The Guestbook- Holly Martin- Blog Tour and Extract
Welcome to Willow Cottage – throw open the shutters, let in
the sea breeze and make yourself completely at home. Oh, and please do leave a
comment in the Guestbook.
landlady of Willow Cottage, the young widow Annie Butterworth is always on hand
with tea, sympathy or strong Norfolk cider - whatever her colourful array of
guests require. A flick through the messages in the leather-bound cottage
guestbook gives a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of everyone who passes
through her doors.
includes Annie herself - especially now celebrity crime writer Oliver Black, is
back in town. He might grace the covers of gossip magazines with a different
glamorous supermodel draped on his arm every week, but to Annie, he’s always
just been Olly, the man who Annie shared her first kiss with.
the pages of the Guestbook Annie and Olly, along with all the guests that
arrive at the seaside retreat, struggle with love, loss, mystery, joy,
happiness, guilt…and the odd spot of naked rambling!
sending postcards saying ‘wish you
were here’ -
one visit to Willow Cottage and you’ll wish you could stay forever.
story of The Guestbook is told exclusively through the entries in Willow
Cottage’s guestbook. But what is really happening beyond the messages of The
Guestbook; a sneak peek at the lives of Rosie, Jake and
Annie at the beginning of the book.
Annie listened to the shrieks and
laughter coming from next door as the newlyweds became acquainted with each
other for what seemed like the hundredth time since their arrival at Willow
Cottage.Her and Nick had been that
giddy when they’d first got married.They couldn’t keep their hands off each other.She missed that.
She couldn’t say she was lonely
because she was so rarely alone.She had
so many friends in the village of Chalk Hill and in Wells-Next-The-Sea. They
popped in for coffee on a regular basis or invited her round for one.There was the Frog and Rhubarb, the social
hub of the village, there was always someone to have a drink with in
there.Apart from the last six months
while Willow Cottage was renovated, the guesthouse was filled most weeks which
always kept her busy.And Nick’s family,
his Aunty Sophia and his Dad, she loved them like they were her own.But despite all that, there was a loneliness
in her heart that never really went away.
Thuds and groans could be heard
through the bedroom walls.The boy
certainly had stamina.They’d hardly
left the bedroom since they had arrived the day before.
It was a constant reminder that she
wasn’t getting any.She missed the
intimacy, the cuddles and kisses.But
the loneliness was more than that.It
was a hole that could never be filled.
As they reached a quick crescendo next
door, Annie grabbed her keys and headed out.She really didn’t want to be there for the encore.
Rosie watched the thin sliver of gold
as it peeped over the top of the sea.It
was early morning and the only thing that had forced her and Jake from their
bed was their empty bellies.
Sex was hungry work.
The breakfast was cooking nicely as
Jake moved to her side.He passed her a
mug of tea and slung his arm round her shoulders, caressing the base of her
neck with tiny circles.
Suddenly a banshee dressed all in
white ran down the garden next door, screaming.Long blonde hair trailed behind the woman like a banner.She was wearing a long white nightdress,
which although covered her body from neck to knee, in the early morning
sunlight it was completely and utterly see through.
Rosie was aware that the stroking of
her neck had stopped.She looked at Jake
who was seemingly transfixed by the ethereal beauty.
‘And there was me thinking you only
had eyes for me.’
He looked down at her and smiled.‘I do my love, of course.I was just wondering if we were watching a
She smiled at the picture of innocence
on his face.‘So you definitely weren’t
checking out her tits?’
His eyes lowered to look at her own
breasts.‘These are the only tits I
need.’ He reached out to fondle one through her t-shirt, circling one arm round
her waist, but she quickly wriggled from his grasp.
‘Don’t think you can get round me that
way.Make me breakfast and I’ll go and
see if she’s ok.’
‘And will madam be wanting a sausage?’
He waggled his eyebrows saucily.
She deliberately ignored his innuendo.‘Yes I’ll have two.’
He quirked up a playful eyebrow.‘One for now, one for later.’
Rosie opened the door and ran outside
just as a fox leapt over the connecting fence between the gardens.She froze.She’d never seen a fox so close before.He froze too, his rusty fur glinting like bronze in the sunlight.Then sleek and fast, he leapt over the outer
fence and disappeared.
Rosie let herself through the
connecting gate to see the banshee walking calmly back up the garden.
‘Hey, are you ok?’
‘Oh yes, sorry, did I disturb
you?A fox was after my chickens.’
