Drum roll… It’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peek…


Hello, my darlings,


Welcome to Friday’s sneak peak – it’s time to kick back and reeeeeelaxed…

It’s a Saturday afternoon at The Dower house…

Bronte, Rosie and Janine, are enjoying some girl time in the kitchen–family–dining space.

The men, meanwhile, are dressed down in a jogging pants/T-shirts/Thermals ensemble, in Nico’s new man-cave (formerly known as his study) having the time of their lives watching one of the legs of the European cup, live, on a five foot wide, state-of-the-art-with-surround-sound flat screen, a new addition along with a tall, glass fronted beer-cooler.

When the referee made a ‘crappola’ decision, the men were on their feet and they all wail, long and loud at the screen.

Back with the females, a dull roar came from the man-cave.

As one, their women look to heaven.

“Good God,” Rosie said. She wore skinny blue jeans and a ribbed over-sized sweater of ivory cotton. Her hair was tied in a loose plait that fell down her back. “They seem to forget we have children that understand every single bad word that comes out of their big mouths. They’re a disgrace.”

Bronte, dressed in chocolate brown yoga pants, a matching hoodie over a striped T-shirt and her blonde hair tied in a high tail, shook her head. She cuddled a dozing and rosy-cheeked Eve close. Her daughter wore her favorite fleecy pink bunny pj’s. Teething was not fun.

“Well,” said Janine, keeping a weather eye on Boo’s frantic coloring-in attempts with purple crayon. Mother and daughter wore soft denim jeans and bright pink hoodies. “I just don’t get it, when do we women ever make a howling racket over anything the way they do? They’re like wild beasts.”

Rosie, her eyes like pancakes, stared hard at Janine and said, “How soon you forget! We made plenty of noise when we watched Magic Mike Two.”

Bronte had to laugh.

“Ah yes. I’d forgotten all about that girly night.”

“Well, we did have a couple of bottles of wine,” Janine reminded her.

“Yeah, I remember the hangover. I also remember those awesome six packs, and I’m not talking about beer.” Rosie cackled like an evil witch. “Alexander was absolutely disgusted with me because I kept calling him a Joe Manganiello reject.”

“That was a good night. My favorite stripper, and don’t for the love of God tell Nico, is Channing Tatum. I LOVE Channing.” Bronte said.

“Matt floated my boat. Although not as much as Josh,” Janine said, loyal to the bone. “Where are the kids?”

“Well the boys are with the men,” Bronte said, “picking up all sorts of bad habits and foul language.”

“And my favorite bad girls?” Rosie asked, referring to Sophia and Emily.

“Upstairs. They’re practising with a new Boogie Box my dad sent Sophia for her birthday. It’s like a karaoke machine, except for kids. So the pair of them are pretending to be rock stars.”

“Do you remember when we were about five or six years old,” Rosie began. “We wanted to be Spice Girls. I used to sing into the hairdryer, and you sang into your hairbrush.”

Bronte laughed. “Those were the days.”

Rosie did a bum boogie. “Girl power!”

“I think that was the start of girl power,” Janine said, then send them a filthy look. “Neither of you would let me join your girl band. Bitches.”

“Well you were an absolute little bitch yourself,” Rosie said, as usual not mincing her words. “These days you’d be called a mean girl.”

Janine nodded. “Absolutely right. I was spoiled rotten.”

Bronte studied Janine’s face.

“How are things with your father these days?”

“Pretty good actually,” Janine said. “It helps smooth the path that he absolutely adores Boo, and he gets on incredibly well with Josh.”

“I love Josh,” Rosie said.

Unoffended, Janine grinned. “I know you do. And he loves you too.”



Meanwhile, in Sophia’s bedroom, a duet, wearing pink leggings and black and pink over-sized T-shirts that said, Girls Rule The World, were practising strutting their stuff to a Little Mix song…

“Do you think we could be on YouTube and make millions and millions of pounds and be superstars?” Emily asked Sophia when they took a well deserved break.

Sophia plopped onto a fat beanbag the color of hot pink, and thought about it.

“No. We’re not very good singers.”

“I don’t know,” Emily said. She sprawled on her belly on Sophia’s Cinderella Princess bed. “I think we could be, if we worked hard enough, be really good. I think all we need to do is practice.”

Sophia rubbed her chin. “You mean like have proper music lessons or singing lessons?”

“Yes. I wanna learn to play the guitar.”

Sophia made an I’m-gonna-be-sick face.

“I don’t know. I’m not sure I come from a musical family. When he’s in a good mood, my papa likes to sing O sole mio, but mama says he can’t carry a tune in a rusty bucket.”

“Do you think that Tonio will could be a good singer?” Emily asked, her blue eyes all dreamy.

Sophia thought about it.

“You know I don’t think I have ever heard him sing. He whistles a lot though. Doesn’t sound very tuneful to me though.”

“Can he dance?” Emily asked in all seriousness.

Sophia shrugged, made big eyes. “Who knows?”

“The thing is, he’s got the look. He could be a huge, huge star—if only he could sing.”

“We can always ask him if he wants to be in our band,” Sophia said.

“What about Luca?”

Sophia pursed her pink lips, made a kissy sound.

“He looks pretty enough. He can always mime.”

So the girls made their way downstairs, along a narrow hallway, turned a corner, and entered—the man cave.

Stunned, they stopped dead.



Stony-faced, Sophia assimilated the entire scene.

Her narrowed gaze scanned a Big Mess.

The racket of the blaring TV, her papa blowing on some sort of horn, while the rest made a collective noise, which sounded exactly like  male gorilla’s mating call.

Her papa, her uncle Alexander and uncle Josh, AND Luca and Tonio, were all flushed and wild-eyed, and there was a lot of pushey-shovey going on.

Right then, Sophia and Emily shared a purely womanly look of utter disgust.

However, Sophia’s brows flew up when her papa and Tonio started speaking BAD words in Italian about the referee, as if not saying it in English made a difference.

Tonio jumped up and down like a lunatic, his socked feet crunching a bag of potato chips, cheese and onion by the stink, into crumbs that spilled all over an expensive Chinese rug.

There were three cans of what looked like beer on the glossy table, and they hadn’t used mats to protect the table top.

Mama would NOT be pleased.


Now Sophia also knew that her best pal Emily had a deep seated aversion to raised voices and too much noise—it had something to do with a small flaw with her hearing.

Sophia turned to a wide-eyed Emily.

“Show no weakness. They have reverted back, in millennia in human evolution, to knuckle-draggers.”

Emily looked alarmed. “What does that mean?”

Sophia shrugged. “Dunno. It’s what auntie Rosie says when they watch Italian football. Men! Pitiful, aren’t they?”

“Are they fighting?” Emily asked in a very small voice as Josh growled like a wild beast and caught Luca in an elbow lock and vigorously scrubbed his head with his knuckles.

“Nah. That’s just male posturing.”

Emily turned to stare at her. “What’s that?”

“Dunno. Auntie Rosie said it’s an alpha male thing.”

“I don’t like it.”

Sophia placed her arm around Emily’s shoulders and pulled her close.

“Don’t be scared. We have girl power.”

Emily hugged her back. “‘Kay.”

Sophia took a good long look at the male shenanigans and guided her best friend out the door.

It was time, she decided, for reinforcements.


Bronte, Rosie and Janine listened with deadly serious faces, their mouths tight, to the many sins of their men as listed by Sophia, and a very quiet and pale Emily.

Honestly, Bronte thought, what on earth was Nico thinking scaring Emily like that? The child was like a delicate little flower, all big violet eyes, a soft voice and riot of short red curls atop a creamy complexion kissed by a constellation of freckles. She simply wasn’t used to adults behaving like heathens on the war path. What on earth would her mother, Grace, say? In fact, how embarrassing was this? Now she narrowed her eyes as Sophia, her arms folded and her hip cocked, came to the end of her story.

“They’ve got beer cans on my table?”

Sophia nodded.

“Tonio’s ground chips into my good carpet?”

Sophia nodded.

Bronte handed a still dozing Eve to her auntie Rosie and stood.

“Right,” she brushed her hands together. “Let’s get this sorted.”

But just as she was about to head out the door, the sound of men and boys making their way toward the kitchen assailed their ears.

Nico Ferranti just loved Saturdays when live soccer from the Serie A and Legs of the European cup played on the sports channels. As a bonus, the boys not only had the time of their lives, but male bonding time, which was important and could only be good for them. Ah, he was a lucky man. However, he had a hitch in his stride when he walked into the family room and took one look at his wife’s face, a face that shot sheer terror into his heart.

He sent her his most charming smile with zero affect.

The boys, their antennae more attuned to Bronte’s expression than the laughing and joking Alexander and Joshua, slid towards the door on their socked feet.

Bronte’s arm shot out, her pointy finger zeroed on them.

The stopped dead, like stone statues.

“Don’t even think about it,” she growled.

By this time Alexander and Joshua had received the message that all was not well with their women.

Nico sauntered over to the love of his life, took the hand with the pointy finger and kissed the fingertip. “Problemo?”

“Where shall I begin?” she asked, her tone ice over steel.

Nico turned to his pals, his sons, and shrugged as if to say, What did we do?

“Were we too loud?” Joshua asked, his blue eyes the perfect picture of innocence.

“Well, let’s just say the language was colorful,” Janine told him.

He made an ouch face.

“The referee was a dick,” Alexander muttered.

“How terribly charming,” his wife told him, and jerked her chin towards two wide-eyed little boys. “Shame you couldn’t be an adult and come up with a better descriptive word, like useless, ineffective, or incompetent.”

He made an ouch face, too.

Nico rubbed the bridge of his nose, and his gaze caught the butter-wouldn’t-melt eyes of his eldest daughter.

Sophia raised her brows.

“You said bad words in Italian.”

“I knew it,” Luca said terribly, his dark eyes filled with rage. “You’re nothing but a tittle-tattle. What happens in the man-cave stays in the man-cave.”

In response, his twin sent him a look that would blister paint.

“We,” she said. “Have girl power.”

Nico stepped in before things got physical.

“It is half-time,” he said in a voice meant to soothe. “We are hungry.”

“After using all that adrenaline, I’m sure you are hungry. Help yourselves,” Bronte said and indicated the huge double door American sized refrigerator made of stainless steel.

“But if my table top is damaged by beer cans and my carpet by a packet of chips…” she eyed a pale-faced Tonio, “… there will be trouble.”

Nico held up his hands in a gesture of surrender.

He knew when to pick his battles and this was not one he could win.

“We will clean up any mess.”

“This is because it was World Women’s Day this week, isn’t it?” Alexander muttered to Joshua. Unfortunately for him, his wife, his sister and his best friend’s partner heard him.

Rosie handed Eve to Bronte and strolled up to her husband like a gunslinger.

She poked him in his flat belly, and tipped back her head to stare into those twinkling green eyes.

“Excuse me?”

He poked her right back on the shoulder.

“This is you flexing your rights.”

“I don’t need to flex my rights. I own my rights,” she told him, but her dimples popped.

“Gimme a kiss,” he said, then he grabbed her.

Meanwhile, Nico wound his arms around his wife and child.

Then he went nose to nose with Bronte. “Forgive me?”

“I’ll think about it.”

Joshua grinned at Janine who grinned right back.

“It’s always fun with the Ferranti family isn’t it?”




It didn’t take long for peace to be restored to The Dower House, except not everyone was entirely happy.

“You’re a horrible, stinky, boy,” Sophia told her twin.

