The Woman in the Middle by Milly Johnson – extract

‘Yep, I’m ready,’ Shay answered him. Ready to be a wife and hopefully soon a mother. Not that she’d fall into the trap of ever letting any child take over her life; she wouldn’t be Roberta mark II and have her identity buried under all her various personas: wife, mother, daughter. When a child came along, it would have to fit around her, not the other way round. She wouldn’t sacrifice herself at the altar of family. And she would never lose her sense of self for anyone.
But in order to move forward with her present, Shay needs to make sense of her past. And so she returns to the little village she grew up in, to uncover the truth about what happened to her when she was younger. And in doing so, she discovers that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find the only way is up.
Twenty- four years ago
The father of the bride did his best but the sight of his wife idling at the bottom of the church steps in her flowery hat was making that difficult because he knew why she was there and he’d warned her not to be. Not that Roberta Corrigan would be in the least bit cowed by her husband’s disapproval, or be swayed from her mission by the brides-maids, Tanya and Lesley, giggling as she held her hand up in front of the photographer’s lens and said, ‘And you can put that away for five minutes.’
‘Yes, yes and yes,’ replied Shay, without a pause, without letting thought have a chance to answer before her mouth did. She did love Bruce. She had wanted to and she had managed it. She stuck out a defiant chin. ‘I’m old enough to know what I’m doing, Mum. So go and sit in the pew and let me get on with it.’ Then she pulled her veil hur-riedly over her face because she didn’t want her mother staring into her eyes again, finding that shadow of doubt there that she’d forced into the ‘wedding nerves’ box in her head, even though it didn’t belong there and was fighting its way out.
Milly Johnson was born, raised, and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. A Sunday Times (London) bestseller, millions of copies of her books have sold across the world. Milly writes from the heart about what and where she knows and highlights the importance of community spirit. Her books champion women, their strength and resilience, and celebrate love, friendship ,and the possibility of second chances. She is an exceptional writer who puts her heart and soul into every book she writes and every character she creates.
About the Book

‘Shay.’ Roberta looked her daughter square in the eye. ‘I have to ask you, do you want to do this? Because we can get right back in this limousine now and go home, no questions asked. Your father can tell everyone it’s off. Forget the expense, forget the cake, the flowers, forget everything. You can move back in with us. Now, are you quite certain, is this really what you want?’
Prologue
‘Well, if you’re sure,’ said her mother, resignedly. She helped adjust her daughter’s veil so it was aisle- perfect. ‘I love you.’
Shay Bastable is the woman in the middle. She is part of the sandwich generation – caring for her parents and her children, supporting her husband Bruce, holding them all together and caring for them as best she can.
‘Roberta—’
Today I have an extract to share with you.
Shay had thought at first it was a joke, but her mother had her deadly serious face on.
‘Ready to be a wife?’ asked her dad, holding out his crooked arm.
‘Be quiet, Harry, I want a word with my daughter.’
Milly Johnson is the author of over 18 novels which include An Autumn Crush, My One True North, A Winter Flame, A Summer Fling and The Queen of Wishful Thinking. Her latest novel, The Woman in the Middle, was published by Simon and Schuster on 14 October 2021.
‘Our daughter,’ he corrected her. ‘And you should be in church dabbing your eyes and showing off your frock after what it cost.’
‘Because your father said I shouldn’t, so I held off,’ said Roberta. ‘But it’s been going round and round in my head like a circling crow and it won’t go away, and you should never deny a mother’s intuition. So I’m asking you before it’s too late, do you want to marry this man? Have you thought it through? Do you love him?’
About the Author
Her mother turned, went into the church and Shay let go the breath she didn’t realise she was holding.
‘Nice big smiles.’
Shay Corrigan stepped out of the limousine, holding on to her father’s hand. The photographer freeze- framed the moment for the family album.
‘I love you too. Now go sit.’
‘Mu- um,’ appealed Shay as her mother grabbed her arm and pulled her far enough away from everyone else to give them some privacy.
‘Of course I want to marry Bruce,’ she replied. ‘Why would you pick now to ask me this?’
Then the arrival of a large orange skip on her mother’s estate sets in motion a cataclysmic series of events which leads to the collapse of Shay’s world. She is forced to put herself first for a change.

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