Read An Ideal Wife Online

Authors: Gemma Townley

An Ideal Wife

PRAISE FOR GEMMA TOWNLEY

 

Praise for
A Wild Affair

 

“In the character of Jessica Wild, Gemma Townley has created a wonderful heroine: warm, witty, and always entertaining.”

 

—A
LEXANDRA
P
OTTER,
author of
Me and Mr. Darcy

 
 

“A sweet confection of a novel with a delightfully happy ending.”

 


Booklist

 
 

“A funny, touching look inside the bond between two people who absolutely adore each other.”

 


Curled Up with a Good Book

 
 

“Gemma Townley provides a fun tale of a major detour on the way to the aisle.… Engaging.”

 

—bookreviews.com

 
 

Praise for
The Importance of Being Married

 

“A witty, delightful, and brilliant comedy. I loved it.”

 

—S
OPHIE
K
INSELLA

 
 

“Townley’s wit and zany characters make this a splendid read.… Chipper Cinderella tale for the modern woman.”

 


Kirkus Reviews

 
 

“Chick lit with a clever twist, Townley’s latest is a wild, fun ride.”

 


Booklist

 
 

“Gemma Townley writes with such charm and humor that it’s impossible not to get swept up in
The Importance of Being Married
. This sweet, funny novel takes on love and marriage from a whole new angle.”

 

—H
OLLY
P
ETERSON
, author of
The Manny

 
 

“Is it really ‘Just as easy to marry for money’? Gemma Townley provides a how-to—as well as a hilarious and heartfelt answer. A fast-paced, fun read.”

 

—L
YNN
S
CHNURNBERGER
, co-author of
The Men I Didn’t Marry

 
 

“Warm, witty, and always entertaining, Gemma Townley leads us on a fun romp that pays homage to Mr. Wilde himself.”

 

—A
LEXANDRA
P
OTTER,
author of
Me and Mr. Darcy

 
 

ALSO BY GEMMA TOWNLEY

 
 

A Wild Affair

 

The Importance of Being Married

 

The Hopeless Romantic’s Handbook

 

Learning Curves

 

Little White Lies

 

When in Rome …

 
 

To Mark, from his (nearly) perfect wife

 
Contents
 

Other Books by this Author

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Postscript

About the Author

Copyright

Chapter 1
 

“WELL, ISN’T THIS NICE?”

I looked at my mother with what I hoped would pass for a natural smile. She was right; of course it was nice. There she was, on the other side of the table with Chester, her fiancé and my biggest client, and here I was, on this side of the table with Max, my husband. It was so nice I could scream.

I closed my eyes briefly as my hand closed sweatily over my phone. The text message had come through moments before:
Thanks, honey, knew I could depend on you. I’ll be in touch
. And as I’d read it, I’d felt sick suddenly, felt a layer of cold sweat leak from my pores.

The message was from Hugh Barter, and he was never going to leave me alone.

“Darling, are you all right? You look very strange.”

“Strange?” I forced another smile. “Sorry. Just … thinking about something.”

“Well, it’s very rude to think of anything other than the guests around your table,” Mum said pointedly. “And your husband is sitting right beside you, too.”

Husband
.

I still wasn’t used to being married—it had been nearly a year, and I still got a slight thrill every time I introduced Max: “This is
my husband.” And he would always wink at me, like it was our own private joke, the first of many such jokes that would bind us even more tightly together over the years. “My wife and I would like to thank you for taking the time to stop by,” he’d say, his eyes twinkling, even if it was just my friend Helen, and even if she hadn’t “stopped by” but had barged in during supper, flopped on the sofa, and insisted that we listen to the latest installment in her dramatic love life.

“This
is
nice. In fact, ‘nice’ doesn’t really go far enough,” Max said, in that voice that no one could ever quite read or be sure whether he was teasing or not. I raised an eyebrow at him and his eyes widened innocently. “What? It is nice. Especially the food.”

