Hollyoaks is lining up a potential custody battle for Mercedes McQueen (Jennifer Metcalfe) over stepson Max Owen when his auntie Nicole Owen (Ciara Janson) turns up in the village concerned for her nephew's welfare after getting a worrying phone call.
Nicole is the younger sister of Russ, who was murdered on his disastrous wedding day to Mercy in November 2018. This left his orphaned son Max - who's mother is Mercy's late sister Tina - in the care of his new wife, who has since subsequently wed again to Sylver McQueen (David Tag).
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Young Max has been caught up in his stepmother's dramas including her affair with bad boy Liam Donovan (Jude Monk McGowan) and descent into drug-taking that's left him and Mercy's biological son Bobby neglected, and sneakily called Auntie Nicole confessing he feels unloved - hence her rocking up at the Dog in the Pond to find out what's going on.
When was Nicole Owen last in Hollyoaks?
Speaking to Inside Soap about returning to Hollyoaks 13 years after her last appearance, Janson says: "Max and Nicole have a special bond. They haven't seen each other for a while, but now he's got in touch it's lovely for them to catch up.
"Nicole and Mercedes never saw eye to eye back in the day, and there's a question mark over the way Mercy has been parenting Max since Russ was killed. Nicole wants to give her the benefit of the doubt but she definitely wants to asses things and see how Max is feeling."
Unhappy Max makes it clear he wants to live with Nicole, inspiring Mercedes to prove to the lad how much she cares about him. Her meddling mother-in-law Breda McQueen (Moya Brady) wades in and the lairy landlady has her work cut out to convince Max to stay put - ironic, as secret serial killer Breda was the one who murdered Russ after he forced her daughter Goldie (Chelsee Healey) to have an abortion following a torrid one-night stand.
Can Mercedes keep her family together? And will Nicole's presence ruffle Breda and expose her deadly crimes?
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