Rosie forced her eyes to stay looking
at the other woman’s face, there was nowhere else to look.Either the woman didn’t have a clue that her
nightie was so transparent or she didn’t care.There were plenty of women down Rosie’s gym that would strip naked quite
happily in the changing rooms and even walk around on their phones with their
bits hanging out.Rosie was definitely
one of those women that would hide under a towel or even better go to the
toilets to get changed.Would it be
appropriate to mention to this stranger that she could see absolutely
everything?No definitely not.
‘I saw him jump over our fence, are
the chickens ok?’
Such polite conversation when two
nipples were standing to attention almost in front of her face.
‘Yes, they’re fine, I’m Annie by the
way.’ She stuck out a hand to greet Rosie.
‘Annie Butterworth? Wow, I was
expecting someone a lot older.’
Annie grinned. ‘It happens a lot. Are
you enjoying the cottage?’
Rosie found herself blushing.Did Annie know that they’d had sex in every
room of the house?‘Yes it’s lovely and
Wells-Next-The-Sea is such a beautiful place.’
Annie looked around proudly.‘It really is.Well, it smells like your breakfast is nearly
ready, so I’ll let you get back.Do let
me know if there’s anything you need.’
Rosie smiled and waved at the
retreating naked bum that she could see and rushed back inside.
Annie walked back upstairs but as she
passed a long mirror at the top of the stairs she stopped dead.To her horror she realised that the nightie
she had bought at a charity jumble sale the week before was completely
see-through. Not only had she run outside wearing it, but she had stood and had
a proper conversation with one of her guests.She groaned, feeling her cheeks burn red.
‘Hey, I’m Annie, here are my breasts.’
She yanked her nightie off, slung it
across the room then stepped in the shower hoping to wash away the feeling of
If Nick had been there he would have
found the whole thing hilarious.
what a shock! With a name like Mrs Annie Butterworth I was honestly expecting
some grey haired granny with half-moon glasses who would bring round homemade
lemon drizzle cake. I didn’t expect someone so young and pretty. Jake thought
you were a ghost at first, seeing you run through the garden with your long
white dress and blonde hair flying theatrically behind you.It was quite the entrance.
It was great
talking to you today.Where is Mr
Butterworth?You both must come round
for dinner one night.
Annie stood in the kitchen of Willow
Cottage. The house was empty, she’d seen Rosie and Jake leave for the beach
earlier that morning. She hadn’t seen the couple to talk to since her rather
embarrassing encounter the day before, though she knew she would have to face
them at some point.
She saw the guestbook open on the
dining table and flicked through, smiling at the messages that Rosie and Jake
had written.She read Rosie’s last
message and felt her heart stutter.Why
did it always hurt when people asked about Nick?
She was in a bubble here in Chalk
Hill.Everyone knew her business so no
one ever asked about him.Most of them
would sooner chop off their own hand than mention his name in public.In many ways Annie preferred that. So when a
stranger did ask about him it always hurt.
She was much better lately, the
renovations on Willow Cottage had felt like she was finally drawing a line
under that part of her life and starting again.But a simple, innocuous question like Rosie’s always felt like a brief
stab to the heart.
She rubbed her wedding ring, took a
deep breath and started writing.
Hi Rosie, it was lovely to meet
you too.I’m more than happy to come
round with homemade lemon drizzle cake if that’s what you were expecting.I don’t have half-moon glasses but I can wear
my reading glasses if that will work.As
for the ghost, I was always cast as the angel in the school plays, being a
ghost would have been much more exciting.
Mr Butterworth – Ha, Nick would
have hated been called that – died two years ago so he won’t be joining us for
dinner. If the weather stays fine how about you two join me for a barbeque
Let me know if you want some
eggs, Suzie and Doris, the chickens, are laying them faster than I can collect
There, that was casual.And it hurt a lot less than it did a year
She replaced the towels with clean
ones and walked back to her house, trying to ignore the loneliness that was
gnawing away at her heart.She absently
flicked through her phone, her fingers hovering over one name in particular.
She scrunched up her eyes and pressed
He answered on the first ring.
‘Hey Olly, you ok?’She knew her voice sounded overly
cheery.She knew he knew as well.
He was silent for a moment.‘I was thinking of coming over actually, is
Willow Cottage finished?’
‘Yes, but you can stay with me, you
don’t have to stay there.’
He was silent again.
‘I need to work on my book so it would
be good to stay in Willow Cottage.I
could come by in a few weeks if that works?’
‘It’s empty next week.’
She heard the rustle of paper and knew
Olly was desperately rearranging appointments in his head.She didn’t want him to put his life on hold
for her but the part of her that wanted to see him now stopped her from saying
that a few weeks would be fine.
‘Saturday?’ he said.
‘That would be great.I’ve really missed you.’
‘Annie, are you ok?’
‘Yes, I’m fine.’
She resisted saying she was fine now
he was coming.