“You’re only saying that because you cooked it,” I said, forcing myself back into the room, forcing myself to concentrate on the here and now instead of worrying about that sniveling little rat’s request: £10,000. That’s how much Hugh Barter had asked for this time. The time before it had been £5,000. Relocation costs, he’d told me. A loan, he’d told me. His trip around the world hadn’t worked out as he’d hoped; he’d decided to come back to the UK. That was three months ago, and I thought the £5,000 would be enough, that he really did just need a bit of money to find somewhere to live, to tide him over while he looked for work. A favor, he’d said. Like the favor he was doing me by not telling Max the truth about us, by not telling Max that I’d been Hugh’s for the taking when I was engaged to Max. God, how stupid I’d been.

“And I cooked it only because you threatened to order a takeaway if I didn’t,” Max was saying.

“Yeah, well, cooking isn’t my forte,” I replied, stretching my lips into another smile. The cooking thing was a long-standing joke; Max regularly called me the worst cook in the world. And he was absolutely right. I tried following recipes but invariably got distracted and ended up burning things or adding too much
of the wrong ingredient, or putting it in the oven at the wrong temperature. I’d once, in a fit of enthusiasm and desire to please, made Max a fish pie—his favorite—only to discover that the fish was still raw when I went to serve it. He’d never let me forget that one; he’d laughed for about an hour in spite of my protestations and threats never to so much as boil the kettle again.

“And why should it be?” my mother said immediately. She couldn’t cook, either. “A woman’s place is not in the kitchen, darling. Not anymore.”

“Of course it isn’t,” I agreed. “Is it, Max?”

Max looked at me wryly.

“No,” he said. “Luckily for you.”

I thumped him on the arm and managed a little laugh. Inside, bile was rising up through my stomach; I felt dirty even having a text from Hugh on my phone. I wanted to delete it, wanted to scrub it clean. But not now. Things were bad enough; letting myself become preoccupied with Hugh now, when I was supposed to be enjoying myself with Max, would just make things worse. “Anyway,” I said. “It’s not like you chop down trees or, you know, build camps.”

I took a gulp of wine and looked up to find Chester’s gaze on me, a slightly bemused expression on his face. “Chop down trees?” he asked.

“You know, like the traditional male role,” I explained. “The woman’s at home, cooking, and the man’s out killing animals and building houses. The point is, you guys don’t fulfill your side of that bargain, so there’s no reason why women should be the ones to cook and clean, right?”

“I guess,” Chester said. “Personally, I like to cook. It relaxes me.”

“Relaxes you?” My mother rolled her eyes. “How can cooking be relaxing? So many instructions!”

“Exactly,” I said. “Nightmare.”

“So,” Max said, turning to me playfully. “You don’t cook. And
as I’ve said, I have no problem with that. I don’t expect you to cook. I would be perturbed, upset even, if you so much as attempted cheese on toast. But where does that leave us?”

I frowned. “What do you mean? You cook. We get takeout. I buy ready-prepared—”

“No, that’s not what I mean,” Max cut in, smiling warmly. “If I don’t cut down trees or kill wild animals and you don’t cook, what is it that we actually do? I mean, how do you define the perfect wife nowadays? Or the perfect husband, for that matter?”

I looked at him uncertainly. “I still don’t see what you mean.” I realized as I spoke that my voice sounded defensive, and I checked myself. The problem was, I
felt
defensive. Max was joking, I reminded myself firmly. Max always joked. He didn’t know anything. This was not about Hugh.

“He means, what makes a marriage great?” Chester said, leaning forward. “And that, my friends, is a question I can answer.”

“You can? I’m impressed.” Max grinned. “So come on, then, what’s the secret?”

“No secret,” Chester said firmly. “An ideal husband looks after his wife. Makes sure she has everything she needs, everything she wants. Tells her he loves her. Makes sure he shows it, too.”

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