“And you have a mouth bigger than the Eurotunnel.”

Emily, her blue eyes wide with what looked like alarm, sat in the corner of the couch.

“Do not worry,” Tonio told her. His shoulder gently nudged hers. “They do not really mean it.”

“At least I don’t have a face like baboon’s butt,” his lovely sister said.

Luca went nose to nose with a narrow-eyed Sophia. “I’m a boy. Boys bathe in shark-infested waters.”

“Pooh,” she said, not once taking her eyes from his. Then her face went so fierce poor Emily sucked in a breath and her hand clutched her throat.

I have girl power,” Sophia growled low in her throat. “I bathe in the blood of my enemies.”


Well, I’d say Sophia won that round.


Until next week, spice up your life!

Christine x









It’s the Sneak Peek…



Greetings from a slightly milder UK!

It’s the sneak peek…..

The Dower House…

Welcome to Sophia’s Beauty Box.

Emily and Sophia, both wearing white aprons over their leggings and hoodies, stared critically at their handiwork.

The room smelled of nail varnish, cleansing wipes and candy.

Two-year-old Eve, sucking on a jelly bean, sat happily on a huge bean bag cushion with Jimmy Chew on her lap.

She wore navy colored tights beneath a smocked dress of pale soft denim edged with a denim frill. Tied in her glossy curls the color of jet were a wide and varied selection of skinny ribbons.

Around her shoulder she wore a hand towel.

A white cotton towel.

A white cotton towel covered with creams and lotions and potions.

“The thing is,” Sophia said. Her black eyeliner had been applied by a wonky hand, as had the fuchsia lipstick on her little mouth. She had lipstick on her teeth, too. Her blonde hair was caught up in a high tail with a hair tie and a variety of ribbons, which fell over her shoulder. “Babies are not supposed to wear makeup. But she’s too pale for what we need.”

Emily tipped her cropped red head.

Her cheeks had been ‘sculpted’ with dark brown bronzer down either side of her little nose, jaw line and cheekbones. She blinked lashes that had congealed into black mascara clumps, and considered the child. “I think just a teeny tiny amount of blush on her cheeks will look fine. Trouble is, we’ve used too much. She looks like a little clown.”

Sophia made a face, thought about it. “But any makeup is not natural in a baby, is it?”

“She’s not exactly a baby,” Emily said.

“True,” Sophia said. “But we can’t photograph her with makeup on her baby skin, it would look really dumb. What we need is something more natural, something that would give her a natural tint, like a little hint of the sun for example.”

Emily craned her neck to look out the window and the three foot deep snowdrift that the beast from the East had dumped on the whole of the United Kingdom this week.

“Well, were not going to get any sun today.”

Sophia nodded, thought for a while.

Then her eyes went big

“I know! What about the new fake tan stuff that auntie Rosie gave to mamma? She said it’s brilliant stuff. It’s called Luxury Tan and you put on with a little mitten thing so that your hands don’t go brown.”

Emily thought about it.

Her blue eyes went wide.

“That might be an idea,” she said, then her brows dipped. “But is it suitable for babies?”

“Lemme go check.”

Sophia raced out of the room and five minutes later came back with a box a silver box.

She squinted at the tiny writing on the back of the box and read, “Two to Three week tan— medium. This looks good. There’s nothing on here that says it can’t be used for Eve, and its for sensitive skin. She’ll have a sensitive skin because she’s a baby.”

While Sophia popped another candy into Eve’s little mouth, Emily opened the box, took out a dark brown plastic bottle, unscrewed the lid and took a sniff.

She put a tiny drop the color of dark chocolate on the back of her hand and rubbed, then checked her fingers.

Sophia handed her a Simple cleansing wipe—for sensitive skin—from the pale green pack.

The cleansing wipe didn’t take all of the tan off.

“How are you going to apply it?” Emily asked, not looking too sure about this bright idea.

Sophia plucked two skin wipes from the pack and tipped up her sister’s chin and gently removed the blush and makeup.

“First of all, we’ll cleanse her skin. Makeup doesn’t look right on her. Okay, Evie?” she said, and rubbed her nose against her sister’s little button nose.

Evie, happy as a clam since she was busy grooming a dozing Jimmy Chew’s fur with a with a soft brush, just smiled.

She lifted her chin and let her sister do her worst.


Half an hour later in the main family bathroom of The Dower House…

Sophia and Emily, now dressed in their underwear, used soap-laden sponges to desperately scrub their arms, legs and faces. Their skin had turned a dark brown color. Actually, to be truthful, dark brown streaks of color—and it wouldn’t come off.

Emily, her blue eyes more than a little frantic, caught Sophia’s panicked gaze in the vast wall mirror above the double white ceramic sinks set in a glittering granite the color of sand.

“What are we going to do?” she hissed at Sophia as she rinsed her hands for what felt like the hundredth time.

They stood on soft cotton bath towels, white, and now streaked with brown.

Everything was one hot mess.

Meanwhile, Sophia rummaged in the cupboards built beneath the sinks and came up with a blue bottle of bleach.

“This stuff should sort it,” she said.

However, no matter how hard they tried, neither of them could open the bottle top.

Emily, who by this time, reckoned they were in Big, Big Trouble, read as much as she could of the label.

“This stuff is dangerous. Look, it says so right here.”

A sudden knock at the door had both nearly jump out of their skin.

“What are you two doing?” Nine year old Tonio Ferranti asked?

“Maybe Tonio can open the bottle?” Emily suggested.

Sophia didn’t look as if she liked the idea, but when her brother knocked the door again, and tried the handle, she unlocked the door.


Tonio entered.

He wore dark blue jeans, a pale grey UCLA hoodie and thick thermal socks.

In the middle of a growth spurt, he was long and lean, with movie star tousled dark hair, olive skin and dreamy dark eyes. Dark eyes that now went wide.

He was, in the words of Emily’s mummy, Grace, a fine looking young man.

Emily, her little heart going pitty-pat, thought Tonio looked like a Rock Star.

His black brows rose as he took in the mess, and the state of the girls.

Dio mio. Now what have you done?”

Emily held up the bottle of fake tan.

“We used this on Eve, and it looked really cool, so we thought we’d use it too. Except—”

Tonio blinked.

“It stinks in here.”

Sophia handed him the bottle of bleach.

“This will take it off. Can you open it?”

Tonio looked at her as if she’d lost her mind.

“No! This stuff is dangerous, that’s what the red cross means on the label. AND it says Keep Out Of The Reach of Children.” He glared at Sophia and yelled at the top of his voice, “That means YOU!”

The noise had attracted the attention of Sophia’s twin, Luca.

He popped his dark head through the door.

Dressed in navy sweatpants and his favorite Spiderman sweatshirt, faded from too many washes, he took in the scene and headed down the hall. All that could be heard were his bare feet thundering down the stairs.

Sophia made a face of sheer disgust.

“He’ll tittle tattle to mama.”

Tonio clutched the bottle of bleach to his chest.

“You know you’re gonna get into big trouble.” When Emily sniffed, he didn’t show her any mercy either. “Your mummy’s arrived. I wouldn’t want to be you two.”

At the sound of Bronte coming up the stairs and calling for Sophia and Emily, both girls simply clutched each other.

Their eyes wide, they stared at the door.


Bronte, wearing black leggings, thick socks and a huge woollen sweater over a white thermal, entered the family bathroom and stopped dead.


She took in the scene.

Both girls were streaked in fake tan from head to toe.

Her brand new towels were ruined.

And for a long moment, she was simply—speechless.

But when Eve toddled into the bathroom, her little face dark brown except for her eyes and mouth, and raised her hands to be lifted, Bronte couldn’t help the gasp of utter shock.

Then she spotted Tonio holding the bottle of bleach and her face paled.

“Tell me,” she whispered to him, “They were not going to use that?”

He nodded.

Bronte turned to the now weeping girls.




Nico Ferranti, dressed for Arctic conditions in heavy boots and a Canadian parka, strolled through the door of The Dower House. The weather bomb had caused chaos for three long days. Guests couldn’t leave and guests couldn’t arrive. For the first time since he’d turned Ludlow Hall into a five star hotel and spa, he’d used all of their back-up generators when trees had brought down power lines. It had been one disaster after another. Thankfully, his staff had gone above and beyond. But Christ, the cold had frozen his bones right down to the marrow. Then he lifted his chin and sniffed the air like a starving wolf. He smelled his favorite red sauce, garlic and basil, and meatballs. Yay! He toed out of his boots, hung up his parka, and opened the door into the family-dining-kitchen room

His whole family sat at the long dining table.

He grinned.

It looked as if everyone had been bathed, dressed in pj’s and were ready for bed.

Seemed Bronte had got ahead of herself tonight.

Maybe he’d get lucky and they’d have an early night themselves?

Then it struck him that everyone was quiet.

Too quiet.

His eyes found Bronte’s and when her chin jerked to the high chair and his snoozing baby girl and her brown streaked little face, his brows flew into his hairline.

“What happened?”

Bronte simply turned her head to stare holes through Sophia.

A Sophia who had her chin on her chest.

Luca, eyeing his twin with deep dislike, said, “Sophia and Emily used fake tan on Eve and all over themselves and made a big mess in the bathroom.”

Sophia said nothing.

But her green eyes lifted to shoot a lethal warning to her brother.

Nico shook his head, went to wash his hands at the sink, then he helped himself to a warm pasta plate and helped himself.

It wasn’t until he sat at the table and had a taste of heaven, that he spoke.

“Were you bored, cara mia?” he asked Sophia.

Emerald eyes flicked to her mama and then to him.

She shook her head.

“We opened Sophia’s Beauty Salon.”

When Luca snorted, Nico gave his daughter credit for not rising to the bait.

“Eat your food, Luca,” he said.

Luca dug in.

“Maybe you’d like to explain to her the dangers of bleach?”

“I couldn’t open it,” Sophia whispered, her face flushed beneath brown streaks.

“That’s not the point, is it?” her mama snapped. “And if you’ve finished playing with your food, you can go upstairs, brush your teeth and go to bed.”

By the time Sophia, her feet dragging as she clutched her Raggedy Ann doll, walked out the door, Bronte looked as if she’d reached the end of her tether.

The boys, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt, scoffed their pasta and meatballs with a gusto that made Nico’s lips twitch.

Little devils.

They loved nothing more than to see Sophia sitting in the hot seat.

He shifted to top up his wife’s white wine and poured a Chianti into his glass.

Replete, he settled back and kicked out long legs.

“Perhaps,” he began, “we need to keep certain items under lock and key?”

She nodded.

“I’ve got the locksmith coming tomorrow to put a lock on the bathroom cupboards. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it in the first place. I’ll be glad when this weather eases and things get back to normal.”

“The weather is supposed to improve next week,” Tonio said, and beamed at Bronte.

Her mouth curved.

“Thank goodness.”

“Sophia and Emily are gonna look dumb if they can’t wash off that stuff before we back to school,” Luca said.

“Then let that be a lesson to them,” Bronte said, her eyes sparking.

Nico grinned.

“Ah, just another day in the life of the Ferranti family.”




The freezing weather from Siberia is actually an unusual occurrence for us at this time of year. It’s been an experience, that’s for sure. Can’t wait for Spring!

Christine x


Sneak Peek coming on Sunday, once my power is back up and running…


The Beast from the East has brought an ice storm along with blizzards and high winds.

See you Sunday!

