This post is the start of what I’m calling ‘Blog Tour January’ (highly imaginative name, I know). I have a whole load of blog tours coming this month, including exclusive excerpts, guest posts and reviews.
Today’s blog tour is for Brake Failure by Alison Brodie. 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.” I have an exclusive excerpt for you!
Brake Failure Synopsis
“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 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?
Brake Failure: Exclusive Excerpt
‘I refuse to be ordinary!’ Ruby yelled. Remembering the lipstick she’d found in the glove compartment, she grabbed it and spread it over her lips, the car swerving as she tried to see her reflection in the rear-view mirror. Then she liberally sprayed herself with the perfume.
Loud and defiant, she sang along to the music: ‘You gotta whip it up and hit me like a ton of lead. If I blow my top will you let me go to your head-’
A police motorbike slid past, lights flashing as the driver flagged her down.
‘Oh, no!’ she wailed. Her thoughts zigzagging desperately: what had she done wrong?
The policeman herded her onto the gravel verge then parked his motorbike at a distance and removed his helmet. Her stomach lurched. She’d seen enough movies of the Deep South to recognise this man as the archetypical law enforcer who stood over chain gangs. He was huge with a broken-nose and square jaw, his eyes hidden behind reflective sunglasses. He wore a stone-coloured short-sleeved shirt and brown trousers tucked into long boots.
He spoke into the radio at his shoulder, his sunglasses focussed on her licence plate. He was behaving as if she were armed and dangerous. Who was he talking to? Why was he taking so long? Was he trying to scare her? Well, it was certainly working: she was trembling from head to foot.
With a nod, he clicked the radio, and ambled over.
Ruby, realising the striptease music would give a bad impression, frantically sought to turn it off, trying buttons and switches, so when the policeman drew level, the windscreen wipers were thrashing, the hazard lights were flashing, and ZZ Top was still blaring.
He reached in a hand, slipped it under the steering wheel and there was instant silence. Abruptly, he swung away and sneezed.
‘Mighty strong perfume you’ve got there, ma’am.’ He rested his hands on her window sill, his biceps straining against the sleeves of his shirt. His head was shaven to a prickly stubble; a thin silver scar traced a path across his scalp. ‘Where you headin’?’
She was repulsed by those broad hairy hands that had taken possession of her car, angry that he had deliberately terrified her. She was tugged between fury and good manners. Good manners won. ‘Actually, I’m just out for a drive, officer.’
Grinning, he removed his sunglasses, revealing sparkling blue eyes. The transformation was startling. She felt a strange fluttering in the pit of her stomach but just as quickly it was gone. Granddad had always warned her that policemen were thugs in uniform. Now, looking at the various weapons of subjugation on this man – gun, knife, handcuffs and baton – she could well believe it.
‘You on vacation?’ the policeman enquired.
She saw his metal star and his name tag: H. Gephart. The spade-shaped badges on both sleeves shouted: SHERIFF.
‘Yes,’ she lied, knowing he would be less inclined to harass her if he believed she was just here for a holiday.
‘We don’t get many English folk in Kansas.’
‘I can imagine,’ she said flatly.
He paused as if sensing her hostility, then pointed down the road. ‘I pulled you over to warn you the blacktop ends in two miles. Don’t want to be hitting rocks at eighty.’ He studied her thoughtfully. ‘Don’t know how you missed the sign.’ His gaze dropped to the seat beside her. ‘You bin drinking?’
Baffled, she turned to see what he was staring at. The tequila bottle. ‘That has nothing to do with me. I found it-’
‘Drinking and driving isn’t tolerated in this State, ma’am.’
‘I do not drink alcohol, officer.’ She saw his brow raised in disbelief and added crisply: ‘apart from a glass of Chablis. But I would never, ever touch anything like this!’ As she snatched up the bottle, it slipped through her fingers and flew out the window.
He looked at the bottle on the gravel. He looked at her. ‘Littering’s a two hundred dollar fine.’ He picked up the bottle and handed it back to her. There was pity in his eyes as he studied her lips. ‘The first step to having a drink problem is owning up to it.’
She was finding it very hard to remain polite. ‘Surely, officer, an empty bottle does not mean one has a drink problem?’
‘It does if you lose control of your vehicle.’ He jerked his chin. ‘You were swerving back there.’
‘I was applying lipstick.’
‘At eighty miles an hour?’
She’d heard his patronising tone and her fury exploded; but like steam escaping from a pressure-cooker valve it came out in a tiny hiss. ‘Fascist.’
He was no longer smiling, and his eyes – now a glacial blue – held on to hers like pincers. ‘Did you say something, ma’am?’
She gripped the tequila bottle as if it were his neck. He stared at her. She stared at him. And in that moment, something passed between them; it was as if each were saying: I don’t trust you, either.
‘Can I take a look at your driver’s licence?’ he asked.
She handed it over, relieved that she hadn’t yet changed her maiden name to her married name. There was no way he could trace her.
He studied it. ‘Okay, Miss Thompson. I’d advise you to turn your vehicle around, head back to where you’re staying and sober up.’ He walked to his motorbike, swung a leg over it and waited.
Knowing he was watching her, she attempted a smooth and competent U-turn and almost ended up in a ditch. As she drove away she could feel his eyes boring into the back of her head.
‘What a horrid creature,’ she muttered, thankful that she would never see the man again.
Like what you see? You can buy a copy of Brake Failure on Amazon, or read more about the book on Goodreads.
About the Author
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.”
Alison 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.
A disastrous modelling assignment in the Scottish Highlands gave Alison an idea for her first romance novel, Face to Face. It was taken up by Dinah Wiener, the first agent Alison sent it to. Three weeks later, Alison signed a two-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. Subsequently, Face to Face was published in English, German and Dutch. “Vain, but wildly funny leading lady.” -Scottish Daily Mail. It was also chosen as Good Housekeeping’s “Pick of the Paperbacks.”
Unfortunately, Alison then suffered from Second-Book Syndrome. The publisher’s deadline loomed but Alison couldn’t think of a story! She found the whole experience a nightmare; and this is why she cautions first-time authors not to sign a multi-book deal unless they are prepared!
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.