BY: MOLLIE BLAKE
Tranquility “Tee” Hammond is head of a law firm. Having escaped a violent husband, with a son she was really too young to have had, her life revolved around her work. There was little time for anything else and she didn’t need anything else. When she was inclined to treat herself to a little sexual pleasure, she engaged the services of Email Indulgence–an exclusive club–one email for one night of sex with a man she didn’t know and didn’t need to care about again. For her, it was enough. But her life was about to be changed by a friend of Tee’s son at university, Barrington Stone, fifteen years her junior who is determined to woo her into an unconventional affair.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In An Unconventional Affair by Mollie Blake, Tee Hammond is just turning forty, has never had an orgasm, and is disillusioned with men. That is until she meets twenty-five-year-old Barrington Stone, who is a friend of Tee’s son Paul. But Barrington is very mature for his age, and he knows what he wants. He wants Tee. The two start an affair, but Tee feels terribly guilty and fears that she is holding Barrington back from finding true love and having a family. Can Barrington convince her that what he feels is true love, or is he doomed to lose her?
As usual with Blake’s books, this one is steamy, tense, and suspenseful. Once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it down.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: An Unconventional Affair is the story of a woman who fell in love with the wrong man. Tranquility “Tee” Hammond is an attorney, the head of her law firm, and very successful. She has just had her fortieth birthday, and life could not be better. But the weekend of her birthday, her son comes home from college, bringing a friend with him. Twenty-five-year-old Barrington Stone takes one look at Tee and knows that he wants to get to know her better. But she is reluctant. After all, she is fifteen years his senior, and such a thing is just not done. But he is persistent, and she finds him very attractive. Then there’s the fact that she has never has an orgasm until he gives her one. But he will be leaving for Australia in a just few months and will be gone for a year. So even if she wanted to continue the relationship, how can she? She is sure he will meet someone there and want to stay. So she has no choice but to break it off. Or does she?
I really liked the older woman/younger man angle as few romance authors have the courage to go that route. Blake handled it with both sensitivity and humor, combining suspense, passion, and real-life situations to make An Unconventional Affair a steamy, intriguing, and exciting tale.
“Stella. It’s me, Tee. Can you come and get us?”
“Tee, are you all right? What’s happened?”
“Please. Just come and get us. I’m leaving him this time. I promise.” Tee pressed the red button on her phone and laid it on the floor. Her head was pounding, and she could feel the blood dripping from her lip as she crawled along the landing to the bathroom. That bastard husband of hers had done a proper job this time.
She struggled to her feet and gazed at the stranger in the mirror–the woman she didn’t want to be, the woman she refused to continue to be. Thank heavens, Gregg had left the house. She didn’t care if he was lying in a ditch in one of his drunken stupors. They wouldn’t be here when he eventually found his way back.
“Mummy, Daddy, I need a wee.”
Shit. Tee splashed cold water over her face and dabbed at her lip to stem the bleeding. Her eye was beginning to close up, and she reached for her emergency sunglasses in the bathroom cabinet. Then she gritted her teeth and clenched her side as she made her way into Paul’s bedroom.
The five-year-old boy was standing at the bottom of his bed with his legs crossed. The bedwetting stage was finally over, but he was still too nervous to go into the bathroom on his own in the dark. Gregg had said they needed to leave the light on, but Tee rebuked her husband, saying that Paul would have to learn sometime.
She knew she had made a rod for her own back but she had been sure it wouldn’t last long. Now that she was about to take their son away from his father going to the bathroom at night could be the least of his problems.
She guided him to the toilet. “Okay, darling, let’s be quick.”
“You’ve got your funny glasses on. Are we going to play that game again?”
“Well, we’re going to play a different game this time.” She tried to speed things along a little by pulling his pajama bottoms up but couldn’t go so far as to excuse him from washing his hands. There were limits.
By the time they were downstairs, Tee heard her sister’s car pull up outside. She crouched down and gave Paul a hug.
“Listen.” She tried to stop shaking and made a weak attempt to sound excited. “Aunty Stella’s here. We’re going to go and stay at her house for a few days.”
“Will Daddy be coming?” Paul’s excitement wasn’t weak. They were going on an adventure in the middle of the night.
Tee swallowed to push back the lump in her throat. Each word was becoming harder to say, and it had nothing to do with the progressive swelling of her lower lip. “No, darling.”
She was saved from further interrogation by her son as her sister turned the door handle and entered the hallway.
“Oh, Tee. What has he done to you this time?” Stella’s horrified tone matched the expression on her face.