Christine x

It’s the Ludlow Hall Sneak Peek…. Peace…



It’s Friday… and time for the Ludlow Hall sneak peek!

Time for a pow-wow at The Dower House…

Bronte, Rosie and Janine had just finished a Sweet Sensations business meeting in Bronte’s kitchen-dining-living space. Eve and Boo are building a tower with huge plastic bricks, and Jimmy Chew was snoozing on his doggie bed, exhausted after a hectic morning with the Ferranti kids.

A fresh pot of coffee sat on the worktop, along with a large plate of mini-muffins, white chocolate and fudge, ready for the hungry hordes who are sure to descend at any moment. The place smells of fresh coffee, spun sugar, chocolate and fresh flowers.

Bronte, dressed in black stretchy pants and an oversized ribbed polo neck cashmere sweater the color of apricot, stretched, rolled her shoulders and wiggled toes all toasty inside thick socks. “In spite of replacing a double oven, we’re well in the black.”

Janine, wearing skinny blue jeans and a white T-shirt beneath a pale grey hoodie, closed her laptop with a satisfied snap. “Yup and our tax reserve account can handle those inland revenue new changes that come into force at the end of April, so we’re cool.”

Rosie, comfy in her usual black yoga pants and huge matching sweater, snuggled a rosy-cheeked Mila who was in the middle of teething hell.

“Thank goodness you have a business brain, Jan. Those excel spreadsheets make my eyes bleed.”

Jan grinned. “And yet I can’t bake or cook the way you two can. Poor Josh fires up his grill more times than not.”

Bronte scooped up Mila and popped a soft kiss on her hot cheek. “Josh loves his grill.”

Rosie, busy with a spoon and Calpol, had to agree. “I’ve never seen a BBQ that big and shiny. I caught Josh patting it once.”

Jan had to laugh. “He calls it darling. How are you this morning, darling.”

Mila opened her mouth like a good girl and took all her medicine, and then snuggled right in for a cuddle with her auntie Bronte.

Eve, dressed in thick tights the color of cream beneath a smocked dress of navy velvet, spotted her mama with her cousin and toddled over to give Mila a hug.

Her little hand patted Mila’s leg. “Aww, poorly, mama?”

“Just a little bit. She has sore teeth.”

“Kiss it better?”

Bronte shifted so Eve could drop a soft kiss on Mila’s cheek.

Then Eve went back to construction with Boo.

“Eve’s speech is coming on,” Rosie said as she topped up their coffees from the pot.

“Yup, better than Batman every five minutes. We all got tired of it after a while.”

“Talking of the super-heroes, where are they?”

Bronte lifted her eyes to heaven.

“Upstairs. Emily and Sophia are quiet, so I’ll check on them in a minute. The boys are watching a movie. Luca’s got a cold.”

“Another one?”

Bronte nodded a response to Jan. “Yup. Third one this winter. Doctor can’t find anything wrong with him, except he’s had a growth spurt. Poor child.”


She’d just finished speaking when the poor child in question barrelled through the door, and by the fierce look on his flushed face, he was not happy.

Wearing navy sweatpants and a grey UCLA hoodie, Luca Ferranti, stood with his legs spread on bare feet and folded his arms. “Mama!” he said, his throat scratchy and rough. “Sophia and Emily won’t let me play with their campfire.”

Rosie, dark brown eyes went wide and blinked.

Her fist pressed against her heart.


Jan shook her head. “No. It’s a campfire made of fabric cushions designed as stones, flames and logs.”

Rosie turned amazed eyes on her friend. “You made them a campfire?”

“She did,” Bronte said. “The girls had seen it on Amazon and Jan reckoned she could make it for less, and you know what she’s like, she did. AND she made them a wigwam, too. You should see it.”

Luca turned to Jan, his dark eyes pleading. “Sophia said that they’re playing Pocahontas and I can’t play because I have a… I have a… a… willie.”

Bronte ignored Rosie’s snort of laughter.

“Did she use exactly that word?”

Luca’s gaze flicked to his mother.

He shook his head.

“What word did she say?”

He shook his head again, this time so hard his dark curls bounced.

“Uh-uh. If ever I tattle-tale again, Sophia said that she’ll divorce me and I can speak to the hand.”

Jan, wiping her eyes, cleared her throat. “The hand?”

Luca held up his hand in the universal sign for stop.

“She put it right in my face.”


And just at that moment, two Pocahontas sauntered into the room.

Rosie had to laugh.

Sophia and Emily looked amazing.

Both wore black long wigs, head bands with brightly colored feathers stuck in the back, and two cute mustard colored fringed dresses over their leggings. The dresses had lots of multi-colored glass beads sewn on them. But it was the war paint on their faces that made her grin like a loon. She turned laughing dark eyes on Jan. “Did you make those outfits, too?”

Jan shrugged. “I have the best time practising this stuff on these two.”

Sophia marched up to her brother, got right up into his space, tipped her head back, and said. “HOW!”

Luca simply glared into her eyes, there was notta lotta love between the siblings at the moment.

Sophia made an are-you-beyond-stupid face. “You’re supposed to say, HOW back. It’s how an American Indian say hello.”

“I don’t need to say hello to you. I know who you are. The sister from hell,” Luca’s sore throat by this time was no more than a vehement whisper.

Emily eased her way between the war party and studied Luca’s flushed face.

“You’re sick. You need to see the medicine man,” she said in her soft breathy voice.


Bronte handed Mila to Jan and moved to press the back of her hand to Luca’s forehead.

“Pocahontas is right. Lemme check your temperature.”

“I’m the chief,” Sophia told her brother.

He didn’t look impressed.

“You’re a girl, so how come you’re the chief?”

Bronte, who by this time had found the digital thermometer, slipped it beneath his armpit and told him to sit quietly for five minutes.

Sophia sent him another look, and said, “Equal rights. This is woman’s liberation house. Mama’s the boss, which means I’m an Indian chief.”

By this time, Bronte checked his temperature and nodded.

“It’s up. Calpol for you as well.”

“I don’t like Calpol,” Luca whined.

Undeterred, his mama handed him a glass of water and told him to open his mouth.

After two spoonfuls, and making a horrible face, Luca took his medicine.

Then he sat at the table and simply stared holes through his twin.

Jan moved to stroke his hair.

“Did you really think that I’d made Sophia and Emily a wigwam and forget my Indian brave?”

Luca blinked.

His dark eyes went huge.

“Did you make me a wigwam?”

Jan nodded. “I did. AND I made you a campfire AND a headband and feathers. You can be two tribes.”

“Did you make me a hatchet and I can scalp Pocahontas?”

Jan rolled her eyes. “Unfortunately I didn’t. However, the two tribes might think about peace talks. Come and help me get them out of the car.”

She headed out the door with Luca hot on her heels.

In the boot room he crammed his feet into Wellington boots.

His face beamed as he hefted a huge black plastic bin bag filled with log, stones and flame cushions.

“Can we put the wigwam up in here, Mama?”

Bronte nodded, happy to see his color was better and so was his mood.

“Sure. Knock yourself out. Maybe Tonio could help?”

Luca raced out the room and up the stairs.


Sophia, sitting at the table, drinking a glass of milk and nibbling on a mini-muffin, her emerald eyes watchful as she observed her brother’s excitement, turned to her best friend.

“It might be time for a pow-wow, what do you think?”

Emily, enjoying her milk and mini muffin, her legs swinging under the chair, nodded like a wise owl.

“Okay. We’ll need war paint if we’re going to war with the boy tribe.”

“We’re the Pamunkeys.”

Luca arriving with Tonio in time to hear this, turned to his twin and curled his lip.

“We’re Apaches. Warriors,” he rasped.

Tonio eyed the girls, and grinned.

Emily simply sighed and gazed longingly at her idol.

When she gave Tonio googly eyes, Sophia shook her head.

“If we’re gonna wipe them from the face of the earth, you can’t look at him like that,” she said in a tone of utter disgust.

Emily turned to stare hard at her.

“We’re not going to wipe him from the face of the earth. Aren’t we talking peace?”

Sophia, her gaze on her twin, curled her lip.

“We don’t have a peace pipe.”


Meanwhile, Bronte, listening to the debate with a riveted Rosie and Jan, staged an intervention.

“As the big boss of this house,” she began. “I actually have a genuine peace pipe that the Pamunkeys and Apaches may use if they really and truly want to live in peace.”

Tonio, who by this time was laughing softly, turned to her.

“Seriously? You have a peace pipe?”

Bronte send him a cheesy smile.

“I do. It belonged to my dad. He used to enjoy the odd pipe, and I have one never used before. However, you must all promise me to take very great care with it.”

Luca, who by this time wore his hair band and three feathers, whirled to face her.

“I promise we’ll take good care of it,” he whispered.

“Okay. But, you must come to a peaceful agreement between the tribes.” She turned to a thoughtful looking Sophia, and raised her brows in a silent question. “Well?”

Sophia pursed her lips and turned to Emily.

Emily nodded.

Sophia turned back to her mama. “Okay. We agree to talk peace.”

Tonio rubbed his hands as the wigwam, with the help of Jan, was assembled, along with the campfire.

The two Indian braves, grabbed a couple of big cushions from the couch dropped them next to the campfire and crossed their legs.

“Can we bring down our wigwam and campfire too?” Emily suggested.

Bronte lifted her hands.

“The more the merrier. Need some help?”


Twenty minutes later the family room resembled an Indian settlement with a river (thanks to two blue yoga mats) running through it. On one side were the Pocahontas Pamunkeys and on the other were the Apache braves.

Luca stood, legs spread, on one side of the river and Sophia, arms folded, stood on the other.

“Are you coming to our camp for peace talks, or are we coming across the river to you?”

“We’ll come to you in case you burn our camp to the ground,” Sophia said.

Meanwhile, three year old Boo and Eve appeared to walk on water, carrying a selection of huge bricks back and forth to build their version of a wall.

As Bronte, Rosie watched the peace talks, Jan sewed feathers onto headbands for Boo and Eve to join the tribes.


“It’s absolutely fascinating to watch, isn’t it?” Rosie said, her brown eyes twinkling madly.

“Sophia rules that particular roost,” Bronte muttered.

Jan grinned.

“And she does it so well. We could do with her in parliament, she’d sort that lot out in quick order.”

Raised voices from the peace talks had Bronte clear her throat.


“Don’t be ridicalus,” Sophia said to her twin. “There weren’t iPads in the olden days.”

His eyes shooting daggers right back at her, Luca retorted, “I know that monkey-butt-face. But, we can have Indian music, can’t we?”

“Here’s some flute, forest and river music,” Tonio interrupted, and played it.

Emily, sitting cross legged on a cushion with Jimmy Chew snoring on her lap, began to sway from side to side. “Oooooh, I love it. I feel like I’m in the Rocky mountains.”

On his side of the river, Tonio did a hop-hop-hop dance in time to the drumbeat.


Out of the corner of her mouth, Jan muttered to Rosie who was sneakily videoing  it on her cell phone. “Aren’t they fabulous?”

“Yup. Adorable.”

When the howl of a lone wolf came over flute music, Emily’s eyes grew huge.

“Oh my.”

“And owls,” Sophia whispered.

When more drums and tambourines began, all native Americans got into the spirit of things. At last, an uneasy peace prevailed across the bad lands.


When Nico, Josh and Alexander strolled through the kitchen door, as one they stopped and surveyed the scene.

The lights in the family room were dimmed.

