The Paradise Trees by Linda Huber is being republished today with a stunning new cover, and I’m delighted to share an excerpt:
But first, here’s the blurb:
He had found exactly the right spot in the woods. A little clearing, green and dim, encircled by tall trees. He would bring his lovely Helen here… This time, it was going to be perfect.
When Alicia Bryson returns to her childhood home in a tiny Yorkshire village, she finds her estranged father frail and unable to care for himself. Her daughter Jenny is delighted at the prospect of a whole summer playing in the woods at the bottom of the garden, but as soon as Alicia sets foot in Lower Banford, strange and disturbing memories begin to plague her. What happened in her father’s house, all those years ago?
But coping with the uncertainty and arranging Bob’s care plan aren’t Alicia’s only problems. Unknown to her, she has a stalker. Someone is watching, waiting, making plans of his own. To him, Alicia and Jenny are his beautiful Helens… and they should be in Paradise.
(Alicia and her 8-year-old daughter Jenny are staying in Alicia’s childhood home in Yorkshire while she organises end-of-life care for her father. Unknown to her, they have a stalker, who knows them both as ‘Helen’, and whose only wish is to send them to Paradise, to be with the first Helen…)
The most wonderful thing had happened. He had touched little Helen. A lovely warm shiver ran through him as he recalled the moment.
He switched on the lamp by his armchair and pulled the heavy velvet curtains across the window, shutting the world out. It was beginning to get dark, and here in the stillness of his own home it was safe to think about the miracle that had occurred. With shaking hands he poured himself a glass of red wine, then sat down slowly, cradling the glass in both hands, watching the ruby liquid swirl as he raised it to the light.
Such an amazing thing.
He had gone up through the woods late that afternoon, hoping that little Helen might be playing outside again, and she was. In the woods, at the special place. He had talked to her, he had touched her sweet face, and it had been just the two of them. And oh, she was so lovely. His own Helen herself must have been exactly like that as a little child.
She’d been running around amongst the trees, talking to that stupid enormous dog. He ducked behind a tree to watch her, then crept closer, still carefully concealed, until he could hear her every word. She was pretending to be a princess in a palace. How perfect she was.
‘Come and sit on your throne, Unicorn Conker,’ she said. ‘We have to wait for the King.’
He hadn’t been able to help himself. He stepped out in front of her and bowed, a low, old-fashioned bow. The dog growled, then barked twice.
‘Your Majesty,’ he said. ‘I am your humble servant, King Oberon. Permit me to wait upon you and the unicorn Conker.’
‘Oh,’ she said, and he could see both puzzlement and fascination in her eyes. ‘All right. Be quiet, Conker. You can play too, King Oberon. I’m Princess, um–’
‘Queen Titania,’ he said, bowing again. The dog had subsided, thank God.
‘‘Oh yes. Queen Titania. And Conker, does he have a special name?’
‘The jester, Puck.’
It was that easy; he couldn’t believe his luck. She had laughed and chatted and showed him round the ‘palace’. Then Big Helen had called from their garden.
‘A secret,’ he said quickly, bending close and touching a finger to her perfectly formed lips, feeling the warmth from her delicious little body spread right through his own. ‘We won’t tell anyone, not a soul. This is our secret.’
And of course she agreed straightaway. She was his friend now.
‘A secret.’ She touched her lips too, then turned and raced down through the woods, the dog loping along behind her. It was a pity about the dog; he would have to get rid of it.
Very soon it would be Paradise time for Little Helen. When he was certain that big Helen trusted him – and that wouldn’t be long now – then it would be his hour. His day. And when little Helen was safe with his own Helen, big Helen would turn to him. All his Helens, how lucky he was.
Little Helen in Paradise. It would be easy, she was so sweet and trusting.
The wine glass was empty, and he set it down on the table, smiling gently. The good times were beginning.
About the author
Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Currently she teaches one day a week, and writes psychological suspense novels and feel-good novellas with (a lot of) the rest of her time.
Her writing career began in the nineties, when she had over fifty short stories published in women’s magazines. Several years later, she turned to psychological suspense fiction, and her seventh novel, Death Wish, was published by Bloodhound Books in August 2017.
Linda’s latest project is a series of feel-good novellas, set on the banks of Lake Constance and just minutes from her home in north-east Switzerland. She really appreciates having the views enjoyed by her characters right on her own doorstep!
Get in touch
Amazon Author Page: viewAuthor.at/LindaHuber