I’ve got a fun, quirky read for the end of this first week of the new year … and even better, the lovely Alison Brodie was kind enough to stop by to answer a few questions about herself and her book. And then a little later I get to tell you what I thought of it 😉
Hi, Alison, thank you for joining me today.
My pleasure, Julie. Thank you for inviting me.
I have some questions. Ready?
BRAKE FAILURE is set during the whole Y2K hullabaloo. Is it true that the American government spent 150 billion dollars on preparing for the Millennium Bug?
Yep. It’s true. Also, Virgin Atlantic Airlines would not fly that night. Hong Kong was stockpiling food. Paris had a command centre. (Recently, I met a Canadian financial consultant in Barcelona and he totally remembered the panic everyone was in to protect their money).
You were in Kansas at the time. Were you scared?
At first, I didn’t know what the Millennium Bug meant. Then someone explained that if the computers on the planet registered all those zeroes in 2000, they would crash and we would all end up back in the Dark Ages. As Lionel Shriver says in her bestselling novel, We Have To Talk About Kevin: “1999, a year widely mooted to be the end of the world.”
Yikes. Scary. Besides the fear of Armageddon, did you enjoy your time in Kansas?
Loved it! I loved the people, the way of life, the BBQs! People think Kansas is flat and dull, but it has rolling hills, pocket of pretty woodlands and loads of sparkling lakes and, of course, the great Missouri River. And so much history. And culture.
You live in Biarritz now? What is the down-side and what is the up-side of living there?
Downside: I can’t speak the language very well, so I miss out on sitting in a café and eavesdropping on other people’s conversations, like I could do in America and England.
Upside: It’s against the law in France for guys to wear shorts in swimming pools, consequently one gets an eyeful of French hunks in very tight briefs (“slip de bain”)
I bet you love the food?
Well, in the local markets they serve pigs trotters with red wine for breakfast. Then for lunch they eat “gras double” (tripe, which is the stomach lining of the cow). Dinner is snails in garlic-butter, followed by eels. It’s true: the French eat anything that moves. Luckily, their cakes are out of this world! And I always have one in the morning when I am writing.
Speaking of your writing. San Francisco has awarded BRAKE FAILURE a 5-star review! Congratulations! Ruby is the heroine of the story. How would you sum her up?
She’s been brought up in a world of good manners and polite conversation, where showing emotion is strictly taboo. Then she gets to Kansas and collides with Sheriff Hank Gephart, who brings out her “inner crazy”.
One last question. When is BRAKE FAILURE to be published?
Monday, 9 January.
Good luck, Alison, and thank you for coming by today!
Thank you, Julie!
by Alison Brodie
Publisher: Clipboard Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Page count: 340
Publication date: 9 January, 2017
Brake Failure is a contemporary romance with humour, suspense and a kick-ass heroine. The story is set in one of the most fascinating periods of America’s history: the months leading up to Y2K “melt-down.”
“Is it too late to tell him you love him when you’re looking down the barrel of his gun?”
Ruby Mortimer-Smyth is an English debutante, destined for Ladies Day at Ascot and taking tea at The Savoy. She knows the etiquette for every occasion and her soufflés NEVER collapse.
She is in control of her life, tightly in control. Until fate dumps her down in … Kansas.
Ruby believes that life is like a car; common-sense keeps it on the road, passion sends it into a ditch. What she doesn’t know is, she’s on a collision course with Sheriff Hank Gephart.
Sheriff Hank Gephart can judge a person. Miss Mortimer-Smyth might act like the Duchess of England but just under the surface there’s something bubbling, ready to explode. She’s reckless, and she’s heading for brake failure. And he’s not thinking about her car.
With the Millennium approaching, Ruby gets caught up in the Y2K hysteria. She joins a group of Survivalists, who give her a gun and advise her to stockpile basic essentials, such as gasoline and water-purifying tablets. So she bulk-buys Perrier, Gentleman’s Relish and macaroons.
Ruby, far from home, is making Unsuitable Friends and “finding herself” for the first time. She falls in with a gang of Hells Angels and falls foul of the law. At every turn, she comes up hard against Sheriff Hank Gephart, whose blue eyes seem to look deep into her soul. She desperately wants him but knows she can never have him.
She’s angry and confused at the emotions he arouses in her. Pushed to her limit, she bursts from her emotional straightjacket.
As the clock strikes midnight of the new Millennium, she’s on a freight train with three million dollars, a bottle of Wild Turkey and a smoking gun.
What happened to Miss Prim-and-Proper? And why did she shoot Mr Right?
Note: Alison Brodie wrote this story from first-hand experience. She lived in Kansas during this time and was stunned by the hysteria, unnerved that the US government was spending $150 billion preparing for Armageddon. As Lionel Shriver says in her novel, We Have To Talk About Kevin: “1999, a year widely mooted beforehand as the end of the world.”
Amazon.com – http://amzn.to/2hJfKph
Amazon.canada – http://amzn.to/2gLOUef
Amazon.co.uk – http://amzn.to/2gLNTDh
Reviews for Brake Failure:
5 * “OMG…I freakin’ LOVED this book…going on the list of one of my favorites of 2016.” –Star Angels Reviews
5* “Everyone needs to read this book. It’s blooming brilliant.” –The Reading Shed
5* “Hilarious.” -Lauren Sapala, Book Reviewer and Writers’ Coach.