LED candles flickered in the middle of a huge campfire set in the middle of two wigwams. And all the Indian braves were fast asleep, with Jimmy Chew curled up in the middle of the fire that did not burn. Soft meditation nature music played.

And from the looks of things, they’d all had pizza for dinner.

Josh found Boo snoring among the bodies and started to laugh softly.

Bronte popped her head into the kitchen-dining-living space and whispered,

“We’re in here.”

The men tip-toed past those resting, through the hall and into the sitting room where a real log fire sparked and hissed behind a glass screen.

Josh scooped up his woman, sat her on his knee and gave her a hard kiss.

“Love the wigwams and the log fire.”

Jan’s blue eyes danced. “So worth it to see them have such a great time.”

Alexander shrugged off his suit jacket, his tie, and scooped up his sleepy daughter for a kiss. Then he gave one to a Rosie who’d lifted her face in clear invitation.

Meanwhile Nico grabbed Bronte and spun her around.

“Had a busy day?”

“Jan deciphered excel for Rosie and I and then we witnessed peace talks between the tribes. And Luca’s got a sore throat and a temperature.”

Nico made a face.

He turned to his guests.

“Need a drink? Wine? Beers?”

Once he’d served everyone, taken off his suit jacket and tie and reeeeeelaxed in his favorite comfy chair, he raised his glass.

“Here’s to peace.”

Bronte lifted her glass of wine.

“Here’s to Janine, according to Pocahontas, the best auntie in the whole wide world and the universe and beyond.”




Aww, if anyone’s interested there are actually cushions that resemble logs, fire and stones available for sale on Amazon…. just thought you’d like to know!

And for those who need rest, relaxation and probably a glass of wine, here’s the music the kids were listening to:  https://youtu.be/5TNNEw2PiyQ


Christine X

Boring hair?… It’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peek…



Happy Saturday, dear readers,

Here’s this week’s sneak peek, grab a coffee, and enjoy!


The Dower House….


Bronte’s chilling out with her girlfriends; Janine Faulkner and her toddler, Boo, Rosie Ludlow and baby Mila, and Grace, Emily’s mummy.

Grace, her wildly curly hair recently cropped, a style that took years off her, wore navy skinny jeans and a lilac cashmere sweater the exact color of her eyes. She accepted a cup of coffee from Bronte, and studied the tiny mini-muffins served on a white china plate with a greedy eye. “I’d have paid good money to see Sophia talking to ‘Alexa’ and ordering all those gifts.”

Bronte, dressed in black leggings and one of Nico’s pale grey cotton hoodies, offered Janine a top up of her cup, and grinned down a Boo who sat on the floor and was terribly busy with her mummy’s iPhone. The little girl wore thick wool tights the color of milky coffee, and a cute sweater dress of leopard print velvet, and had a cream velvet ribbon in her black curls. She was sooooo cute.

“Thing is,” Bronte said. “According to Miss Brown, she reckons Sophia has an Eidetic memory. She can recall exact words in conversations. However, Nico reckons it could have been worse. She could’ve bought presents on Amazon for all her friends and their families. After the kids went to bed, all thrilled and delighted, Nico couldn’t stop laughing. We’ve no idea what to do with that child.”

Rosie, wearing thermal tights and a matching oversized polo neck sweater the color of ripe cranberries just grinned at Bronte. “You’ve been saying that for six years. And my favorite niece didn’t buy her favorite auntie anything either.” She sipped her coffee and at the same time managed to grab a pen Mila had taken from her bag and was about to stick up her nose. “No, baby doll. No. No. Not up noses, or in ears.”

Grace bent down to lift a grumpy Mila, handed her teaspoon to play with and gave her a cuddle. “I love this age. I’m so jealous, Rosie.”

“Have you thought of adoption?”

“We have,” Grace sighed, and dropped a kiss on Mila’s dark curls. “We’ve done nothing about it. It seems a very complex business.”

Janine nodded in agreement. “There are so many little kids desperate for a good home. They break my heart, they really do. Josh and I have been discussing adoption.”

Bronte raised her brows. “That would be amazing. Josh makes a great daddy.”

“Yep,” Janine said. “The only trouble is, we’d need to get married.”

Rosie gazed at her in amazement. “You don’t wanna marry Josh?”

Janine’s grin was a little wicked. “In a heartbeat. He hasn’t asked me yet.”

Rosie gave her an are-you-kidding-me look. “That’s a load of crock. I know for a fact he’s asked you at least ten times.”

“True. But that was way back in the beginning. He hasn’t asked me recently.”

“Maybe that’s because he’s not a mind reader,” Bronte said. “How’s the poor guy supposed to know you’ve changed your mind?”

“Truth. Is it bad of me that I want him to ask me again?”

“Nah,” Rosie said, and popped a dark chocolate mini muffin in her mouth. “You’re allowed. But you may need to drop him a couple of hints. You know, men are not exactly switched on to our feminine needs. Or should I make that our feminine wiles?”

Once the laughter stopped Bronte just shook her head.

“That’s crazy talk. We’re not being fair to them. The point is, the guys would do anything for us—anything. Hang on a minute,” she said.

Her friends watched in amazement as she shifted to check behind the couch, then tiptoed to the laundry room, opened the door to look inside, and the then tiptoed to the door leading to the hallway which was ajar. She checked behind it before she closed it. Grinning at the bemused look on their faces, she returned to her seat picked up a coffee. “Can’t be too careful in this house. The walls have ears. Ears commonly known as Sophia.”

Rosie couldn’t help but grin. “That girl’s going to turn your hair grey.”

Bronte made a face. “You can’t tell, but beneath this blonde there’s plenty of grey.”


“Well.” Rosie made herself more comfortable on the couch. “You’ve had at least four days where everything’s been peace, quiet and tranquillity. We all know that won’t last. I think she’s wonderful.”

Bronte just sent her a dark look. “It’s okay for you. You’re not her mother and you don’t know what you’re talking about. Wanna know the thing that bugs me the most about half-bloody-term? I want to be the best mummy in the whole wide world, and provide my kids with wonderful memories of childhood they’ll treasure forever.

“Instead, by lunchtime everyday I’m snapping their heads off because they can’t have more sweets or soda that send them up the wall and fighting like cats. Then I’m a ‘bad mummy’ for daring to suggest that if they’re bored they could—wait for the shock-horror—go to their room and read a book. You’d think I’d suggested sending them down a coal mine armed with a toothpick. I swear I cannot wait for Monday morning and a little bit of that peace, quiet and tranquillity you mention, Rosie.”

“Where are the gruesome twosome anyway,” asked a laughing Janine, referring to Sophia and Emily.

Grace lifted her eyes to the ceiling. “They’ve been in the dressing up box. The last time I looked they were dancing to Justin Timberlake on a loop.

“Sounds harmless enough,” Janine muttered.


Actually, Sophia and Emily were in a place strictly forbidden to both—Bronte’s dressing room. They’d painted their faces with Sophia’s kiddy makeup (the gift that kept on giving from auntie Rosie). And once Sophia had mentioned that her mama had a fire engine red lipstick that would look sooooo cooooool with Emily’s charcoal grey eye shadow, there had been nothing for it but to test the colour….

The girls looked like—thanks to the kiddy makeup—demented fairies complete with huge wings of pink gauze and chicken wire (made by the very talented auntie Janine.)

“We mustn’t make a mess,” Sophia whispered to a terribly excited Emily who’s blue eyes were like saucers as she took in the amazing pots and potions lined up in the narrow drawer Sophia had pulled out. The scented drawer liner smelled of lavender. The wall mirror had lots of light bulbs that illuminated their little faces.

Emily leaned in closer to inspect her skin. “I hate my freckles and my stupid hair.”

Sophia, genuinely shocked by this statement because she was secretly quite jealous of those gorgeous flaming ringlets, gazed wide-eyed in the mirror at her bestest friend.

“I LOVE your hair. Papa says you have fairy hair and a beautiful little fairy face. And as my auntie Rosie says, he was a stud before he married my mama, so he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to women.”

Emily blinked. “What’s a stud?”

Sophia, by this time carefully searching through the gold metal tubes of lipstick to find the right one, shrugged. “Dunno. Women always stare with stupid googly eyes at my papa. I think it’s rude. But auntie Rosie says he doesn’t notice them because he’s a lovely guy who’s crazy in love with my mama.”

Emily nodded her head so hard her ringlets danced around her shoulders. “I’m gonna marry Tonio.” Then she sent a viciously dark look to her reflection. “But he’ll never marry me with this horrible hair.”

Sophia halted her search for the lippy, and turned to face her best friend.

She took Emily by the shoulders. “Look into my eyes.”

Emily stared unblinking into Sophia’s eyes.

“I LOVE your hair. Can you see the truth in my eyes?”

Emily, totally serious, nodded. “Uh-huh.”

“Then believe me when I say your hair is amazing.” Sophia returned to the hunt for the lipstick, by this time she had lined up at least six opened tubes all standing like soldiers on parade. “I don’t know what’s the problem with your hair.”

Emily, unmoved by her best friend’s words, resumed a slitty eyed study of her face and hair in the mirror. “When she washes it, Mummy uses a tangle teaser and spray on conditioner. But it always hurts when she combs it and I  cry and it’s one big drama. Then she got her hair cut. My daddy just loves it. He tells her every single day. I think I should cut mine.”

“Don’t be daft,” Sophia said, and then found what she was looking for. She held up the lipstick. “Turn around and open your mouth.”

Emily turned to her pal and opened her mouth wide.

With great care, Sophia swiped the lipstick over Emily’s little lips.

“Rub your lips together,” she said.

Emily did as she was told.

Sophia stood back and studied her work with a critical eye. “I like it. What do you think?”

Emily considered her reflection, fluttered her eyelashes like a camel in a sandstorm.

“It makes my eyes pop, doesn’t it?”

With great care, Sophia wound back the lipstick and replaced the top.

Then she danced on the spot. “Need to pee. Don’t touch ANYTHING or mama will kill us and bury us in the vegetable garden.”

Emily’s wide-eyed response was another rapid nod of her head.

After Sophia raced out the door, she took a careful study of all the lovely things on the table top.

Then, she blinked.

And almost of its own volition, her little hand hovered over a pair of scissors.

Three minutes later, Sophia stood rooted to the spot at the door to her mama’s dressing room. Her stifled cry caught the attention of her brothers strolling down the hallway.

Tonio and Luca entered Bronte and Nico’s bedroom and peered over Sophia’s shoulder.

“You shouldn’t be in here,” Luca reminded her.

For once, she was too stunned to rise to the bait.

“What’s the matter?” asked Tonio.

Then both boys looked into the dressing room, and gasped too.


“Well, what do you think?” asked a beyond thrilled and shorn Emily as she did a twirl.

“Omigod,” Sophia whispered, staring with bug-eyed disbelief at the appalling change in her best friend. “Omigod.”

Tonio stepped slowly inside the dressing room, and, his eyes riveted on the red glossy curls spilled on the cream carpet, picked up some with a hand that wasn’t quite steady.

He lifted his head to stare at her. “Dio mio, Emily. What have you done?”


By the way everyone stared at her, in absolute horror, it had begun to dawn on Emily that she may have made a big mistake.

Her fire engine red bottom lip trembled.

Her charcoal lined blue eyes filled.

Her belly hurt.

“Don’t you like it?” she whispered.


Tonio again stared at the curls in his hand, and then at her head.

“We can’t stick it back on with glue, can we?”

Sophia, her face white beneath her makeup, shook her head.

