Country Lovers by Fiona Walker was published by Head of Zeus on 14 November 2019.
Head of Zeus have kindly allowed me to share an extract of the book with you.
Blair Robertson, legendary Australian rider, had been a close friend of Ronnie’s for over three decades, one of the loyal brigade to stand by her when she’d fled her marriage, just as she had defended him in the nineties when he’d shocked the eventing world by running off with the wife one of its greatest aristocratic patrons, a ravishing countess twenty years his senior. It had taken ‘Mr Sit Tight’ a great many hard-won championships, team medals and feats of bravery to reclaim his reputation as the daring darling of the sport, as famously hot-headed with rivals as he was cool-headed with his horses. By then, Ronnie had become a near neighbour of the Robertsons’ big yard in Wiltshire, one of the few to know the tragic truth behind the great love story: Verity’s ill health had stolen her away from Blair just a few years after their marriage, early-onset Alzheimer’s gradually depriving her of almost all memory of him. He cared for her stoically, helped by a small team at home, but he’d long since lost the woman he’d risked everything to love. His affair with Ronnie, born of friendship and forged by intense physical attraction, had knocked them both for six. Passionate, mutually adoring, it was soul-deep in affection and allegiance, but it would devastate Verity’s family and friends if they ever found out about it. Conscience pricked, Ronnie tapped her phone against her chin. Let her reply wait until she drove out of the blackspot. Dangerous enough to be celebrating New Year in their former stomping ground, partying just a few fields from Blair’s farm. Not that their paths would cross; Blair was an honourable absentee from the old Wiltshire set these days, his once-sociable wife no longer able to remember who her neighbours were. ‘Blast it!’ She stalked to one of the little windows, slapping the phone down on the sill, unable to fool herself. They both had their fingers hovering over the red button, she and Blair: Ronnie deliberately tempting fate by agreeing to the Wiltshire invitation, his message sent to test her reaction time. Without a laggy signal, it would have been less than a minute. He knew how she ticked. Tough, no-nonsense Ronnie, serial survivor, was struggling to close the lid on this one, no matter how explosive and impossible the match. They’d flirted through nearly four decades of friendship before becoming lovers. Blair’s obstinate, bloody-minded possessiveness held no surprises. And whether fifteen or fifty-something, her Percy pride hadn’t changed either –nothing short of tragedy would compel her to her to pick up the phone and call him. That old-fashioned purring landline. It had once rung non-stop: clients, villagers, friends, hunt members, salesmen, boyfriends. Silent more days than not, now. They didn’t even get ambulance chasers or PPI cold calls. And nobody had rung enquiring about putting a mare to a Percy stallion or buying a youngster in months. She wiped condensation off one of the windowpanes with a finger, its glass a rain-stained sepia from lack of cleaning. These attic rooms offered the best view across two beautiful hidden Cotswolds valleys: the Comptons from the other side, Eynhope Park from this, once the stately seat of far grander Percy ancestors. The stud’s undulating, wood-fringed land in the foreground always lifted her spirits, even at its monochrome, muddy winter worst, and with hundreds of its acres long since sold off by her father. A lion’s mane of winter wheat now surrounded the remaining fields and paddocks, but the Percy pride still roared at its heart.
About the book
Glamorous Ronnie Percy has been back home in the Cotswolds for a year. But not everyone has forgiven her for abandoning her family twenty-five years ago.
Ronnie’s daughter Pax is fighting for custody of her small son as her own marriage disintegrates. Now she is furious to have to spend New Year’s Eve waiting to meet some stranger, invited by her mother to help run the family stud farm. The staunchly loyal head groom, Lester, is even more annoyed. Does Ronnie think he’s lost his touch?
Luca O’Brien, Irish charmer and reputed heart-breaker, is known throughout the countryside as the Horsemaker. But what happened to Luca’s beautiful stallion, Beck, now broken and unrideable in the Compton Magna stables? And what is Luca running away from?
*I was asked to host this extract to help promote Country Lovers. I did not receive a copy of the book or any other payment for doing so.*