5* “A laugh-out-tale that will keep you flipping the pages as fast as possible.” –Tome Tender
5* “Empowering…comical…refreshing.” –San Francisco Book Review
That afternoon, Ruby parked outside Shady Acres. She couldn’t wait for Gephart to ask her out on a date. Then she could tell him she was married. Ha!
He sat in reception. In full uniform. Why couldn’t he have changed into civilian clothes? Now he would make her look like an offender. Or was that his intention? Just because she’d put a few scratches in his police car.
‘Hi, Ruby.’ He stood up, crushing a plastic cup in one hand and tossing it in the bin.
She stared pointedly down at his belt. ‘Are you going to put me in handcuffs?’ she asked sarcastically.
He winked. ‘Not if you’re good.’
Ruby blushed. Why was it that every time she gazed into his eyes, she felt as if a hand was pressing down on her chest? She was only thankful that once she started reading to the old lady, Hank Gephart would go.
The receptionist was busy dealing with two elderly gentlemen, so Ruby and Hank had to wait to sign-in. Ruby felt strangely jittery in the big man’s presence. She only wished he wouldn’t stand so close. She inched further along the reception counter and, wanting to hide her nervousness, started squaring up the brochures into neat piles.
He came closer. ‘Ruby, I don’t like you mixing with Hells Angels.’
She felt his warm breath on her cheek. ‘Is there a law against that?’ Refusing to look at him, she picked up a brochure and found herself reading about incontinence.
‘Then, presumably, I have the freedom to choose with whom I associate?’
‘Yeah, but I’m warning you-’
Warning you. Angrily, she grabbed up another brochure and flicked through it at speed, false teeth and hearing-aids flashing by. ‘Why do you have to be so aggressive? Why can’t you say, “may I suggest?”’
‘Okay.’ He rested his arm along the counter and leant towards her. His eyes were blue, very blue. ‘May I suggest you keep away from them?’
‘No, you may-!’ She stopped abruptly. A matronly nurse was hovering beside them.
‘Well, Hank,’ the nurse said gaily. ‘Is this your lady friend you’ve been telling us about?’
Hank beamed down at Ruby with proprietary pride. ‘It sure is.’
‘I’m not his lady friend,’ Ruby mumbled.
‘Nice to meet you, Ruby,’ the nurse said. ‘I’m Amy.’ She beckoned with a finger as if tempting two small well-behaved children to an exciting treat. ‘If you want to come along, Mrs Amstruther is waiting.’
As they walked along the corridor, Ruby noticed two pretty nurses break off from their conversation to study her. She sensed that Hank had been gossiping about her. She caught up with Amy, determined to quash whatever rumours were flying around. ‘I am not at all familiar with Geph- I mean, Hank.’
The nurse stopped at a door and knocked. ‘I love your accent.’
Ruby persisted. ‘I have merely bumped into him on various occasions.’
‘We know.’ The nurse winked and opened the door. ‘You two go on in.’
As Ruby spluttered indignantly, Hank took her by the elbow. ‘Mrs Amstruther?’ he called. ‘I’ve brought my friend to meet you.’
‘Come in, come in,’ a quavery voice replied.
Ruby stepped across the threshold and froze.
Mrs Amstruther was blind.
The old lady was sat up in bed, dressed in a faded, flower-print bed-jacket, her eyes wrapped in bandages; her skin appeared almost translucent, the pink skull showing beneath a mop of dazzling white hair. She smiled sweetly, reaching out a tentative hand.
Ruby felt a pang. Mrs Amstruther shouldn’t be here; she should be in a cottage-garden in Devon with a wicker table laden with a cream tea and a vase of freshly cut delphiniums; and surrounded by her grandchildren.
‘Dear Hank,’ Mrs Amstruther murmured. Ruby stepped forward, and put her hand in the old woman’s. ‘Hello, I’m Ruby.’
‘Oh, how lovely to hear an English voice! You’re so kind, Ruby; volunteering to read to a boring old lady like me.’
‘It’s my pleasure.’
‘Hank didn’t bully you, I hope?’ Mrs Amstruther said in mock gravity.
With an ache of sadness, Ruby gazed down at the old woman so far from home – a home she would never again see. Ruby realised the childish bickering between her and Gephart was pathetic. The discord she had brought into the room, evaporated. ‘I didn’t need to be bullied. I was delighted with Hank for asking me.’
‘Do take a seat, Ruby, dear,’ the old woman said.
Ruby pulled an armchair closer to the bed. The room was sunny, the walls covered in framed photographs of children at the seaside. Beyond the window, at the far perimeter of a vast lawn, a freight train rumbled passed, the melancholic blast of its horn fading into the distance. Gephart, too, was watching it.
Mrs Armstruther’s hand was searching the rumpled bedding. ‘Ruby, could you possibly read a few pages of Wind in the Willows? My son loved it when he was little.’ She brought out a book from under the covers. ‘It’s so annoying not being able to see. Thankfully the bandages come off at the end of the month.’