Her blue eyes flooded.

“Uh-uh. It’s gonna take years and years and years for your beautiful hair to grow again.”

“I’m gonna get mama. You two are in BIG TROUBLE, again,” Luca said and raced out the door.


A few hours later, a whistling Nico strolled through the door of the kitchen-dining-living space.


His dark brows rose.

No sign of his bambinos.

No sign of dinner.

He shrugged out of his suit jacket, hung it on the back of a chair, removed his silk tie and rolled it up and tucked it in his jacket pocket—in case the baby had sticky fingers. As he slid open the top couple of buttons on his crisp cotton white shirt, he spotted his wife.

She had her bare feet up on the couch.

Eyes closed, her blonde head rested on a fat cushion.

In one hand she held a glass half filled with Prosecco.

Again his dark brows rose.

“What’s the occasion?” he asked.

When she said nothing, but made a sound like a whimper in her throat, he dropped a kiss on her nose, lifted her legs, sat and settled her narrow feet on his lap.

“Do you want the good news or the bad news?” Bronte asked.

Nico lifted her hand with the wine glass and took a sip.

“Good news.”

“Well, today Sophia did NOT cut off ALL of Emily’s hair.”


Dio mio.”

“You got that right.”

“Who did?”



“But, why?”

Bronte’s eyes opened. “Because, from what we could decipher in amongst the crying and wailing, she didn’t think Tonio will marry her unless she cut it.”

When Nico simply blinked, she nodded her head. “I know. I swear she’s obsessed with him. Of course, once he’d told he’d loved her hair, she wailed even louder. Poor Grace had to phone her hairdresser for an emergency appointment. And you know what a bloody drama queen Carlo is, I could hear his screeching from here.”

She closed her eyes and laid her head back on the cushion.

“I’ve just about had enough of half-term and kids,” she said bitterly. “To hell with healthy eating. To hell with forcing Luca to eat little trees. To hell with fresh fruit and vegetables. They want to eat pizza every night of their natural lives… let them. I give up.”

Nico rubbed her bare feet.

“That bad?”


He brought her foot to his mouth and pressed a soft kiss on the arch.

“What’s for dinner?”


“I am so blessed.”

“Believe it, pal. Believe it.”




I remember so very well the time my youngest daughter, she was four, cut her hair two days before my sister’s wedding….  Good times. Good times.

Christine X




The gift that keeps on giving

Hello, my darling readers,

It’s Friday and it’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peak time. Yay!

The Dower house…

Bronte was having a bad day. It’s half-term. And the children were driving her crazy.

She’s way behind with a mountain laundry—thanks to a washing machine Armageddon. The consequence of a blocked waste pipe, which she fixed herself. One of life’s great mysteries was how a sock had managed to find its way into the waste pipe. Smaller mountains of assorted dirty laundry littered the floor. Whites. Dark colours. PE kits. And baby clothes. Plus, a huge pile of bedding. Eve had thrown up last night. The child’s projectile vomit like something out of a horror movie. Which meant Bronte stank to high heaven of disinfectant, baby puke and sweat.

After too much pushy-shovey during and after breakfast, and in spite of their red-faced mother screaming at them at the top of her lungs to desist, the kids were banished to their separate bedrooms. Winter half-term, pouring rain, and bored kids, Bronte decided, was its own special kind of hell.

The sound of a car crunching over the gravel drive had her look to heaven. She hope to hell it wasn’t an unexpected visitor. If it was Rosie that would be okay, ’cause Rosie would sympathise and probably pour her a huge glass of wine. If it was a member of the local mums and tots group, she gazed at her clothes and sniffed her armpit, and decided she wouldn’t answer the door.

In the event it was neither.

Her husband walked through the door carrying a brown cardboard box.

She took one look at Nico, all dressed to impress in a smart dark suit and crisp shirt, silk tie, with not a freaking hair out of place, and she growled low in her throat.

“What are you doing home?” She checked the clock on the wall, just in case she’d lost track of time. “It’s only 2.30 in the afternoon. What’s this, a half-day?”

Nico, his gaze taking in the complete and utter disaster that was the laundry room, and breakfast dishes still littering the kitchen, read the situation easily enough.

His brows lifted.

“I brought you a present,” he said. “Although with that welcome, I’m not sure you deserve it.”

He gave her a huge smile.

She didn’t smile back.

“Piss off,” she hissed.

Nico winced.

“Trust me,” he said. “This will make your life so much easier, cara mia.”

Bronte moved to the sink, washed her hands, dried them, and turned to him.

“Do you want a coffee?”

Nico stepped over the detritus on the floor, placed the cardboard box on the worktop.

Grey eyes twinkling, he turned to her and opened his arms.

“Wanna hug?”

His wife simply gave him a bland stare.

“I stink of baby puke. I haven’t even managed to drag a brush through my hair. In fact, the way I’m feeling right now the last thing I want from you or anyone else is a hug.”

Nico ignored what had turned into a rant, and just grabbed her and held her tight.

His nose twitched.

She was right, she didn’t smell her usual fragrant self.

“Bad day?”

She snuggled into his chest and gave a heavy sigh.

“The worst, she muttered into his silk tie.

He smelled absolutely amazing, freshly laundered shirt, shower gel and the cologne she loved so much.

“I hate half-term,” she said.

Nico nodded.

“Don’t worry, he said into her hair and gave her another quick squeeze. “We will do this together.”

Bronte sniffed, step back and rubbed her hands on the legs of her jeans.

She studied the box on the worktop.

“Okay,” she said, and hoped to heaven it wasn’t some new piece of digital equipment. “Hit me with it.”


Nico shifted, opened the box and brought out what looked like a tall black tube.

Bronte just stared at it.

Her heart fell, it was a new piece of digital equipment.

Nico, on the other hand, looked thrilled.

He said, “It’s Alexa. And she is going to change your life.”

Bronte was not convinced.

She scratched her nose.

Folded her arms and cocked her hip.

“Okay,” she said, “show me exactly how that tube of metal is going to change my life.”

Nico took off his jacket hung it carefully over the back of a kitchen chair, rubbed his hands again, whipped out the instruction booklet and set up by linking it to their Wi-Fi and integrating the device from what he called, the mother-lode.

“It’s from Amazon.” He sent her a cheeky wink. “Its voice recognition artificial intelligence. All you have to do is tell Alexa what music you want to listen to, or turn on the radio, or order items from the store, and she does it. It’s like magic.”

Bronte, pouring two black coffees into cups, and lifted her brows.

She sank to a kitchen chair, folded her arms and just watched.

What was it with boys and their toys, she wondered.

It didn’t take long for Nico to set it up.

And within half an hour he had ordered a couple of items from Amazon.

Bronte reckoned she quite liked Alexa’s voice, she sounded friendly. And when Bronte asked Alexa to play rock music and she did, she couldn’t help but laugh.

“That is so cool,” she said. Her temper improving by the minute.

Looking pretty pleased with himself, Nico dropped a kiss on her cheek.

“I’ll have a shower. I’ll be down in a couple of minutes and I’ll help you with all this. There’s nothing we cannot do when we work as a team.”

Well, Bronte had to agree with that sentiment.

She strolled out the door with him, and gave his tight butt a pat.

“Maybe we could shower together and save water?” she whispered.

His strong arm came around her waist. “Just what I was thinking,” he said in a deep, growly voice.

As Bronte and Nico strolled out the door, a little blond head appeared slowly, very slowly, from behind the back of a lilac velvet sofa.

Sophia, dressed in pink leggings that hit above her ankle, and an oversized white hoodie that proclaimed, ‘The Snuggle Is Real,’ and clutching a battered looking Raggedy-Ann doll,  strolled over on bare feet to check out Alexa.

Emerald eyes wide, she placed her arms on the worktop and stared unblinking at the machine.

“Hello, Alexa,” said Sophia.


Next morning, Bronte was busy at her twelve burner stainless steel hob, making a full English breakfast for her hungry horde. In a good mood, she shook her booty to a rock song via Alexa. The device was soooooo cool.

The peal of the doorbell had her yell, “Nico! Could you get the door?”

Si,” he yelled back from his study.

She heard him opening the door, and chatting to the postman.

A minute later, he walked into the kitchen-dining-living space, carting at least six cardboard boxes.

Her brows rose. “Good Lord, what’s all that?”

Checking the parcels, Nico shook his head. “I ordered two items.”

Using tongs to lift a pile of crispy bacon onto a plate, she placed the plate in the middle of the table. Wiping her hands on the tea towel tucked into the waistband of her black skinny jeans, she wandered over to find Nico using a sharp knife to open the boxes.

“From Amazon,” she muttered.

When Nico took out a large box of Lego—Elsa’s Sparkling Ice Castle, she goggled.

“Whoa,” she said.

The next box opened, it was like Christmas all over again, held more Lego—this time a BIG selection of Mighty Micros Spiderman VS Scorpion Street Showdown.

“Wow,” she whispered.

By this time, Nico’s shoulders shook so hard, he needed to take a breath as he opened box number three. A huge box of Mega Blocks for ages 1-5.

“Aww, that must be for Eve,” Bronte said, her eyes going all teary. “What’s in this one, it’s big.”

Nico opened it, and blinked. “Mio dio. It is the iScoot Blaze Tonio’s been after.”

Bronte picked up a receipt invoice, and bit down hard on her top lip. “Alexa ordered it. All of it.”

Her eyes met his as they turned their attention to another box.

A heavy one this time.

“What do you thinks’ in here?”

His grey eyes, twinkling, met hers. “There must be something you’d love to have.”

She shook her head. “I’ve no idea.”

When he opened it, she slapped her hand over her mouth. “Omigod. It’s the Tefal Cook4Me Multicooker. But… it costs a fortune.”

He opened the last box, it didn’t weigh much.

And Bronte collapsed into a chair laughing so hard, she nearly peed her pants.

It was a ‘Man Tin’ (Leads, Screws & Other Pointless Stuff I must keep.)


And right then, Tonio and Luca strolled into the kitchen.

They wore below the knee jean shorts and hoodies.

The boys stopped dead, and stared, wide-eyed, at all the goodies lined up on the table.

“Wow!” said Luca, diving on the Lego box. He held it in his hand as if it was the crown jewels. His beaming smile split his face. “This is sooooo cool. Thank you, papa!”

Tonio’s dark eyes flew to Nico as he grabbed the box containing the much-longed-for scooter.

Grazie. Grazie!”

“We’ll need to buy him protective gear for that,” Bronte whispered into Nico’s ear.


And then, without a word, Sophia slid into the room.

She wore soft blue jeans and navy hoodie.

Her big emerald eyes studied the toys, her brothers’ clear deeeeeelight, and then flicked to her mama and papa’s wide eyes as they watched her face.

“Um…,” she said, her fingers playing with her blonde tail.

“Um?” Bronte said in a soft voice.

Nico crouched down in front of his daughter, took her little hand in his.

“Were you speaking to Alexa?” he asked in a soft voice.

Sophia’s brows flew into her hairline. “She’s nice.”

Luca, carefully unwrapping Lego, glanced at his sister. “Who’s Alexa?”

Sophia, eyes glued to her papa’s, said, “Alexa? What time is it?”

There was a slight delay and then a woman’s voice said from the tall black tube, “The time is 9.20 am.”

Luca’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Wow! That is amazing,” he whispered.

Bronte ran her hand through his dark curls. “Isn’t it?”

“Did you ask Alexa for all of these?” He indicated the boxes on the table.

