When your marriage falls apart, the last place you'd want your husband to move to is downstairs. Unfortunately for Sarah, up in the eaves at number 24, her ex-husband now lives one floor beneath her with his new wife. Their happiness floats up through the floorboards, taunting her.
A child psychologist, Sarah has picked up great sadness from the little girl, Una, who lives with her careworn mother three floors below, but is Sarah emotionally equipped to reach out?
The Spring brings a new couple to the house. Jane and Tom's zest for life revives the flagging spirits, and Sarah can't deny the instant attraction to handsome Tom. Having seen at first hand what infidelity does to people, she'll never act on it ... but the air fizzes with potential.
The sunshine doesn't reach every corner of number 24, however. Elderly Mavis, tucked away in the basement, has kept the world at bay for decades. She's about to find out that she can't hide forever.
Juliet Ashton weaves a story of love, friendship and community that will move you to laughter and to tears. Think Cold Feet meets David Nicholls, with a dash of the joy of Jill Mansell added for good measure.
Thank you to the publishers, Books and the City at Simon & Schuster for the exciting exclusive extract and then to them and Netgalley for the ARC.
You see so many big properties, once so grand, divided up into individual flats. I always think it's a shame; ripping the heart and character out of a home. But then it becomes home to more people, allowing room for more characters and their relationships to develop.
Number 24 is home to several inhabitants, including Sarah, and somewhat awkwardly, her ex husband and his new wife. The intricacies of such a relationship are explored, with Sarah desperate to win Leo back, and Leo himself doing nothing to dissuade her...
Then there's Mavis, a cantankerous old woman who lives in self-imposed poverty in the basement. When her sister dies, Sarah feels sorry for Mavis and decides no one can be that bad - apart from perhaps, Peck, the extremely foul-mouthed parrot.
Sarah is mourning the loss of her friend Smith, who Leo had ironically been so jealous of when he and Sarah were still married - until he left her for the glamorous Helena who had moved in.
Suffering so much loss in her life, and having to prepare to move out of the flat she adores, Sarah's life is crumbling. She is a child psychologist, but has even lost her connection to children and is so full of self-doubt. She is intrigued by new neighbours, Jane and Tom, becoming friends with Jane but disturbingly attracted to Tom...
It's a lovely story of community, which sadly seems to be lacking in much of today's society, friendships, loyalty, love and self-worth. Some have too much, whilst others are severely lacking.
Juliet writes wonderfully comforting stories which wrap themselves around you like a hug. Even the sad or uncomfortable parts where people are suffering are a delight to read, because you know the story will pan out in the end, even if it's not necessarily in the way you expect - and this is Juliet's talent. Beautiful stories which draw you right in, with great characterisation.
Now when can I move in?
You can pre-order The Woman at Number 24 from Amazon or other retailers.
About the Author:
Juliet Ashton was born in Fulham and still lives in London. She writes under a variety of names, including her real name, Bernadette Strachan, and as Claire Sandy. She is married and has one daughter. Find out more at www.berniestrachan.com You can follow Juliet on Twitter @julietstories