“Can you just take Paul out to the car?” Tee pleaded behind her dark glasses. She didn’t want to have to answer any more questions. Not yet. “I just need to get a few things together. Please. Wait for me in the car, okay?”
Stella was already taking Paul’s little hand in hers and raising him to his feet. “Sure, love. And don’t worry about getting too much. You can use my things. Come on, Paul. Let’s wait for mummy in the car.”
Sixteen years later:
“Paul! Is that you?”
“Yes, Mum. And Barrington’s with me. I told you he was coming, didn’t I?”
Yes, you bloody did! With such short notice that I’m rushing around like a mad woman trying to make up the guest room!
“I’ll be down in a moment.” Tee battled with the double duvet and its cover. And the cover was winning as she frantically tugged at the corners with both hands and wafted it in a vain attempt to get the duvet to fit snuggly. Not an easy task for a single woman with arms of only average length. Which was why Tranquility Hammond, known to everyone as Tee, paid a cleaning company to come in once a week to perform such duties, in addition to ensuring her house was spotless. An obsession with cleanliness was a long-standing trait of hers, which stemmed from her childhood. It used to drive her mother mad.
Finally, the cover conceded to form a union with the duvet and all evidence of the battle disappeared as it was laid neatly on the mattress. The pillows received a gentle pummeling before taking their place at the head of the bed. Pleased with the result of her efforts, Tee closed the spare bedroom door and went downstairs to greet her son and his friend.
“It’s lovely to see you, darling.” Tee appreciated that her twenty-one-year-old son, Paul, had taken time out from university to come and see her for her fortieth birthday weekend.
His visits were rare, and she wasn’t going to let his last-minute decision to bring a friend along with him spoil things.
“It’s good to see you too, Mum.” He pecked her proffered cheek before turning to the man standing next to him. “And this is Barrington. He’s doing a master’s in mathematical finance.”
Tee held her hand out and was surprised by the student’s firm handshake. At six feet two, he was a little taller than Paul and somewhat slimmer. He also appeared a few years older–late twenties she guessed. As he smiled, her eyes were drawn to soft lips spanning a wider than average mouth. His short light brown hair was swept upward from his forehead, allowing an observer to see deep-set green-brown eyes beneath dark, neat eyebrows. His high cheekbones dipped into a strong jaw line that looked as though it hadn’t matured enough to require shaving yet. Or perhaps he had the perfect skin that would easily withstand the daily stroke of a razor. She let go of his hand and hoped she hadn’t appeared overly inquisitive of their guest. “It’s nice to meet you, Barrington. That’s an unusual Christian name.”
“It was my grandfather’s.” Maintaining eye contact with his host for the weekend, the young man continued in a deep voice that was softened by an appealing huskiness. “Barrington Stone. Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Devere, and thanks for letting me stay. Sorry it was such short notice but my own plans fell through.”
“Oh, that’s okay. It’s no bother.” Tee never blushed for telling a white lie, as the vision of the misshaped duvet reared its ugly head. “And the name’s Hammond. Tranquility Hammond. I reverted back to my maiden name when Paul’s father and I divorced. Everyone calls me Tee.”
“Another unusual name.”
There was no smile from the handsome guest, just eyes gazing at her intently, leaving Tee with the feeling she wasn’t the only one who was being overly inquisitive.
“Er. Yes. I suppose it is.” She laid her hand on Paul’s arm for a moment, sensing a need to prevent too much tension filling the hallway. “Let’s go through to the kitchen. If you’re anything like my son, you’ll be starving.”
Taking readymade Indian meals out of the fridge and attacking their plastic containers with a fork, Tee asked Paul, “Did you have a good journey? How’s the car running?”
They had fought over his desire to have a car, even though he was living on campus at the University of Manchester and train lines to their home town of Wilmslow in Cheshire were good. But in the end, she had relented and bought a small Citroen for his twenty-first birthday. It still hadn’t resulted in him coming home any more frequently.
“It’s fine, Mum. And I see you’ve managed to cook for us.” He glanced over his shoulder to Barrington as if to say “I told you so.”
Tee flashed him a scowl as she placed the food containers in the oven, wishing them luck as she pushed the door shut.
“There are some crisps and dips on the counter. Help yourselves. I thought ready meals would be quick and easy. Della Delights are coming over to cater tomorrow night. Stella and her gang will be here.” She looked over at Barrington. “And I hope you’ll be joining us, Barrington?” Liking the sound of such a strong and unusual name, she couldn’t help thinking it would be fun to have this handsome young man in their company for her birthday dinner.