“Uh huh,” she said in a soft voice.

“Didn’t Alexa say how much they cost?” Nico wanted to know.

“Uh huh.”

“They cost a lot of money,” Nico said.

Sophia went nose to nose with her papa.

“I know.” Then she stroked a small finger down his cheek. “But you’re filthy rich, papa. We can afford a nice surprise now and then. And mama’s always wanted one of those Cook4Me pots because she works too hard looking after all the heathens in this family. So I asked Alexa to send one and she said yes.”

In response to the absolute logic of her statement, Nico grabbed her in a big hug.

“Your heart is in the right place, bambina.”


Meanwhile, Bronte couldn’t help but laugh.

Wait until Rosie heard all about Alexa.

Seriously, she couldn’t make this stuff up!




Real life is stranger than fiction. This actually happened to someone I know. Not on the scale of Sophia. One dozen boxes of cake mix. LOL!


Christine X

It’s the Ludlow Hall Sneak Peek…


Hi guys,

This weeks peek at a day in the lives of the Ferranti family is a day late. And never fear, the next Desert Orchid chapter will go live later today – and it’s a doozy!


Bronte, Tonio, Luca and Sophia are in the car on their way home…

Sofia Ferranti had to pee.

Nerves, and fear, plus the very rare Coke she’d had for being a good girl while her mamma had shopped in the supermarket all combined to fill her seven-year-old bladder to bursting.

Today had been one of the worst school days of her life.


Ms. Brown was not happy with her.

And man, was she in big trouble when her mama and papa found out?

She wriggled in her car seat and wished she was home.


Bronte reckoned her children were very quiet considering it was a Friday afternoon. In the rear view mirror she kept a weather eye on Sofia.

A Sofia who was staring out of the window as if she was watching her favourite movie, Frozen. And a Sophia who’d been unnaturally quiet during supermarket shopping. A miracle, because her daughter loathed supermarket shopping with a passion only matched by that of her papa.

“We are nearly home,” Bronte sang.

No response.

Tonio who sat in the front passenger seat of the car turned to look at her.

The boy was growing like a weed. They’d just purchased his second pair of school shoes within three months.

When Bronte caught his eye, he made a face as if to say, what’s the matter with them?

In response Bronte shrugged.

“Is Luca asleep?” Bronte asked Tonio.

Tonio craned his neck to suss out what was happening behind him.

He nodded. “He’s out for the count.”

Bronte again checked on Sofia in the mirror.

She frowned at how pale her daughter looked.

Maybe she was sickening for something?

Please God, not the flu.

So far, they’d managed to escape the virus.

“We’re nearly home,” Bronte said again.


She decided to give up.

No point in causing drama while she was driving the car.


By the time Sophia had raced to the bathroom to do her business, washed her hands, changed her school uniform for her favorite soft jeans and cozy sweater it was time for dinner.

Every Friday the family all ate together, that was the rule, if Papa got home in time.

Tonight Papa was running thirty minutes late.

And Sofia didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.

Thing was, she was in what her auntie Rosie would call – a hot mess.

Miss Brown, had given Sophia a sealed letter for her mamma and Papa.

A letter which she was sure described in glorious detail exactly what sin Sophia had committed today.

The thing was, Sofia didn’t want to give her mamma and Papa the letter.

She was in enough bother after setting the toaster oven on fire and causing chaos in the house last week.

But how was she to know that taking a baby book to school would have caused so much trouble?

The book was called A Child is Born.

And had the most amazing pictures of how a baby grew inside a mummy’s tummy.

The problems had started when Johnny Lacy had gagged when he saw the picture of a child being born.

And when Sophia had taken time to explain to him exactly how the child had ended up inside the mummy’s tummy in the first place, the Stoooooopid boy had thrown-up all over her best friend Emily’s new shoes. Which meant Miss Brown had not been happy with Sophia. She’d even confiscated book and refused to return it.

Sophia new perfectly well that her mamma and Papa would not have allowed her to take the book to school in the first place.

But she’d wanted to prove to Johnny Lacy that his explanation of how a baby got into a mummy’s tummy was wrong.

And now Johnny’s mummy was upset with Sophia too.

So today had turned into a complete nightmare for Sophia Ferranti.


Her best friend Emily had promised faithfully to say nothing to her mummy because she was a good pal of Sophia’s mama. And Tonio and Luca had promised to say nothing too. Now Sophia sat on the couch cuddling Jimmy Chew and felt that her dog was her only friend in the whole wide world.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Her mother asked for like the tenth time.

Actually, Sofia is feeling a bit sick in her stomach.

“I’m fine,” she whispered, and wished bedtime would hurry up and come.


Nico Ferranti was in a good mood.

He’d had a great day at Ludlow Hall.

It looked liked the flu virus from hell had finally burned itself through his staff.

And just to put a cherry on top of the cake, his PA Julie had returned to work.


And now he got to spend quality time with his family for the whole weekend.

In his plans were an early night and plenty of good loving with his wife.

Whistling a happy tune, he strolled through the back door The Dower House, and got hit right between the eyes with a scent sent from heaven—his wife’s famous Italian red sauce, featuring basil and oven roasted tomatoes and garlic bread warm from the oven.

His mouth watered.

And then he got all soppy when he spotted the fat glass of Chianti sitting on the worktop, just waiting for him.

His wife knew exactly how to look after him.

He was a lucky man.

To show his appreciation and love, he grabbed Bronte around the waist and kissed the breath from her.

He loved the little purr in her throat. He loved the way she ran her fingers through his black hair.

Her nails scratched his scalp.

“Wow,” she said, when they came up for air. “What did I do to deserve that?”

He grinned at the dazed expression on her face.

“You look after me. You look after everyone. And I love you.”

She stroked the back of her hand down his cheek, her emerald eyes filled with love for him.

Yes, Nico reckoned he was one lucky bastard.


During dinner, Bronte put the lack of conversation from Sophia down to tiredness. After all, the kids had had a busy week at school. However, the little niggle in her belly just refused to quit. Bronte decided that tomorrow was another day. A day where she’d spend time with Sophia and get to the bottom of what was bothering her.


Once the children had teeth brushed, bathed and put to bed—after three rounds of story time of course, Nico and Bronte had time to themselves.

On the couch, he’d just taken her in his arms for a bit of heavy petting, when baby Eve’s tired cry came over the intercom.

Nico looked to Heaven. “Teething is hell,” he said to Bronte.

His wife stood, lifted her arms as if reaching for the sky, and yawned hugely.

“Her little cheeks are so hot. I’ll give her Calpol. That should sort it.”

Nico stretched out his long legs clad in loose black jeans, and wiggled his bare toes.

It looked as if his plan for an early night and romance may not happen.

Then he counted his many blessings, and shrugged.

He was a lucky man.


The voice of one of his blessings came from behind him.

Nico looked to heaven.

“Sophia, cara mia, what is the matter?”

He turned, and found his daughter looking pale.

She was dressed in brushed cotton pink frilly pyjamas with the picture of Elsa on the front.

A gift from auntie Rosie.

And in her arms she clutched her Raggedy Ann doll.

A sure sign that something was up.

He watched her as Sophia crept closer.

And it wasn’t until she stood right before him that she looked him dead in the eye and said, “Promise you won’t be a grumpy Papa?”

Uh oh.


Nico leaned back and placed his hands behind his head.

He took plenty of time to study his daughter’s guilty face.

Maybe they were too soft with her?

Maybe she needed a firmer hand?

He rubbed the spot above his heart.

He couldn’t do it.

“On a scale of one to ten,” he said, “One being nothing too awful, what have you done this time?”

Her bare toes made little circles on the thick rug of ivory wool.

And she clutched Raggedy Ann even closer.

“It might be an eight? Maybe? I have a letter from Miss Brown to you and mamma in my schoolbag. And I don’t wanna give it to you.”

Nico’s brows rose into his hairline and he puffed out his cheeks.

“A letter from your teacher?”

Sophia nodded. “Yes.”

And now Sophia’s chin began to wobble and her eyes filled.

And in that moment, Nico knew he was toast.

No way could he harden his heart against tears.

He opened his arms and found his baby girl’s arms wound tight around his neck.

He let her cry.

Sometimes it was good to cry.

He didn’t want to think about the contents of the letter.

He couldn’t begin to imagine.


“What on earth is the matter?” Bronte said as she walked into the room.

Nico found his daughter holding him even tighter.

He made a face at his wife.

“Sophia has a letter for us from her teacher.”

“So what’s the problem?” Bronte asked.

“I don’t think it’s a friendly letter,” Nico said.

Bronte took a seat and tucked her legs beneath her butt.

“Hit me with it.”

By this time Sofia’s sobs were down to a snuffle.

“It’s in her school bag,” Nico said.

Bronte rose and padded to the boot room in her bare feet, and returned with Sophia’s schoolbag.

She sat down opened it and rummaged through the detritus until she found the letter.

For a long moment her eyes held his before she opened it and read the contents.

After reading it through twice, she bit down hard on her bottom lip and blinked frantically.

Nico heaved a heavy sigh.

He had a horrible feeling.

“That bad?”

By this time Sofia was sitting on her Papa’s lap, her cheek tucked against his chest and with one eye on her mamma.

Her cheeks were hot.

Bronte shook her head

“Well, it seems Miss Brown wants to know if we’ve been teaching sex education to our kids recently. Because it seems Sophia has been very busy informing her classmates about the birds and bees and vivid descriptions of natural childbirth.”

Nico shifted to catch Sophia’s eye.


Sophia drew circles on his T-shirt with her fingertip and all the while her big emerald eyes held his.

“It was all in the baby book,” she said in a small voice.

“What baby book?” Her mama asked.

“A Child is Born.” Sophia told her.

Bronte’s eyes went wide.

“Good Lord, you took that book to school?”

Sophia nodded. “Johnny Lacy said that babies came from heaven. That the stork brought the baby and left it at the hospital for mummies and daddies to collect. I said he was a big fat liar. He pushed me and I pushed him back. So I took the book into school. Because he can’t argue with the photographs, can he? I told him not to spread fake news.”



No matter how hard Nico tried he couldn’t stop laughing.

His big body shook and he knew he daren’t meet his wife’s eyes.

Bronte meanwhile was reading the rest of the letter.

“Well, Miss Brown says that Sophia Ferranti did a better job than she could have done and that she will return the book the next time she sees me.”

Sophia blinked at her like a baby owl.

“You mean, I’m not in big trouble?”

Bronte leaned over and went nose-to-nose with her daughter.

“See what happens when you don’t give me a letter when you’re supposed to? You worried yourself for hours for nothing. All I am going to say is that you do not take any books from our library without asking permission. You okay with that?”

Sophia climbed off her Papa’s lap and went to receive a hug from her mamma.

A big hug.

Bronte lifted her and headed for the stairs.

“Say goodnight to Papa.”

“Night Papa.”


Nico topped up his glass of Chianti, sat back and closed his eyes.

There was never, he reckoned, a dull moment at the Dower house.

And he wouldn’t have it any other way.




Aw, no fake news for Sophia.

I’m busy writing Desert Captive, Our Rules, and have Gregorio Ancelotti’s story cooking on the back burner.

Big hugs,

Christine X

A wake-up call – it’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peek…..


Hello, my darlings!

It’s Friday and time for another slice of Ludlow life with our favourite family, The Ferranti’s…..

