Tuesday, 19 March 2019

New Release Spotlight, Extract & Review: The Island Affair by Helena Halme

The Island Affair by Helena Halme
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 3634 KB
Print Length: 253 pages
Publisher: Newhurst Press (21 Mar. 2019)
Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.

Can one summer mend a broken heart?
After the tragic loss of their 17-year-old son, journalist Alicia and surgeon Liam struggle to keep their marriage afloat. During their usual holiday to Åland, the Nordic islands where Alicia grew up, the rift between the couple deepens.
Enter tall, blonde Patrick, with the most piercing blue eyes Alicia has ever seen. When Patrick confides in Alicia about the near loss of his daughter and the breakdown of his marriage, Alicia is surprised to feel an affinity with the Swedish reporter. He’s the only person who understands Alicia.
But secrets held by people close to Alicia give her life another surprising turn and she finds there is a reason to live – and love – again.

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Alicia wakes up in her bed with a fuzzy head. The curtains to the bay window in the bedroom have been closed, and she hears muffled voices from downstairs. She puts her hand to her body and discovered she's wearing a pale blue dressing gown over the oversized t-shirt she sleeps in. The clock by the bed shows 25 minutes past 3am. On the small bedside table she sees a half-empty glass of water, and a packet of some pills she's never seen before.
Then she remembers, and a horror rises in the pit of he stomach. She starts out of bed and crosses the landing to Stefan's bedroom. The familiar musty smell of her teenage son, her nearly grown-up man, her beautiful boy, hits her as soon as she opens the door, searching the dark room for the bed in the middle of the space. She wants to see signs of the lanky shape, looks for a narrow foot peeking out from under the familiar blue and white covers, with the Spurs football club cockerel logo on top. She prays for the sight of a mop of blonde hair on the pillow above the bedcovers. Carefully, slowly as if still in a dream, Alicia walks over the threshold. When sees the bed is neatly made up and empty, she falls onto her knees and lets out a cry.
She hears rapid steps behind her and feels Liam's hands on her shoulders. He's squeezing her hard, too hard. She can feel tears running down her own face and realises she's weeping. She's making noises she doesn't recognise, animal sounds like a wolf's howling.

Chapter One
Alicia is standing looking at the vast display of bottles in the ship’s tax-free shop when the floor beneath her suddenly shifts and she almost loses her balance. The ferry must be on the open-sea section of the journey. Liam has gone to sit in one of the ‘sleeping chairs’. He has taken a seasickness tablet and now feels sleepy. They know from experience that he will be fine as long as he stays still and keeps his eyes on the horizon. Luckily, the quiet compartment has vast windows overlooking the sea.

The ferry travels past the small islands off the coast of Stockholm, before heading for the Åland archipelago. Usually the sea is calm, but if there are high winds the sea is in such motion on the open stretch that the crew have to close the bars and restaurants for an hour or so.
Alicia tries to listen to any announcement above the clinking sounds of the bottles, but she can’t hear anything. Again, the ship moves abruptly and she loses her balance. She suddenly finds herself looking into a pair of piercingly blue eyes.
She had noticed the absurdly tall man walking along the aisles when she entered the shop. He was difficult to ignore in his trendy jeans, sailor shoes and soft suede jacket. He had an expensive-looking tan, ruffled blond hair and arresting eyes. He’s taller than even Liam. But Alicia hadn’t spotted him standing next to her until she bumped into him.
He takes hold of her arms. Standing directly in front of her, his gaze is so direct and suggestive that Alicia is flustered.
‘Sorry,’ she says and the man smiles. The intensely azure eyes, and the slightly open mouth, surrounded by laughter lines, make her own lips lift into a smile. The sensation on her mouth feels strange; she doesn’t remember when she has last felt the urge to smile.
Now Alicia feels his strong hands on her elbows. Sensing the heat rise into her neck and up to her face, she looks away, embarrassed.
When did she last blush?
‘Don’t be, I enjoyed it,’ the man says, and his smile grows wider at her discomfort.
She straightens up, and the man’s hands fall away from her. For a mad moment, Alicia wishes she could ask him to put them back and hold her, but she dismisses such thoughts and gives a short, nervous laugh.
The man stretches his hand out and says, ‘Patrick Hilden.’ He has a very Swedish accent, from Stockholm, Alicia thinks. She tastes the name on her lips.
‘Alicia O’Connell.’ His hand lingers around Alicia’s fingers.
‘You’re not an islander, then?’ he says.
‘Is it that obvious?’ Alicia manages to say. She doesn’t know how. She’s
finding it difficult to speak; she’s breathless, as if her lungs have been emptied of air. ‘It takes one to know one,’ the man continues to smile shamelessly into Alicia’s