“Oh, I don’t think it’s his thing.” Paul shot a nervous glance at his friend and then looked surprised as he heard his reply.
“If it’s no trouble, Mrs. Hammond, I mean Tee, I’d love to.”
Barrington’s dark expression stopped Paul from questioning the change to their plans. In the car, he had said he was going to see his father on Saturday night. Now he was planning to spend the evening with Paul and his mother, and his aunty and uncle and two cousins?
His mother smiled. “Great.”
After devouring some snacks whilst chatting about the new equipment recently added to the gym at the Armitage Sports Centre in the university, Paul suggested that he and Barrington take their bags upstairs, calling out, “Is it okay if I leave some dirty washing, Mum?” as they left the kitchen.
Tee shook her head and smiled again, glad of the company for a change, dirty washing and all.
“I thought you were going to see your dad tomorrow night.” Paul’s tone was accusing, and he didn’t try to hide it. He was hoping to go and see his own dad in the morning, and it would have aided his case if he could have told his mother that Barrington was visiting his. Even after all these years, Tee didn’t like him to go to see his father too often.
“Hey, I’m sorry. But that was before I knew your mum was doing a special dinner. It seemed rude not to accept her invitation. You can still go see yours.”
“Yeah. But Mum won’t be too pleased. I told you they don’t get on. I was hoping to just drop it in to the conversation when you were supposed to tell her that you’re going to see yours.”
Barrington fell back onto the freshly made double bed. “Why don’t you call and rearrange to see him on our way home. I’ll do the same with my dad. That way you don’t even need to mention it to your mum, and you won’t be lying.”
“He’ll be on the golf course until six. Then probably at the nineteenth for the rest of the night.” Paul sighed with resignation, not wanting to confess that maybe Barrington’s suggestion wasn’t a bad one.
He didn’t like to hide things from his mother…well, not too much anyway…but over the years, he had come to realize that life was easier if she didn’t know everything her son got up to, and sometimes that included seeing his father.
“Look. I haven’t got a gift for your mum’s birthday. Why don’t I cook lunch for us all and then we can get off? You might just catch your dad before his game?”
“Okay.” Paul, along with the rest of their floor in halls, knew Barrington Stone could cook better than any of them. “I’m not sure what she’ll have in to cook but I’ll try and check the freezer. I don’t think she’s arranged anything else so it can be a nice surprise for her. Thanks.”
“Food’s ready,” Tee shouted from the bottom of the stairs.
Barrington grabbed a T shirt from his bag and flicked it swiftly over Paul’s backside. “Come on, lighten up. This is a weekend off from studying, and we’re going to enjoy it!”
He laughed as Paul yelled, “Ow!” and rubbed his behind.
“So you’re doing a post grad in mathematical finance, Barrington. What are you hoping to do when you finish?” Tee handed out bottles of Stella Artois to the boys and poured herself a large glass of Chablis.
“I’ve got a year’s placement in Australia. With PZ, the accountants.”
“I bet it’ll turn into more than a year. You’ve got nothing to come back here for, surely? The country’s going to ruin anyway,” Paul grumbled.
“I won’t be staying any longer,” Barrington declared with conviction. “I will come home.”
Tee was about to ask how he could be so sure. No doubt there would be many opportunities for someone so young to gain new experiences before deciding where he was going to settle down.
But Paul jumped in. “What? You’ve got a girl to come back to?”
Her son sounded irritated, and Tee couldn’t quite make out why. He hadn’t said very much before about this boy. Well, man really. And she wasn’t sure just how good a friend he was. But the fact that Paul had brought him home for her birthday weekend meant they must be pretty close. So what was bothering him?
Barrington didn’t respond right away. He glanced over at Tee for a second before replying. “No. Nothing like that.”
For a moment, she thought he was going to offer an explanation. But he fell silent.
“I’m sure you’ll meet lots of girls in Australia. And you don’t have to get tied down in a relationship. Girls seem so confident and independent these days. We’ve got some strong, successful, independent young women at the practice who don’t even have time to see men. A quick fuck here and there, with no attachments. I think that would suit them much more. I bet you’ll have a whale of a time.” She sipped her wine, calmly enjoying its taste, whilst Paul nearly spat his beer out.
Barrington laughed. “Well, you never know.”
There was a pensive look in his eyes, and Tee felt he was holding something back. Maybe there was a girl at home that he was keeping secret for some reason. An image of a furtive married woman suddenly loomed up in her mind. She shook her head.