The Dower House – it’s two a.m. Nico’s cosy in his vast bed and all snuggled up to the love of his life. The Egyptian cotton sheets are crisp and smell lightly of lavender. His big body’s spooning and holding her close. Very close. With every deep inhale, his system seemed to absorb the scent of her hair, her skin, her very breath. Si, he cuddled to curve around her, and slid a heavy leg between hers, he was a very lucky man.

Right on cue his libido, tucked inside his Calvins, stirred.

His low moan was heartfelt.




Behave, he told his lurve muscle.

Bronte’s exhausted.

His body settled and he slid deeper into the land of nod.


The night was still and clear and freezing cold.

A half moon spilled silver light through a gap in the heavy curtains.

Nothing stirred, not even a mouse.

Everyone was asleep—or were they?


The sound of the fire alarm had Nico explode out of bed, into jeans and a sweater.

He shoved bare feet into running shoes.

And Bronte wasn’t far behind him.

Shoving her arms in a black cashmere sweater, her head popped out of the neckline.

“I smell smoke.”

Emerald eyes wide, she grabbed her phone and dialled the emergency services.

Then she lifted her chin and, like a she-wolf, sniffed the air.

“Do you smell smoke?”


Shouts from Tonio and Luca had Nico run into the hallway, and here the smell of smoke was strong.

Both in pj’s their dark curls sticking up on end, Luca clutched a yapping Jimmy Chew in his arms, and Tonio carried a howling baby Eve wrapped a thick blanket.

He handed her to Nico.

“Quick,” Nico said, his brain speeding through likely scenarios. “Remember the fire drill.” Two pale-faced little boys stared at him, as if mute, as he rubbed the toddler’s back. “We go to the guest bedroom, out the window, onto the roof of the laundry room. Mama is calling for help.” His head spun around, and his racing heart seemed to screech to a stop before knocking against his ribs. “Where are Sophia and Emily?”

“Their beds are empty.”

“Omigod,” Bronte said.

Nico turned to her and thrust a screaming Eve into her arms. “Get the boys out, and I’ll find them.”

Heart pistoning in his chest, he spun and headed for the stairs and the kitchen.

Smoke belched through the open kitchen door into the hallway and drifted up, up, the stairs and into the cavernous roof space.

When he skidded to a halt in the kitchen-living space, he saw a weeping Emily dressed in her Elsa from Frozen nightgown, tucked into a corner of the sofa, her little face sheet white.

And the perpetrator of the night’s drama, his seven year old daughter, eyes streaming and gasping for breath, was standing on a chair dragged next to the black granite worktop, and frantically waving a dish towel over the entrance to a stainless steel toaster oven which belched dark grey smoke.

Nico whistled low through his teeth, pulled the electric plug from the wall, slammed the door to the toaster oven shut and grabbed his daughter by the waist. On his way to the kitchen door, he scooped up an Emily crying for her mummy, and headed through the boot room.

As he opened the door to the driveway, he thanked God when he found the rest of his family intact and, by the look of them, scared to death and blue with cold.

The sound of a fire-engine and ambulance, blue lights flashing, roared up the road and into the driveway.

Two firemen grabbed a girl-child each and handed them to the paramedics who got them into the ambulance to check them over. Meanwhile, three other fire-crew prepared their hoses. The leader entered the house. He didn’t loiter. When he flung open a kitchen window and popped his head out, he yelled to the crew,

“Need a fire blanket. Toaster oven.”

Immediately, all tension left the men.

They began rolling up their hoses and chatted to Bronte.

“We’ll open all the windows to let the smoke out.”

Her brain reeling, Bronte nodded.

Clutching a sobbing baby girl to her breast, she was shaking so hard, her teeth rattled like castanets in her head. On trembling legs, she jogged to the ambulance, to find Emily wrapped in a blanket and Sophia being given oxygen and checked over by paramedic, Susan Henshaw. Bronte had gone to school with Susan, and she found her eyes stinging as she caught her eye.

“Never a dull moment with this one,” Susan said.

Bronte puffed out her cheeks. “Tell me about it.”

She studied her daughter’s white face and the way her breath wheezed in and out.

“We’ll take Sophia to A&E just to make one hundred per cent sure she’s okay. Smoke inhalation can be nasty.”

Nico arrived and took the baby, his face pale as he watched Sophia cough so hard, she struggled for breath. “They were making toast,” he muttered, the vision of of the way his daughter had tried to fight a fire kept flashing in his brain. Dio mio, things could have been a lot worse. “Rosie and Alexander are on their way to look after the kids.”

And just as he spoke, a black shiny Range Rover sped up the drive.

Before Alexander had switched off the engine, a wide-eyed Rosie, wearing leggings tucked inside ankle Uggs, and one of Alexander’s hoodies over her pj’s, was out the passenger door and racing towards the ambulance.

“Who’s hurt?”

Susan poked her head out of the ambulance door and flashed Rosie a grin.

“Ah, I see the gang’s all here. Sophia’s inhaled a bit of smoke. Emily’s fine. A little shaken up, but her oxygen levels are good. We’re taking Sophia in, just to make sure she’s okay.”

Rosie puffed out a relieved breath.

“Okay. Gimme Emily.”


As Rosie carried Emily back into the house, the child wound her arms around her neck. “We were hungry and made toast.”

Rosie popped a kiss on her pale cheek. “Yeah, and nearly burned the house down.”

“We didn’t want to wake anyone. We wanted toast and peanut butter.”

When Rosie entered the kitchen-living space, the evidence spread around the worktop told its own story. Slices of wholemeal bread, toasted to a variety of degrees, were spread over the worktop. Clearly, the girls hadn’t had much luck in their endeavour. The toaster oven was buried in a fire blanket.

“Who’d have thought a toaster oven could cause this amount of mess?”

With his helmet tucked under his arm the fireman nodded.

“Everything electrical in a kitchen can be a hazard, especially in the hands of a child. On a positive note, it was clear they had a fire escape plan.” He jerked his chin. “There’s a fire extinguisher on the wall, but no way a child could use it. Everyone needs a fire blanket or an extinguisher in a kitchen. Preferably both, neither are expensive. And everyone in the house should be shown how to use them in case of an emergency.”

Rosie nodded and rocked a sleepy Emily.

“It’s certainly a wake-up call.”


Six hours later….

When Bronte and Nico, carrying Sophia, opened the door of the house and entered the kitchen, the reek of smoke still hung in the air.

His knots in his belly went tight at the thought of what might have been.

A hollow-eyed Rosie had Eve and baby Mila in their high chairs and was feeding them breakfast. The kids looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and none the worse for their evening excursion.

“Coffee’s ready,” she said.

Nico winked as he took his daughter upstairs.

Meanwhile, her best friend simply slumped into a chair and rested her blonde head on her folded arms.

Rosie poured her a cup of the black stuff, and then shifted to give her a shoulder rub.

“You’ve had a bad scare.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with that child,” Bronte whispered.

Rosie made a face. “My mother used to say the same thing about me.”

Bronte lifted her head. “You were bad.”

“To the bone.”

Bronte laughed, which had been Rosie’s plan all along. “God, do you remember the time we climbed onto the barn roof to see if we could touch the clouds?”

Rosie grinned at the memory. “Five years old and Stoooooopid.”

Bronte took a sip of her coffee, and stared unseeing through the glass sliding doors into the garden. “We’ve had a lucky escape.”

“What we’ve had is a wake-up call,” Rosie said and took a seat at the table. “I’ve already been online and ordered fire blankets for this kitchen and mine. Something a child could easily use if they found themselves confronting an emergency.”

Bronte reached out and took Rosie’s hand, and squeezed. “Thanks. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Rosie squeezed her back. “We’re family. We do what families do.”


Nico entered, and a made a face.

“It is going to take time to get rid of the smell of smoke.”

He took time to study his wife’s exhausted face, then picked her up and sat with her on his lap.

She rested her weary head on his strong shoulder.

“When Sophia and Emily have had a long nap, we will need to sit them down and have a serious talk about touching electrical appliances…. again,” he said, his voice deep and growly.

Bronte heaved out a sigh. “What’s the answer, punishment?”

“I think,” Nico said, rubbish his cheek on her head. “The fright they gave themselves, and us, may be punishment enough.”

“Can I just say one thing?” Rosie asked.

Nico nodded. “Anything.”

Rosie bit down hard on her bottom lip.

“Your toaster’s…. toast.”




Nothing like a little kitchen drama.

Don’t forget NO RULES is out today. We’re just waiting for the Google Play links and I’ll do an alert here and talk to you live right NOW on my Facebook author page!  A new release is always a huge feeling of excitement tinged with hot white fear. It never gets any easier.

Love and hugs,

Christine X

Time for another sneak peek…

emily's a hoot!


It’s Friday and it’s Ferranti time, and time, dear readers, to grab a coffee…

Bronte’s in the car on her way home from the school pick-up. In the car with her today are, Tonio, Luca, Emily and Sophia. She’s had a good and productive day with Rosie at The Dower House where they discussed and tried ideas for new mini-muffin recipes. When the kids return home they’re in for a treat. It’s the end of a busy week, the kids are bound to be tired. All is quiet in the car, until…

“My mummy says that because I brush my teeth until they’re squeaky clean, I’m a Good Christian,” Emily said. Bronte had to smile at the child’s high and soft voice. At this, Sophia stared hard at Emily—a look which made Emily shrug. “I am a good and kind person.”

“You are,” Sophia agreed. And Bronte wished some of Emily’s goodness and kindness would rub off on her best friend. Then Sophia held up a finger. “But, you don’t wannabe a doormat. You need to find a happy medium.”

Luca frowned at his twin. “What’s a happy medium?”

“How do I know?” Sophia said. “Everyone has their own happy medium.”

Luca folded his arms. “I don’t get it.”

Sophia sent him a bland look. “Well, we can’t say you’re a Good Christian can we? Because you don’t brush. You suck the toothpaste out of the tube.”

“Ew,” Emily said.

Luca’s face burned. “I don’t do that anymore,” he roared.

“Ew,” Emily said again, and added more fuel to the fire. “Your teeth will rot and go black in your head and fall our.”

Sophia nodded, her lips pursed in deep disapproval. “No girls will kiss you with bad breath.”

“I don’t have bad breath,” Luca roared again. And to prove it he heaved a big breath over the girls. When both slapped a hand over their nose and mouth, he glared and glowered. “I do NOT!”

“Jesus Christ,” Emily said in a stage whisper filled with awe and wonder, “Can see you.”


“Now, now,” Bronte said, staging an intervention before things got physical in the back seat. “Settle down while I’m driving.” And out of the corner of her eye, she caught Tonio’s head-shake and wide grin.

“Anyway,” Sophia said. “We have our own family chapel at Ludlow Hall. So Luca can go along and kneel in the phew and talk to Jesus and God and the Lords.”

“Pew,” Tonio corrected from the front seat.

“Whatever. And do not interrupt me please, Tonio.” Sophia instructed. “Luca can go along to our chapel and chat to the Holy Ghost and confess his many sins…”

Luca’s head swung around, his dark curls bounced, his eyes flashing. “I don’t have many sins. If you want to see a wicked girl, you just look in the mirror, Sophia Ferranti…”

Undeterred, his sister continued, “… And beg for forgiveness.”

“I think it’s really cool you have your own chapel,” Emily said in her soft breathy voice as she poured oil on troubled waters.

“It is,” Sophia agreed. “We have lots of bodies buried there.”

Emily’s eyes bugged in her head. “Really?”

