zoe's self-esteem is regularly battered by her married lover. Semi-retired Bob, strongly encouraged by his wife, needs to get out of the house more. Donna, aged twenty-one and a mother of two, is desperate to feed her mind and catch up on her education. When English lecturer Gideon arrives, his literary certainties spark rivalries and emotions that no one expected. As the reading circle draws its members into an unlikely community, the plots become increasingly dramatic, and their lives grow ever more entwined ...
Life slows down alarmingly from the moment Ruby Grant and Oliver move into Troy Cottage. Free at last from her two grown-up yet persistently dependent children, Ruby plans to start writing her novel - until her daughter, Poppy, turns up with boyfriend and dog in tow, announces she's pregnant and moves into Ruby's office. Then Josh needs somewhere to do his washing, and her father wants to stay... Despite this, Ruby finds village life surprisingly seductive, especially when she meets Hamish, the handsome journalist who is eager to help with her investigations for the parish magazine. There's surely no harm in a little crush - but can Ruby avoid the hazards of country loving?