Paul watched as Barrington stared for a little longer than necessary at his mother. Then he too shook his head. “Mum! I can’t believe you just said that.”
Tee held her breath. Had she said something out loud about a married woman?
But she relaxed as Paul continued. “There’s enough casual sex going around the campus, and we’re up to our eyes on ‘keep safe and cover up’ leaflets. It’s almost becoming boring at best and a chore at worst to feel you have to get laid without being part of a meaningful relationship. I thought you’d encourage me to at least try to be in one that was going to be more than a quick fuck!”
Barrington sat back and listened. It was clear that mother and son rarely had this sort of conversation. In fact, from what Paul had told him, any time spent with his mother was rare. He knew she was the managing partner of a prestigious law firm in Manchester, so he guessed she was an extremely busy woman. A weekend at home with her son was apparently infrequent and precious.
“Oh, don’t get attached to anyone too soon, Paul. Have fun while you’re young. And keep on having it for as long as you can. If that happens to be with one woman…well, that’s okay. I’m just saying that it doesn’t have to be.” Seeing a look of disappointment on her son’s face, Tee pushed back a creeping feeling of guilt. Motherly heart to hearts had been few and far between. They were not her thing, and being a workaholic gave her the excuse to avoid them. But she knew that now, in front of a friend from university, was not the time to talk about her son’s relationships.
The fact that he rarely brought a girl home hadn’t gone unnoticed. But then again, he hardly ever came home anyway. And names he dropped into their not so regular phone calls seemed to change like the weather. So Tee had actually thought they were on the same wavelength when she advocated casual but safe sex. Maybe Paul just didn’t want to admit it. She hoped he wasn’t looking for Miss Perfect. Not just yet.
She turned to Barrington and pulled the conversation back to its origins. “So what are you going to do in Australia?” For a moment, she became mesmerized by this man’s intense eyes, an attractive blend of green and brown, as they held her gaze. If looks alone were anything to go by, he wouldn’t have any trouble getting girlfriends. But Tranquility Hammond had learned the hard way that looks alone were not enough. For any woman.
“I’ve got a placement with the accountants in Melbourne. PZ has a big mergers and acquisitions department. It’s an area of corporate finance that I’m really interested in.”
“Well, if you’re keen to work damned hard and prepared to sacrifice most of your social life to make a successful career for yourself, I know it can be very rewarding. You’ll get a great sense of achievement. But it’s a long way to go. Do you want to get away from…anyone in particular, or just the UK in general?”
Barrington shrugged. “By all accounts, it’s a great lifestyle in Melbourne, though I’ve never been. But actually, it’s because I don’t want to get away from someone in particular that I’m only doing a one year placement.”
Aha. So now we find out what you were holding back. “Oh, and may I ask who that is?’
“My dad.” Barrington looked over at Paul now, who had been quietly shredding his naan bread without actually eating very much of it.
“I see,” said Tee, trying to understand why a man of Barrington’s age would want to come back to his father. Seeing the two boys look at each other, she wondered how much they shared about their respective families. There was nothing special about Paul coming from the clichéd broken home, and she imagined Barrington was in a similar position. However, he evidently seemed to be very close to his father.
Detecting his mother’s puzzlement, Paul informed her that Barrington’s mother had died when he was younger.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” Well, that provided some explanation. But she still thought it strange.
“No, it’s fine. It was a long time ago, and I’m good with it. But dad never remarried. Well, if you excuse God, that is. He’s a vicar. Anglican, so he could have settled down with someone if he wanted to. He just never has. Wanted to that is. He’s been in a few relationships but they never seemed to last beyond a couple of years. And a vicar who’s in and out of relationships a little too regularly doesn’t go down very well with his parishioners. So he’s pretty much on his own these days.”
“That makes two of them,” Paul mumbled.
© 2018 by Mollie Blake
“The subject matter, the characters & the plot are all very good. I did think that Barrington was a bit on the immature side, even bordering on ‘stalker-ish’, but that might have been expected, given that he’s 15 years younger than Tee, & only meets her when he is invited home for a holiday with her son who is at college with him. However by the time Tee realizes she is in love with Barrington, he’s off to Australia for a year’s posting. Tee figures he will find someone his own age so she cuts him loose before he leaves. The plot thickens as she mourns the loss of her love, & he manages to get himself into a big plot twist while he’s in Oz…The sex is lovely, & you’ll like the characters.” ~ Alberta, Manic Readers READ FULL REVIEW