Sophia nodded like a wise old owl. “Yup. Lots of old bones from the Ludlow family for hundreds of years.”

“Is it spooky?” Emily wanted to know, a constellation of freckles standing out against her pale skin.

Sophia thought about it. “I dunno. It doesn’t feel spooky.”

“The chapel has lots of ghosts,” Luca said. He pressed his fist to his chest. “I feel them in here. But papa said they’re friendly ghosts because they’re our family and they love us.”

Aw,  Bronte smiled at that. How sweet was her husband?

Meanwhile, Emily’s eyes were like saucers. “Like Caspar? He’s a friendly ghost.”

Sophia made a snort of derision.

“Luca Ferranti, you’ve never seen a ghost, ever. If you did, you’d scream like a girl.”

“Would not!” her twin roared.

“Would tooooooo!”

“Okay! That’s enough. I’m driving,” Bronte reminded the twins.

“Yeah, you don’t want mama to crash the car and then we die and end up ghosts, do we?” Luca hissed to the sister from hell.

A sister who made a horrible face and hissed right back, “Stoooooopid… boy!”


All was quiet.

Silence reigned supreme—until…

Bronte brought the car to a halt on the gravel driveway at the rear of The Dower House.

She turned to beam a lovely smile on her children.

“Here we are! Home safe and sound. Hands up who wants a hot chocolate with marshmallows?

Four hands shot into the air.

Bribed with sugar, it worked to keep the peace every single time.

The kids gathered their backpacks from the trunk and barrelled into house.

“Hey.” Rosie grabbed them in a group hug. “How are my favourite people in the whole wide world?”

Hanging up her lightweight duck down jacket and toeing off her sheepskin ankle boots, Bronte flashed her a wink. “They’re all going to take off their shoes and wash their hands, like Good Christians.”


As they trooped out the door and up the stairs, the twins still bickering, Rosie turned to Bronte. “What’s all that about?”

Bronte, organising ingredients for the promised hot chocolate took her time to respond,

“Do you find Ludlow Chapel spooky?”

Rosie blinked. “Ah, place of worship. Good Christian. Spooky—gotcha.” She thought about it. “It has a certain vibe, a sort of frisson in the atmosphere. But lots of really old places have that.”

At the huge stainless steel stove, Bronte held a wooden spoon and slowly stirred the milk, added coco powder.

“I go to the Chapel on birthdays and talk to mum and dad. I light the beeswax candles and stare at the candle light and let my mind go free. I swear I can feel them sitting right next to me.”

Rosie’s brown eyes filled and she moved around the granite worktop to give her best friend a big hug. “They’d have got a such a kick out of your brood. I miss them, too.”

“I believe they’re always with us.”

“Anything’s possible,” Rosie said.

The sound of footsteps on the stairs had Bronte shake her head and laugh. “All this talk of ghosts and family bones buried in the chapel has made me sentimental.”


“And here come the starving hoard,” Rosie said as the kids gathered around the table and eyed a large covered plate. She caught the pushey-shovey going on between the twins. “If you all sit quietly, you’ll receive your just reward. No fighting, please, Sophia and Luca.” Then, like a magician, she removed the plate cover and grinned at the collective ooh’s and ahh’s. “We have dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and… chocolate.”

Bronte laid a laden tray of white porcelain mugs filled to the brim with mini-marshmallows. “And here’s hot chocolate to go with all that chocolate.”

Emily beamed as she scooped up the sweet treat with her spoon. “This is the best muffin I’ve ever tasted. Thank you, Bronte.”

“You’re most welcome, Emily.”

“At breakfast this morning, papa was so tired,” Tonio told the room at large, “he yawned so wide his jaw cracked.”

Emily turned to him and her look of utter love and devotion made Bronte and Rosie look at each other and go, Aww.

“Coffee,” Emily said, her blue eyes twinkling. “He needed coffee. My daddy says a yawn is a silent scream for—coffee.”

When everyone laughed, a thrilled Emily turned to Bronte and Rosie.

“Wanna hear a joke?”

Rosie bit down hard on her bottom lip and nodded. “Hit me with it, Em.”

The little girl stared right into Rosie’s eyes and said, “Decaf.”


Once the laughter had died down, Bronte ran a hand over Emily’s red curls.

“You’re coming out of your shell, darling.”

Emily nodded. “My mummy said it’s because Sophia’s a good influence.”

Her mouth edged with chocolate, Sophia nodded and accepted the accolade as if it was her right. “I’m Italian.”


Like Bronte, I’m having a really productive week, writing wise.

I’m on a roll and working on the next Ludlow Hall story – Gregorio Ancelotti and the woman who only wants him for his body and refuses to commit. Guess who wins?

Plus, I’m more than half way through the first draft of Our Rules, and it’s clicking along at a pace, too. AND I’m working on a couple of Big Projects in the background.

Don’t forget No Rules is available on pre-order.

The story goes live everywhere next Friday – 26th January.

It’s when a story’s about to go live that the nerves kick in, a bit like stage-fright. Doesn’t matter how many books I write the anxiety never ends.

You guys make it all worthwhile!


Christine X

It’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peek…




Greetings and happy 2018!

Here’s the first Ludlow Hall short story of the year!


It’s Friday evening and Nico and Tonio are in the Range Rover escorting Sophia, Emily and Luca home after their first week of the New Year back at school…

As he drove the car towards The Dower House, home, his wife and his baby girl, Nico wore a dark and brooding face. He’d had one of those days. A day where everything that could go wrong, had gone wrong. A busy and trouble filled day at Ludlow Hall. Six key members of staff were down with flu and needed to be isolated for ten days. He detested using agency staff, but needs must. Three Grand bedroom suites had been negatively impacted by a burst pipe in a toilet in the floor above. The leak hadn’t been detected in time to prevent one unholy mess. Three suites, three sets of floor to ceiling raw silk curtains, expensive handcrafted beds made of smooth oak, mattresses, and carpets—destroyed. And the smell… He didn’t want to even think of it. Their insurance company, in the first instance, hadn’t exactly been nimble footed in their response. Not until he’d lit a fire under their collective ass had they sent a couple of loss adjusters pretty damned fast. The full cost of redecoration, yada, yada, would be covered. And so it bloody well should. Didn’t the premiums cost him a small fortune? Thank goodness the Hall’s interior decorator, Janine, bless her heart, had already organised the professional clean-up, decorating team and suppliers to replace the soft and hard furnishings. Alexander had taken control of the bookings and managed to move two couples to upgraded cottages in the grounds, much to the thrilled delight of the clients. Ludlow Hall was always full to capacity, which was a testament to the hard work of his outstanding staff, but if something when wrong, like it surely had gone wrong this morning, then there was nothing worse than disappointing a client. Nothing worse.

“My mummy,” Emily’s breathy voice began from the back seat. Nico adored the child. She had fairy hair and a lovely little fairy face, and a kind and loving nature. Her parents were rightly proud of their little girl. “My mummy said that my daddy is now a beta male and that’s because he has completely lost his virginity.”

Cue a stunned silence.

Tonio, sitting in the passenger seat, gazed wide-eyed into the road ahead.

Nico’s belly plunged and his hands went clammy on the steering wheel.

Mio dio.

Sophia, staring drowsily out of the window into the darkening and freezing landscape, turned her head to frown at her best friend in the whole wide world. “That can’t be right. They must have lost their virginity years ago, or you wouldn’t be here.”

Emily thought for a while about the sensational logic of the statement.

“You might be right,” she said in her soft voice.

Sophia, still staring hard at her friend, voiced her opinion, “The word is virility.”

Nico prayed to heaven to let the girls stop the conversation right there.

Luca proved he was wide awake by asking, “What’s a beta male and what’s virility and how come he lost it?”

By this time, Tonio had slid down in the seat and was shaking with laughter.

Nico sent him a black look to cease and desist, but it only made the boy laugh harder.

“It means he’s gotta broken penis,” said Miss Sophia Ferranti, who, her father decided, knew far too bloody much about too bloody much.

“Ew,” said Luca, his dark eyes wide with horror. “Can he get it fixed?”

“It’s to do with getting old,” said Sophia, on a roll. She turned to Emily. “Your daddy has grey hair, hasn’t he?”

Emily nodded so hard her curls danced. “Yes. Although he’s lost most of his hair because of low flying aircraft.”

Tonio choked.

Even Nico had to bite down hard on his bottom lip to prevent a laugh at that one.

Meanwhile Sophia, looking at her friend as if she was beyond stupid, said, “That is ridicalus. Your daddy lost his hair because of hormones and his old bones. I heard my auntie Rosie and mama talking about the advance of science and a little blue pill for a man with a broken penis. It fixes it right away.”

Luca’s dark brows rose. “Well then, that’s a relief,” he said.

Nico cleared his throat and tried, without luck, to catch his daughter’s eye in the rear view mirror.

“My daddy was upset at losing his hair, but my mummy said she loves him anyway,” said Emily, loyal to the bone.

Sophia nodded and jerked her chin in the direction of the driver. “My papa is gonna be a hot silver fox,” she said.

The way Tonio crowed in the front seat had Sophia crane her neck to look at him.

“What’s so funny? Papa has five grey hairs. I counted them just the other day. Auntie Rosie said we shouldn’t mention it in case it’s a touchy subject for a hot silver fox. You’re not touchy, are you papa?”

And there he was thinking the day couldn’t get any worse.

He was a silver fox.

And any day now it looked as if he’d need Viagra for his old bones.

As Nico, heart heavy, swung the car through the gates of The Dower House, he shook his head.

“Not at all. Remind me to have a little chat with Auntie Rosie. For each grey hair on my head, I lay the blame for each and every one firmly at her door.”

“I love Auntie Rosie,” said Luca in a whiney and tired voice. “Don’t be mean to her.”

Sophia leaned over to pat him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. Mama said you will never, ever, need the little pill because you are filled to the brim with toblerone.”

Cue another stunned silence.

“Testosterone,” corrected Tonio, wiping tears of hilarity from his cheeks.

Nico, spirits lifted, brought the car to a halt.


It was a happy man who hugged his wife and kissed his baby girl on her flushed cheek.

Bronte wore black skinny jeans and a matching cashmere sweater. Her ash blonde hair was tied in a loose top knot on her head. She smelled amazing, and so did the house.

He took off his coat and suit jacket. Sniffing the air, he recognized the herby scent of beef and his favourite pasta dish.

How had he got so lucky to have such a wife, a family and a wonderful home?

“I heard about the leak. What a bummer,” Bronte said, and went, unresisting, into his arms.

“I am just relieved that I am filled with so much toblerone I won’t need Viagra.” He said and gazed down into her puzzled but laughing face. “How does it feel to be married to a hot silver fox?”

“Oh, Lord, I knew Sophia wouldn’t be able to keep her tongue in her head,” Bronte said. She ran her fingers through smooth hair black as ink. “A sprinkle only. Anyway, you’re too young to be a silver fox.”

He dropped a soft kiss on her soft mouth, and sighed. “Grazie. When that day comes, at least I will be an Italian silver fox.”

“You forgot the HOT bit.”



Aw, poor Nico. We all get days like that. And in book news, NO RULES is finished! Yay! Just a final read-through and then proofing and another read through and formatting and then it will go on pre-order. Once the date is fixed, I’ll give all y’all the links.

I’m already well into OUR RULES and the next Ludlow Hall story about Gregorio Ancelotti and his rocky road to true love. Lots to come!


Christine X