‘I better go,’ he said.
She hung up and knew Sophia would be
getting a phone call from him in about two seconds time.She left the front door open and put the
kettle on, cutting two slices of carrot cake.
Sure enough two minutes and seventeen
seconds later Sophia breezed in as if she just happened to be passing.
Rosie re-read Annie’s message for the
tenth time, dashing away tears from her eyes.Annie was so young and already widowed.She couldn’t imagine what that would be like to lose Jake.Heart-breaking.
Annie, I’m so
sorry, I really need to engage my brain before I speak.I’m such a nosy cow. I just assumed that as
you were Mrs Butterworth that he was still around.I’m sorry.
‘Rosie, what’s happened?’
Jake crossed the room quickly and took
her in his arms.
She leaned her head against his chest
listening to his heart beating.‘Promise
me you’ll never leave me Jake.’
‘Hey, what’s brought this on?I love you, there is nothing that’s going to
She looked up at him and he gently
wiped the tears from her cheeks, his eyes filled with concern.
‘Annie’s a widow.Her husband died two years ago.’
His face cleared a little.‘Oh.Oh I see.Well I’m immortal so
you’ve got no chance of losing me like that.’
She giggled.‘Do you have superpowers with your
He suppressed a smirk.‘Would you like me to show you?’
She nodded and he swept her up into
‘Now I have one part of me that is
hard as steel.’
‘You’re such a pervert Jake.’
‘What?I was talking about my knees, you’re the one with your mind in the
She laughed as he carried her
Annie we have
had the best time.We are going to come
again soon.We don’t live that far away
so we’re going to drive down when you have some free weekends.
Yes, I came
here for a quiet week after the
stress of the wedding, but we’re definitely going to
be coming back on a regular basis.Willow Cottage is beautiful. Thanks so much for making us so welcome.
Annie waved Rosie and Jake off,
feeling deliciously nervous and excited about the arrival of her next guest.It had been nearly six months since she had
last seen Olly.He lived in New York and
he was always so busy so he didn’t get over as often as he’d like.
Nothing was going to happen between
them.She knew that.He’d made that very clear.But still, it’d be good to see him again.
‘I guess he’ll be here soon,’ Sophia
said from behind her, as she ran a mop around the kitchen floor.
Annie closed the front door and
watched her.After Nick’s death Sophia
had kind of taken over the maintenance and cleaning of Willow Cottage in
between guests.She had been a
godsend.Willow Cottage would have been
closed down if it hadn’t been for Sophia. But even now, when Annie was on the
mend and feeling so much more positive about life, Sophia still turned up after
every guest left to clean the place from top to bottom. Annie had suggested
that she could perhaps take this back over, but Sophia had been offended by
this and Annie’s subsequent offer to pay her so the arrangement had stayed.
Annie focussed in on what she’d just
said.‘I wasn’t watching out for him, I
was just waving goodbye to Jake and Rosie.’
Sophia smiled as she wrung out the
‘I’m just smiling, nothing wrong with
Annie suppressed a smirk. ‘I’m not
‘Of course not.’
‘He took an earlier flight.’
‘I mean, he’s really busy so I guess I
won’t see much of him whilst he’s here.’
‘No I guess not.’ Sophia’s eyes
glanced over her shoulder.‘Well he’s
here now, so I’ll go and change the sheets upstairs, leave you two to… well you
She walked upstairs and Annie found
herself ridiculously flattening her hair.How to play this?Casually would
be good.She would say hello and offer
to make him lunch.She watched as he
strode up her path and felt a sudden yearning for him.She rushed forward and flung open the door.
Olly stared at her and then put down
his bag.That little half smile, those
olive green eyes that looked inside her.Casual be damned.She ran forward
and threw herself into his open arms.
He held her tight, kissing the top of
But the hug changed very quickly from
being so happy to see him again to relishing the feel of his body against hers.
Flashes of him kissing her, touching
her, looking into her eyes as he made love to her ran through her mind.How could he deny something which had been so
perfect between them?
She looked up at him, hoping he could
feel the spark between them too.But his
eyes were guarded, his face closed as he gently pushed himself away from her
‘It’s good to see you too Annie, you
‘I feel well.’ They were never going
to talk about what happened between them that night.It was never going to happen again.She quickly quelled the huge wave of
disappointment.‘Come and see the new
house, it looks brilliant.Then I’ll
make you some lunch.’
‘Sounds good.’ He picked up his bag
and followed her into the house.
Now YOU can get involved too, here is our very own Guestbook online, take the time to visit and leave a comment, join in the fun and tell us what you thought of your experience. Meet new friends or be nosey and see what others have got up to before you!