Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only
abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or
Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon
She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or
television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid
before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when
she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her
first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to
trade, Gilli went independent.
Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a
contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop
in her Gloucestershire village. Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas
cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have
recently gained a new mainstream publisher - Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the
second book to be published in the three book deal.
"Wife and mother, Nell, fears change, but it is forced upon
her by her manipulative husband, Trevor. Finding herself in a new world of
flirtation and casual infidelity, her principles are undermined and she’s
tempted. Should she emulate the behaviour of her new friends or stick with the
safe and familiar?
But everything Nell has accepted at face value has a dark
side. Everyone - even her nearest and dearest - has been lying. She’s even deceived
herself. The presentiment of disaster, first felt as a tremor at the start of
the story, rumbles into a full blown earthquake. When the dust settles, nothing
is as it previously seemed. And when an unlikely love blossoms from the
wreckage of her life, she fears it is doomed.
The future, for the woman who feared change, is irrevocably
altered. But has she been broken, or has she transformed herself? "
Read an extract from Fly or Fall....
Engineered by her husband Trevor, Nell Hardcastle and family have moved house to a town where they know no one. They’ve been there only a few months when Nell meets Felicity Jackson. Fliss seems intent on taking Nell under her wing and she arranges a meeting at the home of another friend, Katherine Hunt, to introduce them.
Nell is surprised at the tone of the conversation. Her initial reaction, early on in the encounter is described here:
Surely the unguarded and intimate nature of their conversation was not meant to be shared with a stranger? I knew one of these women only slightly and the other I’d met just under an hour ago. Yet here I was, in this beautiful house, in a part of the country I was still unfamiliar with, a slightly embarrassed audience to their giggly, girly confessions.....
....A mill race flowed alongside Katherine Hunt’s house. Though traces still remained, the mill wheel was no longer attached to the side-wall. Outside, an old red-brick outbuilding, with wide double doors, was surely big enough for three cars, and there must have been a room above the garage as exterior steps led up to a side-door beneath the roof.
The interior matched the external impression of the converted watermill. Two red setters lay prone in a patch of sun near the French windows. When I’d first entered the sitting room, one of them raised its head, emitting a low rumbling growl. At its mistress’ reassurance it lay its head down again, bestowing a desultory lick on the ear of its companion in passing.
Katherine’s hair was a sleek tawny blonde, which hung thick and gleaming to her jaw; her make-up was immaculate but discreet. The lines of her figure were long and smoothly modelled; she moved with the suppleness and grace of the very fit – at ease in her Jaeger casuals, in her ‘Homes & Gardens’ house. The realisation that she was not particularly good-looking was delayed, coming almost as a surprise. She certainly had none of the obvious prettiness of Felicity Jackson.
I wondered why these women were such close friends – on the face of it they seemed very different. Physically, Felicity was shorter, more delicately boned than Kate, and her elaborately made-up face was haloed by a stiff web of highlighted curls. She was also younger and more extrovert in dress and personality. An expression of my mother’s popped into my head. A working class woman herself, Beryl had strong views about respectability. She’d have characterised Felicity as a bit flashy, and probably no better than she ought to be; while Katherine had class. There was no other word for it, even in my lexicon; she offered us wine when anyone else would have offered coffee. In the face of all this sophistication, and as a complete stranger to her elegant home, the flippant tone of the conversation jangled. And with nothing whatsoever to contribute I felt trapped in the unwilling role of voyeur. I looked back towards Felicity.
‘It’s not as if you haven’t had a very tempting offer recently. Well worth the risk,’ Felicity continued, with an exaggerated wink. Katherine smiled, ruefully.
‘I instantly regretted turning him down. Only it’s a tad embarrassing having to say, “Oh, hang on a minute, can I have another think about your leg-over proposition?”’
‘He didn’t put it like that, did he?’
‘No, but it amounted to the same thing. But glorious though the experience is bound to be, or so you assure me...’
‘Mmmm,’ Felicity groaned, then waggled her tongue. ‘Believe me.’
With raised brows and shake of her head at her friend, Kate continued. ‘...It can’t be such an ego boost when we both know how many others he’s sniffed round.’
‘Do you mind?’ Felicity said.
‘I’m sorry, but how else does a man hone his skills except by doing the rounds? Anyway, I’ve missed my chance, he’ll probably settle down now.’
‘A leopard doesn’t change his spots. Have you seen her? Don’t understand the attraction, myself. But, we’re not being very fair to Eleanor.’ She turned to me with a little smirk. ‘You don’t know who we’re talking about, unless...? Have you met him already? You are getting Bill to do up your house, aren’t you? You know, William Lynch. Man for all Reasons? I gave you his card.’
‘Oh, Mr Lynch. So far I’ve only spoken to him on the phone.’
‘Ooh,’ she exclaimed with a theatrical shiver. ‘Exciting, isn’t it? Having work done on the house.’
Surprised, I laughed ‘Like banging your head against a brick wall. Great when it’s over.’
‘Oh, no, I love it. I adore having workmen around. I’m dead jealous of you.’
‘Jealous?’ It astounded me that anyone could find enjoyment in the upheaval, the dirt and mess, the mistakes and tardy corrections; the men who failed to arrive on the appointed day and who then failed to phone and explain why. ‘...When they do come, they’re late, then they disappear again halfway through the afternoon.’
‘You’ll have none of that malarkey with Bill and co.’ Felicity said with a wink.
The circumstances of our move were now reiterated briefly for Katherine’s benefit. Unlikely that either of these women would understand my unease at the amount we’d realised from the sale of the house, or my regret at moving to their town. Instead, I turned the story into a comedy. I described how I’d panicked on discovery that the inheritance tax was due before we could realise any money; how the bank, which had only ever been a disembodied and reproving voice in letters about overdrafts and late payments, suddenly became helpful and assigned us a financial adviser; and how Trevor managed everything, with our new best friend giving us every assistance. The tax was paid and the house sold for an amount I could still scarcely credit.
‘Why haven’t I got any wealthy relations who could pop off, leaving me mega bucks, and mansions. No one’s filthy rich in my family, and anyway they’ve all got squillions of kids. It’s not fair.’ Felicity said, pouting.
‘My mother had no money and the house was a small, end of terrace. I still can’t understand...’
‘If I had the choice I’d live in London,’ Felicity continued, blithely ignoring my continuing mystification. ‘But why on earth did you move here?’......
© Gilli Allan. All rights reserved.
My thanks to the author for sharing her latest work with Jaffareadstoo
Fly or Fall
is available now and is published by Accent Press