I’m delighted to join this Aria Fiction blog tour today, with this feel good historical fiction novel. I’m also giving away an ebook on my Facebook page, so why not hop over there, if you like the sound of the extract.The Olive Garden Choir by Leah Fleming
Published by Aria Fiction Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Blog Tour
Buy on Amazon
An evocative novel of secrets, love and redemption under the Greek sun.
On the beautiful island of Santaniki, close to Crete, it’s not all white sands and sunshine.
When retired bookseller Ariadne Blunt suggests the English residents form a choir, there are
groans of resistance.
After a little persuasion, the group gather in Ariadne’s olive garden to rehearse, but each
member of this choir has their own struggles and secrets. Ariadne’s partner, Hebe, is in
failing health. Clive struggles to accept the loss of his wife while Della, the Pilates teacher,
drinks too much. Then there is Mel, the real songbird amongst them, English wife of a
taverna owner who hides her talent until the choir inspires her to raise her voice once more.
In this tiny community, the choir brings the residents together like never before in a
bittersweet tale of love and loss – and how life can begin again when you let go of the past.
Extract for The Olive Garden Choir by Leah Fleming
Natalie Fletcher made her way gingerly to the house the locals called ‘The Bunker’. It had been built on lottery winnings, it was rumoured, by a young couple called the Partridges. She was carrying a cake, ordered for a party they were giving, and she wanted to get it to them in one piece.
There was talk among the expats about the prospect of the choir and, as in all small villages, word had spread to Irini’s taverna in the square. There, husbands hung out while their wives went to evening classes. Natalie thought it only fair to tell the couple about Ariadne’s idea and invite them to join in.
‘How daft can you get?’ Kelly Partridge sneered. ‘It’s a stupid idea. You can’t make a proper Christmas here without snow and lights, like on Oxford Street. The woman’s off her rocker if she thinks I’d join her tinpot choir. We’ll be going home for Christmas, won’t we, Gary?’
Gary said nothing ‒ he was deep in a computer game.
‘I think it’ll be rather nice,’ Natalie said. ‘Not all of us can get back to the UK and I, for one, will be joining.’
‘Suit yourself. I prefer the talent shows on TV. That’s what I call real singing. How much do I owe you? Can you make us a Christmas cake? My mum isn’t too good at baking. I’ll take it home with me.’
‘I’ll be doing a few. They need to rest for weeks to mature so I bought all the ingredients when I was last in Chania. It’s amazing what you can get there now,’ Natalie said.
‘Really?’ Kelly sniffed. ‘I can’t stand the place, too busy and noisy.’
But you’re both Londoners, Natalie thought, as she walked back to her own small villa. Kelly and her husband were a mystery: they had turned up three years ago, having built this strange cube-like house, on the edge of the rocks that jutted out into the sea. They didn’t associate much with the other expats, instead importing friends from London for parties and holidays. They disappeared from Santaniki for weeks at a time. Natalie was grateful for their custom, though.
The income from her little catering business was more than useful. It paid the rent and gave her a reason to get up in the morning. She loved the aroma of cakes in the oven, of bread and pastry. They soothed her anxious spirit. She couldn’t get into the kitchen and start on a batch of bread.While she was kneading dough, her hands could bash out all her frustrations. Coming to the island had saved her sanity. She had always loved Greece in the good old days, when the children were little, watching them racing into the turquoise sea, making castles on the white sands. They had been happy then, but Craig and Candice had grown up into the sort of adults who kept their distance, never phoning much or texting, even.
Don’t go there. Think about all those rehearsals and the company in the evenings.
She tried to be sociable but preferred providing food for the interminable dinner-party circuit that swung into action once the season came to an end. There was always a dessert to be made. Fortunately she’d taken the Jane Asher cake-decorating course
and her little marzipan figurines were in demand. She had an idea for a Christmas nativity scene made with flour paste hardened into sculptures. Would Ariadne find it acceptable for the charity stall they always held a few weeks before Christmas? This year they were raising funds for refugees. She would make mini Christmas cakes and
puddings, biscuits, gingerbread men and dozens of mince pies. It would keep her busy for weeks.
She was also giving Mel, from the tavern, lessons in baking and pie-making. Poor Mel could do nothing right for Irini Papadaki. As a university student, Mel’s diet had been Pot Noodles and pizza. Her love for Spiro must be under strain when she got only criticism from his mother for being useless in the kitchen.
Greek cuisine was not for the faint-hearted. There were so many vegetable dishes to learn, plus stews, cakes and special pastry, using ingredients poor Mel had never heard of, never mind cooked, but she was a quick learner and a hard worker. Those first years of marriage were special when all you wanted was to please your husband
and make a home for babies. They didn’t last, though. Tears were dropping into Natalie’s dough. How could hers have gone so wrong?