The Juggle is the second book by television reporter and presenter Ellie Barker and we have been given an exclusive extract to share from it.
It tells the story of a married couple Molly and Dan who are forced to swap roles for a bit.
Married couple Molly and Dan are forced to swap lives. But will it bring them closer together or drive them even further apart?
It was only a blip. Just a little mistake. But in the world of television, Dan Whitehead’s little slip could cost him his career.
His only chance is to swap roles with his wife, Molly, who also works part-time, behind the scenes at the show. It’s just for a couple of months. Easy. What’s so hard about looking after their twins and taking a step away from the limelight for a bit? Only, it’s not quite as simple as Dan may think. With more time, his past begins to haunt him. Then, when a friendly school-mum offers him the comfort he needs, is she everything she seems?
Meanwhile, Molly is more than happy in her sweatshirt and leggings. Why would she want to go back on-screen when she doesn’t even like leaving the house? But she needs to save her husband’s job. After all, it is her fault. Then, when she’s offered an exclusive interview on the other side of the world, her life in Cherry Blossom Park is under threat. Why is she the only person to ever be offered this interview? Dan must never know the truth.
The Juggle is more than just a story about parents keeping everything in the air. It’s about secrets from the past and hopes for the future.
It asks the question – is a marriage ever big enough for two dreams to come true?
About the extract author, Ellie says “This extract is the first part of the novel. Molly and Dan who are married but work together find themselves outside their boss’s office in trouble. They both reflect the moment they met nine years ago, also outside this office.”
“What do you think she’s going to say?”
“I don’t know,” Dan said, as he checked his phone. “I’m guessing she’s going to ask questions.”
Molly looked at her husband. His face was pale, the hair flicked at the back of his neck was damp. She wanted to ask if he was okay but didn’t.
Do you remember when we last sat here? she also wanted to ask, but also didn’t.
The irony wasn’t lost on her that the last time she had sat with her husband outside Diane Wood’s office, she had asked the very same question. She had barely been able to speak to him then either, although for a very different reason.
“I don’t know. I’m guessing she’s going to ask questions.”
At least that’s what he thought he’d said. In the silence of the corridor, he could only hear the ringing sound in his ears. Dan glanced at his wife. She was looking down at her shoes, just as she had been nine years ago.
Do you remember when we last sat here? he wanted to say but didn’t.
You asked me the same question then, he wanted to say but didn’t.
So, he looked down at his shoes too, and thought back to then, that day, nine years ago when he could hardly believe what he saw.
Nine years earlier
“What do you think she’s going to say?”
It was a stupid question, but the silence was making her nerves worse. She tugged at her hair and wished now she’d let her mum straighten it for her.
“Whatever you do, don’t pull your hair. You know how frizzy it gets. Did you sleep on your silk pillow case last night? Please, oh please tell me you did. Are you sure you don’t want me to just straighten it?” Viv had asked, waving the straighteners in the air.
“No, thank you.” Molly would feel even more ridiculous then. It wasn’t like she had any chance of actually getting the job. She was only here because of her mum.
“Go on, my darling. Just go and see. Can you imagine our lot, if their little Molly-Dolly was actually on TV?”
“Molly? A trainee journalist? Ooh, we can see it now. Our Molly. The superstar.” The great and the good of Cherry Blossom Park had oohed and aahed.
Molly could hardly let them down and not even go for the interview, now, could she? So, she had come for them and her mum. She would not get the job, pretend she was sad, and then that would be that.
Besides, here she was, unable to ask one question to the boy sitting next to her.
Boy? He wasn’t a boy, though, was he? He was a man. He was one of them – one of those beautiful people.
“The usual,” Dan replied. Or at least that’s what she thought he said, and she felt her cheeks turn red.
Don’t stare, she told herself as she tugged on her hair.
Her mother’s voice came into her head.
“Leave it, Molly.”
She sat on her hands.
She should have known that just stepping into this world of television would mean she would be surrounded by people like him. This was the land of the Beautiful People.
Molly. Don’t look.
She looked. But only out of the corner of her eye.
She didn’t know men like him actually lived in real life, walking along the streets, next to everyone else. She had never seen anyone like him. Yes, of course, in films, in magazines, on televisions shows. But never in real life.
This was not her world at all.
Molly tugged on her hair.
He would never tug his hair, she thought. She glanced at it, dark and flicked, his long legs stretched in front of him. The ease of a beautiful person.
Even his suit was a blue she had never seen before. In her world, people wore navy. Just navy.
“What have you been doing?”
“I’m sorry?” She coughed. Let’s not talk, she wanted to say. You stay in your world and I’ll stay in mine.
“With your life?” Molly could see out of the corner of her eye he was smiling at her. He was being polite, she knew. These charming, magazine-like people were like that, she guessed.
“I…I’ve just graduated from uni. Bristol. Here. But I’ve been travelling for a bit, I’ve not long been back.”
Cripes, she sounded ridiculous.
Cripes. Molly, you just said cripes.
“Right. Great. With friends? On your own?”
“With my mum?”
“My mum.” She nodded and tugged at her hair. “She owns Cherry Gleams; it’s a cleaning business.”
Why did she just say this?
“Where did you go?”
A bit more interesting. Better.
“Colombia? No way. I’ve just been there with my best mate, Jim.”
“Did you like it?”
Keep quiet girl. Your cheeks are crimson red.
“Like it? I loved it.”
“We found the best bar in the world in…”
“…Dawson City? No, don’t tell me. You went to Joe’s.” Dan couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and this time he turned around to face her.
She looked at him, for a second and smiled, before turning back to look at her shoes. He saw her whole face this time and he caught his breath.
Dan knew he had to say something else, but for a second, he couldn’t think of anything to say. He could tell she didn’t really want to talk to him, but he kept asking her questions anyway.
Why? He wasn’t sure.
Actually, he was sure.
It was the hair at first. The blonde corkscrews which curled around her face. They were so defined, so perfect.
She was perfect.
The Juggle is the second book in the Cherry Blossom series and it’s a great read, you cannot help but love all the characters and be swept into their lives, shining a light on those things in a marriage nobody really wants to talk about and makes you think is the grass really greener on the other side? It’s a book you will find yourself unable to put down until you’ve finished it.
If the extract has made you want to read more then you can get a copy, here!