“I moved with my mum to Åland when I was a baby, but went away to university and never returned,’ Alicia says. She doesn’t know why she feels she wants to tell this man her life story.
‘Ah, that makes sense. All the best ones leave.’ Patrick says.
‘And you, you are obviously not from Åland either?’
He laughs, ‘Originally from Finland but I now live in Stockholm. One of the
unlucky ones.’
Alicia returns the man’s laugh. Everybody on the island and in Finland seems to
hate the arrogant Stockholmare.
After what seems like minutes, Patrick lets go of Alicia’s hand but he’s still
standing so close to her that his scent of expensive leather and something else, a musty, manly tang, envelops her. She knows she ought to take a step back, but she can’t move. She looks up at his face and those eyes again.
‘You don’t sound Finnish,’ Alicia says, and then, seeing the man’s raised eyebrows, adds, laughing awkwardly, ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.’
The boat shifts again, and Patrick puts his hand out in case Alicia loses her balance.
But this time she’s prepared and steadies herself with a hand on the edge of the drinks display. ‘Not much of a sailor, am I?’
Patrick laughs into her eyes. ‘You’re over for a holiday?’
‘Yes.’ Alicia replies simply. His scent and presence is intoxicating. She isn’t hearing or seeing anything else but this tall, blue-eyed stranger. It’s as if he has mesmerized her, and the sounds and smells of the old, sad, disinfectant-scented ship have disappeared.
‘Here you are!’ Alicia is jolted out of her hypnotized state by an almost equally tall and elegant woman striding towards them, speaking loudly in an Åland accent. When she sees Alicia, she looks her up and down and then, not giving her another glance, turns to Patrick, and says, ‘Look, they’re about to close the shop. There’s a storm apparently, so we need to get a move on. Did you find the champagne?’
‘This is Alicia O’Connell,’ Patrick says, ignoring her urgent question, and stretching his arm towards Alicia. He turns to her smiling. ‘And this very rude woman is my wife, Mia.’
The woman looks at Alicia more closely and exclaims, ‘Alicia!’ Her voice is shrill and Alicia has a sudden urge to cover her ears with her hands. Instead, she

smiles, again. Mia’s arms are around her, pulling her into a tight embrace.
‘Hello, it’s been a long time.’ Alicia replies from inside the woman’s hug. Her
thin, but muscular arms hold Alicia tightly.
‘So sorry, I didn’t recognize you!’ she says, releasing Alicia.
‘You know each other?’ Patrick says, his eyebrows high.
‘We went to school together!’ Mia shrieks. ‘But we have to get on. Alicia, are
you going to be on the island over Midsummer? You must come to our party! Give me your email, will you?’
‘Hmm,’ Alicia says, not knowing what to say. She glances over at Patrick, but his face betrays no emotion. He looks more bored than anything else now.
‘Oh, don’t worry, I’ve got your mum’s address. You must all come. I’ll send you the details!’
With that she drags her husband away. Patrick turns and looks at Alicia. With his right hand, he tips an invisible cap on his forehead as if in a salute. Alicia stands there with a stupid smile on her face. She watches Mia speak to Patrick rapidly, like firing a machine gun at him. Patrick’s shoulders are wide. She can see his blond hair curl up at the collar of his shirt. She imagines stroking him, running her fingers along his neck and into his thick blonde hair.
What’s happening to me?

The Island Affair will be out March 2019
Copyright © 2018 by Helena Halme
All rights reserved.
No part of this text may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

When I first began reading this novel, it took time to settle into the narrative and the author's writing style, however, after a chapter or two, the story pulls you in and doesn't let go until the story has unfolded. 

Alicia and Liam are struggling to come to terms with the tragic death of their son Stephan seven months ago and this is the first time they are visiting Alicia's home where she grew up. Without him there, the trip acts as a catalyst for both to put into perspective the state of their marriage and decide if it is worth saving. 

Living in a Nordic country, I understood both Alicia's love of the Åland islands where she grew up and Liam's frustrations and lack of understanding for the culture which means so much to his wife. At a critical time in their marriage, the things Liam regards as 'twee', amplify everything wrong in their married life even though he is the one who betrayed his wedding vows. Yet, Alicia seeks comfort in what is familiar...it's her haven.
The added complications within the narrative add fascinating twists to the overall story in a way I didn't anticipate. I also felt empathy for a character I really shouldn't have liked, yet I hope in my mind at least, he finds happiness too. 

Overall an intriguing novel with a stunning backdrop. 

A prize-winning author, Helena Halme writes contemporary fiction with a hint of both Nordic Noir and romance. She’s a former BBC journalist, bookseller and magazine editor. Originally from Finland where she gained an MSc in Marketing, she also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and writes in English.
Helena acts as Nordic Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors and helps other writers publish and market their books.
Helena has published seven fiction titles, including 
The English Heart, a best-selling Nordic romance, which won an Awesome Indies badge on publication. The bittersweet 1980s love story between a Finnish student and a British Navy officer is now a series, including a prequel novella, The Young Heart, the sequels The Faithful HeartThe Good Heart and Helena’s latest title, The True Heart, book four in The Nordic Heart Series. Helena has also published a non-fiction title, Write Your Story: Turn Your Life into Fiction in 10 Easy Steps.
Helena is addicted to Nordic Noir and dances to Abba songs when nobody’s watching.
Website: http://www.helenahalme.com/     Twitter :@helenahalme     Author page onFacebook     Instagram@helenahalme