‘So it’s not …?’
‘Permanent?’ Ruby asked, taking the book.
‘Oh, no, it’s just cataracts; the curse of old age.’
Ruby, discovering the old woman would recover her sight, felt a lightness of spirit; felt she could embrace all her fellow beings – including Hank. He was standing, studying the photos on the wall. Catching his eye, she smiled at him, tilting her head towards the door, a silent message that he could leave.
He wrinkled his brow, evidently unable to gauge her meaning.
She tried again, running her fingers through the air towards the door.
He gave her a stupid look.
‘Are you going?’ she mouthed silently.
He nodded to signify that he understood. Then he shook his head, walked over to the armchair by the window, sat down and rested his hands squarely on his knees.
He was obviously staying.
‘Have you ever read Wind in the Willows, Ruby?’ Mrs Amstruther asked.
‘Yes, years ago.’
The old lady laughed. ‘Mole is delightful, isn’t he? Who is your favourite character?’
‘Toad. I loved it when he dressed up as a woman to escape the police.’ Ruby instantly regretted the words. ‘Of course, I don’t identify with Toad,’ she added hastily, forcing herself not to look at Gephart. ‘I just think he’s a loveable rascal.’
‘Isn’t he just!’ Mrs Amstruther settled back to enjoy the story, and Ruby began:
‘“The Mole had been working hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home …”’
Why is P.C. Plod hanging about anyway? Surely he’s not interested in riverbank creatures.
‘“First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash till he had dust in his throat and eyes and splashes of white-wash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms …”’
He’s staring at me; I know he is.
‘“Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below …’”
This was too much! Ruby glared at him. ‘Haven’t you got a murder to solve?’
‘What?’ Mrs Amstruther jerked in confusion.
Ruby was appalled by her thoughtlessness. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Mrs Amstruther, I was talking to Hank. You see, I don’t want to keep him from his work.’
He folded his arms across his chest and grinned. He was obviously taking delight in her embarrassment. ‘I’m off-duty,’ he said.
For the sake of the old lady, Ruby had to speak sweetly, but there was nothing stopping her from raking the man from head to foot with hostile eyes. ‘Do you always wear uniform when you’re off-duty?’
‘I do when I haven’t had time to get to my locker and change.’
She couldn’t bear to look at that smug face a second longer. She snatched up the book and continued to read. ‘“Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below-’” She stopped in confusion, her cheeks a fiery red.
‘Oh, I’ve read that bit already.’
She could sense him laughing at her. And he was!
He stood up, his eyes dancing mischievously. ‘I’ve got a feeling Ruby can’t concentrate with me here. I’m flustering her pretty little head.’
Her relief that he was going was rapidly replaced by horror. That awful man was insinuating she fancied him! As he passed by, he bent and kissed her on the cheek. ‘I’ll be waiting for you in the lobby … Sweet Cheeks,’ he said softly, squeezing her shoulder.
Wide-eyed and apoplectic, she watched him walk to the door.
‘He’s such a lovely man,’ Mrs Amstruther said after he had gone.
Ruby couldn’t trust herself to speak.
‘The nurses say he’s very handsome. Is he?’
Ruby was still pinning the door with a look of fury. ‘O-h-h, you don’t want to know what I think.’
She picked up the book, her decision made.
She was no longer angry; in fact, she was rather jubilant. Like any institution, this building would have a goods delivery entrance. Well, Gephart, she thought complacently. You’re about to have a long wait because Sweet Cheeks, here, is going out the back.
I found Brake Failure to be a bit more like a humorous coming of age story than a romance but that definitely didn’t stop it from being fun!
Ruby has a bit of a mid-life crisis as she not only finds herself far from the glamorous Paris she envisioned but she finally starts to experience life without someone else’s restrictive guidance and starts to embrace that freedom. She may only spread her wings a little at a time, but she’ll get there one day … and in the least likely manner possible.
It’s a very quirky read so you have to be prepared for that. Not only is it a stranger in a strange land kind of thing, with a posh English miss finding herself in the middle of Kansas, but even the Kansas she’s in is full of characters. I love that she manages to meet some of the most unusual people on the planet, all in just a couple months’ time 🙂 The only (minor) problem I had was that at first I didn’t like the back and forth from the present to the past, but after a bit I got into it – it’s used as a device to direct the flow of the regular story and adds entertaining foreshadowing to what’s going to happen next.
If you are looking for humor and fun, but not a lot of normal happenings, then come along for this journey of one prissy English woman as she manages to find her true self in the decidedly non-posh state of Kansas.
Alison Brodie is a Scot, with French Huguenot ancestors on her mother’s side. Alison was a photographic model for a wide range of products, such as Ducatti motorbikes and 7Up. She was also the vampire in the Schweppes commercial.
Alison lived in Kansas for two years. She loved the people, their friendliness, the history and the BBQs! Now, she lives in Biarritz, France with her rescue mutt, Bayley.
BRAKE FAILURE will be “unleashed” 9 Jan, 2017. See the reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31683339-brake-failure
Alison loves to hear from her readers.
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