Sunday, 16 February 2014

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.


As 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.


This 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.


Through 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!


Forget sending postcards saying ‘wish you were here’ - one visit to Willow Cottage and you’ll wish you could stay forever.


There is a review today on


The 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 ghost.’

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 embarrassment.

If Nick had been there he would have found the whole thing hilarious. 



Annie Butterworth, 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.

Love Rosie



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 tomorrow night? 

Let me know if you want some eggs, Suzie and Doris, the chickens, are laying them faster than I can collect them.



There, that was casual.  And it hurt a lot less than it did a year before.

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 dial.

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 change that.’

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 immortality?’

He suppressed a smirk.  ‘Would you like me to show you?’

She nodded and he swept her up into his arms.

‘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 gutter.’

She laughed as he carried her upstairs.




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 mop.

‘Stop smiling.’

‘I’m just smiling, nothing wrong with that.’

Annie suppressed a smirk. ‘I’m not excited.’

‘Of course not.’

‘He took an earlier flight.’

‘I know.’

‘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 know.’

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 her head.

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 embrace.

‘It’s good to see you too Annie, you look well.’

‘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.


The blog tour continues tomorrow with and there’ll be a review on

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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! 




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